4. Immutability And Images Of Finitude In Scripture

Nature has two properties, space and time. A person in the natural world forms his mental concepts and thus his understanding in accordance with them. If he remains immersed in these concepts and does not raise his mind above them, he is incapable of ever perceiving anything spiritual or Divine, for he wraps his notions of them in ideas drawn from space and time, and to the extent that he does this, to the same extent the sight of his intellect becomes merely natural. To think from this sight in reasoning about spiritual and Divine matters is like thinking from the darkness of night about things which appear only in the light of day. That is the origin of naturalism.* In contrast, one who knows how to raise his mind above concepts drawn from space and time passes from darkness into light, and he discerns matters spiritual and Divine, and finally sees the components in them and effects springing from them. Moreover, from the light in which he is then, he dispels the darkness of his natural sight and banishes its misconceptions from the center to the peripheries. Every man possessing the intellect has the capacity to think on a level above the aforesaid properties of nature, and also actually does so think, and he then affirms and sees that the Divine, being omnipresent, is not bounded by space. He is also able as well to affirm and see those points which we have presented above. But if he denies the Divine omnipresence and attributes all phenomena to nature, he is in that case unwilling to be elevated, even though he has the capacity to be. * The general philosophical position that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. (Divine Love and Wisdom 69)

The Divine is not in space and extended, but it is the cause of space and extension, existing in the ultimates of His creation, in the heavens apparently, but in the world actually. But still space and extension are not space and extension before God, for He in His Divine is everywhere. (Apocalypse Explained 1222{4})

‘On the morrow’ means into eternity. This is clear from the meaning of ‘the morrow’. When yesterday, today, or tomorrow is mentioned in the Word eternity is meant in the highest sense, ‘yesterday’ meaning from eternity, ‘today’ eternity, and ‘tomorrow’ into eternity. As regards ‘today’ meaning eternity, see 2838. Indeed periods of time mentioned in the Word – ages, years, months, weeks, days, hours – mean states, as has often been shown. With the Lord however there are no states, but everything is eternal and infinite. (Arcana Coelestia 3998)

Jehovah God is Being in itself, because He is I am, the very, sole and prime source, from eternity to eternity, of everything in existence, which allows it to exist. In this and no other sense He is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, Alpha and Omega. One cannot say that His Being is from itself, because ‘out of itself’ presupposes what is earlier and thus time; but time is inconsistent with the Infinite, which is said to be ‘from eternity’. It also presupposes another God, who is God in Himself, and thus God originating from God; in other words, that God formed Himself, so that He could not be uncreated or infinite, because in this case He would have distinguished Himself either from Himself or from another. (True Christian Religion 21)

From all this it can be seen what is the nature of the Word in the sense of the letter, and also what Divine truth is in its most general form, namely, that it is according to appearances; and this for the reason that man is such that what he sees and apprehends from his sensuous, he believes; and what he does not see nor apprehend from his sensuous, he does not believe; thus does not receive. Hence it is that the Word in the sense of the letter is according to things that so appear; and yet it has genuine truths stored up in its inward bosom; and in its inmost bosom, the truth Divine itself which proceeds immediately from the Lord; thus also Divine good, that is, the Lord Himself. (Arcana Coelestia 6997{7})

Reconciliation of Divine Immutability and Scriptural Depictions: Spiritual Christianity reconciles the immutable nature of Jehovah with the anthropomorphic depictions in Scripture by explaining these representations as adaptations for human comprehension.

Self-Evident Truths and Divine Transcendence: Jehovah’s immutability and transcendence beyond space and time are self-evident to enlightened reason, though Scripture often depicts God as having finite attributes for didactic purposes.

Divine Instruction Adapted to Human Comprehension: Scripture conveys spiritual truths using natural and even sensual language, making Divine concepts accessible to individuals at all levels of spiritual development.

Universal Truth and Scriptural Interpretation: Firmly understanding Jehovah’s lack of spatial and temporal attributes enables proper interpretation of Scriptural passages which use finite terms to describe God.

Jehovah as the Source of All Being: Titles like “the Beginning and the Ending” signify Jehovah’s role as the origin and sustaining cause of all existence, rather than indicating any temporal sequence or spatial limitation.

1. How does Spiritual Christianity reconcile Jehovah’s immutability with the anthropomorphic depictions in Scripture?
a) By asserting that Jehovah actually changes in response to events.
b) By explaining that these depictions are adaptations for human comprehension.
c) By denying the accuracy of these scriptural depictions.
d) By attributing finite qualities to Jehovah in specific contexts.
Answer: b)

2. According to the teachings for Spiritual Christianity, why does Scripture use finite attributes to depict God?
a) To provide an accurate representation of God’s nature.
b) To conform to ancient cultural beliefs.
c) To illustrate God’s temporal and spatial limitations.
d) To help human beings better understand Divine truths.
Answer: d)

3. And what is the purpose of using natural and sensual language in Scripture?
a) To mask the true nature of Jehovah.
b) To enhance the sensory experiences of human beings.
c) To simplify complex theological concepts for general understanding.
d) To critique human perceptions of divinity.
Answer: c)

4. How should titles like “the Beginning and the Ending” be interpreted from a Spiritual Christianity perspective?
a) As symbolic of Jehovah’s role as the source of all existence.
b) As indicative of Jehovah’s temporal sequence.
c) As literal descriptions of Jehovah’s nature.
d) As metaphors for human perceptions of time.
Answer: a)

5. What allows for the reconciliation of Scriptural depictions of God’s actions and attributes with Jehovah’s transcendence?
a) A flexible interpretation of Divine attributes.
b) Understanding that these depictions are symbolic.
c) Accepting that Jehovah possesses spatial and temporal qualities.
d) Interpreting Scripture according to cultural contexts.
Answer: b)

1. How does the understanding that Scriptural depictions of Jehovah are adaptations for human comprehension influence your reading of the Bible?
• Reflect on how recognising the symbolic nature of these depictions might change your interpretation and understanding of Scriptural narratives.

2. In what ways can the recognition of Jehovah’s immutable and non-spatial nature deepen your spiritual practice?
• Consider how this theological insight can influence your perception of Divine interactions and your personal relationship with Jehovah.

3. How can understanding the purpose of anthropomorphic depictions in Scripture help you explain Divine concepts to others?
• Think about how you might use the framework of Spiritual Christianity to clarify complex theological ideas for those who are new to these concepts.

Spend 5-10 minutes each day reflecting on how Divine truths are communicated in ways accessible to human understanding. Consider how Jehovah’s transcendence is conveyed through symbolic language in Scripture.

Steps:

  1. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably, taking a few deep breaths.
  2. Choose a Scriptural passage that describes God in anthropomorphic terms.
  3. Reflect on the symbolic meaning behind this description, considering how it conveys a higher truth about Jehovah’s nature.
  4. Contemplate how this understanding can enhance your perception of Divine interactions in your own life.
  5. Write down any insights in a journal, noting how this exercise affects your view of Divine communication.

Choose one of the key points from the video and try to express and integrate it creatively through your senses. Pick a modality to do this through, perhaps a different one from what you have chosen previously. Consider drawing or painting, making or listening to music, poetry, exercise, gardening, cooking, or even just watching the colourful or dramatic impressions of the natural world. There are so many ways you can engage with it. Record your insights from this exercise and also document any differences in what is awakened in you with this new modality.

You will have your own personal preferences, but here are two pieces of music and art that you might like to use for inspiration to get you started…

Music

“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

This piece’s emotional depth and dynamic contrasts can reflect the complexity of Divine communication and the adaptation of higher truths to human comprehension.

Visual Art

“The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s iconic depiction symbolizes Divine communication and the relationship between the Divine and human, aligning with Spiritual Christianity principles of adapting Divine truths for human comprehension.

All naturalism arises from thinking of Divine subjects from the properties of nature, which are matter, space, and time. The mind which clings to these properties, and unwilling to believe anything that it does not understand, is bound to obscure its understanding, and from the thick darkness into which it has plunged it, deny that there is any such thing as Divine Providence, and affirm as a consequence that omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience have no existence. These attributes are, nevertheless, precisely as religion teaches, both within nature and above it, but they cannot be comprehended by the understanding unless space and time are removed from its ideas in thinking on the subject; for these properties of matter are, in some way or other, inherent in every idea of thought. If therefore they are not removed, no other thought can be formed than that nature is everything, that it is self-existent, that life is from it, that its inmost is that which is called God, and that all beside it is imaginary. I know that men will also be astonished to hear that there is any existence possible where there is neither time nor space; that the Divine itself exists apart from them; and that spiritual beings are not in them, but merely in the appearances of them – though Divine spiritual things are nevertheless the very essences of all things that have ever existed or that do exist-and that natural things without spiritual things are like bodies without souls, which become mere carcasses. (Apocalypse Explained 1220)

Now, because intervals of time-which are properties of nature in its own world-are nothing but states in the spiritual world, states which appear progressive there because angels and spirits are finite, it can be seen that in God states are not progressive, because He is infinite, and because the infinite elements in Him are one, in accordance with the points we demonstrated above in nos. 17-22. From this it follows that the Divine is present through all time independently of time. (Divine Love and Wisdom 75)

Continuation concerning the Athanasian Creed, and concerning the Lord.- Because God is uncreated, He is, also, eternal; for life itself, which is God, is life in itself, neither from itself, nor from nothing, thus it is without origin; and what is without origin is from eternity, and is eternal. But an idea of that which is without origin cannot be grasped by the natural man, neither can the idea of God from eternity; but these things are apprehended by the spiritual man. The thought of the natural man cannot be separated and withdrawn from the idea of time, this idea inhering in it from nature in which the natural man is; neither can it be separated and withdrawn from the idea of origin, because it regards origin as implying a beginning in time. The appearance of the sun’s progression has impressed this idea on the natural man. But the thought of the spiritual man, because it is elevated above nature, is withdrawn from the idea of time, and instead of this idea of time there is the idea of state of life, and instead of the duration of time there is the idea of the state of thought from affection, which constitutes life. (Apocalypse Explained 1130{3})

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