Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

For a video reading of this article on YouTube, click here.

The Lord God Jesus Christ

You’ve probably heard a lot about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit—maybe just enough to make you say, “Forget it! I can’t understand this stuff!”

But the basics about God are easy to understand. We humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). If we look at how we are made, and we realize that the Bible uses symbolic language, we can understand what God is like.

  • “The Father” mentioned in the Bible is like our soul.
  • “The Son” is like our body.
  • “The Holy Spirit” is like everything we say and do.

Here’s another way of looking at it:

  • At our core is love. That’s because God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). When the Bible mentions “the Father,” it is talking about God’s love.
  • We express our love through intellect or wisdom. In the Bible, the light of God’s wisdom is called “the Son” (see John 1:1–14).
  • We express our love and understanding through the things we say and do. In the Bible, God’s words and actions are called “the Holy Spirit.”

One human being is made of many different parts. In exactly the same way, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different parts of one God.

The Creator God

If God created this vast and incredibly intricate universe, then God must be mind-blowing. God must go beyond the entire universe and everything in it. God must go beyond the ability of our small and limited human minds to grasp.

Yet there are things we can know about God. It’s like looking at a photograph. A flat picture doesn’t do full justice to the scene it portrays, but it does give us some idea of what it’s like. There are ways to express the infinite, omni-dimensional nature of God in “flat,” picture-like concepts.

God is One

Here’s the first: For the universe to be a unified whole, it must come from the mind of a single Creator. If there were multiple gods, each with different plans and ideas, the universe would be disjointed rather than unified. Creation by committee? I don’t think so!

The oneness of God is the very first topic that scientist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) takes up in True Christianity, his massive final work on theology. Swedenborg rejects the traditional, non-Biblical teaching that the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons of God. (See the article, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”) Instead, Swedenborg saw these as names the Bible uses for three different parts of one God.

This agrees with what the Old and New Testaments teach. To quote just two of many examples, Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “The Lord our God is one Lord”; and in John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.”

God is Love, Wisdom, and Action

There are many different elements to the oneness of God. Just as each of us is one person made of many parts, God is one divine being made of infinite parts. For now, let’s look at the three most basic parts of God.

  • LOVE. It is the substance of God. Behind everything God says and does, there is love. When the Bible talks about “the Father,” it is talking about God’s love.
  • WISDOM. It is the form of God. It gives shape and structure to the love that is the substance of God. When the Bible talks about “the Son,” it is talking about God’s wisdom.
  • ACTION. It is everything God says and does, all of which comes from the substance of love through the form of wisdom. When the Bible talks about “the Holy Spirit,” it is talking about God’s words and actions.

Because the God that created the universe is love, wisdom, and action, everything in the universe also embodies love, wisdom, and action. So it’s easy to come up with examples to help us understand how these three parts of God work.

How easy?

Name some object—say, a chair.

  • What is the chair made of? Wood? Metal? That is the substance of the chair, which is the “love” part.
  • What is its shape? It has four legs, a seat, and a back. That is the form of the chair, which is the “wisdom” part.
  • What does the chair do? It provides seating. A chair is passive, so we talk about its “function” rather than its “action.” But providing seating is still what the chair does, so that’s the “action” part.

There you have it: love, wisdom, and action in a chair! Physical examples like this can help our earth-focused minds understand how the love, wisdom, and action in God work.

Jesus as God

Let’s move on to beliefs that are specifically Christian.

The Christianity contained in Swedenborg’s writings is very different from the traditional Christianity that existed in Swedenborg’s day—and from the popular, conservative Christianity that gets much of the press coverage today.

Popular Christianity says that God the Father is angry at all people because of the sin of Adam, and has sentenced us all to eternal death. It says that God the Son died instead of us to appease God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice. (See the article, “Did Jesus Really Die to Pay the Penalty for our Sins?!?”) At its most conservative, this type of Christianity condemns everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus—which is most of the world’s population—to spend an eternity being tortured in hell.

Jesus Christ: A Different Perspective

Swedenborg rejects every aspect of those traditionally “Christian” doctrines. He says they are pure fictions based on the fundamentally false belief in a Trinity made of three different persons in God—a belief that the Bible does not teach.

Swedenborg says that the Trinity is contained in one person of God, similar to the “trinity” in a human being of soul, body, and actions. The Father is like the soul of God, the Son is like the body of God, and the Holy Spirit is all the words and actions that go out from God. Another way of looking at it is that the Father is divine love, the Son is divine truth, and the Holy Spirit is divine action.

Then who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus was not some second divine Person born from eternity. Jesus was the one God born on earth in a human form.

How did this happen?

On this question, Swedenborg follows the two accounts of Jesus’ birth, given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Jesus had a human mother (Mary), but his father was God. (See Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–38.) When Jesus was born, he had a dual nature: an infinite divine nature and a finite human nature.

During the course of Jesus’ life, he gradually set aside everything of the finite human nature he had received from Mary, and replaced it with the infinite divine nature of God.

An image that helps to grasp this is the process of petrifaction of wood. When wood is petrified, the imprint of the wood’s original structure remains, but there is no wood left; it is all stone. God retained the experience of living out a human life on this earth. But by the time Jesus rose from death and ascended to heaven, his human side had become fully divine. He no longer had the dual nature of a finite human side and an infinite divine side. God was one, with a divine soul (“the Father”), a divine body (“the Son”), and a divine influence (“the Holy Spirit”) that went out to everything in the universe.

Swedenborg uses the phrase “divine humanity” to describe this God who is both divine and human at the same time. Because of this divine humanity we can see God not only as far above us, but also as right here beside us. In other words, we can now have a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is God coming to us personally to save us and bridge the gap between us and God (see John 14:6). God did this out of infinite divine love for every human being, past, present, and future. “God so loved the world . . .” (John 3:16).

What is Redemption?

Much of traditional Christianity says that Jesus Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross, which satisfied God’s honor, or justice, or wrath against humans for our sin. In Protestantism, this is believed to happen by Christ taking on himself the penalty of death that we each deserve because of Adam’s sin. We gain salvation by accepting what Jesus Christ did for us as our Savior.

Swedenborg offers a very different view of redemption and salvation based on Jesus Christ’s complete victory over the power of evil. This view of redemption takes in the whole sweep of human spiritual history. The salvation Jesus Christ provided through his life, death, and resurrection extends to all people on earth, not just to Christians.

The Long and Winding Fall

To understand this view of salvation, we must move beyond the usual literal interpretation of the Bible. Seen from a deeper perspective, the Bible narrative uses earthly events to tell the spiritual story of humankind. When we were first created, God pronounced us “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and symbolically placed us in a primeval garden where we lived together with God in spirit.

Yet we soon turned away from God, trusting our own senses and our own ideas instead of listening to God. This rejection of God started a long spiritual decline. By the time the Old Testament story reached its final chapters, humanity had become almost entirely corrupted by a lust for wealth, power, and pleasure. There was very little of God and spirit left among us.

Meanwhile, the vast number of selfish, greedy, and just plain unspiritual people entering the spiritual world from earth was choking off the flow of love and wisdom from God through heaven to people on earth. This threatened to permanently snuff out our spiritual life.

God had sent many priests and prophets in an attempt to turn us around. Each time, it helped temporarily. But more and more, we just ignored God’s messengers.

When human history hit its all-time low, God saw that there was only one way to reverse the spiritual decline and save the human race from spiritual destruction and death. God had to come to earth in person, conquer the forces of evil that were engulfing the world, bring the spiritual world back into order, and reopen the channels for love and truth to reach people on earth.

This is precisely what Jesus was doing during his thirty-three years on earth.

The Inner Life of Jesus

The Gospels focus on Jesus’ words and actions. However, we do get a few brief glimpses of his inner struggles (traditionally called “temptations”). After he was baptized, Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert, where he was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–11). And Jesus went through an agony of temptation as he approached his death (Luke 22:39–46).

Swedenborg tells us that these inner struggles were going on throughout Jesus’ life. In fact, according to Swedenborg, the Devil (which is really just another name for hell—not some cosmic monster) brought to bear on Jesus the entire force of all the combined evil of the universe. Through the course of his life Jesus faced and overcame that massive force of evil, bringing it under his personal control. This is why he said to his disciples just before he was crucified, “Take courage! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33), and after his resurrection, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

By coming to earth as Jesus Christ, God overcame the evil that was overwhelming all people on earth, and brought the spiritual world back into proper order and balance. Now, no matter how much we humans may try to thwart God’s plans, God keeps us in a balance between good and evil. This gives us spiritual freedom of choice, whatever our physical circumstances may be.

The redemption that Jesus accomplished was not just for Christians. It was universal. It saved everyone on earth who is willing to make choices for good rather than evil. From this perspective, Jesus Christ is the God and Savior of everyone on earth, no matter what name we may use in addressing God. By becoming human and bringing the forces of spiritual evil under control, God made this kind of personal salvation possible for everyone, everywhere.

Every person on earth who believes in God and lives a life of love and service to others is believing in Jesus Christ by believing in what he taught. And God has a place in heaven, not for people who merely say his name, but for people who live according to his teachings (Matthew 7:21–27).

Putting it All Together

There is one God. God came to earth as Jesus Christ. Therefore God is both divine and human, and is both the Creator of the universe and the Savior of all people who choose to accept what is good and true from God and express it in their lives.

God is pure love, represented in the Bible as the Father, formed by pure wisdom, represented in the Bible as the Son, going out in pure creative and saving action, represented in the Bible as the Holy Spirit.

This article is © 2012 by Lee Woofenden

For a video reading of this article on YouTube, click here.

For further reading:


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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103 comments on “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
  1. Steven says:

    You have only identified one of four cardinal attributes of Jehovah. What about power, wisdom and justice?

    And how do three separate parts be equal to each other and yet not be equal?

    • leewoof says:

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for your comment and questions.

      If you read the full article, you’ll see a heading that says “God is Love, Wisdom, and Action.” Action is God’s power expressing itself, so we could also say “God is Love, Wisdom, and Power.”

      Justice involves a balanced expression of love and wisdom in all of God’s actions, so it embodies all three of the other attributes: love, wisdom, and power.

      Just out of curiosity, where did the idea of four cardinal attributes of Jehovah come from?

      About “parts,” these parts are not separate. They aren’t so much literal parts, like head, torso, and limbs, as they are philosophical or spiritual parts. In other words, they are aspects or attributes of a single God.

      Please read the full article, and if it’s still not clear, feel free to try again on your question.

      Thank you!


  2. Doug Webber says:

    Well that’s interesting Lee, the trinity of the chair? Never thought of that one. The analogy I like is that of the physical Sun itself (substance, or love), the light of the Sun (wisdom or truth) and the heat we feel from the Sun (the activity of the spirit). We see that symbolic analogy in scripture when it references fire (love) and light (truth). In ancient times, they knew of the Sun in heaven, and the physical Sun was a symbol of that, and this later degenerated into Sun and star worship. I think Aquinas came close to the answer when he spoke of the trinity as the emanation of the Divine, which was his explanation for why Father, Son and Holy Spirit always appear in that order, as prior and posterior, or end, cause and effect.

    • Lee says:

      As long as our thinking doesn’t go over into modalism, these illustrations can work. I would say, though, that the Holy Spirit involves the activity and effect both of the love and of the truth. The love side tends to be obscured both in the Son and in the Holy Spirit because these are truth-based images. However, love is contained within the truth, and flows out as the Holy Spirit just as truth does. So in terms of the light that we see and the heat that we feel from the sun, I would include both of these in the Holy Spirit, even if the light is more immediately perceptible and obvious.

      Thinking of them as prior and posterior, and as end, cause, and effect does help to keep us away from thinking that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different “modes” of God as we perceive God. We never see the Father, only the Son–and gain some sense of the Father through the Son. The Holy Spirit is how the relationship with God flows into us and affects our lives.

  3. idiotwriter says:

    As I mentioned on a different article – finding interesting reading here.
    Questions springing to mind if I may ask.
    But before I ask I will say that a lot of what you write I am liking BUT – to be sure in my heart of a few things I ask these things from you –
    * Does it not say in the Bible – (and I am not going to try quote it exactly here) ‘No one can come to the father if not through the son'< And 'If you deny me before man I will deny you before my father' Could you put this into context with what you are conveying on your site? I have an idea – but I would rather hear it from your perspective.
    *Does it not speak of the coming of Christ BEFORE he arrives – many times LONG before it occurs – actually the idea I get is that God had preordained this to occur and not that he saw things kinda going squiff so decided to come down and sort it out himself because his prophets were messing up?
    Just some thoughts –
    Yet your concept of God revealing himself to different cultures in different ways is something that is becoming more and more relevant to my journey…yet something that has always weighed heavy on my mind yet I pushed it aside for a while till I believe God felt me ready to approach it in my 'understanding' – different levels of understanding perhaps?

    I get frustrated with the hatred and the ignorance and judgement that takes place – and as you mentioned to another person in – it is the conundrum of tolerating intolerance… the eternal rock and a hard place 😉

    • Lee says:

      Hi idiotwriter,

      Thanks for your good and thoughtful questions. These are issues that I hope to take up in full blog posts some time in the future. However, I’ll offer some briefer responses now just so that you don’t have to wait so long! 🙂

      About your first question, here are the relevant quotes:

      1. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)


      2. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

      These sayings have multiple levels of meaning, as does everything in the Bible.

      If we read them simply, I think the best way to understand them is as instructions to Christians:

      1. Christians should pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, not bypass Jesus and pray directly to the Father. Jesus Christ is how the Father approaches us, and we approach the Father. We should not short-circuit that process.


      2. Christians should acknowledge, not deny, Jesus Christ to others. If we are ashamed of being a follower of Christ, and unwilling to give credit to Christ in front of others, are we truly Christian? (This does not, however, mean that we should bang people over the head with our beliefs!)

      On another level of meaning, these verses have to do with how we are able to have a relationship with God:

      1. We cannot know the infinite being of God (which is “the Father”) directly. Our minds are finite, and too small to directly know or experience the Divine as it is in itself. However, through God’s human presence with us–which can come in the form of angels, of fellow human beings acting in godly ways, and most fully in Jesus Christ–we can in some way approach and have a relationship with the Divine Being of God.


      2. We must realize and acknowledge that anything good and true that we think, feel, say, or do is not our own, but is God’s in us. If we think that we can be good, loving, understanding, and kind on our own, then we are denying the presence of God within us, and taking credit ourselves for what really comes from God. If we deny that everything good and true in us comes from God, then we are rejecting God.

      I realize that these answers only scratch the surface, and in no way cover all the levels and depths of meaning in these two verses. However, I hope this gives you something to hang onto until, God willing, I am able to write and post something a little fuller.

      • idiotwriter says:

        Thanks very much. I look forward to your post ~ but in the meantime…I have all I need to hand onto 😉 The rest is merely intellectual debate and discussion. I thank you for this place to do as such and your well thought out answers.
        I believe we need to be open and honest – however also very cautious to be sure words are spirit led and not led by fear or pride.
        I would most enjoy if you would take a stroll through my site at some point – perhaps you will gain an understanding of where the questions come from 😀
        If it were the real world I would invite you and your wife over for a cup of tea and chocolate cake to speak of these ideologies you delve into here.
        Again – thank you for your response ( quick at that).

    • Lee says:

      About the Bible speaking of Christ’s coming before he arrives, here are two ways of thinking of it, one from a human perspective, and one from a divine perspective:

      1. From a human perspective, as we humans groaned under the weight of poverty, slavery, oppression, and mounting evil and brutality, we longed for a savior who would liberate us from all that pain and suffering. That longing was expressed in prophesies of a future Messiah as King or Savior who would come and set the world right.

      2. From a divine perspective, there is no limitation of time. God sees all things–past, present, and future–from the eternal present that is God. All things in all places and all times are laid out in front of God like a vast, incredibly detailed map. The Bible often speaks of future things as if they are in the present because God sees them in the present even in what to us was the past. God’s coming to earth as Jesus Christ has always been a present reality for God, even during the times that to us it was merely a hope and a longing for a future Savior.

      This divine perspective is difficult for us time-bound humans to grasp and accept. Our minds rebel against the idea that the future is just as present for God as the past is. However, to the extent that we can realize at least intellectually that, as modern physics tells us, time is a property of physical reality and of physical matter, and therefore does not apply to the higher spiritual and divine levels of reality, then we can begin to get some concept of how the Bible could talk about future realities as if they were in the present.

      In his multi-volume work Secrets of Heaven, Emanuel Swedenborg interprets much of the book of Genesis as a detailed spiritual account of what Jesus Christ went through internally during his lifetime on earth.

      This would make no sense at all if we think of the Bible through our human, time-bound lens. The material in Genesis was written hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus was born!

      However, if we raise our minds closer to the timelessness of God, we can see understand how God could tell the story of God’s life here on earth as Jesus Christ hundreds and thousands of years before those events actually took place. For God, it is all part of the timeless present.

      • idiotwriter says:

        Makes sense ~ Still ~ never stop asking and seeking the truth and understanding. I have ‘theories’ – I waver to extend them into the greater relams of the vastness of the internet – lest I cause someone to stumble. Its the conundrum of spiritual food before one is ready for solids? So it gets difficult to discuss deeper spiritual truths when one is in contact with infants still suckling at the teat for the milk of the spirit. AND YET – we are in an era where ‘revelation’ (NOT REVELATIONS the book) is on the tongue and those who are too blinded by the material realm that man has created will not comprehend nor concur.
        I can not explain how a current flows through a conduit to my four year old…yet my teenager …well SHE can explain it to me. An Age of great spiritual enlightenment is nearing and we are to reach out gently and carefully? To be sure not to be led astray by false ‘doctrine’ /’prophets’ ~
        These are not questions – just thoughts – concurring or not with your view perhaps …that is not up to me to decide but you 😉

        • Lee says:

          Just a bit of “shop talk”:

          I do choose fairly carefully what I will say here on this blog, since I am reaching toward a wider audience than this type of material usually reaches. There are some more technical and more theological topics I’d like to write about some time, but this is not the place for it. I’ve considered starting another blog for more advanced topics, but I’ve got enough to do to keep this one going. And this one is in line with my primary goal of reaching ordinary people with a helpful and practical spiritual message.

          About “putting it out there” in general, I would say that although the Internet does make material available to anyone who cares to read it, there is also an amazing self-sorting mechanism in place. People who are not interested in the material will rarely stumble upon it in the first place, because it doesn’t fit the profile of what they are looking for. People who might be interested in the material but are not in tune with it may find it and take a look, but when they find it is not harmonious with their views, or just makes no sense to them, they’ll simply click away and find something more to their liking.

          Based on this, my view is that if there’s something important to say, even if it may be of interest to only a few, go ahead and say it. Put it in an online location where it fits in with the surrounding material. Those who want and need it will find it, while those for whom it would not be helpful will either never find it or will be gone in a few seconds if they do.

        • idiotwriter says:

          Good thoughts to carry – thank you. One of the first people I can speak consistently honestly about such things – lets face it – not an easy topic to convey sometimes 😉 Yet so simple and beautiful inits essence. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Joshua says:

    I may have misread this article but it sounds to me like you are saying that no matter what name another culture calls God as long as they worship Him as God and do good then they will be saved? Is this what you are trying to say? If so how do you know this to be true? How do you know that the God of Islam is the same God of Christianity. I think that I would disagree whole-heartedly and so would they. Not only is the name different but so is the theology. I have taken a ten week class on Islam and it seems to be drastically different than Christianity.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Joshua,

      I’m aware that the more conservative and fundamentalist wings of every major religion, including Islam and Christianity, strongly disagree with this. Even the moderates in the various religions have trouble accepting it. But yes, that is what I am saying.

      There is only one God. No matter what names people use for God or what doctrines they believe in about God, there is still only one God who receives their faith and worship. I believe that that one God is the Lord God Jesus Christ. There is no other God. Others believe differently than I do. But God still stays the same, no matter what we believe about God.

      For more on this, I invite you to read the article:
      If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

      • Benjamin says:

        I love reading your pieces. However, on this I just feel you have it wrong. While ascending to heaven Jesus gave a commission for the disciples to go and preach the gospel throughout the world and to baptize people in his name. After baptism people receive the Holy Spirit which is actually eternal life. Now how comes you are saying people from other religions can also have eternal life yet the only way to receive the spirit is through belief in Christ and baptism? In another scripture passage Jesus says “He who believes in me has passed from death to life, but whoever does not believe is condemned already”. See he says that regardless of your works if you do not believe on him you are condemned already. Maybe you could provide more clarification on this so I can get a better understanding.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Benjamin,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.

          About the passages you mention, it’s important to read them in context. When you put them together with the rest of what Jesus said, they don’t mean what traditional Christians say they do. About John 3:18, please see this article:

          Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?

          And about Jesus being the only way to salvation, please see:

          Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?

          These two articles should answer your questions. Once you’ve had a chance to read them, please feel free to continue the conversation.

          Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  5. Joshua says:

    I agree with you that the Bible does not specifically teach the doctrine of the Trinity but what you said about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit seems to fit the doctrine of the Trinity to a T. Can you explain how you believe that God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are one but not the same as the Trinity.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Joshua,

      The traditional Christian concept of the Trinity holds that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons, each with different characteristics and roles. This is something the Bible never teaches. It is a human interpretation. Even if it is a very old human interpretation, it still did not appear in any Christian doctrinal statement until several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written.

      What I am saying in this article is that there is only one Person of God, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different parts of that one Person of God similar to our soul, body, and actions, or similar to love, wisdom, and action. This is very different from the traditional Christian doctrine of a Trinity of Persons in God.

      I do not think all Christians must believe in the Trinity as I do. The Bible never clearly spells out the exact relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible is more concerned with how we live than with what doctrines we believe.

      However, I do think Christians should believe in one God.

      Unfortunately, no matter how many times their lips say “one God,” those who believe in a Trinity of Persons in God are thinking and picturing three gods in their heads. They are thinking of the Father as one being, the Son as another being, and the Holy Spirit as another being. Saying that they share the same essence just adds some vague abstract notion justifying their saying that there is one God when they’re really thinking three. They commonly picture:

      1. the Father as an old man on a throne in heaven, who is angry with humanity due to our sins and requires justice to be served upon us;
      2. the Son as a young man being crucified because he had mercy on humanity and wanted to save us from the Father’s wrath and justice;
      3. and the Holy Spirit usually in more vague terms–but often as a dove because of the way the Holy Spirit appeared at the time of Christ’s baptism–who carries to us the salvation that the Son earned for us through suffering instead of us the Father’s verdict of death for our sins.

      There is really no difference between this and thinking that there are three gods, except that, as the Athanasian Creed says, the Church does not allow us to say that there are three Gods or three Lords. At least the Athanasian Creed is fairly honest in admitting that the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons requires us to think one thing and say another.

      Though there may be other ways to think of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as truly being one God, and not three gods, I have not found another one that is as satisfying and that harmonizes everything the Bible says about them as well as the one I have described in this article.

      • Derelict says:

        So rather than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being three persons of one God, they’re three aspects of him? That’s the way I’ve always understood it, anyway.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Derelict,

          Yes. The Bible says nothing about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being “persons.” That was a human invention from several centuries after the Bible was written. See: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

        • Derelict says:

          Apparently what we’ve agreed on is considered the heresy of Sabellianism. Although the person who called it that was none other than Tertullian, who you reference in another article as one of the key proponents of the three-persons doctrine.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Derelict,

          Although the doctrine of God taught by Swedenborg is commonly charged with being Sabellian (or modalist) by traditional Christians, that charge is incorrect. For a detailed explanation of exactly why it is a false charge, please see the article: What is the difference between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God?

          In fact, the traditional Christian doctrine of God as a Trinity of Persons is much closer to the heresy of modalism than Swedenborg’s doctrine is. The traditional doctrine of the Trinity posits a God who is one in substance, but three in Person. Each “Person” of God is, in essence, a different manifestation of the same underlying substance. That is the essence of modalism, even if it is expressed in a different way.

          The very word “person” used in that doctrine comes from the Latin word persona, whose basic meaning is “a mask.” It refers to the masks that actors used on stage to distinguish one character from another in ancient plays and theatrical productions. Since the essence of Sabellianism, or modalism, is the idea that there is one God who appears in three different ways to us, you can see that using the word “Persons” to define Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is thoroughly modalist in origin and concept.

          In short, the charge that Swedenborg’s doctrine of God is Sabellian is the pot calling the kettle black. (And in this instance, the kettle just happens to be white.)

          God as a Trinity of Persons was first proposed by Tertullian, whose doctrine was ultimately rejected in its original form by the church. However, the church modified Tertullian’s doctrine to come up with the current doctrine of the Trinity of Persons, as first presented in the Nicene Creed, and later defined more clearly in the Athanasian Creed. This Trinitarian doctrine is not stated anywhere in the Bible, and is itself a non-Biblical heresy invented by human beings. That heresy has vitiated and falsified the doctrines of traditional Christianity for nearly 1,700 years now.

          For more on these topics, please see these articles:

          The final article gets at the true force of the nature of God as presented in Scripture, and especially God as manifested in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.

  6. don'twantmynameonline says:

    Hello, I think you give excellent explanations. They are logical. Why would God give us minds and then just want us to accept someone (a pastor, priest, etc) else’s words if they do not make any sense? I believe God does want us to understand and not be confused. Thank you for what you are doing.

  7. Adam says:

    I face ridicule everyday because I believe that there is a single God, and he reigns over all religions. My supervisor at work is baptist and thinks and says that all baptist beliefs are the only way. Which causes a huge lack of communication. If I may ask though, I, myself also believe in tolerance for homosexuals. I understand that it is a sin. But is a single sin greater than any other? I guess the question would be what is your stance.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts.

      I agree with you that there is one and only one God, who reigns over all religions. For more on this, see my article:
      If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

      About homosexuality, it all depends on how you define sin. Many people seem to think that sin is anything against their own religious beliefs. And for them it is! Those who violate their own religious beliefs are guilty of sin because they are doing something that they believe is wrong.

      Sin is not just doing something wrong. If it were, we’d all be doomed, because we all unknowingly do things that are wrong every day. But we are not condemned for those. We are only condemned for doing things we know and believe are wrong–especially if we make no effort at all to change our ways.

      So when it comes to homosexuality, spiritually speaking it doesn’t really matter what you or your boss or I or anyone else thinks of it. What matters is what the homosexual person him- or herself thinks of it. And most gays and lesbians these days–at least, in the liberal West–believe that homosexuality is not wrong, but good and beautiful. Therefore, for them it cannot possibly be a sin, and they will not go to hell for it. That is true regardless of what homosexuality may be all about objectively. (And I don’t claim to understand it myself.)

      For more about evil vs. sin, see the article:
      World Series Obstruction: Intent or Not Intent, That is the Question?
      (Yes, it’s about a controversial baseball play, but read on! You’ll get to the evil vs. sin part.)

      And about the Bible story most commonly used by Christian fundamentalists to condemn homosexuality, see the article:
      What is the Sin of Sodom?

      Edit: I have now written and posted a major article about homosexuality that gives a better answer to your question about my stance on that issue:
      Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity

  8. jazeril says:

    wait, wait wait….the God of Islam is the same God that Christians believe?

    • Lee says:

      Hi jazeril,

      If you and I look at a tree, and you say, “That’s a tall tree,” but I say, “That’s a short tree,” how many trees are there? Two or one?

  9. havau22 says:

    In the New Church we whole-heartedly believe in the Holy Trinity. In fact, we are very interested in the “trinity” concept. But to us, a trinity does not consist of three similar things on the same level (which might be regarded as a “trio”), but a trinity consists of one thing on three different levels. For example, three houses in a terrace do not form a trinity, but one house with three stories is a trinity. (Noah’s Ark was like that; it had “lower, second and third stories.” [Genesis 6:16]) Three oranges do not make a trinity; but one orange does, if you consider its skin, its flesh, and its pips or seeds. Three people do not make a trinity; but one
    person does, if you consider his soul, his body, and his influence or outflowing life.

    The Trinity in God

    There is not the least shadow of a doubt that there is a trinity in God. That is not the point. The point is: Is God a trinity of Persons, or is God one Person in whom dwelleth a trinity of attributes? The New Church believes that He is not a trinity of persons. A belief in a trinity of persons must lead inevitably, although perhaps not explicitly, to a belief in three separate Divine Beings, which amounts to a belief in three Gods, because to each Person in the Trinity is assigned a different office or function to perform, as that the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The New Church believes in a trinity, but it believes that it is a trinity of functions that cluster about one Personality who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

    It is impossible to maintain the trinity of persons from Scripture. In the first place, there is no mention of a trinity of three persons. The Father is mentioned, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but they are never called separate persons. They represent real relationships. If we were inclined to specious reasonings, we might even note that every man has many aspects. For example: to my father I was a son, to my son I am father. Thus I am both father and son according to the relationship in which I find myself, but I am never two persons. In respect to the Divine from eternity, the Divine born in time as Jesus was certainly its Son, but not a separate person, because the Divine dwelt in Him and was His soul; thus it is easy to see the Oneness of God when we think of Christ’s soul as the Father, His body as the Son, and His influence among men as the Holy Spirit, but how can one who believes in three Divine persons explain such passages as “I and My Father are one”, (John 10:30) “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”, (John 14:9) “Before Abraham was, I am”, (John 8:58) “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” (John 14:11) A true religion will be able to understand and explain all of these passages.

    if Philip had really seen the Lord, he would have seen the Father in the Divine and mighty acts which the Lord did.in the Old Testament there is a solidarity of teaching to the effect that there is one God in one Person, and that when His advent into the world was foretold by Isaiah he leaves no shadow of a doubt but that the Son and the Father were one in the Lord Jesus Christ.


    Emanuel Swedenborg

  10. Zack says:

    Thanks for all the effort you put into this site. Very interesting – cleared up some confusion for me on the one hand, and created more confusion on another. But that is all besides the point of my question. A question I have asked some Christians but have never gotten an answer to. So…

    Christians believe that Jesus was God. If Jesus was indeed “God in the physical” why did he need to pray / meditate – and who did he pray to? How could God, even if in physical form, be tempted? I find that beyond comprehension. It would mean that Jesus, if he was indeed God, forgot that he was God just because he was in physical form. That sounds ludicrous to me. How could God forget who / what He is?

    Maybe I have a problem with this because if you think that the very Creator of All can be tempted by what is here in the physical, then I have to ask, what hope is there for us not to succumb to the temptations of the physical?

    Then again, there are a lot of people that do live, or try to live, an egoless life – but that doesn’t make them Jesus Christ does it? The evils of ego can be understood whether you believe in God or not – its just common sense.

    • Doug Webber says:

      What happened was once the Divine “lowered” himself into a finite human form, he then had to progress back to his Divine state – while in the human form, he had limited knowledge, moreover, he could be tempted to commit sin as he had inherited this in his body from his human mother. The Divine was in him as the soul which could not commit sin, but hell could attack by tempting him through the body. In these states of temptation, he prays to the Father. It was through this inner conflict, which he overcame, is the means by which he saved and continues to save all humanity.

      Catholics miss the point entirely as they tend to state Mary was born perfect, and so was Jesus.

