Why does a loving God permit evil?

 by Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman
The brutal murder of twenty children in Newtown, CT remind us that tragedies happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and in the most unlikely places—even in elementary school classrooms. But sudden tragedies are not limited to the insane actions of deranged people.

Highway accidents claim the lives of 40,000 people each year, leaving behind grieving friends, bereaved spouses, and children who will be raised without their parents; a fire sweeps through a community, destroying thousands of homes and taking numerous lives along the way; an underwater earthquake erupts, unleashing a tsunami whose killer waves destroy over 200,000 people.

When things like this happen, sometimes well meaning people try to comfort one another by saying things like “It’s God’s will.” “It’s for the best.” “There’s a reason for everything.” “God must have needed your loved one.” “Someday you will look back and see the silver lining.” Some people push back with a different answer. “This proves that there is no God,” they say. “If there were a God, things like this would not happen. This was simply a senseless act of violence in a world without God. ”

Each of us tends to judge the reality of God by what happens on earth. At a recent championship hockey game, when the penalties all seemed to be going against Bryn Athyn College (where I am a professor), I found myself in sympathy with the fans who were complaining about the unfair officiating. But when things changed, and the opposing college was appropriately penalized, I heard myself shouting, “Yes, there is a God!”

Of course, I knew better, but that’s just how it feels. When things are going badly or unfairly, it seems that we live in a world without divine justice—in a world without God. But when something wonderful happens in our life, we quickly change our tune. We begin to feel that God must exist. “God is so good,” we say. “God is so good, to me.” In either case, it comes down to this: the denial or acceptance of God is based on what happens on earth.

And this is precisely where we miss the point. What we see happening in this world cannot be used to prove or deny the existence of God. I’d like to believe that Bryn Athyn College’s victory, which clinched the league championship, is an example of divine justice—but that just isn’t so. It is wrong thinking. It may be that a senseless act of violence in Newtown shakes our foundation, but it would be wrong to conclude from this that God does not exist. And it would be worse to conclude that this is some sort of divine punishment.

Were the Galileans worse sinners?

We cannot make a case for the goodness of God, or even the reality of God, based on outward circumstances. Nor can we make a case, based on outward events, for the idea that God punishes sinners.

Two thousand years ago, the prevalent idea was that a God of justice punished people for their sins. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, there is a story about some Galileans who were brutally murdered by Pilate (Luke 13:1-5). “Do you suppose,” said Jesus, “that these Galileans were worse sinners than all Galileans because they suffered these things?” (Luke 13:2). And then, He added, “I tell you, ‘No.’”

When a devastating earthquake tore through Haiti in 2010, leaving 250,000 people dead, some religious leaders said that the Haitian people had brought this upon themselves because they had not turned to Christ. In other words, some people believed that they were being punished by God for their pagan beliefs. According to Pat Robertson, a leading Christian fundamentalist, “This is what happens when you swear a pact with the devil.”

This kind of thinking is similar to the thinking of the people who supposed that the Galileans were murdered because they were sinners. But Jesus corrects their wrong thinking. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all Galileans because they suffered these things?” He says. “I tell you, ‘No.’” And then He adds, “But unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

In another story, the disciples see a man who was blind from birth, “Who sinned,’ they ask Jesus, “this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus tells them that “neither this man nor his parents have sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Jesus again corrects their wrong thinking, teaching them that God did not cause the misfortune, but He will use the misfortune to bring about great works.

Returning to the story about the Galileans, Jesus tells his questioners, unequivocally, that their thinking about divine punishment is wrong. “I tell you, ‘No,’” He says. Jesus wants them to know that God is never angry; and He wants them to know that God never punishes.

But here we must make an important qualification. It is true that God never punishes us for our sins; rather, we are punished BY our sins. For example, those who hate others, and hate God—and do not repent—will eventually be consumed by the fire of their own hatred. That’s why Jesus adds, “But unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

To repent means literally to change ones thinking. In this case, Jesus is urging them to change their thinking about “divine punishment” for sin. He wants them to see the world rightly. He wants them to know that the world is not a divine theatre where God inflicts punishments for sin and doles out rewards for righteousness. Rather, the world is the unceasing operation of God’s love and wisdom, flowing continually into all who are willing to receive.

