Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Angels See the Word Like an Image in an Anamorphoscope

The Heavenly Doctrines describe the difference between what we see in the Word and what angels see in the Word in many different ways. I read a fun description yesterday that I'd never heard before.
How the Word of the Lord appears before the angels cannot be described, but some idea can be formed by those who have seen in museums the optical cylinders in which beautiful images are represented from things roughly projected. Although the things which are round about in the projection appear to have no form, series, or order, and to be merely confused projections, still when they are concentrated toward the cylinder, they there present a lovely image. So it is with the Word of the Lord, especially with the prophetic Word of the Old Testament. In the literal sense there is scarcely anything that does not appear destitute of order, but when it is being read by a person, and especially by a little boy or girl, it becomes more beautiful and delightful by degrees as it ascends, and at last it is presented before the Lord as the image of a human being.... (Arcana Coelestia 1871)
I'm told that Swedenborg is describing an anamorphoscope. The best pictures and explanation of what this is that I could find are in the book, The Magic Mirror: An Antique Optical Toy (The link lets you look at a couple of pages from the book on Amazon.com. The explanation is on the Front Flap page.)

As a side note, this passage ends with the intriguing statement that, when the image of the Word ascends and is presented before the Lord, it is as a human being, in which heaven is represented, “not as it is, but as the Lord wills it to be, namely, a likeness of Himself.”

Did Swedenborg Have an Influence on Dickens "A Christmas Carol"?

In this week's Bryn Athyn Post (PDF) there's this fun little paragraph.
The Swedenborg Society sent Charles Dickens a review copy of Heaven and Hell in 1841, for which they received from him a letter of thanks which included the phrase “it will not go unread”. Two years after that, A Christmas Carol was published. In this story, Scrooge meets and converses with spirits. His passage in and out of the spirit world is the bulk of the plot, reminiscent of Swedenborg and his mystical experiences.
I looked for other discussion of this in New Church Life to no avail. I did, however, find a short reference to A Christmas Carol in Rev. Walter Orthwein's 2001 article, “The Spiritual Use of Art.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The New New Church Vineyard Web Site Has Launched

The new New Church Vineyard web site has just launched. It's very pretty and nicely organized by themes such as holidays and marriage. You can also look at an index of all topics. Check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Good Summary of the Difference Between the Teachings of the New Church and Mainstream Christianity

A while ago I discussed Troy Brooks explanation of why Emanuel Swedenborg Was Definitely Unsaved. On that site he actually provides a pretty good explanation of the difference between the teachings of the New Church and the teachings of mainstream Christianity—having copied most of it from John Odhner's web site.

I recently read about a similar thing in a Facebook note by Jordan Cooper. Jordan writes,
In 1996, Darryl Dash (the pastor of Richview Baptist Church in Toronto) gave a sermon on the fallacies of the General Church of the New Jerusalem. .... He posted a chart on the internet comparing this religion to mainstream Christianity.

[H]is description of our beliefs is one of the most accurate and concise I have ever seen. In explaining our inaccuracies from his point of view, he describes our doctrine in a way that is clear to an outsider.
Take a look at it here.

Are Children Born with an Inclination to Believe in God?

In a number of places in the Heavenly Doctrines there are teachings about people being born with an inclination to believe in God.
There is a universal influx from God into the souls of men of the truth that there is a God, and that He is one. (True Christian Religion 8)

[S]ensuous truth, ...the first truth that insinuates itself... in childhood.... ...consists in seeing all earthly and worldly things as being created by God, and each and every thing for a purpose, and in all things whatsoever a certain image of God's kingdom. [Note: This may not happen to everyone: the passage goes on to say that “such truth is implanted in none but the celestial man....”] (Arcana Coelestia 1434)
In class today, theolog Stephen Muires talked about a recent article in The Daily Telegraph that confirms these teachings.
Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford's Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose.
I'm sure that many people will disagree with this guy's research and conclusions but it makes sense from a New Church perspective.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Should We Try to Convince Others of What We Believe?

What do you do if someone tells you that they think or believe something that you totally disagree with? It's a complicated question and it depends on the situation and it depends on your relationship with the person etc. etc.

I don't know how I'll respond the next time this happens to me but one thing I'm going to try to do is to keep this passage that I just read in mind. If anyone has run across similar passages or seemingly contradictory passages, please leave a comment.
One should not bind or incite another to confirm one's own truths, but should hear him and take his answers as they are in himself. For he who binds and incites another to confirm his own truths, causes the other not to think and speak from himself, but from him. And when anyone thinks and speaks from another, the truths he has are thrown into disorder, and yet he is not amended, except in the case of one who is as yet ignorant of these truths. (Arcana Coelestia 9213:6)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Web Site for the Bryn Athyn Church

A while ago I wrote a post about the completely redesigned newchurch.org. Yesterday evening the first of the redesigned New Church congregation sites launched—brynathynchurch.org.

It's much cleaner, better organized, and less busy than the old site. As with the previous site, you can get the Bryn Athyn Post for free online and on the homepage you can find out what's going on in Bryn Athyn. The new site has far more information about Bryn Athyn—its history, its vision and purpose, a summary of beliefs etc. Take a look.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Should We Say the Blessing?

For this week's Bryn Athyn Post (PDF) Rev. John Odhner wrote a fun piece on when to say the blessing at a meal.
Sometimes the rush of preparing the last dishes, or the lateness of some of the feasters, or a need for some to start eating before others have arrived keeps us from saying a blessing before we eat, and we interrupt the meal for a blessing or even say it after people have finished. At times people have asked if it’s too late to say a blessing after we have finished eating. I have responded with this passage: “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Is it better, then, to bless the Lord after we eat? The Lord Himself gave thanks before breaking bread (Luke 22:19, John 6:23). The simple answer is that there is no after or before. Angels don’t regret the past or worry about the future. “They say that the Lord gives them every moment what to think, and this with blessedness and happiness; and that they are thus free from cares and anxieties.” This is why we ask for “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer (Secrets of Heaven 2493). “A person who lives with love or who has goodwill keeps the Sabbath holy because then nothing is sweeter than to worship the Lord and glorify Him every day” (Secrets of Heaven 1798).

Daniel gave thanks three times a day (Daniel 6:10, 13), but the Lord’s gifts come to us more often: “In heaven the Lord gives heavenly food to angels moment by moment, thus perpetually and eternally.... If you can believe it, countless gifts are given every single moment” (Secrets of Heaven 5664). ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Great Sermon on Forgiveness

I got a lot out of Rev. Scott Frazier's sermon on forgiveness on Sunday. I particularly appreciated his discussion of what forgiveness is not and how he tied forgiveness together with rejecting hatred.
There are many things that are not forgiveness. Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not excusing. It is monstrous to think that all the terrible crimes man commits against man are somehow what the Lord wants.

Only the Lord can forgive sins. The Lord is asking us to reject hatred. Every time we are hurt and we feel that anger and resentment, the hells will attack. The Lord only permits evil for the purpose of temptation, and temptation is only allowed so that we can strengthen good and truth in ourselves. Feeling resentment towards someone is as insane as swallowing poison in the hopes of punishing an enemy.

A Christian Perspective on Quantum Mechanics and Materialism

Though the focus of this blog is New Church teachings, articles etc. I thought that you, the enormous readership of this blog, would get something out of reading an article I just read. Neil Shenvi is a Baptist and a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry. The article of his that I read (and there are more) is called Quantum Mechanics and Materialism and provides a quick and clear overview of quantum mechanics and the philosophical implications of it, particularly as they relate to materialistic arguments against the miracles in the Word.
Today, after decades of testing, thousands of experiments have confirmed the predictions of quantum theory so that it is widely accepted by the scientific community. Yet in my opinion, there is no theory that so fundamentally challenges our intuitive views of reality. ... My hope is that this essay will help people understand the significance that quantum theory has for various worldviews, especially materialism. ...

