The word itself evokes fascination, skepticism, excitement, and curiosity. Perhaps the the very idea of psychology intimidates you, or is even a little bit confusing. Maybe it sounds like a bunch of nonsense, or convoluted ideas that don’t actually mean anything. Or maybe it sounds like a spiritually taboo topic that belongs in a more secular world.
Psychology does seem to be shrouded in a little bit of mystery, and sometimes even presents itself as somewhat elusive, doesn’t it?
But we can’t make accurate assessments or come to any definite conclusions about psychology if we don’t have a grasp on its definition or how it truly influences our existence.
It might interest you to know that psychology is the why behind how we all do life. It’s written all over our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.
Everything we do centers around psychology.
So, what exactly is psychology? Where did the concept originate and what does it mean in terms of who we are and how we understand faith and spirituality?
By definition, psychology is the study of human behavior and mental processes. However, the very nature of psychology transcends this incredibly simple explanation.
Psychology is more than what we do or the ways in which we think. Psychology soars above the structure of human thoughts and behavior by directly impacting culture, government, religion, arts, politics, and economics. It shapes human interactions and forms the complex structures of society. Simply put, psychology is what makes the world go ’round.
For centuries, philosophers, religious leaders, and teachers have been exploring the concept of psychology and how it relates to the mind, the body, and the soul.
Psychology’s modern roots truly began to grow in ancient Greece, when great thinkers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato began to wrestle with the idea that the mind is separate from the body. Several hundred years later, Descartes added to their theory when he suggested that the material mind contained “spirits” that enabled bodily movement and memory. In the mid 17th century, John Locke argued that the mind is a blank slate, absorbing only knowledge and thoughts that come from life experience. By the mid 1800’s, the first psychology lab was opened in Germany by a professor who was eager to measure the structures of the mind. And so began the journey of psychology into the social science that it is today.
But long before these famous philosophical musings, scripture alluded to the principles of psychology and how it undeniably shapes what we believe, what we do, and how it permeates our spirits to form the essence of our souls.
Jesus talked about psychology related to the functions of loving Him with all of who we are.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” ~Mark 12:30
- Our hearts, Jesus says, are the places from where our thoughts flow. Our thoughts originate in our brains, giving us the ability to reason and make decisions.
- Our souls are our spirits, but they carry the essence of our thought lives, each day influenced by the beliefs we hold about who we are in Christ and what we believe about God.
- Our minds are the place where our consciences reside, and inform and shape our spirits, which is exactly where psychology meets the soul.
- Our strength is empowered by God (Isaiah 40:29) and is connected directly to our hearts (“God is the strength of my heart” Psalm 73:26).
Psychology first makes its appearance in the Garden of Eden, where in Eve’s mind, her thoughts about fruit, and God, and knowledge, and power paved the way for sin to flourish. Eve’s beliefs about the serpent’s lies became the behavior that brought devastation into the world that would transcend generations. Her brain’s simple thought processes were so twisted that they bent her heart toward evil rather than obedience and peace. Her decision to eat the forbidden fruit tainted her mind, and had immediate consequence, bringing forth the need for a Savior for our souls.
Psychology is all over the Bible. In stories told, in parables spoken, in admonitions made. It is the door that we must walk through to understand who we are, how we we were created, and who God is. And it is complicated and messy. But is it also outrageously beautiful, because it speaks to God’s magnificent creation.
The psychology of human beings is not simple.
It is an elegant myriad of elements, heart, soul, mind, and strength, that make up the essence of who we are. And even though, in our humanness, these elements are faulty, they have been radically redeemed by a holy God.
“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” ~Romans 8:27