In the doctrines of the New Church, all spiritual authority is from the Lord alone, and from the Word as revealed in scripture. Moreover spiritual doctrines have been revealed by which the higher spiritual meaning of scripture can be opened. That scripture is the foundation of truth, the Lord declares in the following passage:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Mt. 4:4)That the Lord is the sole authority can be seen that the Lord is the Word made flesh:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John i. 1, 4)The Roman Catholic Church, however, departs from this central truth and claims that sole spiritual authority resides in its church and priesthood, and they will use some false arguments to support this claim. This claim is correctly rejected by the Protestants, as well as the Orthodox, and it continues to keep the Christian world divided. There are other adverse consequences of this claim:
- The argument of authority is used as a basis of doctrine, thus elevating the doctrines of men over that of God and His Word.
- The argument of authority, when uses as a basis of doctrine, discourages higher rational thinking on spiritual matters, and closes off the higher spiritual understanding. See Truth by Religious Tradition and Authority vs. Spiritual Truth.
- The argument of authority is not accepted outside of the Catholic Church as a rational justification for any dialogue.
The source and nature of Church authority is one of the major issues that beginning Catholics have to examine and come to terms with.They claim it is supported by both scripture and history, and that their claim is "misunderstood" when others say they misplace worship. We should be clear here: the authority claimed by the Roman Catholic Church goes beyond that of mere ecclesiastical governance, it is an exclusive claim to authority to determine the truth, and an exclusive claim that their organization is the one true church. Moreover, they declare it is impossible for the Catholic Church to mislead people in its official teachings. So lets examine the support for such a claim, one by one, using the above web site, as well as supporting arguments from other Catholic web sites.
CLAIM #1: CHURCH AUTHORITY COMES FROM DIRECT APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION
That Jesus Christ forbade placing spiritual authority in men is explicitly stated in scripture:
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (Mt. 23:8-10)Those who claim spiritual authority in men will then ask the question, why do we call our biological fathers father? But this is to miss the point entirely. Jesus is not talking about mere literal titles. Jesus forbids anyone to place spiritual authority in men. Another weak counter argument I have seen is that Paul stated he acted like a father to those who need to learn like children (1 Thes. 2:11). But this is an analogy, Paul is not making any special claim to authority, merely that he had to teach them the truth. It is interesting when people make these arguments against Jesus, when I ask them what then did Jesus mean, they have no answer. It is a passage they choose to ignore. When one places spiritual authority in one's self, this leads to spiritual pride. Swedenborg confirms that Jesus was not talking about mere literal titles, but rather those who place spiritual authority in themselves:
"Be not ye called teacher; for one is your Teacher, even Christ. And call no man your father on earth; for one is your Father, which is in the heavens. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ (Matt. 23:8-10). Without doctrine it would follow from this that no man ought to call another teacher or father or master; but from doctrine it is known that this is permissible in the natural sense, but not in the spiritual sense." (True Christian Religion, n. 226.6)Furthermore:
"...this is said because the "Father" means the Lord, who creates and begets us anew, and because He alone teaches and instructs; so when man is in a spiritual idea he will think of the Lord alone as the Father and Master; but it is otherwise when man is in a natural idea. Moreover, in the spiritual world or in heaven, no one knows any other father, teacher, or master than the Lord, because from Him is spiritual life." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 631)The reason why Jesus gave this commandment is to ensure no one out of pride would claim spiritual authority over others:
Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Mt. 23:12)It is sinful to place any authority or claim in oneself, for all that is good and true in oneself does not come from the self, or the ego, but from God alone. We are but recipients of these in our will and understanding. To give "glory and honor" to the Lord is to acknowledge this:
"By giving to the Lord glory and honor nothing else is meant in the Word but to acknowledge and confess that all truth and all good are from Him, and thus that He is the only God; for He has glory from the Divine truth and honor from the Divine good." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 249)
CLAIM #2: JESUS PASSED AUTHORITY TO PETER AND THENCE TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Peter (Petra) does indeed mean rock, and the Catholic Church takes this to mean that Peter and his successors (whom they presume are themselves) is the foundation of the authority of the Church. But notice the misquote, the website "forgot" to mention what precedes:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Mt. 16:13-17)This is a BIG DIFFERENCE. It is Jesus Christ who is the foundation of the church, it is He who is the rock. The Christian Church is founded on His Divine identity. Take away that and there is no church. And yet the Catholic Church misplaces this authority in themselves, even to the point of declaring the Pope is the "Vicar of Christ." A "rock" or foundation in the spiritual sense means one's foundation of truth (see Mt. 7:24), and Paul confirms that the rock is Jesus Christ:
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:4)That this is a willful distortion of scripture in order to make claims of spiritual power and authority over others, can be seen by examining scripture:
Jehovah is my rock (Ps. 18:2).So what does the New Church have to say on the matter? In the spiritual sense, it has nothing to do with Peter or the Roman Catholic Church, confirming that the Protestants are correct in rejecting this claim:
For who is God save the Jehovah or who is a rock save our God? (Ps. 18:31)
Unto thee will I cry, O Jehovah my rock (Ps. 28:1)
He only is my rock and my salvation (Ps. 62:2) .... etc.
