What’s New About the New Church, Part 1

The New Idea of God

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (JOH 1:1-5)

The gospel of John begins with this powerful statement of faith, that Jesus Christ was God the Creator in the flesh, and that those who are not able to see this are in spiritual darkness.

John continues and develops this theme, writing that:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (JOH 1:14)

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (JOH 3:19)

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light…. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (JOH 12:36,46)

The Doctrine of the Lord quotes these passages and continues:

From these passages it is evident that the Lord is God from eternity, and that this God is the selfsame Lord who was born in the world; for it is said that the Word was with God, and God was the Word, and also that without Him was not anything made that was made; and it is added that the Word was made flesh, and they beheld Him. (Lord 1)

This sermon is an attempt to address the question, “What is new about the New Church?” in such a way as to assist us in explaining the New Church to others in a simple, positive, and straightforward way. As the doctrine of the Lord is the foremost doctrine of the church, we begin by addressing the new idea of God presented by the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church.

In a sense, we can say that the “new” idea of God in the New Church is not new at all, but rather it is the very same idea that Jesus Himself taught to His disciples, and that they believed and taught throughout the world after His resurrection: that Jehovah God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the same God who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land, had come to earth in a frail human body to reveal new truth and save fallen mankind.

Unfortunately, this extremely important basic truth of the Christian church was lost for a time. There was a small group within the church who began to teach that Jesus Christ was not actually Jehovah in the flesh, but instead He was only the greatest of the prophets. The leaders of the church met in council to discuss this heresy. The meetings went on for more than two years, and neither side would yield. Finally, to end the embarrassing deadlock, a compromise doctrine was presented to the meeting and was accepted. The new doctrine divided God into three distinct persons, who were all equally and indivisibly God. Thus the heretics were satisfied, because Jesus was no longer Jehovah, but only His Son, and the traditionalists were satisfied because Jesus was equally God with Jehovah.

The church leaders may have been satisfied with their work, but the doctrine they invented at those meetings in 325 AD has served to confuse and mislead sincere people ever since.

The New Church, then, is not really presenting a new idea of God, but rather returning to the doctrine as it existed before the councils of the men changed it. But since the doctrine of a trinity of persons has been the accepted doctrine of the Christian church for 1700 years, the doctrine of the Lord revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church appears to be a new idea.

We must be very careful to remember to distinguish between the official doctrines, as discussed in councils and written into catechisms and constitutions, and the actual living faith of the members of those churches. There is often very little resemblance between the two, and in most cases we will find more ideas in common with the members than points to argue.

Let us now look at some of the points where the doctrine of the New Church differs from traditional Christian doctrine, those areas where the teachings of the New Church will be seen to be “new” or at least different.

First of all, the New Church teaches that Christ is not the son of God in the traditional sense, that is, a separate, although Divine, person. Rather, we believe that Jesus Christ is the invisible God (the Father) made visible by means of a physical body; He is the manifestation of God to the sight of mankind.

However, He is the son of God in the sense that the body is the “son” of the soul. As in all cases where human beings struggle to understand the nature of their creator, we find ourselves inadequate to the task of comprehending the Divine in Itself. But He did give us the key to have some degree of understanding when He told us that He had created us in His image (cf. GEN 1:26), because that means that God’s own nature is present and illustrated in our own make-up. We can know something of Him by looking at ourselves.

By looking inward and examining our own make-up, we can perceive that there are several distinct elements that make each person. There is the life force, which is intimately tied to our conscious existence. This exists in, and is dependent upon, the physical body, but although they are totally entwined and interdependent, there are very few who would claim that there is no difference between conscious life and the body. Although a body and its soul are quite distinct, they are not two separate persons.

In common speech we sometimes say that we are of “two minds” when we are weighing the different effects of an important decision, and by that we mean that we can have more than one distinct train of thought on a single topic. This becomes more pronounced as the decision becomes more important. It’s like trying to decide whether to go for an expensive repair on your old car, or to trade it in on a new one. One minute you are all set to go one way–then suddenly you are equally convinced you should go the other way. But think for a moment: does being of “two minds” make you two people?

How about when we are angry or frustrated or in a state of temptation? Don’t we speak to ourselves to encourage ourselves, to exhort ourselves to avoid that mistake again? Isn’t the very process thinking itself nothing more than internalized conversations with different aspects of ourselves, interspersed with occasional insights from unidentified internal sources? Is each one of those aspects a separate, though equal, person? Of course not.

