Thoughts vs. Feelings

NPR yesterday ran a story about capital punishment in Connecticut. Apparently, the state may possibly get rid of the death penalty just as a notorious double murder—a wife and daughter brutalized and killed for no reason—goes to trial.

This has made for an interesting confluence of events that I, at least, hope will lead to capital punishment remaining on the books. The state, the Bible says, has the power of the sword.

But not everyone sees it my way:

State Representative GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD (Democrat, CT): I recognize what that trial does to public opinion. I recognize what it does to inflame the passions of people. But whether or not people are feeling a certain way, I don’t think has anything to do with whether or not I should be looking to do what I think is the right thing.

He’s surely correct that one should do right no matter how other people feel about it. But I think there’s an implication he’s likely leaving that isn’t right, namely that strong feelings and passions invariably (?) lead people in the wrong direction.

Feelings are fallen, but so are thoughts. And the two are not finally separable, anyway. John Frame has an excellent discussion on this—the “Organs of Ethical Knowledge”—in his Doctrine of the Christian Life.

In this case, my deep moral feeling  is that people who are “viciously violent and create wanton destruction” (in the words of the father and husband of the murdered women) ought to pay with their lives. Because God gives people consciences (Rom 1–2), many of those who don’t share my view of Scripture share that feeling.

And our feeling is right, no matter what Gary Holder-Winfield thinks.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

Leave a Reply