Problems in Today's World and Their Solution
The Doubting Thomas
If we are to make the First and Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strengththe center of our life, the first question is, Who is God? For if we do not know who He is, we certainly cannot love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
When the Lord appeared to Thomas, after His resurrection, Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28.) Thomas is called "the doubting Thomas," yet Thomas was the only one of the Apostles who called Jesus "my Lord and my God."
To these words of Thomas, Jesus replied, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29.)
It is important not only to know, if possible, who our Lord and God is, but also to know the nature, attributes, or qualities of God. A false idea of God necessarily leads to a false idea of man, and, vice versa, a false idea of man leads to a false idea of God, and this, to a false idea of life.
A man who was speaking to one of a certain religion in a distant land asked him why he was honest while so many of his co-religionists were not. The other replied that in their religions the gods often did dishonest things, and that they saw no reason for being more honest than their gods. As to the question why he was honest, he replied only that he liked honesty. Many in Christian churches think God has human weaknesses, such as becoming angry, changing His mind, loving praise for its own sake, and showing special favors to some when solicited to do so by those close to Him. This subject will be set forth more fully in a later section of this book. A man can become an image of God if he has a living faith and desire, but he can strive intelligently toward this goal only if he has a clear idea of God and His relation to man—something which few have.
If the Gospels are a true account, Jesus said He was God, yet relatively few in Christian lands, particularly relatively few Protestants, believe this. If it is denied that the Lord is God, then it is evident that the account given in the Gospels is inaccurate, and that the Bible is not the Word of God. Most who do not believe that the Lord is God do not believe that the Lord was born of a virgin, that He was resurrected as to the body, or that he performed miracles. If the account of the Lard's life given in the Bible is so inaccurate as to the facts and some of the teachings, how can one know what is true or what is not true in Christian teaching? One person in this case guesses this is true and another that; one more and another less. Christianity is reduced to mere opinions or guesses, and there is no faith, no clear seeing of the truth. If the Gospels are true, Jesus is the light, as He said: "I am the light of the world." But if all of religion is guesswork, where is the light? Do not men then walk in darkness? Christianity then becomes not a religion, but a supposition that there are certain moral and social principles, any of which may be questioned. There is no resemblance between such an idea of Christianity and the faith of the early Christians as expressed by the early Christian fathers. Such an idea of Christianity cannot properly be called Christian, for similar moral and social principles were held by the Stoics and are held by Buddhists, Confucians, and others
It is difficult for modern man to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. Let us consider some of these difficulties and how they ca-n be met.
The first reason given for not believing is, as some say, "How is it possible, if we consider the size of the universe with its millions of galaxies, to believe that a man who lived on the little speck we call our earth is the God of the universe?" If we regard this question from a materialistic point of view, that is, from a spatial point of view, it does indeed appear impossible; but if we view it from the point of view of spirit, it does not appear impossible. The universe we live in is a marvelous thing, but the mind of man, which can marvel at the universe and to a degree comprehend it, is much more marvelous than the material universe itself; for the whole material universe is relatively insignificant spiritually as compared to the mind of man.
What could be more marvelous than that man, in spite of the small size of his brain compared to the universe, can choose what he will do, can change and modify not only his environment, but also his character or mind, and can discipline himself? This is the greatest of marvels, which no science can explain.
Either the universe was created for the sake of man, or it really makes no sense. What sense would a lifeless universe make? Certainly a lifeless universe would have no purpose that could possibly be conceived; and if the universe has no sense or purpose, we cannot conceive of a God Who would create such a useless thing. Nor would a universe which contained animals make much more sense. Either God created the universe in order that there might be men and women whom He could love and who could know and love Him in return, or the whole of creation is meaningless. There can be nothing which does not have some source; there can be no activity of which there is not a source. This applies to the material realm as well as to the mental. If there were no electrons as a source, there could be no electricity. If there were no source of life, of love, and of wisdom, there could be no life, no love, and no wisdom. To think that a dead mechanical force is the source of life, of love, and of wisdom is absurd. Indeed, life, to be intelligible to us, must be united to an organic form. In recent times it has been discovered that heredity, which gives the characteristics to living forms, is based on certain molecules, called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and that these molecules are ordered in a remarkable chain. The materialist thinks that if he can understand the composition and order of these molecules, he will know what life is. But molecules are not life. The molecules upon which life is based are indeed remarkable, but it is still more wonderful that such molecules exist in creation. Is it not absurd to think that such molecules exist by mere chance, and that the whole of creation is a thing of chance? Suppose that civilization were wiped out by bombs, except for a few primitive people, and that these, as they explored, came to discover books. The books to them would appear mere pieces of paper, having on them certain shapes we call letters, consisting of a few straight and curved lines put together in different ways. Later, if they ever learned to read, would they not be astonished? The whole of the mind of a Shakespeare, even the mind of God as revealed in the Bible, is in these few letters composed of a few lines. Yet these lines are not the mind of Shakespeare, and still less are they the Divine Mind. Again, if we play a phonograph record, we may be moved to tears by the words or by the song, or we may be affected by the profundity of the thought expressed; yet the record is nothing but a wiggly line on wax. Although the mind is dependent on the brain as a book is dependent on paper, ink, and letters, the mind is no more the organic form than the wisdom in a book is the letters.