      So its not two beings here, but rather two different states of being – one a human finite state, the other at one with the Divine. How the Lord progressed back to a glorified Divine nature is described in detail in “Heavenly Arcana” (or Arcana Coelestia) by resisting temptation, and the two different states of Jesus are described in more detail in “Doctrine of the Lord.”

      • Zack says:

        Thanks Doug – I understand what you are saying and understood Lee in his post. What i cannot get my head around is that God “forgot” who He was just because He was in a physical form. I can understand how WE forget who we are when we are in physical form, but God? Not saying I’m right tho – just hard to swallow.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Zack,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your good comment and great questions!

      You certainly are not alone in wondering about these things. And unfortunately there is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding on these points in traditional Christian beliefs and teachings. This has caused many people to reject Christianity altogether.

      And yet, there are good answers to these questions–answers that require shifting our thinking about who Jesus Christ was (and is) in relation to God. I’ll assume you’ve already read what I said about these things in the article, and we’ll go on from there.

      Of course, this will be the short version!

      As I say in the article, in accordance with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mary was Jesus’ mother, but his father was God. It says that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, so that the one who was born of her would be called Son of God.

      What this means is that Jesus was born with an ordinary, limited (finite) human side that he got from his ordinary human mother, and an infinite divine side that he got from his father, who was God.

      As Doug said in his response (Darn! He beat me to it! 😉 ), one of the reasons God did this is that it was the only way he could meet hell, the Devil, and all of human evil on its own turf, fight against it, and overcome it without totally destroying it (and all evil people along with it) in the process–because evil cannot stand God’s direct presence.

      So it was through the finite human part of himself that he got from Mary that he could be tempted. The divine itself could never be tempted, nor could evil even approach it.

      The part of Jesus that was God never forgot that he was God. But because Jesus had a dual nature while he was living on earth–a finite human nature from his mother, and an infinite divine nature from his Father–his conscious awareness also alternated back and forth between the finite human side and the infinite divine side.

      When his conscious mind was engaged in and aware of his human side primarily, he prayed to the Father as if praying to a separate being, and spoke as if God were a separate being from him. That’s because his finite, human side from Mary was not God.

      But when his conscious mind was engaged in and aware of his divine side primarily, he spoke of himself and the Father being one, and said that anyone who sees him sees the Father. This was also the state he was in when he was transfigured in the presence of his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John.

      We humans can get some notion of what these changes and alternations in the consciousness and awareness of Jesus were like by considering our own spiritual and emotional ups and downs in life. Sometimes we have a sense of the goodness of life, of the presence of God and spirit, and we feel connected to God and spirit, and one with our fellow human beings. Other times we feel dejected, depressed, and cut off from God and spirit, and from our friends and family, and feel that life is empty, meaningless, and nothing but a continual dark struggle.

      Jesus went through all of those same changes, but at a far deeper and more profound (at the high end) and harrowing (at the low end) level than any of us ever does.

      These changes and alternations of mental, emotional, and spiritual state went on in Jesus throughout his life on earth, culminating in his greatest temptation, traditionally called the passion of the Cross. When he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was feeling cut off and alone, and very human. And yet, he was also quoting the opening line of Psalm 22, which speaks of the struggle to find God, spirit, and peace of the soul in our darkest times, and ends on a triumphant note.

      As I said in the above article, through all of these struggles, temptations, and trials, which got access to him through his finite human side from his human mother, Jesus gradually set aside everything of that limited and finite humanity, and replaced it with an infinite divine humanity that was God in human form. So after his resurrection and ascension up to heaven and God, he no longer had that dual finite / infinite human nature, but was fully divine and human at the same time.

      This means that the state of dual consciousness lasted only during his lifetime here on earth. Once we understand the nature of this temporary dual consciousness in Jesus Christ, we can understand many things in the Gospels that otherwise seem contradictory, confusing, and inexplicable.

      This is a vast subject! What I’ve said here only scratches the surface. But I hope it opens your thoughts to a new way of understanding the descriptions of Jesus’ life in the Gospels that makes better sense than what you’ve encountered before.

      As for our facing our own ego and physical temptations, it is precisely because Jesus Christ overcame all evil that he can give us the power to overcome our own ego and all of our temptations if we turn to him, pray to him, and humbly ask for help, with a willingness to follow him and replace our selfishness, greed, and ego with love for God and love for our fellow human beings.

      Does this help you in answering your questions?

      • Zack says:

        Yes Lee – your explanation does help, so thanks for the reply. However your last paragraph opens up another can of worms, because for me that kind of goes with the question as to our purpose here on earth. But that is another subject entirely.

        But staying on point. Is God Jesus / is Jesus God – I have to wonder if God even cares. I don’t think He does – not in my experience anyway (which BTW, contradicts my opinion that Jesus wasn’t God). Isn’t life interesting. 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Zack,

          Glad that answer helped.

          And if we ran out of questions, what fun would life be?!?

          About our purpose here on earth, try this article on for size:
          Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
          I think it offers a better answer about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything than “42.” 😛

          About whether Jesus is God, you’ll have to make up your own mind on that. Just keep in mind that there’s a much better way to think about it than the non-Biblical and outdated stuff taught in most Christian churches.

  11. Richard Neer says:

    Hi Lee,

    You can blame the Golgafrinchans for the fact that “42” just doesn’t work as the ultimate answer, but don’t worry. And, whatever you do, DON’T PANIC!

  12. Zack says:

    Yep – that article pretty much covers the general way I think on that subject. Thank for that Lee

  13. David Gray says:

    Hi Lee,

    As an evangelical, I never even knew there were different views of atonement until a couple years ago. I can understand the objections to penal substitution. I have a much harder time with the concept of humans not being under God’s judgement. Even if hell is not eternal conscious torment, doesn’t the Bible teach that we are all guilty and deserving of punishment? The God of the OT clearly punishes people. As for the New Testament, this web site lists many, many verses where God’s judgement is apparent. Is it reasonable to conclude that ALL of these we adherents to more traditional Christianity misunderstand? Perhaps some can be interpreted as us creating hell for ourselves with our own sin, but I do not believe that they all can.


  14. S says:

    Hi, I just discovered your website through becoming aware of Swedenborg and googling some questions in respect of what he has to say about various matters that interest me. Now I have a number of your articles up that I’m very interested in and see myself visiting your site often.

    For now, I can readily accept that there is one God but the issue of whether Jesus is God has me a little confused, maybe a lot. If Jesus knew He is God, then why does he refer to the Father as if He were someone else in various parts of the Bible? Why doesn’t He just say outright that He is God incarnate? And why when He is on the cross does He cry out ” Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani ? Who is He talking to?

    • Lee says:

      Hi S,

      Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to the wonderful world of Swedenborg! Your questions are very good ones. And there are good answers. Here’s where to start: If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?

      As to why he didn’t just come right out and plainly say that he was God, I think the main reason is that he wants people to be able to freely come to that conclusion on their own rather than taking it on mere authority.

      Authority tends to create a shallow and brittle type of belief that is clung to tightly precisely because it is not deep-rooted. When that brittle type of belief breaks, it is very difficult to return to any belief at all—as attested by the millions of atheists who were once fundamentalist Christians.

      It is better to seek out the truth, face doubts and contrary beliefs, and work out in our own mind what makes sense to us and what our heart is telling us is true. When we explore an issue from a position of “positive doubt,” in which we are willing to believe, but are also willing to consider and compare it to ideas and evidence that go contrary to it in our mind, then if and when we do come to believe that it is true, our understanding of it will be deeper and more flexible, and our belief in it deeper and more well-rooted.

      Think of faith as a tree. It takes a long time to grow, but due to that long and slow process of growth it becomes much sturdier and more reliable than the grass of the field, which springs up quickly, and fades away just as quickly when the dry season hits.

      For my own reasons for believing that Jesus Christ is God—and is a God of pure love—please see: The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus.

      I hope these articles are helpful to you as you sort out in your own mind the core, distinctive belief of Christianity: that Jesus Christ is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). If you have any further questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  15. Eugene says:

    Hi Mr Lee, my question is plain.. I just need to understand the main purpose of the elect of God and are there still some alive to this day?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Eugene,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your question.

      “The elect” is, in my view, an overly technical term, which doesn’t really convey the meaning of the text in the original language. The original Hebrew and Greek words simply mean “chosen,” with the idea that these are the people whom God has chosen. The ancient Israelites viewed themselves as God’s chosen people. And the New Testament uses the same idea to speak of those who would be part of Christ’s spiritual church—who in time came to be known as “Christians.”

      Looked at from a more spiritual perspective, the “chosen” of God are those who live good lives according to the spiritual truth that they have been taught. And by “good lives” I mean lives of devotion to God through loving service to the neighbor—meaning to our fellow human beings.

      God “chooses” these people not because God plays favorites, but because it is God’s choice that we should live lives of love and service according to spiritual truth rather than that we should live evil and selfish lives. God loves all of us, and would choose all of us if we would allow it. So whether or not we are “chosen” by God is ultimately in our own hands. If we love God and love our neighbor as Jesus taught, then we are God’s chosen ones because we are living the life God has chosen for us.

      So when you read about “the elect” in the Bible, it does not refer to some special, select group of people that God has “chosen” and set aside in some secret fashion. Rather, it refers to all people, everywhere, who listen to the teachings of their religion—and for Christians, who listen to the teachings of Christ—take those teachings to heart, and live good, honorable, loving, and useful lives as their faith and their beliefs tell them to do.

  16. Denn says:

    Interesting subject
    Have you considered Leviticus 1?
    The symbolism of the three sacrifices appears to represent the trinity; the heifer as the Father; the lamb as the son; and the dove as the holy spirit. Incidentally, the dove is always a feminist symbol.
    Now John 1: 1 – 4 speaks of of the logos as God and also being with God; Proverbs 8: 12 speaks of wisdom standing next to God as he creates the heavens and the earth [not the universe]; but the whole of the chapter has a feminine emphasis; lastly, God the Father appears as one in Genesis 1: 1; yet later in the chapter, God is heard to say “let us create humankind”
    Hence, in my humble opinion, God is a trinity of both male and female [father, son and holy spirit], as independent persons, and he made humans as both male and female in his image.
    Now consider a cup of coffee; it is made from the beans [seeds], water and possibly milk [in the UK], or even some kind of sweetener. Coffee therefore consists of three items [persons] in one.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Denn,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Themes of three appear throughout the Bible. My problem isn’t as much with the “three” as it is with calling them “persons.” God is not three different people, but God does have three main “parts”—or perhaps “ingredients,” to use your coffee metaphor—as described in the above article.

