What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?

A reader named Rod submitted a spiritual conundrum about Swedenborg and spiritualism. We’ll dig into his question in a minute. First, here’s a thumbnail sketch of what Swedenborg says about contacting spirits.

It is perfectly possible for angels and spirits to talk to people on earth. All that’s necessary is for our spiritual ears to be opened up briefly so that we can hear the angels and spirits who are with us all the time. Angels and spirits commonly spoke to people in the Bible. Many people throughout history and right up to the present have felt the presence or heard the voices of spiritual beings, both heavenly and demonic.

God sometimes sends angels to people who are struggling and in need of spiritual encouragement and inspiration. When we are blessed by a visit from these messengers of God, it is a wonderful thing!

However, when we initiate contact with spirits, we lay ourselves open to many dangers. The spiritual beings who are closest to us while we are living here on earth are not angels, but spirits in an intermediate realm. And due to the dynamics of the spiritual world, the spirits we contact will be very much like ourselves; they will usually just confirm what we already believe, even if it’s not true. So we will most likely end out strongly believing things that are actually false.

In short, when it’s God’s idea to send an angel to us, it is a good and helpful thing. But when it’s our idea to contact the “angels” . . . not so much. Spirits are very good at impersonating angels and revered historical figures. We simply don’t know who we’re really getting at the other end of the line.

To fully understand what’s going on when we contact spirits, we’ll need some background on the spiritual world and how it works. So let’s take a look at Rod’s question, and dig deeper into this fascinating subject.

Swedenborg and spiritualism

Here is the spiritual conundrum Rod posed:

In Michael Tymn’s book, The Afterlife Revealed, he notes that after the advent of Spiritualism in 1848, Swedenborg is said to have appeared to several spiritualists and mediums. More than one writer proclaimed Emanuel Swedenborg as “the father of Spiritualism.” Yet, even though Swedenborg was in contact with the spirit world for 27 years, he warned against attempting contact with unseen spirits. Swedenborg’s writings/theology are Christ-centered, while most spiritualists are not.

First, a quick response to some of these issues about Swedenborg and spiritualism.

Yes, a number of spiritualists and mediums have claimed to be in contact with Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) in the spiritual world. Sometimes they claim that he has now reversed the positions he took in his books on such subjects as reincarnation and the eternity of the hells.

But if Swedenborg actually did have the ability to be fully conscious the spiritual world for the last twenty-seven years of his life on earth, he would have had plenty of time to investigate these and other spiritual subjects. Why would his views suddenly change when he moved to the spiritual world permanently after he died?

It is far more likely that the spiritualists and mediums were actually in contact with spirits posing as Swedenborg, who told them what they wanted to hear.

It is common for spirits to pose as great spiritual teachers and historical figures. They do this to lend weight and authority to their own opinions, and to get a following. It’s similar to the common practice in ages past—and sometimes even in the present—of writing a philosophical or literary piece and publishing it under the name of some famous philosopher or poet. Spirits can have false and mistaken beliefs just as people on earth do. And they are very skillful at convincing people that their opinions are God’s own truth.

So we can safely take with a grain of salt spiritualists’ and mediums’ claims that they have spoken to Swedenborg and to many other great historical figures. If you want to know what Swedenborg thought on some subject, read what he wrote about it!

As for Swedenborg being the “father of spiritualism,” it is true that he has had a major influence on many spiritualists. However, his ability to be fully conscious with all of his senses in the spiritual world, and to live and travel among angels and spirits over a period of nearly three decades as one of them, is unique in the history of the world. It is entirely different from the experience of spiritualists and mediums, who generally hear voices and feel spiritual influences, but are not fully conscious in the spiritual world.

Finally, it’s a great observation that Swedenborg’s theology and writings are Christ-centered, whereas most spiritualists are not. In his final massive tome on theology, True Christianity, Swedenborg signed himself as “servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And in #779 of that book, Swedenborg stated that even though he had been in contact with angels and spirits for many years, he had not accepted any teachings from them, but only what came from the Lord (Jesus Christ) while he was reading the Bible. Swedenborg’s own practice was to not blindly trust what spirits and angels told him.

Now let’s dig into the real subject here, which is whether it’s a good idea to contact spirits.

A thumbnail sketch of the spiritual world

First, let’s demystify the spiritual world, based on Swedenborg’s eyewitness account in his most popular book, Heaven and Hell.

There are three major regions of the spiritual world:

  1. Heaven: The final home of all people of good will
  2. The world of spirits: Where all people gather temporarily after death
  3. Hell: The final home of all people of evil will

Contrary to popular belief, hell is not a place where people roast over fire pits to all eternity while devils brandishing pitchforks dance around them. See the article, “Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

Similarly, heaven is not a place where angels sit on clouds and play harps to eternity. Angels live active, useful, enjoyable lives in community with other angels—as you can see in the article, “Who Are the Angels and How Do They Live?

All of the angels in heaven and all of the evil spirits—sometimes called “devils,” “demons,” or “satans”—in hell were once human beings living right here in the material world. There is no separately created race of angels or of devils.

However, we do not go directly to heaven or to hell after we die. Instead, we spend a shorter or longer time in a region between heaven and hell called “the world of spirits.”

It is called a “world” because it is so vast that it forms a world all of its own, complete with mountains, hills, and valleys, rivers, lakes, and oceans. And it is the world “of spirits” because it is filled with all the spirits, or souls, of the huge number of people who die day after day, month after month, year after year, and move on to the afterlife.

In the spiritual world, our spirit is just as solid and real as our body is here in the material world. And because the world of spirits is inhabited by human beings, it also has towns and cities, roads and bridges, theaters and libraries, and everything else that we have here on earth. In fact, the world of spirits looks and feels so much like the natural world that when we arrive there we may not even believe that we have died.

Some people find their eternal home in heaven or hell very quickly. For others, it may take the equivalent of twenty or thirty years’ worth of experience to get ready and move on to their final home. You can read about that process in the article, “What Happens To Us When We Die?

This means that at any given time, there are millions, if not billions of spirits inhabiting the world of spirits.

And these spirits in the intermediate region—not angels in heaven or devils in hell—are the spiritual beings who are closest to us here on earth.

Why is that?

Because spiritually, birds of a feather flock together.

How the spiritual world is organized

In our lives here on earth we move around for many reasons, such as:

  • To be near family members
  • To get a job or a promotion
  • To be where it is less expensive to live
  • To be in a region and climate we enjoy

Because of this, we tend to live surrounded by a mixed group of people. Some of our neighbors we feel close to and get along with; others we have little or nothing in common with or are even in conflict with.

That’s not how it works in the spiritual world. There, we fairly quickly sort ourselves out into communities and groups based on our character and personality, our loves and beliefs. That’s why heaven is in a higher region, the world of spirits is in a middle region, and hell is in a lower region. And within each of these regions, there are millions of communities, each with its own character based on the type of angels or spirits who live there.

Even while we are living here in this world in our mixed communities, our spiritual associations operate by the same principle. We have spiritual beings around us all the time. And the ones who are closest to us are the ones who are most like us in character, personality, feelings, and beliefs.

For most of us here on earth, the spirits who are in a state of mind most like ours are not angels or devils, but spirits in the world of spirits. That’s because for much of our time in the world of spirits, we are in a state of mind very much like the one we are in here on earth—which tends to be a mixture of good and bad motives and actions.

Yes, we do have angels from heaven and evil spirits from hell associated with us also. But because their state of mind is generally quite different from ours, they usually work through the spirits from the world of spirits who are most closely associated with us.

That is why, when we seek out contact with angels and spirits, we will rarely make direct contact with an angel—which usually happens only when God sends an angel to us. Rather, when we initiate the contact, we will almost always get in touch with the spirits in the world of spirits who are associated with us.

Spirits aren’t any smarter than we are

Now here’s the trick.

We naturally assume that once people die and go to the spiritual world, they gain access to much greater spiritual information and enlightenment than we have here on earth.

Theoretically, that’s true.

But in practice, it usually doesn’t work that way.

Why not?

Because after we die, we are exactly the same person as we were before we died. Our character, beliefs, emotions, desires, and motives don’t change at all. The only difference is that instead of a physical body we have a spiritual body. But even that looks and feels the same as the body we had before. As counterintuitive as it may seem, dying does not change us at all—especially not in the early stages of our life in the world of spirits.

Further, since we soon group together with people who have a character and beliefs similar to our own, we tend to become even more firmly entrenched in our beliefs—whether true or false—than we were before. Truth is not a popularity contest. But we humans have this funny idea that the more people there are who believe something, the truer it is. And if we surround ourselves with people who believe the same way we do, it only confirms in our minds the idea that our beliefs are absolutely true.

Are you starting to see why contacting spirits is not a good way to learn about God and spirit?

The fact is, most of the spirits we get “on the other end of the line” are not any smarter or more enlightened than we are. In fact, because of the spiritual law that people of like character and beliefs group together, we are almost certain to get in contact with spirits who think and believe very much like we do.

What does this mean?

  • If we believe in reincarnation, the spirits we contact will tell us that reincarnation is a true belief.
  • If we believe that all people eventually go to heaven, the spirits we contact will tell us exactly that.
  • If we believe that we are all part of God, and evil is just an illusion, the spirits we contact will strengthen our belief.
  • If we believe that only people who share our particular beliefs—whatever they may be—are enlightened and will go to heaven or nirvana or whatever we believe in, then the spirits we contact will assure us that we are right about that, too.

In other words, spirits are useless for guiding us toward genuine spiritual truth. They will simply tell us whatever we want to hear.

And then they’ll use it to manipulate us.

Why?

Because any spirits who want to teach us things are more interested in having power over us than they are in leading us toward God and heaven.

Real angels don’t want to teach us

You see, real angels value our spiritual freedom above everything else. They know that the only way we can become truly enlightened is if we seek out the truth for ourselves, and learn it through our own effort and experience. Quite often we must learn the truth the hard way, by trying out everything except the best path until we finally are willing to accept God’s guidance and follow the path God is laying out in front of us.

Angels trust God to guide us, and they get directly involved in our lives only when God specifically sends them to help us.

When God does send angels to help us, it rarely involves teaching us things we didn’t know before. Instead, it almost always involves giving us hope and comfort. You see, real angels tend to skip our head altogether, and go right for the heart. They want us to know not intellectually, but in our heart that we are loved and cared for.

When angels come to us, we feel the warmth of God’s love as expressed through the angels who are God’s messengers. This can give us the hope and confidence we need to keep moving forward on our spiritual path. We can then turn toward the usual sources of spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom—primarily the holy books and spiritual teachers of our religion.

Unenlightened and evil-leaning spirits, on the other hand, have no such limits on their approach to us. They do not respect our freedom, nor do they have any interest in moving us toward God and heaven. They are quite happy to fill us with all sorts of ideas that appeal to us, right or wrong, in order to gain our confidence and get power over our minds. They will then begin to lead us step by step toward more and more false and mistaken beliefs.

As a result, if we seek out spirits in order to gain spiritual comfort or enlightenment, and we persist in doing so over an extended period of time, we are likely to be led more and more astray in our beliefs.

Is all contact with spirits bad?

That sounds pretty grim. And it certainly can be. There are many people firmly convinced of beliefs that are not true at all because they believe they were instructed by angels. And those false beliefs can do real damage to our spiritual state.

However, there are also many other influences and sources of knowledge that people interested in spiritual things turn to. And even false beliefs do not cause people of good will to have an evil heart. Many people who believe things that aren’t true still live good lives of loving and serving their fellow human beings. Loving God and loving our neighbor trumps mistaken beliefs.

Further, people who merely dabble in contacting spirits are not likely to experience any deep or lasting harm. Even if the spirit contacted isn’t really their deceased mother or father or sister or brother, but a spirit impersonating their loved ones, people can still gain a sense of hope and a belief in the afterlife based on these contacts.

Though seeking out contact with spirits is generally not a good thing, God can turn it toward good in our lives if we don’t persist in attempting to gain knowledge through spirit contact instead of learning it from the sources of spiritual knowledge that God has given us right here in the material world.

And of course, as mentioned earlier, if we did not seek out spirit contact, but it came to us spontaneously in a time of need, and gave us comfort, hope, and strength, then we can take joy in the knowledge that God has reached out to us through the angels to assure us that even though things may seem dark and hopeless here, we are loved, and God has better things in store for us.

This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.

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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79 comments on “What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?
  1. An interesting piece, Lee. It leaves me wondering however why (according to you or according to Swedenborg) spirits would want to impersonate and gain power.

    When reading your text, I thought of Carl Jung’s 1902 dissertation ‘On the Psychology and Pathologoy of so-called occult Phenomena’. Here he analyses a long series of spiritistic sessions he observed, in which a young woman met several spirits in a trance – the phenomena described suggest that there is impersonation.

    Of course it is the goal of Jung to explain everything he sees in terms of psychology – as split-off aspects of the ‘unconscious’.

    It might be interesting to reflect on the question whether psychology describes what happens in the ‘receiver’ whereas spiritualistic language describes the reality of the ‘sender’ – which would mean that the unconscious of the receiver provides the imaginary material to give recognizable form to something experienced (as we also do in normal communication when we interprete what someone is saying).

    Of course the spiritualistic language would than be also an interpretation, but one which, through the images, which it just leaves like they come, is interested in the message coming through. But this is all very philosophical of course (as I am a philosopher ;-)).

    • Lee says:

      Hi Angela,

      Thanks for your meaty comment (“substantial,” in philosophical language. 😉 ) There’s enough here for a sequel post, but I’ll resist the urge!

      Why does anyone want power? It seems to be one of the major human motivators, for good or for ill. Impersonating powerful people is one way to get it. Have you seen the movie “Dave“? It puts a comic spin on the power of impersonation.

      As Swedenborg describes it, though we can make distinctions between psychology and spirit based on the conscious awareness and experience of people on earth and spirits in the spiritual world, the two are in fact interdependent and flow seamlessly into one another. In fact, he says that if we were cut off from the spirits surrounding us, we would be unable to think at all. Our thought processes exist within the spiritual “field” in which we are embedded.

      However, because each of us does have a “self” or “self-image” based on our unique set of conscious experiences and choices, we also each have a unique set (or “database”) of memories distinct from the memories of every other human being or spirit. And that’s where it gets interesting.

      When spirits speak to us, they ordinarily do not speak from their own memory. Rather, they have the ability to enter into all of our memories, and speak to us from them. That is why spirits are able to “tell us what we want to hear,” and draw out everything from our own experience that confirms it. It is also why, just as in natural perception, each of us hears spiritual communication according to the unique set of memories, experiences, loves, and beliefs that forms our own mind.

