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Feel : A book review

Feel: the power of listening to your heart
by Matthew Elliott

At first glance, Feel looks like every other up and coming post modern book on the Christian market. The orange cover with the scrawly stylized art; the unusual font and line spacing and interactive pages complete with quotes from the comments section of the blog. Even the theme of the book seems to scream “warning! liberal post modern ahead!” (which for me is more of a welcome than a warning but you get the picture).

Which is why I was very confused when I saw the host of evangelical and reformed names recommending the book. A guy who positively quotes Piper is writing about reclaiming our feelings? Surely you jest.

Which is exactly Elliott’s point - for too long in Christianity, emotions have been branded as the things that draw good Christians away from solid Biblical holiness. Emotions lead us astray, they are tools of the enemy, nurturing emotions is what ooey-gooey shady liberals do.

My experience is very similar to what Elliott articulates in his book. Interestingly enough, even though the charismatic tradition tends to honor emotional experience with God above any other experience, they also (especially the word of faith branch of Pentecostalism) often communicate that we cannot rely on our emotions in any context outside of worship. This was definitely the message I received and I have struggled with emotional expression my whole life as long as I can remember.

Elliott explores at length the philosophical history of dualism and how so much of our “theology” about feelings has been based on platonic thought, not Biblical teaching. He then goes on to reconstruct a more godly and ultimately healthy Christian view of emotions and ways to “handle” our emotions. I felt like he did that typical “take away” toward the end, making sure to draw some lines of caution in the sand - a behavior that annoys me now-a-days but he probably needed to do it.

Throughout the book, I often felt that Elliott was taking too long to say what he was going to say and I don’t like it when authors tell you what they’re GOING TO talk about in the future of the book instead of just getting to it. But all in all, the content was decent and I found some of it personally helpful.

I thought the collaboration of the book and his blog was a great use of social technology although the “join the revolution” tag on the top of the site is just too overused.

In summary, I’m glad to hear people like Elliott are thinking, conversing and writing about this important and too often ignored issue and I would recommend it as a worthy read. However, I think it could have been addressed with a little more literary savvy.

Technorati Tags: matthew elliott, book review, feel, emotions, feelings

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  1. Matthew Elliott — July 7, 2008 #

    Thanks for the honest words! In writing a book, it is always difficult to know how dense to make it. The first few drafts conveyed much more in a way that was much more theological, outlined, etc. For a denser read, read Faithful Feelings! The problem we faced was tackling a subject that is so misunderstood by so many in a way that was both engaging and convincing and not just for theologians. No easy task. So after about six drafts … Feel is what we have. One of the first editors I talked with said the task of taking the heavy theology and making into a really popular book was impossible - he is the best in his field and said “I have never seen it done.” So in a way if it was too easy reading perhaps that is a compliment in a funny sort of way. For Piper, he is one of the few that has a good understanding of how God made us to FEEL, did his PhD on Love your enemies. Warmly, hope this provides some window into the writing of FEEL. And glad you thought the book was valuable, I hope it gave you some idea how to love Him with all your heart mind and soul a little better. Matthew

  2. Mak — July 7, 2008 #

    Thanks for dropping by Matthew, I really did appreciate what you had to say, my critiques were more a matter of personal taste than actual literary criticism. I very much appreciate that you wrote the book and hope people take it to heart :) As for Piper, I don’t like his ideas about SO MANY THINGS that it tends to be a red flag for me but my reference to that was more to simply point out that I was surprised with your approach.

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