Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

“We are saved by faith alone.”

The Bible doesn’t say it. In fact, the Bible rejects it.

It was not part of Christian belief for the first 1,500 years of Christianity.

Even today, only about one-fifth of Christians belong to churches that teach it.

And yet, the minority of Christians who do believe in it think it’s the most important, essential teaching of Christianity.

Justification by faith alone” is the Protestant doctrine that the one and only thing that saves us is believing that Jesus Christ died for us on the cross. Our “works,” meaning what we do and how we live, do not contribute anything to our salvation. If we believe that Jesus died for us, we will go to heaven. If we do not believe that Jesus died for us, we will go to hell.

I have been told that I am going to hell because I am unwilling to say and believe that faith alone saves.

Now that could be a problem!

The numbers don’t look good

Let’s do a little math.

Approximately 20% of Christians belong to churches that teach that faith alone saves. Approximately 32% of the world’s population identifies as Christian. This means that approximately 6.4% of the world’s population belongs to churches that teach that faith alone saves.

The current world population is 7.3 billion.

This means that by the most optimistic estimates (if all of the people who belong to churches that teach faith alone actually believe the way they are supposed to), of all the people alive today:

  • 467 million people are saved and will go to heaven.
  • 6.8 billion people will be damned and go to hell.

Or put another way, over 93% of the world’s population is going to hell.

Is God incompetent?

So I have a question for you:

Is God incompetent?

If you worked in an automobile design studio, and one day you rushed into your boss’s office and said, “Look! I’ve designed a car that works 6.4% of the time!” how would your boss react? I’ll tell you how: “Back to the drawing board!”

Supposedly God loves all of the people whom God has created. And yet, if the only thing that saves us is faith in Jesus Christ, and the belief that we are saved by that faith alone, then over 93% of the people God supposedly loves are going to hell.

I would call that an epic fail.

Even if we broaden the definition, and say that everyone who believes in Jesus can be saved, you’re still talking a success rate of only 32% at best—and that assumes that everyone who self-identifies as a Christian truly believes in Jesus Christ.

Even a 32% success rate would still be a major fail on God’s part.

Yet according to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, that is the best success rate God could possibly have in the population of the world today.

Is God really such a bad designer that somewhere between 67% and 93% of the human beings on earth end out in the scrap heap with “REJECT” stamped on them in big, red letters?

Yes, but what about the Bible?

The churches and preachers who teach salvation by faith alone know about these numbers. Their general response is, “Yes, it sounds harsh. But we must believe it because that’s what the Bible teaches.”

So here’s a little quiz:

Question: How many times does “faith alone” appear in the Bible?

Answer: Once.

Here it is:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

That’s right. In the one and only place in the entire Bible that “faith alone” appears, it is specifically rejected as saving!

Christians who believe in faith alone think that Paul teaches it.

But Paul never even says “faith alone” in any of his letters. (He also doesn’t say “grace alone.”) And Paul was articulate enough that if he had wanted to say that faith alone saves, he certainly had the vocabulary and the ability to do so.

But he never did.

What Paul did say is that we are saved by faith apart from the works of the Law (Romans 3:28). And that is one of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible.

Paul was not saying that we don’t have to do good deeds in order to be saved. Just one chapter earlier, he had said:

God will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6–11)

So it’s crystal clear that Paul, like every other writer in the Bible, taught that we must do good works in order to be saved, and that if we don’t, we will be condemned.

“Faith apart from the works of the Law”

When Paul said that we are saved by faith apart from the works of the Law, he was talking about the Law of Moses.

He was arguing, against the main group of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, that it was not necessary for Christians to obey the ritual laws of sacrifice, diet, circumcision, and so on prescribed in the ancient Jewish ritual code found in the Torah, or Law, which is the first five books of the Bible. Paul, an “apostle to the Gentiles” (see Romans 11:13), did not want to saddle pagan converts with the ritual laws of Judaism. Further, he believed that faith in Jesus made it unnecessary to follow those ritual laws.

For observant Jews, strictly following these laws was a matter of great pride. See, for example, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Here “works” like the “circumcision” that he talks about in the next few verses, is shorthand for “the works of the Law”—meaning the ritual laws given by Moses in the Torah.

Paul even says in the very next verse, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10, italics added).

Yes, Paul was big on faith. He’s always talking about faith. But he never taught faith alone. Just like the other Bible writers, he insisted that we must do good works as commanded by the Lord if we wish to be saved and go to heaven.

Where did faith alone come from?

If the Bible never says that faith alone saves, how did it become the distinguishing doctrine of Protestantism?

Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Martin Luther

The answer is simple. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone did not come from the Bible. It came from Martin Luther (1483–1546).

Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest in Germany who, in time, rejected Catholicism and became the leading founder of Protestantism.

As part of his doctrinal break from Rome, he promulgated the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This doctrine became the primary doctrine distinguishing Protestantism from Roman Catholicism, and the key doctrine of Protestantism as a whole.

John Calvin, by Hans Holbein the Younger

John Calvin

John Calvin (1509–1564), a French theologian who became another primary figure in the Protestant Reformation, founding the Reformed or Calvinist branch of Protestantism, adopted the doctrine of salvation by faith alone from Luther.

Philipp Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Philip Melanchthon

These two theologians, along with Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), who systematized Lutheran theology, established salvation by faith alone as the fundamental doctrine of Protestantism. This is the doctrine that distinguishes it from Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and all other Christian churches. It is only Protestants who say, over and over again, that we are saved by faith alone.

Protestants—especially the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety—believe and claim that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone comes from the Bible. But the reality is that it comes from Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon.

The Bible itself never says that faith alone saves. Instead, as I pointed out earlier, the Bible specifically denies that we are saved by faith alone. Martin Luther actually wanted to remove the book of James from the Bible because it contradicted his distinctive doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

So what?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

So what?

What does it matter whether the doctrine of salvation by faith alone is true or false? Isn’t it just another one of those endless and useless doctrinal debates that those old Christian theologians are always having with each other?

Well . . . first of all, if we were truly saved by faith alone, it would mean that somewhere between two-thirds and nineteen-twentieths of the world’s population will spend eternity being tortured in hell mostly because they just happened to be born into the wrong culture and religion.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that a loving God would design the world so that most people end out in hell really bothers me.

What is our life for, anyway?

But let me ask you a more practical question.

What do you spend more of your time at: believing things or doing things?

Don’t get me wrong, faith is very important. If we don’t believe in God, or at least in some higher power and morality than ourselves, about all that’s left is for us to live for the pleasure of today, and hope for more pleasure tomorrow. And that’s not much of a life.

However, for most of us, believing things takes up only a small part of our time and energy. The reality is that we’ve got work to do.

Most of us spend most of our days, and most of our lives, getting up in the morning and going about our daily tasks, going to our day job, taking care of our families and other people that we’re responsible for, and getting things done around the house and around the community.

The main problem with faith alone is not that it isn’t taught by the Bible—as bad as that is. The main problem with faith alone is that if it were true, it would mean that almost everything we do during our lifetime here on earth is irrelevant to our eternal life.

Our daily work matters

Why would God put us on this earth and give us bodies, and work to do with them, if all that matters is what we believe? If all that matters is faith, why didn’t God just give us a brain, and a thinking mind, and leave it at that?

The reality is that everything we do all day—all of our work, all of our struggle, all of our blood, sweat, and tears—does matter in eternity. God did not put us on earth merely to believe and have faith. God put us here on earth to act on our faith, and live by our beliefs. That’s why the Apostle James said:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14–17)

The Bible everywhere, and in many different ways, tells us that faith by itself is useless. Everywhere, the Bible tells us that if we wish to be saved, we must love our neighbor, care for our neighbor, and engage in active service to our neighbor. Jesus himself tells us that only those who tend to the needs of others will go to heaven (see Matthew 25:31–46).

Our daily labor, our daily job, our daily service to our fellow human beings is the crucible in which our eternal life is forged.

God gave us the Ten Commandments, and all the other laws of life in the Bible, for a reason. Only by following God’s commandments, only by living with integrity toward our fellow human beings, only by serving other people day in and day out with love and humility, can God build in us the depth of spiritual character required to spend eternity as angels in heaven.

God did not make a mistake putting us here on earth and making it a requirement that we spend much of our life, and much of our day, engaged in useful services of one sort or another. Quite the contrary. God knew that it is only through active service to others that we can develop as spiritual and heavenly beings.

The doctrine of salvation by faith alone fails miserably not only because it is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, but also because it would make most of our life, most of our labor, most of what we spend our days doing totally irrelevant.

But I’m here to tell you that what you do all day does matter. What you do with your life does matter. Because little by little, with each task done and with each service rendered to your fellow human beings, you are building the spiritual character you need for God to bless you with eternal life and joy in the vast community of service that is heaven.

For further reading:

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.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed
517 comments on “Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does
  1. David says:

    It’s not what you say “ As part of his doctrinal break from Rome, he promulgated the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This doctrine became the primary doctrine distinguishing Protestantism from Roman Catholicism, and the key doctrine of Protestantism as a whole.” it’s what you don’t say.
    Through his interpretation of Romans 9:30 “That Gentiles who did not pursue have attained, that is, a righteousness that is by faith.” And Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been save through faith.” He came to his conclusions. Luther was also an advocate of doing good works, though his belief in this was that the good works we do come from the Holy Spirit in us from our faith. It’s just that these good works won’t be akin to our salvation.

    By not saying something to that, you make it seem as if Luther was just saying faith. And that he didn’t believe is us doing good works. That is misleading your readers. Was this purposeful? That is only known by you and God.

    You tend to not say things which are germane to the topic at hand.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I already responded to this in previous comments, and in linked articles. No need to repeat it all.

      Bottom line: Luther was wrong about justification by faith alone.

  2. David says:

    This would make sense only if you believe that belief and faith are not synonymous.

  3. David says:

    That still doesn’t answer the question. Do you believe that Belief and Faith are the same?

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      If they were exactly the same, why would there be two different words? They relate to each other, but they are not the same. Faith, in its biblical meaning, is stronger than belief.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I should add that this whole discussion is about “belief” and “faith” as those words are used in English. In the Greek of the New Testament, there is a single word that, in various forms and contexts, is translated as “belief,” “faith,” “faithfulness,” and so on. No one word in English entirely captures the meaning and sense of the original Greek word, which is why it’s translated differently in different contexts.

  4. David says:

    Then that means I’m saved by my belief in Christ.

    So, all we really need is to believe in Christ and we will be saved.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      No, that is wrong. The Bible never says that.

      • David says:

        John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”

        Is that not Jesus saying that their belief in him will have them saved? Because you just said that belief and faith were not the same.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Once again, I said that they are related, but not the same. Otherwise there would not be two different words. When Protestants flatten out the Bible’s language, forcing everything to mean the same thing—which in their minds is faith alone—they misunderstand everything the Bible says.

          There is not one thing, and one thing only, that saves us. It is not faith alone that saves us. Rather, God works in many ways and on many fronts to save us. Grace, belief, faith, the Holy Spirit, love, compassion, self-examination, repentance, rebirth, good works and on and on. All of these are part of our salvation, not faith alone.

          Search the Bible for yourself. You will never find a place where it says only this or only that saves or justifies us. It just isn’t there. Because it isn’t true.

          I should also say that words are sometimes used loosely and sometimes strictly. When they are used loosely, they may cover a wide range of meaning. In that case, “belief” and “faith” do have similar meanings. But when they are used strictly, different words such as “belief” and “faith” have distinct meanings, even if they are related meanings.

          Faith is stronger than belief. If I say “I have faith that I will be saved,” that is a stronger statement than “I believe I will be saved.” Faith is an inner conviction that something is true. Belief is more of a feeling and affirmation that something is true. That’s why belief can lead to faith. If we initially believe that something is true, then we will look into it and test it and see if it stands up to scrutiny against opposing ideas, and practically speaking, if it works. Once we have assured ourselves that what we believed to be true actually is true, then we have faith that it is true.

          This is why in the Bible people are commonly asked to believe in Jesus, believe the message, and so on. That belief can lead to faith in Jesus and Jesus’ message. If the person then acts on Jesus’ message, following his commandments, then the faith becomes real, and is not dead. Faith alone does not justify a person. Only faith together with works—or as James means in that passage, good works. (In that passage, James is using the word “works” differently than Paul. In the well-known passages, Paul is using it to mean “the works of the Law,” i.e., the ritual law of Moses, represented by “circumcision.” But in James 2, James is using it to mean “good works.”)

          The Bible is not a simple kindergarten book. It is a highly complex book that has many shades of meaning. If you attempt to flatten it all down into a simple black-and-white picture, you will completely miss what the Bible is saying. This is precisely what Protestants have done by flattening everything down to “faith alone”—a term the Bible never even uses except to reject it.

  5. David says:

    But believing is faith. I think that is part of your church doctrine. Swedenborg, right? That is what they believe.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      No, they are not the same. The Bible uses them differently, and so does Swedenborg.

      • David says:

        True Christianity #2
        By Emanuel Swedenborg
        “…If he had not done this, not one mortal could have been saved; those who believe in him are saved.”

        True Christianity #3
        By Emanuel Swedenborg
        “(2) Believing in him is a faith that saves.”

        Remember that Luther’s interpretation is how he read it. He didn’t just make it up. This is why I advise you to read some of his works.

        By faith alone, but not by a faith which is alone.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          I love the Protestant saying (probably originated by Calvin) that “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” It shows in one brief, pithy statement just how ridiculous and contradictory Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone is. In this, it serves the same purpose as these lines in the Athanasian Creed do for the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons:

          For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

          In other words, we must believe that there are three Gods and Lords, but we must not say that there are three Gods and Lords.

          Just so, Protestants must believe that it is by faith alone, but they must also believe that the faith that saves us is never alone. No wonder Protestants are so confused.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Now in response to this:

          True Christianity #2
          By Emanuel Swedenborg
          “…If he had not done this, not one mortal could have been saved; those who believe in him are saved.”

          True Christianity #3
          By Emanuel Swedenborg
          “(2) Believing in him is a faith that saves.”

          Kudos to you for actually looking something up in Swedenborg’s writings. That’s more than most Protestants do when they come here to tell me I’m wrong.

          Unfortunately, you are doing the same things to Swedenborg that Protestants do to the Bible:

          1. Reading a brief sentence or two out of its context.
          2. Adding an implied or explicit “alone” that isn’t there.

          To take the second one first, neither the Bible nor Swedenborg ever says that it only belief, or faith alone, that saves us. The Bible explicitly rejects this idea. And Swedenborg, though he grew up Lutheran, became an implacable enemy of Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone. Of the various “Christian” doctrines that he attacked, only the Trinity of Persons came in for more criticism than justification by faith alone.

          To attempt to read Swedenborg as if he supported Luther’s doctrine is to get Swedenborg so wrong as to amount to errant ignorance of his teachings. Swedenborg grew up as the son of a high-ranking Lutheran clergyman. He knew exactly what Luther taught about faith alone. And he utterly and vociferously rejected it.

          Oh, and though both the Bible and Swedenborg say that those who believe in Jesus are saved, it is a basic logical fallacy to conclude from this statement that those who do not believe in him are not saved. But that gets into more complicated issues. Some of them are taken up in this article:

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

          Now to take up the two statements in Swedenborg that you quote. First:

          . . . If he had not done this, not one mortal could have been saved; those who believe in him are saved. (True Christianity #2)

          The full statement is:

          The faith of the new heaven and the new church in universal form is this: The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to gain control over the hells and to glorify his own human nature. If he had not done this, not one mortal could have been saved; those who believe in him are saved.

          This is a completely different view of how Jesus saved us than is held to in Western Christianity, whose view of salvation is based on the satisfaction theory of atonement. Swedenborg rejected satisfaction theory, and instead taught something more akin to the earlier Christus Victor theory of atonement (though not quite the same as that theory). Here is how Swedenborg goes on in this same section of True Christianity to briefly explain his theory of atonement and salvation based on Christ’s victory over evil:

          It is universal to the faith to believe that if the Lord had not come into the world not one mortal could have been saved. It is universal to the faith to believe that the Lord came into the world to separate hell from the human race, and that he accomplished this by repeatedly doing battle with hell and conquering it. In this way he gained control over it, forced it back into the divine design, and made it obey him. (True Christianity #2)

          “Not one mortal could have been saved” because if the Lord had not gained victory over hell, personified as “the Devil” and “Satan” in the Bible, no mortal would have been able to resist the power of the Devil; all would have been dragged down to hell. The salvation the Lord achieved for us during his lifetime on earth was the salvation of the entire human race from the overwhelming power of evil.

          Individual salvation happens when a particular person accepts that power from the Lord through believing in the Lord. This is what Swedenborg means when he says, “those who believe in him are saved.”

          However, it would be a complete misunderstanding of Swedenborg’s teachings to think that he means that those who only or merely believe in Jesus will be saved. Swedenborg echoes and amplifies James’s teachings that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17) and “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)—statements that are not denied or negated anywhere else in the Bible, including in Paul’s writings.

          Swedenborg spends a lot of time saying that belief or faith that does not lead to good works is not only dead, but isn’t even faith. And he is careful to explain that the good works come, not from faith itself, as Protestants wrongly believe with their slogan that “good works are the fruits of faith,” but from the Lord’s power working within us, as Jesus himself teaches in John 15:4–5.

          All of this becomes clear if we read the full context of your other quotation from Swedenborg:

          (2) Believing in him is a faith that saves.

          Here is the full version:

          For our part, the specifics of faith are these:

          (1) There is one God, the divine Trinity exists within him, and he is the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ.

          (2) Believing in him is a faith that saves.

          (3) We must not do things that are evil—they belong to the Devil and come from the Devil.

          (4) We must do things that are good—they belong to God and come from God.

          (5) We must do these things as if we ourselves were doing them, but we must believe that they come from the Lord working with us and through us.

          The first two points have to do with faith, the second two have to do with goodwill; and the fifth has to do with the partnership between goodwill and faith, the partnership between the Lord and us. (True Christianity #3:2)

          Notice that he introduces these five points as “the specifics of faith.”

          If all of these things aren’t part of our faith, then it is an empty or dead faith. So if our faith doesn’t tell us that we must not do things that are evil—i.e., we must repent from our sins—then it is not a living faith. And if it does not tell us that we must do things that are good—i.e., do good works—then it is not a living faith. And if it does not tell us that even though we must do them as if by ourselves, we must believe that they come from the Lord, not from us—i.e., we gain no merit from doing good works—then it is not a living faith.

          If all of these things are not together with faith, then it is indeed faith alone, which is not only dead, but is not even faith. Once again, please see:

          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

          Swedenborg is explicit and emphatic that we are not saved by faith alone, but we are saved by the Lord when we both have faith in the Lord and do good works from the Lord. Without both of these in our life, the Lord cannot save us because we have rejected the Lord’s love and presence in us, which is salvation. Ultimately, it is the Lord’s love, rather weakly translated as “grace” in most English translations of the New Testament, that saves us. Having faith and doing good works are simply necessary conditions in us for us to accept the Lord’s love, and be saved by it.

          As for faith and belief being the same thing, I addressed this in my earlier comment here.

  6. David says:

    Dear Lee,

    I’m sorry to inform you how wrong you are about me. I read because I want to learn. I looked at the Swedenborg messages, church, doctrine, and the writings of Mr. Swedenborg because I like to know what I speak of. This is why I advised to to read on Luther. You didn’t. And you have made grace errors in what you have said about him (Even Swedenborg said Luther was blessed).

    But reading more, I now know why you go with James and refuse to hear Paul. Mr. Swedenborg believes Paul is corrupted.
    “Paul is among the worst of the apostles, as has been made known to me by much experience. The love of self, by which he had been ensnared prior to his preaching of the Gospel, remained with him even afterwards, and because he was then almost in the same state, he was prompted by that love and by his nature to want to be in crowds, doing everything with the motive of being the greatest in heaven, and judging the tribes of Israel. That he remained of this nature afterwards is shown by much experience, for I spoke with him more than with the others. In fact he is such that the rest of the Apostles in the other life rejected him from their company, and they no longer acknowledge him as one of them – this for the reason also that he allied himself with one of the worst devils, who wants to control all things, and pledged himself to him in order to achieve this… “

    And back to what I quoted earlier, according to the Swedenborg church “ The many twists and turns found in the stories depict the journey we all must take if we are to be spiritually regenerated. This means that problematic or difficult statements in the Bible do not need to be taken literally.” so, you decided to not take what I quoted back to you literally despite the direct connotation.

    C’est la vie.

    I never doubted you’re being a Christian which you have doubted of me and several millions from your earlier statements. Or are we, the readers, not to takes that literally either. This is a shame coming from a minister. Because isn’t it better to be a little Christian rather than not be a Christian at all?

    There are certain sects that I feel may not be doing things correctly, like snake handlers, faith healers, even at my ex-wife’s church. But I don’t doubt her sincerity about loving Christ. Webster’s defines a Christian as “ one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”.

    I am a Christian. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I believe in him and have faith in him. I believed that he was born of the Virgin Mary. Was crucified, died on the cross and rose on the third day.

    Do I believe in purgatory? No. Do I believe that He descended into hell? I’m iffy on that.

    I applaud you for wanting to save lives as it is. It’s a tough job. But putting down someone’s sect of Christianity down while pumping yours, esp if you really haven’t read or know anything about that sect, is disingenuous.

    But I would recommend anyone I know to attend your church if they are up your area. I believe that you are a good person, and a good Christian despite any differences in belief. And I think that would have very nice sermons.

    Now, I’m going to peg your site with questions concerning religious artifacts, traditions, and more on what was meant here and there.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Once again, kudos for actually doing some reading and research about Swedenborg and his writings. As I said, that is more than most Protestants I have debated have done.

      As a matter of fact, I have read snippets of Luther’s writings, but it was a long time ago, and I don’t consider it to be enough to have any detailed understanding of Luther’s writings. It is his signature doctrine of justification by faith alone that I am concerned about. That is the doctrine that has falsified Protestants’ understanding of the Bible ever since, whatever other good things Luther may have said or done.

      Also, I have indeed read serious Protestant writings about Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone.

      Several years ago when I was debating another Protestant in a different forum, he suggested that we do a reading exchange. I would read something he suggested about the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and he would read something I suggested about Swedenborg’s teachings against that doctrine. I agreed to the exchange.

      His assignment was for me to read either the book Faith Alone, by R.C. Sproul, or the book of the same title (but a different subtitle) by Thomas Schreiner. Since these books were recommended to me by a doctrinally knowledgeable Protestant, I assumed that their authors are known and accepted Protestant writers/theologians. I read one of them in its entirety, and got halfway through the other before I could not stand it anymore. I commented on that reading experience in this article:

      The Extreme Weakness of Faith Alone and Penal Substitution

      Honestly, I was severely disappointed in reading these books. I had hoped to find something that would be a real test for my doctrinal beliefs, against which I would have to exercise my mind, such that I would grow in understanding and strength in my Christian understanding and knowledge. What I found instead was weak, sloppy, and even stupid arguments that didn’t challenge my mind at all. They were a complete waste of my time, except to confirm that Swedenborg was quite right in his analysis of Luther’s doctrine. Specifically, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is based on a simple misunderstanding of the letters of Paul, and is entirely unbiblical and false.

      Perhaps there are other Protestant writers who do a better job of defending the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Perhaps Luther did a better job. But I presume that Sproul and Schreiner have read Luther’s writings, and are bringing to the public a distillation of what Luther said. And honestly, having wasted my time on one and a half books of solfidian apologetics, I am not inclined to waste any more of my time on that particular pursuit. I’ve seen enough.

      Incidentally, the Protestant who gave me that reading assignment never reciprocated by reading the considerably shorter selections from Swedenborg’s True Christianity that I assigned him to read. If you’re a real glutton for punishment and you want to read my commentary on those books about Sola Fide as I was reading them, the discussion thread still exists on Christianity StackExchange here.

      In short, I have also done my homework. I don’t claim to be an expert on Lutheran theology. But I have read enough, from reputable Protestant sources, to be able to claim that I do understand Luther’s doctrine sufficiently to discuss it—and reject it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      About Paul:

      I don’t “refuse to go with Paul.” I read Paul just as much as I read James, if not more. I find Paul’s writings to be good and helpful, just as Swedenborg himself did. I also don’t believe James and Paul disagreed with each other, as many Protestants—and even Luther himself—seem to think.

      Rather, I think that Protestants have completely misunderstood Paul. They are making him say something that he neither believed nor said. Paul never said that we are justified by faith alone. He never even said “faith alone,” nor did he ever say “grace alone.” These Protestant terms represent a complete misunderstanding of Paul’s message.

      When I read Paul’s letters, I read their language very precisely. I also read them in the context of the debates among the first Christian believers that were going on at the time, especially as recorded in Acts 15. Based on this very careful reading of Paul’s writings in their own historical and religious context, I think Luther made a fundamental mistake in his reading of Paul. That mistake vitiated his understanding of Paul’s teachings, and the understanding of every Protestant that followed in Luther’s wake.

      Swedenborg also did not reject Paul’s letters. He call the Epistles as a whole, including Paul’s letters:

      good books of the church, insisting upon the doctrine of charity and its faith as strongly as the Lord himself has done in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation; as may be seen and found evident by everyone who in reading them directs his attention to these points.

      This is my view of Paul’s letters as well.

      The full quote, which is from a letter Swedenborg wrote to one of his early followers, is given in this article:

      Why Isn’t Paul in Swedenborg’s Canon?

      If you haven’t read that article yet, I recommend that you do so. It gives a fuller account of how Swedenborg, and Swedenborgians, view Paul’s letters. We don’t reject them at all—though sadly, some Swedenborgians have a negative view of Paul’s writings because they haven’t read them, and think that Paul actually said what Protestants say he said. Rather, we view Paul’s writings as supporting true Christianity just as much as the rest of the Bible does.

      Anyone who understands the mistake Luther made in his reading of Paul, and knows what Paul was really saying, can read Paul’s letters with great profit. Without Paul, it is unlikely that the Christian Church would have broken away from Judaism and become its own religion. Very likely it would have become a niche quasi-Jewish, quasi-Christian sect similar to the Messianic Jews of today.

      Far from “refusing to go with Paul,” I believe that Paul was called by the Lord to play a critical role in the early development of the Christian Church.

      Luther and his Protestant followers may have some understanding of that role, but because they have so badly misunderstood Paul’s statements about justification by faith apart from the works of the Law, they are blind to Paul’s real message, which is both far more pragmatic and far deeper than the mistaken dogma Protestants see in Paul’s letters.

      In fact, I honor Paul’s writings far more than Protestants do. I pay close attention to exactly what Paul said, and why he said it. Protestants wrongly read Luther’s doctrine into Paul’s letters, twisting them to their destruction, and dishonoring Paul in the process.

      It’s not that I think Paul was a wonderful human being in character and personality. I find some parts of his letters tedious to read because he spends so much time talking about himself, and how terrible/great he himself is. I’d rather he just gave us his teachings, and quit talking about himself all the time. His teachings, properly understood, are very incisive and helpful to a Christian understanding, especially in distinguishing between Jewish and Christian belief and practice. Protestants miss all of this because of the distorting lens of Sola Fide that they look through whenever they read Paul’s writings, and the rest of the Bible as well.

      Swedenborg distinguished between the character of Paul and the writing of Paul. If you continue to read in the passage you quoted from Swedenborg in your comment, you will find this statement:

      The fact that he wrote the epistles does not prove his good character, for even the impious can preach well, and write letters. It is one thing to be, and it is another to speak and write. (Spiritual Experiences #4412:2)

      In other words, even people of poor personal character can speak and write the truth. It is far easier to preach the truth than it is to live by the truth. Paul preached the truth, but as he himself says in his own letters, he had a devil of a time living by the truth. Swedenborg doesn’t say much about Paul that a psychologically astute reader couldn’t gather from Paul’s own writings.

      God uses many broken human vessels to deliver the divine message. Paul was one of those broken vessels. Personally, he was all wrapped up in himself and his ego, as Swedenborg said, and as is clear from an objective reading of his letters. But when it came to his preaching and writing, he preached and wrote well. That’s why his letters survive to this day, and were included in the traditional Christian canon of scripture. They were critical to the early development and growth of the Christian Church. They still have a powerful message for Christians today.

      It is also important to know and understand that all of Swedenborg’s negative statements about Paul’s bad character are in his unpublished journal of spiritual experiences. In his published writings, (the ones Swedenborg himself published), he never said a negative word about Paul. Though he doesn’t quote Paul anywhere near as heavily as traditional Christian theologians do, whenever he does quote or mention Paul in his published writings, it is always a positive mention, generally to show that Protestants have misunderstood Paul, and that Paul’s writings support true Christian doctrine if they are properly understood.

      Even in the stories from the spiritual world that Swedenborg actually published, he takes a positive stance on Paul’s letters, and says that Paul has been misunderstood by Protestants. The best of these is found in Apocalypse Revealed #417, which I recommend that you read for a better perspective on Swedenborg’s view of Paul.

      We don’t know for sure why Swedenborg never published any of the negative accounts of Paul that he had written down in his personal journal of spiritual experiences. But based on his statement quoted above that bad character doesn’t preclude a person from preaching and writing well, I suspect that Swedenborg thought Paul’s personal character was not particularly important. Publishing those negative accounts of Paul in the afterlife would only have muddied the waters, and given his readers a mistaken impression of Swedenborg’s view of Paul’s writings. Swedenborg’s view of Paul’s writings is very different from his view of Paul’s personal character.

      Once again, Swedenborg considered Paul’s writings to be “good books of the church, insisting upon the doctrine of charity and its faith as strongly as the Lord himself has done in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation; as may be seen and found evident by everyone who in reading them directs his attention to these points.” And so do I.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      About taking the Bible literally:

      Ironically, when it comes to the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, Swedenborg takes the Bible far more literally, and reads it far more exactly, than do traditional Christians, including Protestants. He even said:

      The Church’s doctrine must be drawn from the Word’s literal sense and verified by it. (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture #50)

      In explaining this, he specifically rejects using “correspondences,” or a metaphorical reading of the Bible, for deriving and supporting Christian doctrine. And in fact, throughout his theological writings, Swedenborg quotes so heavily from the Bible in support of his teachings that even a simple, unannotated index of them requires an entire volume.

      For nearly thirty years now, I have been challenging Protestants to show me even a single passage from the Bible that says that we are saved or justified by faith alone, that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, that good works are the fruits of faith, that God is a Trinity of Persons, or any other of the key doctrines that Protestants believe and teach.

      To this day, not a single Protestant has been able to show me a single Bible passage that says any of these things.

      It hasn’t been for lack of trying. I’ve had dozens of Protestants cite hundreds of Bible passages to me that supposedly say these things. But when I actually read them, I find that they do not say these things at all.

      I will make the same challenge to you:

      Please show me even one Bible passage that says we are saved or justified by faith alone. If you can do so, I will recant my current beliefs, and accept Luther’s doctrine.

      But I know you cannot, because there is no such passage in the Bible. My own repeated readings of the Bible over my lifetime, and my experience of almost three decades of Protestants trying and failing to quote me a Bible passage that says we are justified by faith alone, has given me complete faith that Luther’s doctrine is unbiblical and false.

      Meanwhile, I can very easily quote you a passage from the Bible that says that we are not justified by faith alone:

      You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

      The Bible actually does say that we are not justified by faith alone. I believe what the Bible says on this subject, quite literally.

      Protestants, by contrast, though they cannot quote any passage that says we are justified by faith alone, reject what the Bible says on this subject, and continue to believe Luther’s doctrine anyway.

      Who, then, takes the Bible literally, and accepts what it says?

      Who insists upon believing things that the Bible never says, literally or otherwise?

      Honestly, the doggedness with which you and every other Protestant I’ve met clings to Luther’s doctrine really astounds me. It would be one thing if the Bible ever said this. But not only does the Bible not say it, but it specifically rejects it. I am amazed and dumbfounded that such stubborn blindness and rejection of the Bible’s plain, literal teaching exists among people who call themselves Christians, and even insist upon the principle of Sola Scriptura. The reality of their beliefs is very far from that principle.

      It has been truly sobering to me to discover that no matter how many passages I quote from the Bible rejecting faith alone and the entire doctrine behind it, Protestants continue to cling to it. I would not have believed people could be so profoundly blind unless I had experienced it year after year for decades now.

      When I was young, I thought Swedenborg was being hyperbolic when he said that the Christians of today have falsified every truth of the Word. I didn’t believe anyone could be that wrong. But now, decades later, I realize that it is a simple fact. Protestants, especially, cannot even read what the Bible says. They are constantly misquoting it, misunderstanding it, and explaining it away.

      And so I leave them to their blind stumbling, and continue to teach the truth from the Bible for people whose eyes are open to see, and whose ears are open to hear, and whose hearts long for the lighter burden that Jesus’ own teachings give to his sincere followers.

      Though you are still among the blind Protestant flock, since God has sent you to this website, I strongly urge and exhort you to reject the false teaching of Martin Luther that is blinding your eyes, and accept the teachings of the Bible. Clearly you are a person of good heart. I pray that your mind will follow your heart to the truth of Christianity.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      In response to this:

      But I would recommend anyone I know to attend your church if they are up your area. I believe that you are a good person, and a good Christian despite any differences in belief. And I think that would have very nice sermons.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Though I did serve as pastor of a traditional Swedenborgian church for a decade back in the 1990s and 2000s, I am no longer a pastor. I do preach and give talks occasionally when invited by one of the ministers in South Africa where my wife and I have been living since 2020. Currently, my primary contribution to the organized New Church (Swedenborgian) is to serve on the teaching faculty of Mooki Memorial College, the theological seminary of the New Church of Southern Africa.

      I also work as a scholar for the Swedenborg Foundation, which is one of the leading Swedenborg publishers in the world. Though a number of people from different branches of the New Church do work for the Swedenborg Foundation, it is an independent organization not affiliated with any church.

      In response to this:

      But putting down someone’s sect of Christianity down while pumping yours, esp if you really haven’t read or know anything about that sect, is disingenuous.

      As I said in a previous comment, I do know something about Protestantism and its signature doctrine, justification by faith alone.

      Meanwhile, nowhere on this website do I urge anyone to attend any Swedenborgian church, or “pump” that “sect” in any way. Occasionally people have asked about the organized Swedenborgian Church, and I have responded with the information requested, summarized in this article:

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

      However, realistically, I no longer expect the organized New Church to survive long-term. Its culture and ritual are too much like the old Christian church that is now gradually dying as people vote with their feet and leave it behind. See:

      Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

      Though I do inform people about the organized New Church when asked, and invite them to look up any of the churches in their area if they are so inclined, I do not proselytize for the organized New Church. I simply teach people and answer their questions, mostly via this blog and sometimes in person, and leave them free to accept or reject it based on their own understanding and experience.

