“The essence of good can be from no other source than Him who is Good itself.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Doctrine of Life 13
“The essence of good can be from no other source than Him who is Good itself.”
“The essence of good can be from no other source than Him who is Good itself.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Doctrine of Life 13
We not only have the means to prevent unwanted births, we have adopted similar means of preventing ideas from inseminating our minds.
For instance, the Ten Commandments can be read, stored in the memory as data, but never acted upon. The Lord, while in the world, simplified these ten laws into two – loving God and loving the neighbor. Still, the Lord’s teaching of loving God and loving others can simply be filed away in the memory as mere data.
Anything that prevents God’s ideas from taking hold in the mind and not being allowed to grow into the mature and loving actions of one who seeks eternal life and blessedness is spiritual contraception.
The Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone is just such a spiritual birth control pill. The reason is that faith alone stresses “belief” over “acts of goodness” for obtaining salvation and entry into the gates of heaven.
This is holy hogwash!
Believing alone is like allowing a concept to enter into one’s memory without the conceiving. In other words, when an idea is not allowed to germinate and change the way we act in the world, how can mere “believing” lead to our spiritual rebirth?
Rebirth implies real, tangible process.
What possible process is involved when ideas simply remain as un-germinated seeds in the soil of the human memory? Those who embrace the doctrine of faith alone point out that no one is perfect and that no human act or deed of goodness can help us gain the credit of the Lord’s righteousness.
The doctrine of faith alone allows Christians to overlook their personal flaws and serves as a prophylactic to the commandments and introspection. Such believers cleverly point out that an individual who seeks salvation through good deeds seeks his or her own merit. But they miss the point that, because people are imperfect, they must seek and pray for the Lord’s help in becoming a better person. One does not seek merit if he or she approaches the Lord with sincerity and humility. (And one cannot effectively seek God’s help unless one sees specific inclinations and compulsions that need overhauling.)
The other thing people tend to overlook is that good deeds are not sincere until someone tackles their personal flaws. Otherwise, a person can accomplish good deeds for the sake of reputation, self-promotion, and even to keep personal agendas hidden from the world.
Repentance precedes good deeds. This brings innocence to the deed.
Love is faith put into action. True faith is the love to do what is true. Love makes faith alive. The warmth of Love is how faith germinates in our memory and grows out into the living actions of our heart. Any religious doctrine that deters the growth and development of spiritual love in our lives is “rebirth control.”
God’s heavenly kingdom consists of mutual love. Mutual love is more than our possessing the right idea in our noggins. It necessitates doing the right thing from a spiritual conscience.
Christians admit—at least in principle—that we are all evil, and that we depend on the Lord God for our personal redemption. Therefore, when we the faithful, pray that God remove evil from the world, what is it that are we asking God to do?
Are we asking God to remove us from the world scene? I doubt it. Instead, we tend to do a lot of finger pointing. In reality we each see evil as something outside of us rather than within us. And we do this in spite of the Lord’s warning that we are not to “throw the first stone,” or “see the speck in someone else’s eye” (especially when there is a log in our own eye).
We all want change in the world but we seem to have lost our true focus on what needs to be changed.
In the famous words of the comic strip character Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Wars between countries are a natural extension of, and multiplication of, our personal and individual wars with other people. We war with our spouses, we war with our neighbors, we war with other communities, other states, and finally other nations.
Even within civility we can harbor inner hatred, jealousy and envy towards others.
How do these harmful tendencies fly safely under our personal radar and are never detected by us?
There are two big reasons.
One is religious. The other is the psychology behind self-centeredness. The religious doctrine of salvation by faith alone places almost no value on self-examination and our taking part in the salvation process. In fact, this ill-conceived doctrine puts Christians above the Law of the Commandments and personal responsibility. We are saved through mere belief and trust that the Lord died for our sins, not in our cleaning up our own act.
Self-centeredness also thwarts introspection. While spotting negative traits in others is easy–being a simple matter of observation, seeing these bad traits in oneself is limited to what his or her heart wishes the eyes to see. Seeing evil in others requires mere ocular vision but seeing our own harmful proclivities requires permission from one’s will.
Until we take ourselves to task, we have no real sense of our evil compulsions because they are only detected as pleasures. We derive pleasure from revenge and in dominating a situation. This “pleasure” of always coming out on top seduces our thinking and distracts our reflections.
This psycho-harlotry is what is actually meant by the term “whoredom” used in various stories of Holy Scripture. It is a spiritual condition that causes one to separate his or her faith from life—a condition where faith is not lived or put into action. Instead we prostitute ourselves for a false worldview.