If we can see that the purpose of creation is a world of men and women who can be loved by God and who can know Him and love Him, we come to the next step. How can we know God? We cannot comprehend or contemplate infinite love and wisdom as it is in itself. As the Lord said: "No man hath seen God at any time." (John 1:18.) We can indeed see that there is an Infinite Source of all things, but that is all. If, therefore, the purpose of creation is that we may fulfill the First and Great Commandment, to love the Lord our God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, the Lord must reveal Himself to man. That is, God must clothe Himself and accommodate Himself to man in such a way that man can have some idea of Him.
God Willed to Be Conjoined With Man
The Lord said: "That they all may be one: as thou. Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: ... I in them, and thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." (John 17:21, 23.)
It is the nature of love to give itself to others. It is the very nature of the Divine Love to give its life, its love, and its wisdom to man. If man reciprocates the Lord's love, then the Lord conjoins Himself to man and man to the Lord.
Between the Divine, called the Father, and the Human, called the Son, there was a perfect union, so that the Human was not only a receptacle of life but became the very Divine life, and thus became God. As the Lord said: "I am the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25.) "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6.) Man can never become life itself, for if he did he would be a god. But man can receive the life of love and faith from the Lord. As the Lord cannot give the life of Divine Love and Wisdom to man, to be man's own and thus to enable him to become a god, and as the Lord longs to communicate His love and wisdom to man, out of His love He gives His love and wisdom to man, so that man may feel it entirely as if it were his own; although man should then acknowledge that he has nothing that is not given him from the Lord out of heaven. If man receives the life of love and wisdom from the Lord, and acknowledges that it is the Lord's in him, then the Lord is conjoined with man in the love and wisdom that man has received from the Lord. Then are fulfilled the words of the Lord, "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." (John 17:23.)
The first reason why man does not believe that Jesus is God is, as we have indicated, that man thinks materially about creation; he does not understand the purpose of creation; he does not see how we can know God; and he does not realize that God wills the conjunction of Himself with man and of man with Himself.
The second reason for not believing that Jesus Christ is our Lord and God is pride, conceit, or ambition. We read in the Psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." (Psalm 53:1.) Most people imagine that their opinions are the result of their thinking. They think they have come to their conclusions from an objective viewing of the questions under consideration, but in this they often deceive themselves. Most form their opinions from a subjective point of view, that is, from their desires or loves, or from wishful thinking. A proud, conceited, vain, ambitious man may think he believes in God because he belongs to a church which is large and powerful, and the power of the church is reflected upon him. Another may think he believes in God because the church he belongs to has a high intellectual standing; its leaders are learned and highly educated, and its members have a higher than average social standing. Is it not obvious that such a faith or belief is not a real faith or belief in God?
A proud and conceited man feels no aversion to believing in an invisible and unknowable something which he may call God, a God who is something behind the order of creation, a God who is not a Divine Man of Infinite love and wisdom. When in the Psalms it says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," it does not refer to an inhuman God, a God of mere energy, or the source of the order of the physical universe. Many fools believe in such a God, which in reality is no God. When it says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," the fool is more often a highly learned man who has made quite a reputation for himself as an intellectual.
The reason why a proud, conceited, and vain man does not like to believe in a God who is a Divine Man of Infinite love and wisdom is that such a belief demands submission, obedience, a humbling of oneself before such a God; and this the vain and proud man does not like. This aversion or dislike becomes still greater when he is faced with the idea that the Infinite God of love and wisdom descended and clothed Himself with a human nature in the world in order to approach and save mankind. This is the real reason why so many so-called Christians do not believe in their hearts the words Jesus used when Thomas said to Him, "My Lord and my God": "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:28, 29.)
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12.) "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19.)
As we have said, the primary evil of the world, which causes men to deny in their hearts that Jesus Christ is their Lord and their God, is the love of self, pride, and vanity. Pride cannot fall before the Lord Jesus Christ saying, "My Lord and my God."
A proud man wishes in his heart to be above all, yea, even, if it were possible, to be God Himself. Such a man feels himself the supreme thing in the universe. Man appears to be the supreme thing of the universe, and a proud man wants to be the supreme man; he does not like the idea of a God-Man infinitely above him. Such a one may feel no aversion to acknowledging a so-called God which is an impersonal force within nature, for as a man he can feel in a sense superior to this; but to bow down to a God who is an Infinite Man, this his pride prevents him from doing. He then invents many arguments to confirm his aversion and finally ends up by believing that he has come to his negative conclusion from an objective point of view. Not having a pure and humble heart, he cannot see God; for we read, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8), and, being unable to see God, he concludes that there is no Infinite Divine Man who can make Himself visible to man by clothing His Infinite in an appearance that man can see, know, love, and obey.