      As for Protestantism, ultimately I am not its judge. God is the one who is gradually bringing it to an end in God’s own good time, because like the rest of so-called “Christianity,” it has abandoned the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and instead embraced the unbiblical teachings of a whole procession of human heretics over the centuries, culminating in Luther and Calvin. As Swedenborg said, the existing Christian church is “Christian in name only, but not in reality and essence” (True Christian Religion #668).

      When I said that you are not a Christian, I meant that you are not a Christian in your beliefs, because those beliefs are contrary to what Jesus Christ taught. You can’t be a Christian and reject the teachings of Jesus Christ.

      Whether you are a Christian in your life is another matter. Many people who belong to non-Christian churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Dutch Reformed Church are personally Christians because despite the non-Christian beliefs they are taught in their churches, they live a Christian life according to the teachings of Christ.

      Christ said that the most important teachings in the Bible are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And he said:

      I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35)

      People who live by teachings of the Lord such as these ones are Christian in their lives, even if they are not Christian in their beliefs because they belong to non-Christian churches. The reason God allows these non-Christian churches to continue, and to use the name of Christ, is that at least these churches make people aware of Christ’s teachings so that they can learn them for themselves from the Gospels and the rest of the Bible, and follow them in their lives.

      However, as the new church that Swedenborg spoke of—which is not an organization, see “The Christian Church is Coming to an End”—gradually suffuses the world, there will be no more need for those old non-Christian churches, and they will die out. This is already happening. But I expect that it will take several more centuries for them to come to their final end.

      Or perhaps for many more centuries there will still be small remnants of people clinging to the old falsities and the old rituals that go with them. But those churches will no longer have any significant impact on the thinking or the spiritual life of the vast bulk of the world’s population. They are already considered irrelevant by a large part of the thinking population of the world. That irrelevance will only increase as the decades and centuries go by.

      I am specifically not inviting you to become a part of the organized New Church. You could if you wanted to, but I doubt it would suit you. But I am inviting you to accept the divine truth that Jesus teaches in the Gospels, and that his Apostles explain in the Acts and the Epistles, so that you can become a Christian not only in your heart and your life, as I believe you probably are, but in your thinking mind as well.

      • Did people come up with original sin (that sin nature is passed from one man to all His descendants) as part of making excuses for their sins? Did they also come up with an individual Satan being a fallen Lucifer, as part of making excuses for their sins? Blaming Adam and Eve and Satan/Devil/Lucifer? And what about other doctrines?

        I know of an argument that I believe Muslims have against Christianity: that penal substitution “that Christianity teaches” doesn’t make any sense, as it’s either impossible or unfair, that it’s nonsense. Do you know what I am trying to come across?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          I think that’s a good part of it. People are always looking for ways to avoid responsibility for their own life and their own behavior. Being born again is hard work. Many people would prefer to avoid doing that hard work. So they come up with more and more doctrines that absolve them of any responsibility for their own life and behavior, culminating in Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone and Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination. At that point, there is nothing of true Christianity left.

          And Muslims are right about penal substitution. See:

          Of course, it is only Protestants who believe in penal substitution. The bulk of Christians outside of Protestant do not believe in this false doctrine. However, Protestants are very loud in promulgating their false doctrines, which gives outsiders the impression that this is what “Christianity” believes.

          Unfortunately, all of the key doctrines that so-called Christians promulgate to the world are unbiblical and false. The “Christianity” that Muslims and Jews object to, especially the three gods of Nicene Christianity, are not Christian at all. Thus today’s “Christians” close the door to people who might want to become Christians in the true sense of that word, nor are they really Christians themselves. They are Christian in name only.

        • There’s another problem with that too. Wouldn’t paying the penalty for our sins mean perishing in hell for eternity? Instead, Jesus went to Paradise, as he said in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+23%3A43&version=NRSVUE Even three days in hell wouldn’t be enough to “pay the penalty for our sins.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Right. The whole thing really doesn’t make much sense.

  7. David says:

    Remember, we walk by faith.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Yes. But the question is, what is faith? It is not what Protestants think it is.

      In fact, faith is real faith only if it is together with “charity,” or active caring for other people, AKA good works. Otherwise it is dead faith, as James teaches us.

      You can download a free PDF copy of Swedenborg’s brief book explaining the nature of faith from the Swedenborg Foundation’s website here. I highly recommend that you read this booklet, and study it carefully.

      Note that in this translation, “caring” represents the same word traditionally translated “charity.” Several other traditional Christian terms have been translated into more modern English equivalents as well, but they’re talking about the same thing.

  8. David says:

    Ah, ye of little faith. How little you know me and the definition of faith.
    1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something
    2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    Both of which I am very strong with. I have faith that my wife will love me until death do us part. I have faith in myself at the work and school I am doing. And I have faith in my Lord and savior and that grace has been given to me through my faith by our God in Heaven.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Neither of these is a very good definition of spiritual faith as the Bible uses the term. They could be faith, but they could also not be faith, depending on whether the doctrines you believe in are actually true (and they are not) and on whether, if they were true, you actually lived according to them.

      Complete trust or confidence in someone or something that is not true is not faith. And the belief you have been taught about the nature of God is not true. Faith that God is what you think God is, and operates the way you think God operates, is spurious faith because that is not who God actually is, and it is not how God actually operates.

      Once again, your statements show me that the faith you have, as strong as it may be, is a deceptive faith because it is a “faith” in things that are not true. I hope and pray that you will read and accept what the Lord himself teaches us in the Gospels, so that you can gain real, spiritual, biblical faith.

      This will not happen until you abandon the heresies you have been taught, especially the Trinity of Persons and justification by faith alone. Until then, your faith will not be real faith because it is “faith” in falsities.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Oh, and about that “till death do us part” thing, that’s not true either. Believe it or not, Jesus did not say that there is no marriage in heaven. See:

      Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?

      If you and your wife do truly love one another, that love will not end at death, nor will your marriage. What God has joined together, not even death can put asunder, because everything God does is eternal (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

  9. Ben Copeland says:

    Lee, thanks for all the time taken for responses. Busy week with school starting up, and I do not have a wordpress reader and as the comments are all getting jumbled, it’d be great to have a list all of the points we’ve made between each other with their support for the sake of clarity, maybe a project I can take on another day.

    Recently I think you responded to Romans 1:6 but I think I quoted Romans 1:16, which was a defense of the faith-based belief (defining ‘faith’ as an action of trust or trusting in, banking on, and belief defined as personally beholding something as real and true) in the gospel (defined as the historical and spiritual reality of Jesus’ Lordship, and faith/belief in his death and resurrection) creating the necessary conditions by which God’s Spirit and Presence fills and indwells people.

    I guess some quick thoughts to consider, take them on at your leisure, and maybe we’ve already discussed them here:

    Per the New Covenant:
    Is the Holy Spirit necessary for salvation?
    How is the Holy Spirit received?
    Do all have the Holy Spirit?
    In the NT (236 times), especially John (84 times), I read the emphasis is on belief.

    At some point I think you asked for a scripture that points to repentance from unbelief. How about Hebrews 3:19?

    I try to keep up via the emails I get but just figured I’d respond before too much time passes.

    Blessings,
    – Ben

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Good luck on your new school year.

      And yes, I misread your reference to (not quote from) Romans 1:16. I’ve added a edit to my comment about my error. My apologies.

      Still, the usual definitions of “faith” are not adequate for what the Bible means by faith. But I’ve already linked you to my article on that many times, so I’ll desist here. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably aren’t going to read it. However, your lack of understanding of the full background and meaning of the Greek word that is translated both as “faith” and as “belief,” not to mention as “faithfulness,” in English Bibles will keep you in the dark about the entire Gospel message.

      Rather than specifically answering your questions about the Holy Spirit, I would recommend that you read my main article on the nature of the Trinity from a Swedenborgian perspective:

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

      Short version: The Holy Spirit is not some “third Person” of God, which is really the third of three gods in the minds of trinitarian Christians. Rather, it is God’s love and wisdom flowing out into the universe, and especially into human hearts, minds, and lives. Also, it never flows out as truth or faith alone. It always flows out as love and wisdom, or good and truth, together. In God also, just as in human beings, there is no such thing as “faith alone.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are inseparably one, such that they are one Person. All three are in everything God is and does, just as our soul, mind, and body are in everything we are and everything we do. So to answer your first question, of course the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation.

      But as long as you think of the Holy Spirit as some third Person of a Godhead consisting of three Persons, which is really three gods, you will never be able to understand the workings of the Holy Spirit.

      Hebrews 3:19 reads:

      So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

      There is no mention of repentance in this verse, or indeed in the entire chapter.

      Once again, good luck on your new school year.

      • Ben Copeland says:

        Thank you kindly. I have read the article previously (and again to make sure I didn’t miss it) where you clarify your definition of faith in ‘faith alone is not faith,’ and I do think you nailed the definition of it. I agree with you on many, many points, including that ‘faith alone is not faith.’ People (ourselves included) can say they ‘believe’ in Jesus and yet never stand upon him as actually trustworthy much like someone can say an ice river will hold their weight but be unwilling to actually cross it out of fear it would break. This is I think captures the experience of ‘salvific faith,’ which does include an aspect of the performance of good works (loving others, generosity, etc) but I think the primary point I’ve been focusing on is that the performance of good works is the fruit of faith, or comes from the genuine belief of what God has done for one in Christ, so that the works are done with authentic joy and humility.

        The reason I highlight ‘belief’ and its prominence in the NT and specifically in John is because it would seem John’s purpose for writing was for salvation and how it relates to knowledge/truth, and how this knowledge/truth creates the conditions for one to be saved, such as John 3:16, John 17:3, and his own rationale for writing: “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).

        If it’s true that John was writing evagelistically and even more specifically to a gnostic audience, the heresy he was defending against was a belief (an interpretation of reality that one acted from, or expressed ‘faith’ or placing one’s trust in) that didn’t argue against the deity and work of Jesus, but it enough warranted John to write against it as anti-truth.

        John even goes so far as to say that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (my guess is that he is not meaning in ‘name’ or in action, but actually in word) is the anti-Christ. John clarifies that we can tell who really believes that Jesus is the Christ by the fruit of their life, primarily loving others and moral living.

        I agree with you that interpreting the work of Christ as a license for sin and a reason to not uphold the law is not ‘faith,’ (as does Paul, Romans 3:31) and that ‘by their fruits you will recognize them’ (Matthew 7:16), as does John (1 John 2:4-6).

        The reason I ask about the Holy Spirit is because the NT seems to describe this as the qualifying factor for salvation, and gives specific instances where and when and how people received the Holy Spirit, with a distinction between being ‘sealed’ (salvation) and being ‘filled’ (empowering) and even the specific moment when this happens as being ‘baptized’ in the Spirit, which demonstrations of His power followed, whether speaking in tongues or miracles (Acts 2, 10, 19), for the explicit purpose of confirmation of both salvation and empowering for evangelism. This was why Jesus said to his disciples, ‘wait in Jerusalem until you have received power.’ It was the power to preach and spread the Gospel message, which I see as necessary for salvation, and is indeed a specific set of information and knowledge that cannot be apprehended until heard.

        This is what I mean when I say ‘ideologically allegiance’ to the Lordship of Jesus, in that there are so many competing beliefs out there that can ultimately lead someone astray, even such a seemingly simple ‘idea’ of Jesus’ divinity but not his humanity.

        Our experiences and cultural contexts may inform our views much, because I exist in (and my tesitmony evidences, as you’re aware of) a pluralism of philosophical ideas that are competing for Lordship, and for me, it was night-and-day for when God pushed me across the line of literal belief in Jesus. The revelation itself created the change in me. Again, for emphasis: The revelation of Jesus and the truthfulness of the Gospel Message Itself created the change. My repentance was not a ‘I’ll stop doing ____ bad moral behavior and start doing ____ moral behavior) but it was a ‘Jesus is real and Lord and I have stopped pushing him away and let him into my heart, and now suddenly things are different and I feel him with me.’

        I struggle from my experience (and how I read and interpret the Bible from both my conversion experience, my context/culture, and how I see the church functioning around me) to see how, like a multi-sided pyramid, all ‘ways to God’ are essentially the same, and that doctrine or the Gospel is not salvific but just a ‘truer’ understanding of the nature of God, as you say. Humanism lays claim to some massively ideologically-shaping ideas, but these -ideas- are what Romans 1 and 2 are entirely about–despite the morality and ‘social justice’ that they hope to achieve through a more ‘equitable’ form of self-expression sexually, they clearly deny God (which John would say qualifies them as unsaved) and clearly, in post-modernistic thought, (the context and culture I find myself wading through in America), they redefine God’s law and design on gender and sexuality to, what I think is their demise, and I would like to think Romans 1 and 2 would agree with this.

        https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto1/

        I do not mean to create a straw man or ‘politicize’ this, that’s not my intent. I take these situations seriously because I see the repercussions everywhere, even in my own life and social circle. People I know personally who have grown up in the church have abandoned some core tenants (beliefs, ideologies) and in the name of ‘social justice’ have abandoned treasuring Christ because they think the church is bigoted and can’t get around some of the claims of the Bible regarding sexuality. They may agree with the idea of ‘love,’ but only their own definition of it as long as it lines up with their sexual ethic. I see this everywhere, in America, and just today heard a short sermon about how peoples’ spiritual or religion often is ABC, ‘anything but Christ,’ which again for me and how I read the Bible, is problematic, because I see the Holy Spirit sealing and filling people who align themselves with Jesus through belief in the Gospel, and not otherwise. I also see this experientially, where in missions since Acts until now, people all over the world have a sudden experience and definite awareness of their salvation upon believing the preached Gospel, but not before. This doesn’t seem to line up with the view that everyone is saved ‘by Jesus’ and that our works get us up that pyramid to God, whatever side we’re on.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          I’m glad to hear that you have read the article on what faith is, and thanks for your kind words. About this statement of yours:

          . . . but I think the primary point I’ve been focusing on is that the performance of good works is the fruit of faith, or comes from the genuine belief of what God has done for one in Christ, so that the works are done with authentic joy and humility.

          As I’ve said before, the idea that good works are the fruits of faith sounds sort of biblical, but the Bible never says this. I searched very hard to find some such statement in the New Testament. Several years ago I even posed its origin as a question on Christianity StackExchange, and no one was able to come up with any such statement in the Bible, so I’m quite confident that I have not missed some passage that says this. It is, rather a Protestant slogan in support of Luther’s doctrine, to try to roll everything into faith, and derive everything from faith.

          Good works are not the fruits of faith. They are the fruits of the Lord’s presence and love dwelling within us, moving us to love and serve our neighbor out of love for the neighbor.

          In reality, both faith and good works are the fruits of the Lord’s presence within us. It’s simply that without faith, we will not acknowledge or accept the Lord’s presence within us, and therefore we will remain focused on ourselves and our own life. We will think that our good works come from ourselves and not from the Lord. Good works done with this idea in our mind then tend to become self-serving and a matter of pride, whereas if we recognize that they are fruits of the Lord’s love and power working in us and through us, there is no room for pride or self-aggrandizement, but only for humility and thankfulness to the Lord. Such works are not “meritorious” because like the unworthy servant, we consider ourselves only to be doing our duty.

          So yes, the works are done with authentic joy and humility because we recognize that without the Lord dwelling within us, we would not be able to do good works that are actually good, nor take simple joy in them, because we would always be injecting our own ego and sense of goodness into them, congratulating ourselves for them, and so on. We would be praying the prayer of the Pharisee, which did not cause him to go home “justified,” or righteous.

          The New Testament does emphasize faith because this was the next step for the people of that time period, and for the bulk of the people today as well.

          The Incarnation brought the previous religious paradigm (traditionally called a “dispensation”) to an end, and ushered in a new one. In the old paradigm, simple unquestioning behavioral obedience to the laws of one’s religion, and specifically of the Jewish religion, was what marked a person as righteous. Many people today still live under this same paradigm. For example, Islam is very similar to ancient Judaism, but without sacrificial worship, and a little more advanced in its moral code because it originated many centuries after ancient Judaism. But it is still essentially a religion of behavioral obedience to a code of religious laws that cannot be questioned. (But Islam does also have a mystical/philosophical wing that moves beyond this paradigm.)

          In speaking of and emphasizing faith, the New Testament moves those who are able to understand and accept its message beyond mere behavioral obedience to an inward assent to spiritual truth. That is what “faith” really is. It is accepting the truth—especially spiritual truth—not out of blind, unquestioning acceptance as in the old paradigm, but out of an inner sight, or perception, of its truth. It is a paradigm shift from obedience to understanding, and from external religion to internal religion.

          This is what Paul’s argument was all about, beyond his obvious point (at least, it should be obvious to anyone not blinded by Luther’s dogma) that Christians no longer need to be observant Jews, obedient to the ritual Law of Moses. Moving from “law” to “faith” is moving from external religion to internal religion, which, as I said, is a move from simple obedience to spiritual understanding.

          However, there is no “alone” about it. That is why Paul never uses the word “alone” in connection with faith, or grace, or really, anything else in any of his letters. If he had wanted to say that we are saved or justified by faith alone, he could very easily have said so, but he didn’t.

