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)