As a Christian I find it more and more difficult to believe in the actual idea of "Christ" as presented by the historical, social, and cultural influences of my own church (i.e. the Roman Catholic church). I find the protestant interpretation of the "What" and "Who" of that which we, as Christians are meant to believe in, just as difficult and obscure as the Catholic Church’s own tested and proved methodology of belief.
I know comparatively little about the Eastern\Greek\Russian church’s notion of Christ. However I do agree with Carl Jung, as well as others (Rudolf Steiner) who have probed deeply in the substratum of our spiritual lives, regarding the absolute importance of the "Christ Event" and its immense significance in terms of our humanity, our freedom, and our co-creativeness with the divine elements in the world (some like Rudolf Steiner have described the "Christ Event" in terms of a cosmic singularly that can be entered literally as either, God in Man or Man in God).
Jung nevertheless indicated numerous times in his latter writings that Christianity and its recent history in the "Century of the common man" had failed miserably to penetrate and illuminate that inner core of man and humanity. He also suggested, perhaps very pointedly and with perhaps even greater relevance nowadays, that the world could no longer exist in any pivotal or dynamic sense once that nexus between the divine elements and man was abandoned. Interestingly this idea of cultural and historical depth as manifested through the transcendental notions of creative portals in both the empirical and imaginative worlds was something which both Walter Benjamin and T.W Adorno (both Jews) identified with mans inner religious and creative freedom. Adorno wrote at the end of his life that "the disappearance of culture in any society is the same as the disappearance of religion, there can be no more culture without religion nor vice-versa".
Has not Christ then become nothing more than a dead myth to the western mind and heart? When viewed against all those Christians who no longer believe despite their growing "belief" in a Jesus Christ whose essence bears that same strange fate as the eye on any US dollar bill. In such circumstances is not a "no belief" a better and perhaps a more honest solution rather than those beliefs that are formulated and wrongly believed in? Even the monks of the 15th century who depicted the dead, not the living Christ nor the Christ who resurrects the world in Burgos Cathedral in Belgium, speaks much more about the lack of deep faith and understanding in the Roman Catholic Church.
Perhaps that is why those who still wish not just to "believe" but also to come to know, the who and what of Christ, and of what His presence signifies, must be prepared to learn from other sources. I think this is why it is so important for the western church’s to listen without hypocrisy or censor to the East, to that source, who Jung maintained was "western" mans most difficult task to find, but his most fatal to loss.
" What is it exactly in the actual idea of Christ as presented (or as you think is presented) by the Catholic church, that makes it difficult for you to believe?"
It's precisely this question, of that particular "what" which were meant to believe "in" as Catholics that remains so difficult for me to believe.
Do we not need firstly to ask the question who Christ is, not under the exclusive pretext of been either a Catholic, Protestant nor a Jew. I think all these religions of Christ have distorted for far to long, the fundamental message and significance of Christ. For example, there are members of the Hoppi Indians in Arizona, as there are members of other "non-Christian" communities in the world, who perfectly understand the deep significance of the cross and of Christ, and what His message should of symbolised to the world. However it was clearly evident that the official church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church didn't, by its bloody and violent campaign of enforced Christianity, which it saw fit to inflict upon the natives of central, and South America during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Not withstanding the whole episode of the Inquisition in 16th Europe as well as the numerous violent campaigns taken against Cathars, Jews, Muslims and Protestants, it seems difficult if almost impossible to believe that this "holy" institution knows nor understands anything about the significance of the "Christ event" to humanity. However it's not just a question of its action regarding its idea of Christ, but perhaps its crusading madness can be best understood by trying to comprehend its unfathomable theology regarding Christ. Simply, it was H.G Wells who aptly described the situation regarding its theology by saying "There is no evidence the Apostles of Jesus ever heard of a trinity” and that the trinity and, how we as Catholics understand Christ, is simply nothing more than a "pagan" invention made up by church politicians and bureaucrats at the Council of Nicaea. If Wells is correct (see also Borges bemused thoughts on this topic) haven't we been duped and fooled with regards to our image and, our corresponding belief in Christ in the western churches?
If the trinity is an invention of the church and if the resurrection of Christ is not meant to be taken literally, and if we can no longer believe in the holiness and authenticity of that institution which is meant to represent His essence and message; then surely we must ask what can possibly now remain intact and true regarding our belief in Christ?