          What he meant was that we need to move from being “slaves” to the Law—i.e., living in blind obedience to religious codes of behavior—to being “free” in living based on an internal faith, which is an understanding of and assent to spiritual and divine truth. People who have made this paradigm shift will still be law-abiding citizens (except where the laws themselves are unjust), but they will not be motivated by fear of punishment and hope for reward as in the prior dispensation or paradigm. Rather, they will follow the moral laws, and even the reigning human legal code to the extent that it is just, because they want to live in a way that is just, good, and beneficial for their fellow human beings, and is faithful to God at the same time. They will see the codes of religious and secular laws as guides to how to go about loving their neighbor as themselves. They will follow those laws, not slavishly, but out of an understanding and acceptance of their intent, which is the good of the community and of all the individuals in it. This is what Paul means when he speaks of “the law of faith.”

          Once we understand this about Paul’s message, Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone becomes not only wrong, but irrelevant. It utterly misses the point of Paul’s message, and leads us down a winding side path to confusion. A clue to its wrongness should be the fact that there is not a single passage or verse anywhere in the Bible that says any of the things that the doctrine of justification by faith alone depends upon. I could detail them, but I already have in a series of eight relatively brief articles starting with this one:

          The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?

          To fully understand the fallaciousness of Luther’s doctrine, it is necessary to understand the entire chain of false dogma that it depends upon and is a part of, from the Trinity of Persons to the satisfaction theory of atonement to its Protestant penal substitution variant, imputation of merit, and so on. Justification by faith alone does not exist in isolation. It is part of an entire complex of doctrines, not a single one of which is stated anywhere in the Bible, and every one of which is a complete misunderstanding and twisting of the Bible’s meaning and message.

          Only when all of that false doctrine has been expunged from a Protestant’s mind can the truth of the Bible become clear. This is why I urge you so strongly to drop and repudiate these unbiblical doctrines. Until you reject them and expunge them from your mind, you simply won’t be able to understand faith, good works, atonement, salvation, the Incarnation, or anything else in the Bible.

          There is no competition between faith and good works. Paul never says that we are saved by faith without good works. Paul, like every other New Testament speaker or writer who says anything about it, says that we will be judged for salvation or damnation based on our works—but in this case, he means our good works or lack thereof.

          The biblical truth is that faith and good works must work together for either one of them to be real. This is what James is explaining in James 2:14–26. Protestants pit faith against good works as if they were combatants, only one of which can win. But in fact they are lovers, indelibly and eternally married to one another. Unless they are together, neither one of them is anything at all.

          Good works need faith because otherwise we will take credit for our own actions, and will be filled with pride and ego in our own goodness, which is the antithesis of real goodness. Faith needs good works because without good works it is a meaningless theory in the brain. Neither one is real without the other. There is no competition between them as to which is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They work together, both in service of love, which is the greatest of all as Paul says.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You say:

          I struggle from my experience (and how I read and interpret the Bible from both my conversion experience, my context/culture, and how I see the church functioning around me) to see how, like a multi-sided pyramid, all ‘ways to God’ are essentially the same, and that doctrine or the Gospel is not salvific but just a ‘truer’ understanding of the nature of God, as you say.

          Once again, all religions are not the same. And once again, I believe that true Christianity (not what passes for “Christianity” today) has the clearest and deepest understanding of God and salvation of any religion on earth today, and therefore provides the clearest and most direct path to salvation.

          But God has not left the people of other religions out in the cold. The Lord is the God of all the earth, not only of the Christians. God has provided that the basics needed for salvation are present in all the valid religions of the world. Those basics are encapsulated in the two Great Commandments. But rather than type it all out here, I’ll refer you to this article, which explains it in more detail:

          Is There a Common Theme in All Religions?

          Further, as I’ve said before, and as Paul said long, long before I ever did, Christ is the Savior of all people, of all religions, who love God and love their neighbor as Jesus taught us to do.

        • Have you written an article “If God created the Universe, then who created God?” That would be a good one for your site.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WordldQuestioner,

          This is a popular question among atheists and skeptics, but the answer is simple: No one created God. God is self-existing and therefore uncreated.

      • Ben Copeland says:

        This may help as well, as I walked into this being preached on the radio right after I finished the last post, and pretty much right on topic:

        https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/truth-for-life/listen/false-faith-part-2-of-2-982815.html

  10. David says:

    Good morning, gentlemen.

    I do understand the basis of the Trinity but I do not know anyone that thinks of the Trinity as “three gods”.

    I think the best way to describe it is like a cheese pizza. You have the crust, the sauce, and the cheese. No matter how you look at it, it’s still a pizza.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      But that’s not how the Athanasian Creed describes the Trinity. It says that each one is God and Lord, nevertheless there are not three gods or lords, but one. So each one is a pizza, nevertheless there are not three pizzas, but one pizza.

      The simple fact of the matter is that although trinitarians will always say “there is one God” because their church requires them to, in their minds they are picturing three gods. And it is the picture of one God or three gods in people’s minds, not what their lips say, that is their real belief. See:

      Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Polytheistic?

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Your example of the Trinity—crust, sauce, and cheese making one pizza—does not work for the Nicene Trinity of Persons, as I mentioned in my previous comment. However, it does fit with Swedenborg’s Trinity of three “essential components,” or parts, in one Person of God. See:

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

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Incidentally, Jews and Muslims commonly accuse Christians of polytheism due to the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons. In other words, there are many people who think of the Trinity as three gods. It’s just that Christian trinitarians are not allowed to say “three gods.” It’s right in the Athanasian Creed.

      • Muslims also accuse Christians of worshipping Mary.

        Muslims incorrectly say that Christians consider Mary as the third person of the Trinity. That is not true.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Catholics do consider Mary a saint. And depending upon your interpretation of the veneration of saints, they could be said to worship Mary. Certainly that is an accusation that Protestants and other dissenters have flung at the Roman Catholic Church for many centuries.

          Where do Muslims say that Christians consider Mary to be the third person of the Trinity?

        • On the last paragraph, It’s possible I misread. Muslims say that Mary is a third God.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee, Hi World Questioner,

          The Qur’anic references to the Trinity are a source of controversy and contention in Muslim Christian dialogue, as Christian apologists argue that the Qur’an has misrepresented the Trinity by making Mary a part of it when admonishing people for believing in the Trinity of Persons.

          Muslim apologists would reply by arguing that the Qur’an is not referring to the Trinity at all, but is instead making a general admonishment of shirk- the associating of partners with God, in this case the idea of worshipping Mary as a deity, in practice or, perhaps from my understanding of what’s possible, in spirit. Some Muslims have argued that these passages are actually referring to the Collyridians, a heretical sect of Christians that may have existed during the time of Muhammad and who worshipped Mary as divine.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_the_Trinity#cite_note-13

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Thanks for the clarification and the reference. My knowledge of Islamic doctrine and the Qur’an is quite minimal, as was Swedenborg’s. Swedenborg mistakenly said that Muslims accept Jesus as the Son of God, which has caused no end of confusion about Islam among Swedenborgians who don’t know any better.

          I’ve heard suggestions that the Qur’an refers more to semi-Christian sects such as the Ebionites rather than to mainline Christianity, but I don’t have enough knowledge to say whether there’s any truth to that.

          Certainly there’s enough complexity here to keep a whole cadre of scholars busy for many decades, if not centuries.

  11. David says:

    You say that but it isn’t true. We believe in the Trinity as Christ told it in Matthew, I believe. We do not think of the Trinity as three separate gods. We think of them as The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. All one. Hence when Jesus said to baptize in the “name” not “names” he meant this as One God.

    Secondly: I don’t recite the Athanasian Creed. I recite the Apostles Creed.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      The Athanasian Creed is where the Trinity of Persons is most clearly defined. It is considered by Nicene Christians to be one of the three main “ecumenical creeds.” If you do not believe what the Athanasian Creed says, then you do not believe in the Trinity of Persons as taught in all of the main branches of Christianity. I would recommend that you read it if you want to understand what you profess to believe.

      And if you don’t believe it, so much the better. It is an unbiblical and false doctrine.

      But make no mistake about it, the Trinity of Persons is not crust, sauce, and cheese making one pizza. That’s Swedenborg’s doctrine. It is three pizzas making one pizza. The Athanasian Creed is crystal clear about this.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Intellectually, I empathize with the ‘works are fruits of faith’ theology of Protestants, because at least from some angle, all of life would appear to operate this way. If you love your spouse, you will do kind things for them. Your kind actions are the fruits of your love. If you respect your job, you will show up to work on time. Your timeliness is the fruit of that respect. Your kindness and timeliness attest to something that exists within you, and from which it flows. Likewise, I can see the internal logic of believing that works are the fruits of faith, because really, where else would they come from? What is this X-factor that would sit between your faith and the things you do? Everything we do, every decision we make, comes from somewhere, and when it comes to our good works, it can only come from the most important aspect of our selves- our faith.

        So while I’m not a believer of this view, I can see how it would make sense when sketched out on paper. Personally, this is all a little too deterministic to me, as I feel it downplays the role of human agency. We may have faith, and our faith may compel us to do something, but it’s ultimately up to agency- free will- to make this happen, and to put faith into action.

        With regards to the Bible, there’s no denying that the Bible is an ancient document that needs to be properly studied and understood according to when, where, and how it was written. It’s simply not sufficient and even wrong-headed to simply take certain passages at face-value without the benefit of this critical context, lest we lapse into literalism. However, I do believe that the basic spirit and message of the Bible- of the most important parts that lay out the nuts and bolts for living a good life and receiving salvation- should be able to be understood as clear as day, without any notes, a study guide, or a theologian explaining to you what those words actually mean in the context that they were written. A person with no Biblical background should be able to pick up the Bible or hear key passages preached and walk away with a clear understanding of what its trying to communicate.

        So when I read or hear passages like James 2: 14-24 or Matthew 25: 35-36, I hear that as clearly as I do someone speaking to me on the street. These passages are so obviously about ‘walking the walk,’ Sure, you profess to have faith, but what have you done with that faith? What decisions have you made, how have you used your agency in service of that faith? I would not stop to think ‘this talking about fruits that attest to a saving faith,’ or whether works can but only attest to a saving faith unless someone planted that idea within my mind. Granted, it’s an interesting and worthwhile question to consider, but I’m convinced that those are not people’s first instincts when reading those words, and the first instincts of a clear head and heart to clear and key passages are the correct one.

        Ben and David, you’re of course free to respond (and take issue) with what I’ve said, but I feel the need to mention that I am not at all versed in the Bible, and certainly not to the extent of you and Lee, so I’m in no position to rebut anything you say outside of drawing upon an amateurish philosophical views. I just don’t have the chops, so if I don’d reply, or reply with the level of depth and detail that your comments would deserve, please understand why.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          No worries, Rami. I see it from your perspective, in that the ‘fruits off faith’ idea is a logical way that cause-and-effect works: we feel / think / believe _____ toward something, and our behavior naturally follows. I think James (and John, and obviously Jesus) plainly points out that if we actually have faith (or belief) in what Jesus has done for us, our actions follow. First thing that comes to mind is the father with the demon-possessed boy, regarding his unbelief in Mark 9:22-24:

          Boy’s father to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
          “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
          Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

          I love how the man asks Jesus to help him overcome his own unbelief. It’s not even something we can do in our own strength. And remember, belief is an actual combination of an understanding and acceptance of a reality, and then a -trusting- of that reality. He came to Jesus in order to have his son healed because he saw that Jesus could do it, but he was not yet actually trusting completely that Jesus could do it (because of his previous let downs or hopes). Instead of of sympathizing, Jesus points directly to his problem in his verbage, which betrayed his lack of actual belief.

          I see the entire Bible filled with the ‘fruit of faith’ idea, in that God does ____ and people respond. The Gospel, I think, is that people -believe- in Jesus–actually receive Him as real and loving and Lord of their life because of the cross and resurrection–and then lives of love and gratitude and joy and peace follows. The book of Acts, people are saved by belief and trust in the preached Gospel message, people are then filled with the Holy Spirit, and the fruit that follows is fellowship, love, joy, peace and all the good stuff from God.

          Imagine is someone was deathly afraid of death (and eternity afterwards), which is what Satan uses to bind people into fear. What did Jesus accomplish on the cross for us if we were still afraid of dying because our eternity and salvation was unsure? That would nullify Hebrews 2:15, which says those who trust in him Jesus would “free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

          Fear of hell is not a motivator for loving action, but it sure is a motivator to cry out to help and trust in Jesus. The rescue is what creates the joy and the desire, I would think. Which is the ‘fruit of faith.’

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You say:

          No worries, Rami. I see it from your perspective, in that the ‘fruits off faith’ idea is a logical way that cause-and-effect works: we feel / think / believe _____ toward something, and our behavior naturally follows.

          This is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because good works follow after faith in time, that doesn’t mean they flow from faith in a cause and effect relationship. Rather, through faith we allow Christ’s grace (lovingkindness) to enter into our heart and mind, and from that divine love our good works flow.

          The Bible never says that good works are the fruits of faith. Even the Bible passage you bring forward in your comment doesn’t say this. That’s because good works are not the fruits of faith, but the fruits of our abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in us, as he himself says in John 15:4–5. And a few verses later in John 15:9–10 he himself says that it is his love that we abide in.

          If you “see the entire Bible filled with the ‘fruit of faith’ idea,” that can only mean, once again, that you are unable to read and understand what the Bible says. It is similar to Protestants seeing the Bible filled with faith alone, even though the Bible never even mentions faith alone except to reject it. You cannot read and understand what the Bible says because your mind is still a slave to Luther’s dogma.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          I think scripture supports from Acts and the epistles that people pretty instantaneously received the Holy Spirit after 1) hearing and 2) believing the Gospel. This was not a process over time.

          I think scripture supports that after hearing and believing the Gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit, these new believers evidenced the gifts of the Spirit, through speaking in tongues and changed attitudes and relationships, where they engaged in devotion to Christ and one another through fellowship and selfless generosity, developeding Christ-centered communities (churches).

          *post hoc ergo propter hoc: *”the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.”

          I don’t think I am reading scripture and making an illogical jump to say that Jesus changes people through the Gospel by the power of the Spirit.

          Again, our definitions of faith aren’t that different, but I see a supernatural power of the Gospel itself that changes people, and view sanctification as not a salvific process but a growing in intimacy with Christ. All through scripture we’re called to ‘hold onto the faith we profess’ to the end and not shrink back, not ‘keep progressing spiritually to obtain your glorification.’ The only instance I see is 2 Peter 1, which is about doing things out of gratitude to -confirm- our election (not to earn it) and we do so by remembering our sins have already been washed.

          2 Peter 1:3-12:

          His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

          5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

          10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. Do you believe God has predestined, called, elected people for salvation? In His sovereignty, he sees the end of all people. Fear about our eternity may stir up religious activity, but that is not the same as trusting in Christ. Because one believes their election is secure in Him, what follows is usually joy and peace, which is a ‘fruit’ of belief that our election is secure. Whoever does not grow in the qualities of a Christian is not ‘unsaved’ but is ‘nearsighted’ and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from past sins. Peter seems to be expecting that the fruit of their faith would be growth in these qualities through remembrance of what’s already been done. That’s Pauls entire point climaxing in Romans 12 about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices pleasing to God, because of the amazing promises he describes in Romans 8. Fruit of faith.

          Like what David said recently, all too often it seems that spiritual visions and experiences (even when they see an ‘angel of light’) seem to lead people to develop a theology that lends itself away from a resting and a rejoicing in Christ and more of a works-based idea of salvation that mirrors every other religious system in the world, it would seem.

          Galatians 1:6-9: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

          On Sat, Sep 10, 2022 at 3:02 AM Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

          Lee commented: “Hi Ben, You say: No worries, Rami. I see it from your > perspective, in that the ‘fruits off faith’ idea is a logical way that > cause-and-effect works: we feel / think / believe _____ toward something, > and our behavior naturally follows. This is a classic” >

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You say:

          I think scripture supports from Acts and the epistles that people pretty instantaneously received the Holy Spirit after 1) hearing and 2) believing the Gospel. This was not a process over time.

          Receiving the Holy Spirit is not the same as being saved, and it certainly is not the same as being “justified,” or made righteous. It is part of that process, but in itself it does not save a person, although it may be an indication that the person is on the path to salvation.

          Backing off for a moment, I should say that once a person has sincerely accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, and has the firm intention of following through on that through a changed life, that person does have one foot in heaven.

          Still, the instances in which a person is converted and then immediately dies are rare. And when it does happen, we really can’t tell from this side whether or not the conversion was genuine. According to Swedenborg, people who have deathbed conversions generally revert right back to their old life once they realize they are still alive (albeit in the spiritual world), and are no longer in fear of death and hellfire as they were when they “converted” on their deathbed. The earthly parallel is people who “become Christians” in prison, but once they are released they once again become a walking crime wave.

          Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20). If people are converted, receive the Holy Spirit, and go on to live a changed life, then we can be pretty sure that the conversion was genuine, and that person has been saved. But if they are converted, receive the Holy Spirit, and then backslide into their old ways, their condition is even worse than it was before, as Jesus tells us in this parable:

          When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” When it returns, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation. (Matthew 12:43–45)

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You say:

          Like what David said recently, all too often it seems that spiritual visions and experiences (even when they see an ‘angel of light’) seem to lead people to develop a theology that lends itself away from a resting and a rejoicing in Christ and more of a works-based idea of salvation that mirrors every other religious system in the world, it would seem.

