Black Lives Matter

George Floyd (1973–2020)

George Floyd (1973–2020)

Here at Spiritual Insights we have watched with concern the debate raging in the United States over the saying “Black Lives Matter.” For many years we’ve been appalled by the systemic abuse of the police power against our black and brown neighbors. Accordingly, we were appalled at the death of George Floyd from excessive force by the Minneapolis Police Department. (And for every abuse that is filmed, you can be sure that a number of others occurred that were not filmed.)

When we started Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, we committed to never taking the easy way out when addressing difficult subjects. We have worked hard to offer substantive answers on sensitive subjects. “No hollow platitudes” has been our commitment.

And so over the years we have posted articles about racism and the abuse of power. Some of them are linked at the end of this article. We invite you to read them.

Short version: Racism is derived from a corrupted love of self that leads people to love only people who are like themselves. Abuse of power coupled with racism is a recipe for a hellish existence for all people—including the racists themselves, who live in their own little hell of self-absorption and fear of the “other.”

Lost in the acrid debate over “Black lives matter” vs. “All lives matter” is the deeper question of why God created different races of people on our earth.

For more on Black Lives Matter, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Science Philosophy and History

Our Experience Moving to Soweto, South Africa

Dear Readers,

This blog is not about us. It’s about spiritual insights to help you in your everyday life. However, given the big move we have made from the United States to South Africa, some of you may be curious about our experiences along the way.

Recently, Annette wrote a two-part article recounting some of the events of our move to Soweto for our church’s official publication, The Messenger. It appeared in the June and July/August issues. Here are links to the two issues, in PDF format:

Enjoy!

Soweto Towers

Soweto Towers

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Posted in Current Events

What about 2 Corinthians 5:21? Didn’t God make Christ to be sin for us?

Note: This post will be a little more technical than most of our articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. That is necessary in order to deal with a common objection to the Christian beliefs we present here.

The Lamb of GodIn the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 is often quoted to support the Western Christian doctrine that by his death, Jesus Christ satisfied the justice, or the wrath, of God the Father. This is known as the satisfaction theory of atonement.

Satisfaction theory was originated by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. In the centuries that followed, Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas, among others, modified it into the currently accepted Catholic doctrine of atonement. In the 16th century, Protestant theologians developed its penal substitution variant, which is widely accepted within Protestantism today. (Eastern Christianity never accepted satisfaction theory. It continues to hold to earlier Christian views of atonement.)

According to satisfaction theory, we humans are unacceptable to God because of our sin. And being sinful by nature, we are incapable of satisfying God’s justice (in the Catholic version) or of assuaging God’s wrath (in the Protestant version). However, since Christ was sinless, he was able to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, or take the punishment demanded by God’s wrath. Anyone who accepts Christ’s sacrifice is accepted by God as righteous.

How does this happen, according to the theory? By Christ’s merit and righteousness being imputed to us. The idea is that Christ’s righteousness gets attributed to us even though we are sinners, whereas our sin gets attributed to Christ even though he was sinless. God can therefore accept us as righteous even though we are actually sinful.

That’s what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, doesn’t it? In a slightly more modern translation:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (New Revised Standard Version)

There’s only one problem. That’s not what Paul was saying. Here is translation that gets much closer to what he was saying:

God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness. (Complete Jewish Bible, italics added)

For more on sin offerings and righteousness, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed

What is an Angel of Death?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Mpho Montsho:

Let me share a question I was asked. It will be good to have you answer it on my behalf in depth:
“What is an Angel of Death? Isn’t an angel a regenerated soul?”

Thanks for passing on this question, Mpho.

I’m glad the question is, “What is an angel of death,” not “What is the angel of death.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no figure literally called “The Angel of Death” in the Bible.

Yes, there are figures in various religions and cultures around the world that people sometimes call “the angel of death.” For example, there is Azreal in Islam, Shinigami in traditional Japanese culture, and the increasingly popular Santa Muerte in Mexico and surrounding areas.

Yes, in the Bible, there are certain figures, such as the one named Abaddon and Apollyon in Revelation 9:11, that people sometimes call “the angel of death.” But the Bible itself never calls them that. At most, it calls them “destroying angels” or “evil angels.” The closest the Bible comes to “the angel of death” is in Proverbs 16:14: “The wrath of a king is as messengers of death; but a wise man will pacify it” (King James Version). In Hebrew, the word for “angel” is the same as the word for “messenger.”

People usually fear the angel of death. And yet, from a spiritual perspective, if there are “angels of death,” they are the highest and most loving of the angels. They are the ones who greet us at our time of death, and welcome us peacefully into the spiritual world. These are indeed the souls of people who have been “regenerated,” or reborn, to the highest levels of heavenly love and wisdom.

But first, let’s look at those celestial (or infernal?) agents of massive death and destruction in the Bible.

For more on angels of death, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife, The Bible Re-Viewed

Two New Online Swedenborg Discussion Groups

Swedenborgian Community OnlineAre you looking for a place to discuss the Bible, Swedenborg, and issues of spiritual life with other people in an open format? If so, please check out these two new online Swedenborg discussion groups:

New Church Discussion Group
Swedenborgian Community Online

The first one is moderated by an independent Swedenborg reader from New Zealand.

The second one is moderated by Rev. Cory, pastor of the Swedenborgian Church of North America’s online Swedenborgian Community.

The discussion groups are hosted on the Discord website. Discord was originally set up as a forum for video gamers. However, because of its ease of use and low data requirements, it has expanded far beyond the gaming community.

