GENERAL CHURCH PUBLICATION COMMITTEE
Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
COPYRIGHT 1963, BY GEORGE DE CHARMS
First Printing December 1963, 1,000 copies
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For permission granted to quote from copyrighted works, the following acknowledgments are gratefully made:
To the Macmillan Company, for quotations from Harry Emerson Fosdicks The Modern Use of the Bible, and from Doctrine in the Church of England.
To the Westminster Press, for a quotation from James D. Smarts What a Man Can Believe.
To the Philosophical Library, for a quotation from Vergilius Ferms What Can We Believe?
To Harper & Brothers, for a quotation from J. Gresham Machens The Virgin Birth of Christ.
To the American Academy of Political and Social Science, for the quotation from an article by John Herman Randall, Jr. [The Annals, March 1948, page 162].
KEY TO REFERENCES TO THE WRITINGS OF THE NEW CHURCH
AC Arcana Coelestia
CL Conjugial Love
DP Divine Providence
L Doctrine of the Lord
TCR True Christian Religion
In substance, what appears in the folio wing pages was presented as a series of lectures to the Bryn Athyn Church in the spring of 1949. The original manuscript has been revised and adapted to publication in book form, with the addition of one or two quotations from more modern sources to bring the treatment up to date.
The work is designed to bring before the members of the New Church the teaching of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg concerning the state of the Christian world, and to show that that teaching is by no means obsolete, but applies with equal force, though in a somewhat modified form, to our own day and time.
If what is here presented serves to bring into sharp outline and relief the basic difference between the religious faith of the New Church and that of the modern Christian world it will have accomplished the purpose for which it has been written.
GEORGE DE CHARMS,
Bryn Athyn, Pa.
I. THE STATE OF THE MODERN CHRISTIAN WORLD 11
II. THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST  25
III. THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST  37
IV. THE HOLINESS OF THE WORD 53
V. THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE OF MIND 67
VI. THE SOCIAL GOSPEL 81
VII. SECTARIANISM AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE 95
VIII. TOLERANCE IN THE NEW CHURCH 109
IX. THE NEW CHURCH IN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD 123
THE STATE OF THE MODERN CHRISTIAN WORLD
Intelligent Newchurchmanship demands some definite and reliable insight into the state of the Christian world in the midst of which we live. Such insight can be derived only from Divine revelation. We are therefore profoundly impressed with the importance of the teaching given on this subject in the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Some have held that what Swedenborg wrote in the eighteenth century no longer applies. It is true that many of the doctrines against which he inveighed have been openly repudiated, or neglected as irrelevant, or reinterpreted in more modern terms by the present-day leaders of Christian thought. The Writings of Swedenborg have been widely distributed. Many of the ministers and teachers of the Christian churches are quite familiar with them. In subtle but striking ways they have affected the interpretation of Christian doctrine. There is a strong appearance that the Christian world has been drawing progressively closer to the basic concepts of the New Church.
Because the state of the Christian Church does change, the teaching of the Writings must he examined anew by the men of every rising generation, in order that it may be seen in its relation to their own day. Modes of expressing that relation which were valid in the past tend to lose their meaning, and to leave the mind uncertain and confused. Yet no one can truly understand the teaching of the New Church without seeing clearly how it differs from the religious teaching of other Christian churches. Nor is this as simple as might be supposed, because in outward form the two often appear to be very much alike. When we tell others what our church teaches, they often say: That is what we also believe. Yet the truth is that they do not really understand what we mean, and it is frequently difficult to make our meaning clear.
The truth is that we can have no distinct understanding of anything in the world apart from comparison and contrast. Any object, to be seen, must stand out against a background. It must have definite boundaries marking it off from its surroundings. It must possess shape, form and color to distinguish it from other objects.
This same law applies to the perception of abstract ideas. These, too, must be seen against a background of thought. Unless the mind has been prepared by experience, by education, or by specific instruction, to perceive them, ideas have no meaning whatever. They must be clearly defined, and thus set apart from other similar ideas. They must be distinguished, not only in form but also in substance. Love is the substance of all spiritual things, while thought is their form. The love determines the purpose, the use, and the end behind the thought. It not only lends color to the thought but deeply qualifies it.
For this reason we can have no clear understanding of our own religion unless we see it in its actual setting, in its relation to the world of religious ideas and mental attitudes in the midst of which it must exist and grow. We must see it sharply defined against a background of contrasting spiritual form and color, organization and substance. Only in this way can our adherence to it be a matter of intelligent choice and preference.
Although the need for wide knowledge, for careful investigation, and for discriminating judgment is well recognized in other fields of human learning, many fail to see the necessity for it in the realm of religion. Most people deeply resent any criticism of the faith they profess. We all are aware that unfavorable comment about any particular religion tends to rouse indignant protest, as implying an uncharitable attitude toward others.
For this very reason, an attitude of critical analysis is pre-eminently important at this time when the Lord has come with a new Divine revelation. In this new truth lies the only hope for the ultimate redemption of the human race. If the New Church is ever to be established widely among the nations of the earth, men must be roused to a realization that the prime requisite of a genuine religious faith is the love of spiritual truth, and an irresistible urge to discover it. By spiritual truth we mean the truth concerning God, concerning the life after death, and concerning the primal causes that lie behind all the phenomena of the material universe. It is not enough to probe outer space or to delve into the microscopic and submicroscopic worlds. It is imperative that we learn where this physical environment came from, how it was first created, how it is constantly preserved and renewed, and for what Divine purpose it is intended.
We must, then, examine the state of modern Christianity. But how can we do so when we are clearly taught that the interior states of men and of churches lie too deep for human discovery, and can be known only to the Lord?
We can judge the states of men only superficially, as they are reflected in external speech and action, in forms of worship and modes of life, and in outward professions of faith. These may be extremely deceptive. They may be quite contrary to the deeper states of love and faith which are concealed from our view. They may be adopted merely from habit, without thought or realization of their true import. The real state of the Christian world, therefore, is known only to the Lord, and it can be revealed by Him only in His Word.
In answer to this we would point out that the Writings are more than the work of the man Swedenborg. They are, in truth, a Divine revelation immediately from the Lord. Because of this they are not written merely for one generation, but contain a truth that is eternal. What they say about the state of the Christian Church must apply to that church not only as it existed in Swedenborgs day but equally to the states of that church which it was foreseen would inevitably follow.
Furthermore, it is obvious to any candid observer that while there have been noticeable modifications of view in deference to the advance of scientific knowledge, the basic doctrines of the Christian Church have not changed in the least since Swedenborgs time.
Our chief concern lies with that far-flung realm of present-day religious philosophy wherein these doctrines still lie concealed under new forms of thought and expression. We are concerned with the prevailing temper of religious thinking as it subtly dominates our universities, permeates our schools, our books and magazines, the screen, radio and television; for this is what most powerfully, though secretly, influences our minds and our lives. This is the intellectual climate in which we live. We are immersed in it every day, and there is an imperative need to form some practical judgment as to its quality in relation to the plain teaching of the Writings.
That is why we must inquire into the state of the Christian world if our life is to be governed by the truth of revelation rather than by the opinions and the emotional impulses of those who constitute the society in which we live. Such an inquiry must be made in no spirit of smug self-satisfaction, with no sense of superiority, and with no contempt for others in our hearts. It must be prompted solely by a love of truth, by a desire to understand the teaching of the Heavenly Doctrine in its application to the actual conditions of life in which we find ourselves.
THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST 
In our attempt to analyze the state of the modern Christian world we must remember, of course, that there are many shades of religious opinion, and there is great variety as to ritual, government and modes of life in the Christian Church. No statement could be made, therefore, that would have universal application. But the state of the church, as defined in the Writings, is determined by its dominant affection or love, and thus by the governing spirit that animates it and by the prevailing opinions that arise therefrom. In every church, as in every individual mind, love determines the center of interest, and that which is regarded as of supreme importance. Upon this the whole attention is focused, and with reference to it everything else is oriented. Ideas, opinions, modes of action, all are so ordered as to satisfy this highest love and to accomplish its purpose. Therefore the key to the state of the church lies in that upon which attention is most widely centered by those who are the accepted leaders of thought, the recognized authorities to whom the generality of people look for guidance and direction.
Our question therefore is, has there been a significant shift in this center of interest in the Christian Church, especially since the days of the early Academy? If so, what is that change? How does it affect our understanding of what the Writings teach about the state of the Christian world? And how does it modify the relation of the New Church to present-day Christianity?
We are told in the Heavenly Doctrine that there are three essentials which together determine the quality of any religion. First, there is the idea of God that prevails therein; second, there is the concept of Divine Law, or what God requires of man for his salvation; and third, there is a life from conscience according to that which is regarded as the law of God. With reference to the New Church, these three essentials are said to be: the acknowledgment of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the acknowledgment of the holiness of the Word, and the life that is called charity, which arises out of these prior acknowledgments.1 These, therefore, are the things we would first examine, as they are found in modern Christianity, and we would begin by directing attention to the idea of God which is most prevalent therein.
1. DP 259
There can be no doubt that the prevailing concept of God which is characteristic of educated Christian leadership today is a far cry from the simple faith of the Apostles, and of those who immediately followed them in the Primitive Church. The cornerstone of original Christian faith was a belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. By this was meant that in some mysterious way Jesus Christ was one with God Himself. The Apostles did not clearly understand how this could be, but at first they did not reason about it. They accepted it as a self-evident truth, fully attested by the Lords own teaching, by His miraculous power, by His Divine conception, and by His resurrection. They believed implicitly in the testimony of Mary and of Joseph in regard to the manner of His birth. Their discovery of the empty tomb, and their vision of the risen Lord convinced them beyond all doubt that He was indeed a Divine Being. They spoke of Him as the Son of God, but in all simplicity, they believed Him when He said: I and My Father are one.2 He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.3 I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.
2. John 10:30.
3. John 14:9.
4. John 14:10.
Yet from the very first this faith in the Lords Divine nature came under severe attack, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles to whom the Gospel was preached. To defend it against the prevailing thought of the day, and especially against the highly developed and widespread philosophy of Greece, the Apostles and their followers had to search for some rational explanation of this mystery. They were confronted by questions which were extremely difficult to answer. How could an all-wise Creator, the Ruler of the universe, be born an ignorant babe who had to learn slowly by way of experience and instruction, as all children do? If He were one with the Father, how could He pray to Him as if to another? How could God have suffered on the cross? With these, and many similar questions, the church wrestled through centuries of bitter controversy.
Failing in his own mind to reconcile the human limitations of Jesus Christ as He appeared on earth with the infinite qualities that must be ascribed to God, Arius, and later Socinius, cut the Gordian knot by frankly denying that Jesus Christ was God. They held that He was altogether human, similar in all respects to other men, except that He was blessed with a greater wisdom and a deeper insight than others. He was said to be Divinely inspired; yet His inspiration differed from that of other men, not in kind, but only in degree. Because He was a chosen instrument through whom the invisible God was made known more fully than ever before, He could be rightly called the Son of God; but this term would apply in lesser degree to every prophet, every seer, and every religious leader in the history of the world who had contributed in some measure to the perfection of mans thought concerning God.
The early church repudiated this denial of the Lords Divinity; and in the effort to overcome the philosophic difficulties involved in the acknowledgment of that Divinity they reached the following conclusions at the Council of Nice in the year 325 A. D.:
a) There are three eternal and coequal Persons in the Godhead-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these by Himself is God, yet they are one in essence and in substance.
b) Jesus Christ was the Son born from eternity who came into the world by a virgin birth. He had, however, two natures, one Divine and the other Human. It was the Human nature, and not the Divine one, that suffered on the cross.
c) This Human nature the Lord retained after His resurrection. Such is the faith established by the Athanasian Creed, which is officially acknowledged by all Christian Churches to this day, both Catholic and Protestant. On it is based the doctrine of the vicarious atonement by the blood of Christ, and a long chain of tenets that hang from this supporting hook.
At the time of Swedenborg the dominant thought of the church was focused upon this Trinitarian belief. This was the doctrine, taught everywhere as orthodox Christianity. Swedenborg, in the Writings, openly opposed this idea of three persons in God. He demonstrated at great length that there is no scriptural foundation for it. With unassailable logic he showed that it is contrary to reason and incompatible with a belief in one God. There can be only one who is infinite, who is all-wise, who has all power, and who is everywhere present. These qualities of God cannot be divided. They cannot be shared by distinct persons, each of whom by Himself is God. A Son of God, born from eternity, is a contradiction; for to be born implies a beginning, while eternity has no beginning.
5. CL 315:11.
In the case of Jesus Christ, however, because there was no human father, there was no such limiting vessel. It was the Divine love itself that formed the body in the womb of Mary. It was the love, not of a particular use, but of the complex of all uses--a love of the whole human race and of a heaven to be formed and eternally perfected from the human race. This is the love of God Himself, the love that brought the entire universe into being, that preserves it and governs it continually. It was this love that ordered the mind of the Lord, progressively penetrating the appearances of the senses, removing the fallacies, the errors, the falsities that darkened the minds of men. From this love the Lord spoke with wisdom such as no mall had ever known. From it He acted with power to heal, to cast out devils, to raise from the dead. Thus God Himself spoke and acted in Him and through Him. As errors were removed gradually throughout His life on earth, His mind became a body of Divine truth, completely one with the Divine love itself; and this Divine body, which was not only conceived but also born of Jehovah, became the Divine Human which is now revealed in its fullness in the Heavenly Doctrine.
This new and entirely different explanation of the Trinity, so far from accepting the alternative offered by Arius of denying the Divinity of Jesus Christ, exalted Him as the one person in whom, and through whom alone, God may be known and worshiped, both in heaven and on earth. But because they rejected the traditionally established doctrine of the Christian Church, the Writings of Swedenborg were violently attacked by the ecclesiastical leaders of his day, and their attacks culminated in the Gothenburg trial for heresy, brought against certain members of the Swedish clergy who had espoused the cause of the New Church.
About a hundred years later, when the Academy was first established, the Athanasian doctrine was still held to be the very cornerstone of Christian faith. It was not only universally accepted but was widely and consistently taught. In consequence, it was a central point of difference between the teaching of the New Church and the active religious conviction of the average Christian.
THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST 
As appears from the expressed opinion of leading proponents of Christian thought, the change which has been taking place gradually since the early days of the Academy in regard to the doctrine concerning the Divine nature of Jesus Christ has been in the direction of emphasizing His humanity, and detracting from His Divinity. The unmistakable trend has been toward the adoption of the Arian solution to the problem of the Lords incarnation in place of the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead, as set forth in the Athanasian Creed.
That this would be the tendency is definitely foretold in the Writings. The primitive or Apostolic church, we read, never could have divined ... that an Arius would lift up his head, and when he was dead would rise again, and secretly rule even to the end.6 Referring to his own day, Swedenborg. states that Socinianism and Arianism reign in more hearts than you believe.7 Faith, he says, is both spurious and adulterous with those who regard the Lord not as God but merely as a man.
