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Our Affections Are Our All. Stop Trying to Reason that They’re Not. You’re Actually Using Your Emotions to Make the Conclusion

Reformed Christians tend to place a premium on the intellect. You may be inclined to call this a straw man since I’m not going to use any specific examples here. That’s fine. If you can hear this, you can have it. If not, you can’t. But my research in modern neuroscience and psychology points me toward a different kind of premium. Of course, so do Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and even the preaching of Jesus Christ himself, but we’ll get to all that.

In his book, 7 Secrets of Persuasion: Leading Edge Neuromarketing Techniques to Influence Anyone, James Crimmins makes a good point: “[The mind] uses emotions to arrive at its preferences and to guide decisions. That reliance on emotion may make those decisions more, not less ‘rational.’ A focus on feelings need not lead to irrationality” (p. 132).

How do you feel about that statement? Does it make you nervous? Does it make you angry? Does it excite you? If so, you’re actually proving the point. You haven’t had time to reason about the statement. But it’s making you feel a certain way. And the way you feel is going to influence how you reason through what follows.

We Often Make Decisions Based on Tacit/Emotional Intuition

Crimmins backs up this assertion with several clinical studies. For example, experiments have proved that our subconscious minds are capable of “deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy.” This is an emotional process that involves the intellect. This is demonstrated by an experiment by scientists at the University of Iowa. In this experiment, participants were asked

to turn over cards from one of four decks placed before them in a simulated gambling task. Most of the time, turning over a card led to a reward, but occasionally and unpredictably, a card led to a loss. Participants had no way of knowing that two of the decks were more risky than the others. [But] participants began to avoid the risky decks shortly after the experiment began, even before they consciously knew the decks were risky. In fact, their perspiration revealed that these participants began to feel emotionally uncomfortable whenever they thought about choosing a card from a risky deck… (p. 23).

He continues,

The study also included a set of participants who were patients with a type of brain damage that made them unable to feel emotion. These participants, who could not feel emotion, never began to avoid the riskier decks even though they went through the same procedure as the normal subjects (p. 132).

This is an example of the mind using emotions and intuition in order to reason on a non-conscious level. Far from being irrational, this is a major part of how we perform the process of reasoning.

We Often Make Commitments First and Come to Understand Later

As I’ve grown older and gained more experience in life both in the secular workplace and as a pastor, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the time people tend to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. They will then reason to themselves about why that decision was correct. To put that another way, we make emotional decisions and then use our intellect to justify those decisions after the fact.

This lines up with St. Augustine’s idea of “credo ut intelligam” – “I believe in order to understand.” So I don’t feel (yes, I said “feel”) that I’m in strange company here.

It also seems to me to be in line with Christ’s teaching: “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17).

In other words, you must make at least a tacit commitment toward obedience before you can begin to understand Christ’s teaching. Or to state it another way: Until you make a volitional commitment toward repentance and faith, you will never begin to understand Christ’s authority with any depth. In this case, an act at the level of the will or affections precedes intellectual understanding. We believe first in order to understand later. And the Spirit of God delights to work in this way.

In some sense, I could describe my whole life as a Christian this way. I came to Christ because of his emotional appeal. In his death and resurrection, Christ carried the answer for my felt guilt and shame. That was enough for the Holy Spirit to draw me to him. I didn’t have all the answers. I hadn’t read all the books on apologetics. I hadn’t read all the counterarguments. But I’ve spent the past 18 years doing that after the fact. And the more I study, the more I’m convinced that my decision to place all my bets on Christ was rational. God gave me a sense of the emotional appeal of Jesus’ claims to be Savior. It wasn’t irrational for me to run toward that appeal. It was the most rational thing I could have done. But it wasn’t based primarily on reason. Emotion and reason play well together. They are both fallen and depraved (yes, the intellect is fallen and depraved along with the emotions) but they were also both created by God for a purpose.

Emotions Are No More of the Devil than the Intellect is of the Devil

I started this little essay by asserting that Reformed Christians tend to give a prominent place to the intellect. I’ve had a church member regularly remind me that emotions belong to the devil. That emotions do nothing but lead us astray. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” But doesn’t the name of Jesus sound sweet in a sinner’s ear? Is its draw only intellectual? Does make claims only to our minds? Or does he claim all that we are, mind, heart, soul, and strength?