"...good takes on a quality through truths, good without truths having no quality and where there is no quality there is neither force nor power. From this it is clear, that good has all power through truths, or charity through faith, and neither charity apart from faith nor faith apart from charity has any power. This is meant also by the keys given to Peter, for "Peter" there means, in the spiritual sense, truth from good which is from the Lord, thus faith from charity; and the "keys" given to him the power over evil and falsities. These things were said to Peter when he acknowledged the Divine of the Lord in His Human; which means, that those have power who acknowledge the Divine of the Lord in His Human, and from Him are in the good of charity, and in the truths of faith." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 209.4)Moreover, each particular disciple of the Lord represented a different aspect of the church:
"Peter" here [signifies] Divine truth proceeding from the Lord's Divine good, and in the internal sense, every truth from good that is from the Lord. The "rock" [petra] that is spoken of in the Word where Peter is mentioned, and from which Peter's name is derived, has a like signification. The Lord's twelve disciples represented all the truths and goods of the church in the complex; Peter represented truth or faith, James charity, and John the works of charity. But here Peter represented faith from charity, or truth from good which is from the Lord, because Peter here acknowledged the Lord in heart" (Apocalypse Explained, n. 206.3)The internal motivation of many in the Roman Catholic Church was seen by Swedenborg was not for spirituality, but for the sake of self power. Whether one believes Swedenborg or not, if the first thing Catholics talk about is the authority of their church over all spiritual matters one should question the motivation behind such interest. Is it for the sake of love of others? Or is it for the sake of power over others? Again:
"They who are in the good of genuine charity, and read the words which the Lord spake to Peter — I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in the heavens (Matt. xvi. 15-19) — they being in affection for truth from the good of genuine charity, love to be taught what is meant by these words; and when they hear that by the rock there upon which the church will be built, and consequently by Peter, is signified the faith of charity, and that thus the keys for opening and shutting heaven are given to that faith (see the preface to Gen. chap. xxii.), they then rejoice and are affected by that truth, because thus the Lord alone, from Whom faith is, has that power. But they who are not in affection for truth from the good of genuine charity, but in affection for truth from some other good, and especially if from love of self and the world, are not affected with that truth, but are made sad, and are also made angry, inasmuch as they wish to claim that power to the priesthood. They are made angry because they are thus deprived of dominion, and they are made sad because they are deprived of honor." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4368.3)That this is the continued focus of the Roman Catholic Church, one can see by perusing multiple web sites, such as Scripture Catholic - the Church, where the same errors are repeated over and over.
CLAIM #3: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE PRIMARY AUTHORITY SINCE IT DETERMINES SCRIPTURE
The Catholic Church maintains that it was from its own spiritual authority which determines scripture. They essentially are stating their authority is above scripture and have the right to declare what is scripture and what isn't. That they claim this, can be seen from Whats Your Authority:
The fact is that the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church over time to recognize and determine the canon of the New and Old Testaments in the year 382 at the synod of Rome, under Pope Damasus I. This decision was ratified again at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397 and 419). You, my friend, accept exactly the same books of the New Testament that Pope Damasus decreed were canonical, and no others... This means you accept the canon of the New Testament that you do because of tradition, because tradition is simply what is handed on to us from those who were in the faith before us.And this is their argument for tradition and authority as the source of faith. From Scripture and Tradition:
In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: "The Word of God"), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained: "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.And it is true: the older Christian churches are dependent on tradition and authority. Moreover, Protestants don't like to admit this, but most of their theology and doctrine they inherited from the Catholic Church. But argument from tradition and authority is not a strength, it is a weakness. It is from tradition and religious authority that falsehoods have corrupted the Christian Church. To merely say something is inspired because of authority is a logical fallacy. All that the councils did was separate the valid documents of the words of Jesus and the apostles from the internal evidence of the text itself, and what had been preserved from a variety of different local churches. This was done to "weed out" the false gospels that were prevalent at the early time. Textual critics can also easily determine that they were forgeries without any claim to "authority" in themselves. In reality the church councils did not define what is Divinely inspired, they just declared which were valid documents of the words of Jesus and His apostles. The same web site goes further:
"Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence."