It should not then be difficult for us to understand how the Lord, in states of temptation, could have prayed to the Father for help: He was, like we do, reaching within Himself, calling up His own inner resources to prepare Himself for the battles which He knew He was about to face. That is not so difficult to understand, and certainly does not make God three separate persons.

The traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity has been called a “Divine Mystery” as a way of explaining away the fact that it cannot be understood how God can be three while at the same time one. As we have already seen, this doctrine cannot be understood because it was invented as a way to satisfy certain heretics in the church, and is a deliberate combination of heresy and truth.

The heresy is that there are three Gods, and that Jesus Christ is secondary or inferior to Jehovah. The truth is that there is a trinity of attributes in the Divine, just as there is a trinity in every human being–for, as was said before, we are created in His image and likeness.

The Father is the invisible Divine Soul, the Infinite Creator God. The Son, or Jesus Christ, is the embodiment of that same Divine soul, and it is to present that doctrine and faith that we proudly say that we are dedicated to the worship of “the Lord God Jesus Christ.” This is why the sermon is introduced by the words, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one God of heaven and earth” and closed with the words, “And now to the one only God, Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

The third part of this trine is the Holy Spirit, which we regard as the “Spirit of Truth” or “enlightenment” that comes to all people when they live according to the Lord’s commandments and shun evils as sins from conscience, thus bringing themselves into a closer contact with and perception of the spiritual world. Our developing conscience and perception of what the right thing to do in a situation is the presence of God with us, the Holy Spirit which leads us further into the life of truth.

To help us remember this view of the trinity, we need only to think about our own make-up, that each one of us has an invisible soul. That soul, or life, flows into an organic receptacle, specially created to receive, hold, and sustain it. That single cell then forms the basis for all that follows, as the soul draws from the nourishment provided by the mother’s body and builds for itself a home perfectly suited to carry it forth into the world of nature, a visible body which clothes and expresses the thoughts and feelings of that invisible soul that lives within.

When that visible, physical body acts and interacts with others in the world, it exerts an influence. We often speak of an “influential” person, or someone who affects others by his very presence. Each of us has the opportunity to perform uses which benefit others, or we may choose to do evil things which offend and harm others–but in either case, we have our effect; and that is the parallel from our own lives to that of the Holy Spirit.

So we can see that the “new” idea of God in the New Church is not so new at all: we believe that there is One God, whose soul we call Jehovah, whose body we call Jesus Christ, and whose effect on the faithful in the world we call the Holy Spirit. We believe the Lord when said, I and My Father are one (JOH 10:30), and when we look back on the long history of the Christian Church, we are reminded of the Lord’s words to Philip: Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (JOH 14:9)

It is our belief that the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church have brought new light on the Doctrine of the Lord, so that once again, after centuries of darkness, we can look at Jesus Christ as He presents Himself in His Word, and truly see the Father, as He intended.

Lessons: EXO 3:1-10, JOH 6:22-40, TCR 8

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

There is Death in the Pot!

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Then they served it to the men to eat.  Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!”  And they could not eat it. (2KI 4:40)

Historical Setting Elijah was the first of the great prophets during the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, and he is best known for the his work in leading the people away from the idolatrous worship of Baal that king Ahab and his wife Jezebel encouraged in Israel.

At the end of his life, Elijah was commanded by the Lord to give over his mantle, the sign of his authority, to Elisha who then became the most important prophet in the kingdom of Israel. Elisha is known for his many miracles, and particularly for his help in bringing an end to the evil dynasty established in Israel by Omri.

The story we are focusing on today is one of a series of miracles done by Elisha. Each of them, in its own way, is in the Word to show us the real power that the Word can have in our lives, for Elisha, as a prophet, represents in each of the miracles the Word of the Lord.


As in all stories from the Word there are several levels of meaning in this story it has application on the level of the history of the church; it has application to the process of the regeneration of each individual; and it has application to the Lord s glorification.

Gilgal:  The story begins when Elisha comes to Gilgal. From the point of view of Geography and History, Gilgal is important because it is the site of the first camp of the children of Israel when they first crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan to begin the battle of Jericho.

Therefore, Gilgal represents the doctrine of natural truth which serves for an introduction into the Church. (AE 70014)

Famine in the land:  We are told in the letter that at that time there is a famine in the land. A famine represents a lack of the knowledges of truth and good (AC 8408)

Doesn’t that accurately represent our states when we first come into the church? We are hungry for good and truth because we see in ourselves that we do not have all the answers we need, and that general knowledge, or even science cannot answer them. And so we turn to the Lord through the Word.


Sons of the prophets:  The sons of the prophets were religious groups that were associated with the Jewish Church, but that specialized in ecstatic forms of prophecy, often inspired by music.

Because they are “minor” prophets, they represent the doctrines that are formed in our minds as we study the Word (AC 8408), and particularly those who study the Word so as to be able to explain it to others (AC 3316).


Large pot: The sons of the prophets, in order to feed themselves and others who are hungry for the doctrines of the church so that they can live more satisfying and useful lives, begin to make a stew.

The pot that they use to make the stew represents the doctrine in general, for it contains all the various knowledges and goods that go to make up a church s or an individual s doctrine. (See AC 8408)


Stew/pottage/pulse:  The stew itself has a very important representation, for it is the stew that gives life to those who are “famished,” who hunger for spiritual truths with which to guide their lives.

If we imagine a large pot bubbling on a fire, filled with all kinds of edible things, we see why stew has the representation it does, that of doctrinal things not yet conjoined with good, thus an unordered mass of them (See AC 33163)

Our minds cannot consist only of unordered truths. There must be some structure to them.

This is mirrored in the way the brain itself changes through learning. The infant s cerebrum is undifferentiated at birth. That is why the child is essentially helpless except for certain instinctual functions provided by the cerebellum. But as the child randomly moves, and in turn senses the effects of that movement, it begins to order these relationships. Neural pathways are formed and as the structure of the brain becomes ordered, voluntary actions become possible.

This continues throughout life. The same process takes place every time we try to acquire a new physical skill. At first it requires a great deal of effort and concentration, but as you practice it eventually becomes second nature (like learning to type, or driving a car). This is the physical evidence of the ordering that must take place to learn physical activities


The same kind of ordering must take place to acquire truths, or to regenerate.




The first state of the man who is being regenerated, or in whom truth is being conjoined with good, is that first of all in his natural man, or in its storehouse called the memory, there are amassed the doctrinal things of truth without any certain order. & These doctrinal things are not reduced to order by themselves, but by the good which flows into them, and the good reduces them into order in exact proportion to the amount and the quality of its action upon them. (AC 33162)



Just as we become hungry as we stir a delicious stew, as we enjoy the sensation of all those diverse foods becoming ordered into dinner, so the desire to bring order into the chaos of our minds is felt as a hunger, or affection, for truth.

Boil stew for the sons of the prophets:  Cooking changes the nature of food, flavors are combined, textures are changed, and generally it makes food more appealing.

In the same way raw truths are less delightful to us than those which we can see have some application and meaning to our particular life and situation. Thinking about the truths from the Word, turning them over in our mind, thinking about them in the context of our particular set of circumstances is represented by the boiling pot.


“boiling” = to prepare for the use of life by means of the truths of doctrine (AC 10105).

In common speech we sometimes say that we are “in a stew” about something when we are thinking a lot about it.

However, it is important to note two essentials here that it be truth from the Word that is being considered, and that it be considered in relation to its application to life.

Wild (bitter) gourds from the field:  But things don’t always work out in that ideal way.

Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we are attracted to ideas that delight evil loves within us. Sometimes we even search out passages from the Word that seem to confirm what we know (or at least strongly suspect) to be evil.

This was the point made in the second lesson about the book which John was to eat. It was sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly.

Other times we hear ideas from sources which are untested, at first they have the sound of truth, so we try them out. These untested ideas from suspect sources, when added to the mass of truths that are already in our mind, can poison the whole lot by leading us to believe that we may do what is evil.


When the exterior things of the Word, & are falsified and adulterated, then the interior truths of the Word are falsified and adulterated; for this reason, when a man applies the Word in the sense of the letter to the evils of earthly loves, it becomes undelightful to angels, who are in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, and this undelightfulness is like that of bitterness. (AE 6182)

There is death in the pot! Adulterated truth means the truth of good applied to evil and mixed with its falsity, and this is done when the truths of the sense of the letter of the Word are applied to filthy loves, and are thus mixed with evils. This undelightfulness is what is here signified by the bitterness of the belly. (AE 618)

and they could not eat it

Such a concoction of evil and good cannot nourish the spirit, but rather kills it.


Elisha put flour into the pot:  “Meal” = the truth which is from good, or the spiritual which is from the celestial (AC 3316). “Meal” = truth from the Word, whereby that which has been falsified, and which is “death in the pot,” becomes good (AC 8408).

And there was nothing harmful in the pot any more.


In regard to level of meaning that has to do with the church, this story represents how, when falsities are introduced into the church, that the only way that they can be removed, the only way that the spiritual sickness in the doctrine can be healed, is by the addition of truth from the Word (See AC 8408)

The same thing is true in respect to the series that has to do with the regenerative series our inclination, when faced with a personal crisis of this sort, is to seek out help. We talk to friends, colleagues at work, we may even pick up a copy of a magazine.

All these things may help in some way. Often the help we receive from these sources is what other people have learned from the Word and confirmed by the experiences of their own lives, and then put into simple words.

But one thing is sure that nothing that is contrary to what the teaching of the Word will heal the stew, will order the mass of memory-knowledges in our minds and lead us back to order.


that chaotic mass [of memory-knowledges] was amended by means of spiritual truth from the Lord s Word. (AC 3316)

Every day, particularly since we live in the information age, we have to deal with a tremendous amount of information. Every day in the newspaper, in magazines, in the news, there are articles about drug use, about abortion, about homosexuality, about frauds and thefts, about all manner of evil. Some of the articles we read, some of the people we speak to, are in favor of these things, or at least are willing to permit them for the sake of some concept of personal liberty or freedom of choice.

Such things disturb us in the abstract, and can be most difficult if we face them as active states in our own lives or the lives of those close to us.

We feel real pain when evils become active in our lives. In our minds and spirits we cry out that “There is death in the pot!” (text)

The answer to our spiritual problems, the healing that we seek lies in the Lord s words.

We must first acquire the “raw” truth from the Word.

Then “cook” it with good (warmth).

Then it becomes something that will nourish the spirit.

The miracle of the Word is that its power is in every story, in every verse.

This is something we already know at least in the abstract. The problem we face is in finding the strength to compel ourselves to turn to the Lord in the Word, and also in know where in the Word to turn.

The amazing thing is that if we approach the Word in the right spirit, with the desire to know the Lord s will, it doesn t really matter where we look. There is something in every story that will inspire, refresh, and uplift. If nothing else, the act of turning to the Lord in the Word itself is enough to allow our minds to focus on truths that may already be in our minds from prior study. The real point is that if we seek healing and leading from the Lord, He will respond.

I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains. From whence comes my help? My help is from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. AMEN.

1st Lesson: 2KI 438-41

And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lap full of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. AMEN

2nd Lesson: REV 101-10

And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. And he had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven And swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, But in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets. Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” And I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” And I took the little book out of the angel s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. AMEN.

3rd Lesson: AC 3316

[2] The first state of the man who is being regenerated, or in whom truth is being conjoined with good, is that first of all in his natural man, or in its storehouse called the memory, there are amassed the doctrinal things of truth without any certain order.

The doctrinal things at that time therein may be compared to some undigested and uncompounded mass, and to a kind of chaos. But this is to the end that they may he reduced to order, for what ever is to be reduced to order is at first in this state of confusion; and this is what is signified by the pottage which Jacob boiled, that is, amassed.

These doctrinal things are not reduced to order by themselves, but by the good which flows into them, and the good reduces them into order in exact proportion to the amount and the quality of its action upon them.

When good first longs for and desires these doctrinal things, to the end that it may conjoin them with itself, it manifests itself under the appearance of the affection of truth. AMEN.

Opening Prayer

Jesus Christ, we thank You for the many ways that You have shown Yourself to us. We are especially grateful for Your Word which instructs, uplifts, and inspires us with Your Divine Life. O Lord, help us to turn to the truths of Your Word in times of trial, help us to remember that You are the one true source of Living Water, the truth which will quench our thirst eternally. AMEN.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, we ask You to guide us through the confusion of conflicting ideas and beliefs. Help us to sort out the confusion in our minds, help us to order our thoughts so that we can clearly see the course that will lead us to spiritual life. AMEN.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified October 21, 2008