In the last post, we looked at the results of some ideas that were put forth by the author of an article. They were that Jesus is no longer human and that reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. This time I want to tackle the next three which deal with emotions as it pertains to Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and us (humans). As a reminder the sentence in question is “after Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” So, what we are going to look at is:
- Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
- God does not have human emotions. Implication
- God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication
All throughout the Bible emotions are ascribed to God. So, the question we are really asking is, when the Bible speaks of God having emotions is it anthropomorphic like when the Bible speaks of God having physical human traits (eyes, ears, arms, etc.)? Put another way does the Bible give God human emotions like it does physical attributes so we can relate or understand Him, or does He truly have emotions? Additionally, are our emotions as humans different than God’s emotions, if in fact, He has them.
First, just to give a clear picture the Bible does use figurative language about God. There are multiple passages about the eyes of the Lord or the arm of the Lord. This language is sometimes used to convey a nearness about God or His seeking of people. This type of language is used to communicate something about God in a way that we as people can understand. We can grasp things like eyes being used or seeing or arms used for strength, but we cannot grasp how the spirit seeks or has strength. It is something that is beyond our understanding. That should lead us to ask if the language used about God having emotion is similar language. Is the language used about God having emotions figurative? I say no.
To start with we must go to the beginning. Genesis 1:26 God says let us create man in our image. This tells us a lot because if I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle then when you come by you already have a reasonable idea of what you expect to see. You know what a motorcycle is, and you would expect to see something similar. Here what we have is God saying “I am going to create something like myself” so we should expect that whatever we have is like God right? Now let’s work backward. If I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle and you don’t know what motorcycle is then when you come by you have no idea what to expect. But, and here is the kicker once you see the thing I have built and learn that it is like a motorcycle you will then have an idea of what a motorcycle is like based on the new information. So, for starters what we have is an understanding that we are like God because we are made in His image. We have emotions and He has emotions. But there is more that is not simple reasoning.
I could leave it at that and I think that is a fairly decent argument but because there is more I will provide more. Theology places the perfections or attributes of God in categories. Why? Because we need more categories in the world. Anyway, two such categories are the Incommunicable and Communicable attributes of God. Incommunicable are attributes He alone possess and Communicable are ones He shares (for lack of a better term) with us. An attribute like Omnipresence (all present) is His alone but truth, while He possesses it to the ultimate degree, He shares with us. Omnipower (all powerful) is His alone but unity, as in being united as the body of Christ, we can share in. We can see there are things about God that rubbed off on us in creation. These are just two examples.
Emotion is one of those things. But how do we know this? Well, the most two popular are probably God saying He is a jealous God and Jesus weeping. However, because we are arguing the point of emotions for a preincarnate and ascended Christ we will skip over the earthly life of Christ for now even though I think that foolishness.
Here is a brief list I stole from a website because I am feeling a little lazy:
- Anger – Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18
- Laughter – Psalm 37:13; Psalm 2:4; Proverbs 1:26
- Compassion – Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36
- Grief – Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40
- Love – 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3
- Hate – Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
- Jealousy – Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Joshua 24:19
- Joy – Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41
The list above shows us that God not only has emotions, but He has multiple emotions. More than that He is in control of His emotions. God is able to have emotions and not let them control Him. This, by the way, is an attribute of God which I place in the unity section because there is no division within God. He does not wrestle with His emotions like you or I do. He does not have to be conflicted over being angry at sin or feel sorry He hated something. There is perfect unity in His emotions.
I think one of the reasons people might reject the emotions of God is because to acknowledge that God has emotions and is able to remain in control (for lack of a better term) of them highlights the lack of emotional control we feel. We know that sometimes our emotions get the better of us and that we should do a better job at keeping them in control. To acknowledge that God has emotions is to either run the risk of being afraid God will fly off the handle at you or is to suggest you are not as in control of your own emotions as you think.
Additionally, we cannot attribute our general basic understanding of emotions to God. For example, we overuse and misuse the word love so much that when we attempt to think of God as love we uncut the real meaning of what that means. In the western world, and especially the English-speaking western world, we can say we love everything and the meaning can be anything from a fleeting infatuation to romantic desire to lifelong service to a spouse. The biblical definition of love, however, is vastly different. I like the way Charles Ryrie puts is when talking about love “love seeks the good of the object loved.” Love is an emotion, but it is so much more too.
Lastly, because we have laid the groundwork we can probably now talk about the emotions Jesus has while in heaven and I will only mention one. Jesus sympathizes. According to Hebrews 4:15 Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. The Greek word is sympatheō. We could not even come up with an English word for the emotion or action. He intimately understands and relates to our weakness. Sympathy is an emotion and Jesus feels that for us while in heaven. This is why He lives to make intercession for His people.
None of this even gets into the emotions of the Holy Spirit see for example Eph 4:30. But whereas He is a full member of the Godhead He too has emotions.
We could probably keep going but I think the point is clear. Yes, Jesus has emotions because He is God and yes God the Father has emotions. God is not some impersonal force that is void of emotion who creates beings with emotions and then leaves them to fend for themselves. Jesus experienced all the “human” emotions and when He returned to the Father He kept those emotions.
We must be clear with the words we use to describe and talk about God because words are the basis for understanding and thinking. If we use the wrong words we start to get the wrong idea. It is not easy, and I have failed many times, but we must push forward never settling for cheap theology. We can never adequality explain God, but we can try to better understand and use the right words.
Just a thought,
 Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Moody: Chicago 1999), 44.