If one thinks of "the ground of being," or some such entity which may be called God, in place of "Our Father who art in Heaven," can one love such an entity with all one's heart, with all one's soul, with all one's mind, and with all one's strength? And if those of the church begin to make the First and Great Commandment of no effect by their traditions, what of Christianity is left?
The Lord said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3,4.) No one who does not humble himself as a little child can really say from the heart, "My Lord and my God."
But what is it to become as a little child? It does not mean to become childish, nor even naive, although such may appear naive to the sophisticated. To become as a little child is to become wise, not stupid. To become sophisticated is to become stupid.
In the Writings of Swedenborg it is said that to become again a little child is to come to a state of innocence, and a state of innocence is to acknowledge from the heart that we are dependent on the Lord as a child feels dependent on his parents; and that a child is in the innocence of ignorance, but a wise man is in the innocence of wisdom. The innocence of wisdom consists in acknowledging that, apart from the influx of love and wisdom from the Lord, we have no love, wisdom, or spiritual life, and that what we know compared to what we do not know is like a cup of water to the ocean. A wise man therefore acknowledges his great ignorance and is in humility although he knows more than others.
In the modern world, for the most part, sophistication has taken the place of wisdom. Men are even proud of being called sophisticated; and not knowing what wisdom is, they think that there is no other alternative to being sophisticated than to be naive or credulous. Especially the learned are apt to be sophisticated, for their pride is in their great learning. Great learning can be of service to the wise; but for the most part the learned, on account of their pride in their learning, seldom become wise, but only sophisticated. A learned man can become a wise child beyond others if he overcomes the conceit of his own intelligence.
The sophisticated man cannot comprehend and cannot but despise such words of the Lord as "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7), and "Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child." (Luke 18:17.)
Observe how in all things of life the sophisticated say, like the witches in Macbeth, that "Fair is foul and foul is fair," calling evil things good and good things evil. For example, many learned critics in the arts call the ugly, the clever, or the sick by the name of art, and the beautiful they call sentimental or "corny." It is indeed true that most religious art of the past century or two, and most popular art which the superficial art lovers call beautiful, is of no value, but it is not so bad as the sophisticated, perverse, and ugly that is today called art.
The sophisticated tend to hide their real feelings behind high-sounding words; but in the arts the real spirit of the age appears, just as the expression of a man's face often reveals more than his words.
The arts are a most reliable sign of the times, revealing the spirit of the age. If anyone doubts the reality of hell, he needs only to regard what is called modern in all the arts in order to be convinced.
To illustrate the above, consider the comment on a painting by Picasso reproduced in a museum bulletin and here also reproduced: "Picasso was a man of extraordinary humanity." One having any sensitivity would agree that to paint one's wife and children as Picasso did in this picture is diabolically inhuman and cruel, having nothing to do with "humanity." This is obvious; but a similar sophistication in other fields, particularly theology and philosophy, although equally present, may not be so obvious.
Not only in all the arts but also in religious literature much of the popular things remind one of honey sweetened with saccharin, whereas most of the highly sophisticated productions appear to be made for people with plastic hearts and electronic brains, and to have been produced by the same, the difference being that the production of computers is more orderly and useful and never offends one's intelligence or sensibilities.
The sophisticated have gained the dominant power not only in theological schools, but in most of the leading universities, art schools, magazines, and museums and in the government, so that one scarcely finds a proportion of one wise man to twenty sophisticated persons in places of prominence or power.
The sophisticated, by continually repeating clever arguments to prove that the ugly is beautiful and the false is true, have succeeded in either brainwashing a large part of the general public into accepting the ugly as art or intimidating them into saying or even believing that they do not understand the insanities which the sophisticated praise so highly.
The sophisticated continually repeat the statement that the great artists were not understood or recognized for a long time, as if this were the one thing in the history of art that is most important. But they do not emphasize that it was the highly sophisticated establishments—those who were considered the most learned, the leading critics, the so-called experts—who refused to recognize the great artists, and instead set up false idols for the people to follow and thus misled them. Part of the public was more frequently right in their judgment than were the experts, the renowned critics. The great artists were first recognized, as a rule, by those who were not considered experts in the arts.
That this is true in other fields is evident. The Messiah, who was expected, was first recognized by fishermen. It was the Sophists who were instrumental in forcing Socrates to drink hemlock.
It was not only the church, but the leading learned societies and universities, who opposed Copernicus and Galileo. Francis Bacon, considered the most learned man of his day and the father of the scientific method, and who has been called the first modern man, opposed the Copernican idea that the sun is the center of the solar system and that the planets revolve around it. I have read that Harvard University one hundred years after the publication of the papers of Copernicus was still contending in favor of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, namely, that the heavenly bodies were circling the earth.
The sophisticated may say, yes, all this may be true, but times have changed, and we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. This reminds us of what the Lord said: "Ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers." (Matthew 23:29-32.)