If you are not already a user on Discord, you will have to set up a username and password before proceeding to the chatrooms. You do not have to reveal your real name and identity if you don’t want to.

You do have to be considerate of other people whose views may be different from yours. These forums are open to Swedenborgians and non-Swedenborgians alike.

See you there!


Update: I have removed the link to one of the discussion groups due to some unfortunate events and overcharged statements that took place there, to which I do not wish to subject my readers. (July 2, 2020)

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Posted in Current Events

Coronavirus: Act Sensibly for Everyone’s Good

In The New Jerusalem #100 Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) wrote:

Kindness is doing things sensibly so that good will come from them.

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

As I write this, fear and panic are spreading around the world about the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Schools, churches, and businesses are closing, either voluntarily or by government decree. People are panic-buying non-perishable items such as toilet paper, resulting in empty shelves at stores. Xenophobia and racism are on the rise, and conspiracy theories are proliferating, as people look for someone to blame.

Our suggestion in the midst of all this:

Step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and engage your thinking mind. No matter what mayhem may be going on all around us, the best results will come from acting based on sound information, from a good heart, to bring about the best possible outcome—even if that means the least bad outcome.

We therefore recommend that you:

  1. Inform yourself about COVID-19 from reliable sources.
  2. Put current events into a wider context.
  3. Take reasonable steps to protect yourself and the people around you.
  4. Act sensibly so that good will come from it.
  5. Put current events into a spiritual context.

For more on acting sensibly for good results, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Science Philosophy and History

Spiritual Insights is Expanding to a Second Continent

Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life has been international in outlook and outreach right from its beginning seven years ago in September, 2012. Not only have we covered people and stories from many countries around the world, but we have had visitors from almost every nation in the world.

Here are the top ten countries and regions from which our readers come:

  1. United States (over half of the total visits)
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. South Africa
  6. Australia
  7. Philippines
  8. European Union
  9. Nigeria
  10. Singapore

Now Spiritual Insights itself is going international!

For more on Spiritual Insights going international, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

Are We Headed for an AI Apocalypse?

It’s a staple of science fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Terminator; The Matrix; I, Robot. The plot: Humans create machines with artificial intelligence (AI). The machines become conscious. The machines turn on their human creators and kill or enslave them.

Popular movies and novels commonly reflect the hopes and fears of present-day society, even if they’re set in the distant past or future. And the fear of AI taking over the world is a very real one for some very smart people. Famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking issued an ominous warning that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Technological entrepreneur Elon Musk joined the chorus of fear, saying, “Mark my words: A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes.”

Others disagree. Computer scientist Michael Littman wrote an op-ed piece arguing that “the ‘rise of machines’ is not a likely future.” Computer Science professor Subhash Kak agrees in his recent article, “Why a computer will never be truly conscious.” Neuroscientist Anthony Zador and computer scientist Yann LeCun argue that since AI didn’t need to evolve in a competitive environment as humans did, it didn’t develop the survival instinct that leads to a desire to dominate others (see: “Don’t Fear the Terminator”). Besides, LeCun argues elsewhere, “One would have to be unbelievably stupid to build open-ended objectives in a super-intelligent (and super-powerful) machine without some safeguard terms in the objective.”

And so the debate continues.

Personally, I’m with the optimists. Yes, I enjoy an exciting apocalyptic sci-fi flick of the humans vs. robots variety. But in the real world, I don’t think machines will ever develop consciousness and enslave or exterminate humanity. Aside from the inherent scientific limitations of electromechanical devices, and the supreme stupidity of designing machines without safeguards, robots do not have a soul—and I don’t believe they ever will.

For more on artificial intelligence and the end of humanity, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History

If the Second Coming has Already Happened, When do Things Start Getting Better?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Stan:

I hear you say that the second coming or apocalypse has already happened? My question is, when will the world start getting better? I live in South Africa, and we have 55 murders per day. Crime here is unexplainable, and people fear for their lives every day. Surely this cannot continue till the day that we all pass away?

Thanks for your important question, Stan.

It is difficult to feel hope for ourselves, our families, communities, careers, and the future when we are living during a difficult time in a challenging locale. In this response I will offer you some practical and spiritual insights. As it turns out, you have asked a question about a subject that is very personal for Annette and me.

For more on fixing the world’s problems, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Pain and Suffering

Who is Emanuel Swedenborg? Did He Start a New Church?

Dear Readers,

Since Annette and I began this blog in 2012, we have received many expressions of surprise and excitement about the beliefs and ideas presented here. Perhaps it would be helpful, then, to provide more specific information about the origin of our theology, and of the church organizations associated with it.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) - scientist, philosopher, spiritual seer

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

The beliefs presented on our blog are based on the Bible as interpreted by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), an eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, and explorer of the spiritual world. Swedenborg wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible, opening up a deeper spiritual meaning within the literal meaning. He also presented a new perspective on Christianity—one that is solidly founded on the plain statements of the Bible.

Though Swedenborg wrote about a new era of the church that he said was beginning in his day, he never made any effort to start a church organization. However, fifteen years after his death, a small group of his readers founded the first New Church (Swedenborgian) organization, in London, England. From there it spread around the world.

Despite the relatively small number of avowed Swedenborgians, over the years Swedenborg’s teachings have had a major influence on our society’s changing views of Christianity, the Bible, spirituality, and the afterlife. Much of this influence happened not directly, but indirectly through well-known figures in the subsequent history of Western thought who read Swedenborg and incorporated some of his ideas into their own writings. For some examples, see the article, “Swedenborg’s Cultural Influence” at the website of the Swedenborg Foundation.

For more on Swedenborg and the Swedenborgian churches, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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