Statement of Faith

While the General Church of the New Jerusalem (our denomination) has no official statement of faith, we subscribe to the faith presented in the work True Christian Religion, published by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1770.

Universal Statement of Faith


The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subdue the hells and to glorify His Human. Without this no mortal could have been saved, and those are saved who believe in Him.

The expression 'in universal terms' is used because this is a universal point of faith, and a universal point of faith must be contained in all its particulars. It is a universal point of faith that God is one in essence and in person, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and that He is the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a universal point of faith that no mortal could have been saved, if the Lord had not come into the world. It is a universal point of faith that He came into the world to take hell away from men, and He did this by fighting against hell and winning victories over it. In this way He subdued it and reduced it to order, and made it subject to His command. It is a universal point of faith that He came into the world to glorify the Human which He assumed in the world, that is, to unite it with the originating Divinity. By this means He keeps hell for ever in order and subject to His command. Since this could only be achieved by means of temptations experienced in His Human, even to the most extreme, His passion on the cross, He underwent this. These are the universal matters of faith concerning the Lord.

It is a universal point of faith on the part of man to believe in the Lord; for this belief links him to the Lord, and this is the way to salvation. Believing in Him means having confidence that He saves; and since only those who lead good lives can have such confidence, this too is meant by believing in Him. The Lord says this in John's gospel: 'This is the will of the Father, that everyone who believes in the Son should have everlasting life' (John 6:40); and elsewhere, 'He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. He who does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him' (John 3:36).

(True Christian Religion paragraph 2)

Particular Statement of Faith


Jehovah God is love itself and wisdom itself, or is good itself and truth itself; and in respect to Divine truth, which is the Word, and which was God with God, He came down and took on the Human for the purpose of reducing to order all things that were in heaven, and all things in hell, and all things in the church; because at that time the power of hell prevailed over the power of heaven, and upon the earth the power of evil over the power of good, and in consequence a total damnation stood threatening at the door. This impending damnation Jehovah God removed by means of His Human, which was Divine truth, and thus He redeemed angels and men, and thereupon He united, in His Human, Divine truth with Divine good or Divine wisdom with Divine love; and so, with and in His glorified Human, He returned into His Divine in which He was from eternity.

All this is meant by these words in John:
The Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word became flesh (1:1, 14);
and in the same:
I came out from the Father and am come into the world; again I leave the world and go unto the Father (16:28);
and also by these words:
We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us understanding that we may know the True; and we are in the True, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and life eternal (1 John 5:20).

From these words it is clear that without the Lord's coming into the world no one could have been saved. It is the same today; and therefore without the Lord's coming again into the world in Divine truth, which is the Word, no one can be saved.


(1) God is one, in whom is a Divine trinity, and the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ is that one.
(2) Saving faith is to believe in Him.
(3) Evils should not be done, because they are of the devil and from the devil.
(4) Goods should be done, because they are of God and from God.
(5) These should be done by man as if by himself; but it should be believed that they are done by the Lord in man and through man.

The first two are matters of faith, the next two of charity, and the fifth of the conjunction of charity and faith, thus of the conjunction of the Lord and man.

(True Christian Religion, paragraph 3)

The Lord

In the New Church the Lord Jesus Christ is recognized as the one God in His own divinely Human form, a form that He assumed with all its finite limitations and then perfected, or glorified, in the course of His 33 year battle against hell. In our view the divine Trinity is one of essential qualities - love, wisdom and use - and not one of persons, despite an appearance that way at times in the Scriptures.

Key to our understanding is that the term "Father" refers to the originating soul of Jesus, the Infinite Divine love that is beyond all human comprehension, whereas the term "Son" refers to the embodiment of that love in its working form, that is, as truth made available to the understanding in word and deed. And the Holy Spirit, far from being another personal form of God, is in fact the spirit of truth proceeding from the mouth of the Lord and giving us the wisdom we need to live a good and healthy life.

