Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis

A reader named Kim left a long and thoughtful comment on my previous post, “What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?” This post is a response to that comment—which I’ll quote for you in a minute.

In my previous post I said:

From a literary perspective, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were not originally meant to be read sequentially. Each is a self-contained creation myth telling its own story. These two ancient creation stories were collected from two different oral traditions, written down, and placed one after the other in the Bible. Despite the valiant efforts of Biblical literalists to harmonize the two as if they were two different angles on same story, they simply don’t agree with each other in the overall order in which God created things or in the details of exactly how God created the earth and all the plants, animals, and humans that populate it.

That paragraph is a compact and simplified version of a very complicated reality. We won’t get into all the complications here. But in order to respond to Kim, we need to look more closely at the two very different creation stories contained in the first two chapters of Genesis. What we’ll find is that attempts to collapse these two stories into one story on a literal level run into serious complications and contradictions.

But as I said in the very next paragraph of my previous post:

From a symbolic and spiritual perspective, though, the two stories harmonize perfectly. They are like two different verses of the same song. The story of the seven days of creation in Genesis 1 and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 represent two different phases of human spiritual and social development, one following after the other.

In other words, a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 doesn’t work very well. But a spiritual reading gives us great enlightenment on the human condition in general, and on the relationship between man and woman in particular.

First, let’s let Kim speak.

A Comment from a Reader

In a comment on my previous post, “What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?” a reader named Kim said:

I agree with many of the things you said. Many commenters say that men and women were EQUAL before the fall. As far as value goes, men and women were equal before the fall and after it. The fall had absolutely no bearing on a man or woman’s worth in the eyes of God. God’s eyes being one thing and men’s eyes being quite another. God established Adam’s headship authority before the fall. Several things illustrate that:

1. Adam was made first.

2. Woman came out of man, and not other way around.

3. Adam was instructed to tend garden (Gen 2:15). Adam named the animals (Gen 2:20). He was given a job and responsibility before he was given a wife.

4. Adam received instruction directly from God about not eating from tree firsthand (Gen 2:16-17). Eve hadn’t been created at that time.

5. God gave Adam the authority to name the woman. The woman didn’t name Adam (Gen 2:23).

6. After sin was committed, God questioned the man rather than the woman. (Gen 3:9)

7. Sin entered the world through Adam and not Eve. (Rom 5:12)

I’ve heard so many teachers talk about the fact that man and woman were equal before the fall. However, several things illustrate a very distinct difference in Adam’s sphere of responsibility and authority and Eve’s, and those things were established Pre-Fall. As you mentioned, Eve was created as a Helper for Adam. Helpers submit and/or yield to the needs and plans of another. Teachings that suggest Adam and Eve were equal (equal being a very humanistic word. Bible speaks of oneness more so than equality) Pre-fall fail to acknowledge the very distinct duties and authority that God gave Adam and not Eve before the fall ever came into play. These were not slight differences, but very distinct and demonstrative ones. I do agree with your interpretation of Genesis 3:16.

Unfortunately, far too many Christian men and women see a wife’s service and submission to her husband as part of her ultimate punishment (curse of Eve) rather than part of God’s original design and divine order for marriage. Unfortunately, that’s why so many men feel justified in abusing their wives, and many wives feel discouraged and believe that God doesn’t love women because He’s only out to punish them for Eve’s transgressions. The way we view the concept of submission (or anything else for that matter) as punishment or original design/ divine order will surely affect how we carry it out. Thanks for your post and time.

Some agreements and some disagreements

Thanks, Kim, for your thoughtful and detailed response.

First, a few points that I think we agree upon:

  1. The early chapters of Genesis do provide vital material for understanding the relationship between man and woman
  2. Men and women are equal in the sight of God in the sense that both are equally human, so that they are equally subject to sin, and God makes an equal offer of salvation to both.
  3. Men and women are equal but different, both in the sight of God and in their own natures. If there were not fundamental and distinct differences between man and woman, why would God have made two sexes instead of just one? God could have arranged for humans to reproduce asexually if there were not some deeper reason for God to create humans as male and female.
  4. God loves women as much as men. There is no Biblical excuse for women to be abused and mistreated. Abusing others violates God’s commandments.

I’m putting these agreements out there first because I won’t be commenting on them further in this post—and I want to agree with you that you and I do have some fine points of agreement!

Now we get to where I see things differently than what you have outlined in your comment. And I hope you will hear me out. These early stories of Genesis are precious. They are also amazingly compact and precise in their wording. We must read them very carefully to avoid making mistakes of interpretation that can easily lead us astray.

In preparing my previous post, I read several commentaries on the first three chapters of Genesis based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis story. These interpretations do distinguish between pre-Fall and post-Fall humanity. However, they fail to distinguish between the first and second creation stories—both of which take place before the Fall—as two distinct phases of the Bible story. That is precisely where a literal interpretation of the creation story in general, and of the creation of man and woman in particular, runs into problems.

Since this is such a common mistake in reading and interpreting the Bible, let’s look at it more closely.

A nitpicky point about Genesis 1 and 2

First, I should point out that when the Bible was originally written, though it did have separate books, those books were not divided into the chapters and verses we’re familiar with today. Our chapter and verse divisions were added many centuries later—and there were a number of different divisions before the present chapter and verse divisions were generally agreed upon.

Why do I bring this up?

Because unfortunately, the division between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is three verses off.

When I say “Genesis 1” or “the first creation story,” what this really means is Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3. This is the story of the seven days of creation.

When I say “Genesis 2” or “the second creation story,” what this really means is Genesis 2:4–25. This is the story of the Garden of Eden.

How do we read Genesis 1 and 2?

Now let’s take a closer look at these two creation stories.

What we’ll find is that attempts to interpret these stories literally cause the Bible to contradict itself. That’s because these stories were never meant to be taken literally.

The original tellers of these stories were not concerned with how the physical universe was created. They were concerned with how we humans become new creations under the influence of God—similar to the Apostle Paul many centuries later when he said, “So if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: everything old has passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The ancient tellers of these spiritual stories enfolded deeper wisdom within these simple creation stories. Under inspiration from God, they told stories that give us an understanding of our spiritual creation by God. (For a thumbnail sketch of this deeper meaning of the seven days of creation in Genesis 1, please scroll down to the end of the article, “Can We Really Believe the Bible?” For a slightly fuller version see the article, “Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth.”)

Problems with a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the two creation stories found in the first two chapters of Genesis. I hope this will help you to understand why many Bible scholars have come to the conclusion that these are actually two different ancient creation myths that have been placed one after another in the book of Genesis. There are many other indications of this in the style and wording of the two stories that we don’t need to get into here.

I hasten to add that rather than taking away from these two chapters’ status as part of God’s inspired Word, this actually adds to their divine nature.

Literal interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 commonly say that Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of how God created humans on the sixth day.

But this simply doesn’t work. You see, God creates many of the same things in the Genesis 2 creation story as in the Genesis 1 creation story . . . but in a different order.

In the first creation story, here are some of the things God creates, in the order in which God creates them:

  1. Plants and trees
  2. Fish and birds
  3. Land animals
  4. Humans, both male and female

But here is the order in which God creates these same things in the second creation story:

  1. Humans
  2. Plants and trees
  3. Land animals and birds (fish are not mentioned in Genesis 2)
  4. Female humans as separate from male humans

In the first creation story, humans, both male and female, are created last, after everything else.

But in the second creation story, humans are created first, before trees, plants, animals, and birds. Then after all of these other things are created, the female human is formed as a separate being, so that humanity is now distinguished into male and female.

This last point becomes clearer if we read Genesis 2 in the original Hebrew. In most of this chapter the Hebrew word that is usually translated as “the man” (ha’adam) actually means “the human being” or “humankind.” Though this word sometimes refers to a male human being—especially when it is translated as the name “Adam” in Genesis 3—it is also used for humans in general, both male and female. However, in the speech given in Genesis 2:23–24, after Eve is created and humans are clearly distinguished into male and female, the Hebrew uses a different word for “man”—one that specifically means a male human being (’ish), parallel to the Hebrew word used for “woman” as a female human being (’ishah).