Are your emotions any more fallen or sinful than your intellect? Is ‘total depravity’ actually ‘total?’ Or do you get to apply it selectively?

Does, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” sound like a primarily intellectual command? I’ve actually heard a Christian say they came to Christ because they were tired and heard those words. “I’m tired. He offers rest. Sign me up.” There is some reasoning going on there, but there’s a lot more than reasoning going on there.

How often does the Bible tell us to rejoice? How often does it tell us to give thanks? How often does it tell us not to fear? How often does it tell us to love God and neighbor? How often does it tell us to rest? If you can pull that off with the intellect alone, then you’ll have to teach me how it works. Because it seems to me that joy, thankfulness, fearlessness, love, and rest are presuppositions of the Christian life. And with these as our starting point, we reason outward toward decisions and actions that justify these basic commitments of the soul. We take these principles into ourselves, we accept them without understanding, and then we spend our lives experiencing them and trying to figure out and explain how they work.

We commit ahead of time that we will be joyful in suffering. And then in our suffering we reason our way back to that commitment. And all along the way the affections/emotions are playing a crucial role.

Aim at the Emotions in Preaching and Help Your People Reason Through Those Emotions

With all that said, I think (and feel) we’d be better off as preachers if we embrace the central place of the emotions as we preach to our people. Just do it, and reason about it later. You’ll see that all signs point to it being the right move. But if you don’t want to take my word on that, I’ll close up with some points made by Jonathan Edwards and John Owen.

Jonathan Edwards once wrote,

I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection.

I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.

Edwards is not arguing for pure emotional manipulation per se. He’s arguing for going after the emotions in a way that is in line with the truth that you are preaching. So if you’re preaching on a text demanding that people love Jesus, should you not preach Jesus in such a way that will make them want to love him? Shouldn’t you paint a picture of him that is emotionally charged? Shouldn’t you use metaphors that will show his beauty and loveliness? Shouldn’t you use everything you have to try to move people with the idea that Christ is worthy of our love? Or should you just say, “the Bible says it, now you go do it?” out of fear of being overly emotional or manipulative.

Face it – in one sense – everything is manipulation. If I tell you to sit down in a chair, I’m manipulating you. I’m trying to get you to do something. I’m trying to get you to do something that involves the manipulation of your body, position, and posture. Now I may scream, “Sit down!” Or I may say it in a soft, warm tone like Mr. Rogers. But either way, I’m still trying to get you to do something. The tone I use should be appropriate based on context and what is being requested or demanded.

You can see Penn Jillette illustrate that point HERE. And Conan O’Brien’s lullaby example is HERE.

When you tell people to stand for the doxology, you’re manipulating them. When you say, “You may be seated,” you’re manipulating them. And none of this is bad or wrong. It’s a standard aspect of life, communication, and order.

If you’re preaching on hell, shouldn’t you do your best to paint a picture that is scary? Repent or you’re going to hell doesn’t have the same ring to it as

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours (Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God)

Edwards’ picture of hell is in line with the truth. Hell is scary. You really should do your best to avoid going there. But notice it’s not only Jonathan Edwards who preached like this. Jesus Christ himself didn’t just say, “Hell is real. You don’t want to go there.” He says it’s a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth. He goes for emotional imagery.

Also notice Jesus doesn’t say things like, “I have come to give you an epistemological advantage in your understanding of God and creation.” Instead, he says, “I am the light of the world.” He doesn’t say, “I have come to create a teleological suspension of the ethic.” Instead he says, “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” He doesn’t say, “I am the micro-nutrients needed by your soul in order to sustain a healthy spiritual life.” He says, “I am bread.” Jesus constantly used vivid, emotionally-charged language and imagery.

He did this at least partly because people don’t simply need information. They need something to move them. Something to create desire. Something they can relate to their own sensory and emotional experiences.

