Three Spiritual Elements

  There are three elements that operate in the spiritual world. They are the divine, the human, and the Satanic. The Bible recognizes these three elements, or instrumentalities working to produce the spiritual results that we see. Nothing is more clearly taught in the Bible than the personality of God and of the angels who do his will. Likewise, Satan is, all through the bible, a personality, and the demons that do his will are also spoken of in a way that makes it plain to us that they too are personal beings. These good and evil personalities exist as really as man exists and are just as personal. Man is capable of having definite relationship with any of these personalities, whether the good or the bad. He is capable of working with them to a certain end, or of working against them to a certain other end. He may work with the divine to carry out the will of God, or he may work with the evil personalities to carry out evil things. Any one of these three elements may work independently, so that a thing may be of god independent of man and the devil, or it may be of the devil independent of God or man, or it may be of man independent of God or the devil.

True religion is of God, but it also involves man. Therefore the human element will always enter more or less into our religion. The vital elements of religion are from God, but when these vital elements, or powers, work in man, they do not coerce his will. They do not overcome his personality. They do not take possession of him so as to rule him. He does not come under rule; he still acts voluntarily. This human element in religion shows itself in peculiar manifestations, customs, ideas, and forms. When the Spirit of God comes into a man, he manifests himself in different ways, but especially in a holy Christian character and a holy Christian life. His presence affects all the faculties of man, but the outward expression of these effects are not particularly of the Holy Ghost. They are rather of man. All who are saved have in them the same divine element operating to produce the same results. The external manifestations of this working depends largely upon the temperament of the human. One manifests his joy by shouting, another laughs, another weeps, another sits quietly with shining eyes and glowing countenance. But these manifestations are merely the human expression of the inward joy. During the centuries, man?s spiritual emotions have been manifested in a great variety of ways. Special religious movements have been noted for special manifestations among them. Some movements have been noted for shoutings; others, for wild demonstrations of many different kinds. People often suppose these outward demonstrations to be the work of God. If they were of God, he would manifest himself in a more uniform manner. There would be none of those extreme and unbecoming demonstrations that are sometimes seen among religious people. Man may make these demonstrations as a result of his own choice and enthusiasm, or under the influence of the Spirit of God, though we must never blame God for the manner or the extent of such manifestations. If a Christian lets his emotions or his enthusiasm run away with his judgment and acts unseemly, we must lay the blame upon the human element. It is the man, not his God, nor his religion necessarily, that is at fault. Satan also operates on people to produce wild, emotional excitement, and in some movements he is the principal cause of the emotionalism. Especially is this true when the life of the person is immoral. The jerking, contortions, "falling under the power," etc., that characterize certain brands of religion are usually of Satan and man, though sometimes it may be only of man, he abandoning himself to his emotions to such an extent that nervous reaction sets in. It is safe to reject these things from our consideration of the work of God. We must place them in some other category.

The variation of religious customs and forms in the world are the outcropping of the human element. God did not give us a definite program of religious worship nor did he introduce any of the prevailing religious customs, except those specifically named in the New Testament. Those since introduced are of man, and should always be distinguished from the real and vital elements of religion. I do not mean to condemn all that is of man as being evil. A thing must be judged by its intrinsic value, not by its origin. Man?s works may be either good or evil, either wise or unwise.

The many religious ideas and doctrines in the world are of various origin. Some are directly of God, some are "doctrines of devils," and some are of men. The varying and often contradictory doctrines taught in the world that are supposed by their adherents to be the revelation of divine truth come largely from man?s imperfect conception of truth. Sometimes God is blamed for this doctrinal confusion and discord, but we must remember that God has given the same revelation of himself and his truth to us all, and that it is only man?s misinterpretation of this revelation that makes the discord. It is true that some teach special doctrines through perversity, others through unwillingness to teach the truth because they are not willing to obey it. But for this we must blame man, not God. God?s truth is one; he is not the author of the babel of religious teachings in the world. It is highly important, then, that we learn what is the real truth among the clashing doctrines of men.

