In college, I came to faith in Christ and became part of several hundred other collegiates who were also growing in their faith. As I grew deeper in my walk with Christ over the next few years, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Often the way individuals grew and expressed their faith was related to their personality. For example, those who were accounting or engineering majors were much more black-and-white in their beliefs and behavior. They often matured in linear and predictable ways. On the other hand, the art or literature majors were much more expressive and nonlinear in their behavior and beliefs.
Over the last 50 years, I have seen this repeated in many different but similar ways. I have known people, pastors, and scholars who come from a wide variety of theological persuasions, and there is a similar pattern. I am convinced that:
If I study your psychology, I can tell your theology.
In other words, how you think, feel, act, express yourself and relate to others clearly informs your theological beliefs. Those people who are analytical in their thinking often adhere to theological systems that are rigorous and have God all figured out. They have their doctrines defined and refined such that their view of God and his expectations of them are stated in clear and delineated ways.
While others who are more artistic are often more comfortable living with the gray and a more unstructured view of God. They often see doctrine as dry and academic. They are often more relational in their view of God and the way he relates to his creation.
With some analytical and some artist inside me, I can understand how people are drawn to different conclusions from the same scriptures because of their a priori perspective with which they approach life and God. I am not saying that there isn’t absolute truth; there is clearly reality based upon God’s truth. However, our limited capacity may impede our ability to fully grasp His Truth at some points. This is as true of me as it is in each one of us, and it should keep us humble and continuing to learn from his Word, his people, and his creation.
CS Lewis said that all truth is God’s truth. So we have no fear in pursuing truth. God is Truth, which is ultimate and infinite reality. As we continue to grow in our walk and understanding of Him, we will continue to grow in grace. None of us, this side of heaven, have a complete understanding of God,
Let me give an example of what I am talking about. How did God create the cosmos? I know there are some who feel he did it in seven 24-hour periods, which I have trouble comprehending from scripture because, in Genesis 1,14-19, God didn’t even create the sun and moon with circadian rhythms until the fourth day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.Genesis 1.14-19 (NIV)
Now, if God chose to bring everything we see into existence in 24 hours, he could surely have done so. But there is nothing in scripture that suggests that is a necessary or even admirable position to hold.
Here is where one’s psychology will reflect how one views this issue. I am okay with different positions because I am both analytical and an artist at heart.
According to Hebrews 11.3, God didn’t create something from nothing, as is often said (about the Genesis 1 account); but rather created what is seen from what is not seen. God created matter that we can see, touch, smell, and taste from his words. Think about it. His words are energy. God is often described in the OT as a consuming fire and in the NT as baptizing people with fire, so it could be a natural conclusion that through his energy, he brought all of creation into reality.
I wonder how this perspective fits into evolution? In other words, how does this align with his creative will guiding our world’s creation into what we know today? Did he use his energy to guide all of creation’s direction? I understand that this would be heresy for some people.
There are many things I have yet to understand, despite many great thinkers who have everything already figured out. Obviously, I am not one of them. I have many questions to ask God in eternity. However, I feel they won’t be that important then.
By the way, this is why I enjoy reading authors like Dallas Willard, CS Lewis, Richard Foster, and others because they portray the truth about God, creation and mankind as it is shown in scripture in all of its contradictions. So often, individuals or schools of thought tend to portray these truths as how they fit into their theological framework. In other words, they tend to have truth figured out by their systematic theological statements and therefore read the truths about God into the scriptures that support their view. Whereas these authors simply describe God as the scriptures show him, and therefore their view of Him is bigger than any one theological system. This is what attracted me to DL Moody’s systematic (The Word of Truth) in seminary. This also represents my view of theology in general and God in particular. This keeps me from fitting neatly into any one camp, but that fits into my psychology anyways.
But you all knew that because you understand my psychology.
2 Replies to “Let Me Study Your Psychology”
Nice work, as usual…
To your point on belief in creation and/or evolution…
I just finished Hugh Ross’s ” Why the Universe Is the Way It Is”, an excellent rationalization of what science has found vs what the scriptures tell us about our universe; how it was formed, how it has evolved, and why it operates the way it does. He then explores some of the “whys” such as why was it created the way it was, how we fit, why we fit, and how to reconcile ourselves with the Father through the Son, to enjoy the eternity prepared for we who believe.
A little light on the math and physics, a little light on the deeper implications of the associated scriptures, but it’s meant to be a popular read providing “Reasons to Believe,” (PS — his organization.) He succeeds in his self-appointed task, in my exceedingly unhumble opinion. (I’m sure my church is going to be discussing the state of my soul’s adherence to Baptist theocracy, but that’s an argument for another day.)
I’m going to order up some copies to pass out to my engineer and technical friends.
PS — I know, I know. MK will be surprised that I actually know how to read.
Tom, I ordered Hugh’s book and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the feedback and the recommendation. Neither you nor I will fit neatly into most churches. I will leave it there 🙂