Bible-less Christianity

Why we must combat the prioritization of feelings over theology

Carly Matthews, Staff Writer

In Western culture, the values of individualism and personal experience greatly influence the way people practice Christianity. As society becomes more individualized, western Christianity puts a stronger emphasis on personal feelings and connections one has with God and the Holy Spirit, and, consequently, puts less emphasis on reading and studying Scripture. While individual spirituality is important in order to feel God, it should not be the only aspect of our faith.

The trend of prioritizing feelings over scripture started in the 1700s in the Great Awakening, which was a counterattack on Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and objectivity. Leaders of the Great Awakening focused on making religion more personal, rather than formal and institutionalized, and emphasized the idea that people should have a personal and direct connection with God. In the past three hundred years, these ideas have grown severely and are supported by the individualized society in the West today.

As this position becomes more popular, it is essential to understand why it can be detrimental to our faith. The people of the Great Awakening were familiar with their Bibles; they knew Bible verses, stories, and the major themes, even if they weren’t scholars. Today, there is significantly less emphasis put on Scripture and learning about the Bible. People know the spirituality of Christianity, without knowing the theology behind it. People focus on “feeling Jesus,” but that’s impossible to do if they don’t know who Jesus is. The only way to learn of Jesus’ character is through reading of his works in the Bible. People cannot feel God without knowing who he is first; to do this, they need to read Scripture.

God has revealed himself through Holy Scripture. Over two thousand years, the Church has had debates on what is canon and what is not; we must, therefore, respect this history and authority of the church and utilize the Bible to learn about God. It is arrogant to believe that feelings of who God is are more important than what we know of Him in Scripture.

This being said, I am not discrediting spirituality and feelings in worship. These are important to connect to God and community. However, I argue that in order to know how to interpret and react to these feelings, Christians ought to look toward Scripture. Feelings do not articulate who God is, they connect people to him in a personal way Without Scripture, these feelings and emotions cannot be accurately understood.

As a community at Westmont, we are already taking measures to remember Scripture in addition to spiritual feelings through worship. Since last spring, Eben Drost has incorporated Scripture readings into worship in chapel, as well as more hymns and Psalms. Remembering to ground ourselves in the Bible is essential to a healthy way of worship. Because of these implementations, chapel has become well-rounded. We experience spiritual feeling through music, we learn of God’s nature through Scripture, and we connect these both to our lives through the speaker.

This three hundred year old trend of putting feeling above Scripture is detrimental to our faith. If we do not re-implement learning of God’s character through biblical passages, we will lose the entire basis of Christianity.