It is the human element that differentiates between religious movements. The leader usually impresses his own thoughts, views, customs, and temperamental peculiarities upon the movement that he heads. We have only to look into the past a little to see this. All men who have the religion of Christ have the same vital power of godliness working in them. They all have the same salvation, but they have different ways of manifesting it. The old Puritans were austere and high in their morality. They were formal and rigid. Their religion had in it much of the nature of iron. Then came Fox with his quietism. His morality was just as high, but it took a very different course. Instead of being formal, like Puritanism, it went to the opposite extreme of having almost no form. It was meditative, quiet, and non-resistant. Methodism was radically different from both of these, it being emotional and noisy and demonstrative. Its devotees sometimes went to extremes that were unseemly. The Scotch Covenanters were worthy people, but they differed widely from many others. It was one Spirit that operated in all these movements, and he operated in them alike so far as people would permit. These great differences in manners, customs, views, and manifestations must be attributed to the human element that entered so largely into them.

The same thing may be observed among modern Christians. There are still "shouting Methodists" and quiet Quakers, and formal, orderly Presbyterians. No matter how much of God one of these may have in him, the effect of the influence or sentiment at work in the particular movement has a strong influence upon his actions. His tendency is always to act according to the forms of the movement with which he is familiar.

This human element is a variable quantity. It may or may not obstruct the working of the divine, but in many instances the divine is greatly limited or even entirely crowded out by it, so that the religion becomes only a human thing, while the soul is empty of God. There is such a thing as a religion that is of man and has none of the divine element in it. Those professing it have never been born again. God has never entered into their lives. They simply joined church, and that was all there was to it. Their religion is wholly of and from themselves, and will die with them.

When we meet people and recognize them as being Christians, yet see that they are different from us, that difference may be attributed to the human element. It cannot be a spiritual difference if both have the Spirit of Christ. God draws all Christians together. He gives them all one Spirit. He gives them the tie of love that binds them to one another. The things that divide them are those human forms and views and customs which they have accepted. Where there is animosity and contention and bitterness, the satanic element enters and God is shut out. God wants his people to be all one. He is not so concerned that they should be all alike in these human elements, for that is hardly possible and not to be expected; but he does want the divine element to have so large a place in our lives and so to dominate the human element that his people will be of one heart and soul in him, and that there will be no division among them. We may teach unity all we will, but if there is in us elements that are of a nature to separate us from other Christians, even if these should be only human elements, they will be a barrier to the realization of a practical unity. Unity must have for its basis only spiritual elements. To make the human element in any wise the standard is to make real unity impossible, except among those who are alike in the human element. We should recognize the fact that a general uniting of Christians must be built on the foundation of the divine element, and that this must be clearly separated in mind and heart from the human element and held as a separate thing. So long as any particular form or custom or any special manifestation is a part of the standard around which Christians are called to rally, there will be those who will find themselves unable to accept that part of it, no matter how much they may desire unity.

There is also a human fellowship. Those who are in the same human element or influence have the fellowship of the movement with each other and do not have it with any one outside the movement, even though they have spiritual fellowship with him. People changing from one movement to another carry this human influence with them, and are marked by it so that they are sometimes suspected and held aloof.

Satan is always ready to take advantage of this human element to make it work out his purpose. He works to make us think that humanly devised forms or customs are things of vital importance. In fact, some of these are much harder to break away from than we suppose them to be. They take a deeper hold upon us many times than divine truth. People feel as though they would be giving up their religion if they should surrender these forms. A particular mode of dress becomes sacred; a particular form of service becomes exalted above all other forms. It is only when we recognize these as being merely human things and as having no vital connection with Biblical truth that we are in a position to look at things from a broad enough standpoint to stretch out our hands equally to other Christians. If we become wedded to our forms and customs, Satan is likely to use the fascination that they possess for us to keep us from having the confidence that we ought to have in other Christians. Let us look away from these things back to the fundamentals of Christian doctrine and life. These, and these alone, can be the basis for the acceptance of Christian profession. These alone can be the common grounds upon which all Christians can meet. Let us look away from ourselves and from these toys which we have whittled out for ourselves. If we have labeled these things Christianity, let us tear off these labels, and see that henceforth we call nothing Christian but that which is fundamentally divine working out through the human, or has its origin in God himself. Do the best we will, there will be more or less of the human element in our religion. But let us deal with it as the human element and not as the divine. Let us give it its due weight, but no greater weight than it is worthy of receiving.