To live one’s faith, one must sincerely love God and neighbor.
One cannot sincerely (inwardly) love God and neighbor unless one knows what is really going on in his or her heart. Only when we take inventory and make unflattering self-discoveries can the Lord God begin to help us. We have to give God a clue as to what we want changed in our lives.
Until then, true Religion will fly under the radar as well.
You might look at our troubled world feeling that life is overwhelming at times and wonder what God is doing about it. Where is he when we need him? Does he have a plan for the planet’s environment, for tackling terrorism, for curtailing run away population growth? Alternatively is he not in control? Does he love us or is he angry? Whenever we talk about God, we are actually engaged in theology – ‘theos’ meaning God and ‘logos’ meaning word or reasoning. Therefore theology means the study of concepts of God and of the nature of religious ideas.
“Theology is an aspect of thought and conversation for all who live and breathe, who wrestle and fear, who hope and pray” (Kelly M. Kapic)
However, many people seem to be fed up with church creeds and theological doctrines telling them what to think and do. They sometimes see such writing as complicated, confusing and thoroughly irrelevant. You may just want the simple words of Jesus or the Buddha; not the head-in-the clouds religious lecturers and writers in theology with their long sentences and fancy terms. You may simply want to experience an inspiring presence deep within your soul rather than hearing about it second hand.
Philosophy and theology have so much to tell us about God, but people today want to experience God. There is a difference between eating dinner and merely reading the menu. (Dada Vaswani – Indian spiritual leader)
Eating the spiritual food is crucial. Nevertheless, selecting a dish from the menu is necessary before receiving the food; otherwise, you may end up with the wrong meal. Likewise I would suggest that the way you think about what goes beyond the material world – what has been called the transcendant realm of divine spirit – will affect what you feel.
How you think about God is bound to affect whether you have confidence and hope in a merciful and wise divine providence or dread of a powerful figure who dishes out harsh judgments. It will shape the personal image of whom you pray to. In addition it will influence your idea of the divine plan for your life.
If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones— bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. – C. S. Lewis
I would say that there is some mistaken theology still very much around. I realise that bad theology has justified terrible folly and horrible behaviour. How can I for example feel a divine presence that will gives me hope and confidence when I come across those Christians who still write about a punitive ‘Father’: one who required the terrible suffering of his innocent ‘Son’ Christ on the cross. Or for that matter those Islamist extremists who justify the death of masses of people in a so-called ‘holy war’ in the name of Allah.
I want to say that I have benefited from knowing about what religion has to say. I have learned from inspired sacred writing. Not having lots of information but rather what I have heard and read that has been illuminated deep within my mind. I’m trying to write about a deeper truth that goes beyond the ideas of the world.
Theologians write a lot about ‘salvation’ – some good and some, I believe, mistaken ideas. Nevertheless I’m concerned about theological ideas because I feel I need to be freed from the grip of self-interested thinking and some bad habits which I find difficult to shake off by my own efforts alone. If one questions how a higher power can save one from oneself, one is asking a theological question.
Talking of sacred writings, I think most readers would agree that there are many parts of the Bible which don’t make immediate sense. Yes, specific verses of the Bible are often obscure and even misleading. For example where a passage speaks of God being inflamed with hot anger and wanting to be destructive. One theological view is to say that God has a bad as well as a good side. However a more satisfactory interpretation in my view is to do with human projection. This can happen when we turn way from the God’s way and do what is selfish or cruel. We imagine that God is judgmental and angry with us because we ourselves get angry and judgmental with someone who goes against what we say. I think a correct theological view of God is one of wise love. Such a God would never feel angry or judgmental.
It is easy to misunderstand any one bit of the Bible when taken literally. For me general theological principles taken from the Bible as a whole illuminates the inner message.
…It may be recognized how many errors those people fall into who think of nothing beyond the literal sense when they read the Word, thus who read it without the aid of teachings drawn from the Word which show them what the real truth is.” (Emanuel Swedenborg – European 18th century theologian)
I would suggest that theological knowledge is no use by itself. I feel that it is the actual application in daily life that brings about benefit as well as further depth of understanding.
There are … many among the inhabitants of hell who have been more expert in matters of doctrine than anybody else. But those who have led charitable lives are all in heaven. (Emanuel Swedenborg)
Using religious knowledge by keeping life as the end in view means for those who know about Swedenborg’s theology :
Probably every culture in history has theologically distorted what has been claimed to be God’s word. Nevertheless in my opinion higher principles found in religious writing often do show a divine inspiration that transcends mere human prudence.