In this essay by "atheists" we mean those who firmly maintain that there is no God. By "agnostics" we mean those who do not know whether there is a God or a life after death, and who do not know whether there is such a thing as inspiration from heaven, and consequently do not see clearly, or for certain, truths which are above the plane of that which can be scientifically demonstrated.
The atheist maintains his position of atheism on the grounds that, on the basis of sensual experience or scientific evidence, it cannot be proved that there is a God; but his position is illogical and irrational, for it is equally true that on the basis of sensual experience or scientific evidence it cannot be proved that there is not a God.
In the created universe there are things which are orderly, useful, and beautiful and others which are disorderly, harmful, and ugly. As to men and women, there are some who are noble, good, and truthful and others who are ignoble, wicked, and liars. It appears to us axiomatic that everything must have an origin. What is the origin of the noble, the good, and the truthful, if there is no God? And what is the origin of the ignoble, the wicked, and the untruthful, if man has not free choice that enables him to pervert order?
The atheist and the agnostic usually maintain that those who have a faith in God, in the Word of God, and in life after death, especially if they are ministers, hold their faith out of bias or prejudice, and with respect to this we would agree that they are often right; but we maintain that the atheist and the agnostic are even more strongly affected in their thinking by prejudice and bias.
First as to the bias of those who claim to have faith. With many, what is called faith is merely habit acquired from childhood and its environment. If one's faith is merely such, and he becomes a minister or religious teacher, his so-called faith is strengthened by the self-interest of his profession.
Many have a blind faith, based on emotional reaction to the environment in which they have been brought up, particularly in relation to their parents and those by whom they have been taught. Such faith in childhood has its use; but if it is carried on into life, instead of becoming an adult one comes immediately into a premature spiritual dotage, which is something entirely different from what the Lord meant when he said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 18:3.) The child which a man is again to become is a wise child, and it is not meant that he should become childish in the ordinary sense of the word. Socrates, according to our idea, is an example of a man who in his old age becomes a wise child. In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, faith is defined as the seeing of truth in spiritual light or in the light of heaven, and to come to such a light involves an independent struggle.
As to the bias of the atheist and agnostic, whereas some men, out of an emotional blind clinging to the things of their childhood, maintain a kind of faith, others, because of various circumstances and their emotional reactions thereto, become rebellious. This emotional rebelliousness with some takes the form of atheism or agnosticism. Still others, who have been brought up in an atheistic or agnostic atmosphere and therefore cling to atheism or agnosticism out of childish habit just as those brought up in a religious atmosphere cling to the things of their early belief, if they are active in an atheistical movement have their negative faith strengthened by self-interest.
This is most obviously the case with communism, which is a kind of negative religion. In the communistic environment, if one considers the possibility of God, he is considered a heretic. It is evident that the atheism of communism is the result of an irrational emotionalism, as is clear from the writings of Karl Marx, although, like the emotional Christian, the emotional atheist and agnostic bring forth reasonings to support their position. The Writings of Swedenborg describe an argument in the other world between a group of ministers and a group of politicians: the ministers argued that all things which occur are the result of Divine Providence, and the politicians argued that all things are the result of mere human prudence. Both groups were then told to change their clothes, the ministers putting on the garments of the politicians and the politicians, the garments of the ministers. ("Garments" stands for the external attitude; here, the attitude of a function.) The ministers then argued in favor of human prudence and the politicians in favor of Divine Providence. This about-face would not have taken place if the ministers had loved the truth more than the honors which came to them as a result of their profession.
Some accept atheism or agnosticism because they wish to give free rein to their desires, apart from any restraint of conscience. Others become agnostics or atheists because they see so many so-called Christians live hypocritical lives going to church and putting on an appearance of piety, whereas in business and sexual conduct they are worse than those of many who make little pretense of having any faith. Such judge from a narrow, personal point of view and not from a regard for whether the thing is in itself true.
In America the irrationality of atheism is apparent, and atheists are relatively few in number, but agnosticism is widespread. There is a certain truth in the idea that man should become agnostic as defined at the commencement of this chapter; for until a man feels his ignorance, he cannot learn in such a way as to become independent, or, what is the same, he cannot become spiritually an adult but, like a child, remains dependent on others for his thinking. This kind of agnostic is rare.
If a man realizes that he has no clear idea of what he believes and is aware of his ignorance and lack of independent thinking in regard to matters of faith, if he is a real man, he will search for the truthor at least will strive to see whether truth is discoverable.