The still, small voice

Consider the story of Elijah—the prophet who took refuge in a cave during a violent storm. Like Elijah, we sometimes find ourselves so discouraged by the storms of life that we find ourselves in a dark cave, unsure about what is true. Outside there is “a great strong wind that tears into the mountains and breaks the rocks in pieces. . . . And after the wind an earthquake. . . . And after the earthquake, a fire (see 1 Kings 19:11-18).

The violent death of innocent children in Newtown, Ct, the massacre of college students in Blacksburg, VA, a tsunami in Japan, or an earthquake in Haiti can shake our core beliefs in a loving God. And when misfortune hits closer to home, our faith is challenged. The loss of a loved one, the failure of a business venture, a car accident, an unwelcome medical diagnosis, even a fight with a dear friend can leave us uncertain and unsure. We feel the tremors at our very foundation.

It is clear that a physical cave cannot protect us for long—not when the rocks are already breaking, the mountain is shaking, and the fire is raging. These are the times when we need something deeper—something more potent than the most powerful wind or storm or fire. This is when we need to listen for the “still, small voice” within us. It is the quiet, inner call to come out of the cave—to come out of our ignorance—and into the light of spiritual truth.

It is “still” and “small” because it does not force or compel. It is just a gentle whisper; and yet, it is infinitely more powerful than any force in the world. It is the power of truth from love.

Indeed, it is the truth from love that leads us out of our caves and into even greater light. Standing in the light of new truth, we begin to see that although the winds of misfortune may smash our business enterprises, God is not in the wind. We begin see that although earthquakes may shatter our homes and ravage our communities, God is not in the earthquake. We begin to see that although there are times when fires may rage, devouring fields and forests, God is not in the fire.

This is because God’s kingdom is not of this world. God’s kingdom is within each of us, in a still small voice that continually whispers, “Come out of the cave, and see the truth! I am not in the wind, or earthquake or fire. I am in you, leading you, guiding you strengthening you, whenever you freely choose to hear My voice and turn to Me.

God cares

The story about the murdered Galileans teaches us that God is not a God of punishment, nor is He the cause of human misfortune. Life will have its storms, and its tragedies, but God is not in the storms or the tragedies. When Elijah came out of his cave, he clearly saw that God was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire.

How are we to understand this? Does it mean that God is not concerned with the outer events of our daily lives? Does it mean that God is not involved when misfortune comes our way? It cannot be so. Emanuel Swedenborg writes, “The least things of all, down to the least of the leasts, are directed by the Lord’s providence, even as to our very steps” (Secrets of Heaven6493).

Somehow, then, God is deeply involved in every moment of our lives. But there is an important difference between seeing God as involved in our lives and seeing Him as the cause of our misfortunes.

In other words, God permits evils but does not cause them.

OK. But why does He permit them? Again, we turn to the teachings given through Emanuel Swedenborg: “Nothing whatever, not even the least thing may arise except that good may come of it” (Secrets of Heaven 6574). Misfortune, calamity, and disaster are permitted only if God foresees that some good may come out of them.

In itself, there was nothing good about Pilate’s murder of the innocent Galileans. But Jesus was still able to bring good out of this incident. He used it to teach a new way to think about the relationship between external events and God. And He used it to remind His listeners that they would be miserable unless they changed their way of thinking: “Unless you repent,” He said, “You will all likewise perish.”

Jesus then makes a similar point about how to understand misfortune. This time it’s not about a cruel murder, but rather about a natural accident: “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worse sinners than all other men” (Luke 13:4). Again, Jesus tells them “No.” This accident did not occur because these men were sinners. It was not a divine punishment for human sin. Jesus then uses it to illustrate His main point, which He reiterates: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

In itself, there is nothing good about the massacre of innocent children in Newtown, the cold- blooded murder of college students in Blacksburg, a tsunami in Japan, or an earthquake in Haiti. But God can use any earthly event, no matter how tragic, to strengthen our faith and deepen our love. This is how He can bring good out of evil. But a good and useful result never turns evil into good, or wrong into right. And it never means that God caused it in order to bring about a greater good. Allowed it, yes; caused it, no.

