Christian Teaching

Are Your Led by Your Feelings or Faith? 5 Subconscious Lies That Can Deceive Christians

By: Akos Balogh

Over 200 years ago, a revolution was launched across the West. Or rather, revolutions. Western societies began to move away from Christianity. 

They moved slowly at first – like a crawling baby. But as that baby grew, it became less and less Christian, shaking off its religious beliefs.

Fast forward to 2022, and this child (to continue the metaphor) has a radically different view of reality and humanity than 200 years ago.

We’re now a society where our feelings are critical to our existence. Or, in the words of sociologist Philip Rieff, we live in the ‘therapeutic age’: we’re driven and defined by our feelings in ways utterly foreign to our ancestors. And this has spawned all sorts of beliefs that shape us and our view of the world.

What’s more, these beliefs are mostly subconscious:

We don’t consciously choose to accept them. Instead, we ‘catch’ them as we swim in the sea of Western culture. Whether through the media we consume (e.g. Disney, Hollywood), our workplaces, social media, or friends.

And because these beliefs are unbiblical, they can wreak havoc on people’s lives. 

Here are 5 of those beliefs:

Myth #1) Our Feelings Determine Who We Are

This belief is the bedrock of our therapeutic feeling-based age.

You see it everywhere, from Disney (‘just follow your heart’) to the transgender movement (your internal feelings about gender trump your physical biology). Genuine ‘authenticity’ now means living out your inner feelings, no matter what they are (and woe to anyone who tells you otherwise). [1]

But when anyone – including Christians –adopts this belief, it shapes us in strange and ungodly ways:

We can let our feelings trump our given identity in Christ. We can let our emotions drive our moral decision making. And we can judge our Church not on its faithful teaching and living but on how it serves our felt needs.

Myth #2) True Freedom Means Defining Your Own Existence

If our feelings determine our identity, then true freedom means society giving us space to express that identity.

This view of freedom is a bedrock belief that sustains the abortion rights movement across the West. As the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in a ruling about abortion rights:

‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under the compulsion of the State.’ [2]

With freedom thus redefined, oppression is also redefined: oppression now includes anything – any belief, any law – that prevents people from expressing their own view of existence (the Biblical sexual ethic, anyone?). And so, Christians have moved from being the ‘moral guys’ to being the ‘bad guys’.

While Christians feel this pressure externally, from society, it’s also a belief that shapes us internally:

We’re less willing to submit ourselves to others, like church leaders and religious institutions. We’re less likely to see submission as good. We don’t want others telling us what to do.

And if we’re in positions of leadership, we’re less likely to want to enforce rules like church discipline, as it feels a little unfair.

Myth #3) Always Trust Your Feelings

Because feelings are essential to who we are, they now hold authority like never before.

If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then the problem is always the other person and never your feelings. Your interpretation of reality (which leads to those feelings) is always right because we are our feelings.

We see this in the rise of cancel culture, where any person or belief that causes people to feel offended is attacked and shut down. There’s little engagement or understanding with what the other person might mean or why they might hold to that view – let alone whether that view is true or not.

Myth #4) We’re Meant to Have Good Feelings, So Avoid Anything That Makes You Feel Bad

The aim of life in a therapeutic age has moved from having good character to having good feelings.

Feeling good becomes a moral duty: the big question we ask ourselves is no longer ‘what’s the right thing to do?’, but rather ‘how will it make me feel?’. And so, as a culture, we avoid anything that makes us feel bad:

  • We avoid the difficult person at Church because they don’t make us feel good.

  • We avoid having those hard but important conversations because they make us feel uncomfortable.

  • And we avoid conflict like it’s an out of fashion pair of jeans.

  • We use people and things to help us feel good: life becomes increasingly self-centred.

Of course, this has all sorts of problems because constantly feeling good is an unrealistic goal. We’ll regularly feel frustrated. Yes, we might feel good for a while – when we get that new phone, friend, or partner. But it never lasts.

And more perniciously, life lived for self-centred feelings and avoidance of difficulty can leave a trail of damaged relationships.

(Ask almost any celebrity).

Myth #5) Suffering Serves No Good Purpose

If life is all about feeling good, then suffering is all bad: it serves no purpose.

Suffering gets in the way of my feeling good. And I’ll do anything to avoid it. There’s no ‘higher purpose’ to my suffering.

But we can’t avoid suffering in a fallen world.

It’s part of our human condition (no matter how much we try to avoid it). Adopting a therapeutic view of suffering leads to anger and even despair when suffering hits us. We’ll feel discombobulated and fearful, worrying about the next bout of suffering that might come our way.

These 5 beliefs, these lies, are deeply embedded in Western Culture. But in an upcoming post, we’ll explore how we can respond to each of them in a way that frees us from their grip.

Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh.

About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.

Feature image: Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash  

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