In one common concept of the Trinity, God the Father cannot abide sin, and since everyone has sinned, no one could be saved unless someone else atoned for their sins. Since no mortal could atone for all the sins of the race, all would have been lost except that Jesus, the Son of God, determined to come down into the world and take all the blame and punishment for our evils on Himself, ultimately suffering the crucifixion on our behalf. This is called the vicarious atonement, or sometimes the sacrificial atonement, reminiscent of the stories of animal sacrifice and especially the "scapegoat" in Leviticus 16. Because He was divine, so the theory goes, He could suffer infinitely, and did so in order to evoke the mercy of God towards all those who from that time forth would accept that He died for them. The Holy Spirit could then come to those who are baptized, bringing them the gifts of faith, love and grace. Although this has become the most prevalent view within Protestantism and Catholicism (although not Eastern Orthodoxy), it was unknown among the earliest Christians, and was not fully expressed until a millenium after Christ's death. (See the Wikipedia article on "substituionary atonement" for more of the history.)

The problem with this perspective is that over and over again in the Old Testament, God says that He does forgive sin. For example, in Ezekiel God says, "I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies...Therefore turn and live!" (Ezekiel 18:32) and "If a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live" (Ezekiel 18:22). So why did Jesus have to come? Because the power of hell had become so great that people were not able to turn away from sin. And so God Himself came into the world in His own Humanity to teach and lead, and to glorify that Humanity, thereby subjugating the hells and restoring spiritual freedom everywhere. His purpose was not to offer Himself as a sacrifice, but to "bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37), and this He did out of pure love with infinite wisdom. He sacrificed Himself only in the sense that He crucified all His fleshly desires, and in doing so gained all power to put sin to death in those who follow Him. And because He rose again, He can raise us up to life by giving us a new heart, in keeping with the promise from Ezekiel 36:26: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." To be saved means to live from that new heart, from the new love, rather than from the selfish loves of the old, worldly man.

Of course hardly anyone really understood what He was doing at that time and so the faith based on His work has been subject to endless arguments and church divisions ever since - the one exception until recently being a general acceptance that He rose from the dead and was seen by His disciples after the crucifixion. Now, however, through the revelation of the internal sense of the Scriptures we are in a position to understand, and we invite you to explore further by reading one of the sermons about the Lord posted in the "Other Resources" section of this website, or by reading one of Swedenborg's own books about this, for example, The Doctrine of the Lord.

The Bible

We believe the Sacred Scripture is the Word of God and holy not just because it is a record of His dealings with Israel and the apostles, but because every word and phrase carries a symbolic, spiritual meaning that relates to the Lord Himself and to our own spiritual states. Many Christian scholars through the centuries have recognized metaphors and allegories in the Bible, but Swedenborg is unique in publishing a systematic explanation of ALL the symbolism AND explaining how it works and why it's so important.

For example, the six days of creation in the story of Genesis are said to represent six states or stages of our spiritual development. On the first day God creates light, which corresponds to our own first enlightenment in spiritual things. On the second day He makes the firmaments, and the "waters above" and "waters beneath" correspond to the truths we learn in the second stage of our regeneration. On the third day He causes dry land and vegetation to appear, which correspond to our first states of charity as we apply the truths we have learned. And so it goes. You can learn more about the symbolism in the Scriptures by reading one of the sermons expounding the stories of the Word in the section of this website for "Other Resources," or by reading Swedenborg's own small work, The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, or the much larger work, Arcana Caelestia.

Faith and Charity

"Seeing is believing." This old adage applies particularly to a spiritual faith, since true faith lives in the understanding where the mind can in freedom reflect on the truths that constitute it. It is a common saying in the churches that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). But evidence, at least, is seen, and must be seen to be believed.

So the New Church teaches that a genuine faith comes from reading and reflecting on God's Word so that the truth of it can be understood, acknowledged and affirmed. You should not have to check your brain at the door when you enter a church.

