Many people have argued that religion has been the source of the world’s worst evils. As Oxford professor of historical theology Alister McGrath wrote, “Look at the record of violence of the Spanish Inquisition …. Or the oppression of the French people in the 1780s under the Roman Catholic Church and the Bourbon monarchy. The list could be extended endlessly to make the same powerful moral point: Wherever religion exercises power, it oppresses and corrupts, using violence to enforce its own beliefs and agendas. Atheism argued that it abolished this tyranny by getting rid of what ultimately caused it—faith in God” (Spectator, Sept. 18, 2004).
It is understandable why many people have been turned off from Christianity. In recent decades, religion came to be viewed as a barbaric relic of history. Atheism became popular and was seen as a solution to the world’s problems, which were mostly caused by religion.
But did the world improve when religion waned?
Professor McGrath continued: “Yet that argument [that religion is the problem, and atheism is the solution] now seems tired, stale and unconvincing. It was credible in the 19th century precisely because atheism had never enjoyed the power and influence once exercised by religion. But all that has changed. Atheism’s innocence has now evaporated. In the 20th century, atheism managed to grasp the power that had hitherto eluded it. And it proved just as fallible, just as corrupt and just as oppressive as anything that had gone before it. Stalin’s death squads were just as murderous as their religious antecedents. … Some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century were committed by regimes which espoused atheism, often with a fanaticism that some naive Western atheists seem to think is reserved only for religious people” (emphasis added throughout).
McGrath concluded: “The real truth here seems to be … that there is something about human nature which makes it capable of being inspired by what it believes to be right to do both wonderful and appalling things. Neither atheism nor religion may be at fault—it might be some deeply troubling flaw in human nature itself.”
That conclusion should not surprise true Christians. We know the world is in a terrible state because of human nature. God has given us a tremendous education in this vital subject. Mr. Gerald Flurry has encouraged God’s people to study human nature. You can observe a lot about human nature from history—by looking at fruits, which is what God tells us to judge by (Matthew 7:20). And the Bible gives crucial revelation that helps us to better understand the cause of man’s insoluble problems.
To understand human nature, we need to understand Satan. To combat human nature, we must combat Satan. As we approach the spring holy day season, seek to recognize—in yourself—that part that is not from God, but from Satan.
Satan was once the impressive archangel Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:14-15). Lucifer was perfect until he turned lawless. What led him to that? “Your heart made you proud of heart, your brilliance depraved your wisdom” (verse 17; Moffatt).
The prideful attitude of vanity is the root and core of sin and human nature. Satan became vain. He began to lean on his own understanding. He loved his own reasoning. Herbert W. Armstrong said in December 1981, “self-love is the very essence of sin.” This is crucial to understand.
The essence of God’s law is the way of love. Anything other than outgoing concern for the good and welfare of others is sin. It is the result of either loving ourselves more than others or loving ourselves more than our Maker.
Satan tries to convince human beings that his nature is good and that God and His law are evil. How upside down! Deep down, men are motivated by the devil who seeks to annihilate mankind! We have to be able to recognize that attitude and know all about it so we can defeat it!
For God’s law to be written into our hearts, God has to perform a miracle, and we have to submit to His will. But for sin to be etched into our minds, all we have to do is be ourselves.
Mr. Armstrong understood how deceived man can be on this issue. He wrote, “The assumed premise is that human nature is essentially good. Once I believed that. … [But] I have been trying to find one thing man has not befouled, injured or polluted. At first glance I have thought I had found an object of man’s improvement—or at least something uninjured. But closer examination proved otherwise. … My mind began to change about human nature. I then began to assume that human nature was a mixture of good and evil. One might yet dig up some article or booklet I have written with that statement in it. But I have been compelled—on evidence and proof—to change my mind. The ‘good’ is simply not there, regardless of common acceptance to the contrary” (Plain Truth, December 1969).
Is this the way we view human nature?
Human righteousness— charity work, relief aid, heroic deeds—is indeed nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In the end, God considers these worthless.
Mr. Armstrong pinpointed a towering lesson we all must learn about human nature: “Why do people think human nature is good? Simply because human nature is vanity. The most difficult thing for the natural vain mind of a human to do is confess it is wrong” (ibid). If you think about this, it is at the heart of virtually all of our problems!
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Human nature does not want to say: ‘I am evil. I am wrong. What I believe is error. What I did was wrong.’ Human nature wants to be right (or believe it is right) while doing wrong! It wants to think of itself as right, not wrong. This very trait in human nature has led even the so-called experts to believe human nature is automatically good. Human nature often has an impulse to rise up in anger and indignation if accused of being wrong, or having done wrong, even though guilty.”
