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?