Chapter Four: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF HOLINESS
W. T. Purkiser (1910-92) was a prolific writer, respected scholar, and well-loved preacher within the Church of the Nazarene who also had a significant voice in the larger evangelical Christian community. He authored and contributed to some of the most widely disseminated and enduring works in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.
For better or for worse, we live in an age that is incurably psychological. The post-Freudian world can never be the same as the world before Freud. This is not all bad. Whatever we can learn that, will help us understand the nature of man will help us understand a little better the experience of holiness.
Just as archaeology and secular history have shed light upon places and events reported in the Bible, so the sciences of human nature -- psychology, anthropology, sociology may help us understand better what it was God created when He formed man of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life, so that man became a living soul fashioned in the image of his Maker.
Theology itself has felt the impact of psychology. Archbishop William Temple, who anticipated so much that has come to the fore in contemporary theology, wrote: "Our theology has been cast in a scholastic mold, i.e. all based on logic. We are in need of and we are gradually forced into, a theology based on psychology. The transition, I fear, will not be without much pain; but nothing can prevent it." 
It, is only necessary to add that, if the psychology upon which such theology is based is biblical psychology the gain will be great.
I. Never should we underestimate the divine element in our sanctification. What God does in and for us is nothing short of a miracle. Yet right along with this is another truth that needs to be brought into focus. Divine grace does not cancel our humanity.
We still live in an imperfect world, conditioned by a hundred factors over which we have no control, some of which go back into infancy and early childhood. And God works within the limits of that humanity.
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels,' " wrote the Apostle Paul (II Cor. 4:7). I have never had the temerity of the seminarian who took this as his text and spoke in his preaching class on "The Glory of the Cracked Pot." But the truth is, some of the vessels are chipped, some of them are marred, and some of them are a bit, cracked.
Psychology can help us understand better the complexity of our motivations, the degree to which our reactions are conditioned by past experiences, the way in which apperception actually alters our grasp of truth, and the unsuspected ways in which the unconscious colors and affects conscious experience. It may aid us in freeing ourselves from the myth that people always react alike and are equal in temperament and personality.
Our psychological age should also alert us to the need to be careful in our modes of expression. Carelessness in the use of psychological terms sometimes involves us in saying what we do not mean.
A prime example of this is the term "self."' We sometimes talk about the eradication or destruction of "self."' We know what we mean, or at least, it is to be hoped that we do. We mean self in the sense of "selfishness."' We mean the eradication or destruction of the sinfulness of the self. In this sense we may talk about "self' being "crucified and slain, and buried deep, and all in vain may efforts be to rise again'" In this sense we understand the prayer we sometimes hear,
"Lord, slay the self in me.
But self more properly means the real inner being, the ego, the core and soul of personal identity. It is the "I", the "me," that persist through all modifications and changes from birth to death. If this psychological ego were to be crucified or destroyed in any literal sense, the result would be nonentity.
Whatever else it, is, carnality is the human self corrupted, diseased, fevered, and warped.
Holiness cleanses the corruption, heals the disease, takes away the fever, and straightens the warp. But it does not destroy the self. That self must be consecrated and cleansed and committed to the purposes of God.
Paul the Apostle expressed it all in one of his great paradoxes: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Here, as Dr. William Greathouse has so well expressed it, is a sinful "self" to be crucified with Christ, a human self to be controlled by Christ, in order that the true self may be realized in Christ.
E. Stanley Jones testified: "I laid at His feet, a self of which I was ashamed, couldn't control, and couldn't live with; and to my glad astonishment He took that self, remade it, consecrated it to Kingdom purposes, and gave it back to me, a self I can now live with gladly and joyously and comfortably." 
Such a surrender is the heart and soul of Christian consecration. Consecration is not chiefly the surrender of possessions, things, or even other people. It is the submission of the central self to the sanctifying will of God. Possessions, things, and others are involved in the believer's consecration. But it is only when the final "Yes" is said which permanently admits the Saviour to the innermost recesses of the soul that consecration becomes real and complete.
This is the insight expressed in the order in Frances Ridley Havegal's familiar "consecration" hymn. Life, hands, feet, voice, lips, silver and gold, will, heart, and love are all presented in that sequence. The process might go that far and still fall short were it not for the final, climactic gift of all:
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
The radical, uncompromising claim of Christian consecration is sketched in clear outline by the late C. S. Lewis in his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy. When he turned from atheism to Christianity, he found, so he said, that "there was no region even in the innermost depth of one's soul (nay, there least of all) which one could surround with a barbed-wire fence and guard with a notice, No Admittance. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, "This is my business and mine only." "But God would not be satisfied with less than all."