And yet after years of thinking and experiencing these thoughts some answers do become more evident. Strangely I think part of the answer comes from people like Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and others who have lost their conventional faith in Christianity. In such writers there is a profound realisation, near the edges of the social order, are within some alienated place or estranged dimension, (Kafka) where there can appear a type of indestructible faith, with its resultant understanding whose essence needs not the power of belief but, rather a condition of faith gained through a source much greater than oneself or this world.
So likewise, does it not now also appear to be an evident fact that we too, must as Christians also become necessarily estranged from beliefs which may be false and corrupt in order to know Christ, rather than merely “believe” in some type of Christ?
Perhaps as Jung suggested, we are still far too superficial, lazy, and immature with regards to our beliefs in Christ.
I think the important thing to the apostles was (& still is) that God can (only) be known in Christ, at least, known in a way that would be in any way beneficial. I would say to H.G.Wells that the apostles knew the Trinity, even not having a 4th century development of the notion.
You might benefit from a study of the Eastern Orthodox Fathers.
Can God only be known through Christ? As a Christian your religion (and mine) would of course answer yes. However have not numerous Christians and others experienced the divine in the world differently, think about the Christian mystics? The institutional Church has always had a tense and strained relationship whenever they tired and often failed in their attempts to decipher or interpret the "correct" meaning, Christian or otherwise, of what a particular mystic was saying.
Perhaps you are right in stating that only God may be known through Christ, but I also think that the Divine can be known by many different types of both people and experiences that can be undergone while one is in this world. I don't know the place (which I suspect may not exist) where one could attempt to draw some type of absolute line or boundary between mystical experiences relating to God and that of the Divine; what are the degrees, the measures and the intensities? And what type of words could we use to classify these experiences; perhaps very few I suspect.
So ultimately we are all left alone once more in order to speculate, and it seems that this may be the root of much true knowledge, and yet this, I suspect is also the crux of that irresolvable paradox between knowledge and belief. However this particular problem has a long and distinctive lineage going right back to elements of both Gnostic and Platonic understanding, both of which have been classified as pagan and unchristian "systems" by the Church at various times, despite the fact that it subsumed a large amount of Platonism into its own Theology.
I think, that the process of trying to meld together different and at times very disparate elements of Greek philosophy with the churches rendering of the scriptures, proved to be a considerable mistake on its behalf. Philosophy is not a branch of Religion nor is Religion from the same root as Philosophy. At some point (there were perhaps many) I believe the Roman Catholic Church resorted to using Philosophical ideas, not as a source of illumination in its own right, but rather as a source of "other" knowledge that could be taken and "made fit in", retrogressively with its own theological shortcomings at every particular historical juncture, were it seemed to encounter an obstacle to its own infallible authority regarding Christ.
So I believe that many of us coming from the western Christian tradition, must encounter that sense whereby we realise how difficult it is to resolve the whole issue regarding ones belief (which can often be exactly the same as the universal church beleif), in contradistinction to ones own sense of self-knowledge (For the the kingdom of heaven is within) that should really be the dynamic center of ones whole being in the world.
You have addressed a number of issues but I would consider (from my own bias, I know) the concern for faith in or as regards the Holy Trinity coupled with the observation that the church appears to have brought in non-Christian philosophy to explain itself.
To that first I'd like to say that explaining "the Unknown God" whom one does know to others is impossible without following God's lead and using the language of one's audience. The church has always been willing to use terminology from the philosophers to express itself except that what the church has to express was not the content of the terms the philosophers used. It was not done to fool or confuse though, and the church was direct about the new content it put in the words.
On the other hand, Augustine seems to have brought concepts from his former Manichaeism regarding the determinism, i.e., predestination, and speculative theology regarding the Trinity in terms of the abstract "Essence," rather than the "personal." He then tied to explain the relations by analogy with a human psychology: I believe he compared the Father with "will", but the point is only that we of the west have trouble with this idea of the Trinity because of this abstract way of thinking about it.
I think Gregory Palamas would make good reading --- for me as well.
But, we all experience God at the personal level of God the Son, who is also miraculously man, and therefore human.
My apologies if I should in any way seem to be making light of something (rather, some One) so important as God, He alone Who Is. I certainly do not mean to.