In his massive multi-volume work Secrets of Heaven, originally published in eight Latin volumes in London, 1749–1756, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) states that the first chapters of Genesis, up to somewhere in the genealogy in Genesis 11 that leads to the stories of Abraham starting in Genesis 12, were never meant to be taken literally. Instead, they were written by ancient authors to tell a spiritual story in a metaphorical or “correspondential” style.
In Secrets of Heaven #554–1059 Swedenborg offers a verse-by-verse spiritual exegesis of the Flood story in Genesis 6:1–9:17.
The symbolic nature of the early chapters of Genesis
Swedenborg interprets the characters and events of the early chapters of Genesis as referring, not to literal events of actual historical human beings, but rather as symbolic accounts of whole races and generations of early humans. In his interpretation, Adam and Eve, for example, do not refer to two human individuals named “Adam” and “Eve,” but rather to an early culture of human beings. They represent the first beings on earth who were both physically human and had a developed spiritual awareness of God and heaven.
The undivided mind of the first truly human culture on earth
These early humans, according to Swedenborg, had an undivided mind, such that whatever they wanted in their hearts, their heads and their hands immediately followed. They were in a state similar to human infants and toddlers, who have no ability to filter their thoughts and desires, but every thought and desire flows immediately into outward expression.
This state was both their beauty and their downfall when their desires began to become selfish, worldly, and evil rather than good, innocent, and focused on God and spirit.
The spiritual meaning of the Fall of Humankind
Swedenborg interprets the Fall of Humankind in Genesis 3, not as a literal eating from a forbidden tree, but rather as these early humans’ decision to follow their own ideas based on sensory information and pleasure rather than following the voice of God teaching and guiding them from within.
The decline of humanity recounted in Genesis 4:1–6:8 was especially rapid and disastrous precisely because these early humans had no ability to filter their thoughts and desires, but immediately expressed everything they felt, whether good or evil. So when their desires became evil, they rapidly became utterly corrupt from the inside out.
This set the stage for the spiritual events narrated symbolically in the story of the Great Flood. Swedenborg summarizes the spiritual state of this corrupted early human culture in this way:
In specific regard to the people of the church before the Flood, they conceived appalling delusions as time passed. The goodness and truth that belong to faith they merged so thoroughly with their foul desires that almost no trace of either was left to them. When they reached this point, they virtually suffocated themselves. A person lacking any remnant [of goodness or truth], after all, cannot survive. (Secrets of Heaven #560)
The Flood, then, was not a physical event, but rather a spiritual event in which a flood of rampant, unchecked evil desires and false thoughts spiritually suffocated the people of these early corrupted human cultures—which Swedenborg believed led to their physical extinction as well.
Noah represents a new phase of the human mind and spirit
The story of Noah and the ark, in Swedenborg’s interpretation, is the story of a remnant of that early race of humans that was not so corrupted, and that survived and continued forward through a fundamental change in the nature of the human mind and spirit.
That change, to put it in modern terms, was the ability to compartmentalize their desires and thoughts, so that they could want to do something, but through the exercise of a distinct and separate reasoning capacity, prevent themselves from acting on that desire, but do something else instead.
In the life of an individual human being, this change of spiritual state corresponds to the psychological change that takes place when we make the transition from our infant and toddler stage to the stage of early childhood, usually somewhere in the age range of 3–5 years old. Before that transition, we immediately express everything we feel and think. After that change, we are able to mask our true desires, and present to the world a different face, and engage in different actions, than the ones our heart desires in the moment. We can now dissemble and lie about our true thoughts and feelings. We can now also stop ourselves from acting upon desires that we know are wrong or will get us into trouble.
In Swedenborg’s interpretation of the Flood story, this new divided mind is represented by the ark itself, with its three floors and its rooms. His exegesis of the rooms in the ark is too lengthy to quote here. This excerpt provides a taste of his interpretation:
Since the Lord foresaw, then, that if the human race continued in this tendency they would succumb to eternal ruin, he provided that the will should be split off from the intellect. . . . The people of this church had to reform. The side of a person called the intellect had to reform first, before it was possible for the other side, referred to as the will, to do the same. So the present passage tells how the contents of the will were separated from those of the intellect and how they were concealed and stored away, so to speak, in order to block off any stimulus to the will. (Secrets of Heaven #640-641)
In short, Swedenborg interprets the “rooms” in the ark (Genesis 6:14) as a separation of the human will, or heart, from the human intellect, or thinking mind. The purpose of this was to make it possible for fallen humans, whose hearts had been corrupted, to be reformed through the exercise of their thinking mind.
In plain terms, humans could now learn intellectually what is right and wrong, and impose order upon their corrupted heart by stopping themselves from acting upon their evil impulses, and obliging themselves instead to act according to what is good and right. This happens by learning the truth as taught by God in the Bible, and by acting from God’s power rather than from our own power.
Noah’s ark: a major human transition
In Swedenborg’s interpretation, the story of the Great Flood and the ark of Noah is the story of a major transition both in the early psychological and spiritual life of an individual human being (the transition from infancy to childhood) and in the early life of humanity as a whole.
Ever since that critical transition, we humans have not been in a state of spiritual oneness (or “flow,” to use a modern psychological term), but in a state of separation of heart and mind. This state is necessary for “regeneration,” or spiritual rebirth, to take place in fallen and corrupted human beings.
(Note: This post is an edited version of an answer I originally wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the original question on StackExchange here, and the StackExchange version of my answer here.)
For further reading:
Are you a follower of Swedenborg? And do you believe there was a literal ark and flood?
I am an ordained Swedenborgian minister. I guess that qualifies me as a “follower of Swedenborg.” However, I think of myself primarily as a Christian. And no, I don’t believe there was a literal ark and flood.
Wow what a small world we live in….my ex’s family the “Suttons” were foundational in setting up the church of the new Jerusalem in my country of New Zealand and then England where he now resides as a full time minister
I personally don’t agree with a lot of the doctrines espoused by Swedenborg but I’m open minded enough to consider both points of view
Yep, small world! Would that be John Sutton?
What do you mean by “both points of view”?