      When the anomaly occurs of spirits speaking to us from their own memory, or from the memory of some other spirit that they have gotten access to, this gives rise to the phenomenon of “experiencing past lives,” on which much of the belief in individual reincarnation is based.

      Even without getting access to the actual memories of another spirit, all the information we have on earth about famous historical figures exists also in the spiritual world. It is a simple matter for spirits to access that information. (The IT in the spiritual world is very advanced!) So they can easily feed us plenty of verifiable information about great historical figures known to us, and pass it off as our own memories of a past life . . . leaving us utterly convinced that we were Plato or Paracelsus in a previous life. It’s a neat trick! 🙂

  2. jahnosecret says:

    Interesting article – you make some sound points about manipulation and impersonation in the spirit world. I don’t fully concur regarding limiting spiritual knowledge to those texts that already exist in the material world because the ancient and respected texts were one channeled from a higher source. (I hope I have understood your point correctly).

    • Lee says:

      Hi jahnosecret,

      Since this post is focused on the wisdom of our initiating contact with spirits, there is a lot it doesn’t cover.

      For example, communication with angels was common among the ancient peoples. This was how they gained their knowledge about God and spirit. This knowledge was later collected and written down to form many of the ancient sacred texts. However, as humanity became increasingly materialistic, our communication with angels was gradually cut off, and became rare.

      Those who have an “angelic mind” here on earth can communicate with angels without harm. Their minds are already among angels, and there is little danger of their being misled or corrupted.

      The problem is that we humans often think we are far more enlightened and angelic than we actually are. We have a great capacity for self-deception about our own goodness and wisdom. This means we are often mistaken when we “self assess” ourselves as being able to have good and constructive communication with angels. This can result in our believing ourselves to be highly enlightened, when in fact we are wandering in error and falsity. That’s why God has made contact with spirits difficult for people today. (Though really, it is our own materialistic minds that cut us off from contact with the spiritual realms.)

      About the ancient and respected texts, I would suggest that they were not “channeled” from spirits, but rather given by God through emissary angels and spirits. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it makes a huge difference.

      It’s a matter of who initiates the contact. If God is the initiator and we are the receiver, the character of the resulting text is revelatory.

      However, if we are the initiator, actively seeking out information from the spiritual realm, there is generally an element of ego involved that causes us to contact deceptive spirits rather than angels. The resulting “revelation” is likely to be riddled with error.

      The most we can safely do is travel the path and do the work of spiritual growth, leaving our minds and hearts open to any spiritual visitation God may choose to send our way. If it comes, it comes. If not, we are still on our spiritual path–and probably no less enlightened than those to whom God chooses to send angel messengers.

      As an example, Swedenborg never sought out contact with angels or spirits. He simply focused his mind more and more deeply on the phenomena of the human body, mind, and spirit, exploring and seeking to understand the deeper mysteries of life. When he was in his mid-fifties, completely unbidden, God initiated contact with him, opened his spiritual senses, and gave him a new spiritual commission, which he spent the last twenty-seven years of his life carrying out.

      If we read the accounts in the Bible of angels speaking with the major Biblical figures, we find that similarly, they did not seek out those encounters. Rather, God sent angel messengers to them unbidden in order to accomplish God’s own purposes. Though I am less familiar with the other ancient sacred texts, I suspect that in those texts, too, God was the initiator, and the human authors and characters of those texts were receivers.

  3. Dave says:

    I think a truly merciful and loving God would allow us to also be obliterated from existence if this were one’s desire. Since we are born outside of a free will choice it is only just that once born without our consent that we then should be granted the choice of complete annihilation. Consciousness ultimately is either heaven or hell. To be unconscious is the same as that person stating that he wants no part of either heaven or hell. That to me is true freedom of will. Everything else is tyrannical in my opinion. I want no part of any realm of continuing existence, pleasurable or not. Swedenborg and you don’t address this basic issue with the whole God created us because he loves us idea. But I think I know why it isn’t addressed because to do so casts into this neatly interwoven Heaven and Hell world Swedenborg paints a picture of a deity that at its most essential core is not as loving as one is being led to imagine. Hate is also obviously part of his makeup else why torture anyone against their free will?

    In the end of it all if the above is false then all that is within Heaven and Hell is for his entertainment and has nothing to do with a creator loving his creation more than anything else. The motivation for creating us was selfish in nature in my opinion and I want nothing to do with any God that would create me so that I would find myself thrown into a situation of being at great risk of suffering for eternity. All this mind you against my so-called free will. You and Emanuel can sugar-coat this all you want but again it all boils down to what is just in the first place regardless of one’s holy definition of a creative God.

    All I know is that if I created Lee Woofenden I would justly expect that you my Creation ultimately should have the right to also die entirely, to be obliterated, if you so choose under this supposedly all-encompassing love that is given through creating you with a free will. You cannot have it both ways and then tell me Love is the foundation of it all. I think ultimately entertainment of a once lonely deity was and is the foundation of it all and everything else is secondary in importance to Him regardless of what is said, written, or envisioned. It’s all ultimately theater, and we are but actors, favorable and unfavorable protagonists, in an eternal play with an audience of One. I think this whole Creator’s Creation thing Is manipulation at its finest. Entertaining? Hell yes. Loving? Give me a break already.

    I want to get out of acting in this Play entirely even if I have a role to play in the most blissful Heaven possible. Yet I’m being told I can check out from time to time and take a break according to Emanuel but I can never ever leave the Stage. Is this really Love or is it Love of Entertainment?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your clearly heartfelt thoughts. It’s a fair point that we had no choice about being born. And I can understand that you (and many others) believe we should have the choice to end our existence entirely. I don’t agree with that, but I do understand why it would be appealing to many people.

      But really, the main reason it is appealing to some people, I believe, is that traditional Christianity (and other religions as well) have presented a wrong and faulty picture of hell, and of God in relation to hell. I draw a caricature of that false picture, and then refute the ideas behind it, in my article, Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like? which I recommend to your reading.

      There are several fallacies about hell, and about God in relation to hell, that I specifically reject:

      1. God sends people to hell.

      I completely disagree. As outlined in the above-linked article I don’t believe God sends anyone to hell. Rather, we send ourselves to hell through our own freely made choices.

      2. God torments people in hell because they sinned against him.

      No, he doesn’t. It may appear that way. But in fact, the people in hell torment themselves and one another. God, in fact, does his best to alleviate their torment. But they reject God’s help and protection, and rush of their own accord into activities and situations that bring pain upon themselves.

      3. The purpose of hell is to punish people for their sins on earth.

      No, that is not the purpose of hell.

      It is true that people do suffer punishment in hell. But none of that punishment is for anything they did on earth. Rather, it is for the evil things they continue to do because they love to do those things. Unfortunately, evil brings punishment upon itself. Not from God. But from the evil itself, and from their fellow evil spirits.

      In fact, hell exists in order to provide a place where people who get pleasure from evil instead of from good can engage at least some of the destructive activities that give them their sick pleasure. God does, in fact, allow people to create hell for themselves (God does not create hell) because God loves everyone, and wants even evil people to have as much pleasure as they can, as self-limiting and ultimately painful as their chosen pleasures are.

      So from my perspective, and from Swedenborg’s it is true that God loves everyone, and it’s not true that God creates anyone to be punished in hell for his own entertainment.

      I’m aware that there are religious philosophies holding that God created the world for his own entertainment. Swedenborg’s religious philosophy is not among them.

      Of course, you’re free to believe whatever you want. And if you truly want obliteration of your own life, then even though I don’t agree with that, and don’t think it’s going to happen, I can understand such a desire. But I would suggest first exploring some of the other articles on this website, starting with the one about hell, and considering the possibility that God is not the bastard that you currently believe he is.

      After reading the one about hell, you might want to move on to this one, which explores similar themes in more depth, especially in its second part: The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation.

      There are more articles here that might be helpful if you’re interested, and I’d be happy to recommend them to you if you have further specific issues or questions.

      Once again, you’re free to believe whatever you want. But before making such charges against Swedenborg, and against my beliefs based on the Bible and Swedenborg, I would encourage you to learn more about what Swedenborg does and doesn’t say.

  4. Dave says:

    Lee,

    I understand your viewpoint. I can see your position could make sense because of convictions whether Bible-inspired, Swedenborg-inspired or a mix of both. Except for one very crucial flaw which you in fact point out in your comment innocently.

    This flaw gives me a lot of problems. The flaw is that no one nor thing prevents God from rendering anyone unconscious. As far as I know rendering a creation (in this case Man) unconscious is not a sin. I know it’s not a sin because God rendered Adam involuntarily unconscious in order to remove a rib.

    My ultimate point is this: Having fun in Hell some of the time while the rest of the time one is being tortured while incarcerated with no possibility of parole nor possibility of being rehabilitated back into a good-loving society is in my opinion either outright cold cruelty or manipulation to use that incarceration as instruction for those that are already in Heaven. What other sane purpose could it have if true as indicated by Swedenborg’s observations about Hell? What value is there for keeping someone in Hell conscious forever?

    If you can answer this without resorting to we must rely upon God through faith, then let’s hear it.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Did you read the two articles I linked for you in my previous reply? Those will, I think, answer some of your questions.

      When you say, “no one nor thing prevents God from rendering anyone unconscious,” do you mean rendering us unconscious, or annihilating us altogether?

      As you’re probably aware, there are some sects, such as Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe in hell, but instead believe that the evil are snuffed out and cease to exist. So you are certainly not alone in thinking this way.

      However, I believe that both the good and the evil in the afterlife will, and would, choose to remain alive.

      Read Swedenborg’s conversation with an evil spirit from hell as quoted in the reincarnation article. This evil spirit does not desire annihilation. He desires to be able to enjoy his evil pleasures.

      I believe it will be the same for everyone who arrives in the spiritual world. Unfortunately, those who enjoy evil pleasures also bring pain upon themselves. But it is not all that different from what goes on here on earth in many corrupt societies in which there is continual conflict and intrigue, and those engaging in it get great pleasure from outwitting and overpowering their enemies.

      Yes, from the outside it does look like a sad and horrible scene. But for those engaged in it, it is intensely pleasurable. And the pain, when it comes, is seen as an unfortunate side-effect that one just has to deal with. In fact, people in some cultures thrive on pain, glorying in the amount of pain and punishment they can take, and considering themselves stronger and more virile (the men, that is) the more pain they can take without flinching. I never understood those pain games myself. Whacking each other on the shins with a stick until one of you cries uncle is not my idea of fun. But some people thrive on that sort of thing!

      So it’s all well and good for us to pass judgment on people whose pleasures look terrible and evil to us. But they themselves will reject both our judgment and our pity, and get on with the pursuit of their own kind of pleasure. It’s really not any different from hardened criminals here on earth, who, as soon as they get out of prison, go right back to their own crimes. On this, see my article, How Can a Criminal Get to Heaven?

      If you truly want to understand these things, you’re going to have to do the work of reading and studying up on them. Beyond the two articles I linked, I would recommend that you get yourself a copy of Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell and read it. You can even download it for free by clicking on the link at the end of my review of the book linked here. Of course, it’s 100% your choice whether to spend the necessary time and effort.

      Hell may appear to outsiders to be incarceration. And even those within hell do sometimes experience incarceration. But make no mistake about it: they are there because that’s where they prefer to be. No one in hell is prevented from leaving. But when they do, and attempt to go up to heaven without special protection, they experience the love and light there as terrible, wracking pain. They can’t stand the loving and wise atmosphere of heaven, so they quickly throw themselves back down to hell.

      It’s not God who keeps them there. It’s they themselves who insist upon being there. If God could draw them out and rehabilitate them, as you suggest, God would certainly do so. But they rejected every effort of God to do so while they were on earth, and they continue to reject, hate, and revile God and everything God stands for in the spiritual world. So it’s not due to any lack of love for them on God’s part, or lack of desire to save them on God’s part. It’s due to their own choice to reject God and God’s love and salvation.

      Please do read the reincarnation article if you haven’t already. That’s where I delve into these issues in the most depth. And please do get yourself a copy of Heaven and Hell, and give it a read.

      But of course, if you prefer to believe differently, you’re perfectly free to do so. I won’t try to argue you out of it. But I will present my beliefs and my understanding of who God is and why our human situation is what it is, as long as you’re interested in hearing it.

  5. Dave says:

    Thanks for replying, Lee. I understand the gist of not wanting to leave Hell because the alternative is worse from the perspective that Swedenborg espouses. Makes sense to come to that conclusion from his observations. I’ve recently read Heaven and Hell. There are more questions now than answers btw.

    Now back to the main focus of our discussion. Making this a bit more difficult, suppose that one is accepted into the very lowest section of Heaven but decides that for whatever reason they want to leave not because they love doing evil but because they just don’t want to exist anymore. If they petitioned God would they be denied? Apparently the answer is yes they would be denied this request. The Big Question is why since again Free Will to not exist should mean just that in my opinion. It’s also a choice, right? Is it evil to not want to exist anymore? After all Hell is a choice. Heaven is a choice. Then why not neither too?

    Now I’ve been told many times through different ways that the soul of Man is immortal. Why is it immortal if it ends up in Hell solely to pursue sinful pleasures? It doesn’t make any sense. And it specifically doesn’t make any sense that a God who loves us would also allow his creation to continue doing that which he hates the most which is to sin. To wit, why would God which is supposedly equal to pure love, want to give the Soul in Hell evil pleasures which further harm that Soul? Is that truly love? Is it truly love of Free Will? I would completely understand the purposes of Hell within the Swedenborg definitions if its purpose was ultimately to rehabilitate the inhabitants someday as worthy of Heaven. But what Swedenborg is telling me is that apparently no one ever leaves Hell voluntarily and then stays in Heaven. So again if this is true what’s the point of denying annihilation? This whole Hell thing is like an endless loop of pleasure and misery but with no value because no one can de facto be improved from it. The only value I can see from it is to provide instruction to those in Heaven and to give them something to do as Swedenborg indicates is one of the roles for Angels – in effect they act as prison guards.

    I’ve so far concluded then that Hell exists not because God loves its inhabitants so much that they can continue sinning for eternity and consequently suffer pain, but because the Purpose of Hell isn’t for the inhabitants sake but for Souls that are in Heaven. So that’s the price that’s paid. In other words, Hell exists because it has to exist in order for Heaven to exist. So while you’re in Heaven take comfort knowing that Souls in Hell are paying an equilibrium price fo you. And that’s why I don’t want to exist even if I was given Heaven, Lee. It doesn’t feel right to me.