Years ago, Jeremy and I read William Wainwright’s book, Reason and the Heart for a seminary class. The book had a major impact on both of us. The principle he demonstrates in that book is called “passional reason.” It’s the same idea I’m trying to get across here. He points out that Jonathan Edwards saw the human soul as existing in a basic unity. It’s one thing. Sometimes it’s called the ‘mind.’ Sometimes it’s called the ‘heart.’ When the soul is engaged in reasoning, we tend to call it the mind. When it’s engaged in the emotions, we call it the heart. But there’s a basic unity. It’s impossible the reason without passion. You realize we’re not robots, correct? You recognize that we don’t reason in a vacuum or test tube, don’t you? Can you even conceive a world where our intellects work independently from our emotions?

Because of this, humans need to be engaged in all sorts of ways if they’re going to be fully engaged. If you’re trying to get someone to quit smoking, information might do the trick. Just give them statistics about smoking causing cancer, emphysema, and death. But that might not do the trick. Most smokers already know this stuff anyway. Maybe they need to witness someone battling lung cancer. Maybe they need to see pictures of blackened lungs. When brute information won’t do the trick, a vivid, emotional appeal may hit the mark.

And notice that both approaches are ‘true.’ The statistics are true, though perhaps ineffective. The experience of knowing someone with lung cancer is also true. The image of a black set of lungs is also true. Neither approach is irrational.

I’ve written about this before, but in another place, Jonathan Edwards writes,

The main benefit obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after-remembrance of what was heard in a sermon is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart at the time; and the memory profits, as it renews and increases that impression (Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, p. 294).

Edwards is saying here something to the effect that the hearing of the preached Word is profitable in the moment so far as it moves us emotionally. It leaves an emotional impression on us. We have an experience or encounter with the Word. Then after the fact we revisit that experience in order to make sense of it and tease it out into our lives.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones used this in his argument against taking notes during a sermon. Focusing on information, or treating the sanctuary like a school room, can actually detract from what the preached Word is meant to do. It’s meant to go after the emotions. Notice that it’s hard to take notes on a parable or an illustration or a story as it’s being told. But these are things Jesus used when he preached.

Don’t be afraid to use all your intellectual power to go after people’s emotions. Christ deserves their emotions. I’m not saying you deserve their emotions. Or that you deserve their money. Or their devotion. I’m saying that Christ does. Don’t use the fact that some hucksters that claim to be Christians manipulate people into hyper-emotional states or into giving them money. We’re talking about doing this strictly for the sake of the love of Christ and the truth.

Our Affections Are Our All: If God Doesn’t Get Our Affections, He Doesn’t Want Any Part of Us

We’ll wrap this up with a quote from John Owen. The quote from which this post gets part of its title:

Our affections are upon the matter our all. They are all we have to give or bestow; the only power of our souls whereby we may give away ourselves from ourselves and become another’s. Other faculties of our souls, even the most noble of them, are suited to receive in unto our own advantage; by our affections we can give away what we are and have. Hereby we give our hearts unto God as he requireth. Wherefore, unto him we give our affections unto whom we give our all,–ourselves and all that we have; and to whom we give them not, whatever we give, upon the matter we give nothing at all…

They are the seat of all sincerity, which is the jewel of divine and human conversation, the life and soul of every thing that is good and praiseworthy. Whatever men pretend, as their affections are, so are they… (John Owen, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded, from Sin and Grace, p. 396).

Crocodile Brain

In Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff stresses going after the “crocodile brain.” Allegedly, the three basic parts of the brain are the neocortex, mid-brain, and crocodile brain.

Proponents of this croc brain idea (or at least the ones I’ve come across) hold an evolutionary presupposition that this is how the brain evolved. The croc brain being the original brain of our earliest ancestors, the mid-brain forming next, and then the neocortex (which is highly involved in rational thinking).

I don’t hold the same presuppositions. I actually think you could use the basic traditional Christian understanding of the soul and come to some of the same conclusions about how the mind works. Klaff makes the point that the three parts of the brain work independently and together. That is, they are distinct but can’t be fully separated. This is how Jonathan Edwards viewed the soul. He presupposed and argued that the soul consisted of the mind, the will, and the affections. These three work independently and together. They are distinct but can’t be separated.

I make that point simply because Klaff’s main point is that when you’re pitching an idea, you should go for the croc brain as much as possible. I think you could just as easily say, “Go for the emotions or affections first” and get the same result. I’ve come to accept the idea that we rarely make decisions with reason/rationality first. It’s more likely that we make decisions based on our gut/emotions and then use our rationality to make arguments after the fact that we made the right decision.

Klaff’s simple description of how the croc brain operates is as follows. The crocodile brain is concerned primarily with boredom, danger, and complication. The croc brain says, If the idea is boring, ignore it. If it’s dangerous, fight or run. If it’s complicated, radically summarize it (p. 14).

If you’re going to make a pitch or presentation (or even preach a sermon) with this in mind, you need to remember the main points:

  1. People are going to ignore you if possible
  2. They’re mainly worried about the big picture rather than intricacies
  3. They will respond emotionally first, especially is something scares them
  4. They’re worried about the here and now with a short attention span that craves novelty
  5. They want concrete facts rather than abstract concepts (p. 16)

We want to use the intellectual mind to pitch and preach things with a lot of details and abstract concepts. But people will primarily pay attention to things that touch their emotions, deal with their fears, offer some type of novelty, and are more concrete/image-based than abstract.

While I don’t believe there’s really such a thing as a croc brain or a lizard brain (I’ve heard that term used of the same concept), I do know that Jesus, when he described the kingdom of heaven, didn’t give a theological treatise. Instead, he said things like, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” So often he went straight to emotionally-loaded imagery and narrative rather than giving logical syllogisms.

Book of James as Sermon Paradigm

Are you struggling with sermon outlines and structure? Here’s what we can learn from the Book of James.

In his commentary on the Letters of James and Peter, William Barclay uses the book of James as an example of classical sermon structure. He thinks the letter of James was likely a sermon originally. Here are the elements of James that were common in ancient sermons:

  1. “They frequently carried on imaginary conversations with imaginary opponents, speaking in what has been called a kind of ‘truncated dialogue.'”
  2. “They habitually effected their transition from one part of the sermon to another, by way of a question which introduced the new subject.”
  3. “They were fond of imperatives in which they commanded their hearers to right action and to the abandoning of their errors.”
  4. “They were very fond of the rhetorical question flung out at their audience.”
  5. “They frequently dealt in apostrophes, vivid direct addresses to particular sections of the audience. So James apostrophizes the merchants out for gain and the arrogant rich.”
  6. “They were fond of personifying virtues and ices…So James personifies sin (1:15); mercy (2:13); rust (5:3).”
  7. “They sought to awaken the interest of their audience by pictures and figures from everyday life.”
  8. “They frequently used the example of famous men and women to point their moral.”
  9. “It was the custom of the ancient preachers to begin their sermon with a paradox which would arrest the attention of the hearers. James does that by telling a man to think it all joy when he is involved in trials (1:2).”
  10. “The ancient preachers could speak with harshness and with sternness. So James addresses his reader as ‘Foolish fellow’….(2:20).”
  11. “They ancient preachers had certain standard ways of constructing their sermons: [(a) using antithesis, setting the right beside the wrong way, (b) using searching questions, (c) they often used quotations]”

If we boil all this down, you may have the makings of a pretty good sermon:

Big picture:

  • Start sermon with a paradox
  • Start individual points with a question
  • Structure for points: Points can be centered around: an antithesis, a searching question, or a quote

Particulars:

  • Create imaginary dialogue
  • Use imperatives
  • Ask rhetorical questions
  • Single out particular types of people for application
  • Use personification for big points
  • Use illustrations from everyday life
  • Use famous people as examples
  • Be harsh when you need to

Quotations from pp. 28-29.

Recent Reading: A Psychology for Preaching

Some select quotes I found helpful. In no way do I agree with everything in the book (it’s fairly liberal for my standards), but I did find some good common sense about preaching that a lot of people won’t say (or at least I haven’t heard say).

– Edgar N. Jackson, A Psychology for Preaching (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1961).

PREACHING IS IN SOME SENSE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL

Art forms are characterized by highly individualized modes of expression, so the artful presentation of ideas through preaching is strongly tinged by the preacher’s personal qualities. It could safely be said that all preaching is autobiographical… (pp. xxi-xxii).

IT IS HARD TO BE INTERESTING EVERY WEEK

…The necessity of trying to be inspiring on a week to week basis calls for all the ingenuity that a preacher can develop (p. 18).