Satan does not agree with God’s assessment of him and denies being vain—just like the vast majority of people today deny their vanity. What we are saying in essence is that we don’t agree with God’s assessment of us.
“Is vanity wrong?” Mr. Armstrong asked. “The world doesn’t think so. The world doesn’t think human nature is wrong. The very basis of human nature is vanity. Vanity is self, and expresses itself in self-glorification, and in greed, selfishness, jealousy, envy, malice, hatred. The world exalts vanity. Its educators teach the psychology of self-confidence, and, in child-rearing, of permissiveness” (Plain Truth, June 1962). It’s all about teaching people that what they’re doing is right.
Winston Churchill spoke of “the confirmed unteachability of mankind.” God gives men His Spirit so they can be taught! Year upon year, week after week, He summons us to instruct us and to help us vanquish human nature.
It is up to us to admit that our own vanity stands in the way of us being taught by Him. Isn’t the essence of vanity believing and insisting you’re right, even when wrong? Until we are willing to admit we are wrong, we won’t be able to recognize this attitude in the world.
If our understanding of human nature is right, we will realize that we have to labor daily to eliminate vanity and approach God with humility, asking Him to correct us, to save us from our deceitful heart, and to guide us through the day.
The Antidote to Human Nature
What is the strategy for combating human vanity? It is to have the fear of God! (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Malachi 2:5).
The fear of God is the opposite of the vanity that makes us so unteachable. We have to acquire a humble, correctable mind-set with God, and then remain in this mind-set.
“Human nature always degenerates toward catastrophe or disaster. The solution to this problem is always to get back to the law of God,” Mr. Flurry writes in his booklet Ezra and Nehemiah. God’s law is the antidote to human nature, because it sums up the love of God.
Psychologists and sociologists cannot help anyone solve his problems. They don’t even understand that man’s problems are conceived by his own human nature. They would never direct people to the law of God.
Satan tries to influence us to compromise with God’s law, even if only a little. He can certainly do that by playing on our vanity—getting us to exalt our own reasoning above God’s law.
In the sermon on the mount, Christ said that God’s way is the narrow way! It’s strait, meaning exacting! It’s a tight fit—there’s no room to wiggle left or right. If likened to a circle, which is made up of 360 degrees, 359 of those degrees would take us in the wrong direction! We have to stick to that 1 degree, or we will become trapped by our human nature that wants to think itself good.
Even if we bring forth good deeds, we might still be wrongly motivated. The Apostle Paul made it clear that no matter what good works we may do, the motivation is the only thing that matters (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). What does this tell us about human nature?What does this tell us about this world and about ourselves? Meditating on this should make us ask some hard questions.
We could be doing a lot of impressive works—serving, making tremendous personal sacrifices—and it could all amount to nothing if it arises from the self and is not inspired by God living in us! Jesus Christ said that without Him, we can do nothing! If what we do is motivated by self-centeredness, it amounts only to vanity!
Partakers of the Godly Nature
There won’t be a change in human conditions until human nature is conquered and we start living according to God’s law of love. We have no potential if we don’t get rid of human nature. Yet human nature will not disappear at once. How then will God change human nature?
God promises that “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29). What should you do to obtain that power and strength? How can we draw on God’s divine nature and resist the penetration of Satan’s broadcast?
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (verses 30-31). Our struggle against the devil and our evil human nature becomes easier—our burden is lightened—if we go to God in prayer for the strength to resist.
Paul admonished the brethren in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
Satan was able to get the people to relax; they had to be reminded that they needed the power of God’s might!
The law of God is holy because it defines the very nature, character and will of God. The power of His might is the ability to keep His law by letting Christ dwell in our flesh (1 John 4:2). But how does that work?
Upon real repentance and faith, God gives us the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enters the mind of an individual and imparts the divine nature—not human nature, but God’s!
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4). God lets us partake of His divine nature as part of the transformative conversion process we go through.
Prior to conversion, we are entirely carnal, but our begettal begins with the smallest measure of God’s Holy Spirit. We may indeed still be more than 99 percent carnal. As God’s Spirit enters our mind and joins with our human spirit (Romans 8:16), we can begin to comprehend spiritual knowledge, which the carnal mind alone cannot grasp (1 Corinthians 2:11). God changes us by His Spirit. He drives out Satan’s nature by us taking on more of the divine nature. Of ourselves, we could not even begin to measure up to the standard necessary to bring peace and happiness to the nations. It takes the life and mind of God in our minds. That is only possible through true conversion and the receipt of God’s Holy Spirit. “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).