As for charity, this is not just good works, like giving to hospitals or the poor, it is also - and much more importantly - the goodwill that inspires such actions. In fact it is the affection for goodness itself, and it works by promoting what is good in people, not by giving them whatever they want. Charity lives in the will and so it is the complement to the faith that lives in the understanding. Both faith and charity are essentials of spiritual life and both are necessary for salvation, lest we think to enter heaven with only half a mind!

For further reading on this, including a full discussion of the nature of the will and understading as receptacles of love and faith, see Swedenborg's The New Jerusalem.

The Last Judgment

Many in the Christian world have been misled by passages of Scripture that seem to speak of a judgment at the end of the world, but the references really are to spiritual judgments, and "the end of the world" is really a mistranslation for the end of the age, or spiritual era, when evil and falsity prevail and order must be restored. True, the events of the Last Judgment are described in the Bible in terrifying worldly terms, but these are clearly symbolic descriptions representing the spiritual states of those affected. For example, wars, famine, earthquakes, pestilence, even cosmic disasters all represent spiritual states like hatred, ignorance, inner disturbance, evil and the failure of true love and faith.

There is a judgment at the end of every spiritual age, when a decline into selfish and worldly states makes it necessary. And it is always accomplished by a new revelation of the truth, particularly suited to the needs of the day. We believe the Last Judgment on the traditional Christian church has already occurred, and indeed, many writers now refer to this as the "post-Christian age." But we understand that the teachings of the New Church have already ushered in a new Christian age in which people have more freedom to think for themselves about spiritual things, and to see truth for themselves in the pages of Scripture.

Then again, there is an individual judgment - his or her Last Judgment - when any person passes from the natural into the spiritual world. But on this, see the section about Life After Death.

Divine Providence

We define Divine Providence as "the government of the Lord's Divine love and wisdom." It includes everything and yet it operates secretly in such a way that human free will is preserved at all cost. In fact, Swedenborg outlines specific LAWS of providence that operate as certainly as laws of physics on the material plane, and the first law is that people should act in freedom according to their own rationality.
Obviously this leads to all sorts of problems as people serving their own interests invariably end up in conflict with one another. Some win, some lose, and people get hurt. But the purpose of providence is not to ensure a pleasant life on earth, it is to prepare us for eternal life in heaven. So, we read, "evils are permitted for the sake of the end, which is salvation." How? First of all, by exposing the evils for what they are, including their awful consequences, God in His providence can bring us to appreciate their seriousness and address the root causes in ourselves. But it goes far beyond that. Even the innocent victims of evil in this world still have the freedom to fulfill their heavenly potential by living in spiritual faith and charity. And if, on the other hand, God prevented every evil He would stifle both freedom and our sense of responsibility, since nothing we did or tried to do would matter.

And then there is the whole business of having our own individual feelings of love, joy, pleasure, trust and so on. Without real freedom we would not have any sense of our own identity, and so we believe God operates above and beyond our personal consciousness in order to provide that sense of "ownership" we need to be truly human.

Yet, we believe, God foresees everything, and provides for every one of us according to our inmost loves. He teaches and leads (in the most intricate and mysterious ways), orchestrating everything with a view to eternal life but always, always leaving us in freedom to choose our own spiritual path and destiny.

You can read more about Divine providence in the book by that title as well as others on the same theme from the bookstore at

The Second Coming

Many churches teach that Christ is going to return to earth just as He was seen departing it, literally "in the clouds of heaven" (Acts 1:11). But Jesus Himself referred to His second coming in spiritual terms, as "the spirit of truth" that would guide people into "all truth" (John 16:13).
Since we believe that every word in Scripture has a symbolic meaning, and that "the clouds of heaven" represent the literal stories of the Word, we believe that the Lord will appear in the spiritual meaning of those stories, just as He intimated in Luke 24:27. And since we believe that spiritual meaning is revealed plainly in the books written by Swedenborg, we accept that the second coming has already occurred as Christ's renewed presence among us in this new "body" of revelation.