      The Bible makes heavy use of metaphorical language. We humans are pretty thick-headed, and the people to whom the Bible was originally addressed were not philosophers and academics. So God had to speak in ordinary language that average, uneducated people of 2,000 years ago could understand. But really, “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” are metaphors drawn from human experience and language to express far greater divine realities. The big error of traditional Christianity was to try to interpret them literally rather than metaphorically. Thus the confusion of “three Persons of God.”

      And clearly both male and female exist in God:

      So God created humankind in his image,
      in the image of God he created them;
      male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

      Here both male and female are created in the image of God. This would not be possible if the essence and source of both maleness and femaleness did not exist in God. Along these lines, you might be interested in this article: The Mother of All the Living

  17. Denn says:

    Thanx for the prompt reply, it was more than I expected, although the differences in time probably help.
    I agree that the images in the Bible serve as metaphors because of our finite limitations; but in that case, how do you understand what Adam means when he says that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife?
    By the way, I read your blog as you suggested so I don’t think that I am moving off subject.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Denn,

      You’re welcome.

      There’s far more to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 than could be conveyed in a brief comment. Of course, there is the obvious meaning that people leave their parents and make a new life with their married partner, with whom they (ideally) become one in heart and spirit.

      However, in its context, it is a story of leaving behind an inward focus on God and spirit—which was the focus of the earliest humans on earth once we had first developed an awareness of God and spirit, and had thus become truly human—and turning toward a sense of self and independence that is connected more with our outward self and outward life.

      “Leaving our parents” in this sense means developing our own identity separate from that of our parents. As children, we’re almost extensions of our parents, who are responsible for us and take care of our needs (if they are good parents). But as we head into our teenage and early adult years, we “declare independence” from our parents and begin to build our own life for ourselves.

      At a deeper level, this is a process of “declaring independence” from God, in a sense. Instead of being fully aware that our entire life from moment to moment is a gift from God and comes from God, we prefer to have a sense that we live on our own, and that our life is our own. We are no longer content to be “alone” with God (Genesis 2:18), but want to focus our life more outwardly on our relationships with other people and with the material world and the human society in which we live. That’s when God creates a companion for Adam by (metaphorically, of course) “building” the woman out of the man’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22).

      Not that it’s bad for us to have relationships with one another and with human society. But when we “declare independence” from God by no longer focusing on God’s will and God’s presence, life, and power in us, but focus our life more on our relationships with other human beings as if those are more important than our relationship with God, it is a step downward. Not a step down into evil, but rather a step down from our highest spiritual state, in which God’s love is central, to our next lower spiritual state, in which our positive relationships with other people are central.

      So when the man “leaves his father and mother,” this is metaphorically speaking of leaving our primary relationship with God and spirit.

      And when a man “cleaves to his wife,” this is metaphorically speaking of having our primary relationship with other people instead, and specifically with our married partner. And that relationship with others is based on the idea that we are self-responsible, autonomous human beings—when in fact we are utterly dependent on God and spirit for our very life, and for every thought and feeling we have, every single moment.

      As I said above, there is far more to this than can be put into a brief comment. But I hope this gives you some sense of the meaning of that verse (Genesis 2:24) in its wider context in the first few chapters of Genesis.

  18. KP says:


    I have been reading some of your articles like this one and they are share a very interesting perspective of God and what Bible says. From this article I think that you beilive in Christ and Bible. Doesn’t Bible say don’t have any other god in front me ? In that case how did you conclude that people from all religions will be saved?

    • Lee says:

      Hi KP,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

      Yes, I believe in Christ and the Bible. In fact, I believe that Jesus Christ is God, not some supposed “second Person” of God. So I believe that anyone who worships God is worshiping Jesus Christ, whether they realize it or not. For more on this, please see: Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?

      • fredsbend says:

        What about those who don’t worship any God? For example, atheists. Yet we know atheists can be good people too.

        • Lee says:

          Hi fredsbend,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. Yes, atheists can be good people too, and in my view, can even go to heaven. For more on this, please see: Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

          Short version: Atheists who believe in an analog of God such as morality or the good of humanity go to heaven (or not) based on their living (or not) by that higher principle of life. Higher, that is, than thinking that life is about getting all the pleasure, possessions, and power for myself that I can, regardless of how it affects anyone else.

  19. Frankly Frank says:

    Perhaps a bad joke…..

    Two Swedenborgian pastors are locked in a prison cell together for many years and all they do is argue with one another on who is right and who is wrong, and who is going to get into heaven, and who is going to hell.

    Finally they both pass away and they meet again in the afterlife. It’s a very nice setting, fluffy clouds with golden glows, a spattering of pleasant melodies floating through the air. People are milling about with big smiles.

    The second pastor to pass away says, “Hah! I knew it! We argued all those years for nothing! We’re BOTH in heaven!”

    The first pastor to pass away looks him square in the eye and says…..

    “Well I have my doubts about THAT! I think we GOTTA be in the DEEPEST PITS OF HELL!”

    The second pastor to pass away says, “Why in heaven’s name do you think that? It’s absolutely wonderful here!”

    The first pastor to pass away then says…..

    “Well, about a year ago here I bumped into Lee Woofenden, Jimmy Swaggert, Pat Robertson, Tammy Faye Baker, and Billy Graham all holding hands!”

    Frankly Frank 🙂

  20. Seeking to understand says:

    Hi Lee, I have a question about this statement in one of your comment replies above:

    “We must realize and acknowledge that anything good and true that we think, feel, say, or do is not our own, but is God’s in us. If we think that we can be good, loving, understanding, and kind on our own, then we are denying the presence of God within us, and taking credit ourselves for what really comes from God. If we deny that everything good and true in us comes from God, then we are rejecting God.”

    I’ve heard similar statements from Swedenborgian and traditional Christians alike, and it sort of confuses me that people of both worldviews seem to agree on this point when they seem to disagree on most of the material that usually goes with such a position (or is used to support it)… Which makes me think I could simply be misunderstanding the nuances of the Swedenborgian version at least – maybe it’s not quite as similar to the Calvinistic idea that humans are no good, as it sounds on the surface…

    So…could you clarify whether there is, as I suspect, some small point at which humans should be given at least a tiny bit of credit for their good choices? It seems like, if we say there is not such a point, then we would be holding God responsible also for the bad choices humans make as well, because how can we give God every single bit of credit for all the good stuff without giving Him any of the blame for any of the bad stuff?

    Is the key to be found in the modifier “on our own”? Is it OK to feel satisfied that we’ve made good choices as long as we realize and keep in mind that God both empowered and enabled us to make them? Do humans get any credit for those choices given that God theoretically also enabled, or tried to enable, the people who made bad choices, to make better ones, but they just decided not to? (or not to let Him enable them?)

    And I don’t mean “should we get credit so we can feel puffed up and better than others”, not at all – I just mean, can’t we at some point feel the satisfaction of having made good choices rather than the dissatisfaction of realizing we caused some harm? As long as we recognize and are grateful to God for enabling us to be in such a position? And as long as we don’t feel superior to others, but rather, keep in mind that we don’t understand their position or the circumstances in which they made their decisions…? And as long as we realize that this just means it’s time to go on to the next highest priority on our list of things to work on?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Seeking to understand,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. It’s a great question!

      The basic answer is that we are responsible for the choices we make, but the actions we take pursuant to those choices come either God or from hell (“the Devil”), not from ourselves.

      God has given us, as a basic part of our humanity, free will in spiritual matters. This means that we can choose either to accept God into our lives or not to accept God into our lives. And if we choose not to accept God, who is the source of everything good and true, we are choosing instead to accept hell into our lives, which is the source of everything evil and false. (However, atheists who intellectually reject God but actually live according to what is good and true are accepting God into their lives despite their intellectual denial. See: “Do Atheists Go to Heaven?”)

      Because we have this ability to choose between good and evil, and also between better and worse, what we do, and who we become as a result, is “ours” and is “credited” to us even though the actual things we do, and believe, don’t come from us, but either from God through heaven or from hell. So yes, as you say, we can take satisfaction in the good choices we make and the good actions we do as a result, and these really do became ours, because God gives them to us.

      We just have to recognize that this is a continual gift from God, and that if God weren’t giving us both the ability to choose what is good and the good itself that we do, we would not be good at all.

      All of this is why Swedenborg says that we should act as if we were acting on our own, but recognize that we are really acting from God. Acting as if we were acting on our own makes it ours, and a permanent part of our character. Recognizing that we are really acting from God keeps us from getting all puffed up and feeling superior to others, but keeps us humble instead, which makes us receptive to God’s love and wisdom flowing into us as a gift from God.

      As a simple example, if we think of ourselves as a lamp, we can either turn ourselves on or off. If we turn ourselves on, the power that lights the bulb is not from us; it comes from the power company and flows into us. It is the very same way with whether or not we accept God into our lives. We can turn the switch on or off. But when we turn it on, the power to give light comes from God, not from us.

      Does this help?

      • Seeking to understand says:

        Yes! That helps very much, thank you! 🙂

        And I have to add, I’m so impressed with how quickly you replied! I don’t know how you manage to keep up with all the comments you must get on this blog, haha… But I really appreciate what you’re doing here, I’ve been positively devouring the information I’ve been finding here… Thank you for investing so much of yourself for our benefit!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Seeking to understand,

          You’re very welcome, and thanks for your kind words. I don’t always answer quite that quickly, but I do my best to keep up with the comments.

          Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  21. Magnolia says:

    I have been looking for exactly this type of enlightened explanation of many spiritual problems I have been trying to resolve for years. Profound, true, logical, clear, brilliant, inspired! Seeing biblical truths from a Swedenborgian perspective is no longer a problem. Neither is reincarnation and the essence of the Trinity. I have been having enormous problems trying to understand these concepts. Now they are clear to me. Thank you so much!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Magnolia,

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad our website is helping you to sort out and clarify in your mind these big issues. Thanks for your other comments and good (and realistic!) thoughts as well. Much of what we write here is really just common sense and what the human mind understands if it is not confused by faulty and conflicting dogmas.

  22. Dave Harvey says:

    You mention going to Heaven a lot but does the Bible say we will or does it say we will live on Earth as paradise ?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      In most of the Old Testament there is no teaching about an afterlife at all; in general, the ancient Jews in the times of the Patriarchs didn’t believe in an afterlife. They believed that God blesses the righteous and curses the unrighteous in this life.

      Later, in the Prophets, especially Daniel, there is some mention of an afterlife, and as you say, the general sense is that people will be resurrected in this world in their physical body, not in the spiritual world. That is because the people were very physical-minded. They could not conceive of any afterlife that wasn’t in their physical body, in the physical world. This physical-minded belief persisted into New Testament times. There are various statements in the New Testament that refer to our rising with our bodies. This is why many people today still believe that there will be a physical resurrection.