Haha yup! It was John Sutton, brother to Philip who was my father in law 😊
The name is familiar to me, though if I ever actually met him, it would have been way back in the 1970s when I traveled to England as a teenager and met a number of the Swedenborgian ministers and seminarians there, most of whom have now faded from memory. Of course, there are some variations in belief among the various Swedenborgian organizations and ministers, so I may or may not agree with some of the particular views your former father-in-law may have expressed.
I won’t use your blog as a platform to debate my differing points of view on Swedenborg, this is your blog and I respect that
Suffice it to say that, when one attempts to spiritualize and allogorize away 99% of the bible as does Swedenborg, you can basically make the bible say anything you want it to….literal meanings of words are rendered meaningless in one’s attempt to “spiritualize” the plain meaning of the text, in favor of allegory etc
The bible is not that complicated, when it uses allegory, it is plain to see, when it speaks in historical narrative, it’s plain to see
At the end of the day when you stand before God and you have to give an account of one’s life, he will not ask you “what saith Swedenborg”, he will say “WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE” Galatians 4:30, and you will be judged upon what you did with his written word
For the record there certainly was a literal flood and an Ark that was physically built, and only a willful rejection of the word of God let’s one get away with such tomfoolery as the delusional belief that the great flood never happened…. Jesus himself believed it was real, so that settles it for me Matthew 24:38, Luke 17:27, 2nd Peter 2:5. The Hebrew of Genesis 6 and Genesis 7 is what is known as historical narrative in describing the conditions of the earth and the flood….no room to spiritualize away the flood as being symbolic or an allegory
Anyway that’s my 2 cents, we can agree to disagree!
Yes, naturally I disagree with you. In particular, I would point out that most of the basics of Catholic and Protestant doctrine are actually not stated in Scripture, whereas Swedenborg’s basics are stated plainly in Scripture. Not in the spiritual meaning, but in the literal meaning. See:
Swedenborg stated that church doctrine should be drawn from the literal meaning of the Bible (not the spiritual meaning) and confirmed by it. And that is exactly what he did.
In particular, I have been challenging Protestants for over twenty years now to show me a single passage in the Bible that says that we are saved or justified by faith alone, or that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. None has ever been able to do so, because the Bible simply doesn’t teach those things. The same is true of many of the most basic teachings in Catholicism, the Trinity of Persons included.
I find your reply to my comment very interesting
Why did you delve into an attack on Catholic and Protestant “dogma” when my comment was only addressing the great flood?, I ONLY used bible references, (I made no appeal to any particular theological school of thought, whether it be Protestant or Catholic)…….. It appears that my comment has triggered you in some way hence your knee jerk reaction in critiquing the 2 main branches of Christianity
I don’t care what Catholics believe, i only care what the bible says
Your continual appeal to Swedenborg as your final authority in what you believe is problematic for me….In all things our appeal should be to what God said in his written word, not some “man’s opinions”
Do you really want to face God at the great white throne judgement and appeal to Swedenborg for your beliefs? what if Swedenborg is wrong?
Isn’t it far safer to trust God and HIS written word, rather than man?
You must be bumping into the “wrong Protestants” if they can’t show you 1 verse in the entire bible that teaches man is saved by faith alone, so I’ll provide a few verses for you:
1: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through FAITH…….not of works, lest any man should boast”
2: Romans 4:5 “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness”
3: Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his MERCY he saved us”
All of these verses contrast the instrumental cause of salvation, i.e God, faith, with something that a man can do to earn his salvation….you couldn’t get any clearer proof than that
Why am I being so hard on you Lee?….It’s because your entire salvation and your entire trust for your beliefs is upon a MAN, the man Swedenborg, and if Swedenborg was wrong then you will be wrong for all eternity, it will be too late to change your views then
You cannot be saved Lee, if you reject the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus for your sins, and unfortunately that is the impression you have given me, so it is my earnest prayer that you put aside the books of Swedenborg, and become a born again child of God. You need to get saved, otherwise you will spend an eternity in Hell
Only those who trust in Christ as their PERSONAL savior will go to heaven, you will be barred entrance if you don’t
It’s your choice, the path is set before you….trust in Swedenborg and end up suffering in Hell as a Christ rejecting fool, or trust in Christ as your savior…..I pray you will make the right choice
So you’re a Protestant then. Only Protestants believe in salvation by faith alone. And Protestants commonly insist that they just “read what the Bible says,” when in fact their main doctrines are stated nowhere in the Bible. Not faith alone. Not substitutionary atonement. And especially not penal substitutionary atonement. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
About faith alone, you’ve quoted some of the usual verses that Protestants quote. But none of them say that we’re saved by faith alone. Some say that we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone. The only passage in the entire Bible that even mentions faith alone is this one:
Protestants have some very clever ways of explaining James away, but the fact remains that in the one and only passage in the Bible that mentions faith alone, it is specifically rejected as justifying a person. And the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, which originates in Luther, is stated as justification by faith alone. Luther knew that the Bible contradicted his doctrine, so he tried (unsuccessfully) to remove James and several other books from the New Testament. But the Bible is very clear that we are not justified or saved by faith alone.
However, rather than re-litigating this, here is a list of articles that refute the common non-biblical Protestant fallacies that we are justified or saved by faith alone and that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins:
I do trust God’s Word, and not the word of any man. Swedenborg drew his doctrine about salvation straight from the literal meaning of the Bible. And none of the above articles depend on anything other than a proper reading and understanding of the Bible.
The Bible simply doesn’t teach what you claim it does. In fact, these doctrines weren’t invented until 1,000 to 1,500 years after the Bible was written. For the first 1,000 to 1,500 years of Christianity, no Christian believed that we are saved by faith alone, or that Jesus saved us by substituting for us, or that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. These doctrines were invented by human theologians such as Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin many centuries after the Bible was written.
Do you really think that God did such a bad job in his Word that for 1,000 to 1,500 years nobody saw in the Bible these doctrines that you claim are essential for salvation?
No, God’s Word is very clear about what we must do to be saved. Protestants have based their false dogmas on a very few verses in Paul’s letters taken completely out of their context in the Bible itself and in the times in which the Bible was written, and ignored the vast bulk of the Bible and what it teaches about salvation.
If you truly want to understand what the Bible (not just Swedenborg) teaches, I recommend that you read the above articles. You have been misled by human-invented doctrines invented many centuries after the Bible was written.