          Galatians 1:6-9: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

          This is where I meant to say what I said here, in response to a different comment of yours. Protestants love to quote passages about the evils of “preaching a different Gospel,” when they themselves are preaching one thing after another that is not only never said anywhere in the Bible, but in some cases (as in the case of Luther’s dogma), are specifically rejected in Scripture.

          These Protestants have thereby passed judgment on themselves for preaching a different gospel than the one delivered to us by the Lord and his Apostles.

          You provide another example here when you use the Protestant buzz-word phrase “a works-based idea of salvation.” The Bible never says anything about “a works-based idea of salvation.” It does say that we are justified by our works, and not by faith alone. Paul also says that everyone will be judged according to what he has done.

          So with their condemnation of “a works-based idea of salvation,” Protestants are condemning themselves as preachers of a false gospel.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          “His experiences culminated in a “spiritual awakening” in which he received a revelation that Jesus Christ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ had appointed him to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity. According to The Heavenly Doctrine, the Lord had opened Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes so that from then on, he could freely visit heaven https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven and hell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell to converse with angels, demons and other spirits, and that the Last Judgment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment had already occurred in 1757, the year before the 1758 publication of De Nova Hierosolyma et ejus doctrina coelesti (English: Concerning the New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine).”

          I’m curious what would be the motive or rationale for Swedenborg to propose that the last judgment had already occurred the year before the publication of Concerning the New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine?

          I’m pretty sure the judgment (and therefore the resurrection of the dead) has not already happened. Jesus has not returned yet, the rapture has not happened, the temple has not been rebuilt yet, the antichrist has not appeared to sit in the temple and direct all worship to him. There have been people who have claimed the resurrection has already occurred before, even within the first century, and the Bible admonishes believers to avoid those teachers whose doctrine ‘spreads like gangrene.’

          2 Timothy 2:17-19: “Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          I find it highly ironic that Protestants love to quote 2 Timothy 2:17–19 and other verses that excoriate people for preaching a false Gospel, when none of the key doctrines Protestants preach are stated anywhere in the Gospels, anywhere in the New Testament, or indeed anywhere in the Bible.

          The Gospel never says that God is a Trinity of Persons. The Gospel never says that Christ satisfied the justice or the wrath of the Father. The Gospel never says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. The Gospel never says that we are saved or justified by faith alone; in fact, it specifically denies it. The Gospel never says that good works are the fruits of faith. The Gospel never says that Christ’s merit is imputed to us. On and on.

          Protestants preach all these things that the Gospel never says. Then they point to the Gospel forbidding us from preaching a false gospel.

          Protestants have passed judgment on themselves, just as the Gospel passes judgment on them.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          Now in response to this:

          I’m curious what would be the motive or rationale for Swedenborg to propose that the last judgment had already occurred the year before the publication of Concerning the New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine?

          I’m pretty sure the judgment (and therefore the resurrection of the dead) has not already happened. Jesus has not returned yet, the rapture has not happened, the temple has not been rebuilt yet, the antichrist has not appeared to sit in the temple and direct all worship to him.

          All of this is based on a literal interpretation of scriptures and prophecies that were never meant to be taken literally. Rather than delve into that here, please see this article:

          Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

          I would be happy to continue the conversation on this subject there, if you wish.

          As for a future general resurrection, clearly this also was not meant to be taken literally. For one thing a resurrection had in fact already taken place, according to the Gospel account:

          The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:52–53)

          What happened to these resurrected bodies of the saints? There has been debate about this ever since. Regardless, it does tell of a limited human resurrection immediately after Jesus’ own resurrection.

          Further, Jesus commonly speaks of people being immediately resurrected, or of dead people now being alive. There is the famous passage about God being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. There is his statement to the thief on the cross that today he would be with him in paradise. There is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in which they both go to the afterworld immediately after their deaths.

          If everyone sleeps in the grave until some general resurrection and last judgment, why did Jesus keep speaking in this way?

          Clearly, the prophecies of a future general resurrection and judgment are not about physical events, but about spiritual events. Swedenborg said that the Lord called him in part to bear witness to those events in the spiritual world.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I should add that Swedenborg liked the Apostles’ Creed, and did not like the Nicene or Athanasian Creeds. Perhaps you’re more of a Swedenborgian than you thought. 🙂

      • Ben Copeland says:

        Or perhaps a majority of protestants dont conceptualize the trinity as three separate Gods, because I have never met a Christian in my life who explains the trinity in a polytheistic way.

        What do you make of Genesis 18:1-2 where is says ‘God appeared to Abraham’ and then Abraham sees three men approaching him?

        I personally like the concept of God existing as infinitely loving and joyful between/amongst himself, Father Son and Spirit, as a family would.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          If it’s a family, it’s got multiple individuals. Multiple individuals, when you’re speaking of deities, means multiple gods. It’s really not brain science. Just calling a spade a spade.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You ask:

          What do you make of Genesis 18:1-2 where is says ‘God appeared to Abraham’ and then Abraham sees three men approaching him?

          It’s clear enough, if you read the Bible carefully, that when God appears to humans, it is not God appearing personally, but God appearing through angels. That’s why in the same story of Genesis 18—19, the three who appear to Abraham are variously referred to as “men,” “angels,” and “the Lord.”

          Similarly, in the story of Jacob wrestling at Peniel in Genesis 32:22–32, the narrator refers to Jacob’s opponent as “a man,” but Jacob apparently identifies him as God. Yet in Hosea 12:4, Jacob’s opponent is referred to as an angel.

          Other examples could be given as well, but these are two of the clearest.

          When God appeared to people in the Old Testament, this was before the Incarnation. God did not have a humanity of his own to appear to people in, so God appeared by filling an angel with God’s presence. And if one angel can be filled with God’s presence and speak for God, then three angels can also be filled with God’s presence and speak for God. God can speak through as many or as few emissaries as are necessary for the particular task.

          And even if the three men/angels are considered emblematic of the Trinity, that still doesn’t mean God is three Persons. It is symbolism and metaphor, not God literally appearing as three men because God is three Divine Men.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          I know this is a little off topic, but I read a differentiation between the Angel of the Lord and the Lord’s messengers (angels) that were distinct from God but fulfilled specific tasks (ie Gabriel, Micheal). I just find it interesting that we see in scripture a few times where God displays Himself as co-existing ‘selves,’ such as Jesus being distinct from the Father to where the Father speaks out His love during his baptism, during the transfiguration, during Jesus’ prayer for Lazarus, and even speaking of Himself in the plural in the Genesis story ‘Let us make man.’

          Was the term ‘consubstantiation’?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          Consubstantiation” is a doctrine about the Eucharist. I think the word you want is “consubstantiality.”

          But on your main point, it is important to understand that during his lifetime on earth, Jesus did have two natures: a finite and fallible human nature from his human mother Mary, and an infinite divine nature that was his Father, or God, which was his own inner soul. During his lifetime on earth, his state and awareness went back and forth between these two, so that at some times he was more conscious of his finite human side, and at other times he was more conscious and aware of his divine side. In the former state, he prayed to and spoke of the Father as if the Father were a separate entity (which it was, from that side of Jesus’ self), whereas in the latter state he spoke of himself as being one with the Father.

          Throughout his lifetime on earth, Jesus was going through a process of “glorification,” in which he gradually put off everything that came from his finite human mother, and replaced it with the infinite divinity of his divine Father, which was his own inner divine soul. During the passion on the Cross, and in his subsequent physical death, he left behind the last of what came from his human mother Mary, and became fully divine. That is why, although there are many suggestions throughout his earthly lifetime that he is indeed “God With Us,” he is never addressed as “God” until after the Resurrection, when Thomas addresses him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

          For a fuller version of these things, please read this article:

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

          Without a clear understanding of Jesus’ dual nature at birth, and his process of glorification culminating in his having a single Divine Human nature, it is impossible to properly understand much of what the Gospels say about him, and much of what he himself says in the Gospels. Indeed, the lack of a clear understanding of these things has led to much of the fallacy, falsity, and confusion in the traditional Christian understanding of God.

          Please do read the linked article so that you can have the beginning of an understanding of these things. Ultimately, if you want to have a clear and full understanding, it will be necessary for you to read Swedenborg’s True Christianity, especially its first three chapters on the Trinity, creation, the Incarnation, redemption, and so on. The link is to my brief book listing and review, which provides links to where you can purchase the book or download it free in electronic format.

          As far as the plural that is sometimes used in connection with the Hebrew word for God, which is plural in form but usually singular in usage, this does have great significance, but that significance is not that there is more than one person of God. The simplest explanation is the common phenomenon of the “royal we,” or majestic plural. There’s more to it than that, but delving into it would require an entire article of its own.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          The process of glorification you describe is a little creepy, to me. It sounds as if you’re describing a detachment from identification with humanity by saying that he ‘put off’ everything that came from being born of a woman.

          Galatians 4:4-5: “…God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

          I don’t see Jesus’ birth and humanity as a progression toward divinity, and he didn’t abandon it, because that’s the whole point of the incarnation, that God is with us. It wasn’t Jesus perfecting himself and showing us the way to be perfected as some guru reaching enlightenment, as appears this process describes, but rather it is the ‘visitation,’ or God dwelling with His people, which He does of His own love and grace and makes possible by the promised Holy Spirit, who seals us for redemption until the coming day when either He returns or we go to be with Him.

          Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

          I think even as a child Jesus knew who his Father was (Luke 2:49) and that His whole ministry was revealing Himself to people as the Lord, The Son of Man, the Messiah, the Christ, even receiving worship from people before receiving His resurrected body that no longer can die.

          Nathaniel calling Jesus ‘Son of God’ and ‘King of Israel’ (which are divine titles), and Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man: John 1:49-51. Samaritans hearing and believing that Jesus is the savior of the world: John 4:42 Jesus’ disciples proclaiming He is the Holy One of God: John 6:68-69 And Jesus receiving worship as God from the man he healed and revealed himself as the Lord, Son of Man in John 9.

          John 9:38: “Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.”

          There are countless others. The miracles Jesus did were to get people to believe in Him, right there and there, as the Lord, which many did. Many of the miracles performed were based on peoples’ faith that He indeed is the Messiah. ‘Be it done unto you as you have believed.’ Even IN his humanness, before he received his resurrected and incorruptible body. He did his works by the power of the Spirit, who, likewise, in all believers today, works all the same miracles that Jesus did (and greater ones!) through ordinary people.

          1 Corinthians 12:4-11: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

          7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

          On Fri, Sep 9, 2022 at 12:00 AM Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

          Lee commented: “Hi Ben, “Consubstantiation” is a doctrine about the > Eucharist. I think the word you want is “consubstantiality.” But on your > main point, it is important to understand that during his lifetime on > earth, Jesus did have two natures: a finite and fallible h” >

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          I am aware that the concept of glorification tends to be foreign to Nicene Christians due to their unbiblical doctrine of the Incarnation based on their unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.

          And yet, Jesus himself speaks of his being glorified by the Father. And it’s clear that this glorification is not being glorified in the sense of being praised, but glorified in the sense of reaching a higher and more exalted position. For example:

          and this he said of the Spirit, which those believing in him were about to receive; for not yet was the Holy Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39, Young’s Literal Translation).

          Clearly this does not mean that Jesus was not yet praised. Something had not yet happened, or was not yet complete, that caused the Holy Spirit not to be yet (there is no “given” in the original Greek). This something was the full glorification of Jesus’ human nature, as described very briefly in the article I linked for you.

          Yes, Jesus was aware of his divine Father as his own inner being very early on—likely long before he was twelve years old. After all, unlike the rest of us, his soul was divine. And yet, as recorded in the Gospels, he still alternated between thinking of himself as separate from the Father to thinking of himself as one with the Father.

          This continued right to the Crucifixion, when he called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, he was quoting the first line of Psalm 22. But it would trivialize the great agony, or “passion” in traditional terms, that he was going through to think that he was just dispassionately quoting Scripture in order to instruct people. He was feeling a great sense of separation from God, and abandonment by God, and that’s why he cried out in the words of the Psalm that paints the whole picture of what he was going through, in metaphorical terms.

          On the other end of the scale, there is the Transfiguration, in which his three closest followers saw him in glory, and recognized, if they had not before, that he was not a mere human being, but was a divine being.

          A careful reading of the Gospels shows many of these alternations between Jesus being immersed in the finite human nature he received from Mary on the one hand, and his feeling his oneness with the Father on the other. This alternation of states was all part of his process of glorification.

          Certainly Jesus was born of a woman. But the idea that Mary is still his mother is tantamount to saying that he is not fully divine. The created cannot produce the Creator. The Catholic phrase “Mother of God” is a contradiction in terms. If Jesus did not leave behind everything he got from his human mother, then he is not fully divine, but is at least in part a finitely human being. Unfortunately, due to its lack of knowledge of the Lord’s glorification, Nicene Christianity does indeed still think of Jesus as having a human nature that is not truly or fully divine.

          And yet, Jesus does remain human. It’s just that his humanity is now a divine humanity, whereas during his lifetime on earth he still had a finite humanity, which came from his finite, created human mother Mary.

          After the Resurrection, he was clearly no longer human in the ordinary finite, created sense. No human being that I know of can appear to his followers when they are in a locked room, or suddenly disappear when eating a meal with them. His resurrection body was distinctly different from his birth body. It was no longer material as a human body is, nor was it even a spiritual body. It was a divine body.

          The glorification is a complex doctrine that Swedenborg covers not only in compact form in True Christianity, but also in extended form throughout five of the eight Latin volumes of his magnum opus, Secrets of Heaven. It may sound strange to Nicene Christian ears, but it is one of Swedenborg’s greatest contributions to Christian understanding. Once we gain at least a basic understanding of the glorification, much in the Gospels that seems confusing and contradictory becomes deep and luminous. It is a lack of knowledge and understanding of Jesus’ process of glorification that has caused Nicene Christianity to go so badly wrong in its doctrine about everything from the Incarnation to the Atonement.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          I should add that since the Trinity really doesn’t make any sense, it is very common for Christians who belong to trinitarian churches to come up with examples, such as David’s cheese, sauce, and crust making one pizza example, that actually describe Swedenborg’s Trinity, not the Nicene Trinity.

          And yet, it is also common for ordinary Christians to think that God and Jesus are two distinct beings, “God” being the Father, and “Jesus” being God’s Son. Catholics, especially, but also Protestants, will talk about “God and Jesus,” as if they are two different beings. And Protestants will pray to the Father for the sake of the Son, or to the Son for the sake of the Father, once again as if they are two different beings. They are, in fact, picturing two gods in their minds. They usually can’t quite get a handle on the Holy Spirit, so they just picture “God and Jesus” in their minds.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Not sure exactly where to leave this comment, so this seems as good a place as any.

        What do you make of the conversion experience of many people who would go on to be Protestants and perhaps even Catholics? A conversion experience that’s often characterized as a near-instant, dramatic transformation, and a sudden shift in the course of their life towards something better?

        Because I’ve read and heard many such testimonials, often from people who are at the lowest point in their lowly lives, who have destroyed everything they touch and alienated everything around them, and who have finally, in their darkest moments, surrendered to and called out to Christ for salvation. Because they all seem truly genuine, and for the most part, the subsequent events of their lives attest to the authenticity of their changed ways, as so many of them are living much happier, healthier lives.

        This obviously contrasts with yours (and my) view of salvation as a process, and not an instant moment, but I also wish to rejoice in their experience as both authentic and truly life affirming, and that their transformative experience is more than mere placebo. Perhaps their process of salvation was and continues to unfold, they’re just so deeply committed to that process through a moment of realization and awakening.

        What’s happening with a person who has convinced themselves their spiritual life is unfolding in one particular way when it may in fact be unfolding in another?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          I have no reason to doubt the powerful conversion experiences that many Christians have had. Swedenborg himself had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that completely changed the course of his life. And Paul’s conversion experience has become the stuff of legend.

          The problem comes with the doctrine applied to that experience afterwards. Conversion is just that: conversion. It is a turning around from a path leading to hell, so that now the path is leading to heaven. But the converted Christian still has to walk that path. Walking that path is the process of rebirth, which begins with conversion.

          Conversion is also not the same as salvation. If a person has that powerful conversion experience, but then does not begin to walk the Christian walk, that person is not saved. It is what conversion leads to that saves us, not conversion itself. This is another way of saying that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

          The unfortunate thing is that so many people have powerful Christian conversion experiences, but then fall right into the clutches of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant sects that fill their heads full of unbiblical falsities about the nature of God, Christ, and salvation. The conversion experience is real and powerful. What follows is indoctrination into non-Christian doctrines.

          Fortunately, Jesus Christ is more powerful than the churches that falsely claim the name of “Christian.” For people of good heart, Jesus can cut through all the false doctrine and lead such people to live by the two Great Commandments in practice, even if their churches say that’s not really necessary for salvation. There are many people who are Christian in their lives, even if they are not Christian in their doctrinal understanding—or their “faith,” as that word is often misused.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          Regarding conversion, it does appear that, in that instant, there was, for that person, a dramatic transformation, and their lives were never the same ever since. Granted, they may had a few growing pains going forward, but their lives following their conversion, but it does appear that they had a moment of instant transformation, not following any particular process, and if personal transformation can happen instantaneously, even if salvation is a process any way you look at it.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Certainly conversion is a major event. But the idea that it is salvation, and that the person who has had that experience is now a completely different person, has caused no end of problems for many Christians.

          The reality is that they are still the very same person they were before, only now they’re facing in the opposite direction. But because they think they’ve been completely transformed, they put on a mask of being a whole new person, and suppress anything that doesn’t accord with that persona. This works for a certain amount of time. But before long, their actual character begins to reassert itself, and they have to struggle against it.

          If they continue to wear the mask and pretend everything is okay, they won’t engage in that battle. Then, sooner or later, their old self will burst out. And so you have pastors of megachurches getting caught committing adultery, which they’ve suppressed for years because they are “saved,” so the adultery can’t be real, even though they are actually, physically, committing adultery.

          On a lesser scale, you have Christians minimizing and even denying all sorts of negative behavior, such as bigotry toward people who don’t conform to their idea of morality, or even smoking, drinking, slacking off at work, and so on, because now they’re “saved,” and are an entirely new person, so these things must not be wrong. Absent any critical self-examination, they can be insufferable jerks all the while thinking of themselves as better than everyone else.

          This isn’t true of all Christians who have the powerful conversion experience. Some of them were basically nice people before conversion, only rather confused and aimless, and continue to be nice people afterwards. Some put out a real effort to “repent” and stop doing the things they did before, and through the presence of Christ in them, they are successful at this in a way they weren’t before. They will then attribute the whole thing to being “saved,” when in fact they are doing the work of rebirth, and becoming new creatures in Christ in the process.

          However, if they had a real understanding of conversion and rebirth, they could have a much clearer path, and avoid many of the pitfalls mentioned above, as well as others not mentioned.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          Lee brings up a point that, after conversion (or sometimes it’s baptism for some people) Jesus followers may think that they will no longer struggle with sin, but it is indeed not the case, we do struggle, but scripture encourages us constantly in the battle. The idea, however, that our salvation has not been won, scripture does not support in the NT, in that our salvation (although it is worked out in humility) has indeed been won, and that is what the Christian rejoices in. The idea that we have been made perfect before God–the ‘inputed righteousness’ idea that Lee does not agree with–is supported throughout scripture, just as well as is the idea that our sanctification is in process throughout our life. Conversion is the night-and-day difference that many experience, which is being ‘saved,’ and sanctification is the maturing process by which we grow in intimacy with Christ through our suffering with Him while here. Not the means by which we achieve salvation.

          Hebrews 10:14:
          “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

          Romans 5:1-5:
          “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          You say:

          The idea that we have been made perfect before God–the ‘inputed righteousness’ idea that Lee does not agree with–is supported throughout scripture, just as well as is the idea that our sanctification is in process throughout our life.

          In support of this, you quote:

          Hebrews 10:14:
          “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

          Unfortunately, the common translations of this verse miss the nuances of what the author of Hebrews is saying here.

          First of all, as you may know, the Greek word τετελείωκεν, here translated “made perfect” does not mean “perfect” in the usual English sense of “without flaw.” Rather, it means “carried to completion,” and variations on that theme.

          Second, the word ἁγιαζομένους, here translated “are being made holy,” is probably a bit over-translated. A simpler translation, as in the KJV, is “are sanctified,” suggests that this is spoken of people who have completed that process.

          It’s hard to pin down the exact meaning and nuance, but I believe the writer is saying that he (Christ) has brought to completion the process for those who have been sanctified—i.e., have now completed the process of sanctification, which, as you say, is a process that continues throughout our lifetime. So what I believe the verse is saying is that Christ is the one who has brought to completion this process for those whose labor of sanctification is complete—i.e., their earthly lifetime is complete.

          There is also a nuance that is missed in translating the Greek words εἰς διηνεκὲς as “forever” in verse 14. The nuance missed is that the same Greek wording occurs in verse 1, which reads, in the same translation (NIV):

          The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebrews 10:1, italics added)

          Where the NIV has “repeated endlessly,” the KJV and YLT have “continually,” which is probably a better translation. In other words, the human priest continually makes the sacrifices year after year.

          Why would the writer use the same word to speak of Christ’s sacrifice, when, as he is at pains to point out, it happened only once? This is not a common word. In the Greek New Testament, the word διηνεκής occurs only four times, three times in the current chapter (Hebrews 10), and once in Hebrews 7. It is therefore rather striking that the same word is used in verse 14 (and 12) as in verse 1. I would suggest that this is because the writer wants to convey the idea that this sacrifice, done once, operates continuously, functionally replacing the continual sacrifices of the Jewish priests.

          In other words, if we read the verse carefully, and make the connections that the Greek makes, it is not talking about an instantaneous event, but rather a process that operates continually, being “complete” only when the person “is sanctified,” meaning has finished the process of sanctification that takes place during our earthly lifetime, and has now passed on from this life to the next.

          Whether or not my particular reading of this verse is correct, all these meanings, nuances, and connections of the words the writer used in this chapter make it highly unlikely that he is talking about people being instantly perfected by some supposed “imputation of Christ’s merit.” Rather, it is much more likely that he is talking about a process that we go through until it reaches its completion at the end of our earthly life.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          Hello Lee, I missed this response, thank you. I appreciate your exegesis, I love blueletterbible as a language reference as well, as it makes studying language and meanings accessible to me.

          It is interesting to note that Jesus himself says (to Paul, to us through Paul) that we are sanctified by faith in Him, and in context, seems to be an immediate apprehension:

          Act 26:16-18 ‘‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

          He is talking to King Agrippa, who, in Paul’s eyes, is unconverted because he does not believe in Jesus, despite believing the prophets. Paul seems to view him as ‘close,’ and King Agrippa acknowledges that becoming a Christian in ‘such a short a time’ would mean for him to agree upon who Paul is declaring Jesus is.

          I am wondering if there’s a mixing of the idea of sanctification and maturation, as is described in Ephesians 4. Jesus desires our sanctification, where in His high priestly prayer, Jesus tells that for our sakes “I sanctify Myself, so that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” and then “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” He desires us to be sanctified in the truth of the Word of God. This is similar to Paul’s description of biblical maturity, which is essentially right belief about Who God Is and what is true, in order that we may grow into the ‘whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ and we grow through each person building one another up and speaking truthfully in love.

          Ephesians 4:11-16: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

          I don’t think sanctification is a salvific process, as it seems each person who is saved is, indeed, saved. And God continually does the saving. And it would seem that this saving is appropriated through one’s belief, or trust in and alignment with Jesus, which then is the whole reason for preaching the gospel, which is the power of salvation. No gospel = no salvation, it seems.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          The problem is that Protestants do not know what “belief” and “faith” are. Therefore they misunderstand everything the Bible says about them. If Protestants did understand what they are, they would know that faith alone is a contradiction in terms. Or better, that it does not even exist.

        • What’s the Greek word for “faith” and “belief” in the New Testament? I bet that Protestants don’t know the word, or at least what it means.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          That is covered in some detail in this article, which I invite you to read:

          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          In order to free your mind from its slavery to Luther’s dogma, I recommend that you think very carefully about the character it attributes to God.

          Consider the full background of justification by faith alone, including its reliance upon the Constantinian Trinity of Persons, Anselmian/Aquinian satisfaction theory, and Protestant penal substitution and imputation theory. Without these human doctrines, Luther’s doctrine means nothing.

          Consider that according to these doctrines, God the Father is so angry at the human race that his wrath can be satisfied only by witnessing the bloody death of his own Son.

          Consider that according to these doctrines, God condemns the vast majority of the human race to eternal conscious torment in hell—even if they spend their entire lives living according to Christ’s teaching that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves—simply because they believe the wrong thing.

          Consider that according to these doctrines, God is a corrupt judge who legally imputes innocence and righteousness to people who remain sinful and guilty, while legally imputing guilt to the only One who ever lived a sinless life.

          I could continue this list, but these are some of the key blasphemies against God’s good name and character that are committed by people who accept and teach Luther’s dogma of justification by faith alone.

          Consider how we would view any human being who engaged in these actions.

          What if a human king publicly tortured and killed his own son and only heir in the most gruesome way possible because his subjects had broken his laws?

          What if a human king sent at least two-thirds of his subjects to a dungeon where they are continually tortured to a point just short of death because they didn’t accept the idea that the king’s torture and murder of his own son paid for all their own wrongs?

          What if a human king, in his role as a judge, reversed justice by condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty?

          We would rightly condemn such a king as an insane, unjust, cruel tyrant.

          Yet these are precisely the character attributes and actions that Protestant doctrine attributes to God.

          If this terrible blasphemy against the good name and character of God does not have enough force to free your mind from its slavery to Luther’s dogma, then nothing will.

          In particular, no amount of explanation on my part will be able to free your mind from that slavery as long as you are willing to believe in such a horrendously evil and unjust god.

          Consider, Ben, very carefully, what you wish to believe about God, and whether you really want to accept these Protestant and Catholic blasphemies. If you are willing to continue accepting them, then I have nothing more to say to you.

          If you are willing to continue accepting these blasphemies against God, you are lost and wandering, and unwilling to be led back to a biblical and Christian path.

          If that is indeed the case, I will no longer waste my time responding substantively to your justifications of these blasphemies. Doing so would be throwing pearls to pigs.

          The purpose of this website to reach out to people whose minds are open to the healing truth of the Gospel. Your mind is closed to that truth. So far, all of my words have been wasted on you.

          Whenever you are ready to free your mind from Luther’s dogma, and all of the false, unbiblical, and blasphemous doctrines it depends upon, I invite you to return here and learn the truth that will set you free.

          Until then, please do not waste your time, my time, and my readers’ time defending these false and blasphemous doctrines here. If you persist in doing so, I will delete any further comments you leave here without notice or explanation. I have no interest and no time for endless, fruitless debates with people whose eyes have been so blinded by human traditions that they cannot hear, understand, and accept the truth.

          However, if you have legitimate questions about true Christianity—questions that are not veiled attempts to support the false Christianity to which your mind is currently enslaved—I will be happy to answer them. I am always ready and willing to guide people away from false Christianity and toward true Christianity.

          Thank you.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          Please also see our comments policy, points 8 and 9.

  12. David says:

    Ok, then let’s put you to the real test, Lee.

    Jeffrey Dahamer was baptized and accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior before he was mustered in Jail. He had no time to do any good works. I’d he a “real” Christian?

    Did he go to Heaven?

    https://christianchronicle.org/did-jailhouse-religion-save-jeffrey-dahmer/

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I have no idea whether Dahmer is in heaven or in hell. That’s information only God has.

      However, the article itself portrays Dahmer doing good works:

      Dahmer sent Hartman $5 worth of stamps, asking him to mail him 25 copies of a Bible correspondence course for distribution to other inmates.

      Just because someone is in prison, that doesn’t mean he can’t do good works.

      • David says:

        There is no record of Dahmer doing any good deeds. We don’t know if he gave them to other inmates nor if he gave them to one’s who needed the courses. This also goes back to the original post. So, let’s say that he died that night after his baptism. Is he saved? Much like a child that is baptized and die soon after (which is always sad).

        Which brings up a huge question; Did Judas go to Heaven? According to Swedenborg’s, from what I’ve read, Judas went to Heaven. I’m not fundamentally against that. He was an apostle. He had faith. He did good works (not to attain Heaven, for he did the works Jesus told him and the other apostles to do). And I don’t think selling Jesus out is a mortal sin. But he did kill himself (thou shalt not kill) and that was the last thing he did do. So, no repentance of that sin.

        Since I don’t believe in purgatory, he didn’t wind up there.

        Hmmmm. Are we all stymied?

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          You are making three assumptions here, each of which is questionable:

          1. That Dahmer’s conversion in prison was genuine
          2. That Dahmer didn’t do any good works after his conversion and before his death.
          3. That Dahmer was saved and went to heaven after he died.

          On the first, it’s hard to tell whether or not any particular jailhouse conversion is genuine. Prisoners do get various benefits for “converting.” For some of them it becomes an argument for a commutation of their sentence, or early parole. For some it gives them a group to belong to in prison, which provides them support and protection. For some it gives access to the support of, and benefits from, prison chaplains, Christians outside the prison who follow their story, and so on.

          Because of all of these immediate, earthly benefits, it is hard to tell whether any particular prisoner has had a genuine conversion or is just a very good actor. The only way to tell for sure would be if they were released from prison, and instead of reverting back to their old ways, they began a new life of care for and service to the people around them, forswearing all criminal and illicit activity.

          So on point 1, I’m not ready to grant that Dahmer’s conversion was genuine because he never was released from prison so that we could see what he would do with his life once he was no longer under coercion.

          On point 2, as in the section I quoted from the article you linked, the stronger presumption would be that he did do at least one good work in the form of spending his own money to provide Christian materials to fellow inmates. You can doubt whether that ever happened. But this is a very weak argument that Dahmer did no good works between his conversion and his death.

          On point 3, as I said in my initial response, I have no idea whether or not Dahmer was saved. Only God knows that. Once you and I both move on to the spiritual world, we will be free to inquire about his whereabouts. Then we will know.

          In short, your entire argument here is based on assumptions, none of which have particularly strong support.

          I also have no idea whether or not Judas was saved and went to heaven. Swedenborg’s statement that is sometimes interpreted this way was written not long after his spiritual eyes were opened, before he had gotten his bearings in the spiritual world and come to a solid understanding of how it works. Early on, he apparently believed that all people are ultimately saved. Later, he realized that this is not true, and that people who go to hell (of their own free will) stay there forever, as the Bible says.

          Even if Swedenborg did think that Judas would go to heaven when he wrote that statement, it could very well have been because of his mistaken belief at that time that all people ultimately go to heaven. But the statement itself is not at all clear. You can read it for yourself here and in its continuation here. Just be aware that these are early theological writings that he never published, and that don’t represent his mature and settled thought about God, salvation, and the spiritual world.

  13. David says:

    Good morning, Lee.

    You said “ God did not have a humanity of his own to appear to people in, so God appeared by filling an angel with God’s presence.”

    This cannot be true since God can do whatever He wants. In the movie Oh, God, George Burns (God, in the movie) explains that he looks the way he does for the sake of Jerry (John Denver) who would not be overwhelmed by his presence and it was also a look that jerry could understand.

    Cordially,

  14. David says:

    Do you think you made a mistake about God not appearing human due to not having his own humanity. That is nowhere in the Bible, as you like to say.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I didn’t say God didn’t appear human. God always appears human, because God is human. Rather, I said that God didn’t appear in God’s own humanity, but within the humanity of one or more angels. This is clear from the biblical examples I gave, in which the being who appears to someone on earth is called variously “a man,” “an angel,” and “God” or “the Lord.”

      In the Old Testament, there is no mention of “the Son of God.” That’s because there is no Son of God from eternity, as the Nicene doctrine holds. It is quite clear from the absence of the Son of God in the Old Testament that the Son was born in time, not from eternity. (The Holy Spirit is also not mentioned in the Old Testament.)

      This means that God did not have God’s own human manifestation prior to the Incarnation. That is why in the OT God appeared to people on earth through the humanity of an angel.

      Now that God has been incarnated, although God can still appear through angels if God wants to, ordinarily God appears through “the Son,” which is a biblical metaphor for God’s own Divine Humanity. We know this Divine Humanity as Jesus Christ, who now appears to many Christians, not to mention to non-Christians who are becoming Christians. Christ never appeared to anyone before the Incarnation. Only after.

  15. David says:

    You said “ God did not have a humanity of his own to appear to people in, so God appeared by filling an angel with God’s presence.” God has power to have a humanity of his own. He could have manifested as human if he chose. Or a horse. Even a burning bush. You are beating around the bush. My understanding is that there are several references to the coming of Christ in the OT.

    It seems that you on,y want to take the Bible literally when it suits you and metaphorically at other times. This is why Swedenborg may have things misconstrued.

    The Bible is to be taken literal.

    As for “ If God “can do whatever he wants,” why isn’t everyone in heaven?” who’s to say that everyone isn’t? Or is? I don’t know the mind of God. Only what Jesus has said and what I j ow is in the Bible. This is why it’s by Scripture alone. If we go to outside sources, they may not give you true doctrine from the Bible.

    I’m sure that you’re not a fan of Joseph Smith. But if it isn’t by scripture alone, you’ll get your salvation by The Book of Mormon. With Swedenborg it’s True Christianity. With Ellen White it’s Testimonies for the Church. And so on.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      God could choose to have a humanity of his own, and did so choose, by taking on a humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. That is the biblical reality. Any speculation that God “could have” done this in Old Testament times is indeed purely speculation, because there is no biblical record of this happening before it did happen as recounted in the Gospels.

      Meanwhile, if you think God could manifest as a horse, you really don’t understand the nature of God. God also did not “manifest as a burning bush.” Rather, as the story says:

      There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2)

      First, once again, it is clearly said that this is “the angel of the Lord.” Then in the next verse it says that “God called to him out of the bush.” This follows the common pattern in the Old Testament of God appearing as and speaking through an angel, which I have already spoken about.

      Second, it does not say that God appeared as a burning bush. It says that the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush. Not as a flame of fire, but in a flame of fire. And it says that God called to him out of the bush. Not as a bush, but out of a bush.

      Perhaps God could manifest as a horse or a burning bush if God wanted to. But that’s not what God actually did, as recorded in the Bible. There’s a reason that God manifested as a human being, and not as a horse or a burning bush. If you don’t know and understand that reason, then you truly are in the dark about the nature of God.

      If the Bible is to be taken literally, why do you keep on saying things that the Bible just doesn’t say, and then claim that it is from the Bible?

      • David says:

        Hi Lee,
        What God did was not the point. It’s what you said that is the point.

        Despite what you say, what I read in the Bible is in the Bible. And how I read it is how I interpret it. The Bible is to be taken literally. To not take it literally means to not take the word of God literally.

        Would I assume correctly that you feel these stories are of Devine nature?

        This is from the Swedenborg Church of N.A. “ The many twists and turns found in the stories depict the journey we all must take if we are to be spiritually regenerated. This means that problematic or difficult statements in the Bible do not need to be taken literally.” And you, yourself disagreed with sola scriptura saying that it’s not in the Bible. Regardless of what you may think of my beliefs, what I quote is from the Bible and it is how I read it.

        So, please tell me how you interpret this: (ESV)
        “For by grace”

        BTW, I do Locke your answers. You are providing me with a great challenge and fun.

        Cordially,

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Do you take Jesus’ parables literally?

          Is the parable of the sower a farming instruction manual?

          Is the parable of the pearl of great price financial advice about taking advantage of an unexpected windfall?

          Is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins a survivalist warning about the importance of stocking up on supplies ahead of time?

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          You say:

          So, please tell me how you interpret this: (ESV)
          “For by grace”

          On that, please see the section titled “Ephesians 2:8 says we are saved by God’s grace, or love” in the article “Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach Faith Alone?

          I recommend that you read the entire article to put those few words into context. Quoting Bible verses out of context and then misunderstanding them because they’re out of context is a favorite Protestant pastime.

  16. David says:

    Good afternoon, Lee.

    Technically, you’re a Protestant.

    Cordially,
    David Y. Nelson

  17. David says:

    Thank you, Lee for your insightful thoughts on “faith alone”. But, in my opinion, I believe that you mischaracterized the whole statement.
    So for the readers of your blog, let’s put into text what is truly misjudged by you.
    The first thing is you tell your readers that “Faith alone” is not in the Bible to describe how we are saved. Luther never said it was. He said “Faith” alone. That is a big difference, though you seem not to see it. Or don’t want to because of Swedenborg and his beliefs. I get how you are seeing things. When I questioned you on Scripture alone, you said that that wasn’t in the Bible either. That is very true. But this is how we hear about God/Jesus. By reading scripture we understand and learn of His sacrifice for us. And of His ascending to Heaven. The Bible doesn’t say “grace alone” either but you have said that it is “grace” that saves us. Nothing else. That would be ‘grace” alone. I agree. But it comes through our faith.
    Now, “through”, “by” and “from” are synonymous. And I’m sure that there are bibles out there with these words. It is because of that faith we are extended grace by God and saved.
    You have said that good works come from God. I truly believe that with all of my heart. But the difference is this; you still feel that God is giving us good works to help account for our salvation. In a simple example, say it’s God’s birthday and he want’s a PS5. He want’s YOU to buy it for Him. So, He gives you $500 to buy Him, His present. In essence, you are doing Gods will to earn your grace which He’s already given you.
    Grace has only one price, Faith. We are given grace through faith. Not through faith and our good deeds.
    And it’s not what Paul, or James, or Peter has said. It’s exactly what Jesus has said, “And He said to the woman, ‘Your FAITH has saved you; go in peace.’” I added the all caps for effect. The woman washed and dried His feet and anointed Him. It was by the Grace of God that she was saved through her faith.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Faith alone is in the Bible:

      You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

      Luther didn’t say “‘Faith’ alone.” He said that we are justified by faith alone. In other words, he flatly contradicted the Bible on this point.

      You say that I have mischaracterized faith alone. Now let me ask you. Do you know and understand these doctrines?

      1. Justification by faith alone
      2. The satisfaction theory of atonement
      3. Penal substitution
      4. The imputation of Christ’s merit

      There are other doctrines I could mention, but these are some of the key ones. And they all go together. Without all of these together, “faith alone” means nothing.

      If you do not have a solid understanding of these doctrines, then you do not understand faith alone, you do not know how it works, and you have no idea what your preachers are really preaching at you from their Protestant pulpits.

      • Is the satisfactory theory of atonement and the imputation of Christ’s merit Biblical?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          No, they are not biblical. Satisfaction theory originated with Anselm in the 11th century. The imputation of Christ’s merit originated with Protestant theologians in the 16th century.

        • Ben Copeland says:

          Hello all. I’m back from a long trip out to the midwest, and have finally got a wordpress reader to not get the comments all jumbled up. Lee you’re the only one I’m following, for the sake of engaging on this topic.
          I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s not biblical. Is there sufficient evidence to support it?
          I would ask what was the reason Christ died?
          Lee’s substack entry and the answer given by ‘Nathaniel is protesting’ on the satisfaction theory is here https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/36598/what-was-anselms-biblical-basis-for-his-theory-of-atonement-by-satisfaction
          Was Anselm not referencing the book of Hebrews for support of atonement?
          Logic of Hebrews as I read it is as follows:
          Jesus is the ultimate sinless high priest appointed by God to effectuate the expiation of sin through his death on the cross
          Hebrews 3:1: “fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”
          Hebrews 5:5 “Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God [appointed him].”
          Hebrews 4:14-15: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
          Hebrews 6:17-20: “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
          Hebrews 7:11: “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?”
          What did Jesus do as a high priest, going ‘behind the curtain,’ and dying on the cross as God’s sinless Son and atoning spotless lamb, if not to expiate or atone for sin and so bring people back to life from death? ‘The wages of sin is death.’ ‘All of sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ ‘Here comes the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!’ ‘Believe in me, and even though you die, you will live.’
          Although meals and fellowship were a part of the sacrificial system, the fellowship and reunion with God only occurred after the death and shed blood of the prescribed One who atoned for the sins (in the old testament, a specific animal, which foreshadowed Jesus).
          Hebrews 7:25: “[Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
          26-28: “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”
          But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
          Hebrews 9:15 “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
          The idea of providing ransom, or atonment by being set free from the sins committed (a seeming debt, which all have accrued, Isaiah, Romans, John) through His own shed blood, is not biblically unsupported. Just like how scripture supports that all die and then face judgment before God, and that Christ will appear a second time, in the same verse, even.
          Hebrews 9:26-28: “But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
          Now how does one effectuate, or appropriate this atonement for themselves? That’s the question this thread has been working through. I offer good works are the proof of one’s salvation and are not what effectuate it, or make one saved. The seed has to be there first in order for the fruit to come. I would argue salvation and the works God requires only come through belief in (trust in, relationship with) Jesus as the object of our belief. That is the seed, I would argue, the belief. Not the works themselves.
          Maybe certain contexts provide one the opportunity to carry much good works, but take those contexts or conditions away and one needs something greater to ‘bear’ or create the fruit. Faith rooted, or anchored in the hope of the promises effectuated by Jesus, lasts in all contexts–Jesus, God, is the one that grows the fruit.
          Hebrews 7:18-19: “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          I don’t think I can explain these things to you any more clearly than I already have. As long as your mind is enslaved to Luther’s dogma, no amount of explanation will penetrate the darkness there.

          Whenever you are ready to free your mind so that you are able to read and understand what the Bible does and doesn’t say, feel free to return here. Until then, this conversation will only continue going in circles and wasting both your time and mine.

        • Ever heard the song “Your blood has washed away my sins, Jesus thank you! Your father’s wrath completely satisfied…” I don’t know the name of the song. What’s Biblical or unbiblical about that song.
          And is the song “Jesus paid it all” unbiblical?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Long story short: it’s not biblical. And even what is biblical is distorted and falsified by false doctrine.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Here is a little more detail on those songs:

          Blood washing away sins is biblical, but Protestants misunderstand it. They think Christ’s bloody death satisfied God’s wrath, and that’s how it washed away our sins. However, the Bible simply doesn’t say this. Christ’s blood is a metaphor for Christ’s love. It is Christ’s love that washes away our sins. But it would take too long to illustrate this here.

          Eventually I plan to write a two-part article on the meaning of sacrifice in the Old Testament and in the metaphors of the New Testament. That will lay it all out. Both Protestants and Catholics have completely misunderstood the meaning of sacrifice in the Bible because Anselm’s satisfaction theory has led their minds astray. Just one tidbit for now: the basic human meaning of a sacrifice is that it is a meal shared with God. We share meals with the people we love. Other meanings of sacrifice, such as “propitiation,” can be understood properly only if that fundamental meaning of sacrifice is kept in mind.

          Protestants also misunderstand “the wrath of God.” There is no wrath in God. Rather, when God’s love touches sinners, they experience it as wrath because it is contrary to their evil desires and actions. For a detailed explanation of this, please see:

          What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?

          As for “satisfying” God’s wrath, that is completely unbiblical. Nowhere does the Bible say that anything Christ did satisfied the Father. You can look as hard as you want through the entire Bible—and I recommend that you do so, in order to satisfy your mind on this point. 😉

          The Bible also never says that Jesus “paid it all.” This is based on the penal substitution doctrine, which is the Protestant version of Catholic satisfaction theory. The idea is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Once again, look as hard as you want throughout the entire Bible, and you will not find a single place where it says that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

          All of these doctrines are made-up human traditions taught nowhere in the Bible. That’s why the Protestant church is not a Christian church. It has replaced the teachings of Jesus Christ with doctrines and traditions that humans have invented over the centuries.

        • Does the Bible say that God’s wrath was turned to Jesus when he was crucified? Didn’t Jesus feel shame and guilt from sins taken from people that were weighed on him?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          No, the Bible doesn’t say any of that. All of it is pure Protestant fiction, with no biblical basis whatsoever.

        • What about “He became sin, who knew know sin, so that we would become his righteousness”?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          It’s a poor translation. Here is how it should be translated:

          For the one who knew no sin he made to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might partake in the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

          For a full explanation, please see:

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

        • Sounds closer to the Tree of Life Version (TLV) Bible.

          What do you think of the TLV and NOG Bible versions?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          I haven’t looked at them enough to have an opinion about them.

        • What about I Peter 3:18? Is that the verse that says that Christ took our sin upon him, so that we might die in transgressions and live in righteousness?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          1 Peter 3:18 says:

          For Christ also suffered [or: died] for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you [or: us] to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

          It doesn’t say he took our sin upon him. It says that he suffered (or died) for sins. People suffer and die for sins all the time. Every time a nation goes to war against another nation, people suffer and die because of the sin of war. Every time someone cheats or steals, other people suffer for sin by losing what they were cheated out of or what was stolen from them.

          The key words in the verse are “once for all.” When Jesus suffered because of our sins, his actions in doing so brought us closer to God. But explaining how that happened would require an entire post of its own. For the short version, read the sections starting with the one titled “What is Redemption?” in this article:

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

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Fascinating.

          This article gives a view of atonement theories that is entirely skewed by its own unbiblical insistence that Christ’s sacrifice was substitutionary, something the Bible never says, and that it paid the penalty for human sin, another thing the Bible never says. See if you can find a passage in the Bible that says either of these things. There are some passages that can be twisted to make it sound like they say these things, but the Bible never actually says them. Look for yourself.

          It also mislabels the key theories that it does cover.

          Under the heading “Dramatic Theory,” it gives a very brief statement of the Christus Victor theory of atonement, which was the dominant theory of atonement for the first thousand years of Christian history. But instead of treating Christ’s victory over the Devil as a real thing, as the Bible does, it treats it as a mere “drama.” Incredible how blind penal substitution theory has made the author, such that he can’t even see or understand what the Bible actually says about atonement, and what it means. Unfortunately, even the main treatments of Christus Victor theory generally miss the point, interpreting it as a reinterpretation of ransom theory, which is an entirely different theory. That’s why I’m not linking you to the Wikipedia treatment of it, as I usually do. The Wikipedia article on this theory is badly flawed.

          Further, instead of dealing directly with satisfaction theory, which is the Catholic parent theory of Protestant penal substitution theory, it talks about “Governmental Theory,” which is not the proper name for that theory. The author is either ignorant of the history of his own theory of atonement (penal substitution), or is willfully avoiding the obvious fact that Protestant penal substitution theory is simply a further “development” of the Catholic satisfaction theory of atonement first proposed by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century, and developed into the current Catholic theory in subsequent centuries, especially by Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas.

          Of course, the article ends with penal substitution, which, unlike the other key theories of atonement covered in the article, is labeled properly. Penal substitution is the Protestant version of the Catholic satisfaction theory of atonement, developed by various Protestant theologians, the best known of which are Martin Luther and John Calvin, but also later by Charles Hodge. In his treatment of penal substitution theory, the author repeats the unbiblical idea of atonement as substitutionary, which it shares with its parent doctrine, the Catholic satisfaction theory of atonement, repeats again the unbiblical assertion made many times in the article that atonement involves Christ paying the penalty for our sin, and adds the Calvinist idea of total depravity, another unbiblical and highly pernicious doctrine.

          In short, the piece shows a general ignorance of the history of atonement theory in the Christian Church, and an almost complete blindness to what the Bible does and doesn’t say about atonement. It gives hardly any space to what the Bible does say, which is that Christ conquered the Devil and the power of sin, and repeats over and over again what the Bible doesn’t say, which is that the atonement is substitutionary and that it involves paying the penalty for sin, not to mention repeating Calvin’s false doctrine of total depravity.

          It also doesn’t cover key unbiblical doctrines necessary for penal substitution theory, such as the imputation of Christ’s merit and, especially on the Calvinist side, double imputation, which Wikipedia doesn’t properly cover.

          In short, this article was written by someone either innocently or willfully ignorant of the history of his own theory of atonement, and probably innocently ignorant of what the Bible does and doesn’t say about the atonement—probably innocently because his mind has been so blinded by Protestant atonement theory that he cannot even read what the Bible says on the subject.

          In particular, his insistence that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins is 100% false. Once again, I challenge you to find a single chapter or verse in the Bible that says that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. You will not find it, because it isn’t there.

          The theory that the author of this article believes in, penal substitution, is not biblical, and it is therefore not Christian. See:

          The Christian Church is Not Christian

        • Wikipedia is not reliable. Look up the Conservapedia article “examples of bias on Wikipedia.” Other alternatives to Wikipedia are Citizen’s Compendium and InfoGalactic. But look at https://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Examples_of_Bias_in_Wikipedia or https://www.conservapedia.com/Examples_of_Bias_in_Wikipedia What do you think?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          Most of the bias on Wikipedia is on political issues. There’s no particular reason for bias on non-political topics. It’s just that some of the articles do reflect common misconceptions or lack of understanding of the topics they cover.

        • Lee says:

          Incidentally, both of the links you posted go to the same article. I don’t know if that’s what you intended.

        • Not really. But I do know they point to the same article.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          About the unbiblical and anti-biblical nature of the Protestant penal substitution theory of atonement, please see this article:

          The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 5: Jesus Paid the Penalty For Our Sins?

          See also the first article linked at the end of this one.

  18. David says:

    Good morning, Lee.

    Jesus said it. She was saved by her faith. Nothing else. That is “faith” alone.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Jesus said she was saved by her faith.

      He did not say she was saved by nothing else.

      He did not say she was saved by faith alone.

      It is not respectful to the Lord to add words to what he said.

      • David says:

        Good morning, Lee. He did say she was saved by her faith. You’re 100% correct. What else did He say saved her?

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          He didn’t talk about other things at that point. He also did not say that faith was the only thing that saved her. Drawing that conclusion from what he said is a basic logical fallacy. Meanwhile, in other places he did. Read Matthew 25:31–46. There, he says that people are saved because they have done good works.

          The problem with Protestants is that when they read the Bible, all they see is faith, faith, faith, faith, and more faith. They don’t see anything else. That’s why they can’t even read the Bible. Reading something means understanding it. Protestants do not understand what they are reading, because they are blinded by Luther’s dogma.

  19. David says:

    Good morning, Lee.

    The people in that passage had no idea that they were doing good works. That alone tells us that God doesn’t give us works to be used for salvation.

    Again, Jesus said it.

    Have you ever seen

    • David says:

      Sorry, but have you ever seen the movie The Case for Christ?

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      It is clear that you are simply going to ignore or deny everything the Bible says that doesn’t agree with Luther’s dogma. Therefore I do not think this will be a useful conversation. Please return if and when you are ready to give Jesus’ teachings greater weight than Luther’s teachings.

  20. David says:

    Good evening, Lee.

    You asked me about:
    ‘Justification by faith alone
    The satisfaction theory of atonement
    Penal substitution
    The imputation of Christ’s merit” (my cut and paste did not number it as you did).

    I do know the first but have no knowledge of the other three. And people like me, with autism, just gotta do the research to see what it is (I might know what these are but don’t recall ever hearing them in those terms).

    I’ll be out of your hair for about a week while I go through about 50 websites (not all Lutheran) and a ton of books. You found my weakness: research!

    Cordially,

    P.S. Welcome back, Ben!

  21. David says:

    Good afternoon, Lee.

    To quote you “ Protestants also misunderstand “the wrath of God.” There is no wrath in God. Rather, when God’s love touches sinners, they experience it as wrath because it is contrary to their evil desires and actions. For a detailed explanation of this, please see:”

    Does this mean that God “love touched” those in Sodom and Gomorrah? And not destroy them. Or that His flooding of the earth, was a “love touch” to the sinners?

    Also, you said that no where does it say that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by His sacrifice. I believe it says that in Romans 3:25 “… whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.”

    propitiation: averting the wrath of God by the offering of a gift.

    So if you’re looking for the exact phrase, you’re probably right that it’s not in the Bible. Though, the phrase is there but in a synonymous form.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      The exact phrase is never in the Bible for any Protestant teaching. It’s always, “Well, it doesn’t exactly say that, but that’s what it means.

      This should make you suspicious.

      If it were important for us to believe, the Bible would say it in plain and simple terms. And in fact, the Bible does tell us in plain and simple terms what’s important to believe. Such as:

      You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

      It couldn’t get plainer or simpler than that.

      But Protestants reject the plain and simple words of the Bible. They substitute complicated human-invented doctrines such as justification by faith alone, which flatly contradicts the Bible’s plain and simple words.

      That is why Protestantism is not Christian.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Protestants also misunderstand what “propitiation” means as the Bible uses that term, just as they misunderstand everything the Bible says due to their minds being blinded by Luther’s dogma and all the other unbiblical and false doctrines that go with it. On the real, biblical meaning of propitiation, please see:

      How did Swedenborg interpret 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins”?

      And about the wrath of God, please see:

      What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?

      The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven in Genesis 19 most likely never literally happened, just as the great world-engulfing flood of Genesis 6–8 never literally happened. There is no archeological evidence of either event, and the Flood would be physically impossible.

      The Bible is a spiritual book, not a history book. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah tells a spiritual story, not a historical story. And yes, spiritually, the fire from heaven was God’s love, which, when it touches evil people, becomes a destructive fire because God’s love purges and destroys evil when it enters our spirit. To evil people, this feels like destruction because they identify with their evil and cling to it fiercely. This is the meaning of these words in Revelation:

      When he broke the sixth seal, I looked, and there was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12–17)

      • Is Genesis based on corrupt oral tradition? How long was each Bible book written after it is said to have taken place? How long was Exodus written after it was said to have taken place? And what about, say, the books of Kings and Corinthians? And what about Isaiah and Jeremiah? Did miracles literally happen? Even the miracles of Jesus? Why doesn’t the Bible give the literal history, including the literal founder of the Hebrews/Jews, and not some corrupt version of history?

        I don’t know about legends, but myths usually take centuries to develop. They are usually written hundreds of years after they are said to have taken place.

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          That’s a lot of questions!

          The composition of the Bible is very complex. I make no claim to be an expert on it. But in general, yes, the earlier books of the Bible were based largely on oral tradition that was eventually written down and then edited into its present form. This doesn’t mean it was “corrupt.” Rather, from my perspective, it gave God plenty of time to shape the story into the form it needs to take in order to tell the spiritual story that God wanted to convey to us. For that, the Bible’s historical accuracy is unimportant.

          Much of the Bible is written in a narrative, historical style because that is the story that contains the spiritual meaning. Having a storyline helps us ordinary, physical-minded people on earth to read and follow it. If it were all philosophy and theology, very few people would read it. In that case, it certainly would not have the widespread influence over people’s social, moral, and spiritual life that it does. How many people read Descartes, Kant, and Schopenhauer compared to the number of people who read the Bible?

          As for whether the miracles literally happened, since none of us were there at the time, it’s hard to know for sure. I have no particular reason to doubt that Jesus actually did perform the miracles described in the Gospels. These were recorded by people who were alive during Jesus’ lifetime. However, many of the Old Testament miracles are certainly mythical and symbolic rather than literal and historical. The Great Flood never happened literally. And the sun never literally still in the sky as stated poetically in Joshua 10:12–14. As we now know, the sun’s apparent motion through the sky happens because of the earth’s rotation on its axis. If the earth’s rotation were suddenly to stop, so that the sun could “stand still in the sky,” it would cause everything on the surface of the earth to violently move and shift, ripping apart the continents and killing all humans on earth.

          Regardless of whether they ever happened literally and historically, all the miracles of the Bible contain a spiritual message about how the Lord saves us and leads us toward heaven. That’s what’s important, not physical and material issues of historical accuracy—which are trivial in importance by comparison. Fundamentalists who insist upon the literal and historical accuracy of the Bible are straining out gnats while swallowing camels.

        • As for the Sun standing still, one scientific explanation is a solar eclipse. Is that valid?

          And why would God list the generations from Adam all the way to Abraham? Does it list the generations from Jacob to Moses or from Judah to David? If Adam and Noah are mythical or allegorical characters, why doesn’t the Bible list mythical characters as being characters in another world (parallel universe) instead of listing generations to real characters?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          A solar eclipse doesn’t make the day any longer. The sun keeps moving across the sky during an eclipse. It is just partially or wholly blocked for a while along the way.

          All of the genealogies in the Bible have meaning. Culturally, they provide an origin story for the Jewish people. Spiritually, every generation represents a new spiritual generation, which is a new development or devolution in the spiritual life of the people of ancient times. Swedenborg explains them all in Secrets of Heaven when he covers those chapters in Genesis.

          As for parallel universes, that is a modern concept. The ancient Hebrews had no such concept, so it could not have appeared in the Bible.

  22. David says:

    Lee,

    Um, if you’re saying that parts of the Bible is made up then you’re the one who is being disrespectful to the Lord about adding things to the Bible that he didn’t say.

    Gotta say, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

    Remember that I said all Jesus said what they her faith had saved her and nothing else but you added to that “ He also did not say that faith was the only thing that saved her.” He actually said that it was the only thing He said that saved her.

    I don’t mean to cherry pick you but you went on about how Paul may not have written Ephesians as if that discounts Ephesians altogether. Yet, the writer of James has been suspects for about 2,000 years. And though I agree with James in that works must accompany faith but not for salvation. If it did, that would mean we are responsible for our salvation and what Jesus did on the cross was for not. But even James wrote “ But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

    There are several great documentaries out there. One that proves the flood, one the uncovers the real,Ark of the covenant, and another that actually finds the path that Moses led the people out of Egypt. (That one is really fantastic as it showed that the actual places were being hidden by, I believe, Syria).

    If you choose not to believe in the Old Testament, then it’s Ye of little faith. Because if these were told to Moses by God, then there would be no reason for God to lie. Isn’t that what faith is all about?

    propitiation Means to placate a deity. It’s really as simple as all that. And then you want to say that it really comes from another word…and that translates…to another word…

    And “dogma” isn’t the slander you might think it is.

    Cordially,
    David

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      All of this is well and good. But none of it is biblical. The authorship of various books of the Bible is irrelevant. The truth of what they wrote is what’s important. And if you don’t care about the exact meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words translated as “propitiation,” it just goes to show that like other Protestants, you are more interested in reading your human-invented doctrines into the Bible than you are in humbly allowing the Lord to teach you through the words of the Bible.

      • David says:

        But you’re the one that brought this up in your Ephesians blog. Now you’re backtracking.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          I mentioned in passing that it seems likely that, as many Bible scholars believe, Paul was not the author of Ephesians because its style and wording is a bit different than that of the letters whose Pauline authorship is widely accepted among Bible scholars.

          This has nothing to do with whether or not what the author of Ephesians wrote was true. Retrojecting present day standards of authorship, plagiarism, and so on to biblical times is not sound scholarship, and it doesn’t help us to understand the Bible. Just the reverse.

      • David says:

        Are you also saying that you have a different Bible than most people? Maybe one translated by Swedenborg?

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          The Bible is written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. That is the same for everyone, regardless of translations into English or any other language.

          Swedenborg studied the Bible intensively in its original languages in order to get as close as possible to its original, genuine meaning.

        • What about corrupt manuscripts? Septuagint differs from the Hebrew Bible. There are other corrupt manuscripts including Alexandrian. Does that prove the Bible to not be inerrant?

        • Lee says:

          Hi WorldQuestioner,

          As I said in my reply to you here, it’s not a matter of the Bible being “corrupted,” but rather of the Bible forming over time, which gave God many centuries to form it into a narrative that could perfectly tell the spiritual story God wanted to convey to us.

          The idea that the Bible is inerrant is hardly even worth discussing. It so obviously is not that only people blinded by false so-called “Christian” dogma could ever believe it. If there weren’t so many materialistic, physical-minded “Christians” around making lots of noise, we wouldn’t even have to bother with literalism and inerrantism.

          However, in general, the variations in the manuscripts, and early translations such as the Septuagint, show that the text of the Bible has been remarkably well-preserved. Most of the variations are fairly minor. Very few of them make any substantive difference to the meaning of the text. There are a few places where an entire line has been lost or added, such as the Comma Johanneum in 1 John 5:7–8. And the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53–8:11 is not in the earliest extant manuscripts, leading many scholars to believe that it is not an original and valid part of the Gospel of John. But once again, for the most part the manuscripts tell us that we have a very well-preserved text of the Bible, on which we can generally rely.

          Still, the fact that there are variations, and some obvious errors, in the text of the Bible does make it very hard to sustain the inerrantist position.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      As for “proving the Flood” and so on, I’ve watched some of those “documentaries,” and they’re just a big steaming pile of junk science and “Christian” gullibility. No reputable archeologist or historian would sign off on any of it. It’s all wishful thinking and willful ignorance on the part of so-called Christians who are stuck in the letter that kills, while rejecting the spirit that gives life. They ignore all the teachings of Jesus, James, Paul, and the rest of the Apostles in favor of doctrines made up by human beings from Constantine’s bishops in 325 AD to Luther and Calvin 1200 years later.

  23. David says:

    This is also not necessarily true. We know that at some point, the Holy Catholic Church was teaching about works, but we also know that Paul was teaching about Faith. How do we know this? Because of his books and when the Holy Catholic Church was started years later.

    BTW, in the Apostles Creed, some of our Lutheran churches say Catholic instead of Christian. Luther never stopped being Catholic, he just started doing what the Bible said. And there are different (sects?) branches of that church. Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Greek Orthodox, Russian….
    Despite being excommunicated, he still considered himself Catholic. Like you, he didn’t like the pope.

    As for the flood, sedimentation showed that there was a flood around that period of time. Most geologists can’t explain it. But there are a lot that believe it has to do with Noah. What else do feel is just a “story” in the Bible? Adam and Eve? Moses? Job? Daniel? Jesus?

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Paul taught about faith, works, love, hope, and many other things.

      It took 1,500 years of the Catholic Church gradually corrupting and distorting the teachings of the Bible for Luther and his followers to come up with the idea that Paul is all about salvation by faith and nothing else.

      Luther’s dogma (and I use that word purposely, because that’s exactly what it is) depends upon centuries of false and unbiblical doctrines invented and developed within the Catholic Church from which Luther came. Luther added his own unbiblical and false doctrines to them, and then Calvin completed the job of completely falsifying and destroying everything the Lord teaches us in the Bible.

      The Trinity of Persons, original sin, the satisfaction theory of atonement, penal substitution, justification by faith alone, the imputation of Christ’s merit, good works as the fruits of faith, total depravity, double imputation . . . the list goes on and on. The one thing all these so-called “Christian” doctrines have in common is that not a single one of them is taught anywhere in the Bible. Many of them, including Luther’s dogma, are explicitly rejected in the Bible.

      The idea that Luther just “followed the Bible” is laughable. He reject the Bible’s plain teachings in favor of many centuries of human doctrine and tradition, to which he added his own newly invented doctrine that the Bible also rejects.

      You admit that you don’t know anything about all the doctrines that Luther’s dogma depends on. By your own admission, you don’t even understand your own church’s doctrine and history. Yet you blindly believe it anyway. You are a blind follower of blind leaders. That is why you have fallen into the ditch of monumental misunderstanding and falsity about the Bible. That is why everything you say is contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible, in its original languages.

      I advise you to abandon all the false doctrines you have been taught, especially Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone, and learn what the Bible really says. There is no need for you to be so blind, and your mind do darkened by centuries of human error.

      • David says:

        Lee:

        You were confronted with Jesus stating to the woman that her faith saved her. He mentioned no works. Just her faith. Yet, you have grasped the one Christian religion where the guy that created it got it from dreams. He was not a scholar. He was a scientist and reading his brand, you can tell that he avoided complexity that he can’t explain. Instead, he told people to not take the Bible literally. As you didn’t when Jesus told her that. The Bible is about faith and love. And I’m reading a lot right now. But what I see is that Luther tells you to read the Bible while Swedenborg doesn’t tell you that. He specifically has you ignore passages that you can’t explain. That’s what faith is all about.

        And the one verse in Matthew concerning works, you ignore that the people had no idea they were doing good works. Your question to that should be “How were they doing those for their own salvation if they didn’t know that they were doing it?’

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Forgive the bluntness, but your ignorance of the Bible text is monumental. The woman in question had just engaged in a “work” in the form of touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. She didn’t just “believe” and get healed. Also, it is plainly obvious from the context that this is not about her spiritual salvation, but about being physically healed.

          If you think that the story in Matthew 9:20–22 supports Luther’s dogma, you simply haven’t read what it says. Every time Jesus heals someone, there is action together with the faith, just as the Bible teaches us in James 2:14–26. It is never through “faith and nothing else,” as Protestants so wrongly think.

          In addition to not actually reading the story of this woman’s healing, you clearly haven’t read any of the stories that surround it. In a story that starts before that one, and continues after it (Matthew 9:18, 23–25), Jesus resurrects the deceased daughter of a prominent citizen. The entire story says nothing at all about faith. Instead, it says that Jesus “took her by the hand, and the girl got up.” It was not “faith,” but an action of Jesus that “saved” her.

          I put those words in quotes because once again, Protestants don’t even know what “faith” and “salvation” are. Most often in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, the word “salvation” refers to salvation from literal enemies, and healing from physical illnesses—as in these stories of healing in Matthew 9. If we took these stories literally, as you seem to want to do, they would say nothing at all about “salvation” as Christians understand that word.

          If you took your literalism to its logical conclusion, you would have to skip over most of the Bible, because it would have no bearing on our spiritual salvation. And in fact, Protestants do skip over most of the Bible, focusing only on a few passages that contain the word “faith,” and completely misunderstanding even those few passages.

          But continuing on, in Matthew 9:27–31 Jesus heals two blind men. In this instance, Jesus does ask them, “Do you have faith that I can do this?” They respond that they do. But was it faith alone that healed them? Not at all. He then touched their eyes, and said that it would be done to them according to their faith. Not faith alone, but faith together with action, just as the Bible everywhere teaches.

          One more time, in Matthew 9:32–34, Jesus heals a man who was mute. And this time, again, there is not a word about faith. Rather, it simply speaks of Jesus having cast out the demon. Casting out a demon is an action. It is not faith alone.

          You are now “confronted” with the fact that even the passage you point to does not teach anything like faith alone. It teaches faith together with actions, just as Paul, James, John, Peter, and every other teacher in the Bible, especially the Lord himself, teach everywhere in the Bible.

          In reading your amazingly blind comments, I can’t help but think of the Lord’s words to the Laodiceans:

          For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white robes to clothe yourself and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17–18)

          You think that you are rich in understanding of the Bible, without even realizing that you are so poor, blind, and naked that you cannot read a single verse of the Bible without misunderstanding it.

          This is what Luther’s dogma has done to the eyes of your mind. And you will continue to be spiritually wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked until you abandon the false doctrines you have been taught, and allow the Lord himself to teach you in the Gospels, and through his Apostles.

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          You also should not talk about Swedenborg, because you are completely ignorant about him. Everything you said about him is wrong.

          Swedenborg was a highly respected scholar during his lifetime. He wrote numerous books on scientific, technological, and philosophical subjects, some of which were standard reference works in his day. Swedenborg has commonly been listed among the top five or ten historical figures when it comes to IQ (intelligence). The idea that Swedenborg was “not a scholar” only shows your ignorance of his life and accomplishments.

          As for his “avoiding complexity,” this is such a silly statement that it’s hardly even worth commenting on. But since you said it: Swedenborg is famed for digging deep into every subject he put his mind to, whether it was physics, biology, anatomy, chemistry, cosmology, psychology, philosophy, theology, or biblical studies. Taking up just one of these, anatomy, though the science of anatomy has progressed far beyond what it was in the 18th century during Swedenborg’s lifetime, even today, those few anatomists and physiologists who have read Swedenborg’s works on that subject have often been surprised and even amazed by some of the advanced discoveries he made, in some cases long before the people who are commonly credited as having made those discoveries.

          Honestly, I have no idea where you get this stuff. Probably from some knuckle-dragging fundamentalist website. You could not be more wrong about Swedenborg.

          Even in his later theological period, none of what he wrote came from dreams. He was not asleep, but awake when he had his experiences in the spiritual world. Further, none of his doctrinal teachings came from his spiritual experiences. They all came to him from reading the Bible and having his mind opened to its truth by the Lord as he read. See his own statement about this True Christianity #779.

          You also could not be more wrong about Swedenborg’s treatment of the Bible. The plain, unannotated General Index to Swedenborg’s Scripture Quotations takes up over 400 pages. He quotes from or refers to nearly all the books of the Protestant Bible. He also wrote detailed, verse-by-verse commentaries on the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Revelation. Further, he intensively studied the Hebrew and Greek languages so that he could read the Bible in its original languages, to ensure that his teachings and commentary were based on the actual, original words of the Bible, and not on any translation of it if that departs from the original.

          Once again, I have no idea where you get your supreme ignorance about Swedenborg. Every single thing you said about him is not only wrong, but massively and egregiously wrong.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Featured Book

God and Creation

By Lee Woofenden

(Click the cover image or title link to review or purchase. This website receives commissions from purchases made via its links to Amazon.)

Join 1,236 other followers
Earlier Posts
Blog Stats
  • 3,633,877 hits
%d bloggers like this: