Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Alright Pastor John, are godly affections emotions? Are affections more than emotions? Are emo-tions part of affections? Are affections totally different than emotions? Or are affections the source of emotions? How would you explain this? Asking that question makes it sound like the question is: What is the difference between the liver and the kidneys? Now what I mean is, there are two objects out there. One is a liver and one is the kidneys. Eve-rybody know a liver if they see it. Every knows a kidney if they see it. And what the question means is: Tell me the difference between them, different function, whatever. That is not what is going on in this question. There aren’t two... There isn’t a liver out there called affections and kidney out there called Page 9 of 12emotions. And let’s just talk about the differences. This questioner doesn’t know what they are. The question really is: What should I mean? What should I refer to when I use the word emotion? What should I refer to when I use the word affections? At least that is the way I am hearing it, because I don’t know what they have in mind when they say emotion and what they have in mind when they say affec-tions. So I think the best way for me to answer it is to say: How do I and, say, Jonathan Edwards use the terms? And then they can decide if they want to use them that way, because that is what words are. Words are meant to be assigned to realities and we assign them sometimes arbitrarily and sometimes the community assigns them for us. But in this case I think there isn’t any clear community that is in Eng-lish agreement on precisely what the affections and the emotions refer to. So, according to Edwards, the human soul has two faculties: reason and will, not a third one, like feel-ings or emotions; reason and will. What those two faculties do is they perceive and think. That is the first one. And they incline. They want or don’t want. The lean in or lean away. And if you ask them, “Well, where are the affections in this as Edwards uses the term?” And his answer is: The affections are the lively inclinings of the will. In other words, if the will like a magnet really snaps to something, those are affections or if it really recoils from something with hatred, those are the affections. So affections arenot a third faculty of the human soul. They are the lively actings of the second faculty of the will. And he distinguishes it from what he calls bodily motions or animal spirits like trembling, sweating, twitch-ing, fainting, fluttering of the eyelids, short breath, you know, that sort of thing. He says those are not affections. Those are bodily reactions to affections, but they have no spiritual nature to them at all. Now once you have set it up this way, Edwards almost never uses the word emotion. I did a word search looking for it. I could only find one. And that one was used almost synonymously with the bodily mo-tions, emotion, the stirring, the shaking of the body. So the word emotion was not there for Edwards which means, I suspect, that in our common modern language there would be a large overlap between what he meant by affections and what we mean by emotions, gratitude, love, hatred, desire and so on. But here is the key question. Are there natural affections and are there spiritual affections? Edwards would say, “Everybody has affections, but they are of no spiritual worth unless they are spiritual affec-tions and spiritual affections are the kind of inclinations toward God and his Word, and his ways, and his works, when we have been born again to love God, delight in God, and praise God.”So the affections of the world are strong, but they are not spiritual. They are not born of the Holy Spirit. They are not awakened by the new birth and they are not affections for God as God, for God as beautiful and holy and satisfying. And so Edwards and I would say those are the affections we are after and I love to quote Edwards. This is one of my favorite quotes as a preacher. He says, “I think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can provided they are affected with nothing but truth and with the affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.”So I conclude, Tony, by saying, yes, let’s pursue those affections with all our might, because God is most glorified in us when we are most affected or satisfied in him. Yes, Desiring God exists online to spread that grand truth. Thank you Pastor John. And thank you for listening to this podcast. Please email your questions to us at askpastorjohn AT desir-inggod DOT org. At desiringgod DOT org you will find thousands of other free resources from John Piper. ... I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.