Is Emotional Intelligence "Biblical"?

It did hurt my feelings a little to open up my Twitter account and read blistering denouncements of one of my recent articles in tweets by a self-described Bible expositor and clergyman.

“Are we taking guidance from war-mongers instead of the Lord Jesus Christ?” The Bible expositor’s main grievance – I had shared some comments from a book written by a U.S. General describing the complexities of our modern world and applied them to the church.

If I understand his criticism correctly, he felt I was offering human advice as an alternative to Biblical truth. He felt offended and were his perspective correct, I could understand it.

However, that particular article and criticism aside, with the thought in mind that my main mission involves encouraging clergy to develop their emotional intelligence, I would like to clarify below once again the message I am hoping to convey. It’s this:

God created us in His image, including emotions.  Emotions play a more critical role in mental health and human relationships than most people realize. God commands us to tend to our emotions: for example, to control anger and speak wisely.

So, as often happens, science confirms that ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions – emotional intelligence – makes people better leaders and as a matter of fact, more resistant to psychological burnout.

Taking it a step further, my own research as well as the research of others indicates that emotional intelligence produces the same benefits for clergy as it does for other professions and callings.

I see it as biblical that:

  • We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
  • God experiences emotions (gets angry, has regrets, gets lonely, loves, has loyalties, is jealous, feels compassion)
  • His Son demonstrate emotions (John 11:35)
  • God concerns Himself with the emotional state of His people (Psalm 147:3),
  • God expresses his highest desire for our character in emotional terms (loving, joyful, peaceful)

Unless someone shows otherwise to those truths, I feel on firm footing to continue suggesting that it is in a pastor’s best interest to develop his or her emotional intelligence as much as possible.

No, it is not essential to salvation. Neither is a microphone. Nor a high school diploma. You can travel to heaven without a car. You can pastor a church without knowing any math.

However, I suspect pastors can and do use all those. Why then would it be unbiblical to exercise the best possible stewardship of one of God’s great gifts to you – emotions: the basis of empathy, understanding, effective communication and a host of other benefits?

After all, ministry in many ways is about working with people. The better we do that, the more influence we have for Christ.

That's why I believe it is both “biblical” and important for pastors to develop their emotional intelligence.


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