Emotions are two-sided. They contain deep truths about what it means to be human, but they also deceive, mislead, and manipulate. They are celebrated for the insights they provide, but they also are denied, repressed, and dismissed. Though many institutions recognize and study the power of emotion, its potential has yet to be fully realized.
Barbara J. McClure seeks to rectify this. In Emotions: Problems and Promise for Human Flourishing, she examines how emotions can be properly engaged for health and healing both individually and corporately. Starting with the current understandings of emotion, she notes the limitations of current thought. She then draws on significant emotions theories from ancient philosophy, Christian theology, natural sciences, psychology, social theory, and contemporary neuroscience to create a more well-rounded understanding of emotions and their place in Western society. Ultimately, McClure argues that emotions, if understood and engaged correctly, can be a source of guidance for flourishing and a resource for nurturing the common good.
With this wide-ranging multidisciplinary approach, McClure proposes an understanding of emotions that allows for a new model of human flourishing: one that does not dismiss emotions but utilizes them properly to engage life’s challenges. Emotions should not be censored, silenced, or sidelined—they are important tools for discerning and cultivating what is Good and resisting what is not.
Introduction: Confusion and Ambivalence about Emotions 1. Emotions as Dangerous, Disruptive, and Symptoms of Dis-ease: Socrates/Plato and Early Greek Perspectives 2. Emotions as Sinful, Signs of the Fall, and Impediments to Salvation: Philo and Early Christian Theologians’ Perspectives 3. Emotions as Functional for Physiological Survival: Darwin and Evolutionary Science 4. Emotions as Pathological, Signs of Dysfunction, and Indicators of Need: Sigmund Freud and Depth Psychology 5. Emotions as Relational and Sociocultural Artifacts: Challenges to Natural Scientific Understandings
Barbara J. McClure is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Practice at Brite Divinity School.
Emotions is a critically important book to interdisciplinary scholarship in theology. Barbara McClure has given us a historiography of the study of emotions that traces the development of theological, ethical, philosophic, psychological, and scientific understandings of what emotions are and why they matter. The book is erudite, beautifully written, lucid, and engaging. Pastoral and practical theologians, in particular, will relish this resource that promotes clear thinking about emotions and interprets the import of recent discoveries in neuroscience.
~Mary Clark Moschella, Roger J. Squire Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Yale University School of Divinity
Emotions is an exceptional treatment of a subject dear to our hearts that has, until now, been studied mainly in disciplinary silos. With scholarly precision and emotional savvy, McClure navigates the vast divides over emotion’s life-giving and death-dealing capacity and renders an amazingly cogent perspective, distilling the best of prominent models and showing how such emotional understanding plays an indispensable role in our pursuit of the good life."
~Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, The Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University
Barbara McClure’s ambitious and important book cogently examines and portrays the diverse perspectives regarding emotions and their significance for human flourishing. Scholars, teachers, students, and those in the helping professions interested in the role of emotions will want to read this book.
~Ryan LaMothe, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
This book is exemplary in the way it sets out the challenges and potential of interdisciplinary study within pastoral and practical theology. McClure talks about each disciplinary paradigm as representing different pieces of a puzzle (p. xii) and accordingly her work is underpinned by an exhaustive body of literature. The bibliography is vast and the footnotes run to over 100 pages: a tour de force of scholarship and a research resource in its own right. Such total immersion in a specialist subject is a rare luxury in contemporary scholarship, but McClure’s work serves as a benchmark for all those who believe that theology’s engagement with human affairs must be attentive to the voices of the world as well as the Church.
~Elaine L. Graham, International Journal of Practical Theology