At Christ’s return, God’s firstfruits will be resurrected to immortal life—free from sin, free from human nature. Throughout their converted lives, they will have struggled against sin. But at that time, they will no longer struggle against human weaknesses; no longer will there be a war for their minds. The divine nature will be their sole nature!
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:8-9).
Trust God to search your heart, and let Him try your innermost thoughts and motivations. Good works must flow from allowing His mind in you to motivate you. Allow the mind of Christ to conquer your heart—and keep it conquered. Forsake that desperately wicked heart by becoming a partaker of the divine nature that God so eagerly wants to share with you!
Human Nature is SATAN’S NATURE
Satan is here called “the prince of the power of the AIR”! [Ephesians 2:2] … This great and powerful being, even though evil, has power literally to surcharge the air around this Earth. He broadcasts! …
The spirit in every human being is automatically tuned in on Satan’s wavelength. You don’t hear anything because he does not broadcast in words—nor in sounds, whether music or otherwise. He broadcasts in attitudes. He broadcasts in attitudes of self-centeredness, lust, greed, vanity, jealousy, envy, resentment, competition, strife, bitterness and hate.
In a word, the selfishness, hostility, deceitfulness, wickedness, rebellion, etc. that we call “human nature” is actually Satan’s nature. It is Satan’s attitude. And broadcasting it, surcharging the air with it, Satan actually now works IN the unsuspecting all over the world today! That is HOW Satan deceives the whole world today (Revelation 12:9; 20:3). Being invisible, people do not see or hear him.
This prince of the power of the air—this god of this world—is the real source of what we have cometo call “human nature”!
Here is the real cause of all the world’s evils! … People do not recognize the source of these attitudes, feelings, motives and impulses. As I said, they do not see the invisible Satan. They hear no audible voice. They do not know the attitude came from Satan (Revelation 12:9). But they come to feel such attitudes, impulses and desires. That is how Satan deceives the whole world.
People will feel depressed and won’t realize why. But those unaware of this phenomenon, with this self-centered attitude being broadcast and injected into their unsuspecting minds from earliest childhood, do, to a greater or lesser degree, absorb it until it becomes their normal attitude. It becomes habitual. It does not, of course, exhibit the same degree of effect in all minds—one person will become more evil than another. But the natural tendency is there. They come to have it naturally. It becomes their very nature. And we call it “human nature.”
—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Incredible Human Potential, pages 145-146
To learn more, read Chapter 11, “Human Nature—and How a Whole World Is Deceived About Its Origin.”
The Fundamental Lesson Man Must Learn
Everywhere we look there are problems man has not been able to solve. We are living cursed lives and usually do not even know it. Jeremiah 17 gets at the very heart of why we refuse to face and conquer our problems. This chapter gets to the core of the whole Bible message. …
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars” (Jeremiah 17:1). This is a dreadful warning. Sin becomes deeply etched in our minds, as if it were written there with “a pen of iron” and “the point of a diamond.” It becomes engraved upon our hearts.
It’s like being hooked on heroin. The key is to never let it begin. Once we are hooked, it is almost impossible to repent without mind-paralyzing trials. That is how hard a sinning mind becomes. Sin penetrates our very being and becomes a real part of our lives. This should cause men to acutely fear sinning. But it rarely works that way. Jeremiah shows that even when some people know where sin leads, they still continue sinning. …
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (verse 5). … That “man” they trust may be a leader, or it may even be their own human nature—people can follow their own minds.
This is a fundamental lesson that man has not learned for 6,000 years. We are cursed if we follow a man. …
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Notice carefully: The human mind is deceitful above all things. The expression “desperately wicked” should read “dangerously sick,” “incurably sick” or “sick unto death.” …
Trusting sick human minds is why we live in such a sick, sick, sick world! The frightening evidence is all around us. Avoiding human annihilation is our number one problem! (Matthew 24:21-22). That one problem should reveal how sick the human mind is.
Our educational system looks upon man as being basically good and trustworthy. That philosophy destroys institutions and nations! We must see the evil in human nature, or we can never solve our problems. That is where man’s false hope lies—in an incredibly deceitful mind that is terminally ill! Here is where men generally place their trust. What deadly deceit!
