IQ, EQ and Church Life
The Church is in the world and Her business in the world is the salvation of souls through developing the consciousness of spiritual reality. However, because She is in the world, as well as promoting and developing mankind’s spiritual life and perception, She cannot help taking part in the physical, intellectual and emotional life of mankind. For the human body, mind, emotions are all interconnected with the spirit.
Physically, the Church teaches us how to make use of our body to glorify God. Thus, we use our physical powers to worship God, to go to church, to make the sign of the cross, to bow and to make prostrations, to build monasteries and churches, to create families, to work, feed and house. The alternative is when, without and against the Church, we use our physical powers for our perdition, to worship idols, to destroy, to abort and to starve.
Intellectually, the Church teaches us how to make use of our mind to glorify God. Thus, we use our intellectual powers to defend Church Truth through speaking, writing and artistic endeavour, in defence of Christ and His Church. The alternative is when, without and against the Church, we use our intellectual powers for our perdition, to attack and to pervert and try to destroy the Truth.
Emotionally, the Church teaches us how to make use of the lower part of our soul, our feelings and memories, to glorify God. Thus, we use our emotional powers to defend our instinctive and intuitive attachment to Church Tradition. (Instinct and intuition are among the faculties of the soul). The alternative is when, without and against the Church, we use our emotional powers for our perdition, to express either foolish sentimentalism or else blind, irrational and destructive passion.
Clashes between the intellect and the emotions, between mind and feelings, occur in Church Life. Since the 1960s we have listened with horror to the stories of Roman Catholic and Anglican alike who have come to the Orthodox Church and told us how their traditions have been outraged by the ‘reforms’ of their ruling intellectual elites. We have heard how in Anglican churches, boards displaying the Ten Commandments were ripped down and thrown away. From Roman Catholics we have heard stories of how much-revered statues, vestments and even relics were thrown into skips for the sake of ‘refurbishment’. Much-loved hymns were no longer sung, rituals were abandoned, vice openly encouraged and the faithful felt forsaken by their corrupted, clerical and intellectual elites.
All this was in the name of ‘reforms’, promoted by intellectuals who wanted to modernise, reform, renew, rationalise, liberalise, ‘streamline’. The result of course was that the most faithful left their churches in droves and were replaced by no-one. Consequently, tens of thousands of their churches throughout the Western world were emptied, abandoned, bankrupted, put up for sale, made into shops or clubs, or simply demolished. This apostasy was inaugurated by those with high IQs (Intelligence Quotients) and it came about because they did not listen to those with high EQs (Emotional Quotients).
It is not that the intellect is bad. It is good, providing that it leads us to the spiritual. It is not that emotion is bad. It is good, providing that it leads us to the spiritual.
We remember a scene that we witnessed 25 years ago at the Russian cemetery at Ste Genevieve des Bois near Paris. Two elderly Russians were speaking to a priest, an intellectual convert. Women: ‘It’s so nice here; it’s just like in Russia’. Priest: ‘But it’s not Russia’. Women: ‘We know, but it’s just like Russia. You feel as though you were in Russia’. Priest: ‘We are not in Russia’. Women: ‘Yes, but it’s...’. Priest: ‘We aren’t in Russia, we’re in France’.
What did the priest achieve? By insisting on the factual truth, he simply alienated the two women who went away with a bad opinion of him – and perhaps of all clergy, certainly of all Non-Russian clergy. If he had not so brutally and rudely contradicted them, indeed if he had not contradicted them at all, he would have encouraged them to attend church and to pray.
The priest had a high IQ, but, unlike the two women, he did not have a high EQ. In other words, he showed no understanding of human psychology – a disaster for a priest. As a matter of fact that priest, though still alive, has since been involved in numerous scandals and ended up very badly. This is not surprising, for the priest simply displayed a lack of love. As for the two women, I cannot say what became of them, but the chances are that they ended up dying peacefully with Slavonic prayers learned in childhood on their lips, but perhaps never having read many books.
Let us be clear. We are not obscurantists; we do not live in nostalgic, sentimentalist ghettos. The words of the services are important. If anyone wants to come to the Orthodox understanding and theology of baptism, marriage and repose, let them simply read attentively the baptism, wedding and funeral services. It is all there and the academics can analyse them, if they wish. However, if you want to pray and find salvation, it is not so much the words and language used in Church services and their analysis that are important, it is more the creation of a prayerful atmosphere.
It is possible to attend a Church service, understand nothing intellectually, but understand everything emotionally. And it is only this understanding which can raise us up from mere emotions or sentimentalism, the lower part of the soul, to spiritual understanding, the higher part of the soul, to what is called in Greek the ‘nous’, where we perceive God. For this, a prayerful atmosphere is what is necessary, and not an intellectual understanding.
The Church needs people to glorify God with their minds. The Church Fathers did and do this. However, the mind is only a tool, not an end in itself, as the Jesuit and intellectual might think. The mind is only here to raise us up to the spirit.
Whether before or after understanding, depending on the individual, the Church needs people to glorify God with their feelings. The Church Fathers did and do this. However, the feelings are only a tool, not an end in themselves, as the sentimental or the passionate might think. The emotions are only here to raise us up to the spirit. The Church is indeed in the world, in the world of the body, the mind and the feelings. However, the Church is not of the world, the Church is of the Spirit. Therefore, it is not for the Church to conform Herself to the physical, the intellectual and the emotional, it is for the physical, the intellectual and the emotional to conform themselves to the Church, to the Spirit.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
The Sunday of the Prodigal Son 2011