Learning from the Bible

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. -Genesis 21:5

Dear members and friends,

According to the dictionary, belief is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” From Psychology, beliefs are defined as “convictions that things held in the mind are true.” What both statements have in common is that the human mind itself is the measurement used to determine if something is true or not. Defining what is true and real is a very important and fundamental task within a community, because based on this definition, members of the community evaluate matters and their relationship with each other. In the far ancient days, myths and legends served as the means to measure what is true and real. Afterwards, religions took its place for a long time. Nowadays, we have scientific methodology as the means by which we define what is real and unreal. However, the problem with the scientific method is that people who trust in it seem to believe that it was not created by the human mind, and thus it can provide objective truth free from the inherent limitations of the human mind. However, the human mind has a strong tendency to reject what is incomprehensible as unreal or not true. 

To me, it is a waste of time and effort to debate whether a certain story in the Bible is true or not. What is truly important is what we can learn from it and use it toward enriching our current life and spiritual cultivation, which is nothing but the well-being of our mind. The story about the birth of Isaac is deeply significant to us according to Swedenborg, because Isaac symbolizes spiritual rationale. It would take many words to explain what Swedenborg means by this, but in summary, spiritual rationale is our inner ability to distinguish the difference between knowledge that is useful only for materialistic success and knowledge that is useful for both our life on earth as well as spiritual cultivation. According to Swedenborg, the problem with spiritual rationale is that it is not an innate ability, but requires intentional cultivation to obtain it. The completion of such required cultivation is symbolized by Abraham being 100 years old. 

One truth I believe wholeheartedly is that no human can know for sure what the Creator truly intends to teach us by means of stories in the Bible. However, one universal assumption is that whatever it is, it should be about enriching our life on earth and providing guidance for our spiritual cultivation. The ultimate truth that the Bible teaches us all is that our life on earth is temporary and thus an instrumental process to obtain a spiritual union with the Creator. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee