Frederica Mathewes-Greene On Reason and Emotion

One of the things that people get offended about when I talk about epistemology (ways of knowing) is how I DO NOT vilify experience or reason to the extent that they are irreconcilable. Of course, from my end, those that fear-monger talking about contextuality, embodiedness, and the particularity of experiences come from worldviews that have had a lot of privilege in the academy (at least in the past). There is so much that can be said of this in Christianity, especially in Protestant circles, with the cessationist versus continuationist debates. Orthodox thinkers Frederica Mathewes-Greene about sums up my belief in a very few sentences.

“there is in the West a misperception that a human has two aspects, reason and emotion, and if you are not being rational you are being emotional. A corollary, “You cannot experience God with your mind,” so direct experience of God is emotional, possibly (likely) an emotional projection. No, the experience of God is an experience with an objective “other,” like any other experience in life. Such experience is likely to cause both thoughts and emotions in reaction, but the immediate experience comes first. It is of course an uncontrollable experience, but the surprising thing about the Eastern Church, from a Western perspective, is that they have preserved and passed on, from generation to generation, wisdom about how to prepare yourself for your side of the encounter; how to teach yourself to “show up” and pay attention. This may not be the thing Orthodox would think of as most significant about their Church, but it is the thing that is most surprising and fascinating to many Western Christians. People who have a desire to dwell more consistently in the presence of the Lord will find much of interest here.”

For Frederica, as for many Christians who whole-heartedly affirm a personal God, Jesus came that God may commune with humanity once more as YHWH once did in the Garden of Eden with God’s priests, Adam and Eve. This is what I love about Matthews-Greene’ post; she does not say it explicit, but it is implied: one of the very positive uses of Tradition (within the Christian context of discipleship) is to PREPARE believers for their encounters with the Triune God. In this way, I think the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is very helpful. Christian Tradition intersects and aids Christian Reason and Christian Experience, and all filtered through the Christian Scriptures.

For more from Mathewes-Greene and Orthodox Christianity, please check out Ask An Orthodox Christian on Rachel Held Evans

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