The Doctrine And Order Of The Church

Rev. Dr. J. Durban Odhner

14 February 1996

 

That the Doctrine and the Order of the Church must be drawn from the Word and confirmed by its literal teachings is a principle that has stood firmly in The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma from its inception.

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In the principle of the Academy stating that the Writings of the New Church are the Word lay the seeds of that wonderful development represented by the theses of "De Hemelsche Leer," though people of that time did not see the consequences of this principle. But that the Writings of the New Church are the Word is clearly stated in the letter of the New Word itself: "It is the same at this day: so unless the Lord comes again in the Divine Truth, which is the Word, neither can anyone be saved." (TCR 3)

 

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LEADING THESES PROPOUNDED IN "DE HEMELSCHE LEER"

 

1. The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Third Testament of the Word of the Lord. The DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CONCERNING THE SACRED SCRIPTURE must be applied to the three Testaments alike.

 

2. The Latin Word without Doctrine is as a candlestick without light, and those who read the Latin Word without Doctrine, or who do not acquire for themselves a Doctrine from the Latin Word, are in darkness as to all truth (cf. SS 50-61).

 

3. The genuine Doctrine of the Church is spiritual out of celestial origin, but not out of rational origin. The Lord is that Doctrine itself (cf. AC 2496, 2497, 2510, 2516, 2533, 2859; AE 19)

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The principle that the Writings of the New Church are the Word calls for the application of teachings concerning the Word to those Writings, consequently the recognition that they contain all senses. It calls also for the distinction between the scientifics of the letter and the cognitions, rational and intellectual things of the internal senses. And it necessitates directedness toward interior things. This became embodied in The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma in the "ascending line," that is, the striving toward the interior things of the New Word.

 

ASCENT

 

AC 3759 By the four sons of Jacob by Leah is described in the supreme sense the ascent from outward truth to inward good; but in the representative sense the state of the Church...that it ascends toward interior things according to this order.

AC 3882 She stood still from bearing signifies ascent by a ladder from the earth even to Jehovah, or the Lord....It is also this ascent that is meant by the ladder seen by Jacob....Descent then follows, for man cannot descend until he has first ascended....

AC 3901 'They shall ascend with strong wing as eagles' signifies to grow as to the understanding of truth, thus as to the Rational.

AC 4539 'To ascend' signifies toward interior things, because interior things are what are called higher; therefore when progress toward interior things is treated of in the inward sense, 'ascending' is spoken of, as from Egypt to the Land of Canaan; and in the Land of Canaan itself, toward the more interior parts.

AC 4578 'God ascended from above (Jacob) in the place in which He spake with him' signifies the Divine in that state...for 'to ascend' involves elevation to interior things....

AC 4853 'To ascend' signifies to be elevated; namely, from what is exterior to what is interior.

AC 5406 In various places in the Word 'ascending' and 'descending' are mentioned, as from one place to another, not because one place was in a higher situation than another, but because 'ascending' is predicated of going towards more interior or higher things, and 'descending' of going towards more exterior or lower things; that is, 'ascending' is predicated of going towards spiritual and celestial things, for these are interior, and are also believed to be higher; and 'descending' of going towards natural and earthly things, for these are exterior, and also, in appearance, lower.

 

THE LEVELS OF DOCTRINE

 

The level of Doctrine which forms the common basis for all members of the Church, who are therefore all participants in the ascending line, is that of the cognitions that are called the essentials of the Church. This is the doctrine of genuine truth, which is found unveiled in the sense of the letter of the Word by any who seek to know truth for the sake of life. The levels of more interior Doctrine involve an entering into the deeper senses of the Word and an unfolding of portions of the letter of the Word (including the Latin Word) which are not transparent, but somehow obscure, or veiled over. The first kind rests upon the generals (communia) of the Word, the second on the particulars; thus the first is from the external sense and the second from the internal sense. (There is also an innermost doctrine, which is the Lord Himself in His Divine Human, seen only by those who are heavenly or celestial.) As an illustration, consider the representation below:

 

PERCEPTIBLE THINGS Celestial doctrine, expressible only as one with life, which NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN is the Lord Himself; seen by the celestial in the singulars of the Word.

 

RATIONAL THINGS Spiritual doctrine, visible to the spiritual, appearing in the Church by an unfolding of particulars otherwise hidden under a veil.

 

COGNITIONS Common doctrine of the Church, the doctrine of genuine ---NN------NN------ Truth, appearing as generals here and there unveiled.

 

SCIENTIFICS The dead letter without doctrine, which sensuous people can -------------------------------- distort to strengthen evil and falsity.