Most confirmed agnostics strongly maintain that truth above the plane of the scientific, or truth which is not demonstrable on the basis of physical sensation, cannot be ascertained. Some might admit that certain moral principles are beyond doubt. For example, there is a small section of the human race which regards head-hunting as a normal activity, yet there are very few who are not certain, beyond any doubt, that headhunting is an abnormality. But when it comes to the things of God, many so-called agnostics firmly maintain that such knowledge is unobtainable and tend to regard those who are certain of such knowledge as arrogant, and to resent such an attitude of certainty. In this they are inconsistent, for, if they were agnostic in the sense of not knowing, and if they maintain, as most do, that a man has a right to his opinion and may possibly be right, then if they were logical, they would admit that another might see clearly and certainly a thing which they themselves could not see. A man who is blind and at the same time is envious and resentful because he cannot see, and thus lacks the abilities of others, might prefer to have all other men blind so that they would not be superior to himself. If there is a spiritual light and yet many, being spiritually blind, cannot see spiritual things, if they are both vain and blind, they bitterly resent the possibility that others can see clearly the things which to them are in the dark. Such emotional resentment is manifested by most confirmed agnostics, a fact which shows that agnosticism with them has become a kind of negative faith; for, if they were open-minded agnostics, they would acknowledge without resentment that another could see and be in a light which they do not have. As they claim to be agnostics, and still firmly maintain this negative belief, their position is contradictory and illogical. That this is so is evident from the position they commonly take. They say that everyone has a right to his opinion; they admit that the one having faith may be right and they may be wrong, but they demand that the one having faith also should admit that he might be wrong. The fallacy of this argument will be illustrated by the following.
A blind man, if it could not be physically proved that he could not see, might say to one who had normal sight that he would admit that he was blind and the other could see provided the one who could see would admit the possibility that he might be blind. And because the one who could see would not admit that he might be blind, the blind man would accuse him of narrow-mindedness, prejudice, and arrogance.
Anyone who refuses to consider the possibility that there can take place a spiritual enlightenment by which a man can be certain of the spiritual verities he sees, as clearly and certainly as a man sees objects with his bodily eyes, is not an open-minded agnostic but a narrow-minded dogmatist.
Every intelligent man is in favor of progress; but many who call themselves progressive mistake change for progress. The modern, the up-to-date, they consider an improvement on the past. History teaches that civilizations rise and decline. When a civilization is rising, those called progressive are more apt to be right; when a civilization is declining, the conservatives are more apt to be right; but few have the judgment to know when a civilization is rising or when it is declining. Much so-called progress is a delusion, temporarily appearing to be an advance but in the long run hastening a decline.
Those who tore out one of the famous twelfth-century windows in Chartres Cathedral and replaced it with an ornate fifteenth-century window undoubtedly did this in the name of progress.
A wise man never accepts the name of a conservative or a progressive. He looks for what is genuine in the present and in the past, and he is opposed to the false, the counterfeit, whether it be in the present or in the past. As the Lord said: "Every scribe instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man . . . that bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old." (Matthew 13:52.) But few have the judgment to know whether a thing is a treasure or a counterfeit. Especially are those belonging to what is called the "establishment" nearly always wrong.
As we have said, modern man for the most part is so sophisticated that it is difficult for him to believe that Jesus Christ is God. Some believe that Jesus is the Son of God; as Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16.) As long as Jesus was living among His disciples as a man, they could not believe fully in Him as God; and there was a certain truthfulness in this attitude, for, as long as He was in the world, Jesus had two natures, one from His Divine conception and the other inherited from Mary. It was only after He was fully glorified or made Divine and had put off all merely human limitations from His maternal heredity that Thomas could rightly call Him "my Lord and my God."
Another reason why modern man finds it difficult to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked on earth with man, is God, is that such an idea is totally contrary to the prevailing modern atmosphere of thought. Let us consider further why this is so.
The first reason is that modern education and the thinking it engenders have been concentrated on the sciences have been preoccupied with things of the material world, those things that a man knows by means of the five senses of the body and the deductions therefrom. From this point of view, the universe is immensely great and man is an insignificant part of it. But, as we have said, what would all the marvels of creation amount to if there were not a man who could marvel?
In recent years many thinkers have given more emphasis to the human—to man and his subjective mind—as the all-important existing thing. The world of the mind is a world above time and space, above all scientific knowledge which comes by means of the five senses of the body. A man can be conscious of and reflect on this wonderful world of the mind; and it is only out of this world of the mind that he can reflect upon the world around him of which he is made aware by the five bodily senses.
Whereas the developing and ordering of the mind for the reception of the love and wisdom of God are the end in view, and this requires a reflection on the mind itself, such reflection is not possible apart from objective truth which is outside us. God has therefore given us a revelation in His Word as objective truth. Yet the objective truth of the Word of God becomes a living thing in man only as he works with it, applies it to his life, reflects on it in his mind and struggles to order it.
The existentialists for the most part, in placing the emphasis on the subjective, have gone to the opposite extreme from the materialists and do not see the importance of the objective Word of God.
If we think scientifically of God, we think of Him as the order or origin of the material universe, an unknown something or a thing of reasoned conclusions, but not as a Divine Personas our Father who is in heaven. If we turn away from the idea of God as a philosophical-scientific idea, a thing of mere reason, to the idea of a Divine Person, we may come into the opposite danger of thinking of God as a limited human being on a throne out in an unknown region. As was said above, many of those called "fundamentalists" think of Him as having merely human emotions, such as in becoming angry or changing His mind, or as creating men for the sake of His own glory—and there are passages in the Bible which, if not genuinely understood, present such an appearance.