If nothing else, quantum mechanics teaches us humility with regard to our own knowledge. Our understanding will always be partial, mostly incomplete, and often faulty. ... [S]cience, at its best, will lead us to ask questions that are beyond its reach. ... If we want truths that go beyond the natural, we need to look to for a source beyond the natural. The Bible presents us with a God who is both transcendent and immanent, a God who is both infinitely beyond the created order and intimately involved with it, whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are beyond our understanding. If we want to understand the universe, the wisest thing we can do is first to seek the one who created it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Search, Compare, and Copy New Century Edition Translations

Back in September I wrote a post about the new beta version of HeavenlyDoctrines.org. In that post I mentioned that one of the improvements was that the new version incorporates “Additional translations of some of Swedenborg's theological works.” I just realized recently that that means that you can now search the New Century Edition translations (excluding volume 1 of Secrets of Heaven), easily compare them with other translations, and easily copy and paste from them into papers, emails etc.

Also, remember that you can get New Century Edition Translations for Free Online in .txt or PDF format.

Coleman Glenn on What it Takes to Come to an Honest Belief in God

Theolog Coleman Glenn recently wrote a post on his blog that I really appreciated. The post is titled Being Honest With Myself because a teenage girl in a youth group he was leading said, “I guess I think the idea of a God is comforting, and it would be nice, but honestly, if I’m praying or whatever, do I think there’s actually someone there? No. Not if I’m really being honest with myself.” Here are a few excerpts from Coleman's reflections on this:
I think everyone comes to a point where they realize that “if they were honest with themselves” – that is, if they looked at their heart – they would realize they didn’t believe in God. This doesn’t mean that everyone lets go of their intellectual faith, or their willingness to “stick with” their religion. But the fact is, faith only exists where there’s charity, and we don’t start with charity. We can have enough faith to keep following the path that will lead to real faith, but we come to a point where we realize that our faith is basically just historical. ....

The thing is, though, that until we’re regenerate, there are going to be times in our lives when we feel like if we were honest with ourselves we couldn’t say we believed in the Lord. Even after knowing the Lord, there are times when I don’t feel His presence – when if I was “honest with myself” I wouldn’t see Him. The beauty of it, though, is that the Writings pinpoint these moments with perfect accuracy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scriptural Examples of Praying for Others

In Bryn Athyn College chapel today Rev. Stephen Cole discussed whether praying for other people can actually help them at all.

In his discussion he cited two examples from the Word where people pray for others. The first was from Genesis 20. This is the first time that prayer is mentioned in the Word. In the story Abimelech is told in a dream to give Sarai back to Abram and is told, “[Abram] will pray for you and you shall live” (20:7). Interestingly, Arcana Coelestia 2535 (discussed in the last 2 posts) is an explanation of what this verse means.

The other example of praying for others that he gave was Matthew 19:13-15 in which “little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray....”

Stephen Cole's conclusion was that praying for other people can help them. We cannot make people's choices for them or ever take away their spiritual freedom but, just as parents can certainly affect the natural lives of their children by nurturing or neglecting them, we can also have an effect on people's spiritual lives. Angels and associate spirits affect people's spiritual lives; why can't we through prayer?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Prayer is More Than Just "Speech with God"

At the Sunday Night Thing last night Rev. Grant Odhner pointed out an important detail of Arcana Coelestia 2535 that broadened my understanding of the essential elements of prayer. You may be familiar with the idea from this passage that prayer is speech with God, but take a look at what the passage says.
Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God, AND some internal view at the time of the matters of the prayer, to which there answers something like an influx into the perception or thought of the mind, so that there is a certain opening of the man's interiors toward God; but this with a difference according to the man's state, and according to the essence of the subject of the prayer.
So prayer isn't just speech with God: it's speech with God and an internal view of what you're praying about. Grant explained that we have an internal and external part of us and when we pray we should try to pay attention to the internal view of the things happening in our external lives that the Lord gives us. Isn't that cool?

For more posts on prayer search for pray in the upper left-hand corner (or, if you're lazy, you can just click that link.)

How to Pray

Rev. Mac Frazier gave a great sermon yesterday about how to pray. I particularly appreciated his discussion of what it means to “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and his explanation of what we should pray for. Arcana Coelestia 2535 (which is probably the most often cited passage in the Heavenly Doctrines about prayer) says that if a person
prays from love and faith, and for only heavenly and spiritual things, there then comes forth in the prayer something like a revelation....
People who are familiar with this passage sometimes worry about not praying for “only heavenly and spiritual things” but Mac explained that when we pray about everyday things we are often still praying for spiritual and heavenly things.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Derrick Lumsden's Take on Believing Things That Can't Be Proven by Science

Ben Barnett has a blog called Create Cognitive Dissonance where he writes about the problems he sees with dangerous and destructive religious dogmas. The sad thing, in my opinion, is that he dismisses all religious beliefs as potentially harmful dogmas because they cannot be verified by science.

To his credit, Ben has invited people—particularly religious leaders—to write guest posts on his blog about what they believe. Rev. Derrick Lumsden, assistant pastor for the Westville New Church, has taken him up on it and written a guest post titled, “How Do You Prove What You See Clearly”, in which he argues for the validity and value of believing in things that cannot be verified through the five senses.

I recommend reading the post and the comments following it. Here's part of the post:
I accept my premise “not everything worth knowing can be known by the five senses or evidenced to them” because in my experience there is internal knowledge and internal senses–some way of knowing that comes from within. To have this sense is beyond anything that can be proven by the scientific method or shown conclusively to the senses.
And here's part of Derrick's follow-up comments:
If you are interested in the balance I have between the science, religion, and free thinking I will gladly tell you. Science teaches me about the physical world and religion teaches me about the spirit world. I trust science (as long as I am given the evidence to see it for myself) to tell me all about how this world works. I trust religion to tell me about how my soul works, what feeds it, and what harms it, just as I trust science to tell me the same about my body. And free thinking runs through out....
UPDATE: If this is interesting to you check out the comments on this post for further things to read.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Perspective on the Financial Crisis

As things continue to decline in the markets I'm finding it helpful to think of Arcana Coelestia 8478—particularly this part.
Very different is the case with those who trust in the Divine. These, notwithstanding they have care for the morrow, still have it not, because they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety. Unruffled is their spirit whether they obtain the objects of their desire, or not; and they do not grieve over the loss of them, being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts on riches; if they are raised to honors, they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others; if they become poor, they are not made sad; if their circumstances are mean, they are not dejected. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto.
Though it's not easy to have the sort of perspective described here, it does certainly seem to be the best one to try to have.

"The Word is like a mine..."