The Kingdom of God

This world is filled with ups and downs, successes and failures, victories and defeats. There are storms, earthquakes and fires that destroy thousands of lives. These things happen—but God does not will or cause them. To look for evidence of God’s will in the outer events of our lives, whether it be the murder of the Galileans, the fall of a tower in Siloam, an earthquake in Haiti, or a bad call at a college hockey game, is to miss the whole point of Jesus’s teaching. As He said Himself, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

It all comes down to this: the kingdom of God is not of this world. It is within us, above and beyond the vicissitudes of time and space. Evil is permitted, it is true, but only so that good may come from it. It is never a divine punishment. Although God allows evil, He is constantly endeavoring to lead us away from evil into goodness, away from ignorance into light. Wonderfully, secretly, God is doing this continually in each of our lives—just as He led Elijah out of the cave so many years ago.


Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman serves as a professor at Bryn Athyn College and has authored many books including Rise Above It and The Core of Johnny Appleseed.

This article is an excerpt from Audio DVD’s “Introduction to the New Church” (updated and revised by Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman)

Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“In the spiritual world, someone’s “name” does not mean her or his name alone but also her or his full nature.”

True Christian Religion 300:1

https://newchurch.org/get-answers/connection-magazine/gods-presence-in-suffering/why-does-a-loving-god-permit-evil/

Why Christianity?

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

Spiritual Topics

← Previous   Next →


What happened, with the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth? Was he the Messiah, the Christ, whose coming was prophesied many times in the Old Testament? In the Christian religion, we believe that he was. In New Christian thought, we emphasize that this miracle was that God took on a human form, being born as a baby to Mary, a virgin, in Bethlehem.

We believe that Jesus grew, learned, and prepared himself to teach, and heal, and inspire people in such a powerful way that the course of human history would change. He performed miracles here, while he lived on earth. After his crucifixion and resurrection, he was seen several times by his followers, whose spiritual eyes were opened.

In his lifetime, battling the power of hell, he opened the way for the new truths that he taught – loving the Lord, and the neighbor, and about repentance, and reformation, and forgiveness, and rebirth. These truths formed the basis of Christianity, which grew from its inception in Jerusalem and Galilee, to spread throughout many parts of the world.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

Gossip – Is it good for the soul?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

gossip

Pat: We need the chance to gossip about people and what they get up to – especially the shenanigans of the high and mighty.  How else would we have found out about say the serial sexual seductions of Dominique Straus-Khan, managing director of the IMF? This is someone who was heading for high political office. These acts were covered up and apparently regarded as uncontroversial in elite French society.

Chris: But to gossip about such celebrities as Ryan Giggs, the Manchester United footballer, and his widely reported affair with Big Brother star Imogen Thomas, doesn’t help his family. Surely their right to a private life is more important than the mass media’s freedom of expression?

Pat: People should be interested in the real character of those people who act as important role models. They should have public exposure.

Chris: Don’t you think that we all need to keep back something secret about our inner lives in order to function as human beings? Unless we each retain a degree of privacy we lose a sense of who we are. What only I know about myself gives me a sense of my individual self. It is an important way that makes me a feel like a different person from other people. Don’t public figures also have this need?

Pat: Maybe, but the private lives of politicians and faith leaders who are shaping views and making laws should be open to scrutiny. Their personal integrity is a model for the kind of society they wish to lead us towards – one involving trust in relationships, keeping promises, telling the truth and so on. This doesn’t work unless there is consistency between what such leaders publicly say and privately do.

Chris: You’re confusing what the public are interested in as opposed to what is in the ‘public interest.’ There is a difference between what society wants to know and gossip about and what it needs to know and examine.

Pat: Gossip is fun. What’s so bad about getting a kick from bringing the mighty down to size? It is a way of pricking the oversized celebrity ego.

