God without mood swings
November 17, 2010 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Book recommendation: Emotion and the Christian religious experience.

I'm interested in reading about how emotion has shaped the Christian religious experience and particularly how it has shaped the evolution of churches and the expectation of emotional experience as part of the conversion process.

In a nutshell, even though I consider myself nominally Christian, I personally don't approach Christianity or religion in an emotional way. I'm fairly uncomfortable with churches who present God as being experienced in a purely emotional way and especially emotional manipulation as a context of worship.

I'm having a hard time googling for a book because I'm getting bogged down in self-help guides about how spiritual transformation will SAVE ME!

This book sounded like what I was looking for until I read the review:

The book is very straight forward and easy to read and comprehend what our worship should look like. A great faith builder, confirms your beliefs.
theology for the common layman.

ugh. The ideal book wouldn't be either for or against emotion in Christianity but would explain how different churches approach the matter and relate these churches with the early Christians.
posted by aetg to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested in early history? You might want to go back as far as studying the Tabernacle of David (yes, before Jesus but still a foundation in Christian thought re worship.)

You will probably want to investigate books in Church History because, frankly what you are asking depends so much on what flavor/denomination you are talking about.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: I'm interested in early history, yes. The ideal book would be something like Emotion and the Christian Experience throughout History.
posted by aetg at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2010

William James?
posted by phrontist at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity"
Also, check book reviews at Christianity Today
posted by lazydog at 5:36 PM on November 17, 2010

Best answer: I don't know if anyone has written this book yet, but there have been several really good articles on the topic in the journal Sociology of Religion.

You might also want to take a look at the work of Karen Armstrong (pretty much anything in her work about Christianity).

Although this is not exactly what you're looking for, I would suggest that this book might also interest you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:37 PM on November 17, 2010

Here's a link to the full text of one of the articles I was thinking of from Sociology of Religion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:43 PM on November 17, 2010

Maybe look for books on early Catholic mystics, like Hildegard? Some of them wrote passionate and moving verses to the Lord... amazing stuff.
posted by goblinbox at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2010

Not 100% what you're looking for, but related and really really good: God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World. One of the authors, John Micklethwait, is the editor of The Economist.
posted by falameufilho at 6:34 PM on November 17, 2010

Definitely seconding William James's Varieties of Religious Experience.
posted by stuck on an island at 6:14 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm fairly uncomfortable with churches who present God as being experienced in a purely emotional way and especially emotional manipulation as a context of worship.

Ronald Knox's Enthusiasm (originally from Oxford and now in print from Univ. of Notre Dame Press) might be interesting to you. It's very detailed history (form a certain polemical point of view), but it is only current up to the rise of Evangelicism and Pentacostalism, not its full modern flowering. It apparently has quite a bit on Wesley.
posted by Jahaza at 10:29 AM on November 18, 2010

Best answer: You might also try The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion, which looks like it has a lot of stuff in it. This is the Amazon link, but you might want to look for it in a library near you, since it's really pricey. I'd actually take a look at this book before the Knox.
posted by Jahaza at 10:33 AM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who commented, all the books and writings suggested look pretty interesting.

I think Sidhedevil hit the nail on the head with the works by Karen Armstrong, and the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion looks very interesting, but woo! what a price tag. I will definitely be trying to get that one at the library.
posted by aetg at 5:18 PM on November 18, 2010

Best answer: Another you might look at is Urban Holmes' A History of Christian Spirituality: An Analytical Introduction. I remember Holmes specifically talks about four different approaches to spirituality: Rational (Intellectual & Focused on Certainty), Emotional (Heartfelt & Focused on Certainty), Kingdom (Intellectual and Focused on Mystery) and Mystic (Heartfelt, Focused on Mystery.) It's a good overview of how all those spiritual types play out over Christian history. My copy is in storage so I can't give you many more details, but it's a short read and not very pricey, and I think it's pretty close to what you want.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2010

Also, you might want to look into the Great Awakening(s) in American history. The First Great Awakening represented a major shift away from purely rational calls for conversion toward an emotional appeal. A lot of the expectations for an emotional conversation experience (in America, anyway) trace their roots to those major revivals in our history. Wikipedia's not a bad place to start, and it'll give you names and events for deeper digging.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:40 PM on November 18, 2010

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