Jeremiah 17 teaches the fundamental lesson about our human minds. If we truly understand, we won’t let a day pass without intense Bible study and repentant prayer to our God. Only He can save us from our own incurably sick minds. We are deathly ill and need a physician. …
Understanding this profound verse is more important than any education in this world. When we understand it, radical action is necessary. The greatest need is to understand God—to let Him reveal our own sickness and heal it. Until we learn this lesson, we are living under a curse ….
—Gerald Flurry, Jeremiah and the Greatest Vision in the Bible, pages 95-99
To learn more, read Chapter 8, “No Hope in Man.”
From Human Nature To Divine Nature
Satan has no power of duress. He cannot force any human mind to submit to the attitude he broadcasts and attempts to instill. Every human is a free moral agent, responsible for his own attitudes, decisions and actions. Satan does not broadcast in words—merely in attitudes. If the human mind is willing, it will accept and yield to Satan’s attitudes—attitudes we have mistakenly called “human nature”! …
Each individual is a free moral agent, and God won’t change that prerogative! Each must be brought, of his own free will, to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Those are the conditions. Those do not change human nature. They are the conditions God requires of us. But when we, of our own free choice, do yield to those two conditions, then God starts the changing process.
God doesn’t abolish human nature—not as long as we are in the human flesh. But He does, upon real repentance and faith, give the precious gift of His Holy Spirit, which enters into the mind of the individual. And this is the divine nature. It is not human nature—it is God’s nature. Yet it does not drive out or eliminate human nature. Satan is still broadcasting—if you will listen.
But if one has really repented, and fully believes, he will want to be willingly led by God’s Spirit. And it is “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). If one makes the decision to be led by this new divine nature, God’s Spirit in him is also the power of God and the faith of Christ that will enable him to resist his human nature and follow the divine nature. As the converted individual resists the pulls of human nature, and is led by God’s Holy Spirit into obedience to God’s ways, he grows in spiritual character, until at the time of the resurrection, his human nature will be gone—only the divine nature will remain.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like, pages 24-26
To learn more, read Chapter 3, “The Cause of All World Troubles.”
Conversion Is A Process
Can any man, all at once, break all habits he now sees are wrong? No, he finds he has a fight against acquired former habits.
He still has this pull of this invisible but powerful Satan to overcome. This pull has been subtilely instilled as a law working within him …. The Apostle Paul calls this pull of human nature the law of sin and death [read Romans 7:14-23]. …
The truly converted Christian will find that he often stumbles, under temptation, and falls down—even as a physical child learning to walk often falls down. But the year-old child does not get discouraged and give up. He gets up and starts out again.
The truly converted Christian is not yet perfect!
God looks on the heart—the inner motive—the real intent! If he is trying—if he gets up whenever he falls down, and in repentance asks God’s forgiveness, and sets out to do his very best not to make that mistake again—and to persevere with renewed effort to overcome, God is rich in mercy toward that man in his striving to overcome.
I think it should be apparent by now that the newly converted Christian is not perfect all at once. He does not—must not—commit sin deliberately and willfully in a spirit and attitude of rebellion. That’s what he has repented of! He wants to live completely above sin. But to live perfectly would require all spiritual knowledge. He would have to live by every word of the Bible. The Holy Spirit imparts spiritual perception so he can understand the Bible. And to understand all the Bible takes time. We have to grow into the knowledge of how to live perfectly without sin.
A Christian may, from force of habit, or under weakness and temptation, sin. But if he is a Christian, he is immediately repentant, and on this repentance Christ’s sacrifice cleanses his sin (1 John 1:7-9).
Converted people often are under heavier temptation than before conversion. Satan exerts more pull than before. They are striving against sin, striving to overcome. But they are not yet perfect. Sometimes they are caught off guard. They may actually sin. Then they wake up, as it were, and realize what they have done. They repent. They are filled with remorse—truly sorry—disgusted with themselves. They go to God, and cry out for help—for more power and strength from God to overcome (Hebrews 4:16).
This is the way of the Christian!
It is the way of a constant battle—a striving against sin—a seeking God in earnest prayer for help and spiritual power to overcome. And if they are diligent, they are constantly gaining ground. They are constantly growing in God’s knowledge, from the Bible. They are constantly rooting out wrong habits, driving themselves into right habits. They are constantly growing closer to God through Bible study and prayer. They are constantly growing in character, toward perfection, even though not yet perfect.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Just What Do You Mean … Conversion?, pages 13-15