Chris: No, gossip is not fun. It is actually a mean spirited disagreeable attitude towards those with power or privilege. Such gossip is simply fed by disappointment in a fallen hero or envy of the rich and famous.

Pat: People don’t only gossip about the rich and famous. There is no shortage of chat down the pub and on the street corner about what other people in one’s social network get up to in their private lives.

Chris: Looking at the British prurient press one can’t help thinking that hearing about private affairs of others whether or not they are public figures arouses a universal voyeurism in everyone, titillating baser interests. And that applies as much to private individuals as public figures.

Pat: Okay, perhaps the simplistic opinions of the tabloid newspapers attract those readers who are not required to try to think through complex issues. It is easy enough to jump to conclusions about somebody.  But, just because it is difficult to make an overall judgment about anyone, it doesn’t mean one we should be satisfied with part of the story. I’m mindful of what Christ once said.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24)

We need to get at the whole truth about the person.

Chris: Hang on. In the public world how can this happen? For example, Twitter is full of unsubstantiated allegations upon which moral judgements are made. This scandal mongering is disreputable and damaging. It seems obvious to me that gossip can only involve Chinese whispers where opinions get passed on from one to another and the original information inevitably suffers distortion.

Pat: Hasn’t shame a potentially important role in the way politician’s behaviour is monitored and corrected. Isn’t this why we have a justice system that punishes wrongdoing like fraudulent expense claims?

Chris: Yes, but only in a court of law can you have any chance of getting at the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Not the kangaroo court that is the typical tabloid newspaper. Exposure there is done for reasons of entertainment masked as information provision.

Even juries cannot be expected to judge an accused inner character – only the likelihood that he or she is guilty of committing the offence. This means judging and discriminating fairly rather than being judgmental or prejudiced.

When some sections of the press make moral judgments in very black and white terms, a previously admired person becomes the object of contempt. Perhaps the judgmental tone appeals because it is so much easier for the reader to play the blame game — to condemn fallibilities in others rather than criticise one’s own foibles.

Don’t you think this is also true for all of us to some extent? Don’t you sometimes hold onto a grievance? Are you not as forgiving as you might want to be? Small frailties get exaggerated. Going round judging others can lead to a hypocritical or sanctimonious society where people fail to examine their own souls. This links in with another thing Christ said

Do not judge, or you too will be judged’. (Matt 7:1-3)

I could be wrong but I can’t get rid of a suspicion that a lot of social gossip is negative. I rather like a well-known saying ‘If you can’t say anything good then don’t say anything at all.’ It reminds me of what Emanuel Swedenborg described as an angelic disposition – that of looking for the good in others.

“Those among them who are like angels …intend nothing but good towards their neighbour; and if they notice anything bad in someone they make allowances for it.”
(Swedenborg. Arcana Coelestia section 6655)

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

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

 

Posted on31st May 2011CategoriesEthics, Interpersonal EthicsTags,, , , , ,, , , , , ,, , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment

Happiness and fulfillment – a spiritual perspective

Are you satisfied with your life?

Or does life sometimes seem unfair? Everyone wants to be happy. But how do you find happiness and contentment?

Happiness and fulfillment – a spiritual perspective

What makes a person happy?

Is it different for each person? Obtaining some new material thing can bring at least some temporary joy; so too can accomplishing some strived-for milestone. Some people feel that having money and success in their job brings happiness. But does it last? We have merely to look at the countless rich people who feel something is still lacking to see that this isn’t the answer. And conversely, we can look at countless people struggling in third world countries who are at peace and happy in their lot. People want to feel that they are relevant; that they have a purpose. How do you do that? Can you find happiness?

New Church theology says that it is actually quite simple. The doctrine of use (or usefulness, or service) tells us that it is important to be useful, to be of service to others, and that this is the key to true happiness.

