I'm not sure exactly where Tony is going next with his series on emotions, but his post connected with some other thoughts I've been having—specifically, the importance of addressing the whole person when we preach. I've come to the conclusion that we need more pathetic preaching.
The thing that alerted me to all this was a little article about teaching your children to argue. In it, Jay Heinrichs explains why you should try and teach your children the Greek art of rhetoric. I won't go into all the details here (you can read it for yourself), but essentially he says that human beings evaluate any argument at three different levels. Good arguments involve appropriate pathos (appeal to emotions), appropriate ethos (an appeal to the character of the persuader) and appropriate logos (an appeal to logic and reasoning).
Basically, that got me thinking about pathos. It's an interesting word with roots in shared human emotional experience—particularly to do with suffering (see the Merriam-Webster for more details). But then I thought about it some more and realized that that's not how we use the word at all. We usually use it to mean something that is—well—pathetic—that is, pitiful or laughably inadequate. How does the original root of the word relate to our English usage?
I'm not going to the stake over any of this, but I suspect that it is related to the fact that people use displays of emotion to persuade all the time that are ultimately completely inadequate. Think, for example, of the toddler who toddles some way before bumping unceremoniously to the ground. She then stops and looks around to see who's watching. She decides that you are watching and are looking appropriately concerned. So she does the only reasonable thing: she screws up her face into something like an albino prune and wails melodramatically until you come to cuddle her. It is pathetic. You know that her emotion doesn't match the situation.
Now how often do we preach in such a way that the emotion doesn't match the subject of the proclamation? (And by preaching, I don't mean pulpiteering; I mean speaking the life-giving message of Jesus to anyone who will listen.) Do we preach about the suffering and death of Jesus, which displays the depths of the love of God, as though we are reading from a washing machine manual? Do we talk about sin the way we would discuss the football scores on the weekend?
Now, before I'm misunderstood, please note I'm not talking about faking emotion; I'm talking about contemplating the reality of the things that we speak about when we open the word of God.
We need more pathetic preaching. And I suspect the key to gaining it is sitting humbly before the great truths that God speaks in his word. But I guess Tony will have more to say about that ...