A Passionate Prophet: Reading Emotions In The Book Of Malachi -- By: E. Ray Clendenen
BBR 23:2 (2013) p. 207
A Passionate Prophet:
Reading Emotions In The Book Of Malachi
B & H Publishers
This article examines evidence of Malachi’s interest in uncovering the audience’s emotional state and of using various strategies to affect those emotions. One effect of this “emotional reading” is to dig deeper into motives and to get a fuller picture of the original situation than is usually obtained. It also demonstrates the author was aware of the close, even overlapping relationship between thought, emotions, attitudes, and behavior.
Key Words: Old Testament, prophets, Malachi, theology of emotions
How should a Christian regard emotions (or “feelings”)?1 Are they part of God’s image or part of the curse? Are they dangerous, an aspect of our fallen human nature and likely to lead us to make bad decisions, and therefore something to be avoided or squelched?2 Or are they to be nurtured and sought as a medium for spiritual devotion or a window into the heart? These and other questions about emotions are fascinating, but my primary purpose is to investigate what part the emotions play in effecting spiritual change. Do the biblical writers and the divine Author himself use emotion to achieve their purpose, or do they bypass it to focus only on the mind? Perhaps Malachi is not the first book one thinks of when considering the emotions, but I believe it can serve well as a place to begin investigating the use of emotions in the Bible. My secondary, less ambitious goal is to see whether focusing on the emotions can be a productive tool in studying a
BBR 23:2 (2013) p. 208
biblical book. First, however, I would like to make a few comments about the state of psychological research on the emotions.
The Nature Of Emotions
Psychologist Eric L. Johnson says that emotion is one of the “basic formative ingredients that make possible the development of an individual, mature human being.”3 He explains that “an emotion is an intrinsically private, subjective aspect of human experience that signifies something.” It provides oneself and others with information “regarding one’s needs, goals and concerns.”4 But unlike words, “emotions provide value information,” because they are “elicited by evaluations (appraisals) of events and situations.”5 Thus, “the emotion system is motivational” in that emotions “signify people’s deepest drives, understand...
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