    Lee, Swedenborg is asking me to understand Heaven and Hell without explaining these fundamental holes in his writings. And they are very big ones.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for sticking with it. And thanks for letting me know that you’ve already read Heaven and Hell. I see that you have done your homework! 🙂

      I may or may not be able to satisfy your head and your heart on this issue. As I’ve said already, it’s entirely up to you what you will believe. However, since this seems to be a very troublesome issue for you, I’ll take another stab at it.

      First let’s go at it from the perspective of the head. Though I may or may not be able to satisfy your thinking mind, I can at least do my best to explain exactly what Swedenborg does and doesn’t say on this subject.

      And right from the top, according to Swedenborg, hell is specifically not a matter of “not wanting to leave Hell because the alternative is worse.” The evil spirits in hell are not there because the alternative is worse. Rather, they’re there because that is exactly where they want to be.

      If you haven’t already, please do read my article on reincarnation. And if you’re not interested in reincarnation itself, scroll down and start with the section titled, “What’s wrong with reincarnation?” That’s where I dig into why I think reincarnation is not a good belief, and specifically, why I believe it would not be a good thing for everyone to end out in heaven. The same reasoning applies, in my mind at least, to people being annihilated rather than going to hell.

      Short version: if there is no eternal hell, we are not truly human, because we actually have no real choice about our own life; we are merely programmed robots or rats in a maze, conditioned by outside forces to do what we ultimately do.

      But back to the reason people are in hell, as I said, the evil spirits in hell are there, not because they have to be or because it’s better than the alternative for them, but because that is where they actively want to be. Here is a shorter excerpt from the story of a conversation with some evil spirits from hell that I mentioned before:

      “It is important to know,” [the devils] replied, “that all people, whether labeled good or evil, have their own delight. The so-called good people have theirs and the so-called evil people have theirs.”

      “What do you take delight in?” the angels asked.

      “What is delightful to us,” they replied, “is whoring, taking revenge, cheating, and speaking blasphemy.”

      “What are those delights like for you, exactly?” the angels asked.

      The devils replied that their delights were sensed by others as resembling the stench of excrement, the reek of dead bodies, and the smell of stagnant urine.

      “Are those things actually delightful to you?” the angels asked.

      “Very much so,” the devils replied. (True Christianity #570:7)

      As these devils from hell go on to say, they also suffer hard things because of their foul pleasures. So they are quite well aware of their situation. And yet, the main point they want to communicate is that they love the sorts of pleasures they can indulge themselves in where they are in hell. They have no desire to be anywhere else. They are exactly where they want to be.

      So according to Swedenborg, it’s not true that evil spirits are in hell because they’re forced to be there, or even because it’s better than the alternative. Rather, they’re there because that’s where they can live the sort of life, and engage in the sort of pleasures, that they love, even if they do also suffer pain as a result.

      Have you ever had someone say to you, “I know smoking is going to kill me, but I’m not going to quit”? It’s really no different. There are people who are dying of lung cancer, who can barely breathe anymore, but who still continue to smoke even though they are well aware that their current suffering and their imminent death is a direct result of their cigarettes. And if anyone tries to take their cigarettes away from them, they will get angry and lash out at that person for denying them their pleasure.

      Please read the whole story in the reincarnation article. You will see that these evil spirits are quite lucid and quite well aware of their situation. And that they not only love the sorts of foul pleasures they enjoy, but they also intellectually justify them, and bristle at the idea that they should not be allowed to indulge in their own pleasures.

      I could go on, but I really encourage you to read that article, especially from the section I mentioned to the end of the article, so that I don’t have to repeat here the things I’ve already said there.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Now about your hypothetical person who petitions God to end their existence, I’ll just come right out and say that yes, their petition would be denied.

      The reality is that we are not radically free. There are limits to our freedom. And in a poetic way, those limits exist at the beginning and the end of our lives. Specifically:

      1. We have no choice about being born, or about the circumstances of our birth.
      2. We have no choice to end our existence entirely, even though we can end our existence in this life. (On suicide, see my article: Does Suicide Work?)

      There are many things about which we don’t have a choice:

      • If we were born ethnically French or Polynesian or Yoruba, we don’t have the choice to be something else, and have a different body than we were given—although we can try very hard.
      • If we started out in poverty, we don’t have the choice to have a different background.
      • If we lose our legs or our arms, we don’t have a choice to get them back, though we may be able to get a prosthetic that will help.

      The list could go on and on. The main point is that we humans don’t have radical free choice, in which we can choose anything we want. Rather, we have a choice that has limits and boundaries. We must make our choices within the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves. And by our choices, we are able to change some of our circumstances. For example, if we’re born into poverty, and we don’t live under a highly repressive regime, we can work hard and use our brains, and better our situation.

      And of course, we do have a zone of spiritual freedom that makes it possible for us to choose, within our particular circumstances, whether we will head toward heaven or toward hell. That is the subject of many articles on this website.

      According to Swedenborg, one of the things we don’t have a choice about is whether or not we will exist eternally. One of the essential characteristics of being human, he says, is that we have eternal existence, not merely a temporary existence. If we did not continue to exist to eternity, we would not be human.

      We do have a great deal of influence on who we are and what we will become. But there are certain “ground rules” over which we have no choice or influence. Biology and Zoology tells us that one of the basic characteristics of all living organisms is that they have a strong drive to live, often called the “survival instinct.” And even if individual members of a species may sometimes override that survival instinct, they usually do so in order to ensure the survival of their group, or their species. For example, the reproductive drive can and sometimes does override the survival instinct. Mother birds sitting on their nests will draw predators away from their nest to save their young even if it puts them in danger of dying themselves. Male animals of some species will fight to the death in order to gain or maintain access to females so that they can reproduce and pass on their genes.

      This same survival instinct, or will to live, is built into human beings as well. And even though we do override it in certain circumstances, including extreme depression that leads us to suicide, I believe that the will to live is a basic part of our nature as human beings.

      So although it is possible that someone would petition God to end their existence, I believe that (if they still had consciousness with which to do it), they would ultimately be angry at God for granting that wish.

      What God does instead is to require us to face the issues that are causing us to want to end our lives. And as I say in the suicide article, even if we do take our lives here on earth, we still don’t get away from facing the emotional turmoil and trauma that brought us to that point. We carry all of it with us, and must then face it on the other side—although we will have better help there in doing so.

      Ultimately, God’s love means that every one of us does have a reason to live, even if we sometimes may not know what that reason is, and may therefore want to end it all. Ultimately, once we face the circumstances, both inner and outer, that are driving us to want to end our existence, we will find that underneath it all we do have a reason to live, and something constructive (or, in the case of evil spirits, destructive) to do with our life that gives us joy and pleasure.

      So no, from a Swedenborgian perspective, God does not grant anyone’s wish to end it all and be snuffed out of existence. And that is specifically because God does love us. God will not allow us to foolishly snuff out or lives, and never experience the joys and pleasures of the person we can become. And on the evil side, God respects us enough to let us make our own choice as to what pleasures we wish to pursue and get our enjoyment from.

      If there were no purpose for our life, God would not have created us in the first place.

      Even the devils in hell have their purposes in the larger scheme of things, some of which you’ve mentioned. Yes, they provide object lessons for good people, and they provide a balance with heaven in order to keep us in spiritual freedom, without which we are not human. And yet, they are not forced to do these things. They choose their life, because it is the life they want. And although God still loves them, and wishes they had made a different choice, God will not deny them what pleasure they can gain from the sort of lives they have chosen. And God will also cause them to have a use and a purpose in the larger scheme of things. Nothing God creates or does is useless.

      In other words, souls in hell are not “paying an equilibrium price” for souls in heaven. Rather, they are pursuing their own pleasures out of their own free will. And one of the effects of this that transcends their own existence is that they provide balance for the good that reigns in heaven.

      So hell is both for the sake of its inhabitants and for the sake of people on earth, who are still making their eternal choices and require a balance between good and evil in which to make that choice. Hell is somewhat less for the sake of angels in heaven, most of whom have no contact or connection with hell. But even angels are not perfect, and even angels sometimes require the influence of evil to spark new growth toward good. So yes, the devils in hell do provide a “service” even to the angels in heaven.

      But the main point is that they do so, not because they are required to do so, but because they want to do so and have chosen to do so.

      The basic fallacy in the problem you have presented, from a Swedenborgian perspective, is that it posits that the evil people in hell are there because they are somehow required by outside forces, or for the sake of angels and good people on earth, to be there.

      But that is simply not true, according to Swedenborg. Every single one of the evil spirits in hell is there precisely because he or she wants to be there, and has chosen to be there, and likes being there. And if their presence there serves a constructive purpose for others, they simply don’t care about that. They are focused on pursuing their own pleasures, and that’s what gives them their desire to live despite any pain that may come to them as a result.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Now to go more for the heart. You say:

      So while you’re in Heaven take comfort knowing that Souls in Hell are paying an equilibrium price fo you. And that’s why I don’t want to exist even if I was given Heaven, Lee. It doesn’t feel right to me.

      I’ve already addressed the issue of “souls in hell paying an equilibrium price for you.” That’s just not how it works, according to Swedenborg.

      What I’m more concerned about is that you yourself seem to want to end your own existence. If this means that you are suicidal, then I would highly encourage you to seek help. Call a suicide hotline. Reach out to someone who cares about you. Do whatever it takes to get yourself out of the inward spiral in which you’re stuck.

      If this isn’t a matter of suicidal desires, then I will breathe a sigh of relief for you. But you still seem to be facing existential angst that makes it difficult for you to pursue your own life with a sense of peace and purpose.

      The first part of dealing with that is, I believe, to understand some of the things I’ve explained above, about how everyone, whether in heaven or in hell, is living the life he or she wants to live, even if for some it may have unpleasant side effects. No one is being forced to live in hell. And no one has to suffer as a direct requirement for you to have goodness and joy in your life.

      To use my earlier example, the fact that some people are addicted to cigarettes and are being slowly killed by their habit is neither required for you to not be a smoker nor is it something that anyone else besides themselves is forcing them to do. Yes, it’s an addiction. And it is a very difficult one to break. But every day thousands of people are breaking that addiction. And every smoker could do so if he or she truly desired to do so. But the fact of the matter is that most of them simply don’t want to stop smoking. At least, not enough to actually do it. They find it pleasurable, despite the fact that they know it’s bad for them and will probably kill them. So they go ahead and smoke anyway.

      The fact that others don’t smoke has nothing to do with it. Their smoking may serve as an object lesson to non-smokers who are thinking about smoking. But the fact that they serve as object lessons to others has no influence whatsoever on their own own addiction. That is in their own hands, regardless of its effects on anyone else.

      So the first thing is, I believe, for you to disabuse yourself of the notion that others must suffer so that you can have joy. That’s just not how it works. Your joy does not cause or require anyone else to suffer.

      And the second, and deeper thing, if I may be a bit presumptuous, is for you to search out and discover the purpose and meaning of your own life.

      It sounds to me as if you’re at sea about why you exist in the first place, and are questioning whether there really is any reason for you to exist. And that probably goes back to a question about whether you yourself are a good and constructive person, who can add something positive to this world and the next, and bring joy to others.

      I suspect, from your focus on this issue of hell and annihilation, that you are sensitive to the suffering of others, and do not want to see others suffer. And that your life seems meaningless if others must be in pain.

      Those are good and noble thoughts and desires. And they can lead us to live a very good and spiritual life of serving the needs of others and helping to alleviate their suffering.

      Unfortunately, we cannot end all of the pain and suffering that exists on this earth, or in the spiritual world. Unfortunately, some people choose to bring pain and suffering upon themselves, and refuse all efforts by God and by everyone else to pull them out of it.

      That is very sad. In fact, it is heart-breaking.

      But it doesn’t mean life is meaningless for those of us who have mercy on others and want to see their suffering end.

      What it means is that we have a lot of work to do, both within our own soul and in our world. We are here specifically to love and serve God by loving and serving our fellow human beings. I sense that you have a particularly strong desire not to have others suffer.

      If I am right about this (and please forgive me if I’m presuming too much), what I would suggest is that you:

      1. Accept the fact that you cannot alleviate all suffering.
      2. Devote your life to alleviating at least some of the suffering in this world.

      Each one of us is just one human being. We can’t fix everything. Not even God can fix everything when we humans steadfastly refuse to accept God’s love and God’s help.

      But each one of us is still a human being. And each one of us can do something each day to bring help and comfort to our fellow human beings in our own circle of life.

      Just because we can’t do everything, that doesn’t mean we can do nothing.

      So my suggestion for you is that, yes, you recognize your limitations, and recognize that there is going to be pain and suffering in human life; but more than that, that you look for ways every day that you can lessen the amount of pain and suffering that your fellow human beings endure each day.

      If you do so, you will find that you no longer have a desire to have your existence end. You will be too busy doing what you can to make life better for the people around you.

      You won’t always succeed. People can be very stubborn!

      But when you see that your efforts have made life a little better for someone who is struggling, that will make your own life feel worthwhile.

      Speaking for myself, that is what keeps me going with this blog. It’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of time. But when I hear someone saying that my words have helped them along their path of life, I feel that it is all worthwhile.

      Dave, God has put you here on earth to accomplish something. You are here for a reason. And I believe that if you seek out and find that reason for your existence, you will find that you no longer have any desire for your existence to end, because you will be too busy pursuing your joy, which is to give help, comfort, and joy to others.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      On that note, I’ll recommend one more article for you: If God is Love, Why all the Pain and Suffering?

  6. Dave says:

    Lee,

    Don’t concern yourself with suicide. Not in my cards.

    I haven’t told you everything I know. Things that are extraordinary. I know about certain things which are a factor in bringing me here. I’m here for an important reason not apparent to you at this time.

    I will read everything you requested. Now I will ask in return that you go on YouTube and look up Elliot Miller. He works for the Christian Research Institute (CRI) as editor in chief. I knew him a long time ago. I also request that if you’re ready and willing to ask him as minister to minister to come on this Blog and comment. It’s important that you two connect.

    That’s all for now.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I’m very glad you’re not actually contemplating ending your life. But this latest comment of yours does leave me wondering why annihilationism is so important to you. And what’s your interest in CRI? Has it come out in favor of annihilationism?

      You’re going to have to give me more to go on than that. I have no particular interest in connecting with a fundamentalist Christian apologist who has a major axe to grind against any group that disagrees with his particular non-Biblical dogmas. (See: “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach.) I’ve dealt with his type before, and the results weren’t pretty.

  7. Dave says:

    Lee,

    I don’t know what CRI management’s position is on annihilationism. Probably not acceptable from their preferred public image perspective would be my guess. So let’s leave it at that. I also don’t know what Miller’s personal beliefs are outside of CRI. So to classify him as a particular “type” may be presumptuous. He’s highly intelligent, discerning, and spiritually advanced this much I also know. Anyway, it appears there’s too much water under bridges herein so to speak for there to be meaningful exchange of viewpoints without delicate feathers being ruffled. Indeed, there will be angels in the mix of it all for everyone when all’s said and done. Including you, me, and even Elliot Miller.

    I will say this though, it’s a shame in my opinion that highly intelligent adults from all points within both sides of many common aisles concerning the afterlife also reach unfortunate impasses in their spiritual growth when differing spiritually-based opinions impede them from understanding things further. Such further understandings which could strengthen them. And if they laid their own swords down simultaneously for just a moment they might then learn that they won’t get cut down so readily. You all should at least have the most important thing in common if you are indeed all bound for heaven and are True. That thing is Love.

    It is quite possible that Miller personally understands the plausibility of Swedenborg’s extraordinary experiences better than you would surmise. In fact, I will say that if he completely denied Swedenborg for being a charlaton, then I would personally opine that Miller was not telling the whole truth of what he knows. I say this because I too know certain extraordinary things borne directly from my own experiences.

    As I said before I am here on this nearly obscure blog for a reason.

    Now life goes on doesn’t it?

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      It might be easier if you simply showed your hand, and told me why you think I should talk to Elliot Miller. The last substantial conversation I had with someone from one of those fundamentalist “Christian apologetics ministries” ended with him telling me that I am going to hell, and me responding that I’m glad that’s God’s decision, and not his.

  8. Dave says:

    That’s ok, Lee. It looks like prologue is likely epilogue with something this touchy considering your experiences. As such I can’t say I blame you. JMO, but I don’t think ministers these days for the most part see any worthwhile advantages in opening up communications with one another when they’re convinced their particular esoteric approach towards reaching God is the most correct one and the other’s approach is basically heresy – and they let them know it no uncertain terms. Everyone’s almost without exception very sensitive and thin-skinned when beliefs are challenged. If you think about it in depth though, the ones that ultimately don’t benefit from civil discourse in these ethereal matters are of course the lesser-enlightened or essentially the followers.

    I am not a follower in case you wondered. I lay no wreaths of reverence at the feet of any man. Nonetheless everyone has a voice and so I listen. I did lay the annihilism thought in front of you to better see what your eternally derived convictions are about. Now I know more. You believe what you already believe and that’s that.

    You have good things to say that should be heard. I think your heart’s in the right place.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      The issue isn’t so much my rejecting their doctrines as their rejecting mine. That’s because Protestants, in general, think it’s what you believe that’s critical, and not so much how you live. So they think that wrong belief means a person is going to hell. On the other hand, I believe that people can have very wrong beliefs and still go to heaven because they have a good heart and they practice love and concern to their fellow human beings through a life of service to others.

      Yes, I think the Christian fundamentalists have fallen into severe, non-Biblical doctrinal error. However, most of them that I’ve met have good hearts, live a reasonably moral life, and do practice love and service to their fellow human beings. So most of them, in my estimation, will be going to heaven, not hell, after they die.

      Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. I could not count on the fingers of both hands and the toes on both feet how many times I’ve been personally told by a fundamentalist that I’m going to hell. And I’ve read more articles than you can shake a stick at by fundamentalist Christians saying that vast numbers of Christians who disagree with their dogmas are going to hell, and that all non-Christians are going to hell, all because they believe the wrong thing.

      From my perspective, that’s simply wrong, and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible in hundreds, if not thousands, of places. For more on my view of people who have differing, even quite false, beliefs, see these articles, among many others on tis site:

      In the very same conversation with the fundamentalist Christian apologist that I mentioned earlier, in which he told me I’m going to hell, I had already told him that I believed he was going to heaven.

      I simply don’t think it would be useful for me to carry on a conversation with yet another fundamentalist Christian apologist who believes that everyone who disagrees with his dogmas is going to hell.

  9. Dave says:

    Lee,

    Well then let them say you’re going to Hell. So what, they can say whatever they want. Why should their mere words affect you? Do they have command on who goes to hell or who doesn’t? You in turn pointed out their good attributes, the things that both of you have in common as Ministers.

    I believe that this is Biblically known as putting hot coals on their heads if I am correct. (I am in no way shape or form a Bible expert btw.) Yes I know that verse was generally aimed at those that will hate and persecute you because you state the Truth was it not? But it sounds to me that if there’s anyone that truly needs the most help in “seeing the light” it’s these same ministers that lead flocks themselves, no? IOW, I was hoping that you could be that person. It has to start somewhere, right?

    Your adherence to Swedenborg’s perspective threatens the very core of their spirit and even their means of making a living. For after all one will tend not to even try to understand certain things if one’s salary requires one foremost not to understand certain things at all. Perhaps that’s the real reason Jesus and his Apostles had but the clothes on their backs.
    True Believers, they.

    All of you that chose to walk down the path of a Minister did you all think that all those in the pews wouldn’t notice that even amongst yourselves the vast majority doesn’t practice what they preach towards one another? How much less those certain ones in the pews should follow any of you then. I am one of those.

    If it isn’t first based on Love, Lee, then all else that one thinks he holds is False. That’s what this is all about. The armor of True Love is impenetrable.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I do understand. About interfacing with Elliot Miller, if I thought it would be useful, I would be happy to do it. But it’s unlikely that such an exchange would bear any fruit. He’s happy with his beliefs, and I’m happy with mine. My ministry is to reach out to those who are searching for answers as they travel life’s path here on earth, and encounter its difficulties and struggles. I am happy if I reach and help some of those people. Others are not seeking the answers I have to offer, and I wish them well as they move along their own spiritual paths.

      Yes, it is quite true that ministers who make a living preaching certain doctrines are very loath to abandon those doctrines even if they encounter problems with their beliefs that would knock laypeople who don’t depend on them for a living out of a position of faith with respect to those doctrines. Swedenborg commented on this phenomenon in several places. And he himself was a layman, not an ordained minister, which eliminated those financial conflicts that might have prevented him from accepting the new understanding of Christianity that the Lord wanted to show to him, and to the world via his pen.

      Speaking for myself, though I aspired to ministry as a teenager, I spent the first decade of my adult life scraping together a living doing other things. And after a decade of that, I realized that if I wanted to devote my whole life to spreading the good spiritual news, I would have to make my living at it, rather than doing it on the side while doing other work for a living. I am no longer a pastor of a church, but I continue to work full-time spreading the teachings of the Bible as understood in the light of Swedenborg’s writings.

      It is quite true that Jesus and his disciples had only the shirts on their backs and the staffs in their hands when they went about preaching, teaching, and healing. And yet, they were supported in that work by the people they served in the towns where they went. As Jesus said to them, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid” (Luke 10:7). Personally, I keep only enough money to pay the bills and satisfy the unavoidable demands of this world, plus a little extra for enough R&R to keep my mind and body reasonably healthy. The rest goes into spreading the message. I have little respect for “ministers” who get rich and live in fancy houses while many of their flock remain in poverty, both physical and spiritual.

      Yes, my adherence to Swedenborg’s perspective does threaten the very core of the power and livelihood of those ministers who enrich themselves in that way, and who, for purposes of self-aggrandizement, hold onto power over their flocks’ spiritual and financial lives. And yet, all of this is under God’s eye and God’s providence. They have their reward, but it will be the worse for them when their time on this earth is over, and they must face God with all the trappings of their worldly empires stripped away from them. Their judgment is in God’s hands.

      My work here is not to reach those who have already shut themselves off from the flow of God’s love and wisdom, but to reach those who are seeking and broken-hearted, and who are looking for the message of reconciliation and peace. I will continue to reach out to those people, while letting the (spiritually) dead bury their own dead (Matthew 8:22).

  10. Dave says:

    “Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. I could not count on the fingers of both hands and the toes on both feet how many times I’ve been personally told by a fundamentalist that I’m going to hell. ”

    70×7.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Forgiveness isn’t the issue. I’ve been called names all my life. It doesn’t bother me much. I forgive them as a matter of course. They don’t know any better.

      The issue is that there is no openness to any real dialog. People don’t listen to other people who they think are going to hell. And I’m not going to waste my time banging my head against a brick wall. I have better things to do with my time. Like reaching out to people who are listening.

  11. Dave says:

    Lee,

    70×7 applied on both sides of the aisle not just your’s. If they can’t apply it, or better said won’t apply it, all else is indeed moot. Without it to begin with there’s no viable way of uniting the flocks towards a unified vision regardless of doctrinal position is there? No wonder angels according to Swedenborg are working full-time in the “waiting room” straightening out all the misguided souls who just happened to attend the wrong church under the wrong pastor.

    Now I have a question regarding the chasm between the doctrine you stand behind and the typical fundamentalist doctrine you run up against.

    What did Swedenborg specifically say that convinced you the most that he was telling the Truth?

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there is going to be a unified vision among the various churches and religions. Not any time soon, anyway. The differences are too deep, and change is hard.

      The short answer to your question is that I find Swedenborg’s teachings about the nature of God to be more worthy of belief than any other teaching about God that I’ve encountered. And everything else in a religion’s belief flows from its belief about God.

      Specifically, Swedenborg presents God as a being who truly is pure love, pure wisdom, and pure power for good, with no hate, anger, rejection, judgmentalism, or exclusivism. God, in Swedenborg’s theology, loves and saves all people of all religions who are willing to be saved, as shown by their willingness to believe in God and live a good life according to the teachings of their own religion, practiced from a good heart. And though Swedenborg doesn’t specifically say so, I believe this extends even to good-hearted atheists who practice love and kindness toward their neighbor according to the second of the two Great Commandments taught by Jesus. (See: Do Atheists Go to Heaven?)

      For more on why I believe a God of pure love, wisdom, and action to save all people who are willing to be saved is so important, see these two articles:

      1. God is Love . . . And That Makes All the Difference in the World
      2. The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus

      I should mention that I grew up with this (Swedenborgian) belief. There are Swedenborgian ministers on both sides of my family. I received these beliefs almost literally “with my mother’s milk.” However, during my late teens I faced a choice of whether to continue believing the things I’d been taught growing up, or to believe something else, or to reject any religious or spiritual belief altogether. I turned that over in my mind for quite some time, recognizing that whichever way I went, I would intellectually confirm myself in that belief.

      What ultimately kept me in the faith was not so much any intellectual superiority of one belief over another. Rather, it was that of all the beliefs I’d encountered (and I took a comparative religions class in high school specifically due to my interest in exploring other faiths), the one that I grew up in was, I believed (and still believe) most characterized by universal love on God’s part, and would, if practiced, lead to the most good among human beings.

      Since then, I have never looked back. Though some of my peripheral beliefs have been moderated and molded over the years, the core of my belief has remained a constant companion throughout my life.

  12. Dave says:

    Lee,

    I didn’t expect that you were essentially raised as a Swedeborgian. Interesting. Obviously this was and is your destiny calling.

    Regarding the unification improbability if I understand Swedenborg within context, he states that the End of the Age is premised on a total lack of Charity within the existing churches. If ministers aren’t talking to one another to the degree you describe then I have a feeling that the death of Charity can’t be far behind. But this kind of dis-unification seems to me has been around since the beginning of Christianity. Maybe it’s a lot worse now.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Yes, Swedenborgian born and bred. I’m fifth generation Swedenborgian on my father’s side, and I believe the same on my mother’s side, through her father. My father was a Swedenborgian minister, and my mother’s brother, sister, father, and grandfather were (or are) all Swedenborgian ministers. So yes, you could say it’s in my blood! However I do have seven siblings who are not Swedenborgian ministers. In the next generation, one of my nieces is also a Swedenborgian minister.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Yes, Swedenborg said that the end of the age comes when there is no more faith because there is no more charity (caring and kindness) in the church. He believed that this was the state of the Christian Church in his day, which he said was the end of the first Christian age.

      Theoretically, things should be getting better, not worse, since we’re two and a half centuries into the new church that began when the old Christian church came to its (spiritual) end. And despite all the upheaval in the world, I do think that we’re on an upward track now socially and spiritually. See my article: Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

  13. Dave says:

    Lee,

    I think the main reason that typical “fundamentalists” as evidenced in your interactions typically reject “your” doctrine is that it appears to be human-centric. That is, as appearing to originate from the beliefs of a particular person in this case named Swedenborg. Cults originate from esoteric beliefs of one person who starts the ball rolling. Cultism is rampant these days, no? Swedenborgism by connotation is cultism because of its emphasis with identifying with the beliefs of Swedenborg the man himself. To state that one is a “Calvinist” for example intones a doctrinal foundation derived not from the Bible so much but rather the unique interpretations of the Bible by Calvin. The key word here of course is interpretation. I think this human-centric doctrinal identification is the root of all these inter-minister and doctrinal disputes because essentially if one is truly following the most important message of the Bible which is to love your neighbor as yourself then whether a Swedenborg or a Calvin says the same thing it’s still the same message.

    So it isn’t unexpected that you can predict the reaction of an Elliot Miller to your Swedenborg perspectives even though what you believe in is essentially the same thing that Elliot Miller believes in – just that this same message comes from Swedenborg. But again Swedenborg didn’t invent this message as it was already there. Now, what Swedenborg is bringing to the table is a different perspective that is according to him a spiritually-based reinterpretation of what is in any version of Bibles out there.

    My question for you then is this:

    If all these things had been revealed to Lee Woofenden instead of Swedenborg, would you be comfortable with anyone saying that they were Woofendenian believers? Or rather would you be more comfortable with anyone saying that they DISCERN that what Woofenden is saying is the Truth but the Truth is not nor ever will be Woofendenian.

    In my opinion identifying oneself as a doctrinal follower of Swedenborg, Calvin, or with the thoughts of any other human being, is Cultish in nature or at the least in common perception.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your thoughts and questions.

      About the term “Swedenborgian,” as is common for groups holding beliefs that differ and dissent from the mainstream, that term was coined, not by Swedenborg or by the believers in the doctrines he taught, but by others. The term “Swedenborgianism” came into use in Swedenborg’s own lifetime, especially among his Swedish Lutheran detractors, who fought a bitter battle against his teachings, and attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to get his books banned from Sweden.

      Swedenborg himself never used the term “Swedenborgian” except in private letters related to a committee of Swedish Lutheran bishops and professors who convened a committee “on Swedenborgianism,” and in general reference to the term as used by his contemporaries. Swedenborg never really accepted that term, but given that it had already taken hold, he seems to have taken a pragmatic approach, defining it to convey the essence of what his teachings were all about. In several of his letters he wrote variations on this theme:

      “Swedenborgianism” is the worship of the Lord our Savior.

      And in a letter on April 12, 1770, to Dr. Gabriel Beyer, who had accepted the doctrines Swedenborg taught, he wrote, in reference to the ongoing conflict in Sweden over those doctrines:

      More passages of the same content are adduced from one of my books, extracts of which are to be found in the printed Minutes of the Goteborg Consistory. All this they there call Swedenborgianism, but I for my part call it true Christianity.

      So as I said, Swedenborg was aware of the term, and defined it to mean what it actually meant, but he himself didn’t think of the doctrines he published as “Swedenborgianism.”

      Ever since that time, many people who have accepted the doctrines he published in his books have had an ambivalent view of that term. But given that it came into general use in society well before there was even a church body devoted to those teachings, it’s not practical to avoid that term, so many have embraced it, and, taking their cue from Swedenborg’s reactions to it, have focused on saying what “Swedenborgianism” really is.

      Personally, I don’t much like the term because, as you say, it makes it sound like these beliefs are mere human doctrines. But I use it from time to time anyway because that’s how these beliefs are best known (to the extent that they are known) in the wider society.

      Taking my cue from Swedenborg, I myself also don’t think of it as “Swedenborgianism,” but simply as true Christianity.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      As for the “cult” charge, that’s common among conservative Christians against any group or belief that disagrees with their own. Some of them even call the Catholic Church a cult. So I don’t pay much attention to that charge against Swedenborgian beliefs and church denominations.

      In fact, the conservative Christians who make those charges are much more cultish than many of the groups they accuse of being cults. They commonly use fear of damnation to scare their people into toeing the line doctrinally, and to scare them away from listening to or joining with any other Christian church or denomination besides their own. And that’s really the essence of cults: they use fear and (spiritual) intimidation tactics against their own members to ensure membership, belief, and compliance with their doctrines and practices–including soliciting a lot of money from their members.

      Mind you, there really are some very damaging and destructive cults out there. And those cults should be outed as cults. However, to indiscriminately call everyone who disagrees with your particular dogmas a “cult” is to introduce confusion and fear into the minds of their followers. It’s all part of their own rather cultish religious culture.

      Finally, other churches are named after their human founders, and are not accused of being cults. The Lutheran Church is one of the leading mainstream Protestant denominations. Are they a cult because they use Martin Luther’s name in the name of their denomination?

      So as I said in my previous comment “Swedenborgian” is not ideal. But other than religious prejudice and bigotry, there’s no particular reason it should be treated differently than any other vernacular term for various religious groups, which are often connected to the human theologians whose doctrines they follow.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      One more response:

      Those who accuse “Swedenborgianism” of being human-centric are often quite ignorant of the human beings who originated and promulgated their own doctrines.

      I have often found that the conservative Protestants who most commonly make such charges against “Swedenborgian” doctrine are largely, if not entirely, unaware that their own distinctive doctrines were originated by Luther and Calvin, and were not part of Christian belief during the entire 1,500 year history of Christianity before the Protestant Reformation.

      The fact of the matter is that no Christians derive their doctrines purely and simply from the Bible. All Christians rely upon human interpreters and explainers of the Bible for their doctrines, even if they don’t realize it. It’s not a question of whether there are human beings behind the doctrines. Rather, it’s a question of which human beings, and how enlightened they were in the truth from the Lord.

      As I’ve illustrated in many articles here, I’m willing to put Swedenborg up against any other human theologian you care to name as having come closer to true Christianity than the entire body of those theologians. I believe that the basic doctrines in both Protestantism and Catholicism are pure human inventions that have no sound basis in the Bible at all.

      So I’m not concerned with those who charge that my beliefs are “human-centric.” The reality is that the foundations of their doctrines are not stated at all in the Bible, whereas the foundations of mine are. On this, see these two posts, and the articles linked from them:

      1. “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
      2. Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach

      I’ve had, and continue to have, extensive debates with fundamentalists, or conservative Protestants, if you prefer. Not once has a single one of them ever been able to point to a passage in the Bible that actually states clearly and unequivocally any of the doctrines on which they disagree with me.

      However, as shown in the second article above, I can point to many passages in the Bible that state clearly and unequivocally the basic doctrines I believe in.

      And that’s good enough for me.

  14. Dave says:

    Lee,

    Astute responses. I’d like to be a fly on the wall with a you and Miller extended discussions. Knowing what I think I personally know about Miller, of all the ‘apparently’ entrenched doctrinally cogent minds out there I believe that the two of you would find more common ground than not. I say this because I believe there’s more flexible depth to him than appears reflective through the constrictions of the CRI eye. IMO both of you are present-day potential Giants in extrapolating analytical theological thought and applying those reinterpretive thoughts within the cultural and societal realities of today. One of you may already be this and not be aware of it. Essentially this is why I tried to facilitate a meeting of minds so to speak. There’s more to this than I can bring out at this time.

    Everything happens for a reason.

    Dave

  15. Dave says:

    Lee,

    All this jogged my memory of controversies and CRI as awhile back I had googled the same. This came up which IMO illustrates in part the evolving fluidity of organizational doctrinal discernment at any given point in time. Whether true discernment is unchanging or whether anything that changes true discernment is false is the issue when it comes to entrenched doctrine and their perceived genuineness of discernment by an outside observer. As it pertains to here on this blog there’s a whole lot of individual ‘trust’ involved in believing everything that Swedenborg said was true, isn’t there?

    In effect to know whether discernment is true even within well-established theological organizations such CRI remains at its core ultimately an individualistic endeavor – by the originator and the individual exposed to it. That Miller changed his mind in this instance shows that his once steadfast incontrovertible ‘true’ discernment can change even in the face of intense flak from CRI followers – much less his initial convictions. That IMO takes bravery.

    To wit, people can change what they once thought and prayed to be their true discernment into something that is now perceived by others as the opposite of that ‘truth’. Abrupt change of mind isn’t much publically welcome, nor appreciated, nor tolerated when it comes to long-standing theological convictions. You better be perfect, no? Of course that isn’t possible. That Miller changed his personal and public stance for whatever reason after 6 years of LSM/LC denouncement is in itself interesting to say the least about revealing his inner character.

    As you have so many times stated here on your blog a part of what it means to be human is to err and to even err when you just absolutely ‘know’ something is true even when it’s not. Maybe Miller is still in error on this particular subject. Who really knows? We all change, Lee. It’s just that some of us change slower than others it seems. Then again according to Swedenborg apparently some of us never change. I’d like to think though that while here on earth the die or the love that I have cast here isn’t always cast forever regardless of what they uncover in that spiritual ‘waiting room’. I think we’re all capable of changing no matter what – so long as that inner ‘God Core’ remains in us even in Hell. After all we’re just Human.

    Anyway I digressed a bit here. The Miller change of discernment and its repercussions is the basic gist of this post.

    Dave

    http://www.thebereans.net/forum2/showthread.php?t=47516

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I looked up the issue of the Christian Research Journal referred to (which is here) and read about a third of it. This was enough for me to draw the conclusion that Elliot Miller and the Christian Research Institute (CRI) did not change their mind about their doctrinal beliefs. Rather, they came to the conclusion that Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and their “Local Church” movement didn’t actually disagree with their (CRI’s) beliefs as they (CRI) had previously thought.

      Specifically, while CRI had previously believed that the Local Church movement denied the Trinity of Persons, they came to the conclusion, on further study of Local Church (LC) teachings, that the LC did affirm the orthodox Trinity of Persons, but expressed their beliefs in somewhat unorthodox ways that could be easily misunderstood by traditional Western Christians.

      So when the CRI proclaimed, in that issue of the Christian Research Journal, that “We Were Wrong,” they were not saying they had changed their minds doctrinally. Rather, they were simply saying they had made a mistake in identifying the Local Church movement as doctrinally aberrant—i.e., as teaching false doctrines.

      Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to admit it when you realize you’ve been wrong in your assessment of the character and beliefs of another person or organization. And I do give CRI some credit for being willing to take a second look at the Local Church and its beliefs, and admit that their previous assessment was mistaken. Yes, that does take courage.

      However, the reason they were willing to make that admission and publicly admit their mistake was that they came to the conclusion that the Local Church actually agrees with their own (CRI’s) doctrinal position.

      In other words, CRI still holds to their traditional trinitarian orthodoxy; they haven’t changed their minds one iota on that. Rather, they’ve simply welcomed the Local Church into their circle of Evangelical churches that affirm the Trinity of Persons.

      So quite honestly, I don’t see any real change of mind or heart on what really matters. CRI still condemns as heretical anyone who does not affirm the Trinity of Persons.

      And that, to me, is their fundamental error—which is the same fundamental error as that of the entire body of the traditional Christian church, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox.

      From my perspective, the Trinity of Persons is not only not taught in the Bible, but it is the fundamental non-Biblical falsity that has corrupted the doctrine of the entire Christian church into something that is Christian in name only, and not in reality and essence.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Having said that, you seem to have something in mind that you’re not saying, but that you think is very important in all of this. If so, I’ll await your finally saying what’s truly on your mind.

      Oh, and about “believing everything that Swedenborg said was true,” I don’t actually believe that. See my article: Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

  16. Dave says:

    Lee,

    The interesting dichotomy to me with regards to CRI and their revamped position on LSM was that LSM essentially disavowed themselves of prominent denominations such as Protestantism.

    In that Berean thread I linked above, go to Page 52, Post 766.

    Don’t know what to make of this with regards to LSM’s contrariness of a main-stream denomination and CRI’s latent leniency of their doctrinal position.

    As far as what else I could say about Miller, Swedenborg, and all the rest, I can’t on this forum. Too personal.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I read just read post you referred to. However, I don’t know enough about either LSM or CRI to wade into the fray. I think they’re both wrong doctrinally. But as I’ve said elsewhere, people can be doctrinally wrong, but still sincere in their faith and in the good graces of God. I’m not a Protestant. I don’t believe that it’s what you believe that matters, and that everything else is secondary.

      And if the issues you’ve been alluding to are too personal, I do understand that, and wouldn’t want you to divulge them in this public forum.

  17. Dave says:

    One other thing, Lee. Why exactly do you think that falsely believing in the Trinity doctrine alone (as objected to by Swedenborg) is so damaging to anyone who believes in 99.99% of all else that Swedenborg espouses?

    It seems to me that if Swedenborg can claim that creatures (spirits) exist on Mars and Venus, then even a heretical in your eyes organization such as CRI or LSM could rightly counter-claim that Swedenborg’s extraordinary extraterrestrial anecdotal claims are also greatly damaging to all doctrines, churches, and denominations for various reasons I won’t go over here. I’ll just let your imagination run wild with all the possibilities a radio talk show personage per an ‘Ask Hank’ could doctrinally reflect upon for example.

    My ultimate point here is that focusing on just one part of any doctrine whether by CRI or LSM and then disclaiming the rest of what’s within those doctrines entirely is something that you’ve experienced under Swedenborg. What I’m saying here is that it appears you are guilty of the same things that you accuse others of being.

    Look, I think you’re doing some great and yes some brilliant things here on this Blog. Just remember that your interpretation of certain things may end up to be false not because the rest of Swedenborg is false but that other’s have a different viewpoint based on many factors unbeknownst to you and they could turn out to be the Truth. The ugly earthbound fact of the matter Lee is that there are many things in the Bible which are at this time humanly impossible to prove except solely through an existential sense. A very personal individual sense.

    To me misunderstanding the Trinity thing won’t keep you from Heaven and it won’t send one to Hell. I think there are way more important things to focus on while on earth. This shallow self-made chasm between great theological minds like your’s and Miller’s is one of those important things that should be focused on instead.

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      As I’ve said a number of times, I, too, do not think that a wrong understanding of God will keep a person from heaven. From my perspective, while beliefs are important, what’s most important is whether a person keeps the two Great Commandments in action in their lives, from a good heart. Beliefs are meant to get us to love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves. If a particular belief accomplishes that in a person’s life, then they are accomplishing God’s work in that person’s life, whether or not those beliefs are actually true.

      Strange but true: falsity can function as truth for people who have love in their hearts. Swedenborg spends a lot of time talking about this, but in somewhat technical language that even many Swedenborgians don’t quite grasp. Bottom line: if you love God and your neighbor, you will interpret even false teachings in a way that serves as truth in your life because you will interpret them to support your heart in loving God and the neighbor. That’s why many very good people are walking around with very false beliefs, but those false beliefs are doing minimal to zero damage to their eternal souls.

      That’s also why I simply don’t find it useful or constructive to try to convince people that their beliefs are false. I still get bitten by the debate for debate’s sake bug, which was a psychological scourge of my own youth. But these days, if I see that someone is satisfied with his or her beliefs, and is living a good life pursuant to those beliefs, I won’t waste my breath trying to convince them that those beliefs are, in fact, mistaken and unbiblical.

      (Of course, if people attack me for my beliefs, and say all manner of false things about them, I am quite willing to defend those beliefs against such attacks.)

      The reason I am highly resistant to initiating any sort of dialog with Elliot Miller and CRI is that I find it highly unlikely that such a dialog would bear any fruit for either one of us. Miller and his organization are clearly quite settled in and satisfied with their beliefs, and I am quite settled in and satisfied with my beliefs. What purpose would be served by getting us into any sort of discussion or debate with one another?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Now to take up the first question in your comment.

      There is a big difference between one’s beliefs about God and one’s beliefs about extraterrestrials. Beliefs about God are central to any religion and any faith. Beliefs about extraterrestrials, while some people do become fanatical about them, are really quite peripheral to religion and faith because they have little effect on a person’s spiritual life, and specifically, on whether or not a person is saved and goes to heaven.

      For the most part, I consider Swedenborg’s writings about extraterrestrials, as fascinating as they are to a science and science fiction buff like me, to be largely unimportant and tangential to the important issues of God, salvation, and the life that leads to heaven.

      As I said in my article on the subject (Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life), I think Swedenborg wrote that book primarily to deal with the hot issue of his day (and for some Christians, still a big issue today) of how Jesus Christ could be the unique Son of God and the sole means of salvation if there are whole races of humans on other planets (as many people had come to believe even in the 18th century) who did not even know about Jesus’ existence.

      So even Swedenborg’s book on aliens was, I think, really a book about the nature of God.

      That’s how central one’s concept of God is to one’s whole faith.

      Swedenborg’s, and my, objection to the Trinity of Persons is that it opens the door to every other false and non-Biblical doctrine that has taken over Christianity.

      To give just one example, Penal Substitution, the basic theory of atonement in Protestantism, simply doesn’t work if the Father and the Son aren’t two distinct “persons” of God.

      In Penal Substitution, God the Father is required to punish us for our sins due to his own sense of justice (or his own anger), whereas God the Son takes on that punishment from God the Father in order to satisfy God’s justice (or wrath).

      This belief requires God to be at least two different persons.

      If the Trinity of Persons is false, then Penal Substitution also falls to the ground–as do most of the other basic doctrines of Protestantism, such as justification by faith alone.

      So the Trinity of Persons is the root of all the false doctrines that form the branches of traditional Christian theology.

      That’s why Swedenborg, and I, trace all the doctrinal fallacy and falsity in traditional Christianity back to the fallacious and false doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.

  18. Dave says:

    Lee,

    And lastly I show you this in case you missed it. Interesting that such stalwart doctrinally -inept as CRI may be in certain eyes for subjective or sound Biblical reasons, IMO Miller et al really stuck their neck out on this one. Miller got big time flak from the flock too.

    The more I think about it though TPM is not so far from Swedenborg’s oft times extraordinary observations either in view of it being non-traditional in a purely doctrinal and traditionally-entrenched denominational sense.

    It took a pair for Miller to stand behind it.

    Dave

    http://www.equip.org/article/theophostic-prayer-ministry-part-one/

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I believe God is working in all the religions and movements, regardless of whether I happen to think they’re doctrinally right or wrong. I believe we are now in the era when the New Jerusalem is descending out of heaven from God, and that it is affecting all of the religions of earth, and gradually moving them closer to the truth and to God. (See: Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?)

      I also don’t believe it’s my job to fix and correct all the religions and movements of the world. That’s far more than I can handle. That’s God’s job. I am only one person, and I have only so many working hours in a day, which I must devote to what I think will be most effective in reaching and helping those who will find peace, comfort, and enlightenment in the teachings and perspectives I have to offer.

  19. Dave says:

    Lee,

    Ok I understand better where you’re coming from and so I’ll synapsize all your comments here.

    The Trinity Concept (TTC) if I understand the Protestant et al motive supporting it derives mainly from Christ referring to God as ‘The Father’ in many Bible verses – in effect defacto already establishing that at least 2 distinct persons (Father AND Son) or personalities coexist within the Godhead. Other supporting verses such as when Christ replied that only to paraphrase that The Father is ‘Good’, or when Christ told the apostles that The Father would send them a ‘helper’ in this case the Holy Ghost. But for a moment forgetting about the Holy Ghost being the 3rd element, one can see why this particular Protestant doctrine is so widely accepted.

    I understand the Penal Substitution problem if TTC is eliminated. Indeed that ALONE is a huge issue on many levels and literally represents the widest chasm between interlacing Swedenborg with mainstream denominational doctrine and vice versa. Forget about extraterrestials, the Spirit World, the levels of Heaven and Hell. This is the Swedenborg Showstopper.

    In essence what I’m saying here is that TTC and how Swedenborg disavows it is likely the biggest wall in your mission to reach people who are raised in a traditional denominationally based environment. To wit, if Swedenborg had endorsed TTC I think his writings could’ve been Paulinesque in impact. Swedenborg very effectively basically alienated 99.99% of his potential audience though when he didn’t endorse it – back then moreso when accusations of heresy were as common as inhaling and exhaling.

    It’s kind of like when you started to read Miller’s apologetic missive on CRI’s discernment error regarding LSM and then stopped reading after 1/3 into it because of his reconcialment of their understanding of TTC with CRI’s. The baby got thrown out as it were with the bath water right then and there, no?

    Dave

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Yes, Swedenborg certainly could have been more popular if he’d just accepted the foundations of traditional Christian theology, and only tinkered around the edges as the great mass of Christian theologians do.

      But then his work wouldn’t be any more worthy of reading and study than those of that great mass of Christian theologians who spend their mental energy hacking at the branches—while Swedenborg laid his ax to the root of the tree.

      The Trinity of Persons is not a Protestant doctrine per se. It goes all the way back to Tertullian in the third century, though his particular version was rejected when the Nicene Creed, and later the Athanasian Creed, were written and adopted in the ensuing centuries in order to define that doctrine for the main body of institutional Christianity. (Among the welter of heresies about God that arose in the second to fourth centuries of Christianity, the Trinity of Persons was the winner.)

      Historically, Protestantism adopted the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons from Catholicism—which is the source of most Protestant doctrine. But Protestantism distinguished itself from Catholicism by inventing its own new doctrines, primarily the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which goes hand-in-hand with its other primary newly invented doctrine: penal substitution.

      Swedenborg passed over all human creeds and invented doctrines, and looked to the Bible itself under the Lord’s guidance (according to his account), in formulating the doctrines that he published in his theological works. And that is precisely why his works are worth reading among the mass of other Christian theological writings.

      As for the Biblical basis of the Trinity, of course Swedenborg was well aware that the Bible speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But as with many other words and concepts used in the Bible, we misunderstand these names for different parts or aspects of God if we think of them in material, biological, and human terms. God is not a mortal man. The attributes of God are on a whole different level of reality than our material and biological relationships of parents and children.

      In other words, the Bible uses these human terms as metaphors for greater divine realities, in order to bring the nature of God into the realm of human comprehension to at least some extent.

      Unfortunately we humans, with our materialistic minds, have dragged what the Bible presents to us about God down into the realm of mere human thought, rather than seeing the spiritual and divine realities that the human metaphors are pointing to. For a fuller explanation of these things, please see these articles:

      • Dave says:

        Lee,

        I think Swedenborg misunderstood what he ‘thought’ he understood with regards to The Father and The Son. Remember that Swedenborg was not infallible. He admits as such.

        I also think you’re trying to provide cover for Swedenborg because of this misunderstanding in the form of extraordinary convolutions of logic to make what he said make sense. It ultimately doesn’t no matter how you spin the logic to fit.

        It’s absolutely obvious that Christ was talking to the Father Directly as his divine Son. He was not talking to himself pretending that he was his Son while inwardly knowing he wasn’t. That would make him a liar to himself. Impossible if God the Father is perfect, no?

        So here’s what it is. God the Father created his Son for whatever divine reason he chose. This Son is not as completely perfect as his Father but is more perfect when standing on his own than any other of God’s ethereal creations. Therefore his Son sits at the right hand of God The Father and has also been given dominion over all of God the Father’s ethereal and earthly creations – including all other creations in the universe. There are indeed two separate divine personalities. The Holy Ghost however is not a personality like The Father and The Son but is rather the divine energy that is able to communicate and help mankind in its present earth-bound sinful state. The Holy Spirit is nothing more than the Divine Energy of God the Father as given to man THROUGH only his Son. It’s again that simple.

        To wit, I I agree there is no Trinity. Or perhaps better understood there is no third Divine person. There is however absolutely a Duality. As Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the light. There is no way to the Father but through me.”

        Christ IS a separate divine personality and is the conduit that the Father has deemed worthy of worship as much as if directly to Him. When you worship Christ as Lord you also by God the Father’s decree worship Him as well. That’s where the Oneness comes in. IOW Christ is the utmost holy conduit possible to become one with God the Father. In effect being one with Christ allows becoming One with the Father as MUCH as Christ is. And that’s pretty darn close and much.

        Christ is indeed THE literal Son of God. Not metaphorically, not conceptionally, but literally in the Divine spiritual sense. Swedenborg got it wrong because in this particular case not even angels nor other spirits understood what I just told you and so they told him only what they knew much less understood. Humans or mankind which according to Swedenborg become eventually angels only know as much as they carry with them from earth. The Angels that became so before Christ was born only personally know what they know from that earlier state. These are the Angels that Swedenborg likely conferred with. Remember that Angels don’t typically interact with mankind unless sent by The Lord to so. Every other angel doesn’t know what these Angels know and hence even like Christ himself don’t know the hour of when the Son Of Man will return. That’s God The Father’s call as it were.

        Once you understand that Swedenborg in this instance wasn’t just innocently incorrect however unintentional his error was nor by what or who caused his erroneous thinking, but that the Father and Son are what they are because they just Are. Remember “I am that I Am”? Well that “I” is actually two I’s, The Father AND the Son.

        What Christ always said was that his Divinity came from his Father. Literally. Nothing more nothing less. It’s that simple so that every human could understand it. Not just the Swedenborg’s or Woofenden’s of this world. If this were the case only you two could be saved. Anything else besides this simple understanding denies the obvious relationship that Christ had while here on earth with His Father and thereafter.

        There’s no need to convolute the simplicity of that relationship. The Father and Son are indeed ‘One’ but that doesn’t mean they also could not have separate Divine Natures with Christ again being the most perfect conduit to the Supreme Perfect Divinity of his Father, The Grand Creator of all including even Christ himself.

        Keep it simple, Lee. Because it is.

        Dave

        • Lee says:

          Hi Dave,

          On all of this we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • Dave says:

          Lee,

          Yes that’s probably the best course. Even with this disagreement there’s still much left to agree upon.

          Being Human isn’t exactly a cake walk, is it?

          Dave

        • Lee says:

          Hi Dave,

          I should also add that this doctrine you’ve outlined is also very much at odds with the doctrine of the vast bulk of traditional Christianity, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. For example, the concept of the Trinity of Persons accepted in all three of those major branches of Christianity explicitly denies that the Son is a created being. If anything, your concept of God is even more at odds with the traditional Christian concept of God than mine—which also affirms that the Son is not created, but begotten, even if I interpret “begotten” differently than traditional Christianity does.

          And though I may have asked before, I am curious: does your position on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit represent the teaching of some particular church, denomination, or theologian, or was this something you came to on your own? Do you belong to any church or community of believers that shares these views?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      To address another of your points, I am not so much reaching out to people who were “raised in a traditional denominationally based environment” as I am reaching out to people who are no longer satisfied with the traditional Christian church, its institutions, and its teachings.

      Swedenborg stated that an old church, or religious paradigm, must cease to exist, spiritually speaking, before a new one can take its place.

      In terms of human history, this means that the old religious perspective must cease being the primary source of spiritual enlightenment in the culture before a new religious perspective can take its place.

      Christianity has effectively ceased to fulfill that role in the Western world, as people vote with their feet and abandon traditional Christian institutions, and as the culture generally looks more to science and “spirituality” for their engagement and enlightenment than they do to institutional Christianity. (See: Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!)

      A similar evolution must take place in an individual person’s life for that person to adopt an entirely new spiritual paradigm such as the one that Swedenborg offers.

      Anyone who is content with traditional Christian teachings and institutions will simply not be interested in what Swedenborg has to offer. Why would they be looking for something else when they’re happy with what they’ve got?

      The people who are interested in the ideas and beliefs presented on this website are those who are either questioning traditional Christian beliefs or have abandoned traditional Christianity altogether. These people, and not those still engaged in the institutions, teachings, and practices of traditional Christianity, are the ones I’m reaching out to here.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      And I have to ask, What baby?

      I find reading traditional Christian theology and apologetics to be highly tedious. It strikes me as thoroughly unenlightened. In every sentence, I see things that I disagree with. And in every paragraph, I think, “If only they understood the spiritual basics related to this subject!” Some of them are trying mightily to reach for understanding. But they are hamstrung in their efforts by the fundamental dogmas of their own church.

      I used to think that Swedenborg was being hyperbolic and rhetorical when he said that traditional Christianity had so utterly falsified the Bible that there was not one truth left in their doctrine. And perhaps to some extent he was.

      And yet, when I read their theology, I find that I disagree with almost everything in it. I more and more think that Swedenborg was simply stating the objective reality when he said that there was not one truth left in traditional Christianity that had not been falsified.

      The only saving grace, as it were, is that most traditional Christians do live good and loving lives, regardless of what their church teaches doctrinally. That’s why, Swedenborg said, the average Christian layperson understands what Christianity is really all about better than their priests, pastors, and theologians, whose minds have been so utterly scrambled by false teachings that they simply cannot even see the truth.

      I experience this all the time whenever I get into a debate with a traditional Christian who is heavily versed in the doctrines of Protestantism or Catholicism. I can point out until I’m blue in the face that the Bible simply doesn’t say those things—and yet they still maintain that their doctrines are true.

      It is very frustrating. It is simply not possible to penetrate the mind of someone who is so steeped in traditional Christian fallacy and falsity. It is too deeply ingrained in them. When they read the Bible, they don’t see anything else—even though the words of the Bible itself just don’t say what they believe.

      I still do sometimes engage in debate with traditional Christians. But the purpose of that is not to try to change their minds. Rather, it is for the sake of people reading in, whose minds are still not made up, and who may be able to see something of the truth because their minds have not yet been crystallized into the false dogmas of the previous church.

      Here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, I delete without approving the comments of many evangelical Christians who come here to tell me how wrong I am (see points 6 & 7 of our comments policy). It would take too long and be too tedious to rebut and dubunk every one of their false statements one by one. It’s not worth my time to do so.

      However, I do sometimes approve and respond to those that are not too insulting and bigoted. Sometimes I sense that the person posting may actually be amenable to some questioning of his or her own beliefs. But usually, I do it so that those reading in can hear responses to common evangelical falsities in order to inoculate themselves against their pervasive presence in much of Western society.

      I find it tedious and distasteful to do this. I would much rather spend my time explaining what is the truth than pointing out what’s not the truth. But it has to be done in order to combat and overcome those old falsities in the minds and hearts of those who are ready and willing to accept a clearer light on God, spirit, and the meaning and purpose of our life here on earth.

  20. Dave says:

    Lee,

    The baby in this case was further reading about Miller’s fine-edged struggles to reconcile CRI’s doctrinal position and perhaps even his own personal ones with what was considered for a long time a cult with regards to LSM. The point is Miller doesn’t appear to be quite as dyed in the wool doctrinally dogmatic as you may surmise. There is some interesting intellectual and logical pragmatism at work there too. If you had bothered to read the rest.

    Dave

    • Dave says:

      Oh, and Miller’s TPM (Theophostic Prayer Ministry) examination is one that’s quite enlightening on how his critical theological mind works too. He is IMO one of the finest theological minds out there today. And he knows more about Swedenborg’s spirit realm at a level that you likely are not closely aware of as I personally am. But this is now irrelevant because you slammed the door shut.

      Dave

      • Lee says:

        Hi Dave,

        If you would say something specific about what he knows about Swedenborg’s spirit realm, and why, and where he got it from, that might be of interest to me. But as of now, it’s all generalities. I went and read more than I had planned to of that issue. But I simply didn’t see anything in the 18-20 pages I read that gave me reason to think that a discussion with Miller—if he were even interested in such a thing—would accomplish anything. If you think such a conversation should take place, you’re going to have to get to the point and tell me why, and not require me to read dozens or hundreds of pages of material to try to find the baby in all that bathwater.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      I understand that some evangelicals do over time inch toward a somewhat less hidebound view of Christianity. And that’s good. It’s also in God’s hands. Miller is still light years away from where I am doctrinally. And you simply haven’t given me any good reason why a conversation between the two of us would be worthwhile and fruitful.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      Here is a fuller response to your most recent comments:

      As I’ve said in previous comments, I believe that we are now living in the times after the Second Coming, when the New Jerusalem is descending out of heaven from God. (I suspect Elliot Miller would entirely reject such an idea.) And I believe that this new spiritual era is affecting all of humankind, and all of the religions of the earth—even the evangelical Christian ones that still await the Second Coming and the New Jerusalem.

      Based on that, I certainly don’t reject the idea that Elliot Miller may be making some forward moves in his spiritual thinking and perspective. We can see this happening in all of the religions of humankind, and in all of the branches of Christianity. Now that the old religious order of Christianity has been largely smashed and sidelined from its former position of the leading spiritual and intellectual light in the Western world, things are changing in our world, and they are changing very fast. The existing church institutions are quickly being left behind due to their snail’s pace of change.

      Just as Judaism was completely transformed by the events following the First Coming (historically, by the destruction of the Temple) into a religion that would hardly be recognizable as Judaism by the ancient Jews who lived up to the time of Jesus Christ, so Christianity is in the process of being transformed into something that would hardly be recognized as Christianity by the Christians who lived from the third to the eighteenth centuries of Christianity. Already in most of Europe Christianity has become the religion of a minority of the population, the bulk of whom are secular or “spiritual but not religious.” And I predict that within a few centuries there will not be much left of the old religious institutions. Many of the big ones will still hang on, but they will be faint shadows of their former selves.

      The other possibility is that they will radically change their doctrines and practices. But institutions do not change easily—and churches least of all. The more likely course is that they will cling to their doctrines and practices to the bitter end, because these are what define them as institutions.

      In my view, Elliot Miller and CRI are part of this old Christianity that is now dying. They continue to cling to the basic dogmas of traditional Christianity, even if they may give those dogmas their own flavor, and even if they may at times incrementally open their minds to include people and groups whom they had formerly excluded.

      When I look at these old religious institutions, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, while I wish them well, my primary feeling is that this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). He did not mean the physically dead. The people he was referring to were still alive and walking this earth. But they remained stuck in the old (ancient Jewish) paradigm, and were thus spiritually dead compared to those who saw and accepted the new spiritual light that Jesus brought to the world.

      I’m aware that Elliot Miller and other evangelical Protestants, not to mention traditional Christians generally, are very much alive, and even have a spiritual path to follow. But from my perspective, it is a dead-end path because it is guided by doctrines that are fundamentally false, and that will, as the decades and centuries pass, gradually fade into insignificance as more and more people vote with their feet and abandon those old doctrines.

      You appear to still accept those old doctrines, the root and foundation of which is the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons. And you appear to hold some hope that I may come to accept those doctrines as well, perhaps in some more modern interpretation of them.

      If that is your purpose here, and the reason you are trying to get me connected with Elliot Miller, then I will say simply and directly: Don’t bother. You are wasting your time.

      To use plain language, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that I will accept the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons, or any of the old Christian doctrines that depend on it. I regard the Trinity of Persons as the root and source of all of the doctrinal error and falsity of traditional Christianity. I see it as the beginning of the rottenness that eventually consumed and destroyed Christianity, and made it necessary for Christ to make his Second Coming, in the form of new spiritual light and truth, in order to once again prevent the complete spiritual destruction of humankind.

      In short, the Trinity of Persons is horrible and odious to me.

      I have devoted my life to proclaiming a renewed Christianity that utterly rejects the Trinity of Persons, and instead worships the Lord God Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth. That one God consists of a divine soul (the Father), which is love; a divine body (the Son), which is divine truth; and divine power flowing out (the Holy Spirit), which is everything God says and does. You can see this all clearly laid out in my article, Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      When I contemplate this beautiful understanding of the Christian God as Swedenborg presents it, the old tri-personal God of traditional Christianity looks to me like a dark shadow. It has no appeal whatsoever. In my eyes, it is hardly different from pagan polytheism. Though the lips say one, the mind thinks three, and the believer in this doctrine worships each of the three as a distinct god even while the lips insist that there is one God. It is utter confusion. Even its strongest proponents admit that it cannot really be explained or understood.

      God as I understand God can be explained and understood. It is not a contradiction or a mystery. Of course, we can never grasp the fullness of the infinity of God. But when that infinity descends down into human concepts, it makes perfect sense, and can be understood by a five year old child with no theological training whatsoever.

      So if you are asking me to get into conversation with Elliot Miller because you think and hope that Miller may be able to “enlighten” me from his astute theological mind, then you are on a fool’s errand. That’s not going to happen.

      What Miller has to offer theologically has no appeal whatsoever for me. It is a dark shadow and an old, fading ghost compared to the bright and beautiful understanding of God, spirit, and the life that leads to heaven that I was brought up with and still believe with all my heart and mind. If your purpose is to try to get me to change my theological stance by getting me into contact with someone whom you think has the theological chops and the mental agility to bring about that change in me, then I would suggest that you give up right now, because you are wasting your time.

      If that is not your purpose here, and you have something else in mind, then I would once again ask that you state your purpose simply and clearly.

      I dislike it when people beat around the bush and take a long time to get around to saying what their real purpose and message is. It’s a waste of my time and theirs. I know my own mind fairly well, and I do not require “handling” to try to bring about some purpose for me. If you would simply state what you have in mind here, then I will tell you plainly and simply whether or not it’s something I’m interested in pursuing.

      Until you are ready and willing to do so, I question whether there is any further use in this conversation.

      If you have questions for me related to my beliefs, then of course I am willing to answer them.

      But if you’re trying to get me to do some thing for some purpose, you’re going to have to state that purpose plainly and clearly. If it is indeed too personal to state in public, feel free to submit a Spiritual Conundrum and communicate it to me in that way. I won’t however, promise to respond, since I receive far more Conundrums than I can possibly answer. And if you continue to beat around the bush, hinting at this and that but not stating clearly what’s on your mind, then I can guarantee you that I will not respond.

      I now have at least 100 unanswered questions submitted by people who are seeking spiritual understanding on issues they are facing in their lives. I dearly wish I had the time to answer them all. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. If you want me to spend more of the time I do have responding to your wishes and needs, you’re going to have to tell me plainly and clearly why I should do so.

      • Dave says:

        Lee,

        It’s not what you think regarding Elliot Miller. Miller could be more influenced by your thoughts than the other way around IMO. I think Elliot benefits from Lee at this critical stage of the New Church. As I said before essentially Miller personally knows the realm that Swedenborg saw and understands it. I know this personally too. Hence a doctrinal flexibility you wouldn’t normally expect. All spirituality is mystical but not all things mystical are spiritual. But it goes beyond that.

        Miller won’t outright defacto condemn you as rightfully through experience with others you now expect. He has seen a lot, knows a lot, and he understands that each of us including even himself is woefully still imperfect. He also knows the vast spiritual changes at hand as described. So if two of the present-day great theologically analytical and discerning minds during this point of change can’t even say “Hi” to one another then we all suffer because of it – in effect even if it gets to agree to disagree on certain views. The point being that both of you will learn from each other and then all can greatly learn more from both of you. This I know.

        I completely understand however your higher positional mission. The Trinity thing isn’t cast in stone precisely because it was mainly presuppositional apologetically derived logic expeditiously enacted to deal with the politically and socially uncomfortable vacuum of a unifying Godhead solution during those tumultuous Nicaea times. Miller likely understands this and therefore current doctrinal perceived chasms may not be so resolute as you now expouse.

        Perhaps someday one will outreach to the other even if obtusely. What comes out of it will either immediately wither or it’ll flourish. I personally think you have inherently more flexibility because you don’t depend on a ‘CRI’ to make a living but you certainly have the right and experience to believe otherwise.

        Fear of the unknown in this case means, “What if he actually agrees with me and we see eye to eye on some hereto momentous spiritual matters, now what?” “I subconsciously fear that potential the most because then he in turn might influence me and I don’t want that because I already know I know everything there is to know.” And of course vice-versa.

        With that, it’s time for me to sign-out for good from here. Best to you and endeavors.

        Dave

  21. He is now! I got an anonymous letter in the mail alerting me to this discussion. I’m not sure who “Dave” is but obviously one of my old pals on Palomar Moutain. Hi “Dave”! I appreciate the nice things you said about me but Lee is right. We would both be wasting our time. Lee is very clear about the fact that he is not open to seeing things from my perspective and the odds of my converting to Swedenborgianism are equal to a snowball’s chance to survive in hell. Which, by the way, I’m not consigning Lee or anyone else to. There is only one Judge of the universe and we will all have to answer to Him. I do appreciate the polite dialogue here, though. Keep it up!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Elliot,

      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by and giving a shout. What’s “Palomar Mountain”? I presume you weren’t deep space telescope buddies!

      Dave’s last comment was a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know whether he’ll see yours. But I’ll ping him just in case he’s paying attention.

      I’m glad to hear that you do not consign anyone to hell, but leave that to God. I do hope you’ll have a moderating effect on some of your more judgmental brethren.

      • Palomar Mountain is where the world-famous observatory with its 200-inch Hale telescope is located. Many things have been discovered there, including the fact that the Milky Way galaxy is not synonomous with the universe: there are other galaxies! It is located in northeast Sand Diego County and in my opinion is the most beautiful mountain area in Southern California — almost miraculously rceiving an average of 42 inches of precipitation (much of it snow) a year while San Diego below receives less than 10, and therefore boasting huge white firs, incese cedars. big-cone spruces, and a variety of large oaks and pines and fern meadows. The mountain is home to approximately 350 full-time residents, and so you basically know everybody. My wife and I lived there for 17.5 years but are now having new adventures in south Florida.

        As for consigning people to hell, you might be surprised to know that this is not a practice evangelcial Christians generally approve of.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Elliot,

          Sounds like a beautiful place to have spent a span of your life! Do you think Dave was another resident there?

          And yes, our concept of the universe has been expanding by many orders of magnitude over the past several centuries.

          In Swedenborg’s 18th century Latin texts, the words mundus (“world”) and universum (“universe”) are sometimes still used in their old Ptolemaic sense in which the “world” or “universe” of God’s physical Creation was about the size of the area out to the orbit of Saturn (the most distant planet then known), plus a surrounding sphere of fixed stars. In some contexts we have to translate these words as “solar system” in order to convey Swedenborg’s meaning to modern readers.

          The Aristotelian Universe in a Ptolemaic Model

          Of course, Swedenborg was well aware that the physical universe is much larger than that. He spoke of other solar systems complete with planets, and even seems to have had some nascent concept of our galaxy, and of the possibility of other galaxies.

          I believe that our concept of the physical universe is expanding right along with our concepts of God and spirit.

          About that not consigning people to hell thing, my experience shows that unfortunately, quite a few of the faithful in the evangelical and fundamentalist wings of Protestantism have not gotten the memo.

        • Thanks for sharing that interesting point about Swedenborg’s use of the words mundus and universum. I am aware of his many contributions to physical science.

          “Dave” identified himself to me as “someone by your old haunts around Palomar.” It’s always nice to hear from someone on the Mountain, even when his specific identity is withheld.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Elliot,

          Did Dave communicate with you privately?

          Incidentally, I was talking about Swedenborg’s theological works. I’m much more familiar with them than I am with his earlier scientific works. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if he sometimes used mundus and universum in the same way in his scientific works. For him it was a quasi-poetic use rather than a technical and scientific use of those words. Of course, in those days the lines between poetry, science, and theology were nowhere near as sharp as they are today.

        • Very true. We live in an age of specialization, but the result is increasing fragmentation and people lose sight of the big picture. Much of modern science is ruled by the philosophy of naturalism without realizing it is a philosophy and equating it with science itself. Thus any knowledge claims that invoke nonphysical sources are excluded a priori on the basis that they are not scientific, but it is not science that excludes them but rather scientifically unprovable philosophical materialism. It is entirely possible and arguably true that knowledge derived from spiritual sources can be compatible with the findings of physical science and can provide understanding of the big picture that physical science never can give. “Science” means knowledge and any quest for knowledge should not exclude possible sources of knowledge simply because they invoke nonphysical dimensions of reality but rather test them to see if they are coherent with reality and, if they are, integrate them with the findings of physical science to provide a comprehensive worldview by which we may live and flourish. We need once again to have Renaissance men such as da Vinci, Newton, and yes, Swedenborg (though I reject his departures from biblical revelation, I applaud what he was attempting to do) to lead us out of this fragmented view of reality that fragments society and undermines the very foundations of civilization.

          Dave merely notified me of the discussion that was going on and where to find it. What I learned I learned by perusing the posts here, not from his letter.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Elliot,

          So Dave was the one who sent you the anonymous letter alerting you to the discussion here?

        • I’m assuming that. The name Dave is not on the letter. There could be a third party here for al I know.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Elliot,

          Of course, I agree with you about about the error of naturalists ruling out all non-physical sources of knowledge. That’s covered in my article, “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

          However, creationists make a similar error when they think that the Bible is intended to provide us with knowledge about the material world and God’s physical creation. Reading Genesis as if it were a science textbook that disproves what science has discovered about the physical history of the universe is just as untenable as naturalistic scientists looking at the material universe, discovering that it is internally coherent, and jumping to the conclusion that therefore God and spirit do not exist.