The concept is really quite simple, though we understand that it is a challenge to shift one's thinking so dramatically from one paradigm to another. See the section above on the Last Judgment . We believe that all the events indicating the time of judgment and the second coming in Matthew 24 actually came together in the 18th century, not as physical conditions but as spiritual states represented in those conditions, just as the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and so on throughout Scripture refer to those who are spiritually so, and who are therefore especially receptive of the love and wisdom offered by the Lord. History shows the incredible changes in civilization since the 18th century, and we believe these changes reflect the seismic changes in the Christian Church beginning at that time and continuing to this day.


Like most Christian churches we believe that the marriage of a man and woman is ordained by God and should continue to the end of life in this world. We also believe in the unique and distinctive character of the male and female sexes and see them as created to be complementary. Indeed, we view the sexual union as most sacred and actually symbolic of the union of love and wisdom in God. So there is nothing inherently "impure" about it, though the proper use of the sense of touch requires great personal discipline.

Where we differ from traditional Christian thought on marriage is in our conviction that because men and women are created different (but equal), and because men are masculine and women are feminine in spirit and not just in body, therefore men and women retain their unique sexual characteristics even in the life after death, and marriages that have had a spiritual quality on earth can and do continue in the life after death.

Many of the New Church teachings on marriage may seem quaint to those who have grown accustomed to a more liberal view, but we believe they are deeply rooted in the symbolism of Scripture and in the real conditions of spiritual life. On the other hand, Swedenborg's discussion of extra-marital relations is exceptionally compassionate and far advanced for his time. You can read more about this topic in the sermon about marriage in the "Other Resources" section and in the books available from

The Sacraments

The New Church recognizes two sacraments, baptism and what we call the holy supper, or communion. Other useful rites are also offered, including confirmation, betrothal, marriage, home dedication, ordination into ministry and resurrection services. For more information contact any New Church minister. Note, however, that baptism and communion are the only rituals the Lord directly taught His disciples to observe. And both are representative events, that is to say, neither one confers either faith or salvation, but they both confirm the fact that one may have faith and be saved if he accepts the Lord and lives according to His Word.
"Baptism" is from a Greek word meaning to wash, and in baptism we conduct a ceremonial washing to illustrate the cleansing of the mind or spirit. We do this because we understand that water represents the truth of the Word. Just as water cleanses the body, so truth cleanses the mind - and it can do so whether one is a child or an adult. Therefore we believe a person may be baptized at any stage of life from infancy on. But in the case of an infant baptism the commitments involved are made by the parents or guardians on behalf of the child, which are, essentially, to raise that child according to the truths of the Word.

Our baptism typically is done with a small amount of water applied to the forehead of the person. Other very simple aspects of the ritual remind the participants of their responsibilities as well as the potential benefits of the ceremony. The purpose of it is to represent the formal introduction of the person into the life and teaching of the church, and to establish an association with angels who are in the same faith. Because our teachings are distinctly different from those of traditional Christianity we welcome and invite people who are drawn to these teachings to be baptized into this faith even if they have been baptized as Christians before.

As for communion, at the Last Supper (Matthew 26, et al.) Jesus took unleavened bread and a cup of wine and passed these to His disciples saying "Take, eat... Do this in remembrance of Me." So from time to time in our worship services we conduct a special ceremony with these two elements which we believe correspond directly to the love and faith that the Lord offered in His own flesh and blood. They are not and never can be real flesh and blood, but they represent the same things flesh and blood do, and so again, this ritual can confirm the participant in the fact that he or she can receive these things and really integrate them into his or her life.

Many churches offer substitutes (like grape juice or water) for wine in the sacrament, but we believe that the symbolic link between fermented wine and faith in the glorified Divine Humanity of the Lord makes it important to use real wine - which typically is offered in your choice of a "common cup" or individual small cups for those concerned about health issues. However if a person absolutely cannot drink wine we believe it is sufficient for the general use that a person partakes of the bread alone.