6. TCR 638.
7. DP 262.
8. TCR 380.
This tendency to deny the Lords Divinity is, of course, not universal. Many people, although subtly affected by its influence, are quite unaware of what has taken place. The influence of Arianism is least noticeable in the Catholic Church, which officially and boldly upholds the tripersonal doctrine. Yet even there the great emphasis that is placed on the crucifixion, with the image of the crucified Lord held ever before the mind; the idea that Christ needs a vicar on earth in the person of the Pope; the idea that the Lord gave to Peter the power to forgive sins, and to open or close heaven to men, and that this power is shared by all who have apostolic succession;
The influence of Arianism, however, is most obvious in the liberal branch of the Protestant churches. This branch, we would point out, is most closely integrated with the scientific thought of the day. The opinions it sponsors in regard to religion are based primarily on a scientific approach to the subject. They are in harmony with the opinions held by the intellectual leaders in our universities, who exercise a profound influence on the entire educational system. For this reason the ideas which are insinuated widely into the public mind through education dispose people to accept readily the religious ideas held by the more liberal Christian thinkers. In this way, the tendency toward the doubt, and at last the denial, of the Lords Divinity becomes the unconscious but increasingly influential heritage of each rising generation.
A predisposition to question the Divinity of Jesus Christ appears in the concerted effort that is made by many to cast doubt upon, and explain away, all the supposedly supernatural implications of the Sacred Scripture.
If, then, Divinity is the same thing as moral insight, it is certainly not a unique attribute of Jesus Christ. He may have possessed this Divinity in greater degree than others; but He obviously must be regarded as sharing it, not only with the profound thinkers who have contributed significantly to the moral standards of the race, but also in some small degree with all men who have any moral insight whatsoever.
This was by no means what the Apostles meant by the Divinity of Jesus Christ. The profound difference illustrates the importance of understanding the terms that are used. When a modern Christian of the liberal school says, I believe with you that Jesus is God, we must inquire just what he means by God. And when he says, I fully accept the Divinity of Christ, although not the historic authenticity of the virgin birth and the resurrection, we must ask just what the term Divinity implies in his mind. But we should let the liberal leaders of modern Christian thought speak for themselves.
We have therefore selected excerpts from a few well-known and highly regarded exponents of this new version of Christian faith.
9. Pages 255, 256.
10. The Modern Use Of The Bible (The Macmillan Company, New York), pages 266, 267. Copyright 1924, extended.
The idea that the Divinity of Jesus Christ is something of which all men may, and indeed should, partake in some degree, is clearly expressed by the Rev. Dr. J. D. Smart, Pastor, of St. Pauls Presbyterian Church, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, in his book, What A Man Can Believe. He says: Only as men are brought face to face with the reality of Jesus Christ in Christian people does there come to them any comprehension of what is meant by the words Jesus Christ in the Gospels.11
11. Page 123.
There is a life which man cannot know until he finds it in Christ, a life which is Christ being born again in us by faith and by the indwelling of the Spirit of God.12
12. Page 189.
The intention of Jesus was certainly that in His followers should dwell the same power of forgiving sins that dwelt in Him.13
13. What A Man Can Believe, by James D. Smart (The Westminster Press), page 217. Copyright 1943.
Jesus Christ is placed in the same category as other men, as but one of the outstanding prophets and leaders who have appeared in the course of human history, by Vergilius Ferm, in his book, What Can We Believe? In the same context he identifies God with mans innate sense of moral values. We must say, he writes, that there is a God. Why? Because this is the only way to make things come out morally right.... This is undoubtedly why Jesus and others of the great religious prophets have caught the imagination of their followers. Not because of their reasoned considerations but because they have made out a moral cause for human existence.... So far as Jesus was concerned--and in this He followed the Jewish line of prophets and is akin to the greater prophets of other religions--nothing quite matters to man so much as this: that this universe is fundamentally akin to his thundering sense of moral worth and moral meaning.14
14. What Can We Believe? by Vergilius Ferm, The Philosophical Library, 15 East 40th Street, New York, N. Y., page 114. Copyright 1948.
It might be supposed that we have chosen unfortunately to quote from a few isolated and iconoclastic thinkers who do not represent the general trend of Christian opinion.
15. Page 82.
16. Doctrine In The Church Of England (The Macmillan Company) New York, 1938, page 86.
Quite apart from this Report, however, all of us are aware that modes of expression which imply that Jesus Christ was a mere man are used constantly in modern Christian literature--in the newspapers, in radio and television, in books and magazines. This would not be the case if the concept of the incarnation and of the resurrection proposed by Arius were not generally accepted, and regarded with favor.
In this connection we would quote from The Virginia Birth Of Christ by the Rev. Dr. Gresham Machen, as follows:
What is this religion that is founded upon a historical Jesus, and yet is independent of events like the virgin birth? Is it not still a religion whose fundamental tenet is the ability of man to save himself? Jesus attained to sonship with God, say the adherents of this religion in effect, and we, if we will only follow Him, can attain to that sonship too. Certainly men who think thus will not be much interested in the fact of the virgin birth. Indeed, if they are interested in it at all, they can be interested only in rejecting it. The fundamental notion of their religion is that Jesus showed us what man can do; but if so it is important for our encouragement that He should be thought to have begun where we too must begin. If He was born of a virgin He had an advantage which we do not possess; how, then, can we in that case be sure that we, who were not virgin-born, can do what He did?
17. The Virgin Birth Of Christ by J. Gresham Machen, D. D., Litt.D. (Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York), page 385. Copyright 1930.
What we have here set forth should be sufficient to demonstrate that if we picture the modern Christian world as one that still bases its faith primarily upon the doctrine of three persons in God, we will often find ourselves fighting a straw man. The modern emancipated Christian is not vitally concerned about that doctrine. The real point of difference between present-day Christianity and the New Church in regard to the concept of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the question as to whether He is really God, or whether He was an historic character who, together with other religious leaders, contributed to mans understanding of moral truth. The acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Divine Human, is the one God of heaven and earth, one in person and in essence--this is the distinctive teaching of the New Church. Wherefore we read in the Preface to the Apocalypse Revealed, that after the Last Judgment, which was accomplished in the spiritual world in the year 1757 ... there was formed a New Heaven from Christians; but from those only who could receive [the truth that] the Lord ... [is] the God of heaven and earth....
That the Lord from eternity, or Jehovah, assumed the Human to save men ... is evident from passages in the Word where it is said that he went forth from the Father, descended from heaven, and was sent into the world. As from these: I went out from the Father and am come into the world. (John 16:28).... The Father loveth you, because ye have believed that I came out from God. (John 16:27).... That the Lord made His Human Divine from the Divine in Himself is evident from ... [the following]:
In these and all other passages where the Father is mentioned, there is meant the Divine which was in the Lord from conception, and which, according to the doctrine of faith of the Christian world, was circumstanced as is the soul in the body with man. The Human itself from this Divine is the Son of God. Now as this Human was made Divine, therefore, in order to prevent man from approaching the Father only, and ... separating the Father from the Lord in whom the Father is, after the Lord had taught that He and the Father are one; that the Father is in Him, and He in the Father; that all should abide in Him; and that no one cometh to the Father but by Him, He taught also that we must believe in Him, and that man is saved by a faith directed to Him. Many in Christendom can form no idea of the fact that the Human in the Lord was made Divine, the chief reason of which is that they think of a man from his material body, and not from his spiritual body.18
18. L 30-32.
THE HOLINESS OF THE WORD
Just as the Christian Church has receded from its first acknowledgment of the Divinity of the Lord, and has accepted the Arian doctrine that He was merely a man, so also it has departed from the faith of the Apostolic age in the Bible as the source of authoritative truth. In the minds of the early Christians there was not the slightest doubt that God had dictated the Sacred Scripture through the medium of the prophets and the evangelists. Thus they believed it to be eternal and infallible truth. Many, especially among those who are less educated, still clung to this idea, and accept every word of the Scripture as literally true. But biblical scholars have found this concept to be untenable. They find contradictions, gross inaccuracies and palpable errors in the sacred text. They have therefore been compelled to abandon the idea of literal infallibility. Although they continue to call the Bible the Word of God, and to speak of it as Divine Revelation, they now use these terms in quite a different sense. They now profess to believe rather in the self-revelation of God in history, by which they mean a gradual unfolding of a progressively more satisfying concept of morality, as mankind climbs painfully to an ever higher level of intellectual achievement.
