I heard that a council had been summoned that was made up of those who were famous for writing and research on the modern-day faith and on the justification of the elect by that faith.
This was in the world of spirits. I was allowed to attend in spirit. I saw that the participants were from the clergy. There were some who agreed and some who disagreed. To the right stood people who in the world had been called the apostolic fathers, who had lived in the centuries before the Council of Nicaea. To the left stood men from after those centuries who were well known for their printed works or works their followers had copied in manuscript form. Many in the latter group had clean-shaven faces and wore curled wigs of women’s hair. Some of them had collars with ruffs; some had collars with bands. The former group, however, were bearded and wore no wigs.
Before both groups stood a man who had been a judge and critic of the writers of this century. With the staff in his hand, this chairman banged on the floor and brought about silence. He stepped up onto the dais where the central chair was and uttered a groan. After groaning he intended to shout out loud, but the breath expended in groaning made the shout catch in his throat.
Finally, when he was able to speak, he said, “Friends, what times we live in! Someone has risen out of the herd of the laity. He has no gown, no cap, no laurel. Yet he has pulled our faith down from heaven and thrown it into the river Styx. What a crime! Yet that faith is our only star. It shines like Orion during the night and like Lucifer in the morning. That man, although well advanced in years, remains completely blind to the mysteries of our faith because he has not opened our faith and seen in it the justice of the Lord our Savior, as well as the Lord’s mediation and appeasement. And since he hasn’t seen these aspects of our faith, he has also missed the wonders of justification by that faith. These wonders are the forgiving of sins, regeneration, sanctification, and salvation.
“Instead of accepting our faith, which is supremely effective for one’s salvation because it is a faith in three divine persons and therefore in the whole of God, this man has redirected belief toward the second Person—in fact, not even the whole second Person, but just his human manifestation. That human manifestation we do indeed call divine, because it was the incarnation of the Son from eternity; but who thinks of it as anything other than something merely human? What faith can we have in that except one that gushes materialist philosophy like a fountain? Since that kind of faith is not spiritual, it is virtually the same as faith in a substitute or a saint. You all know what Calvin said in his day about worship from a faith like that. Any one of you, tell us, please, where faith comes from. Doesn’t it come directly from God? That is why it contains all the means of salvation.”
At that the chairman’s colleagues on the left side (the men with clean-shaven faces, curly wigs, and ruffs around their necks) burst into applause and shouted, “Very wisely said! We know that we cannot receive anything that is not given us from heaven!”
[Then the chairman continued,] “That prophet should tell us where faith comes from and what faith is if it isn’t this. It is impossible for faith to be different or to come from any other source. Revealing another true faith besides this one is as impossible as riding a horse to some constellation in the sky, grabbing one of its stars, hiding it in your coat pocket, and bringing it back with you!”
He included this last comment to make his friends laugh at any new faith.
The men on the right side, though, who were bearded and wore no wigs, were upset when they heard this. One of them, an old man, stood up. (Later, however, he looked like a young adult, because he was an angel from heaven, where people of every stage of life become young adults.)
The old man said, “I have heard the nature of the faith you all have—the faith the chairman praised just now. But that faith is nothing but the tomb of our Lord after the resurrection, locked up again by Pilate’s soldiers. I have opened that faith but found nothing inside it except magicians’ wands used by the sorcerers in Egypt for doing miracles. To your eyes, your faith looks like a treasure chest made of gold and encrusted with precious stones; but when it is opened, the chest is empty, except perhaps for some dust from papal relics left in the corners. Papists have the same faith, you see, except that they are hiding it now behind external acts of piety.
“To use a simile, your faith is also like the Vestal virgin in ancient times who was buried alive for extinguishing the sacred fire. In fact, I can state it directly: to my eyes your faith looks just like the golden calf around which the children of Israel danced after Moses had left to go up to Jehovah on Mount Sinai [Exodus 32:1–20].
Don’t be surprised that I have spoken about your faith in these analogies—this is the way we who are in heaven speak about it.
“Our faith, on the other hand, is, was, and will be to eternity a belief in the Lord God the Savior, whose humanity is divine and whose divinity is human. It is a faith, then, that is adapted for reception. It is a faith that unites what is divine and spiritual to what is human and earthly. It becomes a spiritual faith on an earthly plane. What is earthly then becomes transparent from the spiritual light of our faith.
“The truths that constitute our faith are as many as the verses in the sacred tome. These truths are all like stars, whose light reveals, and shows the shape of, our faith. People acquire this faith from the Word by means of their earthly light—the light of knowledge, thought, and persuasion; but if people believe in the Lord, he turns this faith into conviction, trust, and confidence. Through this process their faith comes to be spiritual as well as earthly, and enlivened by goodwill. To us this faith is like a queen decorated with as many precious stones as could be seen in the wall of the Holy Jerusalem (Revelation 21:17–20).
“So that you won’t think the words I am saying are exaggerated and discount them as a result, I will read you something from the Holy Word that will make it clear that our faith is not faith in a human being, as you think it is; it is faith in the true God in whom everything divine exists. John says, ‘Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). Paul says, ‘All the fullness of divinity dwells physically in Christ’ (Colossians 2:9). In the Acts of the Apostles it says of Paul, ‘To both Jews and Greeks he preached repentance before God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). The Lord himself says that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18); but these are just a few passages.”
from True Christianity, Volume 1, Section 137