The self is not to be slain. It is to be surrendered. It is the "vessel unto honor" of which Paul wrote: "sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (II Tim. 2:21). What makes the difference is that self is no longer on the throne, pretending to be the lord of the life. Self is in the servant role, on its knees, consecrated to the Lord of all life – no longer central but submissive.
II. The distinction between humanity and carnality is of prime importance for a psychological interpretation of holiness. Theoretically, it is not hard to state the difference. Practically, one man's "humanity" may be another man's "carnality," and what would be condemned as carnality in others may be excused as humanity in oneself.
Objections to the possibility of holiness usually fall into one of two classes. Either it is claimed that human nature as such is sinful or it is said that the source of sin is in the physical body.
Neither of these views is defensible. Those who claim that human nature as such is sinful have a twofold problem on their hands. They must either hold that God did not create Adam and Eve as truly human or else that He created them as sinful beings. And they must either hold that the sinfulness of human beings is eternal or that the redeemed will be transformed into something other than human when they enter heaven.
Neither pair of alternatives is very promising. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God in innocence and primitive holiness, untested but still real. They were created as human beings. The very name Adam" means "man. . .
Nor do the finally redeemed become anything other than human beings in heaven. The Saviour, who took upon Him the nature of man, is still "the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5), although exalted to the right hand of God. In the new heavens and the new earth, the dwelling of God shall be with men and they shall be His people (Rev. 21:3).
The view that the seat of sin is the physical body is equally mistaken. It is true enough that many of the sins common to human life are those which come through the pull of bodily appetites and desires. Yet in the 17 works of the flesh listed by Paul in Gal. 5:19-21, the majority have no physical basis whatsoever -- as, for example, "idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings."'
The idea that the body is sinful also runs head on into the doctrine of the incarnation. Every evidence in Scripture points to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, the sinless, holy Son of God, had a normal human body. He grew hungry and tired; He slept; He ate; He rejoiced; He suffered; He was subject to every kind of temptation we have, "yet without, sin" (Heb. 4:15).
Sin in human nature is an intrusion. It does not belong in man as he was designed to be. It is no necessary part of anything essential to a full and normal human life.
But where is the dividing line between the human and the sinful? How can one tell the difference between those tendencies, inclinations, and desires which are part of our necessary human existence and those which come from and together constitute the nature of inbred sin?
There is an important clue in the statement, about "the mind of the flesh" in Rom. 8: 6-7, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
In the phrase "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" we have the line of distinction drawn. Whatever is human within us -- part of man's normal psychological makeup -- can be and is subject, to the law of God. Whatever is carnal is not and cannot be subject to God's law.
In fact, the entire purpose of the moral law is to give guidance and direction to human nature and its varied expressions. Every human instinct,, need, and desire has a possible legitimate expression within the guidelines laid down by God's law. Each of the Ten Commandments, for example, establishes limits and guidelines for human tendencies which are legitimate and right in their proper place.
On the contrary, no carnal impulse, attitude, or tendency can find an expression in Christian life within the law of God. None is subject to His law. All are outlaw propensities and inevitably lead to sin.
Consider the sorry list: envy, malice, animosity, bitterness, retaliation, selfish temper, pride, covetousness, grudge holding, lovelessness, divided loyalty, double-mindedness. How can one be envious or malicious in keeping with the law and nature of Christ,? How can one manifest, animosity and bitterness in harmony with Christian ideals? Even to ask the question is to see the answer.
Human psychological impulses and tendencies, as Paul said of the physical body, are to be "kept under" (I Cor. 9:27). All carnal impulses and the other hand, are to be eliminated by that divine conditioning of our selfhood by the indwelling Spirit, who alone enables us to love God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves.
III. Involved in the psychological interpretation of holiness is the need to learn to live with limitations. We all have to walk the narrow path between the too easy acceptance of our limitations and the futility of constantly heating our heads against a stone wall. Some too quickly surrender to their obstacles. They accept as inevitable what they should attack and overcome. Others make themselves and everyone around them miserable by a hopeless struggle against limitations in their lives they should learn to accept.
It is important that we rightly measure our limitations. Some of them we may overcome by direct action and with the help of God. Others we must come to terms with and learn to live with.
There are limitations in the measure of health and strength. There are limitations in education and training. There are limitations in native ability and talent,. There are limitations that come with advancing age. And there are limitations in circumstances, past and present. A man cannot lift himself by his bootstraps when he has no boots.
The New Testament has a comprehensive word for limitations. It is the word "infirmity," and it literally means lack of strength, weakness, or "inability to produce results."
Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, speaks of infirmities. He gives us the promise that the Holy Spirit "helpeth our infirmities"' (Rom. 8:26). While the particular weakness in view is lack of knowledge about what to pray for, the term is plural and the statement is general.
The very word "help" is full of meaning. When a person promises to help us with something, it does not mean that he is going to do it for us. The only way we can need help is to be doing something too big to be done alone.
Sometimes limitations can be taken away. More often, we climb on top of them.
Paul, again, is our teacher. Whatever his "thorn in the flesh" may have been, it seems almost certain it was a physical fact. The apostle prayed three times for deliverance and the idea is clear that these prayers were not casual wishes beamed Godward, but prolonged and intense seasons of supplication.
When the answer came, it was not exactly as the apostle had expected. But it satisfied him fully. Christ said to him, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in [your] weakness."
Then Paul gives us our best secret for successfully living with limitations. He said, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me"" (II Cor. 12:8-9).
This is turning liabilities into assets. When one is not so gifted, he works harder. When one cannot run like a hare, he plods like a tortoise -- and usually comes in ahead.
We can, to be sure, put up with our limitations. We can accept them and suffer them. But, it is better to use them for stepping-stones and climb over them. We grow by working away at the edges of our liabilities. We may not completely overcome them. But if we face them honestly and bravely, we shall find that in the long run we are both bigger and better for the effort.
IV. The best of saints still have a long road to travel. There are rough places to be smoothed, kinks of mind and personality to be straightened out,, failings and weaknesses to be faced, corrected, and strengthened.
As James McGraw has well put it, "Psychological weakness is not necessarily spiritual wickedness." One may have the baptism with the Spirit and still need help with personal problems of emotional adjustment.
We must not forget that people may be pure in heart but immature in personal development. Paul described the aim of the Christian gospel as not only "the perfecting of the saints" but also "that we may henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" and that we may "grow up" (Eph. 4:12-15).
Sanctified people may have problems with prejudices that have been drilled into them from early childhood until they have become a stubborn part of their entire outlook on life. One has only to recall Peter's struggle over establishing fellowship with Gentile Christians, as reflected in Acts 10 and Gal. 2:11-14, to see a vivid illustration of this. When Peter was sanctified at Pentecost, he didn't lose his Jewish prejudices overnight.
Sanctified people may have problems that arise from differences of judgment, or from the emotional conditionings of close family ties. We have but to remember the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:36-41) to see this.
Without, the Spirit's help, we could never cope with our human weaknesses effectively. Without the indwelling Spirit, Peter never would have conquered his prejudices, nor would he have written about "our beloved brother Paul" (II Pet. 3:15) after Paul took him to task for them. Without the openness of perfect love, Paul never would have conceded that John Mark had vindicated himself (II Tim. 4:11).
But the problems still arose and had to be faced. If they had not been solved, they could have defeated the purpose of God in the lives of Peter, Cornelius, Barnabas, Mark, and Paul. Without the Holy Spirit, they could not. Without their honest effort, He would not.
V. Important to the psychology of the sanctified life is an understanding of the place and function of emotions in our humanity. Many seem to expect an experience of constant joy and blessing. Because peace with God and the witness of the Spirit to a clean heart often find expression in high emotional tides, some have tended to make feelings an indicator of the spiritual state.
The problem is, of course, the emotions have a way of changing from day to day. They are affected by factors that have no relationship whatsoever to one's spiritual and moral condition. There is nothing but danger in identifying feelings with the grace of God.
Even Jesus is described as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3), whose tears flowed when He was confronted with the sorrow of His friends and the hardness of those He had come to help (John 11:35; Luke 19:41 Paul confessed his continual heaviness and sorrow of heart for his own nation (Rom. 9:1-2), and found occasion to need encouragement from Christian friends (Acts 28:15).
Peter writes to those "who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of our faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:5-7).
John Wesley wrote
A will steadily and uniformly devoted to God is essential to a state of sanctification, but not a uniformity of joy, or peace, or happy communion with God. These may rise and fall in various degrees; nay, and may be affected either by the body or by diabolical agency, in a manner which all our wisdom can neither understand nor prevent. 
Emotion and blessing play an important part in Christian life. A religious experience which had no effect on the feelings would not meet the needs of the whole person. It would not go far enough.
But the purpose of emotion in religion is akin to the purpose of emotion in other areas of life. It is not primarily to be enjoyed. It is to be employed. It is the natural prelude to action.
There is more in common between "emotion" and "motion"' than the fact that the two words differ by only one letter. God has given us physical feelings, for instance, as part of the preparation for some sort of physical action. Fear is a good example. In fright, the glands pump additional adrenaline into the bloodstream, the heartbeat is quickened, and the body is prepared for "fight or flight."
Conversely, the appropriate action strengthens the emotion which corresponds to it. Running away increases the fright. Clenching the fists strengthens anger. Whistling tends to lift the spirits.
The application of this to the spiritual life is not difficult to see. God gives high tides of blessing and joy, not simply for the sake of making us happy, but to prepare us for service to the Kingdom and to our fellowmen. Just as emotion in the physical life can actually be harmful unless followed by action appropriate to it, so blessing and spiritual joy miss their purpose unless they work out in heightened devotion. Emotion which is not expressed in devotion eventually dries up.
But the very best state of grace will not guarantee high emotions all the time. Holiness is not hilarity. Feelings are a by-product of spirituality and neither its cause nor its measure.
C.W. Ruth used to say, "Feelings are the most undependable dependence anyone ever depended on!" He would comment that the only man in the Bible who went by "feeling" was Isaac, who as a result blessed the wrong boy!
Faith is the supreme condition for salvation. Holiness is a relationship based, not on feelings, but on faith. Faith anchors to facts: the fact of God's promises, and the fact of consecration and obedience. Feelings are swayed by circumstances, and may have no direct relationship whatsoever.
Feelings are conditioned by the physical tonus of the individual. The state of health and the condition of one's nerves make a great deal of difference in the emotions he has.
Two excerpts from the journal of a pioneer New England circuit rider serve to illustrate this point. The first entry is dated Wednesday night at bedtime:
Arrived at the home of Brother Brown late this evening, hungry and tired after a long day in the saddle. Had a bountiful supper of cold pork and beans, warm bread, bacon and eggs, coffee and rich pastry. I go to rest feeling that my witness is clear; the future is bright; I feel called to a great and glorious work in this place. Brother Brown's family are godly people.
But the next entry, written late on Thursday morning, tells a different story:
Awakened late this morning after a troubled night. I am very much depressed in soul; the way looks dark; far from feeling called to work among this people, I am beginning to doubt the safety of my own soul. I am afraid the desires of Brother Brown and his family are set too much on carnal things. 
Because feelings vary, will and purpose must govern our lives and not feelings and impulse. Every Christian must learn to do what is right whether he "feels like it" or not.
Conviction, not convenience must be our guide to conduct. It, is well to go to church, to serve in the Kingdom, to read the Bible, and to pray -- when we "feel like it." It is better to do these things whether we feel like it or not,.
While we cannot always account for the fluctuation of our moods and the changing tide of emotions, we need not surrender to them. The peril of uncontrolled moods is discouragement, one of Satan's most powerful tools.
There are some important lessons at this point in the story of Elijah, "a man subject to like passions as we are" (Jas. 5:17). After the tremendous victory on Mount Carmel, under the threats of Jezebel, Elijah fled to the wilderness, fell under a juniper tree, and wished to die. His emotional collapse was complete. Utter discouragement filled his soul.
In this extremity, God did three things for Elijah.
First, the Lord provided for the prophet' s physical needs. An angel fed him, and he slept soundly. His nerves had been stretched to the breaking point. His reserves were exhausted. Good emotional health is closely connected with good physical health.
Second, God gave Elijah normal companionship. He directed him to find Elisha and call the younger man to be his associate. The tendency of those who are discouraged is to withdraw from friends and Christian associations. This is the worst possible thing to do. One way to throw off undesirable moods is to seek the company of good Christian friends.
The third step in Elijah's recovery was the challenge of a new task. Instead of sitting and brooding over his difficulties, the prophet was given a new assignment. To be active, to find a job and do it wholeheartedly, is a sure cure for the "blues."
There are two elements more fundamental than feelings in holiness. These are obedience and faith -- the two "feet" whereon the child of God must walk.
When high feelings subside, and "heaviness through manifold temptations' " comes, then one should check his consecration and obedience, "dig in,'" and hold on by faith. Like all trials, "this, too, will pass"; and faith, so much more precious than gold, though it be tried in the fire, will "be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
1. Quoted by J. G. McKenzie, Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Evangelicalism. (London: George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., 1940), p. vii. 2. Mastery: The Art of Mastering Life (New York: Abingdon Press, 1955), p.97. 3. (New York: Harcourt,, Brace and Company, 1955). The last two chapters illustrate this point. 4. Letters, VI. 68; quoted by J. Baines Atkinson in The Beauty of Holiness (London: The Epworth Press, 1953), pp.131-32. 5. Leslie R. Marston, From Chaos to Character (Winona Lake, Ind: Light and Life Press, 1944), pp.76-77.
Coming Next: THE SOCIOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF HOLINESS