Michael V. David
26 October 2000
Problems in the external life of the church seem to express problems in the internal life of the church.
Problem 1: We do not know whom to trust.
The Lordís New Church was founded with the idea that the Lord can work through the people of the church, specifically through our development of Doctrine from the Word. Thus we regard it as possible and necessary that people in the church receive enlightenment from the Lord, and as also possible that some will be more enlightened than others. In acknowledging this we take the risk that we will shift our attention away from the Lord and the enlightenment that the Lord is giving us, and instead concentrate on the persons through whom it comes. Thus it is possible to fall into the trap of deciding who is enlightened and who is not, and trusting those we assume to be enlightened, rather than taking what we hear to the Lord in His Word to see whether it is true.
In the external life of the church, we have developed a problem corresponding to that one, in that we do not know whom to trust, and get in trouble because we give people power and then let them do what they want. We hope that finding the right leader, or organizing the church correctly, will solve its problems.
Let us hope and pray that a greater openness in all matters of the church will invite the Lord to operate through the thoughts and affections of many people, and that our accountability to each other will restrain our proprium. Thus we can trust in the Lord more, and be less dependent on the proper behavior of a few powerful people.
Problem 2: We do not know how to use our treasure
Our greatest gift from the Lord is the perception of His presence in the Third Testament. In perceiving this we come to know that His Word is an infinite, inexhaustible treasure that can never be used up. Indeed, the Word is compared to large bags of money in Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 26:
It was granted me to see large money-bags, in appearance like sacks, in which silver was stored in great abundance; and as these were open, it seemed that anyone might take out, or even steal, the silver deposited there; but near those bags sat two angels as guards.
The Lordís New Church was gifted with a perception of the great treasure within the Third Testament. We see that there is far more in the Third Testament than we could ever understand or apply to our lives. Sometimes it is hard to see how this perception ought to change our external lives, and what specific behavior in the natural world follows from this inner perception.
In the external life of the church, we have developed a problem corresponding to that one, in that the church in America has been given a lot of money, and so is capable of doing a great many things of an external kind that cost money. Yet we often disagree, or cannot see what the churchís mission in the world ought to be. Thus we spend a lot of time and energy in disagreeing over the control and proper use of the money. Sometimes the wealth of the church in America becomes a means to control others.
The process of regeneration leads us to serve others, not just ourselves, and to recognize that the Lordís treasure is given for the happiness of all people. This is true of the Word itself, of the Doctrine of the Church and even of the worldly gifts that the church has received. These are the Lordís gifts to all people, and we must learn to treat them as such.
Problem 3: We are very cautious about sharing our thoughts.
The Lordís New Church was gifted with the recognition that true Doctrine drawn from the Word is from the Lord, and not a merely human thing. Recognizing the power of Doctrine in shaping our understanding of the Word, and our lives, we learned to be careful about quoting the Word, and about spouting ideas without careful thought, so as not to be carried away by unexamined false doctrines. We learned to look at new ideas, and potential applications and practices and say ďThere may be a danger in that ÖĒ Indeed it is true that there is a danger in all human thought and activity, the danger that we will think and act from our proprium, believing it to be the Lordís activity in us.
What can go wrong in this cautious approach to the Word is that we can be dominated by the fear of doing something wrong, rather than the Lordís promise that He will lead us and preserve us from harm.
What has happened in the external life of the church is that we have been very cautious and even fearful of discussing ideas from the Word, and different ways of understanding and applying the Word. We say, far more than other people, that we want to develop doctrine, but can also be far more hesitant than people in other churches, to actually speak or write our thoughts.
We have reinforced this through a long-standing habit of throwing people out of the church. In recent years, many people have shut their mouths because they see that the ones who speak up are thrown out.
This speaker looks forward to the development of new avenues of discussion and doctrinal development. Through printed media, through teleconference, and through the Internet, we can begin again to share what the Lord has given us, and learn to trust that He will guide the process.
In looking at our external problems, let us always remember that it is our internal problems and concerns that shape the process of creating those external problems. Thus there is always something deeper that we can learn from them.