The Heavenly Doctrines describe the Word in many different ways. True Christian Religion 245 describes it as a mine and talks about the value of not just staying on the surface but really digging into the Word, looking for truths to live by.
The Word is like a mine containing in its depths gold and silver in great abundance, and like a mine which at greater and greater depths conceals stones more and more precious; these mines are opened in the measure of man's understanding of the Word. The Word such as it is in itself, in its bosom, and in its depth, when not understood, would no more form a church in man than mines in Asia would make a European rich; although it would be otherwise if he were one of the owners and workers of the mine. The Word with those who search in it for truths of faith and goods of life, is like the treasuries of the king of Persia, or of the emperor of the Moguls or of China, and men of the church are like officers placed over them, who are permitted to take for their use as much as they please. But those who merely have possession of the Word and read it, but do not try to get from it genuine truths for their faith or genuine goods for their life, are like those who know by hearsay that there are such great treasures there, but do not receive a penny from them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fascinating Teachings About Affections

The Heavenly Doctrines often speak about affections. Apocalypse Explained 1175:3 explains that they are the societies of spirits we're associated with.
The same is meant by affection as by love. But love is like a fountain and affections are like the streams therefrom, thus affections are continuations of love. Love as a fountain is in the will of man; affections, which are streams from it, flow by continuity into the understanding, and there by means of light from truths produce thoughts....
[T]he societies of heaven are not thoughts but affections, consequently to be led by means of these societies is to be led by means of affections, that is, to be led by means of affections is to be led by means of societies; and for this reason in what now follows the term affections will be used in place of societies.
The next sub-section explains “Why a person is led by the Lord by means of affections and not by means of thoughts....” And the final one explains why a person can be saved “in no other way.”
For if a person knew all things of the Word, and all things of doctrine, even to the arcana of wisdom that the angels possess, and thought and spoke about them, so long as his affections were lusts of evil he could not be brought out of hell by the Lord.
Fascinating stuff. (To read the whole series start at Apocalypse Explained 1173:2.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Second Coming

Rev. Grant Schnarr preached a thought provoking sermon on Sunday in which he explored what the Second Coming is. His main point was that the second coming is happening now:
The second coming is not something that took place once upon a time, as if the Lord came and left. He revealed Himself in the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church, but He never left. He's here now, being revealed in deeper and deeper ways every day, as people accept the Heavenly Doctrines in heart and in life.
Here are some cool passages about the Second Coming that I got from Jason Schnarr:
The Lord's presence is unceasing with every man, both the evil and the good, for without His presence no man lives; but His Coming is only to those who receive Him, who are such as believe on Him and keep His commandments. (True Christian Religion 774)

He will come, not in Person but in the Word, in which He will appear to all who will be of His New Church. (Apocalypse Revealed 944)

The Lord's coming does not consist, as the letter has it, in His appearing once again in the world, but in His presence within everyone. He is present there as often as the gospel is preached and that which is holy is contemplated. (Arcana Coelestia 3900)

Check out the New newchurch.org

The completely redesigned newchurch.org launched today! It looks a lot better and is much easier to get around in than the old site. You might be interested to read some of the personal stories, take a look at how they explain the beliefs, or browse the new Amazon store.

There are some related web sites that have not been launched yet but are in the works, including a new design for the New Church Vineyard site, a bookstore site for members, a new New Church Audio site, new congregational sites, and a new site for people involved with the leadership of the General Church. I'll keep you posted as those get launched.

For now I'm interested in what people think of the new site. Like it, dislike it?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stephen Cole on Using Pott's Concordance vs. Electronic Tools for Studying the Heavenly Doctrines

The latest Fun Fact on NewChurchHistory.org is about The Swedenborg Concordance. The most interesting part of the article is where Rev. Stephen Cole explains why the Concordance continues to be a valuable resource, despite electronic tools such as HeavenlyDoctrines.org.
The most obvious [reason]... is that Potts provides us with a keen human intellect, sorting and sifting the references from the Heavenly Doctrine, selecting those which may be most interesting or germane.

I was speaking with a student the other day who was bewildered by the more than 2000 references she got when she queried “soul” in NewSearch. “Look instead at the Concordance,” I told her, “and you will find not only that Potts has winnowed down the choices, but he has also indicated what he considers the more significant passages by quoting larger selections from them.”

Another, but perhaps less obvious advantage of turning to Potts is that the Concordance is actually an index of the Heavenly Doctrine in the original Latin, but translated into English. The importance of this can be illustrated by the experience of a colleague of mine, who was trying to understand what distinction was being made in the Heavenly Doctrine between “breathing” and “respiration,” until he discovered that all the passages he was looking at had the same Latin word: “respiratio.” All these passages are found in the same article in Potts. But there are, in fact, other Latin words for breath.... Each of these gets its own separate article in Potts, as opposed to what happens in NewSearch, which will indiscriminately include many of the passages in these different articles in the same search results.

The electronic search tools are quick and powerful for many purposes, but when one is seeking a careful and thoughtful selection of passages, the Potts Concordance remains unsurpassed.

Web Site Dedicated to New Church History

If you haven't yet you should check out NewChurchHistory.org. The purpose of the site is to provide
an electronic medium for articles and projects related to the life and times of Emanuel Swedenborg, the influence of his theological works worldwide, and the history of the New Church from the 18th century to the present day.
The site has an archive of cool historical photos, articles about various aspects of the history of the New Church (including ones by Bryn Athyn College history majors, like this one). But the main reason to go to the site is for the Fun Facts. You can get these emailed to you as they're added every couple of weeks or subscribe to an rss feed. See my next post for an example of a Fun Fact.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Does the Lord Speak to Us?

Does the Lord speak to us? Does He only speak to certain people? Does He speak to different people in different ways? This passage provides answers to these questions that are satisfying in how they fit in with other New Church teachings.
The Lord speaks with every person, for whatever a person wills and thinks that is good and true, is from the Lord. There are with every person at least two evil spirits and two angels. The evil spirits excite his evils, and the angels inspire things that are good and true. Every good and true thing inspired by the angels is of the Lord; thus the Lord is continually speaking with a person, but quite differently with one person than with another. With those who suffer themselves to be led away by evil spirits, the Lord speaks as if absent, or from afar, so that it can scarcely be said that He is speaking; but with those who are being led by the Lord, He speaks as more nearly present; which may be sufficiently evident from the fact that no one can ever think anything good and true except from the Lord. ....

The presence of the Lord is first possible with a person when he loves the neighbor. The Lord is in love; and so far as a person is in love, so far the Lord is present; and so far as the Lord is present, so far He speaks with the person. (Arcana Coelestia 904:1, 3)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Beautiful, Clear Teaching About Life After Death

When the body is no longer able to perform its functions in the natural world corresponding to the thoughts and affections of his spirit which he has from the spiritual world, then a person is said to die. This takes place when the respiration of the lungs and the beatings of the heart cease. But yet the person does not die; he is merely separated from the corporeal part that was of use to him in the world, for the person himself lives: It is said that the person himself lives, since a person is not a person because of his body but because of his spirit, for it is the spirit in a person that thinks, and thought with affection makes a person. Hence it is clear that the person, when he dies, merely passes from one world into another. And this is why in the Word in its internal sense “death” signifies resurrection and continuation of life. (Heaven and Hell 445)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is anyone out there?

Until today I hadn't updated this blog since June. I'm thinking of getting back into updating it regularly now that the school year is starting up again. I am wondering, however, if anyone would be reading it. If I knew that there were at least a couple of people reading it that would help motivate me to keep updating it so if you're interested in New Church Thought continuing please leave a comment on this post.


New Beta Version of heavenlydoctrines.org

For the last month or so the many people who rely on heavenlydoctrines.org to search the Heavenly Doctrines have been frustrated to find an error message rather than the site they were looking for. Now if you go to heavenlydoctrines.org you find a message that says,
This is version 4.0 Beta. We are still developing the features and the look of the site, but we wanted to give our users access as soon as possible. We realize that the interface and document presentation need work.

We have included some new documents which are:
  • Additional translations of some of Swedenborg's theological works.
  • New Church Life – A monthly journal published by the General Church of the New Jerusalem since 1881.
  • "Books and Monographs" - A collection of works by New church authors.
Try out the new beta version.