 

Now while the more interior doctrine is formed through the understanding also of those places that are veiled, the common doctrine of the Church, to which all are committed, is that doctrine which is visible in the letter of the Word to everyone except those who are evil or sensual. This latter is properly the doctrine of the whole Church, since the doctrines arising from an explanation of obscure or problematic passages are not grasped by everyone. This is clear from the teaching of De Verbo 10: "Nevertheless there are various things in the sense of the letter which are naked.... These things of the Word serve for the doctrine of the Church, because in them there are spiritual-natural truths"; and also from the work on the Sacred Scripture, where we read: "All things which regard man's life and salvation are naked; but the rest are clothed." (55) This applies to the New Word as well.

 

That these naked passages are spiritual-natural truths, is clear in the diagram, where they lie on the level of doctrine of the First Heaven. This is the plane of COGNITIONS, as contrasted with that of SCIENTIFICS. Thus we read: "By scientifics from the Word are meant all things of the sense of the letter there, in which what is doctrinal does not appear." (AE 545) So it is from the cognitions in the sense of the letter of the Word that the doctrine of the Church in common is to be formed; about which we read: "The cognitions of faith are, that the Lord rules the Universe, that all good and truth are from the Lord alone, that with us is nothing but evil...." (SE [=SD] 3386) Since these are inwardly one with the essentials mentioned in Divine Providence 259 and elsewhere, clearly such essentials are what make the common doctrine of the Church.

 

All other doctrine, which is formed by means of (yet not from) an enlightened RATIONAL that relates these essentials with more obscure or veiled portions of the Word, is therefore particular doctrine. Such is the doctrine of the internal of the Church. Both kinds of doctrine are proper to the Church, and both are of Divine origin and essence; but the particular doctrines are not received by all, and cannot be for many reasons, one of which is their relation to more advanced states and their endlessly differing particular qualities lying at various levels. Enlightenment is required in order to see either kind of doctrine, but the common truths can be seen by those who are in light only as to the natural, and not yet as to the rational.

 

The levels of doctrine illustrated above are described in the Word as follows:

 

When a person is being purified, first of all such truths are learned as can be apprehended

by the sensual person, as are the truths in the sense of the letter.... Afterwards, more interior -----------------------------

truths are learned, such as those which are gathered from the Word by those who are in en-

 

lightenment; for these gather its interior sense from the passages where the sense of the letter -NN-----NN----

is explained; from these, when known (his COGNITIS), truths still more interior are drawn

--NN----

by enlightened people, which, together with the former, serve the Church for doctrine; these latter, for doctrine to those who belong to the internal Church; the former for

--NN----

doctrine to those who belong to the external Church. (AC 10028; see also AC 3358-3361)

The ascent to rational and intellectual or perceptive truth is compared in many passages of the Word to the flight of the eagle, as in the following:

AC 3901 'To ascend with a strong wing as eagles' (Is. xl:31) signifies to grow in the understanding of truth, thus as to the Rational....Hence it is evident, that 'an eagle,' when predicated of man, signifies the Rational; and this because an eagle flies high, and from aloft takes a wide view of the things which are below.

AC 8764 'I bore you upon the wings of eagles' (Ex. xix:4) signifies thus by means of truths they have been elevated to celestial light....'An eagle' signifies the Rational as to truth; for eagles fly on high.

AC 10199 'A great eagle with wings' (Ezek. xvii) signifies the interior truth of the Spiritual Church.

AR 561 'There were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle' (Rev. xii:14) signifies the Divine circumspection for that Church....'An eagle' signifies intellectual sight, and thence thought.

M 15 The ensign of this heavenly Society was an eagle sitting upon its young at the top of a tree.

M 495 By turns the understanding elevates itself, like an eagle....

T 42 There are some who at once perceive that truth is truth as soon as they hear it: in the Spiritual World these are represented by eagles.

E 281 That 'an eagle' signifies intelligence, may also be evident from Is. xl:31. 'To ascend with a wing as of an eagle' signifies to ascend into the light of Heaven, thus into intelligence....Their instruction in truths, guarding from falsities, and the opening of the interiors of their minds so that they may come into the light of Heaven, and thus into the understanding of truth and good, which is intelligence, is described by 'an eagle, its nest on high, its brooding over its young, and carrying them upon its wings' (Deut. xxxii)....

Coro. 30(2). The spiritual man is like...an eagle as to sight of the mind....

 

The quality of intelligence in the Church can be expressed in many different terms, but the important point is that if the Church is ascending, as she did indeed in her early states, this expresses itself in the development of Doctrine by those who are enlightened by the Lord, actually embodied in activities that promote this. This quality has been called "the Kingly or Princely of the spirit," or "the ascending line," contrasted with the "Priestly" or "descending line." But note this teaching: "Among the priests and the people of the Church there are those who teach and those who learn the truths of the Church from the literal sense of the Word, and there are those who teach and those who learn from Doctrine drawn from the Word, which is called the Doctrine of faith of the Church. The latter differ very much from the former in perception, but they cannot be distinguished by the common people (a vulgo) because they both speak from the Word nearly alike." (AC 9025)

 

In Heaven, there are more and less interior Doctrines, and we read: "In essentials the doctrines are everywhere the same; but in the higher heavens, they contain more interior wisdom than in the lower ones. Preachings are according to the Doctrines." (HH 221) So also in the Church.