This historical approach to the Bible robs it of all Divine authority. In spite of this fact the Bible is still called Divine, although its Divinity is not recognized throughout, but only in spots, in bits and pieces where exalted ideas of morality are openly expressed or clearly implied. The rest is looked upon as obsolete, and as possessing no more than antiquarian value. The selection of the parts to be regarded as Divine is purely a matter of human judgment, and it is therefore on mans authority--the authority of individual insight--that any Divinity is ascribed to them.
It should be clearly understood that if we confine our thought to its moral content, there is much in this attitude toward the Bible with which we would agree. Moral concepts and customs, after all, are but the outer garments of religion, and like garments they may, and indeed should be changed in adaptation to changing conditions. What is morally right under one set of circumstances may be wrong under another set. Standards of right and wrong that have become matters of conscience in any particular part of the world, at any time, or with any set of people, may not be right for others. Modes of life that are binding in one generation may be modified, or entirely rejected in the next. For instance, the requirements of the Mosaic Law in regard to ritual observances and forms of worship were rightly abrogated by the Christian Church.
We differ sharply, however, in holding that the Word is not given as a Divine revelation of moral truth, except as this may embody and reflect spiritual truth--that is, the truth concerning God, and heaven and eternal life.
Here is the real issue between modern Christianity and the New Church in regard to the nature of the Sacred Scripture. Men have lost sight of the spiritual truth concealed within the letter of the Word, and they look to the Bible only for its moral content. Failing to find there any fixed or permanent code of morality--any code that holds good universally, and under all conditions--they are compelled to fall back upon human judgment as the final authority concerning what is morally right. It is true that the moral injunctions of the Bible in large part no longer apply. Indeed, what applied to the Jews during their wanderings in the wilderness ceased to have practical application after they had entered the land of Canaan.
In the early Christian Church there was a perceptive realization that the Word must contain a deep spiritual meaning. It was seen that God, speaking to men, must reveal Himself, and so doing make known the Divine laws of life, the Divine end and purpose in creation, and the eternal destiny toward which, in providence, He is leading both the individual and the race. This being true, the Word could not be regarded as treating merely of ephemeral affairs, of passing events, of times, places and persons which are constantly changing, although in outward form it appears to do so. Men sought therefore to discover a deeper meaning in the sacred text. They tried to interpret it everywhere in terms of parable, allegory and religious symbolism.
When this literalistic mode is honestly pursued, however, it is found that the teaching of the Scripture is not everywhere in harmony with the orthodox creeds. It is inconsistent with itself, being full of apparent contradictions that cannot be reconciled by any literal interpretation; and it is in many respects contrary to the laws of nature as they have been discovered by modern scientific scholarship.
In the days of the early Academy most Christians still looked upon the Bible as an authoritative Divine revelation. References to it and quotations from it were regarded with deep reverence and implicit faith. This is far less the case today. At least with those who are educated in the scientific tradition of our time, doctrinal arguments based on the Scripture no longer command the attention or make the impression that they did when Words For The New Church, was published. We call no longer prove the validity of the Writings by quoting the Bible in their support. The central issue between the New Church and the Christian world today is not whether the Writings are borne out by the Old and New Testaments, but whether, either in the former Scriptures or in the Writings, God has ever spoken to man with a voice of authority.
Of course we all are aware that once the true nature of spiritual truth is clearly seen, and once the law of correspondence as given in the Writings opens to view the marvelous structure of that internal sense of the Word which lies concealed in the Old and New Testaments, the obstacles that have prevented men from acknowledging the holiness of the Word and its Divine authority are removed. An interpretation of Scripture, not by imaginative allegory but in accord with disciplined spiritual reason, becomes not only possible but imperative. We are no longer compelled to choose between an insistence upon the scientific accuracy of the letter of the Word--in the face of obvious proof to the contrary-and the conclusion that the teaching of the Bible is without authority. Nor must we insist that the moral concepts resulting from the perverted conditions existent in the Jewish Church must be regarded literally as eternal truths in order to sustain that authority. It is the pearl of great price--the truth concerning the Lord, His incarnation, His glorification, and His redemption of the race; the truth concerning the spiritual world, heaven, and the life after death;
THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE OF MIND
No just estimate of the state of the modern Christian world is possible apart from a clear understanding of what is involved in the scientific attitude of mind. In fact, the development of this attitude is largely responsible for the change in the whole concept of religion that has gradually come about since Swedenborgs day. It is this that makes it increasingly difficult for men to believe in the real Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is this also that has progressively weakened the faith of the Christian Church in the Divine authority of the Sacred Scripture. And it is under the influence of this scientific approach to all learning that religion itself has come more and more to be regarded as nothing but the expression of mans insatiable longing for immortality. It is important to note, however, that these effects, so destructive of spiritual faith, are not due to anything that is inherent in the scientific method itself, but rather to a wrong interpretation of it.
The scientific method of investigation is essential to the discovery of truth, both natural and spiritual.
Expressed in simplest terms, the scientific attitude is nothing but a profound conviction that human imagination and human reason are both unreliable, and are constantly subject to error. In any search for truth, both of these human faculties may offer invaluable suggestions without which progress would be impossible. Without them we could discover nothing. But they are so readily influenced by individual emotions, by personal ambitions, by traditional ideas, and by group feelings that we cannot depend upon them as a sure guide to truth. While therefore we may, and indeed must, adopt some opinion as a working hypothesis, we are forbidden to make up our mind irrevocably that such an opinion is true until after we have carefully and systematically examined the facts relative to it.
Thus far the scientific attitude of mind is right. It is the indispensable mode of approach to natural truth, and it is this attitude that Swedenborg commends. But in our modern age another element--an element that is altogether wrong--has been introduced into this concept of the scientific method.
It is essential to realize, however, that man cannot attain to a sure knowledge of this higher spiritual truth by means of his imagination or by means of his unaided reason, any more than he can attain by the same means to a sure knowledge of scientific truth. His ideas concerning spiritual things cannot be checked nor proved by any evidence of the bodily senses because these things are invisible and intangible. Yet if we are to be assured that our idea of them is correct it must be checked against something fixed, something independent of the human mind. The very first step toward a true religion upon which we can rely with confidence is to realize and acknowledge that there is such a fixed ultimate. This is what is lacking in the modern scientific attitude of mind. It is universally recognized that nature is the fixed ultimate whereby ideas of natural things may be tested and confirmed: this because in nature we see God, the Divine Creator, manifestly working, doing wonders openly before our very eyes.
Starting from the assumption that nature is the only fixed ultimate against which human opinions may be checked, the mistaken conclusion is drawn that spiritual things, supernatural things, are merely the products of the human mind, having no independent or objective existence; or if perchance they do have independent existence, that they lie beyond the realm of positive knowledge, and therefore can never be affirmed nor believed with certainty.