You actually surprise me Lee….I fully expected to return back to this blog and find all my comments deleted lol
Usually when you confront someone with the truth, on these blogs, the first impulse for damage control is to censor and delete them….you did not do that so I commend you for that
I’ve been to those links you showed me, and had a quick browse, the comment sections were actually very informative
When all is said and done, if you reject the “penalty” view of the atonement, all you have left is the next logical conclusion which you formulated by saying words to this effect that “we no longer sin”…..You actually said that
Neither the bible or I believe in sinless perfection….I guess that’s another conundrum you will have to face by holding onto your incorrect theology on the atonement
I truly don’t get where you think that the penalty view is man made and invented 1,000 years after the bible….what do you do with those verses that speak of redemption, sacrifice, and propitiation?…these all suggest payment for sin
I personally believe the “faith alone” catch phrase to be a red herring……the question is NOT whether faith is alone, but how does God save someone….we either trust Christ ALONE to save us by the finished work on the cross or we trust our good works to save us, any mixing of the 2 leads to error
Anyway I’m way off topic here, and I appreciate your indulgence in letting us have our discussion on your blogs
The central issue here is did the great flood really occur and was there a literal Ark where real people entered into to save themselves from a great flood that swept the world
Can you provide any evidence that the great flood never took place?
A Christian has nothing to fear from the truth.
As you can see from our comments policy, I delete comments that are insulting, and at my discretion also delete comments whose only purpose seems to be to tell me how wrong I am, and how hot it’s going to be for me in hell. Most such commenters haven’t bothered to actually read the articles they’re commenting on. They’re just parroting dogma that’s been drilled into their head by their preachers. They commonly have a superficial view of the Bible, and probably don’t have the capacity to understand the truth because their minds have been too deeply ingrained with old “Christian” fallacies. Discussion and debate with such people is a fruitless waste of time.
However, people who come here parroting standard traditional Christian fallacies but who seem willing to have a conversation about it, and are at least reasonably polite and measured about it, I will commonly engage in discussion and debate. This has actually led to a few of them seeing the fallacy and non-biblical nature of their former beliefs, and adopting a more sound, biblical understanding of things.
You seem thoughtful and willing to engage in reasonable discussion, and we were already engaged in conversation before anything doctrinal came up, so I judged it worth responding to your comments rather than deleting them.
First about the Great Flood.
The very fact that you require evidence that it didn’t literally happen suggests that your mind is stuck on the “the letter that kills,” to use a biblical turn of phrase, rather than focused on the spirit that gives life.
Is the Bible really meant to tell us about science and history? Do we really need to know how the earth was physically created in order to gain salvation? Why would God waste time on such things in God’s Word? The Bible is not a textbook of science and history. It is a book that teaches us the way to eternal life.
Knowing how the earth was physically created has nothing to do with eternal life. That’s a mere physical, scientific matter. It is not worthy of the Word of God to spend its time on such things. The purpose of the early chapters of Genesis is not to tell us how the world began, but to tell us about our spiritual origins and our purpose here on earth, and about our relationship with God. It is to lay the foundation for our understanding of how we got into a spiritually fallen state, and what must happen for God to save us from that spiritually fallen state.
Creationists who spend vast amounts of time and energy defending a literal understanding of Creation, the Flood, and so on are engaged in a monumental waste of time and energy. They are focused on the flesh (to use another biblical term), not on the spirit. They have completely missed Jesus’ message to us in the Gospels.
I urge you to lift you mind above the things of the flesh to the things of the spirit.
If you really require evidence that the Bible isn’t about physical things, then it’s likely that your mind is too mired in materialism to even pay attention to the evidence. But if you’re at least willing to consider a greater truth than you now possess, I’ll say a few things.
First, obviously, science has now shown beyond any reasonable doubt that no flood such as is described in Genesis 6–9 ever physically happened. There is no archaeological or other scientific evidence for such a flood. And practically speaking, there is nowhere near enough water on, in, and around our planet to cover all of the mountain tops. Yes, I’ve read some of the YEC “science”—and even for a non-scientist like me it’s laughably ignorant and full of the most basic misunderstandings of science and physical reality.
Second, the very style of those early chapters suggests that they were never intended even by their original authors to be taken literally as historical accounts and scientific treatises. The language is highly poetic in style. It has a cadence and feel about it similar to the ancient myths of many cultures. These stories were composed in a pre-scientific era, when people were not focused on how things literally, physically happened, but rather were focused on moral and spiritual matters, and couched them in stories full of symbol and metaphor. The current dogged literalism about those early chapters is actually a recent phenomenon that came along after the scientific revolution. Its advocates think in a modern, materialistic way that would be completely foreign to the ancient writers of those early Bible stories. Those early people were focused on God, spirit, and morality, not on history, science, and physical reality.
And finally (for now), whenever those early stories are quoted later in the Bible, including in the New Testament, it is always in the context of some moral or spiritual point that the speaker is making. It is never accompanied by the type of statements that modern literalistic Creationists make, asserting doggedly that the world actually was created in six days, that Adam and Eve were real individual people, and so on. The rest of the Bible, including the New Testament, was also written in times when people were focused on God, spirit, and morality, not on science and history. The type of use that today’s Creationists make of the early stories of Genesis, and of the Bible generally, is completely absent from the Bible itself. The Bible itself focuses on what those stories say about our moral life and our eternal salvation.
Okay, one more thing. Are you aware that for the first 1,000+ years of Christianity, it was very common for Christian theologians and exegetes to interpret the various stories of the Bible symbolically, as speaking of moral and spiritual matters, and especially as speaking of the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ during his life here on earth? Some of the basics are in the Wikipedia article on “Allegorical interpretation of the Bible.” However, interpreting the Bible spiritually rather than literally has far deeper and richer history in Christianity than that article suggests.
Really, the sort of doggedly literal interpretation of the Bible that is common among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians today is a relatively recent phenomenon, going back only about two centuries. Even the founders of Protestantism weren’t stuck on biblical literalism as many of their followers today are.
Unfortunately, kratos75, you have been led astray by a fallacy that entered into Christianity very recently, and that is contrary to the entire weight of the history of Christian belief and practice. I strongly urge you to lift your mind above the materialistic view of the Bible that you have been taught, and come to an understanding of the Bible’s true spiritual nature and message from God to humanity.