On the other hand, we can think of God as being an Infinite Divine Mind, having Infinite Love and Wisdom, a God who is above time, space, or change of state. Love and wisdom are the human itself above the plane of time and space; as they exist in the material universe, they are the human form itself which is clothed with a body. As is said in the Writings of Swedenborg, the true idea of God is to think of Him as "Divine Love in Human form." If we are to love God, we must think of Him as a Divine man appearing in Human form; yet we must not think of Him as being large, or small, or as being here or there in space; God is not material. He dwells in the Kingdom of Heaven, which may be within us, a Kingdom which, like the mind, is not bounded by the things of space which pertain to the material world. If we think of God in this way, we can understand that man can become an image and likeness of God.
Again, the body is an image of the soul on a lower plane, the plane of space and matter. The body is soul and mind clothed with a material covering which serves it for life in this world. Everything of the body corresponds to something of the soul: the smile of the face corresponds to the joy of the mind, the sight of the body corresponds to the sight of the mind, the ear of the body to the hearing of the mind, the sense of touch to the feeling of the mind, the hands and feet to the practical working of the mind, the heart to the love of the mind, the lungs to the thinking, and so with everything of the body. If we see the material world and the body of man as having their source in the Divine things of God and as phenomena of the Kingdom of Heaven brought down to the plane of space and fixed matter, it is not so difficult to see that God Himself could take on a body in the world by birth, if in accordance with His Divine Love and Wisdom there was a reason for doing so. Such an idea is contrary to a materialist's idea of reason, but it is not contrary to enlightened human reason—a reason of the spirit elevated above all material things.
If a king were the ruler of a province at a great distance, he might rule it by dictating to scribes, who would send letters to the governors of the province. But if the province were to come into such great disorder that it was in danger of being destroyed or overrun by enemies, the king would go himself to save the province and to establish law and order.
If there is a God of Infinite Love and Wisdom, when the writings He gave to mankind to guide them were insufficient for their salvation, could He do otherwise than come to them to save them?
A man with common sense can see that God could not do otherwise. But the sophisticated, who lack and often despise common sense, can never see this.
The reason for the Lord's coming into the world was this, that from His Love He desired to be conjoined with those in the human race, and because the human race had removed itself so far from the influx of the Divine Itself that they could no longer be saved. He took on a Human nature by birth in the world and made it purely Divine in order that He might accommodate and again conjoin Himself with those in the human race in their fallen state, if they would receive Him.
The teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ is God is also in agreement with the teaching of the Gospels and the prophets, for we read that not only did the Lord bless the man who called Him "my Lord and my God," but He said:
"I and My Father are one" (John 10:30) ; and when Philip asked Him to show them the Father, He said: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; ... I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." (John 14:9) John said of Jesus Christ, "This is the true God, and eternal life." (I John 5:20.) And Paul wrote, "In him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9.)
The Old Testament plainly teaches that Jehovah was to come as the Savior. In the Prophets we read: "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is Jehovah; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. (Isaiah 25:9.) "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. . . . Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand." (Isaiah 40: 3, 10.)
There are many passages in the Prophets which say that God is one, that there is no God beside Jehovah, that Jehovah would become the Savior and Redeemer, and that there is no Savior and Redeemer besides Jehovah.
All the creeds of the early Christian church say that Jesus Christ is Lord and God.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, in his book Go To Heaven, points out forcibly that if the account given in the Bible of the life of Christ is the truth, then if Jesus was not God but only man, He could not have been a good man but was the worst of impostors and utterly arrogant in claiming to be something which He was not.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a prominent Jewish writer on religious topics, in God in Search of Man says that the Jewish leaders were so against Jesus primarily because He made Himself God. This is in agreement with the Gospel:
Jesus said: I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones ... to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father: for which of these works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. (John 10:30-33.)
There is no greater blasphemy possible than for a man to make himself God. Wherefore, if Jesus was not God, then the Jews were right in their accusation.
There are only three possibilities: (1) Jesus Christ is our Lord and God, "Jehovah come in strength"; or (2) Jesus was a blasphemer who, as the Jews said, being a man, made himself God; or (3) the Bible is a totally unreliable and falsified book which gives a false picture of the life of Jesus, or in any case is so unreliable that we can have no certain idea of what Jesus was like or of what He said.
If the latter case is true, then the Christian religion is a temple with a foundation of sand; everyone with such an idea thinks according to his own opinion, and one's own opinion takes the place of faith. This lack of faith in the Bible is what causes the faith of so many Christians to be weak. By this we do not mean that faith should be a blind faith, based merely on the authority of men. A living faith is a spiritual seeing that a thing is true; a man believes it because he sees clearly that it is true. But to see in the light of heaven that a thing of faith is true requires a right attitude of mind and heart. As we read in the Ten Blessings, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8.)
In contrast we read in the Psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalm 14:1.)
