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.