From my early Christian beginnings, I have been heavily influenced by the teaching that the word of God is all we need for the purposes of our spiritual needs and spiritual growth, and not only is that all we need, but in fact, all we have as a Christian. I still absolutely agree with this statement and I will always stand on it.
Indeed, it says in the bible “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 16-17).
Literally the bible equips us for every possible good work; theologians call this the ‘sufficiency of scripture’. Early influence of such teaching in my life eradicated any kind of interest in psychology and I instead solely focused in the word of God and prayer, utterly dependent only on God for my sanctification and growth in holiness.
My desire for holiness and to live for the glory of God was increasing evermore that I began to imitate John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards in their unique ‘methodology’ in Christian sanctification and self-reflection.
I would set up methodical ways to reflect myself before God and pray methodically with the single purpose of giving all of my heart to God and to always abide in him for repentance and grace.
My encounter with psychology
One day I stumbled upon psychology lectures by Dr Jordan Peterson and I was quite astonished at the depths of his thoughts and knowledge about the human psyche.
Dr Peterson introduced me to concepts and ideas about the human psyche at such depths and complexities that I felt a sense of admiration and even a slight hint of awe at his teachings.
Not the solution, but certainly a great tool
After being somewhat exposed to psychology, I realized that it can be an excellent tool for analysing and discerning one’s state of mind, thoughts and behaviours. Of course there is a clear difference and distinction between one’s spiritual sphere and psychological sphere.
However, there certainly is a connection and overlap between the two (without going into detail in this article) to the extent that one can use the analysis of one’s mind, thought and behaviour to have a clearer picture of the reasons why one is behaving and feeling such way spiritually.
In one of Dr Peterson’s videos, he introduced the idea of personality traits. One of this included ‘conscientiousness’.
Having high levels of this trait mean that one tends to work dutifully and efficiently in a very organised, disciplined and systematic manner. People that score low in conscientiousness tend to be more disorganised, easy-going, laidback and spontaneous/unstructured in their approach to work.
I had scored high in this particular personality trait and interestingly enough, I realised that this translated into how I live my spiritual life.
For example, the way that I would always plan my prayer routines specifically as well as in meditating the Word and systematically reading the bible showed that my conscientious trait revealed itself even in my spiritual walk with God.
Furthermore, I could identify with the way that conscientious people tend to be very goal-oriented and careful in their planning for their achievements. Having a vivid goal of holiness in mind, it made so much sense that I naturally adopted John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards’ methodical approach to sanctification and self-reflection.
I once doubted such methodical approach as sometimes people would ask me “Hey Richard aren’t you taking it a little too far with your spiritual discipline? I mean I get it that you are all hyped up about living a godly life but honestly sometimes when I look at you with all those rules and routines that you make and keep, you look like a Pharisee”.
I mean I guess that is a fair comment and I asked God if I was doing all this with a wrong heart, but God gave me peace as a response every time. Now I just realize that this is how I function as a person with such a personality trait.
Never forget that our struggle is
…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians chapter 6, verse 12).
Our focus in our spiritual struggle should always remain spiritual, whether it be against Satan, our own flesh, or the world. I am in no way suggesting that psychology is truth or that we should supplement the bible with psychology.
It is important to never forget that psychology can never give us the spiritual solution and empowerment that the word of God can give but it remains simply a tool and nothing more. As Christians we should not use psychology in trying to solve our problems.
After all, should those of us who are spiritually alive consult the spiritually dead for the well-being of our spirit? I don’t think so.
Richard Kwon is from Auckland, a regular lay person who just loves the Lord.