It is this erroneous interpretation of the scientific attitude that has undermined all confidence in the Sacred Scripture as a source of dependable truth. So doing, it has deprived religious faith of any sure foundation, reducing it to the category of things unknown, and at present at least, unknowable.
We consider, therefore, that the essential difference between a right attitude toward science, and a wrong one, hinges upon this: whether we begin with the premise that there is a God, and a higher kind of truth which He can make known to us by means of His Word, or whether we begin by the assumption that there is no other truth than that which can be demonstrated scientifically.
Swedenborg lived at the dawn of our modern era, when the scientific approach to truth, now so universally accepted, was in process of being formulated. It had already roused the violent opposition of the church. Those who sponsored it had been subjected to persecution and martyrdom: this because it was supposed that in casting doubt upon the established dogmas of theology they were seeking the overthrow of all religion. Swedenborg recognized at once that the scientific method of inquiry was right, and indeed was the only way by which men might attain to an understanding of natural truth. Yet he started with the assumption that there is a God who created the universe, who sustains it perpetually, and who governs all things. He believed that God, in creating the universe, acted with definite purpose, and that His wisdom orders all things for the achievement of that purpose. He believed that the inmost end of the Divine creation was to provide for the truest happiness and well-being of mankind and that everything in nature was intended to promote this supreme objective. As an undeniable consequence of these premises, he believed that the laws of nature and the laws of human life, which are the same as the laws of religion, so far from contradicting one another, must be in perfect harmony, each complementing the other, and both working together for the attainment of a single goal.
Inspired by the desire to establish the faith of mankind in God, not by a blind allegiance to the formulas of theology, but by rational conviction supported by factual evidence, Swedenborg traversed the whole gamut of human learning as far as it was available in his day.
This spiritual truth, now made manifest in the Writings, revolutionizes man's whole concept of the Word, discloses its marvelous unity, relates all things in it to the Lord, to His work of salvation, and to the spiritual life of man. This truth could not possibly be the product of Swedenborg's mind. It is infinite in scope, eternal in its application, and perfect in its harmony with the plain teachings of the former Scriptures. So closely knit is it that the acceptance of any part of it leads inevitably to the acceptance of all the rest. Even as it transforms and illuminates our understanding of the Word, so also it transforms and illuminates our understanding of scientific facts. Indeed, the more accurate our knowledge of nature, the more fully is that knowledge found to confirm and establish the truth of religion. Only as these two--the Word and nature are seen together as the products of the same Divine Being; only as it is seen that He who created, and who preserves the universe also spake the Word, and that both rightly interpreted proclaim the same Divine truth, can the Scripture be infilled in the minds of men, as expressed in the nineteenth Psalm:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.19
19. Psalm 19:1-4, 7.
THE SOCIAL GOSPEL
As a direct result of the scientific attitude of mind the Christian Church has been accepting ever more widely what has come to be known as the "Social Gospel." This gospel arose as a revolt against the other-worldly attitude of medieval religious thought. The early Christians looked forward with immediate expectation to the life after death. They had but a vague and indefinite idea as to the nature of that life, but it was very real to them. It was associated in their minds with the second advent of Jesus Christ; and this they anticipated in the immediate future. They interpreted literally the Lord's words: "Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost Part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Verily, I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done."20 And further, in John: "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you.
20. Mark 13:26, 27, 30.
21. John 14:5 3.
The confident belief of these early Christians in an imminent resurrection to new life, enabled them to meet martyrdom with gladness and singing, to the great astonishment of their persecutors. At that time they did not think of a material resurrection, but of new life in a spiritual world, and in a spiritual body, as Paul had taught them, saying: "There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial.... So also is the resurrection of the dead ... it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."22 And in the same epistle: "Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality ... then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."23 They did not know what the spiritual world was like. They pictured it as a perfect natural world.
22. I Corinthians 15:40, 42, 44.
23. Ibid.15:51, 53, 54.
Furthermore, the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, as introduced at the time of the Reformation, emphasized the idea that nothing but a true faith could bring forgiveness from sin, and therefore that the prime essential of religion is purity of doctrine.
So long as such an other-worldly attitude prevailed, men gave little heed to earthly things. Scientific knowledge, to be acquired only by a careful investigation of nature, was largely neglected. The active pursuit of a trade or business was held in low esteem. Only the military profession, whereby the heathen might be conquered and converted, was regarded as honorable and worthy of intelligent laymen. Those, however, who devoted their lives to the contemplation of spiritual things, who were learned in theology, who studied the Sacred Scriptures and subjected their teachings to deep reflection and analysis--these were the ones who received the greatest reverence and acclaim.
Of course scientific research is a secular responsibility and the practical application of its findings is the immediate concern of those who are engaged in business, in all branches of industry, and in the professions. But in the measure that men came to regard scientific truth as the real savior of mankind, and in consequence focused their attention upon earthly rather than upon heavenly things, the appeal of the church to consider the importance of preparing for a life after death became less and less effective. It sounded more and more like a call to ignore the ills we have while worrying needlessly about how to avoid future ills we know not of. It came to be regarded very largely as a foolish demand that society return to those conditions of natural ignorance and consequent misery from which it was just learning how to escape. Under the increasing pressure of public opinion, therefore, the Christian Church, ever since the middle of the last century, has found it necessary to concentrate its teaching and its energies more and more upon the solution of social problems, placing less and less emphasis upon doctrinal ideas, or upon any attempt to Interpret the Scripture spiritually. The leaders of the church have joined with the leaders of scientific thought in seeking to promote an earthly kingdom of human well-being and happiness here and now, rather than a spiritual kingdom of heaven after death.
This is the essence of the "Social Gospel" which has profoundly influenced religious thought, and has turned the course of Christian development in modern times in an entirely new direction. The change is not a local one, but it affects Christianity as a whole.
24. Page 162.
25. The Modern Use Of The Bible, by Harry Emerson Fosdick, D. D. (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1945), pages 244, 245. Copyright 1924 extended.
We can indeed sympathize with a shift from a religion of faith alone to a religion of life. That there should be a revival of emphasis upon the actual practice of moral virtues at a time when this last outpost of liberty and social order is in imminent danger of destruction by the apostles of brute force--this is surely a matter of Divine Providence. We can be profoundly grateful that, although the light of spiritual truth has flickered and died, there remains in the Christian world an ideal of natural freedom, a goal of tolerance, of civil justice, and of mutual co-operation and good will among men for which to strive. Because spiritual insight is lacking, men often seek to achieve these goals in ways that are misguided and unwise. In consequence the results are largely disappointing. What is apparently achieved in times of great national danger, the spirit of self-sacrifice, of co-operation, singleness of purpose, and united devotion to a common cause--all this seems to evaporate as soon as the pressure of impending peril is lifted. Yet it is a great thing for the future of the race that in times of crisis so many people spontaneously rally to the defense of these moral ideals. Motives are always mixed, and there is much that savors of self-interest and of self-merit concealed within both the profession and the actual doing of moral good.
26. Isaiah 1:9.
However, although we sympathize with the struggle to maintain moral ideals, seeing in this the Protective providence of the Lord guarding and nurturing the New Church in its tender beginnings, yet we cannot regard this struggle as modern Christian thinkers do, as the all-sufficient means for the redemption of mankind.
27. Psalm 127:1.
The fault we have to find with the modern attitude of Christianity is not that it is a religion of life, or that it is devoted to the actual performance of those deeds of charity which constitute morality.