Here are a few more articles that may help you in this if your mind is open enough to see the deeper truth of the Bible:
See also the articles more specifically on the early chapters of the Bible that are linked at the end of the above article.
What I find so amazing is that in your last 3 comments, amounting to well over 176 lines of text (trust me I counted), which is quite considerable, there is not 1 verse of scripture given. This comes as no surprise to me as the bible is NOT your final authority, so you don’t see the need to appeal to it.
Your final authority is Swedenborg, his teachings, and your “opinions”….That is your greatest error
All you gave me was 176 lines of anti-Protestant waffle, and the same arguments that atheists, Christ rejectors, and scoffers use, 2nd Peter 3:3 “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days SCOFFERS, walking after their own lusts”
Do you remember how I first started our dialogue together?……I started it by pointing out that those who spiritualize and allegorize away the bible can make the bible say anything they want it to, and to reject anything it says. This is exactly what YOU have done….you don’t like a literal flood, great! we will just say its symbolic and an allegory!!, how convenient for you
The very fact that Christ spoke of Noah and the flood as being historical FACTS just washes over you….The fact that the biblical writers themselves did NOT use poetic metaphorical language when describing the flood just washes over you, the fact that Isaiah mentions the flood as an historical reality just washes over you doesn’t it, Isaiah 54:9
I actually believe that no matter what evidence I present to you in favor of a literal and physical flood, using the scriptures as my foundation, you will reject them, because you have been brainwashed by Swedenborg to reject the literal interpretation of the bible, in favor of allegorizing it all away
To be quite honest I grow weary of your anti-Christian, anti-Protestant garbage, and lumping me in with that “crowd”….I am a BIBLE BELIEVER, I believe what the bible says, NOT what so called “protestants” believe….You have failed to give any verses that back up your assertions……all you have done is parrot verbatim what Swedenborg and bible scoffers say
I don’t believe any good will come from any future dialogue between us, as you have shown yourself to be a bible rejector
Because you reject the blood atonement of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for your sins, the bible clearly says that an eternal burning fire awaits you for “ye are dead in your sins” John 8:24,….. since Christ didn’t pay for your sins, according to you, then God shall demand payment for your sins at the last judgement. By then you will realize too late that you can’t pay for your sins, you needed a Savior who paid them FOR you ….. Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself WRATH against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”
Consider this my FINAL WARNING to you Lee, unless you reject Swedenborg and his blasphemous garbage, you will go to Hell when you die. Now I know why you delete and block comments from others trying to post in your blog……we are actually trying to help you, we are presenting you with the true Gospel and you can’t handle it so you delete them….In my book that makes you a coward
No doubt this comment will be consigned to oblivion, but not before you had a chance to read it, you can’t unread the FINAL WARNING that God is giving you, so that at the judgment you will have no excuse for spending all eternity suffering in the Lake of Fire for rejecting the only gospel that can save you
To stay subscribed to your blog means I’m partaking of your sins so I will henceforth unsubscribe from your blog, and you will no longer hear from me
I urge you to burn ALL of Swedenborg’s books, teachings, and material, reject Swedenborgianism and throw yourself upon the mercy of Christ, trust Him to save you, call upon His name and become a born again Christian Lee
If you ever decide to become a CHRISTIAN, you can contact me over at my email address and let me know of your decision , Galatians 3:13 “Christ hath REDEEMED us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”
“WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION”
The Bible verses are in the articles I have linked for you.
But where you have gone in this most recent comment is where most Protestants go when I point out to them that of their beliefs not taught anywhere in the Bible: attacks against me and threats of hell if I don’t accept your non-biblical and false doctrines.
But you can’t do that, because both of these teachings were made up by Protestant theologians 1,500 years after the Bible was written.
So instead, if you continue this conversation, I expect that you’ll continue to attack me rather than actually showing me a single verse from the Bible that teaches these things. I’ve been through it many times with many Protestants who are frustrated that they cannot actually show me from the Bible that what they are teaching is the truth. They quote many verses, but none of those verses actually say the things those Protestants are claiming the Bible says.
You are wrong and misled, my friend. That’s why you are attacking me instead of showing me where the Bible states the false beliefs you have been taught. I know you are sincere and well-intentioned. But you are badly mistaken because you are not paying attention to what the Bible itself says.
Here is what Jesus Christ himself teaches about who will be saved and who will not be saved on the Day of Judgment:
There is not a word here about faith or belief. What the Lord himself teaches here is precisely what your Protestant doctrine denies: that those who do good works of love and kindness for their neighbors who are in need will go to eternal life, while those who do not will go to eternal punishment.
But Protestantism rejects Jesus’ teaching on this subject because Jesus disagrees with Martin Luther, who is your final authority.
And here is what Paul teaches about how non-Christians are saved:
All of this is precisely what your Protestant doctrine denies: that God will repay each one according to their deeds, not according to their “faith.” (What Protestants call “faith” isn’t even faith as the Bible uses that term. See: “Faith Alone Is Not Faith.”) And Protestants deny the plain teaching of Paul: that God will save Jews, Greeks, and Gentiles—all of whom are non-Christians—based on whether they do good according to their conscience.
Paul said all of this before he made his statements about being justified by faith without the works of the Law in the next chapter. And Protestant theologians have totally misunderstood that teaching as well, as you can see in the article, “Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does.” Paul was arguing that it is not necessary for Christians to keep the Jewish ritual law, because their faithfulness (which is how the word should really be translated) to Jesus Christ and his teachings takes the place of the Jewish ritual law and renders it obsolete. Read Acts 15, and you will see the whole controversy laid out in which Paul was embroiled with the Jerusalem Christians at the time.
You can see even more Bible passages showing how wrong and non-biblical Protestant doctrine is on these subjects in my article, “Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth.”
And for a full refutation of your false and fallacious Protestant beliefs about salvation, with many more quotations from the Bible, read my eight part article starting with, “The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?”
The support from the Bible is all there, my friend. You just don’t want to see it, because your mind has been clouded by false doctrines invented by human beings many centuries after the Bible was written.
And as for the Flood, please show me a single verse in the New Testament insisting that the story of the Flood must be taken literally. You cannot show me such a passage, just as you cannot show me any passages teaching your other false beliefs about salvation, because the Bible never teaches any such thing. Rather, the Bible teaches:
Your literal interpretation of the story of the Flood is stuck in the letter that kills, and not in the spirit that gives life. It is a physical, fleshly understanding, which is useless, because it is the spirit and life within the literal story that gives life.