      However, in the Book of Revelation John saw visions that were clearly not in the physical world, but were in the spiritual world, and he saw both people and angelic beings there.

      Several of Jesus’ teachings about the resurrection make it clear that we are resurrected immediately, rather than waiting for some future resurrection. For example:

      • He spoke of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being alive now (Matthew 22:31–32).
      • He spoke of Lazarus and the rich man dying and being in Abraham’s bosom and in Hades, respectively (Luke 16:19–30).
      • He said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

      None of this would be possible if people are resurrected physically. We know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still dead here on earth, nor is there any record of Lazarus or any rich man being resurrected in this world, nor of the thief on the cross being resurrected in this world. The only reasonable conclusion is that they have already been resurrected in the spiritual world.

      So even though the Bible does speak as if there is a physical resurrection for the benefit of people who are too physical-minded to accept a spiritual resurrection, there are a number of passages in the New Testament, especially, that make it clear that we are not resurrected physically in this world, but spiritually in the spiritual world, where we will live forever. The resurrection body mentioned in the Bible is not our physical body, but our spiritual body.

  23. Foster Caldaroni says:

    If there’s no trinity (Father, Son and holy spirit) who was Jesus praying to when he mentioned he was praying to the Father while he(Christ) was in human form?

  24. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    The idea idea of ’emanation’, in particular, and Neoplatonism in general has played a not insignificant role in the development of my own ideas about religion and spirituality, and it seems- at least to some extent- Swedenborg himself accepts at least some basic idea of emanation, when he (quoting a source about Swedenborg here) ““a single dynamic entity created through successive emanations from a unitary life force.”

    That seems to be the gist of it, but my concern with the idea- perhaps doctrine- of emanation is that it lends itself to a kind of pantheism, for if all that exists even down to the most material sphere radiates outward from the Divine, then it’s hard to see where the difference between God and creation lies. In a sense, it seems easy to fall into the idea that ‘all is God’ when viewing the world through the lens of emanation.

    I believe that God certainly *flows* into everything, but is there a way to look at emanation in a way that avoids pantheism?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      While Swedenborg did occasionally use the word “emanate” (Latin: emanare), the word he uses extensively to describe the phenomenon you are talking about is influxus: “influx, inflow.” That is the word to look for in his theological writings.

      However, though Swedenborg did indeed say that all things are created and maintained in creation by inflow from God, he was not pantheist, but rather a specific kind of panentheist. According to Swedenborg everything is not God, but God is in everything.

      In particular, as explained in True Christianity #33, God created the universe by “[making] his infinity finite in the form of substances put out from himself.” In the very act of making the infinite finite, God put boundaries around created things, making them non-infinite, and therefore not God. This is the indelible distinction between Creator and created. Created beings are not God, even though they are from God. God is by nature infinite. Created things are by nature finite, and thus distinctly not God.

      More specifically, God created two general levels of reality in addition to the divine level of reality (which is God):

      1. Spiritual reality, which encompasses the spiritual world and the human mind or spirit
      2. Material reality, which encompasses the physical universe and the human body

      These two created levels of reality depend upon a continual inflow of love and wisdom, or energy and form, from God in order to remain in existence. But since they are created and finite, not uncreated and infinite, they are not God, even if they are continually dependent upon God for their existence.

      Swedenborg’s great philosophical book Divine Love and Wisdom goes into these subjects in much more detail. I highly recommend that you read it.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        It’s worth nothing that you remarked Swedenborg as a specific *kind* of panentheist (a position I seem to identify with and one that autocorrect is still apparently learning ;), because there are philosophical divisions among panentheists. Does Swedenborg also maintain that the universe is also contained *within* God, as do classical forms of panentheism? This would seem to be a problem, for while it’s fine to say that God’s infinite goodness flows into the universe, it seems unacceptable to say that which exists in the universe- including its evils- is a part of God. In Swedenborg’s case, tt would seem no, because he still maintains that the universe is created by, distinct from, contingent on and, as you say, maintained by God?

        As you know, despite being more or less accepted in Eastern Orthodox traditions, and, ironically, paving the way for Open Theism, panentheism is rejected by the vast majority of Christians who hold to classical theism, especially the doctrine of creation ex-nihilo, and some of their objections are worth considering, at least for those who maintain that the universe is a part of God. Traditional theistic arguments seek to demonstrate that the universe is a reality created by God, and the idea of the universe having a beginning would also seem to create a problem for panentheism.

        But one of the biggest hangups with classical panentheistic thought is that creation and redemption is no longer a free act, and an act of Grace. Rather it exists by necessity- that God, by His nature, created the universe, and if it’s by nature, then how can it be by Grace? I’m not saying there aren’t answers to these claims, but this is also why I’m asking how closely aligned or far apart Swedenborg is with classical panentheism, since you say he’s a specific type. Like many of Swedenborg’s thoughts, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn his take was an entirely original one.

        • Rami says:

          And to add to that: it doesn’t seem that ‘create’ even means the same thing in panentheistic thought as it does in classical theism. If the universe is in and a part of God, then it merely…exists, doesn’t it, and God is then dependent on it?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          I’m not an expert on panenthiesm and its history and variants. However, in general, as you say, Swedenborg does not accept the idea that the universe is within God in the sense of being part of God. His variant puts emphasis on God being within all parts of the universe as its center, origin, and continuing source of existence, and also in the sense of God being present everywhere in the universe, continually holding it in existence, though God does not partake of time and space as the created universe does.

          Swedenborg explicitly rejects the Catholic notion of creation ex nihilo, “from nothing,” maintaining instead that the universe, both spiritual and material, was and is created from the substance of God, while becoming distinct from God in the manner I covered in my previous response.

          About the evil things in the created universe, these, too, are held in existence by God. However, God does not make them to be evil. As Genesis 1:31 says, everything God created was (and is) good. Evil comes into existence when we humans, through the abuse of our free will, twist what is good from God into something that is evil. And everything in the universe accepts the inflow from God according to its own form, turning it into something in accordance with the receiving entity’s nature.

          Swedenborg often uses examples like this one: A tree turns the sunlight that reaches it into trunks, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit, whereas a rotting corpse turns that same sunlight into putrefaction and maggots. The sunlight—i.e., divine love—that flows in is entirely good. But the recipients may twist that good inflow into something that is not good. That is not the fault of God (or of the sun), but of the recipients.

          As for the universe having a beginning and an end, in modern physics the jury is still out on that question. Some scientists believe in an “oscillating universe” that has always existed, but goes through periodic expansions and contractions.

          Others believe that the concept of a temporal beginning has no real meaning, since time is a property of matter, and what we call a temporal “beginning” is just a particular point in the overall phenomenon of the universe.

          To gain a picture of this in your mind, think of the universe as a sphere, which intrinsically has no beginning or end, but is a continuous surface. However, to a (mathematical, two-dimensional) plane approaching from one side, it would appear to have a “beginning” at the particular point on its surface where the plane first intersects it. Within the sphere, that point is no different than any other point on its surface. But to the approaching plane, it looks like the “beginning” of the sphere, and the point on the opposite side of the sphere at which the plane last intersects the sphere looks like the “end” of the sphere.

          In this way, some scientists and philosophers of science do not think of the material universe as having a temporal beginning or end, even though it appears to have had a beginning (the Big Bang) according to ordinary scientific observation. Stephen Hawking seems to have inclined toward this view.

          However, from the infinite and eternal divine perspective, none of this matters. God is present in all time apart from time, and in all space apart from space. The infinite is capable of being present in the finite. Swedenborg deals with the objection that the finite cannot contain the infinite in True Christianity #33, which I linked and also quoted in my previous response. Here is more of the context of that quote:

          There is an idea in circulation that finite things are not large enough to hold the Infinite and therefore they could not be vessels for the Infinite. On the contrary, points that I made in my works on creation show that God first made his infinity finite in the form of substances put out from himself. The first sphere that surrounds him consists of those substances, and forms the sun of the spiritual world. By means of that sun, he then completed the remaining spheres even to the farthest one, which consists of inert elements. He increasingly limited the world, then, stage by stage. I lay this out here to appease human reason, which never rests until it knows how something was done.

          As for grace, unfortunately, due to the false doctrines of traditional Christianity, once “grace” is mentioned, along with “faith,” all reasonable thought flies out the window, and otherwise intelligent people accept completely irrational (and ludicrous) ideas just because the church says so, believing that these dogmas must be accepted “on faith.” (This shows a complete igronance of what faith is. Faith, most simply, is believing spiritual truth because we see and know that is true. “Blind faith” is a contradiction in terms. We cannot have “faith” in the biblical sense in something we do not understand. See: “Faith Alone is Not Faith.”)

          In the original Greek of the New Testament, χάρις (charis), commonly translated “grace,” is one of multiple words in Greek meaning one or another kind of love. Yes, it can be used in an aesthetic sense to mean “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness.” But its common New Testament meaning is “good-will, loving-kindness, favor.” In other words, love given freely and richly out of good will toward the objects of love.

          In this sense, the entire universe is created from God’s “grace,” or loving kindness. This is not something God was forced to do by some logical necessity imposed upon God. Rather, it was something God wanted to do, and did freely, out of the pure love that is the core being of God. God was not “forced” to create by God’s nature. God wanted and loved to create because of God’s nature.

          The idea that if creation was from the nature of God, then God was impelled by some sort of necessity to create, betrays a complete lack of understanding of the nature of God. There is no “necessity” outside of God that impels God to do anything. God creates from God’s own nature, which is total, infinite, living love, dimly expressed through words such as “lovingkindness” and “grace” in our human languages.

          See Divine Love and Wisdom #47–60 for some related material.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          I think the challenges associated with a traditional panentheistic worldview that I described are mostly a problem for those ‘hard’ panentheists who maintain that “all is in God”, as in, the universe is a part of God, which Swedenborg rejects, and is also something I saw you take up in a Stack Exchange response in my very brief investigation of the term. I appreciate that panentheism attempts to reconcile classical theism, where God exists apart and in isolation from the created world, but still intervening in it, and pantheism, where God and the created universe are identical. Swedenborg seems to stand somewhere in between ‘hard’ panentheism and classical theism, and would seem to be a Weak (or Palamite) Panentheist, in his rejection of the idea that creation is a part of God.

          The second issue of whether creation amounts to an act of necessity-by-nature, and thus, not a freely chosen act of love, is something you and I have somewhat discussed in the past, when you took up the question of whether God depends on creation of beings other than Himself. Those and this current line of questioning are…really quite tricky, because aren’t we all compelled to do things by the logic of our inner nature? These are just some preliminary thoughts, but God, who’s nature is infinite love, is naturally compelled to create by way of His very nature. I don’t see anything in the idea of ‘acting according to ones nature’ that in some way implies a type of constraint on that being. A loving being will, of course, be loving, because that is their nature. In that sense, yes, it is in God’s nature to create, but this is hardly an act of necessity that flows according to nature, because that very nature *is* love.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          On your first subject here, it is worth bringing in a central concept in Swedenborg’s theology and cosmology: that everything that exists exists in the interplay of love and wisdom, or their lower analogs.

          Relating this specifically to pantheism vs. panenthiesm vs. what you are calling “classical theism,” but which could be called “separatism”:

          1. If love were all that exists, everything would be radically one, and everything would be God.
          2. If wisdom (truth) were all that exists, everything would be radically separate, and there would be no connection at all between God and creation.
          3. But since (as Swedenborg teaches), all exists in the interplay of love and wisdom, we are both one with God in that we cannot exist without God’s constant inflow, and distinct from God in that being finite and created, we are not the same beings as the infinite and uncreated God.

          Separatist “classical theism,” in positing a God that is largely separate from God’s creation, falls prey to the usual verging of corrupted religion away from love and toward truth, which causes division and separation in everything it sees, and which causes that truth to become falsified into error.

          “Hard” panentheism, meanwhile, makes the opposite error of verging toward love philosophically, if not in practice, by removing most of the distinction between God and Creation, making Creation merely a part of God, and not an entity distinct from God.

          In Swedenborg’s system, both love and wisdom are fully active and equally balanced, so that we are both one with and distinct from God.

          On your second subject here, “compelled” is a misnomer because it implies doing something against one’s will because one is forced to do so by an outside force or entity. In Swedenborg’s system (and in reality), doing something from and according to one’s love is the essence of freedom, and therefore the opposite of compulsion.

          However, this should be modified somewhat, in accordance with Jesus’ statement:

          Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34–36)

          In more philosophical terms, Jesus is saying that those who do evil from the evil love within them become slaves of that evil, whereas those who do good from the good love within them (which is the only way the Son can make us free) are truly free. Or in yet other words, when we act from a love for good things, we are truly free and not under any compulsion, whereas when we knowingly and intentionally act from a love of evil things, we freely choose to live in a state of compulsion and slavery to those evil loves—becoming “addicts,” in contemporary terms—so that our state, while freely chosen, is a state of compulsion, and thus not true and full freedom.

          God, of course, acts from infinite love for everything good and true, and therefore is in the fullest and most infinite freedom, and not under any compulsion at all.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee, one other thing:

          the terms ‘essence’ and ‘energies’ usually pop up in this type of conversation, and often in the context of the difference between them. Those who believe the ‘all is in God’ half of hard panentheism maintain that creation is of God’s *essence*, but those who reject this, and instead only maintain the ‘God is in all’ side of things describe creation in terms of God’s energies: that is, creation is the result of, and is sustained, by Divine *energy*, but is no more of God’s essence than sun rays are the essence of the sun.

          But it seems that Swedenborg is using both in describing God’s relationship to creation? Creation *is* of God’s essence, but made finite by putting boundaries on it, and is sustained by influx (or Divine energy).

        • Lee says:

          Relating this to the first point in my previous response (here), the energy of God, from which creation proceeds, and which continually flows into and sustains creation, is love, whereas the putting of boundaries on something is a function of wisdom, or truth.

          Thus, once again, Creation and all created beings exist in the interplay between love and wisdom and their lower analogs: they are one with God in love, but distinct from God in truth, or specific nature.

  25. reikster says:

    I dont understand why Jesus could then have a conversation with the father while he was a human if they are not persons.

  26. Marc Taylor says:

    Since the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer this demonstrates that He is God.

  27. Andrew James Patton says:

    Who is Swedenborg, that I should listen to him? What he speaks of is the heresy of Modalism. Here is where the Bible speaks of a Trinity of Persons: “Come near to Me and hear this! Not from the beginning did I speak in secret; at the time it comes to pass, I am present: ‘Now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

    • Lee says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. In response to your question, “Who is Swedenborg, that I should listen to him?” please see:

      The first link offers a Swedenborg Foundation video narrated by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Rose. It provides a brief character sketch of Swedenborg, and then reviews some of his leading works.

      The second is my own extensive answer to a question similar to yours submitted by another reader.

      These links should answer your basic questions about who Swedenborg is, and why some people think it is worth listening to him. Short version: if Swedenborg speaks the truth, then he is worth listening to. And I believe he speaks the truth—though of course, being human, he is not infallible.

      About the heresy of modalism, it is a common error among people unfamiliar with Swedenborg’s teachings to think that Swedenborg was a modalist. But Swedenborg specifically rejected modalism as an error and a heresy. His teaching about the Trinity contradicts the fundamental idea of modalism. For more on this, please see:

      What is the difference between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God?

      In reality, Swedenborg’s teaching about the Trinity is much farther from modalism than the traditional doctrine of the Trinity of Persons. The Nicene/Athanasian creedal doctrine of the Trinity of Persons is basically a form of modalism. God, in that doctrine, is “one in essence and three in person.” Put in ordinary words, this means that a single being of God manifests itself in three different forms: as the Father, as the Son, and as the Holy Spirit. This is precisely the central idea of modalism: that one God shows himself in three different forms.

      Swedenborg, by contrast, agrees with the Bible in saying that there is one God who manifests uniquely as the Son (not in three different manifestations as in Nicene/Modalist Christianity), and that the Holy Spirit is God’s truth and power flowing out from God. This is all covered in the above article.

      About Jesus appearing to be a different person from God, especially during his lifetime on earth, please see these articles:

      Finally, about exactly why and how the human-invented creedal doctrine of the Trinity of Persons is incorrect and unbiblical, please see:

      I hope these articles will help you to a better understanding not just of Swedenborg and his teachings, but of the true nature of God, the Bible, and Christianity. If you have further questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  28. David Nix says:

    Hear, Oh Israel, the LORD our God is One. There is only one “God” He cannot come here in His fullness and glory because we are lesser beings who live in a place less than Heaven. So when He speaks or visits He must put on a mask (persona in the original Greek) Actors wore masks called personas so persons watching a play would know which character they were watching.

    Jesus is a persona of God. The Holy Spirit is also a persona of God. Preincarnate Jesus spoke to Moses “as a friend, face to face.”

    Philip asked the Incarnate Jesus to show him the Father and Jesus replied “Jesus replied, “Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” In this case, the Father masked in flesh.

    Exodus 33:18 Moses asks to see the glory of God and is told that is not possible for a mortal man. Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”… After Moses spoke with preincarnate Jesus up on the moutain, Moses face glowed so much that the people were afraid to look upon him and made Moses wear a veil (mask).

    Elijah spoke with God in 1 Kings 19, cloaking his face (masking, again) and heard the still, small voice of the Lord.

    John 10:33 The Jews did not believe/understand that God would appear to them in (masked) flesh. “We are not stoning You for any good work, said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God”

    “Trinity” is not in the Bible because it is not completely correct if you do not understand the nuance of difference between person and persona. https://www.dailywritingtips.com/person-vs-persona/

    Jesus and the Holy Spirit are “personas” of the Father in Heaven. That is why rejecting Jesus leaves you without hope. You cannot go to Heaven without Jesus because Jesus IS God, no more no less.

    Ancient Greek words sometimes have different meanings than the word used in modern English. The original title of the last book was the Mystery of John, but it had to be changed to “Revelation” because the Greek for mystery literally meant “something uncovered” and in the early church “a mystery” was a sacrament. But in modern American English a mystery is something hidden/occult, which is exactly the opposite of the original Greek.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Good to hear from you again. I hope all is well with you.

      You and I had a similar conversation a few years ago, in the comments on a different blog post. People can read that conversation here. It covers several of your points above.

      It is true that the Latin word persona originally referred to the masks that actors wore to indicate what role they were playing in a stage play. And I should mention that in the Bible, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are never referred to as “persons” or “personas.” However, among Nicene Christians, who form the main body of historical Christianity, the idea that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were simply personas or roles was quickly and decisively rejected, as seen in its rejection of Sabellianism or modalism as heretical, and in the Athanasian Creed, which includes this line:

      For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

      Further, Christian artwork demonstrates that Nicene Christians do not have a picture in their mind of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as roles or personas of God, but as three individual gods, as covered in this article:

      Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Polytheistic?

      So although “persona” may have been the original meaning of the Latin word persona, that is not the meaning of that word as trinitarians use it in their concept of God. Rather, they use the it to mean the same thing we ordinary mean by using the word “person”: a distinct individual.

      Further, it is not correct even to think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as personas or roles of God. This is how modalists view the Trinity, but it is not biblical. (See: What is the difference between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God?) The Father is not a persona or role of God, because the Father does not appear to anyone, as you mention, and as many passages from the Bible attest. The Son encompasses all personas or roles of God. The Holy Spirit is the expression of all of God’s roles and personas.

      To use the theatrical example, the Father is the actor behind the mask, the Son is the mask, and the Holy Spirit is the acting. They are all one Person, and every persona or role includes all three.

  29. David Nix says:

    I’m fine. The world is messed up a bit.
    Using the word Trinity to refer to God adds something not explicit in scripture and confuses people. God is ONE. What you see depends on your relationship with HIM. Samuel heard his
    voice, Moses saw HIS “good side” and spoke with HIM.
    Most of us have to settle for 2nd hand info (scripture).
    It is apparently a difficult concept to get, as even Philip was a disciple and talked and ate and travelled with Him and didn’t get until Jesus just spelled it out. “It’s ME, Phil.”

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      The world is messed up a big bit.

      Yes, “Trinity” is not a biblical word. It’s necessary to talk about it and use that word mainly because it became the backbone of (false) Christian doctrine a few centuries into the Christian era.

      However, there is indeed a “trine” in God, as there is in everything God created. It’s not wrong to think about God that way as long as we understand that it is three “parts” of one God, not three different individual gods as traditional trinitarians picture God in their mind’s eye.

      About Philip and the Lord’s other disciples, it would have been hard for them to think of a flesh-and-blood man that they could see with their eyes and touch with their hands as being God. They could only come to that realization over time. Plus, Jesus wasn’t fully God when he walked among them, until after his resurrection. That’s why the Gospels don’t address him plainly as God until after the resurrection. For more on this, please see:

      If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?