SECTARIANISM AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
Since the leaders of Christian thought have placed increasing emphasis upon the "Social Gospel" we note in the modern world a rapidly growing spirit of impatience with sectarian strife. In the degree that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone is relinquished in favor of the idea that the prime essential of religion is a moral life, theological belief loses much of its traditional importance. Because those of widely differing faiths proclaim the same ideals of moral conduct there seems no reason why they should not work together to promote the moral uplift of society. For this task widespread co-operation is necessary, and to all who regard social uplift as the real mission of the church, it appears to be nothing short of criminal that mere doctrinal differences should be allowed to prevent it. For this reason the advocates of liberal Christianity have stressed the supreme importance of universal fellowship, and the spirit of tolerance toward all religious faiths, both Christian and non-Christian.
Under the impulse of this new attitude there has been a growing tendency toward unity and co-operation among churches that was quite unheard of a century ago. Sects that had long maintained separate and rival organizations, have in a number of instances reunited. As early as 1908 the Presbyterian Church in the United States was formed from a merger of the parent body with an offshoot known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Complete unity was not attained, however, because several congregations refused to join the new organization. Later the Evangelical Synod of North America, and the Reformed Church in the United States, united to establish the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In Canada, the Methodist, the Presbyterian and the Congregational churches united in 1935 to form the United Church of Canada. There have since been numerous other examples of similar mergers. Yet, in many quarters, loyalty to established beliefs and practices is so strong, and long-felt antagonisms are so deep that the effort to achieve unity has met with almost impassable barriers, and the ultimate goal of a single Christian brotherhood still lies in the distant future.
On the other hand, the movement toward co-operation for the purpose of promoting a common social program, without disturbing the faith or the independent status of any participating body, has proved far easier.
The spirit of religious toleration that springs from a regard for spiritual freedom, and from charity toward the neighbor, is something devoutly to be desired. The sectarian antagonisms that have torn the Christian Church to shreds, and have led to hatreds, cruelties, injustices and wars among those who profess to be brethren, the children of one Heavenly Father--these certainly are to be deplored.
The Writings plainly teach that in matters of religion there will always be varieties of interpretation, and that this is not only right but necessary to the perfection of the Lord's kingdom both on earth and in the heavens.
"As regards the Lord's kingdom on earth, that is, His church, the case is, that inasmuch as it has its doctrinal things from the literal sense of the Word, it cannot but be various and diverse in respect to these doctrinal things; that is to say, one society will profess one thing to be a truth of faith because it is so said in the Word, and another society will profess another thing, also because it is so said; and so on. Consequently, as the Lord's church has its doctrinal things from the literal sense of the Word, it will everywhere differ, and this not only as to societies, but sometimes as to the individuals in a society. Nevertheless a difference in the doctrinal things of faith does not prevent the church from being one, provided there is unanimity as to willing well and doing well."28
28. AC 3451.
Here we note that the harmony among varieties of faith arises from the fact that all differences of faith are drawn from the Word as a common source that is universally recognized. Also that it is the spirit of charity, the endeavor to live according to the truth from good-will toward the neighbor that conjoins into one those who would otherwise be divided, and constitutes of them all one church. Many differences of faith existed in the Ancient Church, even in its prime, which nevertheless did not lead to mutual antagonisms, for we read:
"The doctrine of charity was the doctrine in the ancient churches, and ... this doctrine conjoined all the churches, and so made one out of many; for they acknowledged as men of the church all who lived in the good of charity, and called them brethren, however greatly they might be at variance in the truths which at this day are called the truths of faith. In these, one instructed another, and this was among their works of charity; nor were they indignant if one did not accede to the opinion of another, knowing that everyone receives truth in proportion as he is in good."29
29. AC 6628.
This should be the case also in the Christian Church, as is taught in the following number: "In the Christian world it is doctrinal matters that distinguish churches, and from them men call themselves Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, or the Reformed and Evangelical, and by other names.
30. AC 1799.
The same applies to those who are not Christians, as is evident from the following: "Those who are outside the church and yet acknowledge one God, and live according to their religion in a kind of charity toward the neighbor, are in communion with those who are of the church, because no one is condemned who believes in God and lives well. From this it is evident that the Lord's church is everywhere in the whole world, although specifically it is where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is."31
31. AC 10765.
From all this it might appear that the modern movement toward intersectarian co-operation is entirely in accord with the teaching of the Writings, and that it foreshadows a genuine revival of true Christianity. But a vital element is lacking, namely, a knowledge of what true charity is--that kind of charity which alone has power to bring varieties of faith into internal unity. Men suppose that charity consists in works looking toward the external welfare of society. They identify it with what is done from friendship, amiability, kindness; from politeness and civility; from pity and compassion toward those who are in need, or who are suffering. Yet we are taught that all these may exist where there is no charity, but only the thought of self, of merit, of reward, often so subtly concealed as to be quite unrecognized, even by one's self. Such natural charity may be entirely sincere with those who mistake it for charity itself, as is the case with children and with many of the simple good in the Christian world. But it has not the power to bring men into internal harmony, or to establish permanent peace among them; and this because, however sincere, it lacks the knowledge and thus the wisdom necessary to achieve its purpose?
32. AC 1158.
The spiritual truth of the Word alone teaches men what genuine charity is. It teaches us that true charity is not from man, but solely from the Lord. It is nothing but the Lord's love received in human hearts--the Lord's love for the eternal salvation of all men. Thus it is love of the neighbor that looks first of all to his spiritual welfare, and to his natural welfare not as an end in itself, but merely as a means to his eternal salvation. It is therefore other-worldly, having spiritual ends in view. And since we can have no knowledge of spiritual things except from Divine revelation spiritually understood, it is a spirit of charity that looks to the Lord for guidance, to the Word for instruction, and especially to the internal, the spiritual meaning of the Word, wherein alone can be found the laws of spiritual life. Without a knowledge of these laws our efforts to promote the real welfare of society, however sincere, are sure to be misguided, and therefore to fall short of their mark. For this reason, the very essence of true charity is a love of spiritual truth. That is why we are taught that there are three essentials of the church, namely, "an acknowledgment of the Divinity of the Lord, the acknowledgment of the holiness of the Word, and the life which is called charity.
33. DP 259.
Now we have seen that in the modern Christian world the Divinity of the Lord is increasingly questioned or denied. The holiness of the Word, and thence the Divine authority of the Word, are increasingly called into question. There is little or no interest in spiritual truth, the truth, that is, concerning God, and heaven, and eternal life. The charity that is sought is a charity that looks to the external world alone, that seeks to improve the social and economic conditions of earthly society, and this by the exercise of human intelligence apart from Divine guidance or instruction.
TOLERANCE IN THE NEW CHURCH
The Writings everywhere point to unity in the New Church as an ideal for which we should strive unceasingly. The teaching is that wherever genuine charity exists it brings unity with it, and this spontaneously, without fail, inevitable consequence? Conversely, if there be not unity it is a sure sign and indication that charity is lacking. Since the very essential of the church is charity; since the church is spiritually alive only as far as the spirit of charity is active in it, it follows that to strive for unity, to labor for its attainment and for its preservation is the same thing as to strive and labor for the establishment of the church itself. It should be clearly understood, however, that the unity here meant, the unity to which genuine charity leads, is not external organic unity in one world-wide organization. It is not unity under a single ecclesiastical government? It is a unity of the spirit, of internal affection that is based on a universal acknowledgment of the Lord as He is revealed in the Heavenly Doctrine. It is one that springs from the acknowledgment that the Lord alone has power to build the church, that He alone can teach men and lead them by means of His Word.