 

The existence of these differences within the Church does no harm when, as to essentials, they are one, for we read: "The doctrine from the internal sense of the Word and the doctrine from the external sense of the Word are one doctrine: for they who are in the internal are also in the external." (AC 9375) Those who are external know few things from the internal sense of the Word (including the Writings), and those who are internal know many things from the internal sense of the Word (AC 1098).

 

DESCENT

 

The circle of life referred to in the "Principles and Plan of Order" in 1947 consists of two lines, one ascending toward truths of Doctrine out of the life of regeneration (good < truth), the other descending, filling those truths with the good of love to the Lord and mutual love, or leading by them to the good of life (truth < good).

 

AC 9806 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the good oil upon the head, descending into the beard, the beard of Aaron, that descended upon the mouth of his garments' (Ps. 133:1,2)....The subject treated of is the influx of good into truths. For 'oil' stands for good, 'the head of Aaron' the inmost of good, 'the beard' the outermost of it, 'garments' standing for truths, and 'to descend' for influx. From this it is clear that by these words is meant the influx of good from interiors into exteriors into truths, and conjunction there.

AC ...In the Word to go from interior to exterior things is called 'descending,' but from exterior to interior things, 'ascending.'

AC 9670 The 'priesthood'...represented the Lord as to the Divine Good.

AC 10794, NJHD 311-14 As for priests, they must teach men the way to Heaven, and also lead them. They must teach them according to the doctrine of their Church, and must lead them to live according to it. Priests who teach truths, and through them lead to the good of life, and thus to the Lord, are good shepherds of the sheep.

 

Thus the interior levels of the ascending line contribute to the development of the Doctrine of the Church, which is to become life by means of the descending line, while its exterior level, the corporate body, supports the priestly uses relating to the Word, the Church and worship.

 

AC 10689 'It came to pass as Moses descended from Mount Sinai' (Ex. xxxiv:29) signifies the influx of the internal into the external of the Word, of the Church, and of worship.

 

The Church's "soaring to uncreated heights,...striving still for truth unknown," resulted in the organization of men's meetings, the purpose of which was to promote the interior understanding of the New Word and development of the Doctrine of the Church. What was at first called the line "of the men" in The Hague Society was quickly complemented by the holding of women's meetings as early as 1948 in recognition of the essential role of the women. The interior councils which developed from these meetings consisting of priests and lay people, were expressly prohibited from participating in the priestly government and administration. It is therefore contrary to the truth to suggest that the concept of the ascending line "tended to put some lay leaders above the priesthood." Disorder arose only by lay participation in the descending line, contrary to the Divine Order of the Church from the Word, for the priests are the Lord's anointed, and are especially ordained to conduct the government and administration of the Church:

 

AE 700 Uzzah the son of Abinadab died because he took hold of the ark with his hand, because "to touch with the hand" signifies communication, and communication with the Lord is effected through the good of love, and Uzzah was not anointed, as the priests and Levites were, to whom the representation of the good of love was given through anointing.

 

Lay interference due to the coalescing of the Interior Council with the Council of Priests lies at the root of the present distress in the Lord's New Church, for it has caused harassment and removal of some priests and the premature ordination of others. Numerous actions under this body have been and are still disorderly. The present plan to restructure is an obvious move to consolidate a governing body that does not wish to inherit the spiritual treasures unearthed in the days of the founding fathers of this Church, but wishes to go in a different direction: and which consequently does not have have the trust and confidence of the members of the Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Dr. J. Durban Odhner

493 Newell Drive

Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

February 15, 1996

To the International Council of Priests

of The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma:

 

Gentlemen:

 

I have photocopied below a section from the notes of a "Consistory Teleconference" that took place a few weeks ago. The part I copied deals with the subject of the concept "ascending and descending lines," which has been seen as a principle of order in the Church since its formation and formed the backbone of the "Principles and Plan of Order" of 1947.

 

Anyone familiar with this subject and its history who reads these notes will be disturbed by two issues. First, the tone of the notes gives one the distinct impression that the current administration challenges this concept. Secondly and equally disturbing is the facile manner in which this group has "researched" the subject, which is one of utmost importance to the life of the Church, and any modification of that order deserves thorough, open and inclusive, that is, universal consideration. I know that many will join me in requesting this kind of discussion.

 

To further such consideration I am enclosing a short paper.

 

Sincerely,

 

cc: Members and Friends of The Lord's New Church

Which Is Nova Hierosolyma

 

J. Durban Odhner