GRAB THEIR ATTENTION OFTEN

[Quoting a study:] It has been estimated that a class listening to a teacher, an employee listening to his boss, or an audience listening to a lecture has serious lapses of attention ever seven minutes. The expert speaker jerks attention back by telling a story, making a demonstration, or doing something unusual about every five minutes. Interest, action or noise will renew attention (p. 19).

NO PREACHER HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE UNINTERESTING

Too often a man who has won the hearts of his people as a pastor seems to feel that he has earned the right to be a careless craftsman in the pulpit. No one ever earns the right to be uninteresting in the pulpit (p. 20).

JESUS ALWAYS ELICITED A RESPONSE

We have only fragments of [Jesus’] sermons, but we note that again and again there was an immediate and strong response to what he said. The listeners had been mentally engaged. They questioned him. They questioned themselves. They reacted. ‘They rose up, and thrust him out of the city.’ Any way we look at it, we must admit there are very few modern preachers who stimulate so vigorous a response. We may be sure Jesus spent little time sawing sawdust. He ripped into the real problems of people and his age. He generated real participation and response (pp. 29-30).

DON’T TRY TO FUNNY, BUT DON’T AVOID BEING FUNNY

[Quoting Charles Brown:] it is not well for a minister to go out of his way six inches to make a joke. But when some unexpected turn comes to him naturally in the treatment of a great truth, he is unwise to turn aside in order to avoid it (p. 36).

ALL OF LIFE IS SERMON PREP

In one sense the whole life of a preacher is an act of preparation for that moment when he stands in the pulpit (p. 36).

LEARN TO SEE CHRIST EVERYWHERE

It is a psychological principle that we see what we want to see or are trained to see. Sight is a learned art. At an accident near our home recently, I aw this principle in action. The physician who arrived saw the injured persons and their needs because that was what he had been trained to see. The state policeman saw the relevant facts about the vehicles and their relation to each other. That was his special training. A maiden lady, who happened to be near by, saw blood and fainted…The preacher who has developed the habit of looking or new and fresh material that is actively related to the interests of his people will begin to see it cropping up here and there where he had not suspected it before (pp. 37-38).

LISTEN TO WHAT YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO; DON’T LISTEN TO WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T; SELECTIVE HEARING IS REAL

People who live near a railroad get so they seldom hear the trains. persons who live near the town clock may be kept awake by it when they first move there, but after a time they learn a habit of exclusive listening. They hear what they want to hear. This is also true of the preacher (p. 38).

THE END OF THE SERMON IS IMPORTANT FOR SUSTAINED ATTENTION

Even the end of a sermon can be important in sustaining attention; the way the preacher ends his sermon can make the listener want to hear what he has to say at another time (pp. 44-45).

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND HOW IT’S BEING DONE; COMFORT THE AFFLICTED, AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE

…Because congregations tend to e made up of more than one type of personality it may be important for the preacher to employ a change of pace that will at one time ‘Comfort the afflicted’ and at other times ‘Afflict the comfortable.’ yet even here it is important to have some idea of what is being done, how it is being achieved, and what the effect is upon those for whom the message is not especially relevant (p. 54).

TRUTH THROUGH PERSONALITY

This concept of preaching stresses the role of the preacher as the creator in the employment of an art form. His own personality is then inseparably bound up with what is communicated (p. 61).

HELP OTHERS SEE WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN

[Jesus] indicated that his disciples were custodians of the privilege to help others ‘to see those things that you see…and to hear those things that you hear’ (p. 67).

LITERATURE HELPS US UNDERSTAND PEOPLE

Definite supplemental sources of aid in the developing of the pastor’s art of ‘seeing people’ are available to all. Invariably, the masters of understanding have been immersed in the great literature of the past. Jesus had at his disposal the books of poetry, law and prophesy of the Jewish tradition. Paul knew not only the Jewish literature but was conversant with the literature of the Graeco-Roman world as well (pp. 68-69).

JESUS PREACHED SIMPLY

[Jesus] was simple in his presentation. No one from the child to the scholar could be confused by what he said. he used stories that were related to the experience of his hearers, and each story had one main point that stood out too clearly to be mistaken (p. 162).