Among those who are at one in regard to this acknowledgment there may be wide variety of doctrinal interpretation, of ritual observance and of religious custom. There may be many independent organizations, each performing a distinct use. But if charity prevails, all these together can still make one church, united by internal bonds. There can be among them mutual sympathy, co-operation in common uses, and an interchange of benefits, all contributing to the universal end of establishing, spreading and perfecting the kingdom of the Lord on earth. The ideal of the General Church from ifs inception has been that, in every country, and with every race and nationality, the church should have complete freedom to develop from the Writings themselves in accord with the form of mind, the native customs and modes of life that are characteristic of each locality, with no shadow of coercion from any alien source, nor from any central organization.
As we are aware, there are differences of doctrinal opinion among us in our own country, and in the Bryn Athyn Society. Yet because there is a spirit of charity arising from a common love of the Writings, and of loyalty to their teaching, these differences do not divide us. On the contrary, such differences all contribute to the broader and more perfect understanding of the Writings with each one of us. This is because they stimulate individual thought, study and reflection. They stress the importance of rational judgment and critical analysis on the part of each member of the church. They help us to avoid falling into a persuasive faith that rests upon what we are told, rather than upon what we clearly see for ourselves, directly from the Writings. This will continue to be the case as long as we recognize the freedom of others to think and will according to their own conscience, in order that each one may be led and taught immediately by the Lord. It will continue as long as there is a spirit of internal humility that makes us willing to listen with patience to opposing views, and to give them calm consideration, while at the same time it restrains us from any attempt to force our personal opinions upon others. Where there is real freedom of thought, of speech and of life, charity will order these varieties of view into harmonious co-operation for the furtherance of those uses which we all love in common, and for the promotion of which we continually need one another's help.
So far we have been considering unity among those of the church who fully recognize the Divinity and the supreme authority of the Heavenly Doctrine. Where this common acknowledgment exists it constitutes a deep uniting bond. But there are other bodies of the church with whom this bond is lacking. All do not see in the same light the intrinsic nature and status of the Writings.
The Academy, and its successor the General Church, were founded on the belief that the Writings are the Word of the Lord to the New Church, and that their plain teachings are the only final authority in all matters of doctrine and of religious life. To us this has meant that the Writings themselves are the church in its very essence, and in its Divine perfection; the church as the Lord sees it in potency, and as He wills it to become in actuality with men and angels. It has meant that the church comes into existence in the minds and hearts of men as far as the teaching of the Writings is received in faith and life. The church in its widest aspect, composed of many organizations among which there is internal unity, consists of all who are in the sincere desire, and thus in the constant endeavor, to learn the Heavenly Doctrine, and to receive it as the Divine law of their life. We have believed that every phase, every activity of human life, should be under this Divine law. So believing, we have sought for principles in the Writings to guide us in the development of church government and organization, of worship and ritual, of education and social life, of marriage and the home, of civil and business relationships, as well as in the development of individual character and in personal regeneration. In fact, we have believed that regeneration cannot be effected apart from these more external responsibilities, but solely by meeting them in the way that the Lord Himself directs, from love to Him, from charity toward the neighbor, and from a desire to obey the precepts of His Word.
This attitude toward the Writings has been the distinguishing characteristic of the Academy, and later of the General church. It has opened before us a vision of uses to be performed uses that have appeared to us as immediate, pressing, and essential to the permanent establishment of the New Church on the earth. We have seen the performance of these uses as our plain duty, Divinely enjoined upon us. To perform them then becomes a matter of conscience which we can neither evade nor ignore. The pursuit of these uses has, in consequence, determined in large policies of our church.
Had freedom been granted to follow these policies, and to perform these uses, there need have been no separation, in spite of the wide differences of opinion that existed in the church in regard to the nature of the Writings. But unfortunately (although quite naturally), those who hold fundamentally different views of the Writings have widely divergent ideas as to what will best promote the growth of the church. Each seeks, therefore, to lead the church in a different direction.
When this situation arises, separation, grievous as it is, and causing as it does suffering from deep wounds that take long to heal, still cannot be avoided. It is, then, right and of order that separation should take place, because freedom of thought, of will and of action, in all matters of religion is of paramount importance. Without it the church cannot grow. Nor can there be freedom without order. These two things must he preserved at all cost, even if, in order to do so we are compelled to relinquish our treasured unity. Organic unity is desirable, but more precious still is an internal unity based on a common acceptance of the Writings as our only source of Divine instruction and guidance. But most essential of all is spiritual freedom. And let us be clear in recognizing that even among bodies of the church that differ basically as to their concept of the Writings, there may still be internal unity if genuine charity prevails. It cannot produce as close or as intimate a relationship as that which exists with those of the same fundamental faith, because divergent beliefs look in different directions and strive for different objectives.
The charity that can and should exist among widely divergent bodies of the New Church is not such as to condone what is false. It is not one that should ignore differences and indiscriminately mingle opposites that cannot be reconciled. It is a charity that clearly recognizes distinctions, and that, without malice or recrimination, provides for freedom, and this from a deep regard for the freedom of others as well as for our own. It is a charity that springs from internal humility, from an acknowledgment of our own weakness, our own proneness to error, and from an acknowledgment that the Lord in His providence alone can build His church, and that He does so often in ways far beyond our human understanding. He must build it in accord with the free choice of men, and in adaptation to their states. He has power to build it in spite of their errors, by a gentle and merciful leading.
If all the bodies of the New Church are inspired by this kind of charity their differences of doctrine will not stand in the way of friendly relations, co-operation in most general uses, or the interchange of benefits that will, in the Lord's providence be made to minister to the real and eventual good of the New Church. In this case there will be no desire to hinder one another in the performance of their several distinct uses. There will be no policy of silence, but all will be glad to have the teachings of the others fully known, and openly subjected to examination and comparison, in order that every one may have a basis for rational judgment and free choice as to where he will place his allegiance. There will be no effort to proselytize by persuasion, especially among children and young people who are not prepared to form an independent judgment. There will be no bitterness of personal feeling, no mutual recrimination, no spirit of accusation or of condemnation of individuals. Yet there should be complete freedom for each body to maintain and defend zealously what it regards as the essential truth of the church. There will be whole-hearted recognition of the uses that other bodies perform which contribute to the welfare of the church.
Such is the vision of spiritual charity pictured for us in the Heavenly Doctrine. It is a goal by no means easy of attainment. We can advance toward it but haltingly because of the many obstructions that are interposed by our proprial loves, and by the proprial loves of others. It can become effective as a uniting bond only to the degree that it is mutual and reciprocal. Nevertheless, it is an ideal of charity we should cherish in our hearts, and labor to achieve perpetually. For in this charity is the true spirit of the New Church, the spirit that makes the New Church living, the spirit that is enjoined upon us as followers of the Lord in His second coming, a spirit to which the Writings point on every page.
THE NEW CHURCH IN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD
To recapitulate briefly what has thus far been established to show that the faith of modern Christianity is directly opposite at every vital point to the truth now revealed in the Writings of the New Church:
The three essentials of a true Christian faith, as stated in the Writings are: the acknowledgment of the Divinity of Jesus Christ; the acknowledgment of the Divinity, the holiness, and consequently the authority of the Word; and a life of charity that springs from these two, and that looks in all things to man s spiritual and eternal welfare.
In contrast to this, the prevailing view of the modern Christian world is that Jesus Christ was a man, similar in all respects to other men except for the fact that He was blessed with an incomparable insight into moral truth. The Sacred Scripture is regarded as a book of moral precepts which, however, possess no moral authority, but rather reflect the superstitions and primitive ideas of the times in which they were written. And charity is thought of as a moral life that is entirely independent of theological belief, and one that looks to the external welfare of human society without any concern for the life after death.
This direct opposition to the three essentials of the New Church is, as we have noted, the professed belief of liberal Protestantism; but it is so widely accepted in the present day Christian world that it is taken for granted, and is unconsciously implied in religious literature and in the public pronouncements of many popular leaders of Christian thought, regardless of their sectarian affiliation. It is manifested in the growing movement toward inter-denominational co-operation, and in the welcome acceptance of the "Social Gospel." No one can doubt, therefore, that it represents the prevailing temper of our times in regard to the faith and life of the Christian religion. What then, we may ask, should be the attitude of the New Church toward this Christian world? Is there some basis for internal unity between them? If so, what kind of charity is required to bring them into harmonious co-operation and mutual sympathy?
The Writings lead us to the definite conclusion that there is such a basis, and that a bond of charity should exist, not between opposite tenets of faith, but between the members of the New Church and all in the Christian world who are sincere and earnest in their endeavor to lead a good life to the best of their knowledge and belief.
34. Luke 16:26.
With men, however, as long as they live on earth, and for some time after death, there is no such separation. These two opposites exist together in every human mind, locked in a struggle for ascendancy, the outcome of which has not yet been determined. This inner conflict ceases only after men have passed through the world of spirits, and have been prepared for their final place in heaven or in hell. It can be settled only by the free choice of the man himself. Inmostly the choice is not between truth and falsity, but rather between love to the Lord, in whatever form He map appear to a man, and the love of self, which is subtly exalted by falsity and made to appear supreme.
In the natural world the issue is often obscured because falsity is mistaken for truth, and in its light evil appears as good.
Since the Lord judges men, not according to what they believe, but according to their intentions and ends, therefore, where the intention is to keep the commandments of God, there in His sight is the church. This church is universal, interpenetrating all religions, irrespective of their creeds.
All who belong to this potential church, although they are scattered like sheep having no shepherd, are nevertheless under the constant, though secret guidance of the Lord, who, with all the power of His providence, watches over them, and protects their spiritual life with infinite care and tenderness. As He Himself said in His prayer at the Last Supper; "Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition."35 By this He meant that all men have been redeemed, and no one is condemned who is willing to be saved.
35. John 17:12.
Because of this, although we can feel no sympathy for the doctrines that we know to be false, nor for a mode of life that is contrary to what we know from the Word to be good, still we can hope and believe that in the midst of the spiritual darkness which envelopes the modern Christian world, there still are many who are sincere in heart. We cannot know with certainty who they are, but, without making internal judgments of any individual, we can cultivate a spirit of charity toward the qualities of innocence and sincerity in all who manifest them openly in speech and act. With these we can have a bond of mutual sympathy, of friendship, and of wholehearted co-operation in external uses. We can wish that they might learn to know the Lord in His Divine Human and rejoice in the light of spiritual truth now revealed in the Writings. But above all, we should wish them to be led to receive this truth by the Lord Himself, in accord with their spiritual freedom, not by any pressure or persuasion on our part.
36. Isaiah 42:3.
In this respect we should co-operate with the Lord by the exercise of patience and forbearance. Nor should there be in our spirit of charity the slightest shadow of condescension, for after all, we are not very far removed from the state of those in the Christian world who, in the midst of darkness, are struggling toward the light. We ourselves are only beginning to understand the truth of the Writings. We have the Christian world within us, as well as around us. The light of the truth that shines from the pages of the Heavenly Doctrine is largely obscured in our minds by clouds of fallacies and appearances and mistaken ideas that lie deeply imbedded in our thought, as well as by proprial affections that continue in possession of our hearts.
Nevertheless, the charity that constitutes a bond of internal unity between the Church Specific and the Church Universal must derive its soul from a supreme devotion to the Lord, and to His truth as revealed in the Heavenly Doctrine. The Church Universal, in the merciful providence of the Lord, can provide for the salvation of every individual who, either here or in the life to come, is willing to be taught and led by the Lord; but it cannot provide for the establishment of the Lord's kingdom on the earth. Natural good, even if innocence be in it, has no power to overcome the interior evils that plague the human race. It has no power of judgment that can with assurance distinguish truth from falsity, or genuine good from its counterfeit. Concerning this the Writings teach:
37. AC 7761.
If this be the case, and if the Writings actually. Present that spiritual truth which alone can lead to genuine good, then surely to uphold that truth, to propagate it throughout the world by every means in our power, and to lead men to accept it freely-this is the highest form of charity. Because we believe this we cannot do otherwise than recognize that our first responsibility is to the Lord. Our first duty is to the truth which He has entrusted to our care. This must take precedence over our duty to men.
Acknowledging this, our first responsibility is to perfect our own understanding of the Divine truth, and to increase our ability to apply it intelligently to the reformation of our own lives. This comes first because we cannot see to remove the mote from our brother's eye until we have removed the beam that is in our own eye. We cannot be of real service in spreading the faith of the New Church to others unless we are deeply concerned with the true establishment of that faith in our own hearts and lives. Spiritual charity, like natural charity, begins at home, and radiates thence to those around. Wherefore the church as an organization must grow as the church grows within each one. Indeed, the church itself is always within man, and the church as an organization, rightly considered, consists of those who have the church within them. Because of this, internal evangelization comes first, and external evangelization follows. By internal evangelization we mean the constant feeding and upbuilding of the understanding and life of the truth with those who are already members of the church, to the end that the church may be constantly growing in spirit, and from this, may grow in numbers.
Our second responsibility is to the children the Lord has given into our care. We must see that these children are protected from the influences which so distort the minds of the young as to make it difficult, or even impossible for them on reaching adult age to accept the teaching of the Writings. All little children delight in the stories of the Word, and respond affirmatively to teaching about the Lord and heaven. But modern education so emphasizes the imperative need for material things, so concentrates upon the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and upon the struggle for physical and mechanical skills, that religion is given but scant consideration. That kind of education insinuates such reliance upon natural truth to solve all the problems of human life, and casts such doubt upon the reliability of any spiritual teaching, that an unbiased approach to the Writings as a Divine revelation is made extremely difficult when adult age is reached. It is our duty to see that our children, by their education, are led to the Lord, that their minds are kept open to His truth, and that their will is rendered pliable to His leading. To fulfill this responsibility we have to act contrary to the popular trend of modern education, which is to make citizenship the supreme goal of all learning, and to ignore completely the teaching of any religion.
Finally, our third responsibility is to see that the teaching of the Heavenly Doctrine is made available to every one in the entire world. We must seek to spread the knowledge of it by its publication in every land, and by its translation into every language. We must see that it is presented in its purity, without human persuasion, without external pressure of any kind, in order that the truth itself may build the church as far as men, in the Lord's providence, may be prepared to see it and to accept it in complete freedom. We should be inspired with a sincere missionary zeal; but our zeal should be tempered with patience. We should trust in the Lord's secret leading, and resist any desire to force His hand and by insisting from our own intelligence upon the external growth of the church, in the way, and at the rate we think is right.
As far as this spirit of charity prevails, the New Church will grow under the immediate leading of the Lord. It will develop its own distinctive life directly from the principles of the Writings as these are understood and applied to every phase of religious life. It will do so without ill-will toward those outside of the church who cannot understand; and yet without being turned aside from this paramount duty by misunderstanding and opposition from the world. It will do so in no spirit of narrowness or bigotry or contempt of others, nor with any sense of superiority over others, but solely from a desire to be true to what the Lord teaches. As far as we can make this exalted ideal of charity real in our minds and in our lives, the Lord will, in His own time and in His own day, build His church within us, and extend it to the world around us, even until the promise of His everlasting kingdom is fulfilled.