What makes up a person is quite complex. Certainly there is a mind or a part that reasons. Emotions are also a part of the mix. In addition there is a will or a volitional part to human being. While there are others, philosophers have recognized these parts as important in directing a human life. These parts often become obvious when we find ourselves conflicted about a decision. “My heart says yes, but my head says no.” When I find myself doubting that God is good the problem usually doesn’t lie in my reasoning. Graduating from a Christian college I know the Bible verse and theological proofs that the God is good. Either my feelings or will is not in full agreement. Which is most powerful?
I think most people would agree that emotions are the weaker or probably more accurately the farthest from the center. They tend to be most susceptible to fluctuation. I don’t want to get into a debate about the nature of people, but I going to say that I believe the will is stronger than reason. If we were pure calculating machines maybe yes. We are much more complex than that. The will or volitional part of a human is the strongest part of of a human. Its closest to the center. Reason and emotion can shape and inform the will. They can also be the servants of the will.
The human will can make the mind and emotions be the dragons at the gate to the will. Since I am a thinker much more than a feeler I can relate best to the dragon of reason. I wish it didn’t work this way, but often my will informs my reason. Inside I sense something is true and I construct a logical wall to guard that assumption. In the best cases, my assumption corresponds to reality and I have rightly used the logic. Often times my will blinds me to some flaw in my reasoning. Suddenly along comes some simpleton and pulls a lose brick from my wall and it falls over, exposing a fallacy. The danger is bigger the more intelligent a person is. Their power and skill with reason can create rather strong dragons to guard the will. They are convinced that they are correct because their reasoning has been constructed so tight and strong. Few can get through and to prove that their assumption is wrong. Sometimes only an equally brilliant person can find the flaw and expose it. Reason is unblinded and the will must be straighten if the person wants aline their knowledge to reality.
I suppose the same thing happens in people that are more emotionally wired. If I hadn’t had my feelings removed years ago I might be able to understand (Just kidding). What should we do about this? First of all we should continually pray that our will is conformed to that of Christ. Then a right will can set the reason and emotions right. A mind and emotions that are transformed by Christ also help. Most of us have had “aha” moments. Suddenly we realize the foolishness of some idea that we held and may have defended. Or another person comes and easily walks through the wall we have built. They see the flaw in our reasoning or feelings. Other people are inestimable in correcting are faulty logic, crooked wills, and out of touch emotions. Books can also do the same. Often the more different someone is the better they are at correcting us. Their perspective can test us in ways that we didn’t take into account, proving if our wall is really as solid as we say it is. All this helps provided we are honest enough to recognize when we are wrong.
I may have given the impression from this that they dragons are bad. Actually they can be very good. Our emotions and mind help protect are wills from that which is false or perverse. When we feel revulsion at evil that is healthy. God created our emotions to respond that way. When we recognize the false logic of an argument and reject is as untrue our minds are working how God intended them. To many Christians’ have dragons that are asleep or inattentive. The enemy walks right in and is able to influence their wills. Dragons that keep good can also keep bad out.
Interestingly art has the power to sneak past our dragons. When you read an essay about the existence of God your reason is on full alert. A story, if it is well done, can sneak past the dragons. A beautiful song also has the power to lull them to sleep. Writers who were Christians like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were well aware of this. Perhaps it is one of the reason why Jesus spoke in parables and a majority of the Bible is written in narrative. That is also why it is rare for a person to be argued to Christ by pure reasoning. Reasoning can break down walls. However, if the will remains closed to change, the emotions and reason will be brought about in full power to protect it. Only when the Holy Spirit steps in and tips the scale of the will does a person believe.
If this is a fairly accurate assessment of the human condition what does it say about how we evangelize. Do we overly focus on the emotions or the reason when we share the gospel? Shouldn’t we consider all three? Do attempts at culture change focus on only one of the three? How does this affect how we consume and produce art and media? Finally, be careful of over thinking this. It could be easy to lapse into some kind of despair about knowing truth or psychotic introspection. Allow your entire self to be conformed to that of Christ.