Ok I’ll give this 1 more shot
You actually gave bible verses this time, which was encouraging to see….Do you believe the bible must harmonize with itself? I do, because it is the inerrant word of God, it can’t contain any errors, so if we as bible students find what looks like contradictions in “doctrine” then we are either not understanding what God is trying to say or we are teaching something that the bible doesn’t really support….Now having said that, on the surface it appears that the bible gives conflicting statements on how a person is to get saved…..some verses seem to show a salvation based on good works, like the verses you supplied, whereas other verses seem to teach salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned, no matter how diligently we try to be “good”……are you with me so far?
Right, so what is the correct answer?, My bible tells me that is has divisions in it, 2nd Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly DIVIDING the word of truth”, and unless you understand that, you will never be able to understand what the bible is saying, it will be just a convoluted mess with contradictory teachings
For e.g did you know that the gospels were written by Jews, for Jews….last time i checked YOU and I are not from the nation of Israel, we are Gentiles, so we must be very cautious in taking what was written down in those gospels to Jewish ears and make them applicable for us today…..Matthew 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, also Matthew 10:5
Now I’m not saying we should discard the gospels, I am simply saying we must discern is Jesus talking to us, or is he talking to Israel…Just remember, the whole bible was written FOR US, but the whole bible was not written TO US
Once you understand that the New Testament does NOT start with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but starts with the revelation of the mystery revealed unto Paul the Apostle, Romans 16:25, the bible will become a lot clearer to you…In fact the New Testament didn’t even start until the death of the Testator, Hebrews 9:16 “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator”…That testator is JESUS……so officially the New Testament doesn’t start until Matthew 27 when Christ dies on the cross, it didn’t start at Matthew 1 because Matthew 1 is still under the Old Covenant
The correct “gospel” we are to teach others today is actually NOT the gospel of the Kingdom which was preached by the disciples and early apostles as we see in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John etc….instead we teach the gospel revealed unto Paul, and it is that gospel which teaches that salvation is a free gift and not by works Romans 4:5 “But to him that WORKETH NOT, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness”
This is 100% fact, so if we find other verses that seem to indicate that works are required, we need to harmonize them with what Paul said, instead of the other way around….we don’t use a few verses that seem to teach works (Like in the book of James, Matthew), and overthrow the verses that teach that salvation is a free gift, it’s really that simple Lee
i have already provided you with ample verses that prove that Jesus dying on the cross was a payment for our sins, you need to go back and read them carefully
Also you are in error in relegating the term “Law” as only referring to the Jewish ceremonial laws….The Law is a cohesive whole and when Paul speaks of the Law he doesn’t refer to just the ceremonial aspects…this can be proved by such verses as Romans 7:2 Romans 7:7 “…….Is the law sin?, God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet”……Covet is part of the 10 commandments my friend, it’s not a ceremonial law, and Paul listed it under his term LAW
Now we come to the crux of the problem….you asked me to supply you with verses that show that the flood must be taken literally.
I already gave them, but this is your fundamental error and blindness which prevents you from accepting the truth….Once you start from the FOUNDATION that the bible is not literal, but poetic, allegorical, and metaphorical, you can never submit to any text you find written in it if it disagrees with your philosophy
Now you need to go back and read my last sentence, do you understand what I’m saying? In other words you are starting out with the wrong foundation!! You precede with the belief that the bible is NOT to be taken literally so when it describes historical events like it does, you just spiritualize them away…….I cannot defeat that kind of ludicrous mentality…..when I quote Jesus referring to Noah and the flood as an historical event, you conveniently can say, Jesus wasn’t talking literally!
This is why I believe there will be a far more severe punishment in the Lake of Fire for hereticks like Swedenborg than their followers like you….Swedenborg has thoroughly deceived you, and he has provided the most perfect system of theology that rejects the written word of God whilst having a facade of godliness about it
Just take off your blinkers for once and go back and read the gospel accounts where Jesus is talking about Noah and the flood….no metaphorical or allegorical language is used at all in those passages….the entire force of his threat is made redundant if the flood never happened, JESUS’S THREAT TO HIS LISTENERS ABOUT THE COMING JUDGMENT WOULD ONLY MAKE SENSE IF THE FLOOD REALLY HAPPENED
Using, and I quote “stuck in the letter that kills, and not in the spirit that gives life.” as proof that the flood never occurred is just plain retarded and you know it, otherwise you end up spiritualizing away entire portions of the bible that talk about “physical things”
The verse in it’s right context says this…2nd Corinthians 3:6 “Who also hath made us ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”……..That verse is contrasting the Old Covenant established by keeping the LAW, with the New Covenant instituted by the Spirit, through grace and the redemption provided at the cross…..you were entirely dishonest in using that verse to disprove the flood
In conclusion, like I keep saying, your fundamental error, which you inherited from Swedenborg is to start with the premise that the bible is NOT to be taken literally, but is allegorical and full of metaphors….by doing that, YOU have ended up as a Christ rejecting, bible denying scoffer, who can conveniently dismiss and discard any portion of the bible that conflicts with the pernicious false doctrines of Swedenborg
Unless you repent and give your life to the Jesus of the bible, and not the counterfeit Jesus that you follow now, you will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment and have to give an account to God why you rejected the blood atonement for your sins
You are a sinner Lee, your sins have caused a separation between a Holy God and you, and God’s justice demands a payment for your sins, nothing can atone for your sins but the precious blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ, and if you keep rejecting His offer of forgiveness, you will have to pay for your sins in hell for all eternity……It’s not a threat, It’s what the word of God says, and I’m trying to warn you because I don’t want you to end up there
I’m done, there’s nothing more I can say……I truly hope you find the Christ of the bible and get saved
Well, at least among the personal insults and threats of hell, you said a few substantive things, so I’ll focus on those and ignore the ad hominems.
Let’s start with this:
So far you have not provided me with a single verse from the Bible saying that Christ paid the penalty or the price for our sins. Until you do so, your claims that this is what the Bible teaches are simply false.
And I see that you have fallen for the Protestant fallacy that Paul supersedes Jesus.