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
Posted on30th November 2015
THE HOUSE BUILT ON THE ROCK
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, August 9, 1992
“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them shall be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house,- and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
In His well known Sermon on the Mount, the Lord proclaimed a new gospel – a new, comprehensive doctrine of life. In this new doctrine which the Lord expounded He emphasized the idea that true religion is not merely the observance of formal rituals and customs, but is rather a way of life according to recognized and acknowledged principles. He began by pronouncing a blessing on the humble, the merciful, the pure, the lovers of peace, and the faithful. He pointed out that anger and hatred are to be shunned because they are the cause of murder. He entreated people not to judge others harshly, but to be compassionate and forgiving. He taught that the evil of adultery is to be shunned in will, thought and intention, not just in act. He warned against vain and useless oaths. He tried to lead people to distinguish between the person and the evil done by the person, urging them to love and promote the person’s welfare, but not the person’s evil. He preached against making a pretentious show of religion, saying that true worship comes from the heart. He exhorted people to strive for eternal riches, and not to be unduly concerned about worldly things, promising the protection, providence and guidance of God for all who place their trust in Him. He warned against profanation and the ridicule of holy things. He pointed out that a tree is known by its fruits. If it bears no fruit, it is to be cut down, thus providing us with a standard of judgment as it relates to the conduct of human beings: we are to judge according to use.
Having clearly and powerfully expounded the fundamental principles of His new doctrine, the Lord concluded His sermon with a vivid description of the two possible responses his hearers could have to His teachings, and the consequences of each. He said: “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27, emphasis added).
The basic difference between the wise and the foolish men hinges on one simple verb, the verb to “do.” This is the key word of our text. The purpose of all Divine teaching is that people may do it. Hearing it is a means to this end. What can be clearer than this? And yet there are millions of people in the Christian world today, both clergy and laity, who stoutly maintain that it is not the doing of the law that results in salvation, but faith separated from doing.
But in this parable the Lord separates people into two categories: (a) those who hear the Divine law and do what it teaches; and (b) those who hear and do not do it. The words themselves leave no room for doubt about the matter. But the circumstances in which they were uttered emphasizes this teaching. They are the concluding words of a new and comprehensive doctrine, a doctrine of life for the church which the Lord came on earth to establish. The Lord concluded His discourse with this vivid and dramatic parable to draw attention to the absolute necessity of doing that which He teaches.
This is not the only instance where this teaching occurs in the Scriptures. It does not stand alone! The prophet Jeremiah gave dramatic utterance to the same truth saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel … I did not speak to your fathers … concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying: ‘Obey My voice and I will be your God and you shall be My people. And >I>walk in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward … So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath”‘ (Jer. 7:21-29, emphasis added).
This quotation eloquently testifies to the truth that the choice between heaven and hell, life and death, depends on whether we do what the Lord teaches or do not do it, whether we obey Him or do not.
A more detailed consideration of our text will lead us to see the deeper significance of the Lord’s teaching in this parable. The Lord likened those who hear and do His Word to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Everyone, while on earth, builds the house in which he will live to eternity. The materials he uses are truths, or knowledges of truth, from the Word – that is, if he is going to have his home in heaven. But the stability of the house depends on the foundation upon which he builds. A wise man builds on the rock. In the Word a “rock” is the symbol of Divine truth, and, in the highest sense, of the Lord Himself, for He is the Divine truth itself – the stone which the builders rejected, but which, in the New Church, is to become the head of the corner. The “rock” that the wise man builds his house on is the acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divine Humanity – the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is God, the one and only God of heaven and earth. Jesus declared, after His resurrection: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).
That this acknowledgment is the rock foundation of true Christianity is clear from the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. The Lord asked His disciples: “‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that You are John the Baptist; some Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them: ‘But who do you say I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”‘ (Matt. 16:13-16).
We would note that the Greek word PETROS is used in this passage, both for “Peter” and for “rock.’ This makes the meaning of the Lord’s words clearer. The faith which Peter expressed and represents – a faith in the Lord’s Divine Humanity – is the rock upon which the Lord would build His church, and it is the rock upon which a wise man builds his spiritual house.
We read in Apocalypse Explained: ” The ‘rock’ upon which that house is founded signifies the Lord as to the Divine truth, or Divine truth received by the soul and the heart, that is, by faith and love; in other words, by the understanding and the will” (AE 644:24, emphasis added). The human mind consists of two parts or faculties, the will and the understanding. Neither of these alone makes the person. The character or essence of a person is according to the will or love. The person’s form or quality is according to the understanding. Although these two faculties are closely related and together should make one, nevertheless the will is the dominant of the two – “Love is the life of man” (DLW 1). When these two faculties are founded upon the Divine truth, the foundation of the mind is firm and strong, able to resist and withstand the assaults of evil desires and false thoughts.
