New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 110

new church life: march/april 2017 traveled to an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum. Gauguin had come to Tahiti expecting a tropical paradise, but he had brought his demons with him. His dissolute lifestyle had taken a terrible toll on him. He was ill and deeply in debt, and he was planning to kill himself after the painting was completed. He did try, but the attempt was unsuccessful, and it may have been during his recovery that he painted the title of the picture (in French) on a yellow patch in the upper left corner. It’s an intriguing title, very philosophical, and in fact theological. The three questions are from a Catholic catechism Gauguin had learned as a schoolboy in France. He rejected the faith as an adult, but he remembered the questions and was pondering the deep subject of what it means to be human when he painted “Where Do We Come From? . . . “ This reminds me of the New Church doctrine of “remains,” and the importance of “memory-knowledge” as the basis for thought. Rote learning by itself is not enough, obviously, but knowing is a prerequisite for understanding. And I wonder if some form of catechism would not be useful in the New Church. I saw one once, years ago in an old pamphlet, but I don’t know how much it was ever used. Falsities based upon natural appearances and worldly reasoning continually challenge the truths of faith in a young person’s mind. The teachings of the New Church provide a strong defense – but only if they are known. Then, even if people had little understanding of the New Church answer to one of life’s important questions, at least they would know there is an answer. That would be a good start. It would give them something to think about, and learn more about if they wanted to. Once knowledge is implanted in the mind, greater understanding and belief can follow, even years later. (WEO) a new church catechism The gist of each doctrine of the New Church could be learned through a series of short questions and answers. Lodged in the memory, these answers would be helpful in knowing how to respond to various important questions when they arise. They would provide an immediate, simple response, which would lend strength to someone facing a temptation. Further study and thought could follow. Think of the five smooth stones with which David armed himself when he went out to meet Goliath. As an example of what a New Church Catechism might look like, consider how we might respond to the questions in Gauguin’s painting (along with some related questions). Q: Where do we come from? A: We come from God, who created us in 176