Back to the main point, we simply can’t lump together the two creation stories as if one were a more detailed re-telling of the last part of the other. The stories themselves don’t allow it. Here is just one example: The first creation story states very clearly that God created plants on the third day (Genesis 1:12), and humans on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26–27). But the second creation story states very clearly that God formed a human being “when no plant of the field had yet sprung up” (Genesis 2:5, emphasis added—and yes, the same Hebrew word for “plant” (’esev) is used in both chapters.)

The only way we could read Genesis 2 as being a more detailed version of the creation of humans in Genesis 1:26–27 is to ignore the very different order in which God creates things in Genesis 2 compared to the order in which God creates them in Genesis 1.

It’s not a good idea to ignore what the Bible says. Yet if we read the two stories literally, we cause the Bible to contradict itself. And if we see the Bible as God’s Word, then saying that the Bible contradicts itself is saying that God contradicts himself.

I don’t believe that God contradicts himself. So if our interpretation causes the Bible to contradict itself, then it is not God, but our human interpretation that is mistaken.

What the Bible is telling us quite clearly, then, is that these stories are not meant to be taken literally. If, instead, we read them as stories with a deeper, spiritual meaning, similar to the spiritual meanings Jesus conveyed through his parables in the New Testament, then there is no contradiction at all.

What does this say about the creation of humans?

With this in mind, let’s return to the question of the relationship of man and woman to one another as presented in the early chapters of Genesis.

But first, what do these two creation stories say about the “new creation” of humans as spiritual beings?

Common literal interpretations of the Genesis story do distinguish between humans before and after the Fall. But they fail to distinguish between humans as they are first created by God in Genesis 1 and humans as they are created in the second creation story in Genesis 2.

The order of these two creation stories in the Bible is not arbitrary. And the Bible includes two creation stories for a reason.

God did not create us only once in the beginning, and then stop creating. God creates us new each day, and even each second. In fact, if God were not continually creating us every nanosecond, we would instantly cease to exist. We are fully dependent on God for our very existence every moment of our lives.

On a more practical and understandable level, God is continually making us into a new creation every time we enter a new “chapter” of our spiritual life. Ideally we are created as new and better people over and over again as our life progresses and we devote ourselves more and more fully to accepting God’s love and following God’s teachings.

Unfortunately, sometimes we backslide. When we do, God must create us in new and somewhat lower forms of humanity. It’s not what God ideally wants for us. But when we move away from God, God does not abandon us. Instead, God adjusts our minds and spirits to face life at a lower spiritual level. This is a matter of God’s love and mercy in giving us the freedom to make our own choices—even bad ones—and learn the lessons we need to learn as a result.

If we read Genesis 1 and 2 in the light of Paul’s understanding of our being “new creations,” and understand that this happens not just once, but many times throughout our life as we move closer to or farther away from God, then we can understand better what the two different creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are all about.

A detailed explanation would make this article far too long. So here is a very short version:

Genesis 1 shows us God’s ideal of our creation into fully mature spiritual human beings. At the end of each day, everything God creates is pronounced “good.” And in Genesis 1:31, after humans have been created, it says that “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (emphasis added).

Genesis 2 includes God’s first re-creation of humanity when we started falling away from God’s original “very good” plan for us. As I pointed out in my previous article, by the time woman is created out of man in the second half of Genesis 2, something is “not good”—in contrast to everything being “very good” in Genesis 1. Specifically, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Once again, a detailed explanation of this would take more time than we have right now. The main thing to understand is that by Genesis 2:18, humans have already begun to move away from the “very good” state into which God originally created us. And then woman is created out of man in Genesis 2:21–22.

Paying attention to the “very good” of Genesis 1 and the “not good” of Genesis 2:18 is a key to understanding the different relationships of man and woman to one another in these two chapters of the Bible.

What about the relationship between man and woman?

Of course, the relationship between man and woman changed radically in Genesis 3 after the original human beings sinned against God by eating from the tree that God had commanded them not to eat from. That was when God stated that man would rule over woman.

But the relationship between man and woman had already changed before Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the Garden of Eden—the event that is commonly called “the Fall.” So it’s not just a matter of pre-Fall vs. post-Fall gender roles. Unless we clearly distinguish between the Genesis 1 creation story and the Genesis 2 creation story—both of which are pre-Fall—we can’t help coming to faulty conclusions about God’s original intentions for the ideal relationship between man and woman.

To sum it up briefly:

  • Genesis 1 provides God’s original, ideal plan of creation for humankind.
  • Genesis 2—especially from verse 18 (the “not good” verse) onward—presents God’s “new” but lower creation of humanity, which took place when we humans were not able to remain steadfast in the spiritually “very good” state into which God had originally created us.

My previous article goes into a little more detail on the relationship between man and woman contained in each of these two chapters. Here is a brief summary:

In God’s first and ideal creation of humans in Genesis 1, man and woman are created together; both are created in the image of God, and both together are commanded to have dominion over all the earth. Neither is made primary or dominant over the other. In other words, God originally created man and woman fully equal to one another, and together in their oneness.

In God’s second creation, which in its second half (after Genesis 2:18) became a concession to humans who could not remain in that original ideal state into which God had originally created us, woman is formed from man, and is made secondary to and a helper for man.

In short, when we are able to achieve and remain in the highest and most ideal spiritual state for which God created us, man and woman are distinctly different but fully equal to one another both in God’s sight and in one another’s sight.

However, when we are unable to achieve or remain in the ideal state for which God created us, we fall down to a lower state in which woman is made secondary to and a helper for man.

If through outright disobedience to God’s commandments we fall even farther away from God’s ideal, then we fall down to an even lower state in which man rules over and dominates woman.

Should we settle for less, or strive for God’s ideal?

Even if you’re with me this far you may say, “Maybe it was God’s original ideal for man and woman to be fully equal. But that’s not how things are anymore . . . so we must accept that woman is now subservient to man.”

In one sense, it’s hard to argue with that. If we are willing to settle for less than God’s ideal, then that’s exactly what we’ll get. And as I said in my previous article, if a man and a woman are both happy in a relationship in which the man rules and the woman serves him, or in a relationship in which the man is primary and the woman’s life revolves around his, who am I to argue with them? God has given us freedom to choose the level of spiritual life that we will strive for—and our choices will be reflected in our marriage relationships.

And yet . . . I believe that God’s ideal for human beings is the same today as it was when God first created us in Genesis 1 and pronounced us “very good.”

Of course, in the end it doesn’t really matter what I believe. What matters is what God has in mind. And though God has not revealed to us the full glories that are in store for us, in the final book of the Bible God has given us a very strong hint of where we are now headed.

In the book of Revelation we are told that humans will once again have access to the tree of life that Adam and Eve could have eaten from when they instead ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Revelation 22:2, as part of the description of the new Jerusalem that is coming down from God out of heaven, we read:

Between the main street and the river was the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, a different kind every month; and the leaves of the tree were for healing the nations.

This, I believe, is God’s promise to us that we humans will indeed be able to achieve and remain in the highest spiritual state that God has created us for, as described spiritually in the first creation story in Genesis 1, and carried into the first part of Genesis 2. And I believe that we are now living in the times prophesied spiritually in those final chapters of the book of Revelation.

Though humanity originally moved to a “not good” state in which woman was secondary to and a helper for man, and then into a state of outright evil in which woman was ruled over by man, I believe that God is now leading us back toward the “very good” state for which God originally created us.

That state is one in which man and woman are created together, both of them fully in the image of God, and both together assigned by God to take care of and have dominion over everything else that God has made. In this ideal state for which God has created us, neither the man nor the woman rules over the other or is secondary to the other. Both together form “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4–6), meaning that they are a married couple united to one another in fully equal and fully mutual love and faith as a single spiritual being.

Such couples are not ruled by each other. Together they are ruled by God alone.

This is one in a series of articles on the theme “The Bible Re-Viewed.” Each article takes a new look at a particular selection or story in the Bible, and explores how it relates to our lives today. For more on this spiritual way of interpreting the Bible, see “Can We Really Believe the Bible? Some Thoughts for Those who Wish they Could.”

About

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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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Bible Re-Viewed
30 comments on “Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis
  1. Ben 'Tosin says:

    Hi Lee,
    Thanks for this good work. Your articles have been a Blessing to me.
    But please, I have this question: is it biblical for a woman to propose marriage to a man, or must it be that it is the man that should always do the marriage proposal to the woman? Did Ruth propose marriage to Boaz, especially according to Ruth3:9 Good News Translation?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad the articles here are helping you!

      In Bible times, marriage customs were very different than they are today in the West. Most marriages were arranged by the families of the bride and groom. There wasn’t anything like today’s custom of the man (or woman) proposing marriage to his (or her) fiance. That’s why in the story of Ruth there is no “proposal.” (The Good News Translation is taking liberties with the text. That’s not what the Hebrew says.) Ruth’s mother took it into her own hands to arrange a marriage for her daughter, though not in the usual way.

      Today’s custom of one partner proposing to the other most likely developed only within the past few centuries, as arranged marriages waned in the West. We can’t draw any real conclusions from the Bible as to who should propose to whom because that practice didn’t exist in Bible times. It’s a matter of cultural practice. And cultural practices do change over time.

      It is best, I think, to let couples proceed in the way that works best and is most meaningful for them. Some prefer the now-traditional custom of the man proposing to the woman. Others are happy with either one proposing to the other. And some mutually decide that they want to get married. Exactly how it happens is not as important as the quality and depth of the relationship between the two partners.

      • Ben 'Tosin says:

        Thanks Lee for your response. It’s enlightening.
        But this one more question- the concept of ‘for better for worse’, does it have any biblical basis? Jesus in one of His teachings seem to allow for divorce in cases of sexual infidelity, but for better for worse seem to not recognise any condition(s) for any break up in marriage. It’s not that I wish for a broken marriage, I only want to know if the ‘for better for worse’ has it’s root in the Bible because I have no come across it in it.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You’re welcome. Glad to help.

          Like the other parts of now-traditional marriage vows, “for better, for worse” probably came into use only in Medieval times, meaning many centuries after the Bible was written. As far as I know, it’s not based on anything specific in the Bible.

          And of course, these words do not mean that if one’s marital partner is unfaithful, one is required to remain in the marriage anyway. They are speaking of sticking it out through good times and bad, times of joy and times of struggle. Unfaithfulness breaks marriages.

          There is some basis in the stories of the Bible for couples sticking together through better and worse times, and even through times of conflict. Read the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their respective wives in the book of Genesis. They went through many difficult experiences, and were sometimes in conflict with one another as well. And yet they stuck it out together until their respective times of death.

          As an interesting side note, Abraham outlived his wife Sarah and remarried, fathering a whole new family, with multiple lineages, with his wife Keturah. See Genesis 25:1-4.

  2. Ben 'Tosin says:

    Thanks Lee

  3. Rohan Pereira says:

    Hi Lee

    Just continuing your discussion from https://leewoof.org/2017/02/25/facing-our-demons-of-darkness-depression-and-mental-illness-part-1

    > Why do you think that different gender roles require dominance and submission?

    I have mentioned before that it is not about dominance. Dominance implies that one is a master and the other a slave. The book of Exodus covers the relationship between master and slave and that sort of relationship is never specified for a husband and wife.

    The question I ask you is Ii Christ submitted to God the father though he is God then why can’t a wife submit to her husband (out of love for her husband) though she is like her husband?

    Deep within the liberal Christianity is that men and women are actually the same. Their identities are a result of social/environmental influence. Hence the role of man and woman are interchangeable.

    The bible does not support this view. Both the OT and NT, call out the blurring of lines between the genders as an abomination.

    Submission is about gender roles i.e. a division of labour. Just as God the father is the planner, Jesus the accomplisher and the spirit of God the helper. They do not cross paths ever. Never does Jesus specify his will which is separate from the father though he specifies that he could have one and also he told the disciples that he must leave so that the one coming after him will be of greater help to them. So Jesus did not take the other’s place.

    Similarly throughout the bible we see roles specified for husband and wife and always referred to post-marriage. The husband is given final authority over children and his wife i.e. if there is a great dispute, both the wife and children must out of love support the final decision of the husband. The husband is required to have deep knowledge of the will of God and apply it to his family/household. The wife on the other hand is always talked about as being a helper to her husband and children.

    **Jesus came as a Jew.

    Many liberal Christians seek to distance Jesus from the OT but I have watched the book of John thrice now on Youtube:

    He does not explain to the pharisees about why things have to be done a certain way nor does Jesus use Greek wisdom (philosophy). He reveals the will of God and then tells them to believe in it. He was a preacher of the true nature of the OT. This in line with what Paul said in Corinthians. Some truths do not require an explanation according to earthly wisdom. These are just spiritual truths that require faith (foolishness to the Greek and a stumbling block to Jews).

    > Liberal Christianity

    This is a mix of Buddism and Christianity. I was reading an article on Huffpost on 15 Christian women speaking about feminsm: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/15-christian-women-get-real-about-the-role-of-women-in-the-church_us_56e1dd0ee4b0860f99d84e80

    From this we can see that liberal Christians do not split issues. They converge everything into one issue.

    In the realm of feminism, they claim ‘Women are capable and loving’ but we have been abused for too long, now is the time to retake our churches so that we can love fully again.

    But this is not the Christian argument and never was. Christianity does not deny that women are capable and loving. It only specifies that wives first primarily use their God-given gifts for their husbands and children.

    I don’t expect these women to debate this because just like you they take excerpts from the gospel and paint a new Jesus. A feel-good Jesus that represents Greek wisdom but really it is a Jesus that supports the moral convictions of secularism. Paul could have painted Jesus in a way that many of the Greeks would have found palatable but all he did was only commend their inquiry for the unknown God.

    These women and you are unlikely to talk about the Jesus from Revelations or Jesus’s backing of non-ceremonial OT law. Why? Its because the real Jesus will cause conflict (mother against daughter, father against son). Their feminine nature is to avoid conflict.

    > Believing

    I am not trying to convert you. I am only asking to please not disown the OT and the writings of Paul. They are not optional scripture but scripture.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rohan,

      Woah there!

      You seem to have quite a few axes to grind about women, gender roles, feminism, liberal Christianity, and so on. And quite a few of those axes seem to be flying in my general direction.

      Just for the record:

      • I do not believe that men and women are the same, and that any differences are solely due to environment, culture, upbringing, and so on. Rather, I believe that God created men and women distinctly and eternally different not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well.
      • Jesus was, of course, a Jew, born and bred. He knew the Jewish Scriptures thoroughly, and regularly referred to them as authority in his teaching. However, he also transcended Judaism to the extent that he began a new church that was distinctly different from Judaism.
      • Though I am well aware of liberal Christianity as it exists in a number of the mainline denominations, I am not particularly a liberal Christian myself.
      • Though I believe in equality for men and women, I do not particularly consider myself a feminist, since feminism is commonly associated with a number of beliefs and ideologies that I don’t agree with.
      • If you read through my various posts here, you will see that I do talk about Jesus in the book of Revelation, and I talk about Jesus stating that the Ten Commandments continue to be in force, and I talk about Jesus as a man of conflict as well as a man of peace. And so on.

      You seem to have a bee in your bonnet about feminism, liberal Christianity, and so on. You’ll have to take that up with the people who believe in, represent, and defend those things.

      As for Paul, full disclosure: The biblical canon of Swedenborgians is smaller than the Protestant canon—which, in turn, is smaller than the Catholic canon. And there are a number of other canons as well, as you can see on the Wikipedia article on the subject. In the New Testament, our canon of inspired scripture includes only the four Gospels and the book of Revelation. You can see the full listing of our Old Testament and New Testament canon in my answer to this question on Christianity StackExchange: “What writings are held as ‘biblical canon’ by Swedenborgians?

      It’s not that we reject the Acts and the Epistles. It’s that we think of them as historical and doctrinal writings rather than as the Word of God. So we don’t view Paul’s writings as authoritative, although we do view them as “good books for the church.”

      Having said that, I will say the same thing to you that I say to all Protestants: I am perfectly willing to use your canon in addressing and debating any issues of Christian faith and practice. Rightly understood, Paul does not support Protestant doctrine, and does support Swedenborgian doctrine.

      Further, even if I did view Paul’s writings as Scripture, I would still consider them to be adapted, in their literal meaning, to the culture of his day, just as I view the entirety of Scripture as adapted, in its literal meaning, to the culture of its day. See: “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads.”

      With these things out of the way, I’ll respond in a separate comment to some of the other issues you raise.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rohan,

      Whether or not you use the word “dominance,” if you believe that women must submit to their husbands, then you also believe that men are meant to rule over their wives. Everything you say about a man having final authority over his wife and children means, in plain terms, that the husband is the dominant partner and the wife is the submissive partner. If there is any disagreement between the two, his will must prevail. That’s the meaning of dominance.

      So you can give all the fancy explanations you want about how wives should willingly submit to their husbands, and this is a good thing, and God’s will, and all of the things traditional and conservative Christians say, but the long and the short of it is that this means both in theory and in practice that the man is dominant and the woman is submissive. Don’t try to wriggle out of it.

      And yes, the Bible speaks in this way in many passages throughout the Old and New Testament. But the fact remains, as I have pointed out in the above article and in other articles and comments here, that this arrangement of the man ruling over the woman was a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve to God’s commandment, and of their resulting fall from the pristine state in which God originally created them.

      Even the arrangement in which the woman is created from the man’s rib as a helper for him takes place after the Bible first says that something is “not good” (Genesis 2:18). So even that is not God’s ideal.

      As covered in the above article, in the original creation of man and woman, they are both created equal, and they are both created in the image and likeness of God. Both are given rule over all the other creatures, and over all the earth. Man is not given rule over woman, and woman is not assigned to help man.

      Once again, all of this is covered in the above article.

      That is the key biblical basis for my statement that God’s original and ideal plan is for man and woman to be equal, neither one dominating, ruling over, submitting to, or serving the other.

      Unfortunately, we humans quickly fell away from God’s original plan, and we’ve been in a fallen state ever since.

      Traditional Christians seem to think that we should remain in that fallen state, far from the original ideal of equality in which God first created human beings male and female.

      I beg to differ. I believe we are finally moving back toward the original ideal for which God created us.

      Even Paul lived in a day and age of fallen humanity—in fact, when humanity had reached its lowest ebb, so that God had to come and save us from the utter spiritual destruction that was threatening to destroy us completely. Paul had to address the people and culture of his day. And so he gave rules about man and woman that were the best that the people of that culture could hope to understand. If Paul had even been able to conceive of a relationship in which man and woman are fully equal (which he probably couldn’t), he would have been laughed off the stage if he attempted to express it. Marriage, too, was at a very low ebb in those days. Women weren’t property, but they weren’t very far above property on the social ladder. And Paul had to address the people where they were spiritually. That’s why Paul says many of the things he does about men and women.

      Fortunately, under the influence of Jesus Christ, humanity has made great strides forward, especially in the last few centuries. We are finally starting to throw off many of the old evils of slavery, injustice, and oppression that have characterized humanity for thousands of years now. And I believe we are finally reaching a time when we can begin to live in the way God originally intended us to live rather than the way fallen humanity has lived for so many thousands of years.

      That, I believe, is why the ideal of marriage as a relationship of love, as a spiritual relationship, and as a relationship between two equal partners has finally re-emerged. And though people today commonly think marriage has always been about love, that simply is not the case. In fact, that’s a relatively new development, as you can see in my recent series of articles starting with: “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?

      The people of Bible times, including Paul’s times, simply could not conceive of the marriage relationship as we think of it today. There was no way Paul or anyone else could have told them about real, spiritual marriage. It was totally beyond their experience and comprehension. So the Bible, including Paul, had to do the best it could to at least improve the quality of the rather low-level, physically-oriented “marriages” that existed in those days.

      If all you want is that sort of low-level marriage, then be my guest and accept Paul’s teachings for the unspiritual, unenlightened people of 2,000 years ago about man being the head of woman and woman submitting to her husband. And I guarantee you that your marriage will be not much better than the marriages that existed in Paul’s day. If you want to dial the clock back on marriage, that is your choice.

      But today we have available to us a far greater form of marriage that Paul could even conceive of, because it didn’t exist in his culture, and in fact didn’t exist for nearly two thousand years after Bible times. That is a truly spiritual marriage, based on mutual love and a union of hearts, minds, and spirits into one. In that kind of marriage, there can be no dominance or submission, because the two are one, and act as one person. There is no need for one to have the “final say,” because the two together believe, feel, say, and do things together, as one mind and heart. The whole idea that one could veto the other’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions would totally destroy the oneness of heart and mind that exists between the two of them.

      That whole concept of marriage as one having authority over the other is an unspiritual, hierarchical, human idea of marriage. It is not God’s idea of marriage. And it is not what God created man and woman to be as a married couple.

      Further, there is no hierarchy of authority and submission in the Person of God. You still seem to be stuck in the old, false, trinitarian three-person God, in which there is a hierarchy of gods, each with his own will, but one’s will submits to the other. But that’s a totally false picture of God, as I’ve explained in a number of articles here about the false dogma of the Trinity of Persons.

      There is no such hierarchy in God. God is a oneness of love, wisdom, and power that acts together in everything, with no need for authority or hierarchy, for dominance or submission. And it is in the image and likeness of that complete oneness of God that God created man and woman to be married to one another spiritually, so that they are no longer two, but one.

      That old concept of man as ruler and woman as submissive completely destroys any such spiritual marriage in the image and likeness of God. If that is the sort of marriage you want, then you are welcome to it. But you will never achieve full spiritual oneness with your wife if that is your concept of marriage. There will always be a two-ness and division between you, as you stand above her and she stands below you.

      Even Jesus said:

      I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:5, italics added)

      And if Jesus himself said that his disciples were no longer his servants, but his friends, how much more must man and women not be in a relationship of master and servant, but of friends?

      You can have your dominance and submission marriage if you want. As for me, I will hold to the original ideal of man and woman created equally in the image of God, and together as one to rule over everything in their lives, only looking to God together as both their Lord and their Friend.

      • Rohan Pereira says:

        Hi Lee

        I agree with what you are saying that God is continually reforming humanity. In my study of exodus, I found it very hard to believe that God condoned slavery but then I realised that God was working on reforming slavery into employment. Hence it looks like God works over the long-term to achieve perfection. Similarly you could say the same thing about marriage.

        But I feel you read too much into the Genesis account:

        1) Yes God may have created males and females before the fall but what makes you think that these people had marriage-like relationships with each other? If they did produce children, can you say for sure that they didn’t just have an orgy fest of free love? No strings attached sex with no downsides. Why aren’t you using this model for an ideal relationship between humans?

        2) From your canon, What role models or examples can you give about a couple that had an equal no submission relationship? I can give you many couple examples from the bible with a traditional marriage. If you cannot provide the names of the couple, are you saying we are supposed to learn about equal marriage without a proven example for people of the ages to learn from?

        3) I appreciate your desire for a perfect one flesh marriage without gender roles or submission. That a couple should ideally think and act the same. But it is like saying we should remove all traffic lights so that people will learn to trust each other’s judgement. We live in a fallen world where even our best efforts cannot avoid conflict.What makes our world better today is not that human judgement has improved but we have rules or systems that automatically enforce rules (technology). We are not more honest than our ancestors but rather technology prevents us from being dishonest. Similarly I cannot see how without such third party help, can a marriage work it’s way into oneness (without roles, guidelines, welfare or law).

        4) What makes you think that gender roles is ‘not good’. The division of labour is seen throughout the animal kingdom and in societies around the world. In fact God was so strict about roles in the OT that he did not want the ruling class and priestly class to have the same members. King Uzziah was a God-fearing leader of the ruling class but the moment he stepped into the priest quarters, he was struck with instantaneous leprosy because he broke the rule to keep politics and religion separate. Such was God’s desire for roles. What makes you think that God’s does not see division of labour as ‘not ideal’. What can you cite from your canon?’

        5) Submission is not enforced by the man on the woman but by the woman willingly conceding it to the man. This follows the same line of thought that Jesus had with God the father. Why is it important? Because only out of concession, can there be one will. In return, God the father glorified Jesus. Similarly a man concedes the best of what he has (his resources) to a woman. This goes against your line of thought about domination.

        6) How can you say that authority over another is not an ideal concept for God’s creation? Just because Jesus calls us friends? Jesus called some his mother and brother also. Are we similarly the mother and brother of God also? Friends or mother/brother is just one who willingly does the will of God. Authority is not absolute authority but rather biblically authority is a God-given assignment in a specific area only (John 19:11).

        7) You have not answered why God the father did not come down on his own? Why did he send Jesus? Why did Jesus show submission to the will of God the father? If we are made in the image of God, what makes you say that submission is not part of this image?

        8) How can you keep referring to Genesis when there is little direct support for your interpretations in other parts of the bible. You link to many Jesus quotes but they are not directly related to marriage or Genesis?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          In response to your questions:

          1) There is nothing anywhere in the Bible that would suggest that God would create man and woman and then have them participate in “an orgy fest of free love” in order to reproduce. That’s just a red herring. You do have to read various passages in the Bible in the context of the rest of the Bible. As far as their producing children, God specifically commanded them to be fruitful and multiply in the first Creation account, in Genesis 1:28. So it’s not a question of “if.”

          2) I’m glad you asked. As a matter of fact, most of the major marriage relationships in the Bible do not follow the pattern of the woman being submissive to the husband. In fact, it is not all that uncommon in marriages in the Bible for the wife to completely overshadow the husband, and even to overrule his will. And the results of the wife’s will being carried out instead of the husband’s commonly determine the course of events in the Bible. For some major examples, see my article, “Is the Bible a Book about Men? What about Women?” Only a shallow reading of the Bible could support the idea that wives in the Bible are uniformly submissive to their husband’s will. That’s just not how actual marriage relationships in the Bible are portrayed.

          3) Why do you keep saying that I am attempting to erase gender roles? I never said any such thing. What I said is that having different gender roles does not require the dominance of one gender and the submission of the other. People can play different roles, and still have an equal say in what goes on. In fact, this is very common in human relationships. The idea is not to erase the differences between men and women, still less between husbands and wives. Rather, it is to bring man and woman into equal relationship with one another in their differences. And this involves valuing the roles of women just as much as we value the roles of men, and giving women an equal say in the relationship. In a true spiritual relationship, this won’t even be an issue because the two of them will be mutually of one mind on the major issues, and will proceed forward together as one.

          4) Once again, I never said that gender roles are “not good.” And that’s not what the Bible verse in question (Genesis 2:18) says. It says that it is not good for the man to be alone. Please stop implying that I am attempting to erase distinct gender roles. As for the division of labor between the priestly and ruling class, that was true during only a relatively brief time period in the overall history of the Hebrew people. Specifically, during the monarchy. And the monarchy itself was not something God desired, but something the people desired in direct contravention of God’s will. See 1 Samuel 8. Here God makes it very clear that in demanding a human king, the people are rejecting God as king. Samuel himself served as both spiritual and political leader of Israel during his lifetime. So did Moses before him. It was a common arrangement. And the letter to the Hebrews looks to Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem, as an ideal that foretells the dual roles of Jesus Christ as both King and High Priest (see Genesis 14:17–20; Hebrews 7). So it’s simply not true that God establishes some eternal ideal that the roles of king and priest must be separate. But as for division of labor in general, yes, that is a common facet of human society. And even when men and women do the same jobs as one another, a man does the job as a man, and a woman does the job as a woman. The two are simply not the same.

          5) It doesn’t matter whether the submission is voluntary or imposed. If submission is required then the relationship is a natural and earthly one, not a spiritual one. If the two are one flesh, that is because they are one mind and spirit first—which is, in fact, the deeper meaning of being “one flesh.” The “flesh” is the substance of a person, which is an expression of the core love in the person. And our love is our will. So if the two are one flesh, spiritually this means that they are of one will. And when two people have one will, it is impossible for one to dominate and the other to submit, because the two are one. That is the nature of true, spiritual marriage. Mind you, we may not all achieve that ideal here on earth. We are still being reborn and regenerated during our lifetime on earth, so there may still be conflict of wills even in marriages in which the couple has a real underlying spiritual oneness. But in those conflicts, the conflict of wills is not resolved by one partner (the husband) imposing his will on the other (the wife), or even by her meekly submitting to his will. Rather, it is resolved by the two of them mutually addressing and working out their differences so that they can once again be of one will and act together as one.

          6) I say that authority over one another is not an ideal concept for God’s creation because God’s ideal is that we would all be brothers and sisters to one another, and have only God as our father, teacher, and authority figure. Jesus says this in plain words:

          But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8–12)

          This, in fact, was to be one of the features of Christianity that distinguished it from ancient Judaism. There would be no one higher or lower than anyone else, and no need for anyone to stand in authority between the people and God. Rather, everyone would have a direct relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ. That is where the common Christian custom of calling one another “brother” and “sister” came from. Unfortunately, human society was not ready for that arrangement, and Christianity quickly reimposed both a human priesthood standing between God and the people and a hierarchical system of human ecclesiastical authority. See: “Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!” Likewise, God’s ideal for marriage is not that one partner should have authority over the other. That, like divorce, is a concession to “the hardness of our hearts.” God’s ideal is that the two shall be one. And you cannot be one when one rules over the other.

          7) Our belief is that God the Father did come down as Jesus. Remember, we reject the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity of Persons, and the whole idea that there was some “Son born from eternity” who came down. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to support this human-invented idea. See my answer on Christianity StackExchange here: “What is the biblical evidence against a pre-incarnate Jesus?” However, it is necessary to understand that during his lifetime on earth, Jesus had a dual nature, consisting of a finite human side from his human mother Mary and an infinite divine side from his Father, God. When we see Jesus in the Gospels praying to the Father as if to a separate person, and speaking of not his own will, but God’s being done, that is when Jesus is conscious primarily in his finite human side. But by the time of his resurrection and ascension to the Father, that finite human side from Mary had been completely laid aside, and his humanity had become fully divine and one with the Father. This is a complex idea to understand, and a lack of understanding of it has vitiated all traditional Christian doctrine about the Incarnation. Here are two articles that address it, the second more than the first:

          Without a proper understanding of exactly who Jesus was during his lifetime on earth and afterwards, and the process of “glorification” that he went through here on earth, you simply can’t understand the Incarnation and the Gospel message about the Word which was with God and was God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Nor can you understand the nature of the Atonement, redemption, salvation, and the other major doctrines of Christianity. And a lack of understanding of the Incarnation is precisely why traditional Christianity is so wrong in its doctrines of the Trinity, Atonement, salvation, and so on. Back to your question, though there was submission of the finite human side of Jesus to the divine side during his lifetime on earth, there is no such submission in the nature of of God now. Rather, God operates fully as one, each part or aspect of God (such as the ones called “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit”) unanimous in carrying out God’s will. And that is the divine pattern for our human marriages as well.

          8) Establishing these things by reference to the Bible is quite possible, but time consuming. I hope the above references, and the linked articles, give you at least some of the biblical basis for all of this. But really, coming to understand this can easily take a lifetime of unlearning all the false doctrine of traditional Christianity and learning true doctrine about God, the Bible, and human life. So although it would be nice to give you a quick answer saying, “Here are the passages where the Bible says all this,” in fact it would require many articles to do so. The above article is one such article. And as always, “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads” is basic reading for understanding the nature of the Bible as a relationship between God and humanity, in which God necessarily speaks to us in terms of our own human language and culture, or else we could not understand what God is saying to us, and the whole endeavor of God speaking to humanity through God’s Word would be in vain. (Now that I look at it, it seems that I didn’t make that “relationship” thing explicit in the “Boneheads” article. I have stated and explained it in various comments, such as here and here, and I’ve mentioned it briefly in a couple of articles. Looks like I’ll need to write and post an article specifically highlighting that concept!)

          Rohan, I understand that you have been taught these things about the relationship between husband and wife from traditional Christian sources, and that traditional Christians refer to various passages in the Bible, especially in Paul, to support the idea that man is supposed to rule and be the head, and woman is supposed to submit and be obedient. But once again, that arrangement, like the hierarchical political arrangements humankind has had for many thousands of years, is a result of the fall of humankind, and our forsaking of God’s original design and plan for humanity. And although, as I said in the article, “What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?” couples can have decent marriages even when the relationship is not equal, but the man either rules over or is the center of the relationship, with the woman either submitting to him or revolving her life around his, these are lesser versions of marriage. Couples who form these types of relationship will never experience the full oneness and joy of marriage as God originally created it to be.

          That original plan is that the two would become one, so that they are no longer two, with separate wills, one of which rules over the other, which submits to it, but rather one will together that acts together in unanimity of heart, mind, and spirit. That is why, Swedenborg says, in heaven married couples are not called “two angels,” but rather “one angel.”

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Regarding the trinity I have read your stack overflow answer.

          What you say about God is true. The old testament consistently speaks about one God.

          The trinity is three God’s but to creation, there is only one God. They have different roles that the other does not step into.

          God the father has never been seen nor approached. Neither in the OT and neither in heaven. He is too holy and magnificent to be approached by.

          Jesus is the visible mirror of God. He is what creation sees of God. He creates for creation and makes his name known among all. He is the God of the OT.

          The holy spirit is God but does not testify of himself. He testifies of Jesus for creation.

          In our consciousness, we will never deal with more than one God at once.

          I am 100% believer in the following article that describes how they work together out of love. https://www.wake-up.org/newsletter-archive/the-wake-up-report/jesus-existence-before-he-came-to-earth-february-2012.html

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          At least that article is honest in admitting that the Trinity is actually three gods. It says, for example:

          In fact, all three Gods have existed from eternity.

          Most of traditional Christianity says “one God” with the lips, but pictures three gods in the mind. See: “Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Polytheistic?” I prefer the honesty of the writer whose article you have linked to, who plainly calls Father, Son, and Holy Spirit three gods.

          If you wish to be a polytheist, then who am I to say that you can’t be? After all, the bulk of Christianity believes in three gods while saying with their lips that they believe in one. So if you choose to be a polytheist like most of the rest of the Christians on this earth, then you have plenty of company.

          As for me, I will continue to believe in one God, not three.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Hi Lee

          Thanks for taking the time to read that article. I was a bit sceptical about that article at first but then I read the author’s detailed explanation of it. Would highly recommend you give it quick read through his case for polytheism.

          https://www.wake-up.org/newsletter-archive/the-wake-up-report/2016/is-there-only-one-god-christians-three-gods-and-the-trinity-part-1.html

          Though polytheism is non-traditional concept, it really binds all of the OT, the gospels and the epistles in a singular explanation. Monotheism is a Jewish concept and is a stumbling block for Christianity. Without polytheism, many traditional Christian doctrines to do with faith, marriage, hierarchy, works and love are weak. That’s how critical it is.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Once again, if you want to be a polytheist (and join the pagans), be my guest. But I will never be a polytheist.

          Unlike your average Christian priest, minister, and teacher, this guy is at least honest that he’s a polytheist. But he’s still wrong. And his polytheism is still based on a physical-minded reading of Scripture.

          I did skim part of the article. If there is anything particular in it you want a specific response to, feel free to ask.

          In reality, the polytheism of traditional Christianity has completely destroyed its understanding of all of the things you mention: marriage, hierarchy, works, and love. For more on this, see: “Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

          One of the reasons that, under Divine Providence, the false doctrine of the Trinity of Persons was allowed to become the reigning doctrine in the bulk of Christianity was that the Christians of the day, and for many, many centuries afterwards, were materialistic and polytheistic at heart. (The two go together.) God saw that they could not think spiritually, and that most of them came from a pagan and polytheistic background. So God allowed them to formulate the polytheistic doctrine of the Trinity of Persons because that way at least they would accept Jesus as divine, and could therefore at least have a semblance of Christianity.

          Unfortunately, by the time the Trinity of Persons was invented, Christianity had already become “Christian in name only, and not in reality and essence,” as Swedenborg said. (See “Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!”) And it has continued that way ever since.

          Your author is simply a working out of the materialistic and pagan thinking that has been at the heart of traditional Christianity for 1,700 or 1,800 years now. He simply states it clearly rather than trying to pretend that the three gods of traditional Christianity are actually one God, as all of the regular trinitarian denominations do.

          I would encourage you, Rohan, to lift your mind above that materialistic and pagan style of thinking, and to think on a more spiritual level about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are many articles here that can help you do that. Jesus himself sorted out his real followers from shallow followers who would fall away by dividing between those who could understand his words at least somewhat spiritually and those whose minds were completely stuck in material thinking. See my article, “Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood.”

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Hi Lee

          Christianity may have 3 Gods but they are known to creation as one because their will is one. This is different to polytheism of other religions with Gods having different wills.

          I would in fact strongly argue that monotheism is highly linked to materialism.

          You must look to the Jews who are and were the greatest proponents of monotheism and from which Christian and Islamic beliefs of monotheism is drawn from. They have a deep desire for their own nationalism, their own land, their own cups for drawing out water and for which they would not share with others (Samaritan woman at the well thinking Jesus would not drink from her bucket), their own tribes and households bearing their name, their self righteousness over others having being chosen by God.

          In fact you look into a documentary called ‘the century of self’ and you will see that Jewish-origin propagandists like the Freud and Bernays families were highly involved in turning materialism into an essential need of the self through psychoanalysis.

          The Pharisees themselves were materialists by collecting up good works, gratitude, social connections and years of service. Their health and well being were tied to their own works while the blind and lame were sinners.

          Through materialism comes the inability to cede to multiple authorities. A materialist can only cede to one authority other than himself. Hence when Jesus spoke to the Jews, he said nobody can serve both God and Money.

          The Jews being monotheistic could not bear to see their God as a pauper in Jesus.

          They long for an after-life paradise where they can indulge in their materialism and Swedenborg delivers it for them.

          There are many non-monotheistic societies in the world that are not materialists especially the Hindus and Buddhists.

          But saying that I believe that both monotheism and polytheism don’t have a bearing on materialism. Because God in the OT did not condemn the pagans for worshipping false Gods but for engaging in ‘detestable’ things because of their Gods.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          There are too many errors here to briefly respond to, but I doubt that this conversation is going anywhere anyway. If you are determined to believe in three gods, then nothing I say is going to dissuade you.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee,

          I will respect your beliefs.

          Before we exit this discussion, I just wanted to say that much of Swedenborg’s revelation are views already held by Jews for a very long time.

          This link is a collection of beliefs held by various Jews:

          http://www.momentmag.com/is-there-life-after-death/

          You will see many similarities to Swedenborg including the salvation of righteous gentiles and the primary focus on love your neighbour.

          If they had come to this revelation despite the rejection of Jesus, then there is something quite not right.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          I’m not sure why you think the views of the afterlife at that link are similar to Swedenborg’s, except maybe that you haven’t read what Swedenborg wrote about the afterlife.

          As far as the salvation of the righteous, that’s basic to almost all religions except Protestantism, which has its own uniquely weird ideas about salvation that are completely divorced from anything stated in the Bible or in any of the other sacred literature of humankind outside of Protestantism, including all of the rest of Christianity—not to mention completely divorced from reality.

          And as far as the focus on love of the neighbor, that is one of the two Great Commandments given by Jesus. Not particularly Jewish. And I don’t think any Jew would say that love of God isn’t primary over love of the neighbor, as Jesus also said.

          I’m afraid your fellow has taken Protestant doctrine, which is already way off the rails, and gone even farther off the rails with it.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Swedenborg has nothing new. Whatever he revealed had already been a widely held belief. He only applied a Christian twist on it. A recreation of Eden in the glory of man.

          Jesus gave two commandments but love your neighbour was distinct and secondary to Love God.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          I’m surprised to hear that you’ve read all 30 volumes of Swedenborg’s works, so that you can make this statement.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee, I have not read all 30 volumes of Swedenborg. Neither have I read all of what Muhammad wrote.

          Swedenborg may have been a good man. I have read at a high level his positions on various matters concerning faith, works, marriage, nature of God and after life.

          He has helped broaden understanding in many areas but in other areas he bears false witness.

          Being an intellectual, he strives to minimise to as much as possible the spiritual in the Christian faith. His recreation of heaven is also just a better recreation of Earth.

          There are many questions in our faith that we do not have 100%-certainty answers for but we try to make sense of it from the word of God.

          If Swedenborg is right, his gospel has no need for Jesus.

          I stand by Paul’s statement: As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1Corinthians 2:9).

          I believe there are things that humans have not even dreamed of when it comes to God especially heaven. Swedenborg’s ideas have been dreamed about by many before him.

          When you look deeper into Swedenborg’s writings, you see a lot of scary stuff. Him dealing with occult spirits of notable people and visiting planets in different galaxies.

          We must take seriously what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15: watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Even these brief comments indicate that you really don’t know or understand what Swedenborg wrote.

          The idea that “being an intellectual, he strives to minimise to as much as possible the spiritual in the Christian faith” could not be farther from the truth. In fact, he raises everything in the Christian faith to a spiritual level that has rarely if ever even been envisioned before in Christianity. His interpretation of the Bible is wholly spiritual in a far more thorough way even than the Christians of the first millennium and more of Christianity envisioned with their typological, allegorical, moral, and anagogic interpretations of Scripture (see “Allegorical interpretation of the Bible” at Wikipedia). And everything he wrote about our brief time on earth relates our life, work, and journey here to greater spiritual, divine, and eternal realities.

          Incidentally, Swedenborg fairly often says that ordinary uneducated Christians understand God, the Bible, and spiritual life better than the Christian intellectuals who study and teach theology—for whom he had nothing but scorn because they were more concerned with their reputation for brilliance than they were with seeking out the truth. Swedenborg himself had to give up a life of scholarly brilliance, fame, and celebration by the educated Europeans of his day to follow the spiritual work God called him to—which resulted in his being attacked, rejected, and vilified by the entire reigning body of European religious and secular intellectuals.

          The idea that “if Swedenborg is right, his gospel has no need for Jesus” also could not be farther from the truth. In fact, Swedenborg gave Jesus a far more central position than Christianity ever had since the time of the Council of Nicaea, which demoted Jesus to the position of a secondary god while attempting to claim that he was equal to the Father. In Swedenborg’s theology, Jesus is God, and without Jesus’ Incarnation, every single person on the face of this earth would now be damned to hell. The Jesus presented in traditional Christianity is a pale shadow of the Jesus that Swedenborg worshiped and taught in his writings.

          On your quotation from 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul himself wrote in his other epistle to the Corinthians:

          I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)

          Clearly Paul was being rhetorical rather than literal in what he said in 1 Corinthians 2:9. Clearly Paul did not think it was wrong or impossible for anyone ever to see heaven while still living on earth. (Many scholars think Paul was actually describing in the third person an experience that he himself had.) And indeed, Swedenborg said that many of the things he heard and saw in the third heaven could not be put into earthly words, and that there were some things that he was not allowed to write even if he were able to. So Swedenborg simply experienced for a more extended period exactly what Paul describes happening in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4.

          As for “dealing with occult spirits of notable people,” that is just a scary way of describing the same thing that happened to Jesus’ closest disciples, who saw Moses and Elijah together with Jesus. There is nothing “occult” about it. Human beings have the ability to see and interact with the spirits of the deceased if it is God’s will for them to do so. God granted this experience to many people in the Bible. Some of the people in the Bible who saw and interacted with angels and spirits through God’s will are listed in my article, “What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?” If you’re going to criticize Swedenborg for talking with angels, you might as well throw the entire Bible into the wastebasket.

          However, if it is not God’s will, then indeed it is not a good idea to seek out spirits (which Swedenborg never did—God opened Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes without any intention or effort on Swedenborg’s part to have it happen). About people seeking out spirits through occult practices, see the article, “What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?” What I wrote in that article comes almost entirely from Swedenborg’s own statements strongly discouraging people from seeking out contact with spirits.

          Nor did Swedenborg “visit planets in different galaxies,” though he did say that in the spiritual world he met people who came from different solar systems. (In Swedenborg’s day we were only vaguely aware of the existence of other galaxies.) Swedenborg himself never physically visited other planets. And though I don’t doubt that there are people on other planets, given the infinite power of God and the vast size of the universe, I do think Swedenborg was mistaken in some of what he said about people on other planets, due to the limitations of the science of his day. On that, please see my article, “Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life.”

          Even today, high-powered scientists and ordinary people alike are avidly seeking out possible civilizations on other planets, in an effort called the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, or SETI. See my article, “The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative & the Spiritual Aspirations of Atheists and Agnostics.” Swedenborg’s interest in civilizations on other planets is part of a human aspiration and effort to seek out other life in the universe that goes back not just decades, and not just centuries, but thousands of years.

          You are, of course, free not to believe in the genuineness of Swedenborg’s spiritual-world experiences, and not to accept what he wrote. But before you reject it, you should at least learn what he wrote—which you clearly have not done so far, based on what you have been saying in your recent comments.

          You are also free not even to even learn what he wrote. But in that case, don’t presume to say he was wrong when you don’t even know or understand what he said.

          For more on Swedenborg and the nature of his spiritual experiences and writings as compared to the Bible and its human authors, please see: “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

          Meanwhile, I’m glad our conversations here in the past have at least opened your eyes to a few biblical truths compared to the non-biblical falsities of traditional Christian teachings. I hope that in time, you will leave behind the remaining “Christian” fallacies and falsities that you still cling to, and come to know, love, and follow the one God of the universe, who is the Lord God Jesus Christ.

      • Tony says:

        Hi lee

        Rohan Pereira mentioned feminism and gender roles above so I wanted to post this link which explains the 2 somewhat.

        I would like to know if you agree with it or disagree and if you disagree how would you describe Western society as a whole?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Tony,

          To state the positive first, I’m glad the guy is at least saying to his MGTOW buddies that not all contact with women is necessarily unequal and bad. That, at least, is a step in the right direction.

          However, the guy’s been burned by a woman, and therefore he naturally has a jaundiced view of women—which oozes out the pores of his video and his attitudes.

          And quite frankly, given his general attitude about life, I’m not at all surprised that he got burned by a woman. His whole schtick seems to be about gaining benefit for himself from a relationship. And he sees an “equal” relationship as one in which both partners gain equal benefit from the relationship.

          As long as anyone, man or woman, views romantic and sexual relationships in that way, he or she is bound to hook up with people who also view “love” relationships as a mere business deal, and are also in it to get as much benefit for themselves as possible (which is what that attitude really means underneath the “equality” talk).

          In other words, the guy’s own self-absorbed and self-serving attitudes are probably what got him hooked up with a gold-digging “psycho” (his word) woman in the first place. Her attitude toward the relationship was just a mirror of his: “How much can I get for myself out of this dork?”

          That sort of self-centered thinking vitiates everything else he says after saying that relationships with women actually can be equal, and aren’t necessarily gynocentric (which seems to be the very worst kind of dirty word in MGTOW ideology).

          Further, this guy has gotten as deep into victimhood as many feminists have. Some types of feminists believe that men are basically bastards out to get and use women, and women are their victims. This guy seems to think exactly the same way as that class of feminist, except in reverse: women are basically bitches (his word) out to get and use men, and men are their victims.

          In other words, these MGTOWs are simply the mirror image of precisely the types of women and feminists they despise.

          It is therefore probably for the best that most of them avoid relationships with women altogether. They’re approaching relationships with all the wrong attitudes, so it’s likely that any relationships they did get into would be toxic ones in which each partner is trying to get as much out of the other for him- or herself as possible.

          A good and healthy romantic and sexual relationship is not about mutual benefit, if that means, “I’m gonna get as much out of this relationship as you do, and you don’t get any more out of it than I do, by God!”

          Rather, a good and healthy relationship is about mutually giving to the other without thinking about what you’re getting in return. And yes, it does have to be mutual. It doesn’t work if one person is all about giving, and the other is all about taking. It works only if both partners are more interested in giving to the other than they are in getting something for themselves.

