Faith or Good Works?

There has been a long, ongoing battle between Christians as to whether one is saved by faith alone or with the augmentation of good works. Something as important as eternal salvation needs resolution.

An effective means for throwing light on a particular subject is through the use of analogy. Analogy lets us tie together something unknown with something known and experienced. So I would like to use the power of analogy to help us get to the bottom of this most important issue and settle the debate over faith and good works.

The difference between faith and good works is analogous to the difference between sowing seed and growing seed. Having faith and belief (along with its religious doctrine) is like God sowing spiritual seed in our mind – which is the soil of our spirit. But only having faith and belief in the Lord as savior is like leaving seeds sitting on top of the soil.

It is a scientific fact that the seeds of nature’s plant kingdom will not take root and grow until the soil conditions are favorable. Same thing with the seeds of faith, which remain as mere data in one’s memory, until the conditions of the heart and mind become favorable.

The “perfect” conditions that allow for faith to take root and grow have to do with spiritual love. It is a desire to be helpful to others from a spiritual principle. This state of the human spirit is called loving God and loving the neighbor (which are the two principles of religion that all the commandments hang on).

Love (like the vernal warmth of Spring) provides the spiritual warmth that releases the productive principle within the seeds of faith, allowing God’s lessons to take root and in our hearts and mind, where it then grows into living activity.

Growth is action. Likewise, faith must grow, blossom, and bear fruit. Faith has no life unless it grows and is productive. In other words, faith cannot reach its potentials without good works. Good works (spiritual love) are the very life and living activity of faith.

Love is faith put into action.

This is why the Lord said to “judge them by their fruits.” The Lord did not say to “judge them by their faith.” Good works are one’s faith manifested in the world, that is, finding concrete reality in action.

However, there is a caveat. Good works must be carried out with humility, be aligned to a true love of the Lord God, and an acknowledgment that God is the Gardener. Otherwise, we take merit for our charitable actions and good deeds.

What say you?

Posted on August 17, 2008by thegodguy

This entry was posted in god, Inner growth, Life after death, love, Reality, religion, spirituality, symbolism, unity and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

New Church and Swedenborg Links

Swedenborg

Criminal punishment – How might this work?

criminal punishmentNearly 75% of those aged over 18 and charged with offences committed during the 2011 English riots, had prior criminal convictions. In some urban neighbourhoods, there had been an intimidating atmosphere from a section of young people who can be aggressive in their demeanour and unafraid of social disapproval. We might wonder whether  the prospect of criminal punishment deters such individuals.

I’m not necessarily talking about all the looters during the recent riots some of whom to my mind were shallow thrill seekers joining in  because they thought they could get away with avoiding criminal punishment. But rather those engaged in  the mob violence, many armed with bricks, who didn’t care too much if they were  caught. Some of these  people were quite prepared to throw heavy slabs through police car windscreens and hurl petrol bombs at officers. This aggression towards the authority of law enforcement suggests a deeply held antagonism to mainstream society by a widespread if small criminal minority who are likely to end up receiving criminal punishment sooner or later.

The attitude of criminal punishment as a just desert

A few commentators have adopted a condemnatory attitude.

“These people are just scum and that’s the end of it. They deserve all the criminal punishment dished out to them.”

And there is a common view that trying to throw light on the riots in terms of social problems is tantamount to excusing individual actions. Social explanations do not erase responsibility of individuals but labelling these people as criminals does not help us understand why they became the way they are. Examining any relevant factors in society is not to justify behaviour but to try to throw some light on it. I would suggest a spiritual attitude is to condemn the behaviour but not the person: it is to look to enhance civil and moral order.

Criminal punishment that allows the drug habit

Is one of the possible social causes of the problem to do with the way society may have failed in its challenge to unacceptable behaviour? In other words, is disorder more likely on our streets because it has not been met with a sufficiently firm, fast and sustained response? It is well known a lot of crime is motivated by a desire to feed a drug habit. And so to the outsider like me it is a bit of a mystery why the problem of drug availability in many of our prisons has not been successfully addressed. According to this way of thinking as people get away with acting badly, social norms about law-abiding behaviour have been weakened.

A charitable attitude to criminal punishment

To my mind, a spiritual approach encourages the kind of punishment for wrong-doing that clarifies to everyone what is right, deters future crime and protects people from harm. I believe this element of social control is entirely in line with a charitable attitude. It is a very different approach to the one that sees punishment as there to make us feel better when criminals get their ‘just deserts’. Arguably, such an un-charitable attitude is counter-productive. Short-term imprisonment has been shown not to work in preventing re-offending. We need to be more creative in developing punishment that does work better. This is not to argue that punishment alone is enough but to suggest it is a crucial part of the mix of the ways disorderly behaviour can be more effectively challenged.

Community sentences as a form of criminal punishment

Offenders have not been obliged to face the consequences of their actions for example by paying back to the communities they have damaged. They need informing about what should happen locally to repair the harm they have caused. This is not a soft option. It is very popular amongst victims and can help those hurt by crime to feel a sense of closure. It is said to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

Community sentencing as an alternative to imprisonment has not found public confidence. I suspect one reason is it has been seen as a less expensive alternative to locking people up and therefore insufficient resources have been allocated to give it a chance to have some impact.

Restorative justice as a community programme can be combined with various forms of punishment. It is a process requiring skilled facilitation – thus financial investment. Those who advocate it argue that it has the potential to help in the repair of fractured relationships and to foster a sense of responsibility in those who wronged others. I believe it is entirely in line with a psycho-spiritual response to wrong-doing whereby true charity of feeling cannot be divorced from good sense of the understanding in action – the heart, head and hands working together.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

School discipline – how should it operate?

school disciplineOne view expressed in The Times newspaper in relation to the 2011 English riots is that “these disgraceful scenes were perpetuated by people who have not experienced any meaningful consequences for misbehaviour at school ” And so the spotlight is falling on school discipline.

Some teacher unions are saying that badly behaved pupils are running wild as staff feel  powerless to discipline them. In relation to school discipline, teachers complain that their authority is undermined both by government and by parents. Sometimes the latter have been known to aggressively come into the school to complain about teachers who dare criticise their children let alone try to discipline them.

Polarised attitudes to school discipline

Attitudes to responding to misbehaviour seem to have polarised between the hard conservative right and soft liberal left. Those on the right of politics bemoan about school discipline in what they see as a breakdown of authority. They would probably like to see a return to Victorian values such as shown in the phrases ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ ‘The little savages need civilising.’ Harsh draconian remedies may chime with a mood of resentment and anger. This is an unashamedly punitive attitude, components of which can be seen in the tabloid press, who scream for a blaming, punishing, labelling approach to misbehaviour.

The opposite attitude and one that historically has been probably a reaction against it, is one of ‘hands-off’ often accompanied by feelings of guilt regarding punishment which is seen as a violation of human rights. It is characterised by an expectation that children will thrive and behave in socially acceptable ways if they are given support and trust because of an innate goodness in their makeup.

According to this view the emphasis should be on support involving being reasonable, finding excuses, and trying to rescue the person from their problematic pattern of behaviour.

Psychologists on school discipline

However, psychologists tell us that acceptable behaviour needs to be consistently rewarded and unacceptable behaviour consistently earn disapproval, if social learning is to take place. In other words children are not born socialized. They find out how to behave properly. They have to learn to co-operate with others. They need to be trained to respect other people’s rights.

But to achieve this, teachers need to combine control with support, firmness with kindness. Control, means boundary-setting, discipline, and firmness; and  support involves nurture, encouragement, and kindness. These two things, control and support, are not actually opposites but two different dimensions of social correction.

School discipline from a spiritual perspective

From a spiritual perspective, Swedenborg writes about support in terms of a charitable heart. However, for him a charitable heart is not one at all unless it is informed by good sense of the head. This is his philosophy of the ‘heavenly marriage of good and truth’. One without the other lacks spiritual life. In his book Doctrine of Charity (section 163) he writes about those administering rules fairly are behaving charitably even when inflicting penalties. He compares this with a parent who from love firmly corrects bad behaviour.

School discipline as supportive control

Showing supportive control is entirely possible. It means exhibiting kind firmness. When this ethos is present within the school culture, teachers do not noticeably yell at the children. This combination of control and support tends to result in students acting in an orderly rather than an unruly way both within the school and whilst leaving it at then end of the day.

Such a teacher will be authoritative rather than authoritarian, responsible rather than negligent, empowering rather than only caring, and will foster a cooperative environment.

It doesn’t mean telling pupils that things are wrong in a self-righteous or over-severe manner, for in this circumstance the youngster will probably treat what the teacher says with scepticism or hostility, and especially if the adult is not following the rules him or herself. Neither does it involve failing to notice what sanctions are available.

Pupils need to be obliged to face the consequences of their actions.  What kids take for granted might be viewed as privileges that can be withdrawn rather than rights to be respected regardless of conduct.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Supplement.

< Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth. ^ Discrete Degrees ^ Chapter XIX. Growth During Infancy. >

 

As a Supplement to the foregoing and a Preliminary to childhood preparation for regeneration we add that even at birth the very initial of this preparation has already been taken, by influx of innocence and peace from the LORD through heaven into the infant during the entire period of gestation. The prenatal state qualified by celestial innocence and peace is the essential in every subsequent state and progression. In Arcana Coelestia we read, –
“The internal man with every one is of the LORD alone. There the LORD stores up goods and truths with which He gifts man from infancy. By these He flows into the interior or rational man and by this into the exterior [or natural man], thus it is given to man to think and to be a man.”-AC 1707.

In this passage the internal man is the inmost A, the interior or rational man is B, the exterior is C D E F which together are called the natural or external man.

That this inmost is stored with heavenly principles from man’s very conception is evident from these considerations:

(1.) The inmost is the primordial degree of man’s structure into which the LORD first enters by influx of good and truth as one. From this degree He forms the will and understanding and flows into them when formed. (Inf. 8.)

(2.) The LORD conjoins Himself to man at first conception and forms in him two receptacles to be habitations for Himself in man, one for love the other for wisdom. (D. W. in AE III.)

(3.) Did not the LORD flow into this first degree He could not flow into the degrees below or even form them. Thus from conception this highest degree is filled with the Divine Love and Wisdom from which the LORD operates to form the faculties below and prepare them for the work to be accomplished after birth.

That man at birth is imbued with the beginnings of innocence and peace which are the inmost principles of good and truth of every degree appears from the Writings:

“The LORD through the inmost heaven insinuates conjugial love, the angels there being in peace above others. Peace in the heavens is like spring in the world which gives delight to all things, it is the celestial itself in its origin. The angels who are there, are the wisest of all, and from innocence appear to others like infants; they also love infants far more than their fathers and mothers do. They are present with infants in the womb and by them the LORD takes care that infants are nourished and perfected, thus they preside over those who carry in the womb.”-AC 5052

“Love truly conjugial is derived from the love of the LORD toward the Church and from the love of good and truth which love is the love of the angels of the third heaven, wherefore love truly conjugial which thence descends as the love of that heaven, is innocence, which is the very esse of all the good in the heavens; hence embryos in the womb are in a state of peace, and infants after they are born are in a state of innocence. “-AE 985.

“This celestial love flows in out of heaven with mothers while they carry in the womb as also with the embryos, hence exists the love of infants with mothers and innocence with infants.”-AE 710[a].

“By the womb is signified inmost conjugial love and thence celestial love in every complex…. The embryo in the womb derives more from the good of innocence than after it is born.”-AE 710[a].

These embryo states of innocence and peace being first in order are related to the following states as the seed is related to that which grows from it.


Previous: Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XIX. Growth During Infancy.

 

Can the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost sit on three different chairs?

This cannot be answered without a rational discussion of the Holy Trinity. This theological topic, more than any other, confuses the heck out of serious and religious thinking people.

Orthodox Christianity describes the Holy Trinity as three divine persons. Although they attempt to recover and restore the notion of one God (Christianity is supposed to be monotheistic) by saying that the three divine Persons of Trinitarian doctrine consist of one unified substance, still, one is left with the notion that these three Gods could sit in three different chairs.

When I have pointed to the illogicality of such an ambiguous notion of God, its defenders (including those with Ph.Ds) say that it is a “Great Mystery” and warn me that my mind should not even be going into such directions.

My answer to that is “zc@#$%*&>?+<#x<!”

Now that I have gotten that off my chest I can put my emotions aside and return to a more pragmatic discussion of this matter. When I say my prayers at night, I want to know exactly to whom I am addressing (and not have to guess whether I am focusing on the correct chair or the proper Deity).

I know that Jesus said that the only way to the Father was through Him (the Son) but then Jesus does an about face by teaching the Lord’s Prayer which completely bypasses the Son and allows us to pray directly to the Father.

So, with the Lord’s Prayer in hand, who needs Jesus?

But Orthodox Christianity, which embraces the sacred Trinity as three Persons, insists we are first to put our faith in Jesus. In this way the righteousness of the Son can be imputed to us humans by the Father, then the Holy Spirit shows up to set into motion the operation of justification, which magically wipes all our sins away, renews our spirit, and completes our salvation.

In other words, each Divine Person cannot claim to be fully God, as each does something that the other two don’t. If it takes three Persons to give us an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God, well, to be frank, that is not my idea of monotheism.

I prefer Emanuel Swedenborg’s version of the Divine Trinity as ONE GOD manifesting three distinct operations and functions. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit represent not three persons but the three operations of Divine Love, Divine Truth, and Divine Activity.

Truth makes love visible. That is why the Lord came into the world – to make the Love of the Father visible to us by taking on a human form. Jesus is Jehovah!

One might wonder how God could take on an imperfect and gross human body. According to Swedenborg, that was God’s precise strategy for salvation. The purpose of coming into the world was to make His human form perfectly divine by doing the will of the Father (the Father was His Divine Soul) and combating the worldly desires of the flesh and worldly temptations.

Why did God have to implore such a strategy instead of fighting evil straight on?

Without taking on a human body an Infinite God cannot be realistically attacked by any evil. A human body provided the medium by which the Lord was vulnerable to attack by both people on earth and by the entire powers of hell. The appearance of the Holy Spirit (as a dove) when Jesus was baptized was a sign from heaven that the operation of harmonizing his human side by means of the higher influence of His Divine Nature was about to begin.

This process of overcoming the flesh and its proclivities (especially love of self and the world) involved profound humiliation before the Father (which represented His Divine Spirit and its ultimate dictates).

The Lord’s biggest challenge on the cross was not enduring physical pain or physical death but His not giving in to the human part of His nature – which tempted Him to get off the cross as a show of absolute strength to men and women and compel belief. By resisting this final temptation and achieving profound humility He united His human nature with the Divine Nature and made them one (the Alpha and Omega). What died on the cross were all His human imperfections.

This complete victory over the flesh gave the Lord full power over hell, which was increasing its deadly influence in the world at the time of His Advent. We were not saved by this event but the door to salvation was kept open. When we approach the Lord to change our lives His Divine Heavenly Spirit (not a dove) starts a similar process of renewal and regeneration within us. The Lord will help us combat our negative nature and find true humility.

If God chose to sit in three chairs we would see the same person (the Lord) on all three.

How does that sit with you? Did I pull a chair right out from under your faith-system?

Posted on August 15, 2008by thegodguy

http://www.provinggod.com

This entry was posted in god, Inner growth, Life after death, love, metaphysics, Reality, religion, spirituality, symbolism, unity and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Choose Happiness

  Ten steps to bring the magic back into your life by Steve Wetton Aber Publishing 2007 pp 144

By his own admission, the author is no intellectual, yet neither is he a fantasist and what he reports has the ring of authenticity. He offers us the chance to create a better life for ourselves and he does this by discussing his approach to positive mental attitude and the idea that whatever we get out of life depends on what we’ve put into it.

He takes the view that many of us consistently undervalue our own potential. But more dramatically he illustrates his theme, encouraging us to learn from his mistakes. He shares his own experiences and that of others he knows – real life stories that keep one’s attention.

Wetton tells us something of his younger days – excessive alcohol consumption, womanising, and sometimes violence. Someone who hated all the numerous jobs he tried. Spiritually speaking he was lost. But he eventually found a path.

One job he had involved driving around in a little van visiting customers on a door-to-door basis selling stuff and collecting weekly payments. One particular day he was running late rushing away from a house call when he got back into his van that was parked on the driveway.

“I looked over my shoulder and prepared to zoom into the street without any obstructions to worry about. But for some unaccountable reason I found my foot lifting off the accelerator and slamming down on the brakes before I’d moved at all.”

He slipped the gear into neutral, rechecked both wing mirrors, and even turned completely round in his seat looking through the rear window thinking he was wasting valuable time. For some unaccountable reason he switched off the engine and got out to find a small child sitting very quietly just inches from the rear bumper happily playing with a toy and completely oblivious to any danger. It transpired she had come from an adjoining garden.

However, no summary by me can do justice to this or any of the string of personal anecdotes that have to be read in full before the credibility of what they reveal can be grasped.

The reader is not asked to accept that a strange spiritual power definitely exists but only the possibility that it might do so. For it is understandable that many people might tend to believe instead that things just happen by chance and because of natural causes. However, I would suggest that those who cannot put to one side an attitude of cynical disbelief, will not like this book.

Having said that, I suspect they are in a minority. If approached with an open mind this book will be rewarding. Its honest and fascinating glimpses into meaningful coincidences and helpful premonitions, can give credibility to the idea that we can all be guided by a higher power and shared psychic realm. The way Wetton puts it is to suggest

“We are all connected to each other at a spiritual level and connected to some invisible something else that’s part of the life force itself.”

Choose Happiness is drawn with a light touch and makes for easy reading. For me it does what it claims and brings a touch of magic to the meaning of life.

Copyright 2010 Stephen Russell-Lacy