SNEAK-ATTACK

The timid trout is not pulled from the stream by loud noise and by flailing the water. Rather, it responds to the quiet descending of the unsuspected fly (p. 168).

HAVE ONE MAIN POINT

The sermon must drive with all power toward one point. It must have a theme, a center of concentration and a point of focus. There are many ways of presenting a theme (p. 185).

LEAVE OUT WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE THERE

Every part [of the sermon] must serve a purpose, nothing must be there which is not needed, and nothing should be omitted which is required (pp. 186-187).

All Truth is from God

I’ve posted before (HERE) about Calvin’s take on reading and quoting non-Christian authors. Here are some more of his thoughts on the subject:

14. Next come manual and liberal arts, in learning which, as all have some degree of aptitude, the full force of human acuteness is displayed. But though all are not equally able to learn all the arts, we have sufficient evidence of a common capacity in the fact, that there is scarcely an individual who does not display intelligence in some particular art. And this capacity extends not merely to the learning of the art, but to the devising of something new, or the improving of what had been previously learned. This led Plato to adopt the erroneous idea, that such knowledge was nothing but recollection. So cogently does it oblige us to acknowledge that its principle is naturally implanted in the human mind. But while these proofs openly attest the fact of a universal reason and intelligence naturally implanted, this universality is of a kind which should lead every individual for himself to recognize it as a special gift of God. To this gratitude we have a sufficient call from the Creator himself, when, in the case of idiots, he shows what the endowments of the soul would be were it not pervaded with his light. Though natural to all, it is so in such a sense that it ought to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each. Moreover, the invention, the methodical arrangement, and the more thorough and superior knowledge of the arts, being confined to a few individuals cannot be regarded as a solid proof of common shrewdness. Still, however, as they are bestowed indiscriminately on the good and the bad, they are justly classed among natural endowments.
15. Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity? Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skillful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the cultivation of the medical art, expended their industry in our behalf were only raving? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we deem them to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration; an admiration which their excellence will not allow us to withhold. But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude; an ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature, notwithstanding of its having been despoiled of the true good.
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Chapter 2 MAN NOW DEPRIVED OF FREEDOM OF WILL, AND MISERABLY ENSLAVED
In my other post, I referenced Calvin’s Commentary on Titus 1:12, in which Paul calls a pagan Cretan author a “prophet.” Here are his thoughts there:

12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own
I have no doubt that he who is here spoken of is Epimenides, who was a native of Crete; for, when the Apostle says that this author was “one of themselves,” and was “a prophet of their own,” he undoubtedly means that he belonged to the nation of the Cretans. Why he calls him a Prophet is doubtful. Some think that the reason is, that the book from which Paul borrowed this passage bears the title Περὶ Χρησμῶν “concerning oracles.” Others are of opinion that Paul speaks ironically, by saying that they have such a Prophet — a Prophet worthy of a nation which refuses to listen to the servants of God. But as poets are sometimes called by the Greeks ( προφὢται) “prophets,” and as the Latin authors call them Vates , I consider it to denote simply a teacher. The reason why they were so called appears to have been, that they were always reckoned to be ( γένος θεῖον καὶ ἐνθουσιαστικόν)a divine race and moved by divine inspiration.” Thus also Adimantus, in the Second Book of Plato’s treatise Περὶ Πολιτείας after having called the poets υἵους Θεῶν “sons of the gods,” adds, that they also became their prophets. For this reason I think that Paul accommodates his style to the ordinary practice. Nor is it of any importance to inquire on what occasion Epimenides calls his countrymen liars, namely, because they boast of having the sepulcher of Jupiter; but seeing that the poet takes it from an ancient and well-known report, the Apostle quotes it as a proverbial saying. (228)

From this passage we may infer that those persons are superstitious, who do not venture to borrow anything from heathen authors. All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose? But on this subject the reader may consult Basil’s discourse (229) πρὸς τοὺς νέους, ὅπως ἂν ἐξ ἑλλ κ.τ.λ

Spurgeon the Minimalist

I came across this quote HERE.

“Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.…Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify…In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short” (Sword & Trowel, September 1871).