I find it incredible that anyone who claims to be a Christian could say that Jesus’ teaching is secondary, and Paul’s is primary. When I first heard that many Protestants believe that Jesus’ teaching is part of the Old Covenant, intended for the Jews, I was astonished. It is a very convenient way of rejecting the teachings of Jesus Christ. And it provides great insight into why you are so wrong. You have rejected the Lord’s own teachings.
From my perspective, for a Christian to reject the teaching of Jesus Christ is pure and simple blasphemy.
As you seem to be admitting, the Bible clearly says that we must both have faith and do good works to be saved.
Yes, we need to harmonize different parts of the Bible. But you are doing so by rejecting Jesus’ own teachings wholesale, and rejecting any other teachings, such as those of James, that don’t accord with your Protestant misunderstanding of Paul’s teachings.
The way to reconcile and harmonize those teachings is not to reject everything that doesn’t agree with Luther’s, Melanchthon’s, and Calvin’s misinterpretation of Paul, but to understand from its textual and historical context what Paul was actually talking about.
And for anyone whose mind is not clouded by faith alone, penal substitution dogma, what Paul is talking about is obvious. He was arguing that Gentiles do not have to keep the Jewish ritual law in order to be Christian and be saved. Once again, please read Acts 15. Without understanding that controversy among the early Apostles, you simply can’t understand Paul’s writings.
Also, notice that wherever Paul speaks about being justified by faith apart from the works of the Law, within a few verses he starts talking about “circumcision” and “uncircumcision,” Jews vs. Gentiles, and so on. To say that Paul is teaching that faith without good works saves us is to rip everything he says completely out of its context both historically and right within his own writings. He himself says in Romans 2 that God will judge everyone, including Jews, Greeks (pagan polytheists), and Gentiles in general according to what they have done. And Jesus says the very same thing in Matthew 25:31–46, which I have already quoted for you.
To put it bluntly, your doctrine is wrong not only because you reject Jesus Christ’s own teaching in favor of Paul’s teaching, but because you have completely misunderstood Paul’s teaching. You reject even Paul’s teaching when it doesn’t agree with your human-invented Protestant dogmas. All of this is laid out in the articles I have linked for you.
You are very wrong, my friend, because you have rejected the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in favor of human misinterpretations and fallacies. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said:
If you choose to reject the teachings of Jesus Christ and instead believe the human dogmas you have been taught, there is nothing I can do about that except to point out over and over again that your dogmas are taught nowhere in the Bible, which is why you cannot quote me any passages from the Bible that actually teach them.
The plain fact of the matter is that I have quoted you numerous passages where the Bible, in its plain, literal meaning, says the things I believe and teach.
You, meanwhile, have claimed to have quoted me passages from the Bible that teach what you believe, but on the critical points you have failed to do so.
You, my friend, are the one who is ignoring the plain words of the Bible, and resorting to human ideas and human doctrines to support your beliefs. Meanwhile, I can keep quoting passage after passage in which the Lord himself, and his apostles, supported by the entire Old Testament, teach in plain, clear, and simple words what I believe and teach.
About your literalism, you still haven’t quoted me any passages in the Bible that say we must interpret the Bible literally. Nor have you quoted me any passages that say that the Bible is “inerrant.” These are purely human doctrines, not anything the Bible itself says.
I, meanwhile, have quoted you passages saying that we are to focus on the spirit, not on the letter.
And your idea that everything in the Bible should default to literal just doesn’t stand up to biblical scrutiny.
Jesus’ teaching to the people was mostly in parables, which are precisely stories with deeper meanings. We read:
So it is the Lord’s own style to speak in stories that have deeper meaning. Further, the entire history of the Israelite people is treated as a parable in Psalm 78, which begins:
What follows is a poetic account of Israel’s history as a people. And all of this is presented as a parable.
You have not shown me a single verse in the Bible saying that we must take everything in the Bible literally. I have now shown you several passages showing that the Bible commonly speaks in parables and metaphors, and that we are to focus on the spirit that gives life, not the letter that kills. And I could keep quoting more passages from the Bible about this if you wish.
I’m sorry, my friend, but you are mistaken because you are imposing human ideas (literalism) on the Bible, and not paying attention to what the Bible itself teaches about its words and its message.
You have earned my respect…..You have not walked away from our discussion, but continue to provide ongoing dialogue despite us being in severe disagreement on these issues
I will do my best to answer your objections:
Your quote: “Jesus’ teaching to the people was mostly in parables, which are precisely stories with deeper meanings.”
Yes that is true but you didn’t read the rest of the sentence, Mark 4:34 “But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples”……Here we have clear proof by way of contrast that Jesus did indeed speak in parables when he was teaching BUT he also spoke plainly to his disciples when they were alone….It is foolish to assume, as you have, that Jesus’s entire discourse wherever we see it is only a “parable” because Jesus says here that he didn’t always speak in parables
Also what are you going to do with every single verse in the bible that is NOT Jesus speaking?….for e.g do you honestly believe that these verses are a parable?, Mark 4:35 “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? ”
It is an absolute, and foolish notion to believe that these verses are only speaking allegorically and that they didn’t happen exactly as described there
To FORCE the bible to say that it only ever speaks in figurative language or in a parable, is to not only violate the laws of language itself but results in people like you who spiritualize away every portion of the bible they wish to reject, or to assign some “deeper meaning” to it that simply is not there
Your quote: “What follows is a poetic account of Israel’s history as a people. And all of this is presented as a parable.’