Great Article About Why Sexual Fantasy is Harmful

Caring For Marriage puts out a newsletter with articles, stories, and thoughts about marriage. For one of them Rev. John Odhner wrote a great article about why sexual fantasy is harmful. He writes,
Acting out sexually can have huge consequences—disease, pregnancy, divorce, emotional trauma, financial loss, ruined reputation or jail. Fear of these things keep many people from actually doing things they fantasize about, but frequently people assume that fantasy itself may be harmless, and even be helpful. .... The Lord's message is contrary to this. He asks us to look at where our thoughts are going: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27). .... The flood of evil in Noah’s time was not that much different from today—it was in people’s fantasies: “The imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was evil every day” (Genesis 6:5). ....
Another reason why fantasies are so harmful is that they are so pleasurable. Yes, they can spice up you sex life, but so can crack. The problem is that we easily become dependent on fantasies to create sexual excitement, but we become more tolerant, so we need newer, more daring and forbidden fantasies to maintain the same level of excitement. .... The bottom line is that fantasy is focused on getting pleasure for oneself, while true love is feeling the joy of another as joy in oneself, so that each wants to think and intend as the other does.
Many people believe that chastity is simply abstinence from adultery physically, even though this is not chastity unless it is also at the same time abstinence in spirit. For a person's spirit—meaning here his mind in its affections and thoughts—is what makes him chaste or unchaste. (Conjugial Love 153).

New Website for Bryn Athyn College of the New Church

On Monday Bryn Athyn College of the New Church launched its new website. In their news article about the new site they say,

The launch of our new website marks more than just a new layout; it demonstrates the College's emphasis on student perspectives by allowing current students to speak directly to potential students about the Bryn Athyn experience.

There are lots of videos throughout the site. Two of my favorites are the one on this page the one on this page.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Each Person Believes in His Own Way

It can seem like everyone in the New Church should believe the same things in the same way, but we know from experience that that's not the case. Even if two people both believe something that doesn't mean that they'll explain that belief in the same way or that that belief will have the same significance to both of them. I was excited to find a quote that speaks of people believing and perceiving things in their own ways.
That the Lord as to the human was made new, that is, glorified (or what is the same, was made Divine), no one can possibly conceive (thus neither believe) who is in worldly and corporeal loves; for he is altogether ignorant what the spiritual and celestial is, nor indeed is he willing to know. But he who is not in worldly and corporeal loves, is capable of perceiving this, for he believes that the Lord is one with the Father, and that from Him proceeds all that is holy; consequently that He is Divine even as to the Human; and whoever believes, perceives in his own way. (Arcana Coelestia 3212:2)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Student Article About Prayer

Bryn Athyn College student Annika Fitzpatrick had a paper she wrote for a college class published in the April issue of New Church Life. Her article titled, “Prayer: Our Connection to the Spiritual World,” discusses various aspects of prayer and explains how prayer works in terms of our spiritual associations.
Regular, sincere prayer, whether spontaneous or from the Word, is essential to spiritual life, and there are no excuses for repetition due to laziness or bad planning. Imagine telling the King of Heaven that you don’t have time for Him today! Instead, we must invest ritual prayers with meaning for our lives. ....

Prayer is not just about asking. If prayer is speech with God, it should not be one long wish list, or a recitation of the things in our life that we want the Lord to change for us. Speech involves thinking, thanking, praising, laughing as well as scolding, yelling and crying. The purpose of prayer is to yank us out of our self-absorption. It calls to mind the fact that life is not just about what we want for ourselves, it is about what we can give to others by following God’s voice. ....

God, and the associate spirits He sends to guide our spiritual footsteps toward heaven, are as close as they can be, but it takes prayer to conjoin us to God and heaven, which will change our spheres such that we can feel their influence. We need to be reminded not to pray, but that we are already praying. Our lives are our prayers, and we must continually strive to use our lives to forge an ongoing connection with heaven.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Did the Lord Give Us Commandments? He Loves Us

In a previous post I quoted a passage that talks about how loving the Lord doesn't mean just feeling love towards the Lord but must also involve following His commandments. The passage below makes the further point that the reason that the Lord gave us commandments is because He loves us.
He who believes that he loves the Lord, and does not live according to His commandments, is very much mistaken, for to live according to the Lord's commandments is to love Him. These commandments are truths which are from the Lord, thus in which the Lord is; and therefore insofar as they are loved, that is, insofar as men live according to them from love, so far the Lord is loved. The reason is that the Lord loves man, and from love wills that he may be happy forever, and man cannot become happy except by a life according to His commandments, because by means of these a man is regenerated and becomes spiritual, and in this way can be raised into heaven.

But to love the Lord without a life according to His commandments is not to love Him, for then there is not anything with the man into which the Lord may flow and raise him to Himself; because he is like an empty vessel; there being nothing of life in his faith, and nothing of life in his love. The life of heaven, which is called eternal life, is not poured into anyone immediately, but mediately.

From all this it can be seen what it is to love the Lord, and also what it is to see the Lord, or His faces, namely, that He is seen from such faith and love. (Arcana Coelestia 10578:3)

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Good Discussion of the Lord's Resurrection Body

From early on in the New Church people have been arguing about the nature of the Lord's resurrection body. I recently really enjoyed reading a series of articles from 1982 New Church Life (compiled by Rev. Grant Odhner) in which Rev. Bruce Rogers and Rev. Erik Sandström, Sr. debate the issue—particularly because at the end they articulate what the essential apparent paradox is and what they agree on.
Sandström: We are concerned with an apparent paradox. But it is not uncommon for the Writings to speak in apparent paradoxes when presenting the most profound doctrines. Indeed, I submit, they can do no otherwise, for a merely natural logic stops short at the door of the Infinite and of the Divine processes that proceed from it. ....

[O]ur immediate concern is with the apparent paradox of the Lord glorifying that which He expelled, or rising with that which He cast off. In its most succinct form we have it in Arcana Coelestia 2159: “Until He had put it off and made it Divine the human that was with the Lord was nothing but a servant.”


Rogers: I believe Mr. Sandström and I have more points of agreement than disagreement. .... We do have in common the wish to emphasize the need to think of the Lord as a Person, and the necessity of thinking of that Person from the Divine essence, not the reverse. And this, after all, is the important point. I would not want our differences over the process to obscure our agreement on the result, especially when the result, the vision of God made manifest in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the centerpiece of the revelation to the New Church.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Just Reading the Word is Not Enough

There are lots of teachings in the Heavenly Doctrines about the importance of reading the Word, such as the teaching that
By the sense of the Letter of the Word there is conjunction with the Lord, and association with the angels. (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 62)
When reading these teachings it's good to keep in mind that how people understand the Word (i.e. their doctrine) and live according to it is what really matters.
I spoke with those who placed the only means of salvation in reading the Word. .... But I told them, that this does not save, but that they must live according to the Word, and that nobody can live according to the Word except he be in the doctrine of truth from it; otherwise, they do not know how they are to live, for, from the sense of the letter of the Word, they are able to defend everything that belongs to their life, be it what it may, and this to protect falsities. ....

