The sections on goodwill and faith have already shown that the Lord carries out the process of regenerating us by means of goodwill and faith. . . . Both of these things, goodwill and faith, I call means because they forge our partnership with the Lord. Together they ensure that our goodwill is real goodwill and that our faith is real faith. The process of our regeneration cannot occur without our having some part to play in it.
In preceding chapters, our cooperation with the Lord has come up several times; it will be illustrated again here, however, because the human mind is by nature unable to rid itself of the sensation that it carries out this process under its own power.
In every motion and every action there is an element that is active and another element that is responsive. The active element acts, and then the responsive element acts in response. As a result, a single action comes forth from the two elements. A mill is activated in this manner by a waterwheel; a carriage by a horse; a motion by a force; an effect by a cause; a dead force by a living force; and in general an instrumental cause by a principal cause. Everyone knows that each pair together completes a single action.
In the case of goodwill and faith, the Lord acts, and we act in response. There is an activity of the Lord that prompts our human response. The power to do good things comes from the Lord. As a result, there is a will to act that seems to be our own, because we have free choice. Either we can take action together with the Lord and by doing so, form a partnership with him; or else we can take action drawing on the power of hell, which is outside the Lord, and by doing so, separate ourselves from him. Actions of ours that are in harmony with the Lord’s actions are what I mean here by “cooperation.” To make this even clearer, it will be illustrated with comparisons below.
It follows from this that the Lord is constantly active in regenerating us. He is constantly active in saving us, and no one can be saved without being regenerated, as the Lord himself says in John: “Those who are not born again cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5, 6). Regeneration is therefore the means of being saved; and goodwill and faith are the means of being regenerated.
The notion that we are regenerated as a consequence of simply having the faith that is preached by the church of today—a faith that involves no cooperation on our part—is the height of foolishness.
The kind of action and cooperation just described is visible in action and movement of all types. The interaction between the heart and all its arteries is an example. The heart acts and the arteries use their sheaths and linings to cooperate; this results in circulation. A similar thing happens with the lungs. The air pressure, which depends on the height of the atmosphere above it, acts upon the lungs; the lungs work the ribs, which is immediately followed by the ribs working the lungs. This breathing motion affects every membrane in the body. The meninges of the brain, the pleura, the peritoneum, the diaphragm, and all the other membranes that cover the internal organs and inwardly hold them together, act and react and cooperate in this way, because they are flexible. Together these movements provide for our continued existence.
A similar thing happens in every fiber and nerve and in every muscle. In fact it even occurs in every piece of cartilage. It is well documented that in each of these there is an [initiating] action and then a cooperation.
Such cooperation also exists in all our bodily senses. Just like the motor organs, the sensory organs consist of fibers, membranes, and muscles; but there is no need to describe the cooperation of each one. It is well known that light acts upon the eye, sound upon the ear, odor upon the nose, taste upon the tongue; and that the organs adapt themselves to that input, which results in sensation.
Surely everyone can see from these examples that thought and will could not exist unless there was a similar action and cooperation between life as it inflows and the spiritual organic structure underlying our brain. Life flows from the Lord into that organic structure. Because the organic structure cooperates, it perceives what it is thinking. Likewise it perceives what is under consideration there, what conclusion is formed, and what action it has decided to take. If the life force alone took action but we did not cooperate (seemingly on our own), our ability to think would not exceed a log’s. We would have no more thought than a church building does when a minister is preaching; the church can indeed feel the reverberation of sound coming through the double doors as an echo, but it cannot appreciate anything about the sermon. We would be no different if we did not cooperate with the Lord in developing goodwill and faith.
What we would be like if we did not cooperate with the Lord can be further illustrated with the following comparisons. If we perceived or sensed anything spiritual related to heaven or the church, it would strike us as something hostile or disagreeable flowing in, the way our nose would react to a rotten smell, our ear would react to a dissonant sound, our eye would react to a hideous sight, or our tongue would react to something disgusting.
If the delight associated with goodwill and the enjoyment associated with faith were to flow into the spiritual organic structure of the mind of people who take delight in evil and falsity, such people would feel terrible pain and torment until they eventually collapsed in unconsciousness. The spiritual organic structure consists of long strands in helixes; under that circumstance in people of that type, it would wrap itself in coils and would be tormented like a snake on a swarm of ants. The truth of this has been fully demonstrated to me in the spiritual world through an abundance of experiences. . . .
from Regeneration, pages 50-53