These are what are meant by the inundating rains mentioned in our text. Water, in the Word, is usually a symbol of truth, as when the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria about the life-giving water which He provides; if a person drinks of it, he shall never die. But it also has the opposite correspondence when it is mentioned as to its destructive potential, as in the case of the flood of Noah, and also the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. In such instances water and rain refer to falsities which inundate the mind of a person who loves evil. The floods refer to the temptations that arise as a result of the deluge of falsities – temptations in which the person overcomes or is overcome. The winds refer to subtle but powerful reasonings from falsity in favor of our latent evils.
Everyone, in the course of life, is exposed to the storms of life; that is, we undergo temptations on various planes of life: physical or mental, natural or spiritual, external or internal. If one’s house is founded on the rock; if one’s religion is based on the acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only God; if the person knows, understands and believes Divine truths and does them, then that person will survive the storms and tempests of life, and the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” him.
We are told that “‘sand’ signifies Divine truth received only in the memory, and somewhat … in the thought, and this in a scattered and disconnected way, because intermixed with falsities” (AE 644:24). Love, we know, is a bond; it is a strong uniting force that draws and welds together. When the truths of the Word are done, they are implanted in love, and love draws them together and welds them into one – they become firm and strong like rock. But when truths are learned, even understood, but are not done, then they are not implanted in the will or in the love. They are not drawn together and welded into one. They remain fragmentary; they get mixed with false ideas and lose their properties of cohesion. They become loose and shifting like sand.
A house, or a mind, which is built on such a foundation cannot withstand the trials and tempests of life. When false principles and ideas attack it, the loose and disconnected truths begin to separate and move. When strong temptations arise -when floods assail -they are washed away. And when the powerful winds of human reasoning, emanating from self-interest and expediency, beat on the house it falls, for it is founded on sand.
The sole purpose of Divine revelation, or of Divine truth, is that people do it; that they establish their principles, values and their character upon it. Hearing the truth and reflecting on it with a view to understanding it is essential, for we can do only that which we know and understand. But that is only a means to an end. Truth is given to us that we may live according to it – live it day by day in the course of our lives.
There are three things that make one: affection, thought and deed. When the affections of our will are from the Lord and the thoughts of our understanding are from the Word, and these are ultimated or expressed in speech and act, then our spiritual house – our eternal abode – will stand firm and strong, and the fury of the hells will not prevail against it for it is founded upon “the rock” – the rock of Divine truth, known, understood, loved and lived. Amen.
Lessons: Jer. 7:21-29, Matt. 7:15-29, AC 9282
Arcana Coelestia 9282
“And all that I have said unto you ye shall keep.” That this signifies that the commandments, the judgments, and the statutes are to be done is evident from the signification of “all that Jehovah had said unto them” as being all things of the life, of worship, and of the civil state; for the things of life were called “commandments,” those of worship were called “statutes,” and those of the civil state were called “judgments” (n. 8972); and from the signification of “keeping” or serving as being to do, for by doing them they are observed. As the laws of life, of worship, and of the civil state, are not anything with a man so long as they are in his understanding only, but become something with him when they are in the will, therefore it is said in the Word throughout that they must be “done”; for doing is of the will, but knowing, understanding, acknowledging, and believing are of the understanding. These latter, however, have no being with man until they become of the will, nor do they come forth with him until they become of the understanding from the will; for the being of man is to will, and the coming forth is to acknowledge and believe therefrom. The things which have no such being and coming forth with a man are not appropriated to him but stand without, and are not as yet received into the house; and therefore they do not contribute anything to the eternal life of the man; for unless such things have been made of the life, they are dissipated in the other life, those only remaining which are of the heart, that is, of the will and from this of the understanding. This being so, it is said in the Word throughout that the commandments and the statutes must be “done,” as in uses: “Ye shall do My judgments and keep My statutes to walk therein. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live by them” (Lev. 17:4, 5; Matt. 5:20; 5:24-27; 16:27; John 3:21).
OUR WAY, OUR TRUTH AND OUR LIFE
A Sermon by Rev. J. Clark Echols, Jr.
Preached in Denver, Colorado, on August 3, 1986
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”‘ (John 14:6).
Imagine yourself in a maze of corridors. There are many corners, and walking along, you quickly lose your sense of direction. You ask yourself, what is motivating me to walk at all? What gives me the ability to make the choices as to which hall to take, where to turn, where not to turn? Such a nightmare situation can leave only a sense of desperation, helplessness and even terror.
Now imagine a person living just before the Lord was born on earth. People lived such a nightmare in their spiritual lives. The hells could easily enter and confuse their thoughts about truth. Was hardly moving at all on the sabbath really helpful? Did the invisible, vengeful God really smell the odors of their sacrifices? Were blatantly dishonest fellow Jews nonetheless one’s neighbor over and above honest gentiles? The maze of regulations for the ancient Jew often led to confusion, doubt and an inner frustration.
And then Jesus came to the earth — God incarnate. Seeing what He did, believing what He said, had unbelievable effects. Confessing a belief in Him, and repenting and beginning a new life actually changed a person’s life. The maze was gone. It was as if a new light was in the heavens: not a light for the eyes, but a light for the mind that enlightened so many things that were then obviously true. And with the light came a warmth: not from the sun but from within, as if the heart could feel it rising from deep within.
The Lord’s redemption of all mankind has saved us from the anguish of the ancient Jews. But the turmoil and conflict still go on in our spirit. In fact, it was His redemption that makes possible our spiritual journey to heavenly happiness. For He opened men’s minds — all men’s minds, then and forever — to a new depth of understanding and feeling. A new light actually could reach into men’s minds. Our Creator’s love could be felt in a new way. Immanuel — God with us — walked the earth, and then rose from the tomb and established His Divine Human, whom we can all see with our mind’s eye, feel with our spiritual heart, and so know and truly love.
Our text proclaims that this redemption was the Lord’s sole objective in coming to earth. He, in Himself and by Himself alone, is the way, the truth and the life for us. We cannot come to know the Father — our Creator and Sustainer — except through His glorified Divine Human. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Our text contains in a summary the whole process of our regeneration: to go the way of the Lord; to come to a true vision of that way by means of His truth; and thereby to receive His spiritual life.
The Lord called Himself the “way” because only His Human, established by His life on earth, can lead us to heaven. The Divine Human is a concept the finite human mind can fathom. He makes plain, before our sense as we read the New Testament, Jehovah the Father. The Divine Human communicates the Lord’s love and wisdom in a new way, reaching to our limited minds. This is how the Lord is the Word, for the Word is the principal means by which we come to know the Divine Human. It is our only source for our knowledge of the Lord and heavenly things, and the things of our own spirit.
To go the Lord’s way is to use the truth we discover. The Lord has done us a great favor in revealing Himself to us. It is up to us, however, to rely on His revelation of truth as a guide to our way. So we must find the doctrines that the Word teaches: the doctrine concerning the Lord, concerning true faith, concerning spiritual charity, and concerning the work we must do. Then, with an understanding of what the doctrines are — an understanding provided by the Lord, actually — we work to compel ourselves to obey them. Imagine again that maze of corridors. Any sense of desperation, all feeling of helplessness, will disappear when we realize that in our hands is a map — a detailed map setting forth the configuration of our spirit, the dead ends of selfishness, the darkened halls of falsity, the pitfalls of merely worldly advice. And the map, in a bold way, shows the right path, the path out to our promised land.
The Lord, then, has provided us with a revelation, and has given us the ability to use it. As with everything in His creation, there are levels of understanding, and practice is needed. The child begins with the literal sense of the Word alone. The rules are simple, almost black and white. As the child’s mind develops, however, he is able to make interpretations and see the fine lines. Indeed, the literal sense, as understood by adults, is very flexible. The adult is able to interpret it according to preconceived notions. We can even look for wanted results and explanations that will cover for our weaknesses and our sins. The letter of the Word, we are told, can even be twisted by an evil person to confirm whatever he wants to believe.
And so the adult must turn to the internal sense of the Word for guidance in obeying the literal sense, as we are commanded to do. It is as if our map was so good that the maze, even though very complex, becomes ordered. The internal sense will do nothing for us if we don’t see it and feel it guiding our spirit to a certain external way of living. But as we do that, we become less dependent upon the things of our senses. We become less susceptible to external things ruling our spirit. We learn better, with more clarity, just what the Word is teaching us. We learn that we can handle the things that happen to us in this early life from a new perspective. What is truly God’s order for our individual life can be discovered. This is what is meant by discovering the Lord in our life. For the light, warmth, order and delight we feel are all His in us. As the Writings say, the doctrine we draw from the literal sense of the Word by means of the internal sense becomes living, active in every smallest part of our life.
The purpose of doctrine, then, is to lead us to a vision of the Lord that will prompt us to change our ways. Thus, He is the way. We are not born with this vision; we must work to acquire it. While the Lord created us all for heaven, to reach the finish of the maze successfully, hereditary evil and the influences of the hells lead us into dead ends and inescapable pits.
There is one warning the Word gives us about doctrine. Doctrine is drawn from the Word by people who prayerfully are trying to apply the Word to their situation, their age. And so there must be some assurance that whether the doctrine has been developed by oneself or by the church for its members to apply, it is genuine. It must promote our sight of the Lord. It must give us a clear and rational vision of our Creator and Ruler. A false or confused doctrine will destroy our vision of God so necessary to our salvation. The doctrinal confusion in the Christian world today is an example of what happens when the genuine doctrine is not known. In an effort to explain the incarnation and glorification in a politically expedient way, the priest of the Christian Church separated the persons of Father and Son. They left behind the picture given in the New Testament, as well as the experiences and beliefs of the early church leaders. The literal sense says that the Son must lead to the Father. How can the doctrine of separate persons agree with this?
Doctrine is to be drawn from the letter in accordance with the internal sense. Doctrine is thus really spiritual. It is matter of our understanding, not simply the written Word. Look what happens spiritually to the people and life of the church when such a false doctrine is believed. With the Son and Father separated, the visible God is separated from the essential God. Thus the knowable, lovable God given to us through the Divine Human is destroyed. Without a rational and concrete concept of what and who God is, there is no tangible, real foundation of truth for civil and moral law, much less spiritual law. This lack of a clear standard of truth is behind all the confusion we see in the Christian world today. Even good people are in darkness; they have lost their way, and the doctrine of the church provides no guidance. Doctrine may be apparently drawn from the Word, but it is no longer true.
The Writings make clear the distinction between the Divine truth and doctrine drawn from the Word by men. It is the Divine truth that gives doctrine its power in us. This is why the Lord said He is the truth. Not only does He show us the way, but His truth in us is His power to cast out evil spirits from us, reform our minds, enlighten us as to the truth, and judge us as to evil. It is the Lord who saves us. Not only does He show us the way through the maze, but He established the original path.
Ever since the spiritual fall of mankind we have been adding paths, dead ends, quagmires and deep pits to the original straight and even way to heaven. Our evil has even made the road to hell look broad and smooth and the road to heaven narrow and rocky. To realize that we have the power to make the truth seem harsh, demanding, judgmental and condemning is to see that the Lord did not create it that way. The Lord’s Divine truth, His order, the means of the creation of all things, did not make life a maze. Merely worldly interests and desires are a very broad and easy road to follow. The only way to see it for what it is is to use the Word as our guide. And while we are, in a sense, cursed with this situation from our birth, it need not remain that way.
The Lord is the truth. His order, taught us in the literal and internal senses of the Word, defines the straight path to happiness forever. This must be simply an article of faith with us at first. But as we experience it, we will discover that the truth can give us an idea of what the Lord wants us to be. The whole purpose and end to which truth looks is the revealing of what is evil and what is good so that we can learn the distinction. To be in the truth is to be part of the Lord’s stream of Providence, always carrying us through the maze of conflicting ideas and desires. The truth’s work in our spirit is to order and mold us into vessels receptive of the Lord’s love. That is the truth’s real job, not to be a harsh taskmaster or source of guilt and condemnation. The Divine truth shows us the Lord’s love. It is the Son through whom we can come to see the Father: the Lord’s love and constant care for our spiritual progress.
This leads us to see why the Lord called Himself “the life.” Yet this proclamation runs right against all appearances. Don’t we have life? Are we not in control of our life? We never feel it coming into us from somewhere. However, we must ask, what is the source of this appearance, this feeling of ours? Is it to be trusted? In fact, the feeling that we have life in ourselves is manufactured by our senses. As science has shown us, our senses can be easily fooled. What is more important, our senses cannot see around the corners of life. They are blind to spiritual con-sequences of our actions. Their view of our life is full of fallacies and mere appearances.
The whole Word urges us to cast off all belief that we live from ourselves. Certainly the appearance is there: the Lord created the human that way! This is why we are totally free and able, of ourselves, to really choose whether we will love and follow the Lord or not. The Word further tells us — exhorts us — to believe that all life is from the Lord, and that we are totally dependent upon Him. Our benefit will be true freedom. No longer will selfishness, greed and external things enslave us; no longer will low self-esteem and guilt incapacitate us. The Lord is in us, and we have all in Him! The way becomes clear, the truth living, and His love a warmth deep within us. There is little we can know about how the Lord flows into us and gives us life. It is a miracle. Yet our faith in that miracle becomes a living faith when we live our lives in accordance with it. And then, because it is part of us, this hardest of all truths to believe will bless us in unforeseen and greatly delightful ways. That He gives us life means that we don’t have to save ourselves, a task we have found impossible. And it means that we have found the motivating force in our walk through the maze. We have found that the Lord gives us the ability to make the choices before us, to decide which way to turn. What a relief! What a burden off our shoulders! The fact that we have many hard choices to make in our life is no longer depressing. The Lord has provided for our eternal happiness. The choices, though difficult and sometimes painful, are for our progress, and are not Divinely provided roadblocks, dead ends or trap doors created for the sake of our frustration.
Our goal of seeing our way through the confusing, conflicting choices we have to make is reached when the way, the truth and the life are established in our minds. The Lord will dwell in us. When we acknowledge the doctrines of the Word as the rules for our life, the Divine truth is revealed to us and we come to know our God. He is then visible before us, directing our steps to heaven. When we love the Lord, when we wish to do His truth, He can come into us with spiritual life, opening our minds to an ever-deepening understanding of Him and love for Him. Then the Lord is our way, our truth, and our life. Amen.
Lessons: Psalm 25, John 14:1-20, AC 2531:21 3
Arcana Coelestia 2531:21 3
That it may be further known how the case is with the doctrine. of faith as being spiritual from a celestial origin, be it known that it is Divine truth from Divine good, and thus wholly Divine. What is Divine is incomprehensible because above all understanding, even the angelic; but still this Divine, which in itself is incomprehensible, can flow in through the Lord’s Divine Human into man’s rational; and when it flows into his rational, it is there received according to the truths which are therein, thus variously, and not with one as with another. Insofar, therefore, as the truths with a man are more genuine, so far the Divine which flows in is received more perfectly, and so far the man’s understanding is enlightened.
In the Lord’s Word are truths themselves, but in its literal sense are truths which are accommodated to the apprehension of those who are in external worship; whereas in its internal sense are truths accommodated to those who are internal men; that is, to those who are angelic as to doctrine and at the same time as to life. Their rational is enlightened therefrom to such a degree that their enlightenment is compared to the brightness of the stars and the sun (Dan. 12:3, Matt. 13:43). Hence it is plain how important it is that interior truths be known and received. These truths may indeed be known, but by no means received, except by those who have love to the Lord or faith in Him; for as the Lord is the Divine good, so He is the Divine truth; consequently He is doctrine itself, since whatever is in the doctrine of true faith looks to the Lord, and looks also to the heavenly kingdom and the church, and to all things of the heavenly kingdom and the church. But all these are His, and are the intermediate ends through which the last end, that is, the Lord, is regarded.
The Church Universal
The church of the Lord is scattered over the whole terrestrial globe, and thus is universal. All they are in it who have lived in the good of charity according to their religious belief. (HH n. 328)
As regards the Lord’s spiritual church, it should be known that it is throughout the whole terrestrial globe. For it is not limited to those that have the Word, and from this have obtained a knowledge of the Lord, and some truths of faith; but it is also with those who have not the Word, and are therefore entirely ignorant of the Lord, and consequently do not know any truths of faith (for all truths of faith refer to the Lord); that is, with the Gentiles remote from the church. For there are many among them who from rational light have come to know that there is one God; that He created all things, and that He preserves all things; as well as that all good, consequently all truth is from Him, and that similitude with Him makes man blessed; and who live, moreover, according to their religious belief, in love to God and in charity towards the neighbour; who from the affection of good do the works of charity, and from the affection of truth worship the Supreme. It is those that are of such a character among the Gentiles who are in the Lord’s spiritual church. And although ignorant of the Lord while they are in the world, yet they have within them the worship and tacit acknowledgment of Him, when they are in good; for in all good the Lord is present. (AC n. 3263)
The Specific Church, and its relation to the Church Universal
It is called the church where the Lord is acknowledged and where the Word is. For the essentials of the church are love and faith in the Lord from the Lord; and the Word teaches how a man must live in order that he may receive love and faith from the Lord. (HD n. 242)
They that are without the church, and acknowledge one God, and live in a certain charity towards the neighbour according to their religious belief, are in communion with those that are of the church; for no one who believes in God and lives well is condemned. It is therefore clear that the church of the Lord is everywhere in the whole world, although specifically it is where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is. (ibid. n. 244)
By means of the Word there is conjunction of heaven with those also who are out of the church, where the Word is not; for the Lord’s church is universal, and with all who acknowledge a Divine [Being] and live in charity. And furthermore, after death they are instructed by the angels and receive Divine truths. The church universal on earth is in the sight of the Lord as one man, just as heaven is; and the church where the Word is, and where by means of this the Lord is known, is as the heart and lungs in that man. (HH n. 308)
By means of the church they are saved who are out of the church. None but those that are within the church are in the faith of charity; for the faith of charity is truth of doctrine adjoined to the good of life. For the case is this: The Lord’s kingdom on earth consists of all that are in good; who although scattered over the whole earth are yet one, and as members constitute one body…. The church on the earth is like the heart and lungs; and they that are without the church are as the parts of the body which are sustained and kept alive by the heart and lungs. It is clear from this that without a church somewhere on earth the human race could not subsist; just as the body cannot without the heart and lungs within it. (AC n. 2853)
Unless there exists somewhere on earth a church where the Word is, and where by means of it the Lord is known, there cannot be conjunction with heaven; for the Lord is God of heaven and earth, and without the Lord there is no salvation. It suffices that there be a church where the Word is, although it consist of a few comparatively; through this the Lord is yet present everywhere throughout the whole earth, for through this heaven is conjoined with the human race. (SS n. 104)
It is known that [the character of] a church is according to its doctrine; and that doctrine is from the Word. But yet doctrine does not establish a church; but the integrity and purity of the doctrine, consequently the understanding of the Word. (TCR n. 245)
The Lord is present with man through the reading of the Word; but He is conjoined to him by means of and according to his understanding of truth from the Word. And in proportion as the Lord is conjoined to man, the church is in him (SS n. 78)
Where the Specific Church is
The church is nowhere else than where the Word is rightly understood; and such as is the understanding of the Word among those who are in the church, such is the church. (SS n. 79)
That there may be a church there must be doctrine from the Word; because without doctrine the Word is not understood. Yet doctrine alone does not constitute the church with man, but a life according to doctrine. From this it follows that faith alone does not constitute the church, but the life of faith, which is charity. Genuine doctrine is the doctrine of charity and of faith together, and not the doctrine of faith without the other; for the doctrine of charity and of faith together is the doctrine of life, but not the doctrine of faith without the doctrine of charity. (HD n. 243)
Who constitute the Specific Church
It is one thing for the church to be with a nation, and another for the church to be in a nation. As for example, the Christian church is with those who have the Word, and from doctrine preach the Lord; but yet there is nothing of the church in them unless they are in the marriage of good and truth; that is unless they are in charity towards the neighbour, and thence in faith; or unless the internals of the church are within the externals. (AC n. 4899)
He who is not in spiritual good, that is in the good of charity, and in spiritual truths, that is in truths of faith, is not of the church although he was born within the church…. They that do not live according to the Word, or according to doctrine from the Word, so that it is the rule of life, are not of the church, but are out of it; and those who live in evil, thus who live contrary to doctrine, are farther out of the church than the Gentiles who know nothing at all of the Word, of the Lord, and of the Sacraments. For, since they know the goods and truths of the church they extinguish the church within them; which the Gentiles cannot do because they do no not know them. (AC n. 6637)
The Church is one thing and Religion another
The church is one thing and religion another. The church is called a church from doctrine; and religion is called religion from life according to doctrine. All doctrine is called truth; and its good also is truth, because it only teaches it. But everything of life according to those things which doctrine teaches is called good; doing the truths of doctrine likewise is good. Thus is the church distinguished from religion. But where there is doctrine and not life it cannot be said that there is either a church or religion; because doctrine looks to life, as one with itself, just as do truth and good, faith and charity, wisdom and love, understanding and will. There is therefore no church where there is doctrine and not life. (AR n. 923)
Who are meant by Gentiles?
In many places the Word refers to those that are in darkness, in the shadow of death, and in thick darkness, whose eyes the Lord will open; and by them the Gentiles are meant, who have been in good works but not in any truths, because they have not known the Lord, neither were in possession of the Word. Precisely similar to these are they in the Christian world who are in works alone, and in no truths of doctrine. They know of the Lord it is true, but yet do not approach Him; and they possess the Word, but do not search after the truths therein. (AR n. 110)
The Good and Truth among the Gentiles is not constituent of the Church
That the good of life may be [constituent] of the church there must be doctrinals from the Word which are implanted in that good. Without doctrinals it is indeed the good of life, but not yet good [constituent] of the church; thus not yet truly spiritual, save only as to its capacity to become so. Such is the good of life among the Gentiles who have not the Word, and therefore do not know of the Lord. (AC n. 3310)
The Gentiles who are out of the church can be in truths, but not in truths of faith…. Truths of faith are all doctrinals concerning the life eternal, concerning the Lord’s kingdom, and concerning the Lord. These cannot be known to them, because they have not the Word. (ibid. n. 2049)