Confessions of a recovering Baptist – Emotions

My wife and I both grew up in Baptist churches and no longer attend one. We are now attending Providence Church of Pittsburgh which is part of the Sovereign Grace Ministries family of churches. Their doctrinal positions would agree decently with traditional protestant churches. But they’re not very “Baptistic.”

You can read more about their doctrines at their website, or you can check out our church’s website at

Now, I’m using the term “recovering Baptist” a bit tongue-in-cheek. I don’t believe that all Baptist churches are wrong in all their beliefs. But I have changed my mind about several ideas. Mostly, I’ve changed my mind in terms of where to put my emphasis.

I should also note, that I recognize a change in my mindset. It may in fact be true that the Baptist church I had previously attended was actually teaching many of the things that I now believe deserve more emphasis. But for whatever reason, I didn’t “get it” until now that I’m at a different church.


One of the items that I felt quite sure of when attending a Baptist church was that emotions aren’t to be the driver for my relationship with God. After all, we don’t serve God just when we want to. God is good at all times, not just when I feel like He is. My feelings really don’t enter the picture all that much. I remember a group devotional quite distinctly that was titled simply “Duty.” The whole point of the devotional is that we are required to do our duty whether we feel like it or not. Duty was valued as a strong motivator for doing what is right.

This idea caused me to distrust and devalue my emotions for years. After all, I didn’t want to be “tossed about by every wind of doctrine,” based upon how I felt at the time. My beliefs were going to be solidly informed and grounded in the Word of God, not my feelings. When it came to doctrine and my relationship with God, I actually valued stoicism.

As I’ve indicated above, this was my understanding and interpretation of things that I was being taught. This may be a distortion of what Baptist churches teach and/or what my previous church taught. With that in mind, I’ll try to summarize how my belief has changed on this topic.

I no longer believe this “duty above feelings” model is a Biblical view. Scripture has much to say on the topic of feelings and emotions. Here’s a quick far-from-exhaustive list:

  • Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart (Psalm 32:11)
  • Let the nations be glad and sing for joy (Psalm 67:4)
  • Delight yourself in the LORD (Psalm 37:4)
  • Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

All of these are commands about how we should feel. God doesn’t just encourage us to rejoice, He commands us to do so. Good and right feelings toward God aren’t optional in the Christian life. C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.”

This is a change from the “feelings don’t matter, just do your duty” view of things. Rather it calls us to a different standard. It calls us to deal with our emotions toward God as well. We are required to analyze our hearts and find out why we don’t have right feelings toward God. What is at the root? Sin, almost certainly.

This is a higher standard than just “doing my duty.” I can do my duty because I know it’s the right thing to do, and still harbor ill-will in my heart towards my fellow Christians, towards the situation, and ultimately towards God. In the do-your-duty view, this aspect is frequently overlooked.

So what has changed in my life in this area? I’m quite a bit more “charismatic” in my worship and my attitudes toward God. God is worthy of great praise! And that is something that just doesn’t seem to fit with a stoic kind of response to His goodness. I’m more emotional about God now. Basically, I’m allowing myself to feel appropriate emotion about God.

But I think it is a bit more than just that. I’ve been taught to “preach the gospel to myself every day” (a topic that I’m sure I’ll write about soon). At times, I have to remind myself that God is good and worthy of my highest praise. My sinful heart grows cold towards God so quickly. But now that I’m aware that my feelings towards God aren’t something that are to be sidelined, I need to deal with the coldness. I need to stir up appropriate affections for my God when they aren’t coming naturally. (Actually, it would be more appropriate to say that I cry out to God to change my heart so that I can see Him more accurately).

This has radically changed my relationship with God. Church is no longer just something that I just “need to do” regardless of how I feel about it (as it had previously quite often been). Church is a wonderful time of worshipping the God who is worthy of my greatest praise and adoration.

I plan on writing a few more “confessions” articles about other parts of my Christian life that I feel have had an overhaul since I’ve changed churches. God has been very good to me, and has revealed much of Himself to me through the teaching I’m currently receiving.