How much of the division over origins among Christians is about Feelers vs.Thinkers?


#1

Yes, that question implies a very simplistic view of the origins debate. Yet, I wonder how often we focus on lists of evidence without recognizing that we all have different brain structures, personalities, biochemistry, and “decision-making styles”.

As a young minister I had an experience which I later found was shared by lots of pastors: a conflict within the church’s elder board which arose from a “feelers vs. thinkers” division. The newest elder at this particular Bible Belt church was a forty-something go-getter, very successful businessman who devoured the scriptures and was an aggressive, enthusiastic evangelist in the community. His opposite on the elder board was a seventy-something retired dairy farmer whose grandfather had been one of the founders of the church—and everybody in the church knew that historical fact. (And many considered it extremely important.) As one might predict, the younger man wanted the church to pursue new ways of doing things while the elderly man liked the status quo. After yet another difficult board meeting where the older man quietly but clearly objected to virtually everything the younger man proposed, I asked to meet with the two men privately. I hoped to find common ground and to see if there was anything unknown to me that was creating the roadblocks and tension. The businessman eagerly explained his position in a calm, very logical and systematic manner. He ended his remarks with an expression of appreciation to the older man for his years of service to the church and this comment: “Red [everybody called the older man Red], I sincerely hope you are understanding what I’m trying to say about these matters.” I naively thought things were going quite well as I turned my head to look at Red for his response. He slowly looked up at me and then at his fellow elder: “Oh, yes. I hear you loud and clear: You are saying that you don’t like me.” I was absolutely floored and wondered what I should say next. What was said and what was heard were two very different things.

Looking back, I regret my unspoken anger towards Red, no doubt a reflection of my relative youth and inexperience. At the time, I dismissively judged him as being spiritually immature, petty, and lacking a love for the unsaved. But in the years since, I’ve mulled over various of the collisions between the two men and the differences in their personalities which led to the conflicts. I now realize that Red was a deep feeling man who sincerely cared about his family and everyone in the church. He genuinely loved God and wanted to obey him. (In fact, he probably feared unintentionally disobeying him.) While the younger businessman and the pastor tended to cogitate on lists of reasons for and against some decision, Red primarily cared about how changes would impact the feelings of everyone at the church. To Red, the carefully reasoned arguments the businessman presented to the board of elders were cold and unfeeling—and of secondary importance. What I assumed at the time were differences in spiritual maturity (always something worthy considering) were primarily differences in ways of prioritizing and making decisions because of what Red valued more: people’s feelings.

Thus, I wonder: How much of the conflicts between Christians over origins topics are influenced by these same “thinkers vs. feelers” versions of humanity—and do we need to keep reminding ourselves that both human thought and human emotions are manifestations of the Imago Dei? And would we be much better communicators if we consciously avoided our potentially condescending attitudes towards the “feelers” among us within the Church?


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

As I was mulling this over, I was tempted to wonder if your thinker vs. feeler dichotomy might roughly also correspond also to truth vs. relationship [as if these things must always oppose each other.]

But then I thought better – as I don’t think it would fairly represent “Red” as you describe him, to think that he was less concerned with truth than your businessman. It does seem to me, though, like Red might have been more sensitive to issues of relationship and community - or at least relationship between himself and the other person present.


#3

I’m often struck by the differences between what a “thinker” says and what a “feeler” thinks he or she hears. These examples come to mind in the origins debate:

An Atheist Scientist: “I am not aware of compelling evidence for a deity/deities.”

What is heard: “Scientists deny the existence of God” or even “Scientists hate God!”

Christian1: “I don’t see any reason why the Big Bang isn’t a good explanation of the beginnings of the universe.”

What is heard: “You deny God as Creator. You aren’t a Christian at all!”
(Unsaid but felt: “You are a danger to the Church.”)

Christian2: “I trust in the Bible but I also accept that the earth is billions of years old.”

What is heard: “You not only deny the Bible, you think God lacks the power to create everything in six days!”
(Unsaid but felt: “You are a danger to the Church.”)

Christian3: “I can’t find anything in the Bible denying the existence of death before Adam’s fall.”

What is heard: “Without the fall of Adam, there is no basis for the Gospel!”
(Unsaid but felt: “You are a danger to the Church.”)

Christian4: “It seems to me that the Theory of Evolution explains very well the diversity of species.”

What is heard: “You deny that ‘God created everything’ is enough!”
(Unsaid but felt: “You are a danger to the Church.”)

We all can recall similar exchanges. And even my examples reflect more condescension on my part that I would like to admit. If the conflict between thinkers and feelers is real in the origins debate within the Church, what can we do to bridge that chasm while remaining faithful to God’s revelations in the scriptures and in nature? I confess that I sometimes get absolutely exasperated when I carefully express scientific and scripture evidence and what is heard by my Christian brother or sister is something completely different. And that is what brought to mind my experiences long ago with Red, the elderly elder.

Am I too concerned about the feelings of the feelers within the Church? Have we been too polite and tolerant toward ministry leaders who manipulate the feelings of their followers and tend to inoculate them from the evidence? Or have we been too callous and unempathetic towards those who are not as evidence-driven as we tend to be?


(Steve Schaffner) #4

I think the answer is yes – but I don’t feel that way.


#5

When I was an eager young professor, I thought I would revive the traditional Socratic teacher who would force students to be continually on their toes in class so that they would always be ready for my questions. And when John Houseman made a big impact as a crusty law school professor in The Paper Chase in the 1970’s (??),on the first day of the semester I would even have fun with his signature catchphrase (“You come in here with a head full of mush and …”) It always got a laugh back then but I doubt any of the students would recognize it today. Anyway, one of my habits was to interrupt a student who answered my Socratic question with “I feel that…” and remind them: “I didn’t ask how you feel about X, I asked you…” I basically prohibited “I feel” and demanded “I think” or “I affirm” or “I believe that …” Perhaps I should have done a better job of explaining how “I think” and “I feel” each have their appropriate contexts and why.

What used to concern me just before my retirement from the classroom was the growing trend of students responding to other people’s opinions with “I"m offended by that!”—accompanied by the expectation that if even just one person is offended by an idea, nobody should ever again speak of it aloud.

There appears to be people who have great difficulty distinguishing thinking and feeling in the course of decision making. So a topic like the Theory of Evolution becomes a very troubling academic subject.if they can’t avoid the material in the textbook.


#6

A blog post from a doctor concerning the mutability of some beliefs here.


(Benjamin Kirk) #7

:smile: I think that SF missed your joke.


(Ray Bailey) #8

For those who do not know The Paper Chase

Many readers and viewers wonder if John Osborn Jr. had someone special in mind when he created the imperious professor in his 1971 hit novel “The Paper Chase,” based on his Harvard Law School (HLS) years.

The book centers on “Hart,” an eager young law student, and his tumultuous relationship with an austere contracts professor named “Kingsfield” (played to perfection in the 1973 film by actor John Houseman, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actor).

I was also affected by The Paper Chase

Ray :sunglasses:


(Ray Bailey) #9

@Socratic.Fanatic
I have copied your post over to an email to a couple with whom I am discussing this topic. It is especially appropriate to the methodology of our discussion. She is a feeler, and he is a thinker. Much of our discussion was trying to find ways to express what we thought, while she consistently said “I feel”.

I hope this meets with your approval.

Ray :sunglasses:


#10

There is also a single commonality between the two groups: they are human. Everyone feels discomfort at the prospect that their worldview could be wrong (i.e. cognitive dissonance). Unfortunately, this discomfort can manifest itself in ways that are counterproductive. People may lash out against groups of people or areas of knowledge if it threatens their worldview. I think this is just part of being human, including myself and including the “thinkers”.

I think we can see the symptoms of this problem manifest itself in other areas, such as climate change denial. Some people even go as far as saying they don’t trust scientists, or feel that their beliefs require them to forgo their ability to address scientific facts and scientific reasoning. It seems at time that the feel the need to sacrifice reason on the altar of belief which doesn’t seem to be necessary, at least to this atheist.

Is there a solution for those who can’t overcome this discomfort? The only solution I can see is for those people to find someone they trust to guide them through the ordeal. The confrontation you describe might be due to a lack of trust more than anything else. Perhaps it would be helpful to build trust between people before you send them in to tackle the tougher issues.


#11

Why? Was I obligated to post a “LOL” or “ROFL” to acknowledge the obvious play on the word “feel”?? (I’m old but I’m not senile!) Didn’t you wonder why I followed Glipsnort’s joke with an anecdote about students saying “I feel that…”?

My apologies to Glipsnort if an acknowledgement of the joke was an expected courtesy.


#12

Sure. That’s fine. (Which story did you use: Red the church elder or my Paper Chase story?)


(Steve Schaffner) #13

Nah. I figured you got it. In any case, my statement was also intended to be factually correct, i.e. to indicate that even as a “thinker” I have strong feelings that conflict with my reasoned conclusions. (In this case, it’s the impulse to tell people “YOU’RE WRONG!” even when that clearly isn’t the smartest move, communication-wise.)


(Ray Bailey) #14

The church elder… Though I added my own thoughts based on my own experience of how the Paper Chase had affected my thinking. It echoed your own observations. Using my own college resonates with my friend as we both had Professor Martin in “General Education” our freshman year. He did his own version of “head full of mush”.

Of course, my own church Board and Deacon Board experience often followed your experience as well. Only when I got to be about 45 did my ability to handle the “feelers” improved. I was too impatient before that.
Ray :sunglasses:


(Ray Bailey) #15

I “feel” as well as “think” :grin: that the shear volume and variable quality of technology and science has everybody (including scientists) in a quandary.

  • The volume is more than anybody can possibly survey, let alone delve into very deeply without significant investment of time and energy. Without personally being able to decide what is valid and what is properly applicable, we revert to using “feelings” about the subject rather than using supporting evidence which is hard to find (like goes on here all the time – search for sources!)

  • Quality is an even bigger issue. While much development in basic science is occurring, it is much slower in tempo between initial theory to established wide-spread acceptance. . However the constant barrage of media hype and Internet fallacies and mis-direction gives a false sense of science being uncertain, unreliable, and always changing (not for the better). Not to forget the misuse of technology and science to drive a political/social agenda (for the good of all mankind of course!).

These two issues certainly have a great influence on how we process the debates on the origins and related issues.

Ray :sunglasses:


#16

I completely agree. I think we may be creating a false dichotomy between our feelers and thinkers. It is probably much more of a spectrum, as most things are in life. At the far end of the “feeler” spectrum there are people, in my experience, that would never put forth the time or energy to learn the material, even if they had all the time and energy in the world. The middle is probably the majority, people who would probably come to a reasonable position if they spent the time and energy to learn the science.[quote=“RLBailey, post:15, topic:36449”]
Quality is an even bigger issue. While much development in basic science is occurring, it is much slower in tempo between initial theory to established wide-spread acceptance. . However the constant barrage of media hype and Internet fallacies and mis-direction gives a false sense of science being uncertain, unreliable, and always changing (not for the better). Not to forget the misuse of technology and science to drive a political/social agenda (for the good of all mankind of course!).
[/quote]

Just a couple of quick observations.

First, scientists get excited by the fact that science has, is, and can change. It is almost every scientist’s dream to overturn the current consensus. It is interesting that the public would see the changing nature of science as a weakness while scientists see it as a strength. Perhaps some people prefer a more stable set of conclusions that aren’t conditional or tentative.

Second, we often hear creationists claiming that science refuses to change in the face of evidence supporting creationism. It’s kind of a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” situation.


(Ray Bailey) #17

We all do! Everybody prefers consistency and predictability in their everyday life! Even the predictable fact that science changes (as you mentioned above) is a consistency that is comforting to Scientists (as long as it is their theorem that is currently the standard, while hating the change that might overthrow it next year! :grin:)

It the the rest of “us” Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, uh… “government worker” that has other world views that depend heavily on Science or Religion, or Philosophy et al, that has trouble with scientific change. In other words, anything in somebody else’s bailiwick!

I have to throw in the word bailiwick as it is rooted in my name, Bailey! (re: bailiff, baillie, bail, bail-bond, post bail, bale of hay, bale the boat… Don’t get a chance to use it much! :grin:

Ray :sunglasses:


(jason patterson) #18

I think part of that might be how it is filtered down to people. Usually you turn to someone who is friendly to your views to explain things to you… Like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin singularity theorem. Is that generally accepted? And if it is…what does it mean exactly? I haven’t a clue unless someone tells me.


(Benjamin Kirk) #19

[quote=“RLBailey, post:15, topic:36449”]
While much development in basic science is occurring, it is much slower in tempo between initial theory to established wide-spread acceptance.[/quote]

Hi Ray,

I think you’ve got the vocabulary and/or mechanics wrong. The initial part is a hypothesis. We only call something a theory after it is established and accepted. It still can be falsified and/or modified, though.

[quote]However the constant barrage of media hype and Internet fallacies and mis-direction gives a false sense of science being uncertain, unreliable, and always changing (not for the better).
[/quote]And much of the hype comes from the administrators at the universities themselves! But most of that is happening with ecological studies that only find correlations (such as “drinking coffee is correlated with” good or bad things, which gets twisted into causation), not experimental ones.

[quote=“RLBailey, post:17, topic:36449”]
Even the predictable fact that science changes (as you mentioned above) is a consistency that is comforting to Scientists (as long as it is their theorem that is currently the standard, while hating the change that might overthrow it next year! :grin:)
[/quote]Again, it’s my job to do the best I can to falsify my hypothesis. If I do, that’s fine. By the time it becomes a theory, it only very rarely remains associated with one person (prions are the only exception that comes to mind). And as Taq pointed out, we’re far more excited about overturning conventions and theories than we are about supporting them.


(Ray Bailey) #20

Yes, thank you! I am getting old enough that sometimes my brain supplies me the wrong word in the right place, or vice versa!

Perhaps that’s how you see it in your bailiwick, but to people who only see TV and internet, the view is quite difference. The point being made is that whatever happens in the “ecological” world from your side, is conflated with technological changes and all rolled under the heading of “Science” (broad brush effect). Even more so for the “touch/feel” person who has little understanding or patience for the details of the technological.

As this discussion is focused on the interface between the “logical” mind and the “relational mind” the relational people are looking for the consistency and value in their relationship to the technical world, which is always in flux. Since they don;t understand it in the same way as technically trained (or logically trained) they respond in the way they are comfortable–Feelings.

You are correct from your viewpoint! Again, this is like me trying to read Genesis with an Ancient Near Eastern mindset instead of a “scientific/material” mindset. Hard to do after a lifetime of training in the YEC camp!

Blessings

Ray :sunglasses: