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)


Anonymous said...

But is it better to read the Word and not understand it, or to not read the Word at all, because you find that you can't understand it?

Malcolm said...

Good question.

The Heavenly Doctrines do say that understanding the Word is important (e.g. Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 77 which says that “the Word is the Word according to the understanding of it with man, that is, as it is understood. If it is not understood, the Word is indeed called the Word, but with man it does not exist.”) But I think what this and other passages are saying is that it's important to have a correct general understanding of the Word, not that we need to understand all the specific details.

For example, when I read “Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9) I don't understand it to mean that the Lord wants me to kill children. My general understanding is that passages like this are not to be taken literally. I might not understand all the details but at least I know that much, and that might be enough to help me start seeing that the details have to do with getting rid of evils.

So, in response to your question I'd say that it's better to read the Word and focus on what you do understand—even if you don't understand all the details—and, in time, more understanding of the details will start trickling out.