How much does our psychology affect our understanding of Christianity? After some thought, I decided it must have a very significant affect. Our psychology affects how we percieve and relate with the world, and spiritual matters are inherently connected with the physical world, so why would spiritual matters be unnaffected?
People's mindsets strongly control over their perception of Christianity - so much so I think we all underestimate the extent of this influence. In my own case, I think the factors of my upbringing and past have made me place great importance on building loving relationships by being a Godly person. Obviously, this isn't a bad thing, and it certainly makes me aware of this theme in the Bible.
However, I wonder how much it also blinds me to how others view Christianity, and perhaps other aspects of the faith. It seems our subconcious can block things from our awareness or attention without our even realising it, and I believe our Christianity is no exception. There are, it seems, two ways of dealing with the challenge of maturing as a person... The first is to accept the challenge and courageously grow stronger to meet it - the second is to ignore it and remain the same. The first is often painful, the second seems less so.
When I find something that challenges my faith, my way of living, my security, or even my very identity - I generally try to have enough courage to accept it and seek to grow from it. I accept I do not know it all, and need to grow. I do not base my identity in being sure of what I know, or in knowing everything, or in being right, or in being "good". Far from it, I identify myself far more with learning, growth, and development that with being all knowing, all wise, or all good. I am secure in how I deal with problems, not because I don't have anything to worry about.
Persons who lack such courage, however, do not seem to have such a will to learn and grow and develop. They seek to protect their sense of identity from the challenge that - if they were to accept it - would mean they weren't quite as knowledgeable, wise, or good as they thought they were. They train their mind not to adapt and grow in strength by dealing with new challenges, but to protect itself from challenges dealing with them brings pain. Indeed, it seems their minds fortify their own stability at the cost of decreasing their ability to deal with new challenge.
The result is that their subconcious blinds them to the things that they don't want to see. They can't even contemplate what they are not seeing, because their minds block even thinking about it. In Christianity, this often takes the form of suppressing doubts and anything that would bring their beliefs into question. In other words, they become bound by their own fear to grow and mature as Christians and suffer the emotional pain that comes from maturing.
I struggle to think of examples of this subtle trickery our the subconcious as it is more about the way we think, rather than what we think. Perhaps, it is why when some people read the Bible, some teachings just don't seem to register. And, if an undesirable challenge is raised with them, they simply reject it - finding "reasons" or by "forgetting" that it was raised at all. The result is their Christianity becomes one based on a Bible full of holes, and they do not accept any notions that perhaps there is more to it than they believe.
The most common things left out are, of course, the challenging teachings. Parts of the Bible that clearly state the necessity to forsake sinful things and to live a disciplined and truly devoted life are somehow glossed over and never mentioned. The mind protects what it holds dear, and if someone holds onto sinful things or an undisciplined lifestyle, their mind will do whatever it can to ignore challenges to what it wants to keep. And they justify their ignorance. "We don't need to be disciplined, for we're under grace." "God always forgives us, and loves us just the same no matter what we do." "Oh, God doesn't expect us to be perfect..." "It's so hard to not be influenced by the sinful things of the world, God will understand."
People don't even realise they're justifying themselves so that they don't have to face the challenge of reality. Yet, what's worse - far worse I think - is creating a faith that justifies what they want... What becomes of Christianity when it is used as a phychological drug to cover over the real issues? What happens when you stop wanting to learn more and more of God's true character and how He wants us to be, and instead believe God to be how you want Him to be?
"Each of us has a hole in our hearts that only God can fill... Just accept Him, and He will fill it." No, just invent Him and He will fill it - your very own custom-designed God... He'll be everything you want. He'll "love" you no matter what, and because of this "love" He won't care if you stay as a spiritual infant and won't challenge you at all to become more like Christ. He'll forgive you always, so you know everything you do is "alright". He'll always "be with you", to comfort you and give you warm fuzzy emotions when life actually challenges you.
In fact, this "God" is everything that "solves" all the emotional problems you have. If you feel alone, "He's there". Tired, "He gives strength." In financial trouble, "He provides." In danger, "He's in control." In sickness, "He'll heal you," but if He doesn't, "It was His will." When things go well, "God is blessing you." When things don't go well, "It's all for the best." When you find something or someone you want, "I feel God's telling me..." The list is endless.
The sad thing is that many times nothing really changes. The God who created them would probably love to help them, but they don't really know Him - they only know the God they created. In other words, by decieving themselves with a false god who makes them feel better, they block the way for a true relationship with God to really help them mature to truly overcome the problems of this world.
I believe God does not want to remove our problems or remove us from them - He wants them to be His tools to fashion us into maturity, and the likeness of His own character. So, naturally, by not dealing with problems we fail to use them to mature. Instead, failure to mature through problem-solving is characterised by immature faith - one based on a God we want and reality we invent to suit us. No one can persuade such a person that reality differs from their imaginations, for their own minds will prevent them understanding it. There is only one way such people can change their immature faith, and it is by being committed to maturity and the reality it is founded on. This is my committment. So, while I know I still have plenty of psychological barriers to having truly Godly character, I know I am heading in the right direction.