Tag Archives: Aragorn

Your Feelings Aren’t the Measure of What’s True

There’s a scene in the movie The Return of the King where Aragorn tells Gandalf, “We still have time. Every day Frodo moves closer to Mordor.” Gandalf objects: “Do we know that?”, to which Aragorn responds: “What does your heart tell you?

It makes a great line in a book or movie script. However, as a way to find truth in the real world, it’s an absolutely awful idea. Charles Dickens makes a really good point in the words he penned for Scrooge, who, though talking about the senses, could easily be describing feelings as he tells the ghost why he doubts:

Because a little thing can effect them. A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat. You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese.” (A Christmas Carol)

Feelings change, and can be affected by a dizzying variety of factors. And they are often fuzzy and hard to define. Yet, sadly, many Christians are far more comfortable trying to divine direction and truth from the churning chaos of their own feelings than they do from the Bible itself. We live in an anti-intellectual and anti-authoritarian age, after all. Reading and study are hard; a “gut check” is easy. And the feelings in your heart are comparatively non-threatening. They’re your feelings and admit many different interpretations, whereas words on a page are much harder to get around if one is inclined to do so.

The antidote for this? You really want to know the truth, rather than your own self-affirming opinions? Go to church and put yourself under good Bible teaching and regular and faithful expository preaching–that is, preaching that is concerned with explaining and applying what the actual text is saying:

In the reading of the holy word, as the act of the church, with the light that will be thrown on its different parts in the exercise of the gifts of the members, their minds will be led up ‘to the law and the testimony,’ as the perfect and only standard of faith and practice….

“‘The law and the testimony’ will become the standard of faith and practice, in fact and not in name only. We shall then no more hear from Christians, ‘I do not feel to do this or that,’ although such feeling may be in direct opposition to the word of God. Neither shall we witness the unscriptural conduct based upon such an unscriptural sentiment.

Feeling will not be the standard of duty, but the word of the Lord. The enquiry as to the duty to be performed, will not be, ‘how feelest thou?’ But ‘what is written in the law?’ ‘How readest thou?” (William B. Johnson, The Gospel Developed, emphasis added)

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