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Doctrine of Faith #1

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1. THE DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM REGARDING FAITH

Faith is an Internal Acknowledgment of Truth

Faith today is taken to mean no more than the thought that a thing is so because it is something the church teaches, and because it is not evident to the intellect. For we are told, "Believe and do not doubt." If we reply, "I do not understand," we are told that that is why it should be believed.

Faith today is therefore a faith in the unknown and may be termed a blind faith. Moreover, because it is one person’s assertion received by another, it is an inherited faith. We will see in what follows that that is not a spiritual faith.

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Real Faith is Simply Recognizing That Something is True

In this episode, we’re exploring passages from Swedenborg’s "Faith", number 1


Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and to Rev. N.B. Rogers, translator, for the permission to use this translation.

Commentary

 

Real Faith      

By New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth

This painting by Wilhelm Wachtel shows Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, when she was praying for a son.

“Faith” technically means “belief,” but it has taken on a thick layer of emotional import in the modern world, at least in terms of religion. Many people could happily entertain intellectual questions about what we believe to be true, but if those questions touch on our “faith” then they suddenly become an “attack.” We also use “faith” to describe the connection we can feel with God during emotionally charged worship services. This idea also filters through to secular uses: when we express “faith” that our favorite football team can win a game, that’s more of an emotional statement than an intellectual one.

One reason for that emotional content may be that Christian churches adopted the word “faith” to mean “accepting something as true even though it can’t be seen or understood.” For instance, the idea that God is one, divided into three persons without being divided. This defies reason, but Christians have long been called on to accept it as a “mystery of faith.” The idea that God the Father is completely loving, but that He requires the blood sacrifice and pleading of Jesus to let anyone into heaven is equally confounding, but is also an article of faith. Since it’s basically impossible to see the truth in these ideas from our minds, we have to simply believe them in our hearts, which makes them into emotional issues.

Swedenborg, however, uses “faith” in a more traditional sense, defining it as “an internal acknowledgement of truth.” That has some connection to the Christian concept of faith - it is truth seen and acknowledged, not necessarily truth that has been reasoned out and proven logically. But it’s not truth that defies logic; instead it is truth that is plain on its face.

Swedenborg is also clear that faith must include charity, or the desire and actual act of doing good to others, and that both act together to be complete. For us too, it is helpful to link faith with faithfulness, to God and to what we do. Swedenborg is consistently opposed to faith-alone: faith that lacks charity and good works.

For reference, and further reading, here are some key sections from Swedenborg's capstone theological work: True Christian Religion 337, 339, 344, 348, 355, 373, 393.

(References: Teachings about Faith 1, 2, 4, 11, 13, 18, 24, 25, 27)


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