[T]hey knew that every single thing of the Word has conjunction with heaven. But it was replied that they have that conjunction with the man who reads it, and such a conjunction as is his quality from the Word, as they may know from the fact that the Word upon a table has no conjunction; consequently, not with one who reads it, any otherwise than according to its quality in his understanding, and affection of life from it. (Spiritual Experiences 5961)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Zeal, Temptation, Idolatry, and a Gentle Reminder

Rev. Scott Frazier gave a great sermon about the story of Jehu from 2 Kings 9-10. He showed how the bloody story of Jehu's zeal in exterminating the family of Ahab and the worship of Baal can help us understand how to deal with the idols in our lives of pride and anxiety and how Jehu's later failure to end the worship of golden calves can be a gentle reminder to us from the Lord that we should not make the good feeling that comes after a temptation a goal in itself.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dealing With Different Points of View

In the Heavenly Doctrines there is the incredible teaching that if people are in charity it's not a problem if they see things differently. In addition to making this point Arcana Coelestia 1834:2 also mentions certain things that people's ideas should not go against. It's useful to have passages like this to refer to when trying to decide when to pursue a disagreement further and when to let it go.
When a church is raised up by the Lord, it is in the beginning blameless, and the one then loves the other as his brother, as is known from the case of the primitive church after the Lord's coming. All the church's children then lived together as brethren, and likewise called one another brethren, and loved one another; but in process of time charity grew cold and vanished away and as it vanished, evils succeeded, and together with these falsities insinuated themselves. Hence came schisms and heresies, which would never be the case if charity were regnant and alive, for then they would not even call schism schism, nor heresy heresy, but a doctrinal matter in accordance with each person's opinion; and this they would leave to each person's conscience, provided such doctrinal matter did not deny first principles, that is, the Lord, eternal life, and the Word; and provided it was not contrary to the Divine order, that is, to the precepts of the Decalogue.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Importance of Reflection

At the Sunday Night Thing vespers service on Sunday Rev. Mauro DePadua talked about some cool passages about the importance of reflection.
[T]o reflect is to concentrate the intellectual sight, and to observe whether a thing is so, and then that it is so. (Arcana Coelestia 5684)

When reflection is absent not [anything] comes into the memory. (Spiritual Experiences 2593)

The doctrine of reflection is a complete doctrine, and without it no one can know what interior life is, nor even what the life of the body is. Indeed, without reflection from a cognition of truths no one is reformed. Therefore written truths are delivered by the Lord to those on this earth because they live in a perverse state, so that therefrom, as from a fountain, men may draw the cognitions of truths by which they can reflect upon themselves; or more truly, from the cognitions inscribed on man's memory, the Lord causes him to reflect upon his falsities and like things. (Spiritual Experiences 739)

[C]ontinual reflection... is not innate with man, but that it is imbued by habit from infancy, so that at length it becomes as if natural. (Spiritual Experiences 4226)

What It Means to Shun Evils "As Sins"

Throughout the Heavenly Doctrines we are told to shun evils as sins. I've wondered for a while what exactly it means to shun evils “as sins” and so I was excited to find a passage that explains it.
Everyone is able to live according to the 10 commandments; and he who is wise does so live as a civil man, as a moral man, and as a natural man. And yet he who does not live according to them as a spiritual man cannot he saved; since to live according to them as a spiritual man means to so live for the sake of the Divine that is in them, while to live according to them as a civil man means for the sake of justice and to escape punishments in the world; and to live according to them as a moral man means for the sake of honesty, and to escape the loss of reputation and honor; while to live according to them as a natural man means for the sake of what is human, and to escape the repute of having an unsound mind. All laws, civil, moral, and natural, prescribe that one must not steal, must not commit adultery, must not kill, must not bear false witness; and yet a man is not saved by shunning these evils from these laws alone, unless he also shuns them from spiritual law, thus unless he shuns them as sins. (Apocalypse Explained 948:4)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What We Need to Know About the Lord's Coming

I'm currently learning a lot in a fascinating theological school class about what the Lord did while He was in the world but even though we read a lot in the Heavenly Doctrines and read papers by people who have studied various topics extensively and also spend a long time discussing things we still regularly run into things that are beyond our ability to understand. As a result I find it helpful to keep passages like Arcana Coelestia 1676:2-3 in mind.
He to whom it has not been given to know heavenly arcana, may suppose that there was no need of the Lord's coming into the world to fight against the hells, and by means of temptations admitted into Himself to vanquish and conquer them, when they might have been subjugated at any time by the Divine Omnipotence, and shut up in their hells; but that still the fact is really so, is a certain truth. To unfold the arcana themselves merely as to the most general things would fill a whole work; and it would also give occasion for reasonings about such Divine mysteries as human minds would not comprehend, however fully they might be unfolded; and most people would not desire to comprehend them.

Therefore it is sufficient for men to know, and, because it is so, to believe, that it is an eternal truth that unless the Lord had come into the world and subjugated and conquered the hells by means of temptations admitted into Himself, the human race would have perished; and that otherwise those who have been on this earth even from the time of the Most Ancient Church could not possibly have been saved.

The Sense of Touch

Two passages used to support the idea that couples should not kiss or hold hands before marriage are Conjugial Love 210 (“the special sense of conjugial love is the sense of touch,”) and Arcana Coelestia 3573 (kissing means “a uniting and joining together resulting from affection”). Theolog Coleman Glenn provides good perspective on this.
Conjugial Love 210 in context is just saying that touch is specifically connected to marriage, not that it is only appropriate for marriage. And Arcana Coelestia 3573 is actually about a son kissing his father. In our culture, it's true that kissing is almost always a romantic thing, and I think most of the kissing that takes place between boyfriends and girlfriends SHOULD be saved for later - but I like cultures where kissing is just a show of ANY kind of affection, even between people of the same sex.

My thoughts on touch before marriage mostly comes from general teachings and my experience rather than particular passages. Basically, it seems to me that a lot of physical affection before marriage takes away some amount of freedom, because it links a couple in a special, exclusive way, which makes it harder for either of them to look around at other people.

In addition to this, though, I think a lot of physical touch makes a person (and maybe this particularly applies to men?) unable to see the relationship as clearly, since it can bring his/her mind down to a lower level. I can think of a passage to support this one: Conjugial Love 305:2.

That number is specifically talking about betrothed people, and I'm fairly sure “physical conjunction” refers to sex, but the principle is the same: things that come from a natural, physcial desire get in the way of a proper progression of conjugial love.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How Much Do We Need to Understand to Believe?

In theological school today we had a good discussion of how much we need to understand something before we can believe it. Arcana Coelestia 1072 says that
[Spirits] who are in the faith of charity do not reason about the truths of faith, but say that the thing is so, and also as far as possible confirm it by... sense and memory, and analysis of reason; but as soon as anything obscure comes... which they do not perceive, they defer it, and never suffer such a thing to bring them into doubt, saying that there are but very few things they can apprehend, and therefore to think that anything is not true because they do not apprehend it, would be madness.
Doctrine of Faith 2, on the other hand, says,
Faith itself is an acknowledgment that a thing is so, because it is true. For he who is in real faith thinks and speaks to this effect: “This is true, and therefore I believe it.” .... Moreover, if he does not comprehend a thing to be true, he says: “I do not know whether this is true or not; and therefore I do not yet believe it. How can I believe what I do not comprehend? It may possibly be false.”
Doctrine of Faith 3 helped us understand that what's necessary to believe something is not so much a complete understanding of it but a sight that it is true.
Spiritual truths... are as capable of being comprehended as natural truths; and although the comprehension of them may not be clear, still when they are heard they fall so far within the perception of the hearer that he can discern whether they are truths or not; and this is especially the case with those who are affected by truths.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Need to Start With General Truths

In the New Church we can often get focussed on trying to figure out the details of the internal sense of the Word. I recently ran across Arcana Coelestia 865:1-2 which explains that before we're regenerate we need to understand and apply the general truths from the literal sense first before we can have any chance of understanding the finer details.
[The spiritual man] can know nothing of the truth of faith except from what is revealed in the Word, where all things are stated in a general way[.] [G]enerals are but as the spots of a cloud, for every general comprehends in it thousands and thousands of particulars, and each particular thousands and thousands of singulars, all generals being illustrated by the singulars of the particulars. These have never been so revealed to man, because they are both indescribable and inconceivable, and so can neither be acknowledged nor believed in; for they are contrary to the fallacies of the senses in which man is, and which he does not easily permit to be destroyed. ...

For example: that true marriage is that of one man with one wife.... The spiritual man, who knows this from the Word of the Lord, acquiesces in it, and hence admits as a matter of conscience that marriage with more wives than one is a sin; but he knows no more. The celestial man however perceives thousands of things which confirm this general, so that marriage with more wives than one excites his abhorrence.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Lord's Faith While He Was in the World

Have you ever read about the Lord's faith while He was in the world? I hadn't until I read Arcana Coelestia 1812:1-2 which describes the Lord's faith and explains why the Lord could have confidence that He would conquer in all the temptations He went through; it wasn't just because He knew that He is omnipotent. The passage ends with a beautiful description of the Lord's incredible love for us.
[W]hile He lived in the world the Lord was in continual combats of temptations, and in continual victories, from a constant inmost confidence and faith that because He was fighting for the salvation of the whole human race from pure love, He could not but conquer.... From the love from which anyone fights it is known what his faith is. He who fights from any other love than love toward the neighbor and toward the Lord's kingdom, does not fight from faith, that is, does not “believe in Jehovah,” but in that which he loves, for the love itself for which he fights is his faith. For example: he who fights from the love of becoming the greatest in heaven, does not believe in Jehovah, but rather in himself; for to desire to become the greatest is to desire to command others; thus he fights for command; and so in all other cases. ...

But in all His combats of temptations the Lord never fought from the love of self, or for Himself, but for all in the universe, consequently, not that He might become the greatest in heaven, for this is contrary to the Divine Love, and scarcely even that He might be the least; but only that all others might become something, and be saved.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Swedenborg Explains Why He Didn't Publish One of the Books He Said He Would

At different points in his life Swedenborg made lists of books that he was going to write. However, he didn't end up writing all the books that he said he was going to. People have come up with ways of explaining this. I recently ran across an instance where Swedenborg himself explains why he didn't write a certain book.

In the preface to Doctrine of the Lord (published in 1763) Swedenborg lists the theological books he has published so far and then says, “Now, by command of the Lord, who has been revealed to me, the following are to be published...” and in the list that follows he includes “Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Infinity, and Eternity” and “Angelic Wisdom concerning Life.” Neither of these books was published. In a letter to Beyer in 1767 Swedenborg explained why he didn't write the book about omnipotence.
Concerning the promised transaction on the Infinite, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. Answer: These subjects have been interspersed in Angelic Wisdom Concerning the Divine Providence 46-54, 157; and in Angelic Wisdom Concerning the Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 1-7, 19, 21, 44, 69, 72, 76, 106, 156, 318; and in the Apocalypse Revealed 691; and there will be still more concerning them in the Arcana of Angelic Wisdom Concerning Conjugial Love; for to write separately concerning the Divine attributes would be to raise the thoughts too high without the assistance of anything to support them. For this reason the subjects have been dealt with in series together with other things that fall within the understanding.

Interesting Statement About Love of Self

On the board outside Rev. Stephen Cole's office I saw this interesting short statement about love of self from Divine Providence 277.
Does anyone have a feeling that it is wrong to love oneself more than others? Who, then, knows that it is evil? and yet it is the head of all evils.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

There's an Internal Meaning to the Easter Story

I never understood until this year that all the things that people do in the Easter story have an internal meaning as well as all the things that people say. I knew, for example, that there is an internal meaning to the things the Lord said to His disciples at the Last Supper, and I knew lots about what the Lord was doing internally at various points in the Easter story—undergoing grievous temptations, glorifying His Human etc.—but I always read the details of the story (like the Lord eating supper with His disciples, and Peter cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest, and Pilate washing his hands) as just details of a literal story.

In college chapel today Rev. Ray Silverman read Arcana Coelestia 2405:7 which talks about how the Easter story can happen in each person's life.
As... the “morning” signifies the Lord, His advent, and thus the approach of His kingdom, it is evident what it signifies besides, namely, the rise of a new church (for this is the Lord's kingdom on earth), and this both... when any church on the globe is being raised up anew; [and] when a man is being regenerated, and being made new.... Hence the Lord's resurrection on the third day in the morning involves all these things (even in the particular and the least particular) in regard to His rising again in the minds of the regenerate every day, and even every moment.
I would love to read more about the internal meaning of the Easter story so if you know of a good passage that talks about some detail of the story please leave a comment on this post.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A New Church Take On Ghosts

Three Bryn Athyn College students recently made a short documentary about ghost stories called “Confessions of the Unknown” for their English class. They included in it interviews with Rev. Scott Frazier and Rev. Andy Dibb to provide a New Church perspective on ghosts. (You can buy the documentary at the new cafe in the Swedenborg Library.)

In the February issue of B.A.C.O.N. Bits, Bryn Athyn College's student newspaper, Rev. Don Rose provides a few more thoughts and passages on the topic; he writes,
A passage in Divine Providence mentions someone hearing “a few words.” The passage says that those who are permitted to say these words “never say anything that takes away the freedom of the reason” (Divine Providence 135). Another passage speaks of exceptional cases when people receive a kind of response in their thought, but these are “rarely by clear speech” (Divine Providence 321:3). A passage in Heaven and Hell speaks of rare instances of speech from spirits. “Some who lead a solitary life sometimes hear spirits talking with them” (Heaven and Hell 249). ...

There are spirits who are able to convince us that we have seen something. “For example, if the object be in a dark place, these spirits keep the mind of the beholder fixedly and continually in the thought of some one thing, be it an animal, a monster, a forest, or any other things; and so long as the mind is held in this thought, the fantasy is increased, and it grows to such a degree that the person is persuaded, and sees just as if the things themselves were there, whereas they are nothing but illusions” (Arcana Coelestia 1967).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can We Understand Spiritual Truths?

How well can we understand spiritual truths while we're on earth? When we try to understand one of the more complicated descriptions in the Heavenly Doctrines of how things work it becomes clear that there is a lot more going on then we are able to grasp and it can seem like spiritual truths are beyond us. However, in De Verbo 3:4 it says that Swedenborg was told that
there are not any Divine mysteries that cannot be perceived and expressed naturally also, even though more generally and less perfectly....
Doctrine of Faith 3 expresses a similar idea and assures us that we can understand spiritual truths and that, though they may not be clear, we can come to be able to tell whether a given idea is true or not. It also explains how it is possible for us to understand spiritual truths.
[It] is commonly said no one can comprehend spiritual, that is, theological matters because they are supernatural. Spiritual truths, however, are as capable of being comprehended as natural truths; and although the comprehension of them may not be clear, still when they are heard they fall so far within the perception of the hearer that he can discern whether they are truths or not; and this is especially the case with those who are affected by truths....

The reason that spiritual things can be comprehended is, because man as to his understanding is capable of being elevated into the light of heaven, in which light appear none but spiritual things which are truths of faith: for the light of heaven is spiritual light.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Purposes of Truth

We talk a lot about truth in the New Church. It's good to have a reminder, though, of what the point of truth is. Apocalypse Revealed 161:2 provides an interesting list of things that are done by means of truth. (It also lists Arcana Coelestia references where you can read more about each of them.)
[1] by truths comes faith....
[2] by truths comes love towards the neighbor, or charity....
[3] by truths comes love to the Lord....
[4] by truths come intelligence and wisdom....
[5] by truths regeneration is effected....
[6] by truths there is power against evils and falsities, and against hell....
[7] by truths there is purification from evils and falsities....
[8] by truths the church exists....
[9] by truths heaven exists....
[10] by truths comes the innocence of wisdom....
[11] by truths there is conscience....
[12] by truths there is order....
[13] by truths is the beauty of angels, and also of men as to the interiors which are of their spirit....
[14] by truths man is man....
But all this by truths from good, and not by truths without good, and good is from the Lord....
New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 24 has a similar list and also some other general statements about truth. It can be useful, when thinking about a specific truth, to consider how it might serve some of the purposes mentioned in these passages.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Swedenborg Sees One of His Books in the Spiritual World

A number of times in the Heavenly Doctrines Swedenborg describes seeing books written by him in the spiritual world. (If you're interested in finding out if he ever mentions seeing a specific book I recommend looking up that book in Pott's Concordance.) I just ran across a story where he mentions seeing Arcana Coelestia.
[A]s I withdrew I saw under a green olive tree around which a vine had entwined itself, a cedar table on which there was a book. I looked and lo, it was a book written by me, entitled Arcana Coelestia and I said that it was fully shown in that book that man is not life but an organ receptive of life; also that life cannot be created and when so created be in man, any more than light in the eye. (True Christian Religion 461:8)
Interestingly, in another place he tells a similar story, but in that story he sees a different book on the cedar table.
[W]hen I departed, I saw a cedar table, upon which was a book, under a green olive-tree, the trunk of which was entwined with a vine. I looked, and behold, it was a book written by me, called The Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, and also concerning The Divine Providence; and I said that it was fully shown in that book, that man is an organ recipient of life, and not life. (Apocalypse Revealed 875:15)

Monday, March 3, 2008

People Are Not Always to Blame for the Evil They Choose to Do

Rev. Peter Buss gave a great sermon about how people are not always to blame for the evil they do - even evil they have chosen to do. One of the main passages he referred to was Arcana Coelestia 4171. Here's an excerpt; read the whole thing.
Evils with man have many origins. The first origin is from inheritance by continual derivations from grandparents and great-grandparents into the father, and from the father, in whom the evils are thus accumulated, to one's self. The second origin is from what is actual, that is, what a man acquires to himself by a life of evil. This evil he in part receives by inheritance, as from an ocean of evils, and carries into act; and in part adds thereto many things of himself. From this comes the own which man acquires for himself. But this actual evil, which man makes his own, has also various origins - in general two: one, that he receives evil from others through no fault of his own; and the other, that he receives it of his own accord, thus through his own fault. That which a man receives from others without any fault of his own, is what is signified in the Word by “what is torn”....

Friday, February 29, 2008

There is Acknowledgment of the Lord in a Good Life

We know that it is important to acknowledge a God - specifically the Lord Jesus Christ; but how do we do this? What does it mean to acknowledge the Lord? Arcana Coelestia 3263:2 provides an interesting perspective on these questions that really broadened my understanding of what acknowledging the Lord means.
[T]here are many among the Gentiles who from rational light know that there is one God; that He has created all things and preserves all things; and also that from Him is all good, consequently all truth; and that likeness to Him makes man blessed; and moreover they live according to their religion, in love to that God and in love toward the neighbor; and from the affection of good they do works of charity, and from the affection of truth they worship the Supreme Being. The Gentiles who are of this character are they who belong to the Lord's spiritual church; and although while in this world they do not know the Lord, yet within themselves they have the worship and tacit acknowledgment of Him when they are in good, for in all good the Lord is present; and therefore in the other life they easily acknowledge Him, and receive the truths of faith in Him more readily than Christians do who are not in good in this way....

Faith Alone Can Be Mild

Arcana Coelestia 8311 makes a distinction between falsities with people in evil and people in good and says some surprising things about how mild falsities can be with people who are in good.
[With people who are in good] falsities do not condemn, unless they are such falsities as are opposed to good, and destroy the very life of good. But the falsities which are not opposed to good are indeed in themselves falsities, but relatively to the good of life, to which they are not opposed, they almost put off the quality of falsity, which is done through application to good. For such falsities can be applied to good, and they can be applied to evil. If they are applied to good, they become mild; but if to evil, they become hard; for falsities can be applied to good equally as truths can be applied to evil, for all truths whatever are falsified through applications to evil.

Take as an example that faith alone saves. In itself this is a falsity, especially with the evil, who thus shut out the good of charity as contributing nothing at all to salvation. But this falsity becomes mild with those who are in the good of life, for they apply it to good, saying that faith alone saves, but that it is not faith except together with its fruit, consequently except where good is.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Seeing the Lord

A key teaching of the New Church is that we are to worship a visible God (True Christian Religion 787. But what does this mean? In “Seeing the Lord,” a 1990 article in New Church Life, Rev. Brian Keith explores this and other questions in a systematic and interesting way. He also talks about a number of teachings that I had never heard before.
How do we see the Lord? From Scripture and artistic renderings we all have those vital sensual images upon which our thinking must rest. But is that all? How is the Lord visible to us? How will the Lord be visible to us in the next life? ...

In recent years there has been an emphasis on forming a clearer picture of the Lord in the New Testament as the visible God. In a culture that places increasing importance upon personalities this is necessary, especially for those who have perhaps neglected all but the birth and crucifixion stories. As we acquire a greater understanding of the New Testament, it can better be infilled with the truths about the Lord now revealed so that our sight of Him as the Divine Man will be enhanced.

Another valuable way to see a visible God is through the various representations that He elsewhere utilizes. How did the Lord manifest Himself to previous churches? How does the Lord show Himself to people on other planets? And most importantly, how does He now appear in the other world? (Will we “see Him face to face”?) Examining these manifestations should expand our understanding of the Lord and increase His visibility for us.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Church Perspective on Praying for Other People

In the February newsletter of the Westville New Church Rev. Erik Buss gave a perspective on praying for other people that I'd never heard before.
When people are in trouble they will sometimes ask us to pray for them, and I know that many New Church people have wondered whether they should or if it will do any good. After all, we know that the Lord is looking after everyone with as much care as possible, and it can seem presumptuous that our request would make any difference to the care that the Lord would otherwise be giving. ...

[T]he Lord tells us to [pray for others]: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44). If we are to pray for those who have treated us badly, we should certainly pray for those who have done us no harm!

In its deeper meaning this passage means that we should wish good to everyone, even enemies, and praying for people means that we should “intercede” for them, meaning that we should seek to stand between them and the harm that is coming to them (Apocalypse Explained 644:23).

Another teaching makes the case very strongly in the negative: “There are those who think that heaven is to be merited or earned by supplications, yet they pray not for others, still less for everyone, but only for themselves, and thus their prayers are not heard, except, perhaps, in regard to earthly things” (Spiritual Experiences 1850). ...

When we say the Lord’s prayer, we begin with a very important word: “Our” Father, not “My” Father. And throughout the prayer we ask for things for everyone else in the room....

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good Definition of Use

In Conjugial Love 183:3-4 angels discuss the importance of use (or, “application to useful purpose,” as it is translated here) and provide a good definition of it.
[L]ove and wisdom without application to useful purpose are only abstract and theoretical ideas, which, even after being entertained for a time in the mind, eventually pass away like the winds. But love and wisdom are brought together in application to useful purpose... and in this they become a single entity which is called actual. Love cannot rest unless it acts, for love is the active force in life; nor can wisdom exist and endure unless it does so from love and together with love whenever love acts, and to act is application to useful purpose. Therefore we define application to useful purpose as the doing of good from love through wisdom. Application to useful purpose is what good is.

Love without wisdom - what is it but a kind of foolish infatuation? And love accompanied by wisdom, but without application to a useful end - what is it but an airy affectation of the mind? On the other hand, love and wisdom together with application to a useful end - these not only make a person what he is, but they also are the person.

Angels Pay Attention to Motive

[Angels] never pay any attention to what a man does with his body, but they are concerned with the will from which the body acts. This they call the man himself, and the understanding they call the man so far as it acts as one with the will. (Heaven and Hell 61)

Evil Spirits Were Needed in Heaven For a While

Before the Lord came into the world evil spirits were in parts of heaven. This was not a good thing, but Arcana Coelestia 8054 tells us that before they were cast out (Rev 12:7-9) the Lord used them for an important use.
[B]efore the coming of the Lord the region of heaven into which they who were of the spiritual church would come, was occupied by evils and falsities....

The region where the spiritual heaven was to be, was occupied by those who were in falsity and evil, but who could be kept in some truth and good by external means, especially by means of ideas of eminence and dignity, just as is the case in the world, where they who are in evil and falsity are nevertheless obliged to as it were think and speak truths, and as it were will and do goods, by external means, which are honors and gains. The reason why this region of heaven was then occupied by such spirits, was that good ones were lacking, and they who were of the spiritual church had not as yet been prepared, and yet every place had to be filled by spirits, in order that there might be continuity from the Lord down to man, for without continuity man would have perished. At this day also there are some regions of heaven occupied by such; but they who are there are withheld by a strong force from the doing of evils.

[At] the end of the church the evil are cast down, and the regions they had occupied are given to the good, who in the meantime have been prepared for heaven.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Loving the Lord

What does it mean to love the Lord? It doesn't mean just feeling love towards the Lord. In John 14:15 the Lord says,
If you love Me, keep my commandments.
Arcana Coelestia 10645:2, 4 explains in an interesting way why loving the Lord has to involve keeping His commandments.
[S]omething must here be said in regard to the worship of the Lord from faith and from love. Many suppose that they worship the Lord by faith when they believe the things of the doctrine of the church, and that they worship the Lord by love when they love Him. Yet the Lord is not worshiped by merely believing, and by merely loving, but by living according to His commandments, because these persons alone believe in the Lord and love Him. The others say that they believe in Him, and yet they do not believe; and they say that they love Him, and yet they do not love Him. The reason why those alone believe in the Lord and love Him who live according to His commandments is that the Lord is not in the understanding of truth without the willing of it; but is in the understanding of truth together with the willing of it. For truth does not enter into a man and become his, until the man wills it and from willing does it, because the will is the man himself, whereas the understanding is only so far the man as it partakes of the will. ...

[T]o believe in the Lord is to imbue one's understanding with the truths of faith; and... to love the Lord is to imbue one's will with the goods of love; and... this cannot be done except by learning truths from the Lord, by willing them, and by doing them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Understanding the Coming of the Lord

There are some beautiful teachings in the Heavenly Doctrines about the coming of the Lord. Here are two examples—one about His first coming and one about His second coming. Both passages indicate that the Lord did not just come twice to all people in a general way: He also comes to each individual person, over and over again throughout his or her life.
The Lord is present with every man, urging and pressing to be received; and His first coming, which is called the dawn, is when man receives Him, which he does when he acknowledges Him as his God, Creator, Redeemer, and Savior. From this time man's understanding begins to be enlightened in spiritual things, and to advance into a more and more interior wisdom; and as he receives this wisdom from the Lord, he advances through morning into day, and this day lasts with him into old age, even to death; and after death he passes into heaven to the Lord Himself; and there, although he died an old man, he is restored to the morning of his life, and the rudiments of the wisdom implanted in him in the natural world grow to eternity. (True Christian Religion 766)

The coming of the Lord is not according to the letter, that He is to appear again in the world; but it is His presence in everyone; and this exists whenever the gospel is preached and what is holy is thought of. (Arcana Coelestia 3900:9)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Heavenly Doctrines Indicate that the Books of Chronicles Are True

The books of Chronicles are not listed among those that have an internal sense in Arcana Coelestia 10325 and are therefore not included in the New Church canon. However, if you search the Heavenly Doctrines you find that they cite the books of Chronicles over 20 times and even quote them a couple of times. Most often they cite 1 Chronicles 5:1 about why Reuben lost his birthright. It seems then that, according to the Heavenly Doctrines, the books of Chronicles are still true, even though they do not have an internal sense.

Here's one example of a passage that quotes Chronicles:
That the “land of Moriah” means a place of temptation, is manifest from Abraham's being commanded to go thither and offer up his son as a burnt-offering, and thus to undergo the extremity of temptation. That Jerusalem, where the Lord Himself endured the extremity of temptation, was in the same land, is evident from the fact that an altar was built by David on Mount Moriah, and afterwards the temple by Solomon; as is manifest from the book of Chronicles:

“Solomon began to build the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, which was seen by David his father, in the place which David prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chron. 3:1; compare 1 Chron. 21:16-28 with 2 Sam. 24:16-25). (Arcana Coelestia 2775)

New Century Edition Translations For Free Online

The New Century Edition translations of the Heavenly Doctrines published so far (Heaven and Hell, Divine Love and Wisdom, Divine Providence, True Christianity vol. 1) can be downloaded for free from here as PDFs or .txt files.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Learning Truth Without the Word

Theolog Coleman Glenn commented on Making Faith Our Own - Part 2 that he wonders
...how people [born into Judaism or Islam] get to the point where they accept the Word as true even as they're rejecting some of the things they've been taught in their birth-religion.
This is a difficult and important question. Here are two passages that provide the beginnings of an answer. Spiritual Experiences 5709, quoted in Perspective on the “Two Foundations of Truth” talks about people who are “no longer able to be convinced from the Word” and indicates that, so far as these people are in good, truth from science may be able to open their intellects.

Similarly, Apocalypse Revealed 936, explains that the leaves of the tree of life in the Holy City that “were for the healing of the nations” mean rational truths
...by which they who are in evils and thence in falsities are led to think soundly, and to live becomingly.... [because] they who are in evils and thence in falsities cannot be healed by the Word, because they do not read it; but if they have sound judgment, they can be healed by rational truths.

Perspective on the "Two Foundations of Truth"

People often draw conclusions about the importance of scientific knowledge based on the “two foundations of truth” described in Spiritual Experiences 5709.
Afterwards, I spoke about the foundations of truth, that they are two, one from the Word, the other from nature or from the truths of nature; and that the foundation from the Word is for the universal heaven, thus for those who are in the light [lux] of heaven; but the foundation from nature, for those who are natural and in natural light [lumen], thus for those who have confirmed themselves from the letter of the Word in things not true, yea, in falsities, so as to be convinced of them. For these are no longer able to be convinced from the Word. But, still, [these two foundations of truth] agree the one with the other; which is proved by a contemplation of certain things in the Word. Since sciences have shut up the understanding, therefore, sciences may also open it; and it is opened so far as men are in good.
It is fascinating that the sciences may open the understanding if people are in good. However, it is useful to know that this passage comes under the heading, “Those Who Were Called Learned and Were Believed Because They Could Confirm Their Own Dogma Whatever It Might Be, In the Other Life” (Spiritual Experiences 5700) and that at the end of the section it says,
In brief, nothing can be founded upon scientifics except it be previously founded upon the Word. This must be first: the other is only a confirmation from man's scientifics. (Spiritual Experiences 5710)

Bryn Athyn Post Now Available Online

The Bryn Athyn Post is now available for free online.

Heaven and Hell Considered to Be a Spiritual Classic

Theolog Coleman Glenn found a book on Amazon.com called 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books on Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose. He writes,
One of the 50 classics is Heaven and Hell, and the author gives it a very positive (and accurate) assessment, neither dismissing the teachings about hell nor claiming that it must be a work of Swedenbog's imagination.
He also notes that if you go down to “Search Inside This Book” and search for 246 and then 249 you can read the chapter about Heaven and Hell.