Comparison Chart


A trinity of Divine Persons in a mystical union as one.

A trinity of essential qualities in one divine person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To atone for the sins of all mankind by His suffering and death on the cross.

To restore spiritual freedom by teaching the truth, defeating hell, and uniting His humanity and Divinity.

Still awaited in the literal clouds of heaven at a cataclysmic day of earthly judgment.

Accomplished in the 18th century by means of the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word.

The sins of the whole human race have been passed down from Adam, condemning everyone.

Both good and evil inclinations are passed on through heredity, but not sins or anything of personal merit

Any disorderly trait that alienates a person from God, whether consciously acquired or not.

Any evil consciously done knowing it is contrary to God's will.
Sins condemn, evils do not.

People are "born again" and thus saved by a single act of confession and faith, often including baptism.

We begin with a conviction of faith, but our spiritual growth and well-being is a gradual life-long process.

Eternal heavenly life is granted only to those who are born again and baptized in a Christian faith

All who worship and obey Jesus are saved, as are those who don't know His name but seek to obey God

Either seen as literally true or as teaching the truth through myths, metaphors and legends.

Every word contains a symbolic spiritual sense concerning the Lord and our own eternal lives.

Will commence for everyone at the time of the Last Judgment on this earth. Meanwhile... ???

Will commence for everyone immediately after the death of the body; many details revealed

Heaven is the eternal reward for those who live well (or get saved) on earth, and hell is the eternal punishment for those who don't.

Heaven is the state of eternal happiness of those who love God and love to serve others. Hell is the opposite, for those who don't.

Angels are a separate race of beings created by God, and devils are fallen angel

All angels and devils were once people living in this world who now live on as spirits in heaven or hell.

Necessary for the procreation of the race but dissolved along with the flesh after death.

Men and women are distinct and complementary in spirit as well as in the flesh, and a truly spiritual marriage continues in eternal life.


In this section you can read answers to many frequently asked questions about the New Church teachings.  If you don't see the question and answer you are looking for, don't hesitate to ask your own in the comment section of the "contact form," which is accessible from the top of this page.

Q. If Jesus is God, why does the Bible call Him the Son of God?

A. The term, son, like the term, father, is descriptive of a relationship. In spiritual terms this may not only be a relationship of persons but of essential qualities or states. Thus "a wish is father to the thought," or we may speak of "the fathers of Confederation." So "the Son" in this case refers to the truth, or "the Word" that was made flesh and dwelt among us as the outward expression of His own Divine Love for the salvation of the human race. Still, Jesus was literally "the Son of God" in that He had no other father but "the power of the Highest."

Q. Why did Jesus pray to the Father as someone distinct and separate from Himself?

A. In taking on a body of flesh and blood the Lord assumed the outward limitations of a finite man even as He retained the inner spirit of the Divine. So He was both God and man, the combination providing for a uniquely Divine and human consciousness, which He adopted specifically so that He could confront and overcome the evils of the day on the natural plane. He began His life, as every infant does, with an extremely limited understanding, but through the course of His life He grew in knowledge and wisdom so beautifully that by the time of His death He had perfected all His human faculties and so "glorified" the natural as to make it one with the Divine. But in the process there were frequent vacillations of state: sometimes He recognized His own Divinity very clearly (see John 10:30, 12:43 and Luke 4:21, for examples), and at other times He felt quite separated and "alone" (see John 6:37; 17 and Mark 15:34). The closer He came to the end of His life the more He "connected" with His inner nature until the final temptation on the cross when He despaired of His mission one final time, only to rise again on the third day having completely "overcome the world."

Q. If the trinity is one of qualities, not persons, why does God refer to Himself as "us" and "our" in the story of creation?

A. In Hebrew "God" generally is a plural noun, therefore any pronoun used for God must also be plural. But the plurality is not one of persons, it is one that speaks to the great variety and multiplicity of the truths of His wisdom. Some in the traditional church like to think God is talking with the angels while He is creating the earth and its people, but that is based on the assumption that angels were created first, which we dispute (see below). In any case there is only one verse that uses plural pronouns for God in the creation story, and that is the verse in which He proposes to create man (Gen. 1:26). And in that case He is looking to create two kinds of "man," male and female, which two forms reflect His own dual nature as Divine love and wisdom. In every reference before and after that God speaks of Himself as one.

In any case God is infinite, and what is infinite cannot be divided into three "persons," each of whom is God and yet, as the traditional diagram at the left illustrates, not God.

Q. If the Holy Spirit is not a person why does the Bible refer to it with a personal pronoun?

A. The personal pronoun (he) is not in the original Greek of the New Testament referring to the Holy Spirit. In the King James translation of 1611 either masculine or feminine gender was assigned to all nouns - much like today's French - even though it had nothing to do with what we call gender today. So the pronoun, he, was assigned to "the spirit of truth" when today we would more likely use the word, this, or perhaps "it." What is misleading to us might have been clear to a 17th century reader, except that the doctrinal convictions of those reading it unfortunately predisposed them to think of the Holy Spirit as a person.

Q. What do you teach about "the Rapture" at the day of judgment?

A. The term as it is used in many Christian churches refers to the state of those who will be caught up to God and saved at the time of the Last Judgment. There are many different theories about this, all drawn from literal readings of Scripture, but since the New Church does not adhere to a literal interpretation of the Word we do not believe in a literal or physical Rapture. Rather we believe that those who are willing and prepared will "see" the Lord in His second coming with the eyes of their spirit, that is, their understanding, and they will be "caught up" in the joy and excitement of that new understanding, thus new faith and love.

Q. How can "all" be saved when Jesus said "No man comes to the Father but by Me"?

A. Remember Jesus Himself referred to "other sheep" in His flock (John 10:16). Since sheep symbolically mean all who live a good life and are willing to follow the Good Shepherd, we believe these include all who do eventually accept Him, even if (for reasons beyond their control) they were not able to do so in this world. It is the willingness to believe and the effort to live right that qualify the spirit, and such a spirit will have no trouble acknowledging the Lord in the spiritual world after death. Still, we do not believe that "all" are saved, only those who actually do receive the Lord as soon as they are given a fair chance.

Q. How can you be sure Swedenborg's interpretations of the Scriptures are correct?

A. First of all we don't consider them Swedenborg's interpretations. We believe they are revelations from the Lord Himself, given through Swedenborg because he was uniquely prepared and positioned in history to be able to receive the information and communicate it accurately. He certainly was a remarkable man, but even he said the teachings were not from him but from the Lord. In addition, however, we find that almost every discipline of human thought tends to confirm what Swedenborg wrote, if not in detail still in general, and the more we learn the more consistency we discover - just the opposite of what happens in many religions. Finally, we find that his writing wonderfully integrates and explains many of the apparent contradictions of the literal sense. In other words, it all adds up and really demonstrates the power of Scripture.

Q. If devils are not fallen angels why does the Bible say they are?

A. It doesn't. There is only one passage that speaks in terms like this and it is clearly a metaphorical reference to Babylon. See Isaiah 14:12, but consider the context beginning at verse 3. The reference to "Lucifer" is to the king of Babylon whom the prophet condemns for his arrogance, predicting that he will be cut down. Of course Babylon also represents a spiritual state of arrogance in ourselves, and we, too, may be cut down (and go to hell) if we persist in that state, but no angel in heaven has ever "fallen from grace" and gone to hell.

Q. If the Lord foresees everything how can you deny predestination?

A. We prefer to turn the question around. If God did not foresee everything how could He possibly provide what is needed in each moment? Providence cannot work in general without working in every particular, or the whole thing comes apart. Still, foreseeing is not controlling. It is always conditional, just as we say to a child "You're going to hurt yourself!" -- but what we mean is that she will hurt herself if she continues as she is going. So God foresees the consequences of every choice we make and provides accordingly, but in the moment we make a new choice He foresees other implications and again provides accordingly. It is a concept that is extremely hard for us to fathom, but we accept that God in His infinite wisdom is more than capable of this marvelous process.

Q. What do you teach about reincarnation?

A. The idea that a person keeps coming back into various earthly forms until he or she finally "gets it right" seems to us to destroy the whole principle of human free will. Besides, one doesn't have to "get it right" in order to be saved, one only has to love God and serve the neighbour as best he can and the Lord will take care of the rest. Angelic life is not static but dynamic, and we continue to learn in heaven to all eternity - based on the character and loves we have cultivated in this world. In response to the so-called evidence of reincarnation, for example the knowledge of things that one has never in this life experienced, we believe that spirits have such close communication with people on earth that on some rare occasions the memory of a spirit who has experienced certain things may be superimposed on the mind of a person who has not had that experience, making it look and feel as if he did. See the book, Heaven and Hell, paragraph no. 256.

Q. If husbands and wives are equal partners why did Paul (in I Corinthians 11) say the husband is head of the wife?

A. Paul was a Jew raised with Old Testament traditions that included this idea (see Numbers 30), which he took literally (Paul's epistles, being sermons and commentaries on the Gospels, do not contain an internal, spiritual sense like the rest of the Scriptures). But in the spiritual sense there is no thought of men ruling over women. Rather a husband and wife represent the human will and understanding in a reciprocal partnership, one that often requires the understanding to lead, and check, and moderate the inclinations of the will. Even so, without the will, the understanding is pretty lifeless, and even Paul admitted that "the man also is (or lives) through the woman; but all things are from God."

Q. If there is marriage in heaven why did Jesus say there is not?

A. He didn't. Read Matthew 22:30 very carefully. What He said was that "in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage." But are they "married"? It's not just a quibble. First of all the Lord was answering the questions of those who didn't even believe in the afterlife, and who held firmly to the idea that in marriage a man virtually owned his wife. She was generally considered chattel along with his other goods, in no way having an equal relationship with him. In addition, the words, marry and marriage, refer to the wedding ceremonies that set up these contracts, not a real loving union. So of course the Lord denied that sort of marriage in the afterlife. But beyond that, marriage is a universal symbol in the Gospels for commitment, especially the cooperative unity or integrity of thought and will, and the fact is that if we don't have that sort of integrity in this life we won't have it in the next life either. But if we do then that it is sustained by the Lord and that state of spiritual "marriage" can and does continue in the spiritual world.

Q. What does the New Church teach about divorce and remarriage?

A. Our teachings follow the instruction given by the Lord in Matthew 19, that is to say, divorce is permitted under strict conditions - to free a man or woman from an unfaithful partner - in which case the innocent party is allowed to remarry. But any other conditions - and there are many - that may cause unhappiness or stress in a marriage are, we believe, to be resolved through separation rather than divorce. The simple reason for this is the vows that a couple make when they marry and which cannot under any circumstances be neglected. But the deeper reason is that there is a spiritual bond established by marriage (and by the sexual relationship in particular) that cannot be broken in good faith. So if a divorce occurs for any reasons short of adultery then the parties are not free to remarry, since doing so would produce a kind of spiritual confusion for all the parties involved.

Q. What do you teach about forgiveness, and unconditional love?

A. "Forgiveness" comes from a root word that means to let go, or send away. In the act of forgiveness, then, we let go of our grievances against a person. This does not mean that we have to "forget" what happened, or that we won't learn important lessons from the experience of being hurt. It may be necessary to exercise real caution in any future dealings with a person who has committed an offense, but this does not mean we cannot love him. In fact Christian love is the love of Christ, which includes His love for the salvation of all, and thus His provision of what is good and true for every person who is willing to receive it. We can certainly have that love, and we can have it unconditionally, either by affirming the good we find in a person or by promoting it where it appears to be lacking.

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