“The only source of anyone’s true happiness is doing something useful.” (True Christian Religion 735:5)

“[Heavenly joy] is the delight found in doing something useful for ourselves or for others.” (True Christian Religion 734:3)

“God created the universe so that usefulness could exist… Because we, the human race, are the principal reason for creation, it follows that absolutely everything else was created for our sake.” (True Christian Religion 67)

God creates each one of us to be an instrument of His love. When we live useful and productive lives for the sake of others, the love of God passes through us to them, and their lives are impacted for good. At the same time, we experience the happiness and delight that are associated with being of use.

This is not to say that riches or material things are bad in and of themselves, just that these are not what make a person happy over the long term; certainly not in life after death. Christ said:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So He tells us that the two most important things are to love God and love the neighbor. When we love the neighbor we want to be of service to others; we want to be useful. And when we are helping others, we are helping God and loving God (see the parable in Matthew 25:31-46, “I was hungry and you gave Me food…). Christ said these were the most important commandments because He knew that service and usefulness are what bring happiness, both in this life and the next!

Have you noticed that it is not at all unusual for elderly people to lose their zest for life, to become depressed? Certainly, there can be many reasons for this: infirmity and losing their friends or spouse can be key contributors. But a major reason is feeling the loss of usefulness; feeling that they have nothing left to give; feeling that they have lost relevance. This feeling of a loss of usefulness can also sometimes be seen after a person retires from their work, or has been injured.

It’s important to realize that service and usefulness come in many forms. Some forms of use require strenuous work, or lots of time, or lots of money. But service doesn’t necessarily mean going out of your way to do good. Just having a good attitude in your daily work, or being nice to someone, smiling at them, can mean more than you could imagine to those around you. For other people, usefulness outside their vocation brings them fulfillment. Everyone has gifts which they can volunteer to others. Listening compassionately to a person’s problems will mean so much to them. Look for ways to be of service to others. It may well be hard at first, but it can become a habit, and make a real difference in your life. Give it a try!

More passages about happiness

“Since the angels who are in heaven are in goodness from the Lord, they desire nothing more than to perform useful services. These bring delight to their life, and it is according to useful services that they enjoy bliss and happiness.” (Secrets of Heaven 6073:2)

“Loving the Lord and our neighbor is being of service.” (Heaven and Hell 112)

“All the happiness angels have is found in service, derives from service, and is proportional to service.” (Heaven and Hell 403)

“[The Lord] gives those who are performing useful functions a love for being useful, and also a reward for being useful, which is inner bliss; and this inner bliss is eternal happiness.” (True Christian Religion 736:3)

“We are born for no purpose but to be useful to the community we live in and to our neighbor as long as we are alive in the world, and to serve at the Lord’s good pleasure in the other world.” (Secrets of Heaven 1103:2)

“Life holds no joy unless it is active. Angelic life consists in usefulness and acts of neighborly kindness.” (Secrets of Heaven 454)

https://newchurch.org/

Holy Objects

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Turin shroud

 

Having recently watched yet another programme on The Turin Shroud, I am prompted to wonder what all these experts think they are up to. Why does it matter? This is a length of cloth which may – or may not – have been in actual contact with the body of Christ. Amazing! – But so what?

I have had the same problem in holy places – Canterbury, Bethlehem, Lindisfarne and Lastingham, for example. I stand and wait for the revelation to kick in, but usually nothing happens.

In the Middle Ages, of course, it must have been much easier to experience holy magic. Pilgrims might travel across the country for a glimpse of some blessed shrine. Trading in holy relics was presumably a profitable enterprise. To possess some saintly toe-nail must have been comfort indeed. Where, then, has all the magic gone?

We still have our places of pilgrimage. When I make my way to the British Library to see again the Lindisfarne Gospels it is with more than simple interest. I marvel at the craftsmanship and devotion that went into its making – the work of one man, so they say. Some of these early manuscripts do reveal a sense of the magical: you only have to
look at some of the marginal grotesques to feel a kind of respect for the supernatural.

But holy ‘things’ are different – just bits. Theirs was the power of association: has it now
all drained away? Like The House that Jack Built, how far back can we trace the holiness before it becomes so diluted that it can no longer be felt at all? This is the leaf, That fell
from the tree, That produced the timber, That formed the loom, That wove the cloth, That made the shroud, That lay on the body of Christ.