To see God and to see the Word of God, one must be sincere and modest, shun evil, and do good. The vain man, the proud, the sophisticated, is the fool who says in his heart, "There is no God," or, "There is no Word of God," which amounts to the same thing. He says this from his heart, not primarily from his thinking, for he does not want the Word of God. If he believed in the Word of God as Divine Revelation, it would hurt his pride, vanity, and feeling of superiority; he would have to humble himself. He therefore eagerly searches out and finds ingenious arguments to prove that the Bible is not the Word of God and presents them as if they were scientific proofs. He poses as a man who views religious questions objectively, whereas his denials and his arguments against the Word of God come forth from the proudness of his heart.
The sincere man, however, although he may at first be in doubt and troubled by many things he reads in the Bible which appear unreasonable or unjust, keeps an open mind. He acknowledges that there may be an explanation which will make the matter clear and dissipate his doubts; he has a feeling that God, if He loves man, must desire to reveal Himself to man. Such earnestly seek for the truth. They are not, however, like those who so pride themselves on being seekers for the truth that they would be disappointed if they ever found the truth (for this would hurt the proud seekers' feeling of superiority in being seekers after truth). There are many such persons who would never recognize the truth if they found it, for they are blinded by the feeling of their own self-importance.
Man can seek God because God is seeking man; the Lord stands at the door and knocks. "But the hour cometh and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him." (John 4:23.)
On the other hand, we read: "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." (Psalm 10:4.) It is not man's intellectual limitations which prevent him from finding the Divine Truth in which God manifests Himself, but the pride of man's stony heart, man's love of himself, with its conceit, which blinds him to God and to His Word. This is man's primary sin which hides the presence of God in His Word from him.
As said in Isaiah: "Behold, Jehovah's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you." (Isaiah 59:1,2.)
Every man by his very nature loves himself in the first place, and from this love wishes in his heart to be as God, knowing from himself good and evil. He does not want a Divine Human God above himself, before whom he is to kneel and bow down. He does not want a Divine Revelation of the Word of God. If, therefore, a man is really to seek God where He can be found, it is not in the first place an intellectual question, but it is a matter of wrestling with one's own pride and the conceit of one's own intelligence, for it is these that hide the face of God, and no seeking after God will enable man to find Him as long as these hide His face.
If a man does not find his Lord and his God, he ascribes this to his understanding and not to the real cause, namely, that not having a pure heart, he cannot see God—he cannot find Him.
As we shall explain more fully in a later chapter of this book, the Old Testament treats of the history of man—both the spiritual history of mankind and the spiritual development of the individual—and, in the supreme sense, the life of our Lord while on earth, to the extent that the things of His Spirit are concerned. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are not an historical account of persons, but a representative or symbolic description of the spiritual development of the Ancient Churches. This is explained fully in the Arcana Coelestia, by Emanuel Swedenborg.
The third chapter of Genesis describes the fall of the first church on earth.
The fall had its origin in the serpent. The serpent stands for trust in the bodily senses and for thinking out of such a trust—thus, for scientific or philosophic thinking about the truth of faith. Scientific and philosophic thinking on its own plane is in order; but when one tries to think of God, and the Word of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, from a philosophy based on the sensing of the things of the material universe, this is a different thing. If one's faith is founded on the evidences of the bodily senses, one comes easily first into doubt and finally to a denial of the Kingdom of Heaven, both a denial of the Kingdom of Heaven within one and the Kingdom of Heaven that one enters through the portal of death. One who trusts more in the philosophy based on reasonings from things in the material world than in Divine Revelation is deceived by the serpent. The woman in this chapter stands for one's own will, the desire to be independent, to know truth from one's self and not be dependent on the influx and revelation from God;
the desire to be like God—knowing good and evil, to be independent of the Word of God and independent of enlightenment from God; in a word, to trust in one's self. As we read in the Arcana Coelestia by Emanuel Swedenborg, "Who have a stronger belief that their eyes are opened and that as God they know good and evil, than those who love themselves, and at the same time excel in worldly learning? and yet who are more blind?" (Number 206.)
The man to whom the woman gave the fruit stands for the rational faculty. The man who in the conceit of his own intelligence trusts solely to his rational faculty, more than anyone else thinks that he views all things objectively. But in this he greatly deceives himself, for it is his ambition and conceit that govern his rational thinking and cause him to come to the conclusions he arrives at; then, after confirming it by many rational considerations, he believes the conclusion to be the result of viewing the matter objectively, whereas in fact it is the result of his wishful thinking.
The tree of life stands for the perception that a man receives his life from God—not only his life in general, but especially the life 'of his love and wisdom. The tree of the science (usually translated "knowledge") of good and evil is the feeling that man can know what is good and evil by means of the bodily senses—by science or philosophy apart from the Word of God and apart from inspiration from God.
It is the nature of self-love and its conceit not to believe anything it cannot apprehend by the bodily senses, science, or philosophy, and it is this love of self which persuades the rational faculty to agree with its desires.