Any Christian accepting the authority of the New Testament does so, whether or not he admits it, because he has implicit trust that the Catholic Church made the right decision in determining the canon.In other words, the canon of scripture is used as an argument to support that one should blindly follow authority, rather than the internal evidence of the text itself, and the testimony of the local churches where they were in use.
The argument, however, falls flat on its face when one sees what the Catholic Church selected as their scripture. First they selected the Septuagint (a Greek translation) as their basis, and in selecting the Septuagint as their basis, they introduced major interpolations to the Hebrew text from the Septuagint, to wit: Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, additions to Daniel, and others, such as the later fictional accounts of Tobit and Judith. Moreover, the texts they selected came from churches that belong now to Orthodox and Eastern branches of Christianity, not the later Catholic Church.
This alone shows that truth from authority cannot be completely trusted. The false additions from the Septuagint were only corrected during the Protestant Reformation.
A REVELATION OF THE TRUE CANON OF THE BIBLE
In the New Church, one is no longer dependent on tradition and human authority with is not only prone to errors, but also at times subverts the truths of God's Word. First, Jesus Christ Himself revealed what is canonical for the Old Testament:
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44)Jesus refers to a very specific set of scriptures here from the Jewish canon of the Old Testament. The law of Moses is the Torah, and the prophets refer to another section called the Nevi'im. Outside of these two sections Jesus selects one book, the Psalms. The original Hebrew canon was modified by the Greek Septuagint, and it is from this that the Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic, inherited the majority of their canon.
Needless to say, it has nothing to do with church authority of the Roman Catholic Church. By the same logic, since the Jews preserved the canon of the Old Testament, does that mean we should follow the spiritual authority of Jewish rabbis? Of course not. Its a ridiculous argument.
Note that, separate from the Law and Prophets, the Jews created a separate section known as "Ketuvim" which simply means the "Writings." Of these, Jesus only selected the Psalms. The only other book he quotes from is the book of Daniel (Mt. 24:15, Mark 13:14), which properly belongs among the Prophets.
There is one case where some claim that Jesus references 2 Chronicles as scripture:
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zechariah son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (Mt. 24:34, 35; see also Luke 11:49-51)The claim here is that Zechariah, is a priest whose death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. However this identification is false. It more likely refers to the priest Zechariah who was the father of John the Baptist. From Wikipedia - Zechariah:
"Origen suggested that the Zechariah mentioned in Matthew 23:35 as having been killed between the temple and the altar may be the father of John the Baptist. Orthodox Christian tradition recounts that, at the time of the massacre of the Innocents, when King Herod ordered the slaughter of all males under the age of two in an attempt to prevent the prophesied Messiah from coming to Israel, Zechariah refused to divulge the whereabouts of his son (who was in hiding), and he was therefore murdered by Herod's soldiers. This is also recorded in the Infancy Gospel of James, an apocryphal work from the 2nd century."This latter explanation is more likely, as the statement of Jesus would include all the prophets from Abel to the father of John the Baptist. So, this means that the books of the Ketuvim are not necessarily authoritative in the same way as the Law, Prophets and Psalms of Hebrew scripture.