That’s a bold faced lie, you quoted that passage out of context, Psa 78:5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
Psa 78:6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
Was giving the law a parable?, of course not, Israel’s history is not being described here at all as a parable, there is a separation between verse 2 and verse 5 and 6 which should be obvious to people who take the time to read the bible in context
This is the bungling mess you people get into when you FORCE the bible to say that it’s all figurative when it’s plainly not
Your claim that I’m elevating Paul’s words more than Jesus is nonsense, when the Lord Jesus himself has declared that EVERY WORD that Paul spoke is actually the very words of Jesus Christ Himself….see 1st Corinthians 14:37 ” If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I WRITE unto you are the commandments of the Lord”…….The bible clearly shows here, that it’s not just what Paul SAID is the Lord’s words, but what he WROTE for us, which is the entire Pauline epistles…..If you reject what Paul wrote in the New Testament, then you are rejecting Christ’s own words so I would be very careful my friend in placing an arbitrary dichotomy between what Christ said and what Paul said….Paul’s writings have the seal of Christ himself and have equal, if not more weight than the gospels themselves
I don’t reject what Jesus said at all, I’m just placing them in the proper context with the rest of the scriptures
Nowhere does it say that the Law mentioned in Acts 15 is the ceremonial aspects of the Law….that is your OPINION….and I have already provided proof of how the word Law is used in the verses I gave you….dividing the Law up into 2 parts, the ceremonial, and the commandments, is unwarranted and unjustifiable when you read every text in context
We are obviously never going to agree Lee, I have exposed your root error as being a bible rejector, by making the entire bible poetic, allegory, spiritual, you end up rejecting the plain meaning of the text
This is a hurdle we cannot breech in our discourse….I believe the bible is to be taken literally as it stands… 2Pe_1:16 “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty”
You keep asking me to provide 1 verse as proof of the things I’ve been teaching you, yet every time I’ve quoted verses to you, you ignore them as if I’ve said nothing at all….i don’t know how else I can get past this deliberate blindness on your part?
Penal substitution is clearly seen in this verse 1Pe_3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Here’s another one…. Rom_3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Here’s another one…..1Jn_2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
The word propitiation is clear proof of the penal aspect of the Cross, what more proof do you require?
Yes, the entire Bible is a parable. I could expound the deeper meaning of the verses you quoted if you like. They do have a spiritual message to them, as does the whole Bible. Being the Word of God, it could not be any other way. God’s Word is far greater than mere human literature. It contains depths of meaning beyond what the wisest and most sagacious human being could ever fathom. If it didn’t, it would not be worthy of its divine Author.
However, you are incorrect in ascribing to me the idea that the Bible is only speaking in parables. There are also many spiritual teachings in the plain, literal meaning of the Bible. And in fact, I am much stricter than Protestantism is in insisting that when it comes to basic, essential Christian doctrine, especially what’s required for salvation, it must be stated in the plain, literal sense of the Bible or it simply doesn’t pass the test.
And the reason your doctrines don’t pass the test is precisely because they are not stated in the plain, literal meaning of the Bible. None of the verses you quoted later in your comment say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. And you are under a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of “propitiation” in the Bible. It has nothing to do with paying a penalty. But I’ll take that up later on in a separate reply. Suffering for our sins is also not paying the penalty for our sins, which I will also explain to you—though it is already explained in various articles that I linked you to.
For now, I’ll stick with the Bible as parable.
Of course I read the part about Jesus explaining the meaning of the parables to his disciples privately. Why would I quote it for you if I hadn’t read it? In fact, this is precisely how the spiritual meaning works. The common people see only the literal meaning, and it contains all of the basics needed for salvation. But people who follow the Lord more closely, and progress further in their spiritual walk with Christ, can learn the deeper meanings and gain greater insight into the path of salvation. What I quoted for you, including the part about Jesus explaining the meaning to his disciples, is explaining how this works.
Further, although Jesus explained the parables to his disciples privately, not all of those explanations made it into our Gospels. Does that mean that any parable that isn’t explained in the Gospels isn’t a parable at all, and must be taken strictly literally?
Of course not.
Jesus spoke in parables, and we have many parables that are not explained to us in the Gospels or anywhere else in the Bible. Without some understanding of the symbolic and spiritual meanings in the Bible, those parables would mean nothing to us. The fact of the matter is that we read many parts of the Bible as poetic and metaphorical without really even thinking about it. That’s simply how the Bible speaks to us, in addition to the parts that are meant to be literally believed and obeyed, such as Jesus’ teaching that the entire Bible (“the Law and the Prophets”) depends upon the two Great Commandments: love for God and love for our neighbor.
My main point, though, is that parable and metaphor are very common in the Bible. To try to interpret everything in the Bible in a strictly literal fashion would make meaningless gibberish out of much of what’s written in it. If Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding (which he does on several occasions in his parables), does that mean we must run a continual wedding in order to be in the kingdom of heaven? Trying to interpret all of the Bible’s words literally would make much of it into trivial nonsense.
And about Psalm 78, you can’t just rip verse 2 out of the psalm and pretend it’s not there. With the words of the first few verses the Psalmist is setting the stage for the entire remainder of the Psalm. And he is saying, among other things, that he will speak in parables. What could that possibly mean if it doesn’t mean that what follows, whatever else it may be, is also a parable, meaning it also contains deeper meanings and a deeper message?
You can’t just reject verses out of the Bible if you don’t like them because they don’t support your (faulty) beliefs.
And I note that while I have quoted a number of passages indicating that there are deeper meanings in the Bible and its stories, you have not yet quoted a single passage from the Bible saying that everything in the Bible must be read literally.
You are mistaken, my friend, because you are imposing human teachings on the Bible—teachings that the Bible itself never gives.
About 1 Corinthians 14:37, this clearly doesn’t apply to everything Paul says because in another place he says explicitly that something he is saying is not the teaching of the Lord:
Certainly Paul had inspiration from the Lord. But even he does not claim that everything he says is inspired by the Lord. He states here that what he is about to say is his opinion on a matter about which he has no commandment from the Lord.
So it’s simply not true that everything in Paul’s letters is a direct commandment from the Lord. Paul himself denies that.
What is undeniable is that everything the Lord says in the Gospels is the direct teaching of the Lord. And I continue to believe that it is blasphemous for you and many of your fellow Protestants to claim that Jesus’ teachings no longer apply to us, but Paul’s do. How can you claim to be a Christian while feeling free to ignore and reject the direct teachings of Jesus Christ?
“The Law” is used in various ways in the Bible. Sometimes it means the Ten Commandments; sometimes it means the ritual and ceremonial law; sometimes it means the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses); and sometimes it means the Bible as a whole. Occasionally it means a specific law, such as the law of levirate marriage. The particular meaning in any given passage is usually fairly clear from the context, although in some cases it is not so clear.
Paul’s also uses “the Law” in various ways. And when he speaks of not being saved by “the Law” or “works” or “the works of the Law” the context makes it clear that he is speaking of the ritual law, which is also referred to as “circumcision.” For example, Romans 3:28 is commonly quoted to support justification by faith alone. In it, Paul says:
And the context clearly shows that he is here speaking of the Jewish ritual law. He goes on immediately to say:
Paul’s contrasting of Jews and Gentiles, and his discussion of the circumcised vs. the uncircumcised, shows that by “the works of the Law” he is speaking of the Jewish ritual law, commonly called “the circumcision.”