In explication of the words, "The serpent was more subtle than any wild animal of the field which Jehovah God had made," we read in the Arcana Coelestia by Emanuel Swedenborg as follows:
A desire to investigate the mysteries of faith by sensuous and scientific things was not only the cause of the fall of the Most Ancient Church, but is also the cause of the fall of every church, for hence come not only falsities, but also evils of life. (Number 127.)
In ancient times those were called serpents who had more confidence in sensuous things than in revealed ones. But it is still worse at the present day, for now there are persons who not only disbelieve everything they do not see and feel, but also confirm themselves in such incredulity by sciences unknown to the ancients, and thus occasion in themselves a far greater degree of blindness. In order that it may be known how these blind themselves, so as afterwards to see and know nothing, who form their conclusions concerning heavenly matters from the things of sense, science, and philosophy, and who are not only "deaf serpents" but also the "flying serpents" frequently spoken of in the Word, which are much more pernicious, we will take as an example what they believe about the spirit. The sensual man, or he who believes only in the evidence of his senses, denies the existence of the spirit because he cannot see it, saying, "It is nothing because I do not feel it; that which I see and touch I know exists." The man of science, or he who forms his conclusions from the sciences, says, "What is the spirit, except perhaps vapor or heat, or some other entity of science that presently vanishes into thin air? Have not the animals also a body, senses and something analogous to reason? and yet it is asserted that these will die, while the spirit of man will live." Thus they deny the existence of the spirit. Philosophers also, who would be more acute than the rest of mankind, speak of the spirit in terms which they themselves do not understand, for they dispute about them. . . . All who reason from the things of sense, science, and philosophy, deny the existence of the spirit, and therefore believe nothing of what is said about the spirit and spiritual things. Not so the simple in heart; if they are questioned about the existence of spirit, they say they know it exists, because the Lord has said they will live after death; thus instead of extinguishing their rational they vivify it by the Word of the Lord. (Number 196.)
It may be observed that all things which God created, including the serpent, were at first good. The bodily senses are good and useful, the sciences are good and useful, the love of self, if it serves and does not rule in man, is good and useful, and the rational faculty is good and useful. Thus it is said that all that God created was very good. Evil has its origin in this, that what is lower begins to rule over what is higher. For example, all the bodily appetites which man is born with are good; but when man makes his life to consist in the gratification of bodily appetites and neglects that which is nobler, he falls into evil.
It is often wondered: Why, if He is omnipotent, did God permit evil to arise in the world? The answer to this question is as follows. God wishes above all else to have those He can love and who, out of free choice, love Him in return. If man were not free to choose to love or not to love, he would not be man; a compelled love is not a genuine human love' it is scarcely even an animal love. Therefore, because He loved mankind, God necessarily had to let man choose, first between what was higher and what was lower between what was more noble and what was less noble. It was owing to man's choosing the less noble that evil arose. God looks in the first place to the preservation of man's freedom, including his freedom of choice, for He prefers having evil men and devils to having automatons, compelled to love Him. He also turns all evil to some useful purpose, just as dung and urine are used to fertilize the soil. Anyone who reflects rejoices that this is so; for who would wish to be compelled to love? Who would wish to be without freedom of choice? Who does not feel that a compulsory love of God and his neighbor is an inhuman and worthless love? It is therefore the first law of the Divine Providence that man shall be held in a free state, and that he shall be free to choose between faith in God and faith solely in himself; between loving the Word of God and the Kingdom of Heaven above all else and loving his own intelligence, his own will, and the things of this world above all else. This is the reason why the Word of God is written in such a way as not to compel belief, but is of such a nature that those who desire to believe can find reasons for their faith, and those who do not desire to believe can find reasons in favor of their doubts or denials.
By choosing to trust in their own intelligence rather than in the Word of God, men were cast out of Paradise that is, they could no longer perceive that which the Lord called the Kingdom of Heaven within man—and cherubim were set to guard the way of the tree of life.
The cherubim are guards which prevent men from entering into the arcana, the inner truths of faith, from their own intelligence. It is the spirit of truth proceeding from the Lord that enlightens man and gives him to see clearly the inner truth in the Word of God.
If man desires to enter into the mysteries or secret things of faith from himself and his own intelligence, and not from the Lord Who is the door, he is led away by bodily and earthly loves, represented by the "flame of a sword turning itself." This is of the mercy of the Lord, for if a man were to enter the inner truth of the Kingdom of God out of self-love and its conceit, he would profane it, and his later state would be worse than his former state. As the Lord said:
"For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them." (Matthew 13:15.)
Not that the Lord does not will to convert all, but that he would prevent those who are converted, but not with their whole heart, from later turning away and profaning the holy truths of the Kingdom of God.
The cherubim are also guards in the letter of the Word of God which prevent the unprepared from entering into the inner sanctuary of truth. There are many things in the letter of the Word which are "hard sayings," many things which cause those who do not penetrate to the things of the spirit to say to themselves, "How can this be the Word of God?"
These guards are of the mercy of the Lord lest those entering without a wedding garment should violate the holy things within. The Word of the Lord is therefore written in such a way that those who are not enlightened from heaven say, "How can this be the