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Notes on Dr Francis Macnab’s Sunday address, 19 July 2015.
By John Abbate.

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“Instead of remaining emotionally disconnected from faith, we might see that faith needs to be understood in the context of our emotional evolution.”

Although the word is never used, Dr Macnab confronts us with a basic existential choice in this address: to remain passengers on our emotional journey through life, existing at the mercy of our feelings as they happen; or to play a positive and constructive role in the management of our emotions.

Emotional Evolution

As we grow older, it is possible to become stuck in a deficient mode of coping. If we let them, our emotions can come to dominate and confuse us. Rumination, regression, helpless fixations and repeated failed patterns of behaviour—these are the symptoms of neglecting the challenge to evolve emotionally.

Eschatology

Beyond the consolation of grief after the experience of loss, faith can play a deeper role, moving us toward a universal understanding of “the basic part of living and dying.” Dr Macnab refers to this kind of understanding as “eschatology.” Eschatology is the domain of theology that deals with doctrines about death and its aftermath, or the “final things.”  In the minds of neo-conservative theologians during the middle part of the twentieth century, eschatology opened the door to fundamentalist interpretations of Biblical prophecies of doom; it centred on those parts of scripture that dealt with the chaos and destruction of the end times.

For Dr Macnab, eschatology is not about the end necessarily, but about the future. It is about looking for a better day. “Eschatology is a strengthening awareness of a different and better future,” he said.

The Best Emotions

In considering the best emotions, Dr Macnab asks us to look deeper, beyond the obvious feelings of love, joy, happiness or celebration. He lists four examples, each an expression of an evolved and evolving emotional life:

  • An expansive appreciation of your place in the world and the future
  • See and respond to an extravagant giving of yourself, your altruistic purpose
  • Participating in a new world of interpersonal and technological connectedness
  • Being part of a challenging, ongoing eschatology

Dr Macnab ends his address by quoting a Russian poem that embodies his outlook on an aspiring eschatology:

 “The world was so beautiful.

                One must still fight

That it should still more beautiful be!”

—Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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