I don’t want to dismiss these things. It just seems that, these days, our values have changed, which is perhaps a pity, since, I suppose that attempts to forge bridges between heaven and earth is what religion is all about. Superstition may not be nonsense, after all. I suspect that a sneaking taste for lucky charms is more widespread than we think.
Myself, I would love to have St.Cuthbert’s little finger on my key-ring. There is a story, however, that many years after his burial, at his elevation, it was discovered that the body had miraculously survived intact – no decay, and no holy bones on offer.

The Bible, of course, retains its pre-eminence as no ordinary book – still in demand –
Christianity’s greatest treasure – respected by church-goers and others – available in almost every bookshop in the land. Still used, I think, in courts of law. Dare I suggest that this high regard has little to do with the popularity of its reading matter? It is treasured for its holiness.

It may be that holiness can not be made by human hands: it can not be manufactured. Perhaps we now begin to realise that the ‘spiritual’ informs and infuses the ‘natural’:
it doesn’t work the other way round. So if the scientists succeed in uncovering all the secrets of the Turin Shroud, they may also succeed in destroying its magic.

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Copyright 2010 G Roland Smith

 

Posted on25th October 2011CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, , , , , , , ,, , , ,  Leave a comment

No one beyond reach

Full issue

No-one-beyond-reach

Late one evening in a trash filled alley in the remote city of Latur, India, a young orphan who had been subsisting on the scraps of food he could retrieve from the local dump, passed away from the effects of a burst appendix. The event went largely unnoticed in the neighborhood. He was one of a seemingly endless number of orphans who inhabited the city. His body would be found the next morning by the sweepers and disposed of—not even meriting a death notice in the local paper.

While variations of this sad tale are repeated far too many times in our modern world, this boy’s life is only beginning. According to the book Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg, the child, upon awakening in the next life, is given to angel parents and raised and instructed in heaven in an atmosphere of love that defies the imagination.

Strangely, there are many Christian theologians who claim that such a child is condemned to hell because he was not exposed to Christianity. It is almost as if they are saying that the boy was beyond the reach of Christ and somehow hidden from His love because he never declared that Christ died for his sins and was baptized.

A different perspective about Christ’s saving power

New Church teachings present a different view, one in which Jesus Christ’s saving power is not limited.

In the New Testament, Jesus says directly that “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Encompassed in these statements is the idea that He is the origin of all life, both in heaven and on earth. This is true whether one ‘knows’ Him or not. The transformational events of Jesus’ birth, life, and death continue to impact all individuals regardless of their awareness of those events. By extension, it is not hard to imagine that anyone who lives in heaven comes in contact with Jesus Christ and experiences the all encompassing power of His love.

Considering this in regard to children in heaven, I’m uplifted by New Church teachings on this topic. In the book Heaven and Hell it goes on to describe how a child who is raised in heaven has a unique opportunity to witness the Lord’s love and mercy in operation. With other angels as mentors, the child is able to see the Lord’s operation with a level of clarity not possible on earth. Like all human beings, that child (though in heaven) still is given the opportunity to choose between a life of good or evil, a life aligned with heaven or with hell. But having had a clear vision of how Divine life works presented to him in the wisest of ways, it is hard to imagine that such a child would ever choose evil over good.

One purpose of the church on earth is to attempt to create a supportive environment that mirrors the educational environment in heaven and make it as easy as possible to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30). When we show the accepting love of Jesus, for all people, we are doing just that.

Religious affiliation is NOT what is important

Divine Love itself, in the human form of Jesus Christ, has the power to affect people’s lives any time they act in harmony with His principles—regardless of religious affiliation.

Jesus said simply “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), meaning when our actions are in harmony with divine life, we receive that life. It is that simple. But there are more or less powerful ways of making this connection, depending on one’s understanding of who God is and how He operates with people.

