Category — Doctrinal Views of the Other Bodies of the New Church
Doctrinal Views of the Various Bodies of the New Church Concerning the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
In this article we present the teachings of the different bodies of the New Church concerning the Writings of Swedenborg. In general, there are three distinct doctrinal views in the New Church about those Writings. One is taught by the General Conference and the General Convention. These are two distinct organizations in the New Church, but the distinction is not a doctrinal one, but historical and geographical. The second view is that taught by the General Church of the New Jerusalem. And the third view is that taught by The Lord’s New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma.
In setting forth the teachings of the other bodies of the New Church we recognize that there is a variation of opinion in each of them about the nature of the Writings of Swedenborg, but the general position attributed to each of them does in fact represent their beliefs as set forth in their creeds, books, and periodicals. This contrast of the doctrines of the various bodies is not made with any desire to belittle or misrepresent the beliefs of others, and we welcome any correction that others may have to offer.
The doctrinal view of each body of the New Church about the nature of the Writings of Swedenborg qualifies everything of its faith and life.It determines the interior direction of the Church. It determines the end to which the Church looks, for the attainment of which the Church must strive. It forms the idea of that to which the Lord looks in the New Church and of what He requires of the Church in love and faith. The idea of what the Writings of Swedenborg are in themselves concerns the inmost things of the Church. The question of the nature of those Writings is not to be approached lightly, but in the spirit of the love of the truth for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the good of life and the truth which is therefrom. You can see that this is so from the fact that all who believe in these Writings acknowledge that, in them, the Lord has made His Second Coming, or at least that they are about the Lord in His Second Coming. The idea of what these Writings are in themselves is one with the idea of the Lord in His Second Coming, to Whom the Church is to look and with Whom it is to be conjoined.
The Distinction between the Sense of the Letter of the Word And the Doctrine of the Church.
In order that the different views held in the New Church about the Writings of Swedenborg may be more fully understood, it is necessary to preface the treatment of those views with the distinction made in those Writings between the sense of the letter of the Word and the doctrine of the Church.
The Word of the Lord is the Divine Truth itself accommodated to angels and to men. The sense of the letter of the Word is the Word accommodated to men in the world. This contains within it the Spiritual and Celestial senses of the Word, and within these, the degrees of the Divine Truth which are above the Heavens. In this way, the sense of the letter of the Word contains all the Divine Truth. (See Arcana Coelestia 1870, 4642; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 252-255; Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 1.)
The Doctrine of the Church, on the other hand, is that Truth which the Church has received out of the Word tinder illustration from the Lord. It is that Divine Truth which those who are enlightened by the Lord receive in the understanding through the sense of the letter of the Word. More particularly, the genuine Doctrine of the Church is the truth of the internal sense of the Word which is drawn out of the sense of the letter of the Word by those who are in illustration from the Lord. The Doctrine of the Church is not all the Divine Truth that is in. the Word. It is that of the Divine Truth which the Church has received out of the Word.
That such is the Doctrine of the Church may be seen from the following teachings:
“That the Doctrine of the Church must be drawn out of the sense of the letter of the Word, and must be confirmed by it.” (Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture 50-56.)
“That the genuine truth which must be of Doctrine does not appear in the sense of the letter of the Word to others than to those who are in illustration from the Lord. Illustration is from the Lord alone and is with those who love truths because they are truths, and who make them uses of life.” (Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture 57)
“The Doctrine of faith is the same as the understanding of the Word as to interior things, or the internal sense.” (Arcana Coelestia 2762.)
“He who does not know the arcana of Heaven cannot but believe otherwise than that the Word is sustained without Doctrine therefrom; for he thinks that the Word in the letter or the letter sense of the Word is doctrine itself; but it must be known that all doctrine of the Church must be out of the Word, and that doctrine from any other source than out of the Word is not doctrine in which there is anything of the Church, still less of Heaven; but the Doctrine must be collected out of the Word, and when it is being collected man must be in illustration from the Lord, and he is in illustration when in the love of truth for the sake of truth, and not for the sake of self and the world. These are they who are in illustration in the Word when they read it, and they see the truth, and make Doctrine for themselves thence. The cause that this is so is because such communicate with Heaven, thus with the Lord, and thus illustrated by the Lord, they are led to see the truths of the Word such as they are in Heaven, for the Lord inflows through Heaven into their understanding.” (Arcana Coelestia 9424).
“Truth Divine is the Word, and the Doctrine of the Church is truth thence… Truth Divine is the Word, and it is Doctrine out of the Word.” (Arcana Coelestia 9222.)