          I agree with you that knowledge derived from spiritual sources can be (and is, from a Swedenborgian perspective) compatible with the findings of physical science. But each source of knowledge applies primarily to its own realm of reality. And just as physical science is a poor source of knowledge about the nature of God and spirit, so the spiritual writings of humankind, especially including the Bible, are a poor source of knowledge about the nature of the physical universe. That’s simply not what those two pursuits are designed to do, respectively to each other.

          It was one of Swedenborg’s basic epistemological principles that good science and true theology do not contradict one another, but rather complement and support one another. But he differed from present-day evangelicals in believing that each must proceed on its own level, and that drawing conclusions from one to the other inevitably leads to errors both about the material universe and about the spiritual universe and God.

          And that, I believe, is precisely what Christian evangelicals have done. They have made the category error of thinking that the Word of God is a proper source of knowledge about physical and material things. Swedenborg stated (and I agree with him) that God did not give us the Bible to teach us about material things, which we can discover for ourselves, but rather to teach us about spiritual things, which we would never discover on our own.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Elliot,

          Now about Swedenborg departing from biblical revelation, it is precisely the opposite.

          It is traditional Christianity, and especially its Protestant wing, that has departed very far from biblical revelation. So much so that none of its most basic doctrinal tenets are actually stated in the Bible, but are, instead, the product of human theologians and councils. I point this out in my article, “‘Christian Beliefs’ that the Bible Doesn’t Teach.”

          To enumerate the first three of the five points covered in that article:

          1. The Bible never says that God is a Trinity of Persons. That doctrine seems to have originated with Tertullian, was modified and initially codified by the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople, and was further defined and nailed down in the Athanasian Creed, which remains the authoritative statement of that doctrine accepted throughout most of traditional Christianity. All of these are human theologians and human councils. The Bible itself simply does not say that God is a Trinity of Persons. Yet that is the fundamental doctrine of the vast bulk of Christianity today.
          2. The Bible does not say that we are saved, or justified, by faith alone. In fact, the Bible specifically denies this in the one and only place where “faith alone” appears in the Bible: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). And yet, Martin Luther, a human theologian, established justification by faith alone as “the article on which the church stands or falls.” And Protestants ever since have denied and tried to argue away the clearest statement on the subject in the entire Bible, while clinging to the non-Biblical teaching of a human theologian. (Reading Protestant mental gymnastics attempting to explain away James 2:24 has been a fascinating exercise for me over the years. Why not just accept what James says, plainly and clearly? Why believe Martin Luther over the Apostle James?)
          3. The Bible never says that Christ paid the price, or the penalty for our sins. It simply isn’t there. I’ve searched and searched, and I’ve challenged everyone who has claimed that doctrine to find a place in the Bible where it is stated. So far, no one has been able to come up with such a passage. That’s because it simply isn’t stated in the Bible. Penal Substitution was also apparently an invention of Martin Luther (though I’m not crystal clear on its precise origins), in a further development of another non-Biblical theory, the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement invented by Anselm, another human theologian, a thousand years after the Bible was written. And Anselm specifically avoided basing his theory on the Bible, but sought to base it on reason and logic instead—though he couldn’t entirely avoid referencing the Bible in his arguments for his new theory (see “What was Anselm’s biblical basis for his theory of atonement by satisfaction?” at Christianity StackExchange).

          I think it’s fair to say that these three doctrines—the Trinity of Persons, justification by faith alone, and penal substitution—are the primary foundation stones of Protestant doctrine generally, and especially of evangelical Protestant theology.

          And yet, not a single one of them is stated in the Bible!

          I have the annoying habit of actually looking up the long streams of Bible references found in evangelical Christian tracts and articles purporting to support the dogmas asserted in them. And what has struck me ever since I adopted that annoying habit decades ago is that in most cases the Bible verses referred to don’t actually say what the tract or article says they say.

          I would challenge you, also, to find me a single verse anywhere in the Bible that clearly states any of these three doctrines that are foundational to evangelical Christianity. I don’t mean verses that can be interpreted as saying these things, but verses that actually state these things plainly and clearly.

          You simply can’t do so, because the Bible doesn’t state any of these things. All of them are the products of human theologians and human interpretations.

          How can a doctrine be foundational to Christian belief and faith if it simply isn’t stated anywhere in the Bible?

          Is the Bible so incompetent to state its meaning that it must be “helped” by human theologians, in the same manner that Uzzah “helped” the ark of God stay on course, and was struck down by God for doing so? (2 Samuel 6:1-11).

          Isn’t the Bible capable of directly, clearly, and plainly teaching us the most basic doctrines on which our faith and salvation depends?

          And yet, none of the most basic, foundational doctrines of evangelical Protestant Christianity, or of traditional Christianity generally, are stated in the plain, clear language of the Bible itself. They are all human formulations.

          Swedenborg skipped over Luther, Anselm, Constantine, Tertullian, and all of the other human theologians, councils, and creeds, and went directly to the Bible with no one but the Lord to enlighten his mind. And what he found stated there clearly, in the plain words of the Bible itself, was very different than what he’d been taught growing up as the son of a Lutheran priest. In fact, he struggled over a period of several years to free his mind from the false, non-Biblical human doctrine he’d been inculcated with throughout his youth, before he could see the Bible’s clear, plain, and true teachings in their own light.

          Unlike Protestant theology, the essential, foundational doctrines Swedenborg taught in his theological writings are stated plainly and clearly in the Bible, as you can see in this article: “Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach.”

          It is, in fact, traditional Christianity, including its evangelical Protestant wing, that has departed from biblical revelation, “teaching human precepts as doctrines” (Matthew 15:9).

          Although Swedenborg penned many volumes explaining the spiritual meaning of the Bible, when it came to formulating Christian doctrine, he stated that “the church’s body of teaching has to be drawn from the Word’s literal meaning and supported by it” (True Christianity #225).

          I submit to you that Swedenborg’s doctrine, or “body of teaching” is drawn from the plain, literal meaning of the Bible, whereas evangelical Protestant doctrine is drawn from human theologians, and is stated nowhere in the plain, literal meaning of the Bible itself.

  22. Frank says:

    Hello Lee!

    Been following this thread and the rest of your wonderful blog with keen interest! So does Elliot Miller (of Christian Research Institute) essentially agree with you and Emanuel Swedenborg’s interpretations if he doesn’t respond with scripture to the exceptions you mention in reply to his comments? It’s my understanding that true born again evangelical Christians are biblically required to challenge with scripture whenever anyone publicly quotes scripture that is misleading or doctrinally false.

    Thanks!

    Frank

    • Lee says:

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and your kind words. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      My interpretation is that Elliot Miller opted not to engage in doctrinal debate with me here on my blog. Based on the comment I was responding to, it seems that Mr. Miller appreciate’s Swedenborg’s broad intellect, but believes he was mistaken in his doctrines and his interpretation of the Bible.

      For my part, I could not allow Mr. Miller’s comment about Swedenborg’s (supposed) “departures from biblical revelation” to go unchallenged.

  23. Frank says:

    Thanks, Lee!

    It’s curious that he didn’t challenge you back with even one verse that could cause you to rethink at least one of your comments. “Departures from biblical revelation” sounds to me like a one size fits all cop out.

    It’s kinda like if someone with a megaphone shouts on a super busy street corner, “Hey people listen up! I represent a respected scientific organization that are THE astronomy experts! The moon is actually DEEP DEEP PURPLE and that’s THAT people! You can’t see its real color like our special instruments can so stop believing your eyes dammit!”, and then walks away before anyone can say anything back. lol

    I don’t know what that means about Christian Research Institute credibility (or if they even care because you and this blog don’t matter in comparison to them) but silence to me here says tons!

    Oh well! 🙂

    Frank

    • Frank, your comments are frankly unfair. I refer you back to Lee’s original comments about me and my original post. Both Lee and I agreed that it would be pointless for us to attempt to change each other’s minds. I am only here because someone from Palomar Mountain, CA wrote me a letter suggesting I check out this blog because I was being discussed; I never joined to engage in dialogue about Swedenborgianism. My comment was meant as the best compliment about Swedenborg I could offer, not as a challenge to his followers, but Lee couldn’t resist defending his teacher (or whatever he would call him). I understand that, but I saw that for me to respond to Lee’s comments would be to engage the very debate that Lee and I both agreed would be pointless. All of your baiting will not get me to change my mind, and I think you need to respect the original understanding Lee and I had and not attempt to provoke us to change it midstream. It’s not that I don’t engage in such discussions but rather that I am very busy and I need to choose my “battles” carefully and not spread myself too thin. Again, I meant my comment as a compliment and not a provocation. I will not continue to reply to further posts.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Elliot,

        Thanks for popping in and responding to Frank’s questions, provocatively stated though they may be. You, of course, are in a much better position than I am to respond to questions about why you did or didn’t do this or that.

        I did understand that you were being as complimentary about Swedenborg as you could be here on this website devoted to Swedenborg’s theology and to Bible interpretation in its light. And I did appreciate that—and gained some sense of why our friend Dave might have thought that a dialog between the two of us would be constructive.

        However, quite frankly, I didn’t expect that you would respond at any length, if at all, to my defense of the biblical basis of Swedenborg’s teachings since it would involve major outlays of time on your part to engage in a theological debate that both of us agreed would be highly unlikely to change either your mind or mine.

        Further, it would be a debate that, for you, would take place in a forum where I have the home court advantage. Similarly, it’s unlikely that I would go to your website and engage you in debate there, especially since to my knowledge your website has no significant material about Swedenborg, so there’s nothing I would feel the need to respond to. (I have, in the past, attempted to get corrections made to false statements made on other websites about Swedenborg and his teachings; but for the most part it was not a very productive use of my time.)

        I did, however, feel the need to respond to a couple of your statements here, not with any thought that I might change your mind, but for the sake of others reading our exchange.

        In particular, you happen to have stumbled upon perhaps the one Swedenborgian minister who is most intent to show that Swedenborg’s teachings are based upon and in accord with the plain, literal statements in the Bible that are key to Christian theology, whereas the foundational doctrines of traditional Christianity, including Protestantism, are not. This I believe to be the truth.

        So I hope you will understand that here on my website I could not let your passing comment about your rejecting Swedenborg’s “departures from biblical revelation” go unchallenged, lest it seem to my readers that I was tacitly accepting that characterization of Swedenborg’s teachings. I do not cede the ground of biblical basis to anyone, even while recognizing that in the spectrum of Christianity there are sharply divergent interpretations of the Bible.

        I agree that a debate between you and me on this point would probably not be very fruitful—which, as you point out, is what I had said to Dave in the first place.

        Incidentally, even Swedenborgians have no agreed-upon term or title by which to refer to Swedenborg. The only generally agreed-upon points are that Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences were genuine, that his writings do constitute some form of revelation (exactly which form is a matter of debate), and that Swedenborg himself is a human being like everyone else, even if a particularly gifted human being.

        For my part, I categorically reject the belief of a minority of Swedenborgians that Swedenborg’s writings constitute a “Third Testament” of the Word of God. I believe Swedenborg himself would find such a characterization of his writings to be false and highly objectionable. He was nothing if not utterly devoted to the Bible, and he did understand the difference between his writings and the Bible. I explore the issue of Swedenborg’s writings in relation to the Bible in this article, written in response to a reader’s question: Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

        Once again, I appreciate your stopping by to say hello and engage in a friendly and respectful exchange. If nothing else, this shows that Dave was not entirely wrong in his sense of you and your character, which led him to believe in the first place that a dialog between the two of us might be productive.

        • Thanks for your kind explanation Lee. I completely understand your position and why you felt you needed to respond to my comment here on your website. If I ever feel the need to address Swedenborg in my own work I will certainly be back. Bye for now.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Frank,

      Mr. Miller has now responded for himself, so there’s no need for me to do so.

      I would only add that I don’t think his statement about “departures from biblical revelation” was a cop-out, but rather a somewhat understated way of presenting a balanced picture of his view of Swedenborg without being too provocative. It’s just that in making such a statement here, he inadvertently stepped into a hornet’s nest! 😉

      Further, it is common among among non-Swedenborgians to think that Swedenborg based his theology primarily on his spiritual experiences and on what he heard from spirits and angels, and not on the Bible, and to think that his followers therefore don’t even claim that their theology is based on the Bible. However, in my view that is a major error made even by some less-well-versed Swedenborgians. Swedenborg himself stated categorically 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 Bible. (True Christianity #779)

  24. Frank says:

    Hello Elliot!

    If I offended you deeply I sincerely regret that because I do agree after reading this most interesting thread and some of your CRI journal articles that you have the big “chops” as ‘Dave’ mentioned to contribute something meaningful to all of us here that visit this AMAZING blog. I certainly agree with Dave that you’re a bit brilliant as is Lee! This is very very rare these days when it comes to spiritual matters! I think that’s what Dave was trying to convey – a flexible at ease sharing of common ground insights which would be a wonderful breath of fresh air from all the denominational and doctrinal constant bickering that’s so prevalent! Man I’m so sick of everyone including ministers to ministers fighting with one another tooth and nail just because we don’t see EVERY spiritual thing EXACTLY eye to eye! Understanding though that indeed certain main differences between your faith and Swedenborgianism are insurmountable. That’s ok though. We can handle it!

    I believe most of us here are open minded and adult enough to hear differing opinions and insights without being offended. I think that’s just one of the very special unique things that Lee has put together here! I don’t think there’s any other blog out there quite like this. This is foremost a loving place. I believe that’s ultimately Lee’s central intent above everything else regardless of differing opinions. And like Lee has said many times, sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. And that’s ok too. Life goes on. It doesn’t end here and there.

    Again I regret if my comments offended you! It wasn’t intended to be disrespectful even if I in hindsight regretably now see I came across that way. I hope you change your mind and contribute to those areas of common ground and share your brilliant spiritual insights and many years of experience! You have a lot of them! Just even your comments about Palomar were really interesting and made me want to know more about it. Heck, so many modern day topics discussed here are real tough ones and I think they touch upon areas that you’ve already tackled. Not that Lee needs per se help in tackling them mind you. But it would’ve been cool to hear your thoughts even if they were moreso pragmatic or secularly based from time to time. It’s even ok to discuss new ground breaking scientific principles here and how they relate universally to a spiritual God whom we ALL will ultimately at some point interact with no matter what doctrines we follow on earth. I think we already have this common ground right off the bat.

    Well I guess that’s it or at least it’s the best way I can say it! Please come back, ok? Fair enough?

    Frank 🙂

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