Religion, to the degree that it shows how to harmonize with the Lord, is a useful tool in helping people discover heaven and understand how God reaches and touches human beings, even in circumstances that seem beyond hope. Religion that leads people away from that contact can actually be detrimental to one’s ability to receive spiritual life. So it is important to find a religion that sensibly connects people to the life of heaven. The New Church shows how the isolated orphan who dies knowing nothing of Christianity will be raised in heaven and still will be given the opportunity to choose a life that aligns with heaven.

Although in our world the orphaned state continues to be a reality with which we must cope, on a spiritual level we are never orphaned. No matter our outward circumstances, the Lord is always present within us, ready to lead us when we turn our lives to Him and begin to walk in His ways. As He said: “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (John 14:18).


David Lindrooth is director of General Church Outreach, supporting the international growth of the New Church.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

God – Is there really one?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Creator God
God as Creative Force

Many people sense that there is a deeper aspect of reality. A spiritual force behind the universe.

To my mind this divine level of what is real is pure love and the source of all that explains the meaning of life. It is wisely working away in our hearts and minds. This is the infinite and eternal God of religion, beyond gender, beyond the bounds of space and time, and beyond our full comprehension.

Christ as God

According to much western world religion, this mighty spiritual force is manifest as the Christ within the human soul who inspires our feelings and thoughts with his altruistic love and higher intelligence. A new way of expressing this is as follows. We are an image of Christ’s divine humanity who like us has heart, head and hands – although in his case it is a heart of compassion, a head of wisdom and hands of power.

This is the Christ with whom we can pray and relate to on a personal footing; the divine that flows into our conscience to guide us towards the ethical and moral life. Of ourselves we do not have the ability to inspire and illuminate our lives. But cooperating with the Christ within we can find the divine life as if it were our own.

Intervention of God

Many people can accept that there is no dark side to God and that human suffering and what is evil is caused by some human beings turning away from the values of mutual care and instead focusing exclusively on self-orientation. In my view the Divine is all-loving, all-knowing and whilst present everywhere is beyond time and place. It respects our freedom to decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and so does not intrude to control human affairs.

This deity does not stop suffering, and like loving parents does allow us, the offspring, to learn the lessons of life the hard way whilst at the same time it counter-balances what is bad by providing what is good. Parents continue to provide for and support their children throughout their difficulties and misfortunes. When God does this for all of us, it is called the work of loving providence.

I would say that Divine life flows invisibly into the world to offset disease with healing, temper hate with love, and moderate despair with inspiration. This is done in relation to the smallest detail of life and so despite how things appear, nothing actually happens by chance. If the work of providence were obvious then we would not be free to believe or disbelieve in the divine as the spiritual origin of our lives.

According to this view, God is concerned with long-term goals not short-lived happiness. Only in retrospect can we hope to see the way traumas and suffering has functioned as growth points in our spiritual learning.

Evidence for God

One cannot prove the existence of God which is invisible. But there is evidence to support the Divine nature. Unless God were revealed, humanity would only have a dim awareness that the divine within comes from a higher power creating all that is good. And so I would say that God is manifest as the Christ of history. Also facets of the divine are shown both in the world of nature and in the sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.

Nature is said to be red in tooth and claw. But it also shows a positive side. There is beauty as well as ugliness in plant life, affection as well as cruelty in the animal kingdom, and safety as well as danger on land and sea. What is good in nature symbolically shows the qualities of the divine in our thoughts and feelings. What is bad mirrors the corrupting influence of humanity’s self-orientation.

The Divine is widely acknowledged as revealed in sacred writings of especially inspired individuals. Beneath the various authentic religious traditions and customs there is a common core of spiritual teaching. This is not surprising if they have a common source. What is revealed is what all religions teach i.e. :-

  • Human beings experience two realms of reality, the world of physical objects and the world of spirit, the latter being the realm of consciousness.
  • We have a centre of transcendent awareness and are able to relate intimately to the divine spark, which is the foundation of all reality.
  • Realising our spiritual nature is the highest goal and greatest good of human existence.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

th July 2010CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, ,, , , , ,, , , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment