Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emotional Intelligence

I'm taking a leadership training course at my church. The topic for this week's class was "Emotional Intelligence." The preparatory reading was pulled from the book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. I had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the title. Some folks explain such feelings as promptings of the Holy Spirit, but I won't go that far. What I can say without hesitation is my premonition was justified after I read through the material. I have no problem reading secular material in order to compare and contrast it with Biblical values and truth. In fact, I bought a copy of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence about a month ago before I even knew about this class topic. I still plan to read it. However, I do have a problem when bunk science is used to justify a secular viewpoint that Christians accept uncritically.

Our Chase Oaks Church Core Doctrine says the Bible is "our supreme and final authority in all matters about which it speaks." Fortunately, the first semester of this leadership training course focused on doctrinal truths, and half of this semester is devoted to spiritual disciplines. I applaud my church leaders for finding a good balance in the curriculum, but I'm concerned about the choice of reading material for this particular class on Emotional Intelligence.

In a nutshell, the reading from Primal Leadership suggested our primitive lizard-like limbic brains that control our emotions evolved into ape-like mammalian brains which have a prefrontal area responsible for the higher level logic and reasoning. This bunk science may not be as high on the lie scale as the "ontology recapitulates philology" bunk, but it is still bunk according to the Book. This bunk science is then used to give scientific credibility to the alleged primal nature of emotions and usurp the importance of the intellect which drives moral reasoning. This is flat out wrong and unbiblical, but this is how the authors justify statements like "our emotions are, in a very real sense, more powerful than our intellect." (p. 27)

Are we Christians going to believe the Bible or bad science? Did God create an amoeba that evolved into a fully thinking and reasoning human being, or was Adam created with a fully developed frontal cortex capable of moral judgment? If we believe the latter, then why are we taking leadership lessons from secular authors promoting (at least in this excerpt) emotional intelligence over moral authority as the key to leadership success?

Primal Leadership
, as the title suggests, buys into the philosophy of Darwinism. In the dozen page excerpt included in our training materials, evolution was mentioned several times. I was reminded of Colossians 2:8 and Romans 3:4 as I read through it. When unbiblical philosophies are couched in scientific sounding language, undiscerning people may unwittingly assume this means they are authoritative. This is particularly a problem when the authors have PhDs from respected schools like Harvard. I'm a nobody with a piddly physics degree from small liberal arts college. My opinion doesn't carry much weight. But, I do try to use a Biblical grid and be like a Berean in filtering out truth from lies. Shouldn't all Christians, and especially leaders training leaders, do likewise?

Admittedly, I'm a person who got skipped when they handed out emotional intelligence. In the skills assessment we took in this training class, my three lowest skills were Social Intelligence, People Skills, and Emotional Intelligence (EI). My EI score was dead last. I got a dismal 3.6 out of 10. So, if this blog entry offends people, I won't be shocked. I simply don't have the people skills to couch the truth in feeler language so my church leaders feel good about it.

I'm a truth seeker first and foremost. That is my gift to the body, and I hope others will receive it in the spirit it is given, which is with as much gentleness as I can muster and respect for the authorities I've willingly placed myself under at Chase Oaks Church. I take 1Peter 3:15 seriously, including the last four words.

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