      • David Nix says:

        Jesus was always fully God because there is only one God. John 8:58 and 10:30. The way He looks to us has changed since He took on flesh and died for our sins. He looks different because those things changed the relationship we have with Him. We can have a personal relationship with Him, provided we keep His words. Luke 8:21.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          In John 8:58 and 10:30 Jesus was speaking from his inner divine nature. But in other places, such as Matthew 27:46, he spoke from his outer human nature that he had received from his human mother Mary. Only at the time of his death and resurrection did he leave behind the last vestiges of his finite human nature from Mary, and become fully divine and fully one with God, so that Thomas could address him as “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). For more on this, please see the article I linked in my previous reply to you.

  30. K says:

    Is it possible that there’s an infinite “Divine Realm” beyond the spiritual, where only God dwells? A realm that’s even more real than the spiritual, which is in turn even more real than the physical?

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      There is no divine level of reality distinct from God, in which God exists. The “Divine Realm” is God. God is the totality of the divine level of reality. And yes, God is more real than the spiritual, which is in turn more real than the physical.

      • Hoyle Kiger says:

        Me Speaking To God: “Please tell me the reason for my existence”.

        God: “If I explained it to you, you still would not be able to understand or comprehend”.

        Me: “At least give me an opportunity. Maybe I can understand some of it”.

        God: “If I do that, the mystery of my ways will be diminished. I will not appear as powerful if I step from behind the curtain. It’s the uncertainty of your existence that motivates you to keep going. Indeed, you may be very disappointed if you knew the truth. Lastly, let’s keep this conversation to ourselves”.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          This may be true of the old Christianity. However, in the new Christianity as expounded by Swedenborg there is no particular need for curtains and mystery, beyond the sheer vastness and complexity of Creation, which will continue to challenge our minds generation after generation.

          The saying among Swedenborgians is, “we are now allowed to use our intellect to explore the mysteries of faith.” This is based on an inscription Swedenborg saw over the door of a building in the spiritual world, as recounted in True Christianity #508:3.

          For humanity as a whole, Swedenborg does not beat around the bush. “the ultimate purpose of creation,” he writes, “is a heaven from the human race” (Divine Providence #324.

          On the reason for our individual existence, there I think your dialog does have more poignancy. God can’t just tell us that, because we are in the process of deciding the meaning and direction of our own existence. Telling us that would be like God telling us the score of a major league baseball game before it was played. It would ruin the game both for the players and for the fans.

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          In re-reading my “conversation” with God, I see that I worded it poorly in expressing my thoughts. I should have worded it in a way that inquired about the purpose of mankind’s existence in general. I’m not interested in what the score of the baseball game will be but, rather seek an explanation as to why we plan the game. It doesn’t seem important to me that we need to know and it certainly could be a “is that all there is to it?” moment. Of course, we’ll never know for certain but it does make for interesting discussions. No doubt, beliefs will change in the future. A “Newer Testament” may appear to supplement the previous two. Others may find the path to Swedenborg’s Spiritual World and take in things that he missed.
          Fun and entertaining conversation, thanks.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          Yes, good conversation.

          I think of “a heaven from the human race,” which Swedenborg says is God’s purpose in Creation, as community. In other words, the purpose of creation is to dwell in loving, mutually helpful, caring, and thoughtful community with one another, and with God.

  31. K says:

    In “traditional” Christianity, God is viewed as a king or supreme authority figure, who issues commands and punishes those who disobey, like a projection of authoritarian tyrants on this planet. The name “The Lord” even comes from feudalism.

    I like to think instead that the Almighty is the source of existence and is like a parent. Rather than being an authority figure in the Earth sense, He is the essence of truth and love. So following Him leads to Heaven, while not following him leads to hell, and people are free to choose.

    But a number of people on Earth wouldn’t try to live good if they thought that’s how it was, so they needed to be told that God is a supreme king who must be followed out of fear of judgement. So that’s why there’s the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” names.

    Is that the gist of how Swedenborg saw the matter?

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      This is a vast subject, which deserves an entire article of its own, if not a series of articles. But here’s the short version.

      In general, people’s spiritual state falls into three categories, one above the other. Here they are in ascending order:

      1. Obedience
      2. Understading
      3. Love

      Obedience is on what Swedenborg calls the “natural” or “earthly” level. This was the state of the ancient Jewish religion. It was all about obeying (or not) the Law given to them by God through Moses. There was no need to understand why God gave those laws. It was very simple: If they obeyed the Law exactly as written, they were good and blessed. If they did not, they were evil, and cursed to a very physical death via the death penalty, which was the most common penalty for breaking the Law. This is an outward, external spiritual state. Those who are in this state require an outward, external religion in which there are strict laws that they must obey. People in this state will, as you say, view God as the supreme King over all of creation whose primary function is to issue laws that people must obey on pain of punishment and death.

      Understanding is on what Swedenborg calls the “spiritual” level. This was meant to be the state of the Christian Church. It is not about simple, behavioral obedience, but about accepting and understanding the truth of God’s Word and God’s teachings, and willingly following them from an internal assent to them. This is the meaning of “faith” in the New Testament, and it is the reason why Paul, especially, emphasized faith so heavily. People in this state engage in their own internal battle of good against evil, following the truth even if it’s not what they really want to do because they believe it is the right thing to do, and they want to do the right thing.

      Love is on what Swedenborg calls the “celestial” or “heavenly” level. This is also an internal spiritual state, but it moves beyond an inner assent to the truth, to a love for God and the neighbor that causes people in this state to follow God’s Word and God’s teachings because that is the way they can avoid hurting other people, and help and heal them instead. For people whose spiritual state is based on love, there is no conflict, no self-discipline to follow the truth even if it’s not what they feel like doing, as with those on the level of understanding. Rather, they freely and spontaneously live according to the spiritual commandments of the Lord because that is how they can express their overflowing love for God and the neighbor. Paul occasionally speaks of this state, such as when he says that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

      Unfortunately, though Christianity was meant to be a spiritual religion, it quickly fell back to the earthly level, as covered in this article:
      Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

      That is why so many Christians still think of God as a fairly literal King, issuing commandments that we must obey on pain of punishment and death. But as you say, because that’s the spiritual level these people are on, they must have a religion of obedience to law, or they would rush into all kinds of evil and sinful behavior that their heart greatly desires to indulge in.

      This is where fundamentalists of all religions, including Christian fundamentalists, are. And it’s why, even though they talk loudly about salvation by faith, their churches impose strict behavioral rules on them, especially with regard to sexuality, and condemn and shun them if they break any of these rules. These are not really Christian churches. They are pre-Christian obedience-based churches that have a veneer of Christianity overlaid on an essentially Ancient Jewish core. That’s why they tend to turn to a literal reading of the Old Testament in formulating their strict laws which their people must follow or be condemned as lost and damned and going to hell.

      Some Swedenborgians believe that the new church now beginning in this world is meant to be a spiritual religion. But that was what the first Christian Church was meant to be, before it quickly, within two or three centuries, corrupted itself and fell back to the law and obedience model. But I believe that the new church is meant to be a heavenly (traditionally “celestial”) religion based on love.

      Now that I think of it, maybe that will be the key to understanding what the actual new church will be as the organized New Church, which was set up in the model of the first Christian Church, dies out along with the traditional Christian churches upon which it was modeled.

      • K says:

        Thanks for the reply. Can people in the “love” level of spirituality still sometimes slip into temptation now and then while in the flesh, at least at first? Or have they reached a state where they can actually live without sin?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Of course, life on this earth is complicated. Anything can happen. People can backslide.

          However, in general, people who have reached the love level of spirituality aren’t tempted to sin in the usual ways. What happens, rather, is that the Lord opens up progressively deeper levels of their mind and heart, so that they can see and reject any evil that is still lurking there. For some this may may involve their slipping temporarily back into the “understanding” level of spiritual development and engaging in battles of right vs. wrong. But more likely, for these people it will involve facing the deepest types of temptations, which are not temptations to commit some sin, but temptations to lose hope and give up altogether. These are temptations of the heart. They can be fought only in the heart, at the level of love, though truth does still aid in the battle, as usual.

          The bottom line is that we can’t truly rest from our spiritual labors (temptations) until after we have passed from this world to the next. At that point, people on the love level of regeneration will no longer be tempted at all. They will only continue to reject remaining remnants of evil in themselves as they surface. Those remnants of evil will have no appeal to them at all, because they are contrary to the love of God and the neighbor that animates people who dwell in the highest, heavenly level of heaven.

  32. Foster Caldaroni says:

    Did Swedenborg come to his views on the trinity by his own intuition, or did Jesus allegedly show him these things?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      Here is Swedenborg’s own published statement on that question:

      I also testify that ever since the first day of this calling, I have accepted nothing regarding the teachings of this church from any angel; what I have received has come from the Lord alone while I was reading the Word. (True Christianity #779)

      This accords with his actual practice, which was to study the Bible intensively in its original languages, and to accept what the Lord showed him in its pages. In short, Swedenborg’s own testimony is that his teachings about the Trinity and other doctrinal subjects came from the Bible, and from the Lord giving him understanding as he read the Bible.

      • Hoyle Kiger says:

        We have previously discussed the question of whether God is concrete or abstract. While I began those discussions by writing that the concept of God is abstract, I more recently narrowed my wording to reflect my view that while God is concrete, the various religious interpretations of God are abstract. I may have sent you the following article previously. It’s something that I can relate to although I’m not familiar with the Jewish faith and I formed my beliefs before reading the article. What are your thoughts?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          Thanks for the article link. I do think it expresses well Judaism’s approach to God. In Judaism, God is “transcendent,” but not “imminent.” Meaning, God is high above Creation, but not in Creation.

          It is different in Christianity. In Christianity, God is not only transcendent, but also imminent. Imminent, specifically, in that God came to earth as a human being, whom we know as Jesus Christ.

          Nicene Christianity has a confused and contradictory understanding of the Incarnation, which is God becoming flesh. Swedenborgian Christianity has a very clear and consistent understanding of the Incarnation. At a particular point in time approximately 2,000 years ago, God, who had previously been only transcendent, as is still the belief in Judaism and Islam, became imminent as a flesh-and-blood human being.

          For Christians, God is not abstract, as in Judaism. God is concrete, embodied, and personally present with us as an infinite divine human being in relationship with finite created human beings.

          This is a core difference between Judaism/Islam and Christianity. (Islam is, in many ways, a revival of ancient Judaism, only without the pervasive practice of animal sacrifice.)

          The above article takes up this subject in somewhat more detail. Here are a few more articles that cover various aspects of it:

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