New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 35

     and said so in the well-known lines of John 16:12-13 where we read: “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Until then it was necessary to establish a cult – and I use that word in its most positive sense – of worship that would hold the attention of worldly minded people and introduce thousands across Europe and eventually the whole world to the knowledge of the Lord. Then, when as a friend of mine used to say, the human race grew up and was ready to think more deeply, He was able to build on that knowledge with new understanding and so invite a deeper level of commitment. In a way it’s not surprising – and it certainly was foreseen by the Lord – that the pure and innocent external devotion of the church to the Lord in its early years should be politicized, corrupted and falsified within 300 years of His resurrection, since the faith of those early followers lacked intellectual depth and so was subject to manipulation by the educated classes, especially the clever, power-hungry people of the world. Just imagine, for example, the incredible pressure those 318 bishops gathered together by the emperor, Constantine, at Nicea must have felt to compromise on their beliefs about the Lord for the sake of unity and state endorsement of the church. Remember, too, the fearful power Catholic priests wielded in the Middle Ages, selling indulgences, excommunicating people (from heaven!), or even torturing those who disagreed with their interpretation of almost anything. For the most part the only reason they could get away with this was that the common people didn’t understand the Gospels clearly enough to know better. Still, they knew about the Lord and so the foundation was laid in simple faith for the revelation that would follow – in the 18 th century. Now, we read, for the first time true Christianity has begun to dawn: This New Church is the crown of all the Churches which have hitherto existed on the earth, because it will worship one visible God, in whom is the invisible God, as the soul is in the body. Only thus can there be conjunction of God with man, because man is natural, and consequently thinks naturally; while conjunction must be in thought and so in affection, and this takes place when a man thinks of God as a Man (that is, as Human). (True Christian Religion 787) This is my final point: the Lord’s Humanity is not seen in His physical body. (I’m sure that’s why there are no authentic paintings of His actual appearance; it may even be one reason why He came to do His work on earth before photography was invented.) Rather His Humanity is seen in the record of His words and actions, the revelation of His love and wisdom so that we can reflect on it deeply and in true freedom, not fearing for our salvation but acknowledging that the Lord provides for us as we co-operate inwardly with Him. 101