          The guy who made that video would probably think that this whole concept is totally whacked, and completely unrealistic and pie-in-the-sky. But that’s because, being all about his own self-interest, he has no concept of what it means to love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself, as Jesus taught. He thinks life is all about getting, getting, getting for yourself, and that you give to people only in order to get something from them in return.

          This means that he will never experience a really good, mutual, loving, and spiritual relationship with a woman.

          Which is really too bad.

          But as long as he sticks with his current attitudes toward women and toward life in general (“Me first, and you bitches better put out for me if you want anything from me”), then that’s just how it’s going to be for him. Probably best for him to stick with his “LOW RISK: Call-Girls / Asian Massage Parlors.” Unless he changes his attitude and stops thinking like a self-absorbed victim, no relationship he has will be anything more than a business deal anyway. He thinks of women as self-centered gold-digging whores, which means he’ll never experience a real relationship with a good woman.

          I could say plenty more, but that’s enough for now. If you have any more specific questions about anything he says, feel free to ask. But in general, his whole analysis and charting of male-female relationships and the state of society is way out of whack because his own attitudes toward women and toward life in general are way out of whack.

          He sounds like a whiner to me. “I got burned by a woman! BOO HOO! Poor me!!!”

          He needs to grow up, grow a pair, stop playing the victim, and start acting like a real adult man.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Hi Lee/Tony

          Just to throw my two cents in. I have come across MGTOW and the wider Men’s Rights movement while researching Bible Gender Roles.

          I note Lee’s response is to lay the blame on this particular man’s lack of maturity. But it is much more than that.

          There has been a lot of change to society in recent decades especially in the area of law, education and government favouring the advancement of women over men. Some of that is mentioned very well by a woman on http://www.girlsaskguys.com/social-relationships/a30148-why-mgtow-is-wrong-it-thrives-on-anger-defeatism.

          In a nutshell, what we are seeing is more and more of women taking up the provisionary role of men in society. Traditionally a woman would take whatever resources a man would provide and then use it for the good of her family. Internally the family was run by the woman using her God-given strengths in relationships/child-rearing and externally the family was provided for by the man using his God-given strengths in wisdom/labour/risk-taking.

          Hence in the past the biggest indicator of the attractiveness of a man to a woman pre-marriage was whether he could provide (physical and emotional). There was a nominal dating process. As a man you either had to have the ability to provide or had the potential to provide. In the OT, some men were not given wives purely because they could not provide (slaves/prisoners). Jesus termed these men as those who were made ‘eunuch’ but not born ‘eunuch’.

          But with changes in society, the woman can now have it all. They are able to take on the provisionary role and cater for offspring at the same time e.g. a divorcee single mum can have multiple kids and live off alimony/welfare/sufficient part-time income.

          So this leaves men in conundrum where his role has been discounted in society. Many young women now do not see men as essential but as an accessory hence the hyper-sexualised society where sex is given more societal-value over love.

          You can imagine a young man who has been raised to be a good provider and in turn worked hard on his skills/personality/connections/reputation is now told that the only effective way to woo a woman is to be a clown for her. When in the past, she would have been attracted to him purely out of his achievement in becoming a man from a boy.

          And this is where I found theology especially Swedenborg’s vision of equality a bit hard to to understand practically. On paper equality sounds like an excellent concept but the reality of our world is that you must choose between a patriarchy or a matriarchy. The one flesh ideal of Swedenborg’s marriage is something that takes a very long time to achieve even for mature Christian men and women.

          Someone-like Apostle Paul in the bible is one who has had actual experience working in churches and with real people/couple problems and out of that ceded to the OT backing of a husband leading his wife and family. This is as opposed to Swedenborg who was a theologian and has never led a church. I don’t doubt that the one flesh principle is something that every marriage should come to but it is a long-term goal.

          In the short-term, out of gender roles comes one spouse naturally assuming leadership. This is not just evident in marriage but in every aspect of our world. If a couple sticks by traditional biblical gender roles, the male will naturally assume leadership.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          The article you link to was written by a man, not a woman. And though I think he’s still a bit stuck on nutty conspiracy theories, I do agree with his general conclusion: MGTOW is not the answer. Just go ahead and have a good relationship with a woman.

          For some time now, divorce laws have actually been swinging the other way, and becoming less unfairly favorable to women. Women no longer automatically get custody of the children as they used to. Occasionally it even happens that the man is given custody of the children, and the woman is required to pay child support. And though there are still some crazy alimony awards happening, it’s actually somewhat less likely these days that a woman will get a major alimony award because it’s more likely that she’ll have developed her own career and be able to support herself, so that she doesn’t need alimony. In my own experience of divorce nearly a decade ago now, the court was very understanding and even-handed, the settlement was quite fair, I was able to remain an active father to my two minor children until they reached adulthood, and the financial repercussions of the divorce were relatively minor. (And the judge was a woman.) I do realize that it doesn’t always go that way. But don’t let the horror stories fool you. They’re horror stories precisely because there was, in that case, a miscarriage of justice. That’s not how it usually goes in present-day courts.

          Change happens, not smoothly, but with swings of the pendulum. Though efforts to bring about equality for women have in some cases gone too far, into draconian legislation and ridiculous political correctness that does more harm than good, the pendulum has begun to swing back in the other direction. The eventual result, I believe, will be a real legal and social equality between men and women that still recognizes their differences. But it’s going to take us a while to work it all out, figure it all out, and get there.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Hi Lee

          Well done on getting through a divorce!

          I think the word ‘submission’ on its own is used sparingly in the traditional bible. What’s heavily implied in the bible is gender roles. I’ve been going through a protestant site called biblicalgenderroles.com.

          Essentially he lays down the biblical standard for wives where he states that their primary responsibility is the household (care for her husband, rear the kids and do the housework). She may do whatever she wants outside of that but as long as her main primary duties are fully taken care of.

          The husband on the other hand has the primary task of providing, protecting and pastoring his wife and family.

          One only gets involved in the other’s role in special circumstances.

          It’s interesting where he uses statements from various books in the bible to show that this was God’s design from the Eden to Paul.

          Also back to MGTOW, I think the young men of today are paying for the sins of their forefathers in treating women disrespectfully.

          One of the things I didn’t realise was how holy the work of a woman is in doing simple things like washing the dishes and preparing a meal.

          Men for too long have bossed women around for being just ‘housewives’.

          He’s also got some biblical views on polygamy especially how powerful men were rewarded with more wives as opposed to today where high achieving politicians and businessmen are routinely involved with mistresses in seedy circumstances. There are a few verses where God declares he will add to your wives but not to hoard wives.

          All in all for someone like Tony, it is more important that he understands biblical gender roles and seek a partner that is willing to have a functional marriage instead of simply looking for a submissive Asian wife.

          MGTOW focus on promiscuity and gender war can only backfire on him.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          You say:

          I note Lee’s response is to lay the blame on this particular man’s lack of maturity. But it is much more than that.

          Yes, I think that particular man is immature, a whiner, and stuck on victimhood just like the “gynocentric” feminists he despises.

          But as I also said, a bigger problem is that he’s thinking mostly about his own benefit, and is rather self-absorbed and self-centered. And I think even with your different view of gender roles (than mine), you would agree with me that anyone who goes into marriage thinking first of themselves and their own benefit is heading for relationship failure, heartbreak, and a very rocky divorce.

          Also, nobody said that Swedenborg’s ideal of marriage is easy. It requires major lifelong work and spiritual growth, both personally and in the marriage, to achieve it. That’s why most people never will achieve it: they’re not willing to do the hard, ongoing personal work required. Nothing truly worthwhile is ever achieved without real, sustained effort on our part.

          If you prefer to settle for a lesser standard and ideal of marriage because the higher standard is too much work, that’s your choice. As for me, I’ll continue to do the hard work of seeking out and moving toward the highest ideal of marriage.

  4. Tony says:

    yep what Rohan Pereira has said pretty much sums up why men have good reasons to not establish relationships in western society too many risks involved

    • Lee says:

      Hi Tony,

      If that’s how you feel about it, then as I said above in my response to your previous comment with the MGTOW video, it’s probably best for you not to get involved with a woman. Going into it with that attitude almost guarantees that the relationship will end in failure—just as it did for the guy who made the video.

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