In the New Church, Divinely inspired scripture are those works which have an internal spiritual sense from internal evidence in the text itself. The canon of the New Church is not based on tradition or authority, but rather Divine revelation from Jesus Christ. The criteria and evidence for Divinely inspired scripture is given in Heavenly Arcana (or Arcana Coelestia). For the Old Testament, it closely follows the Jewish canon just discussed, but also includes the book of Lamentations. For the New Testament, the Gospels and Apocalypse are Divinely inspired, whereas the letters of the apostles are works included for the edification of the church. The Divinely inspired canon is as follows:
"The books of the Word are all those which have an internal sense; and those which have not an internal sense are not the Word. The books of the Word in the Old Testament are the five books of Moses, the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of the Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah including the Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and in the New Testament the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; and the Apocalypse." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10325).As for the letters of the apostles, they are "Divinely influenced," but do not have the same level of inspiration where there is a spiritual sense behind each and every word. This revelation comes from Jesus Christ Himself:
"That the Lord manifested Himself before me His servant, and sent me to this office, and that He afterward opened the sight of my spirit, and so has admitted me into the spiritual world, and has granted to me to see the heavens and the hells, also to converse with angels and spirits, and this now continuously for many years, I testify in truth; likewise, that from the first day of that call I have not received any thing which pertains to the doctrines of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I read the Word. For the sake of the end that the Lord might be constantly present, He has disclosed to me the spiritual sense of His Word, in which Divine truth is in its light, and in this light He is continually present. For His presence in the Word comes only by the spiritual sense; through the light of this, He passes into the shade in which is the sense of the letter; comparatively, as it is with the light of the sun in the day time, passing through a cloud that is interposed." (True Christian Religion, n. 779-780)This, of course, will be opposed by those of the Roman Catholic Church whose interest is primarily in claiming sole spiritual authority in matters of the Christian Church, and such a spiritual conflict is foretold in the prophecy of the Apocalypse. With those of the New Church, the Roman Catholic Church cannot use scripture as a false argument to support their authority, as the New Church has a higher and more strict standard than they do.
The revelations of the New Church are not limited to the Biblical Canon, but also the revelations contain the true doctrines of Christianity by which scripture should be interpreted, This is the Second Coming of the Word of God, which is described in more detail in the post Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?
THE NEW CHURCH IS NEW SPIRITUAL FREEDOM
With the New Church, all doctrine is drawn from scripture, and true spiritual freedom is truly restored in Christianity, where it is no longer necessary to depend on authority or tradition, or the teachings derived from the opinions of men. With these revelations, one can rationally explore and open up one's spiritual understanding, and one is not dependent on truth by reason of authority. True authority is from scripture, and the doctrines of the New Church opens up scripture to anyone willing to examine them. The doctrines are primarily described in The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem (or The Four Doctrines and New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrines) and True Christian Religion. Additional doctrines can be found scattered throughout Heavenly Arcana, a large multi-volume work.
When spirituality is rationally understood, where there are no "mysteries of faith" or "blind belief", the higher spiritual understanding is opened which leads to new spiritual light - see Truth by Religious Tradition and Authority vs. Spiritual Truth. However this spiritual light cannot be opened until the former falsehoods are exposed, and thence removed from the mind. Swedenborg saw this spiritual light was now available to all, but the angelic world had slim hope for those of the Christian Church, as it has been infested by falsehoods:
"...the man of the church will hereafter be in a freer state of thinking on the things of faith, thus on the spiritual things which are of heaven, because spiritual freedom has been restored. For all things have now been reduced to order in the heavens and in the hells, and from them flows in all thought about Divine things and against Divine things — from the heavens all thought in harmony with Divine things, and from the hells all thought against Divine things. ...Because spiritual freedom has been restored to man, therefore the spiritual sense of the Word has now been uncovered, and by means of it interior Divine truths have been revealed; for man in his former state would not have been able to understand those truths, and he who would have been able, would have been ready to profane them.
"I have had various conversations with angels concerning the state of the church hereafter, and they said that they know not things to come, because to know things to come is of the Lord alone; but they know that the slavery and captivity in which the man of the church has been hitherto, has been taken away, and that now from restored freedom he can better perceive interior truths, if he wishes to perceive them, and so can become interior, if he wishes to become so; yet they have slender hope of the men of the Christian Church, but much of a people quite remote from the Christian world, and hence removed from infesters, which is such as to be able to receive spiritual light, and to become a celestial spiritual man; and they said that at this day interior Divine truths are revealed in that people, and are also received with spiritual faith, that is, in life and heart, and that they adore the Lord." (The Final Judgment, n. 73-74).Those who fail to question their beliefs will for the most part fail to see this truth. But for those who question their religious beliefs, and who wish to seek the truth for themselves, new spiritual light awaits.