Orthodoxy Requires Orthopathy: Emotions in Theology
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 January 2014
Those who study, teach, and write about orthodoxy typically omit almost entirely any explicit consideration of human emotions. It is not surprising, then, that theology can seem an abstract activity without much effectiveness either for inspiring ritual and moral practice or for fostering attachment to Christianity. Similarly, church leaders, in their concentration on orthodoxy or orthopraxy, pay insufficient attention to the affective alienation occurring within and among Christians. This article brings to bear on theology the burgeoning philosophical and psychological research on emotions. It develops the cognitive and participative nature of emotions; their role in forming both an existential faith and community; the legitimacy and independence but also the inadequacy of conceptualist theology; the conflicts, tensions, and mutual contributions of intellect and emotion; and, finally, the role of emotion in moving ideas to practice.
- Copyright © College Theology Society 2013
1 Keenan, James SJ, “Impasse and Solidarity in Theological Ethics,” Catholic Theological Society of America Proceedings 64 (2009)Google Scholar: 55.
2 Riis, Ole and Woodhead, Linda, A Sociology of Religious Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 172–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Current liturgical wars, I suggest, are more about different sets of affections (in particular, transcendent versus immanent senses of holiness) than about language or specific gestures.
3 Doran, Robert SJ, Psychic Conversion and Theological Foundations, 2nd ed. (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2006), 164–65Google Scholar, 183–84.
4 Imoda, Franco SJ, Spiritual Exercises and Psychology (Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1996)Google Scholar, 67.
5 Karuvelil, George SJ, “Absolutism to Ultimacy: Rhetoric and Reality of Religious ‘Pluralism,’” Theological Studies 73 (2012): 55–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 79.
6 Libraries of books have been written on how emotions can function badly in our lives. It is well beyond the scope of this article to treat those aberrances. One mistake to avoid, however, is to assume that our intellectual or volitional activities are always in themselves perfect and that therefore whenever they malfunction the cause lies in the emotions.
7 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Irwin, Terence, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1999)Google Scholar 2.3.2 (p. 21); De Sousa, Ronald, Emotional Truth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)Google Scholar, 24, 109. If we were to shift from Greek to Latin, another name, familiar to Augustinian scholars is ordo amoris.
8 L'Abate, Luciano, Hurt Feelings (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 26–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Griffiths, Paul, What Emotions Really Are (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 104.
9 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000)Google Scholar, §1771. The article on the emotions as a whole is, unfortunately, rather confused, even self-contradictory.
10 In this article I am not addressing the “expressive” function of emotions, which is otherwise so important in life and community. See L'Abate, Hurt Feelings, 39–41; De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 33; Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion; Taylor, Charles, Varieties of Religion Today (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002)Google Scholar, 7; Griffiths, What Emotions Really Are, 137–49; Clark, Margaret and Brissete, Ian, “Relationship Beliefs and Emotion,” in Emotions and Beliefs, ed. Frijda, Nico et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 212–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
11 Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1771.
12 A long line of thinkers, including Thomas Aquinas and William James, seem to restrict emotions to an experience of bodily activity, and many feminists, in their appropriate desire to reclaim the body, also tend to reinforce this limited understanding. See Cates, Diana Fritz, Aquinas on the Emotions (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009)Google Scholar, 214; Berendsen, Desiree, “Traditions as Paradigm Scenarios,” in Religious Emotions, ed. Lemmens, Willem and Van Herck, Walter (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), 66–69.Google Scholar
13 von Hildebrand, Dietrich, The Heart: An Analysis of Human and Divine Affectivity (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 2007), 20–40Google Scholar; Griffiths, What Emotions Really Are, 104, 118–22.
14 The Catechism (§§1763, 1765, 2093) is quite confused on this point. It says that the passions are movements of the “sensitive appetite,” that love is a passion, and that we can love God. Since God is not a sensible object, the passions must also be spiritual. Elsewhere I have tried to describe the enormous difficulties theologians have had in describing what it might mean to love God; see my forthcoming article “Problematic Love for God.”
15 Keith Oakley, “The Sentiments and Beliefs of Distributed Cognition,” in Frijda et al., Emotions and Beliefs, 78–107; Nico Frijda and Batja Mesquita, “Beliefs through Emotions,” ibid., 45–77, at 55–61.
16 “Object” is here an epistemological category—namely, the referent of our cognitive acts. It extends to anything that can be known, including persons, and even God.
17 Deonna, Julien and Teroni, Fabrice, Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2012)Google Scholar, 66.
18 De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 203.
19 Mark Wynn, “Religious Emotions and Religious Experience,” in Lemmens and Van Herck, Religious Emotions, 27–33, at 27–28; Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion, 29.
20 De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 116.
21 Deonna and Teroni, Emotions, 66–67; Ben-Ze'ev, Aaron, Subtlety of Emotions (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 13–17Google Scholar; De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 61. For an analysis of different types of inability to name emotions, see Moormann, Peter, et al. , “New Avenues in Alexithymia Research,” in Emotion Regulation, ed. Vingerhoets, Ad et al. (New York: Springer, 2008), 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
22 Egan, Harvey SJ, Spiritual Exercises and the Ignatian Mystical Horizon (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1976), 71–72.Google Scholar
23 Robert Solomon, “The Many Dimensions of Religious Emotional Experience,” in Lemmens and Van Herck, Religious Emotions, 230–46, at 232–33.
24 Wynn, “Religious Emotions and Religious Experience,” 28–29.
25 Deonna and Teroni (Emotions, 91–98) try to distinguish the immediacy of ordinary sense perception from that of emotion by saying that the latter “supervenes” upon the former. Normally, I think, emotion occurs in and not simply upon the perception.
26 Griffiths, What Emotions Really Are, 26–27.
27 Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today, 46–52.
28 Solomon, “Many Dimensions of Religious Emotional Experience,” 232–33.
29 Kenny, Anthony, Action, Emotion, and Will (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2003)Google Scholar, 43. I cannot here develop the way moods, sentiments, etc. have “objects.”
31 Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion, 96.
32 Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Young People,” July 19, 2008, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/july/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080719_vigil_en.html.
33 Turner, Jonathan, Problem of Emotions in Society (New York: Routledge, 2011)Google Scholar, 60; also Confalonieri, Luca Badini II, “The Election of Bishops by Clergy and People,” Theological Studies 73 (2012): 82–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 89; Nico Frijda et al., “The Influence of Emotions on Beliefs,” in Frijda et al., Emotions and Beliefs, 1–9, at 6–8; Oakley, “Sentiments and Beliefs,” 78–107.
34 Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion, 47–51.
35 Callan, Charles, “Orthodoxy,” in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911)Google Scholar, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11330a.htm.
36 McDermott, John SJ, “Can the Blessed Trinity Be Experienced in Grace?” Josephinum Journal of Theology 18 (2011)Google Scholar: 164; Mettepenningen, Jürgen and De Pril, Ward, “Thomism and the Renewal of Theology,” Horizons 39 (2012): 50–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 52–54, 58, 64–67.
37 McDermott, “Can the Blessed Trinity Be Experienced in Grace?” 164–65.
38 By existential faith, I do not mean the existentialism promoted by Jean-Paul Sartre. He so emphasized free self-determination that, rather than having an objective reference, our emotions were merely ways we magically transformed the meaning of the world. See Griffiths, What Emotions Really Are, 150–53; De Sousa, Rationality of Emotion, 146.
39 Karuvelil, “Absolutism to Ultimacy,” 67–73; Peter Goldie, “Freud and the Oceanic Feeling,” in Lemmens and Van Herck, Religious Emotions, 219–29, at 226–28.
40 Doran, Psychic Conversion, 151, 156–57.
41 Rigali, Norbert SJ, “On Presuppositions of Theological Ethics,” Horizons 38 (2011): 211–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 224; also Gaillardetz, Richard, “The Johnson Case and the Practice of Theology,” Horizons 38 (2011): 330–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 335.
42 Egan, Spiritual Exercises, 79.
43 Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter motu proprio (Porta Fidei), October 11, 2011, §10, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei_en.html.
44 Karuvelil, “Absolutism to Ultimacy,” 72.
46 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Uses and Advantages of History for Life, cited by Duffy, Stephen J., “A Theology of the Religions and/or a Comparative Theology?” Horizons 26 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar: 111.
47 Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today, 5.
48 Griffiths, What Emotions Really Are, 98.
49 Traina, Cristina, “The Johnson Case and the Practice of Theology,” Horizons 38 (2011): 286–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 290; Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion, 3; Solomon, “Many Dimensions of Religious Emotional Experience,” 234.
50 Lewis, Christian Reflections, 135; De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 29.
51 Brecht, Mara, “What's the Use of Exclusivism?” Theological Studies 73 (2012): 33–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 42–44, 53–54.
52 James, William, Varieties of Religious Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985)Google Scholar, 67 (my emphasis).
53 Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today, 52.
54 Ezra Klein, “Unpopular Mandate: Why Do Politicians Reverse Their Positions?” New Yorker, June 25, 2012, 30–33; Frijda et al., “Influence of Emotions on Beliefs,” 3.
55 Eggemeier, Matthew, “Christianity or Nihilism?” Horizons 39 (2012): 7–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 19–25.
56 Klaus Fiedler and Herbert Bless, “The Formation of Beliefs at the Interface of Affective and Cognitive Processes,” in Frijda et al., Emotions and Beliefs, 144–70, at 164–65.
57 Doran, Psychic Conversion, 73.
58 De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 157–65; Fiedler and Bless, “Formation of Beliefs,” 144–49; Doran, Psychic Conversion, 98–100, 176–78; Gerald Clore and Karen Gasper, “Feeling Is Believing,” in Frijda et al., Emotions and Beliefs, 10–44, at 21–23.
59 Eddie Harmon-Jones, “A Cognitive Dissonance Theory Perspective on the Role of Emotion in the Maintenance and Change of Beliefs and Attitudes,” in Frijda et al., Emotions and Beliefs, 185–211, at 185–93; Doran, Psychic Conversion, 174.
60 Doran, Psychic Conversion, 205.
61 Barbieri, William Jr., “Value of Experience for a Worldly Church,” in Church and People: Disjunctions in a Secular Age, ed. Taylor, Charles et al. (Washington, DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2012), 109–26Google Scholar, at 114–18.
62 Noonan, John, “Development in Moral Doctrine,” Theological Studies 54 (1993): 662–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 673.
63 José Casanova, “Church and World,” in Taylor et al., Church and People, 127–36, at 127.
64 See, e.g., statements from Pope Pius IX's encyclical Quanta Cura (December 8, 1864) and the appended “Syllabus of Errors,” in Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum/Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, ed. Denzinger, Heinrich and Hünermann, Peter, 43rd ed. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012)Google Scholar, DH 2890, 2915.
65 De Sousa, Rationality of Emotion, 249–52, 256; Frijda and Mesquita, “Beliefs through Emotions,” 56–57; Deonna and Teroni, Emotions, 99–100.
66 Clore and Gasper, “Feeling Is Believing,” 28–29. This process carries danger too, since conflation can lead to mistakes; for example, reverence for God and the Church leads, all too frequently, to ecclesiolatry.
67 De Sousa, Rationality of Emotion, 188; De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 216; Solomon, “Many Dimensions of Religious Emotional Experience,” 242; Doran, Psychic Conversion, 157.
68 Deonna and Teroni, Emotions, 54.
69 Campese, Gioacchino CS, “The Irruption of Migrants,” Theological Studies 73 (2012): 3–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 6; also Brecht, “What's the Use of Exclusivism?,” 41–46.
70 Sadler-Smith, Eugene, “Before Virtue: Biology, Brain, Behavior, and the ‘Moral Sense,’” Business Ethics Quarterly 22 (2012): 351–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 353–54; Frijda, “Influence of Emotions on Beliefs,” 3.
71 De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 7–8.
72 De Sousa, Rationality of Emotion, 161.
73 Edward Vacek, SJ, “Do ‘Good People’ Need Confession? Self-Deception and the Sacrament of Honesty,” in America, February 25, 2002, 11–15; Goleman, Daniel, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985).Google Scholar
74 De Sousa, Rationality of Emotion, 199–20; Roberts, Robert, “Will Power and the Virtues,” in Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, ed. Sommers, Christina and Sommers, Fred (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993), 266–88.Google Scholar
75 Edwards, Jonathan, “Nature and Importance of the Affections,” Religious Affections, ed. Smith, John (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959), 93–124Google Scholar; Riis and Woodhead, Sociology of Religious Emotion, 56–57.
76 De Sousa, Emotional Truth, 136, 139.