Thursday, 06 November 2008
Guest post submitted by Theimperfecthomemaker
My 6 year-old daughter is wonderfully extroverted, active, noisy, messy, cheerful, dramatic, easily distracted and spontaneous. God has entrusted me- introverted, studious, quiet, organized, sober and reflective- with at least part of the responsibility for home-schooling this little bundle of ill-contained energy.
While researching how best to help our little girl learn her math facts, I came across the left-brain/right-brain theories that have been floating around for decades. If you’re not familiar with them, the premise is that the right side of the brain tends to be the emotional, spontaneous, intuitive side while the left side of the brain is more analytical, intellectual and deals with the written word and symbols. Now certainly this is a pop-psychology simplification (the whole theory may be pop-psychology to the core) but it does help to put words to experiences that are difficult to describe.
Lately, I’ve really begun to notice how Christians and Christian worship seems to have both “right-brained” and “left-brained” aspects. Neither side seems to really understand the other; this causes some major battles and misunderstandings in some churches.
Christians and denominations on the “left” side (remember, this has nothing to do with politics) tend to be more word-oriented, with Bible studies, logical apologetics, scholarly sermons, historical facts and traditional hymns. They may encourage studying the Bible in the original languages. At times they may elevate the “Letter of the Law” above the Spirit of the Law, though, and their worship may strike others as being too somber, serious and rigid and their worship as rote and boring.
Those with a more right-brained approach value more emotional worship and sermons and more emphasis on vibrant music, images, videos, personal experience, mysticism and intuition. Some of these face the danger of straying from Biblical orthodoxy simply because they haven’t studied scripture enough to know what the Bible really says, or they feel that what the Bible says is inferior in importance to their internal impressions. These groups/people are lively, tender-hearted and often zealous, but may not always actively “test the spirits” as the Bible commands. Left-brained Christians may view their right-brained brothers and sisters as being anti-intellectual or lacking in self-control.
From my study of scriptures, it would seem that both are important: the Bible has its songs, poems and outpourings of emotion along with its historical facts and serious doctrine. Yet, I get the feeling that our emotional, intuitive side, even when sanctified, is always to be under the control of our [sanctified] logical, rational processes. Our logical side makes sure that we stay within Biblical boundaries, and our emotional side keeps our service to God from being rote and lifeless. (Of course, it goes without saying that each side is limited by our innate sinfulness and can lead us astray- one side into emotionalism and mysticism, the other into philosophy and sophistry. Intellectualism and scholarship are not an infallible guards against heresy.)
I wonder if the church as a whole in the US is moving in a more right-brained direction. I wonder if this may be due to a greater reliance in our society on the visual image (videos, TV, movies) rather than the written word; or maybe it simply a matter of personality and gender-based differences. I wonder if gender-based differences (emotional intuition vs. intellectual analysis) are the reason why Paul portrays women as being more easily deceived than men and forbids them from teaching. What do you think? After reading some of these posts in this group lately, I've come to respect the opinions and scholarship of some of the contributors, and I thought I'd throw this out for discussion.
Do you consider yourself a right-brained or a left-brained person? How does this affect your spiritual life and approach to worship?