Here Paul uses the shorthand “works,” but he still means “the works of the Law,” and specifically, the works of the Jewish ritual law. This becomes clear starting two verses later, where Paul writes:
Paul also uses the term “good works” in the verse in between these two quotations:
Clearly, when Paul speaks of “works” in verse 9 he means something different than when he writes “good works” in verse 10. And the very next verses, as quoted above, show what he does mean by “works” in verse 9.
Once again, the “works” Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2:9 are the works of the Jewish ritual law, called “circumcision.” And Paul’s point is that it is no longer necessary to be a Jew and observe the Jewish ritual law, because all people, both Jews and Gentiles, can be saved through Jesus Christ.
You would be hard pressed to find any place where Paul speaks of not being saved by “works” or by “the works of the Law” where he doesn’t in the immediate context also speak about Jews vs. Gentiles, and circumcision vs. uncircumcision. That’s because in those passages Paul was using “works” and “the works of the Law” in the specific meaning of observing the Jewish ritual law.
Once again, you can’t just yank verses out of their textual and historical context and expect to understand what they mean. Paul was engaged in a controversy with the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, who believed that new Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe the Jewish ritual law. And once again, this controversy is recorded in what is now seen as the first Christian council, the so-called “Council of Jerusalem,” recorded in Acts 15.
Without understanding this historical context, and without paying attention to the surrounding verses in Paul’s letters, you simply cannot understand what he is talking about when he speaks of being saved by faith without the works of the Law, or in shorthand, without “works.” In those passages he doesn’t mean “good works.” He means “the works of the Jewish ritual law.” Otherwise he could not possibly have said in Romans 2:
To claim that Paul means good works, or good deeds, where he says that we are “justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law, or “not the result of works,” would be to make Paul contradict himself. He has already said that God will judge us for eternal life or for wrath and fury based upon our works. To then say that we are saved by faith apart from good works would be a flat-out contradiction. And Paul does not contradict himself.
Your reading of Paul causes him to flatly contradict his own teaching.
But if you read and understand Paul properly according to the context in his own writing and in the historical context of the controversy he was involved in with the Jerusalem Christians, then it all makes perfect sense.
On the second point, Paul, together with Peter and other apostles who were evangelizing in Gentile lands, won the argument, making possible Christianity’s great expansion among the Gentiles. This was a critical issue. If Paul and Peter had not won the argument, and new non-Jewish converts had been required to be circumcised and obey the Jewish ritual law, Christianity would have remained a small sect within Judaism. But since they did win the argument, Christianity became an entirely new religion, and went on to become the largest and most widespread religion in the world.
If we forget or ignore this history, we will completely misunderstand the nature of Paul’s teaching and the critical contribution he made to Christianity breaking away from Judaism and becoming its own worldwide religion.
Now we’ll take up the verses you claim teach penal substitution. First, you write:
This does not teach penal substitution. Penal substitution isn’t merely Christ suffering for our sins, as stated in 1 Peter 3:18. It is Christ paying the penalty for our sins.
There’s a big difference.
Christ suffered many things during his lifetime on earth, and most or all of them were due to human wickedness and sin. To take the key example, it was not God, but human beings who crucified Jesus Christ.
Jesus therefore suffered crucifixion and death because of our sins, just as 1 Peter 3:18 says. But that suffering in no way paid the penalty for our sins. The Jewish and Roman leaders who participated in Jesus murder by crucifixion were still guilty of their sins, still died in their sins, and still had to pay the penalty for their sins.
So you see, suffering for our sins is not at all the same thing as paying the penalty for our sins. Therefore you are wrong in reading any Bible passage that speaks of Christ suffering for our sins as meaning that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
Never does the Bible say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. You are very much in error.
I’ll take up “propitiation” in a separate reply.
And finally, about penal substitution, you write:
This, as I said earlier, demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what “propitiation” means in the Bible. Though in later theological and philosophical discourse, “propitiation” came to mean primarily “appeasing wrath,” and in Protestant theology, bearing the punishment for sin, this is very far from the primary meaning of the Hebrew words commonly translated “propitiation,” and of the Greek words used in the Septuagint and the New Testament to translate those Hebrew words.
To keep this within some reasonable length, I’ll deal only with the most common Hebrew word, כָּפַר (kaphar), usually translated “atonement” in the KJV. This word and its Hebrew variations are regularly translated with various forms of the Greek word ἱλασμός (hilasmos) in the Septuagint. And the various forms of ἱλασμός in the New Testament are commonly translated “atonement” or “propitiation”—as in the two passages you have quoted above.
The various forms of ἱλασμός in the New Testament derive their primary meanings, not from later theological and philosophical usage, but from the meaning of כָּפַר and related words in the Old Testament.
And in the Old Testament, כָּפַר only rarely means an appeasement of wrath. Its original concrete meaning, and the source of its later more abstract meaning, is “to cover over, as with pitch.” In fact, the word for “pitch” in Hebrew is nearly the same as the word כָּפַר. And the very first use of כָּפַר in the Bible employs a play on words with the word for pitch in a way that can’t be reproduced in English translation:
This meaning of “to cover over” led to the primary abstract meaning of כָּפַר: “to pardon or forgive sin.” Its original abstract meaning was a merciful covering over of sins, meaning a forgiveness and pardon of sins.
So when the sacrifices of the Old Testament made “atonement” or “propitiation” for sins, that did not mean requiring and exacting a penalty of someone, but rather forgiving and pardoning the sin without penalty. In fact, the primary function of sin and guilt sacrifices was to bring a person, or the entire community of Israel, back into right relationship with God through their obeying God’s commandment to bring the requisite sacrifice, thus showing that they recognized their guilt and their sin and agreed not to commit it again.
Despite the shockingly bad translation employed by the New International Version for many verses in Leviticus, sacrifices were not penalties for sin. Rather, they were a means for the Israelites to honor their God and in this way bring themselves back into right relationship with God. Many of the sacrifices had nothing to do with sin. They were freewill offerings or festival offerings to show thanksgiving and appreciation for God’s blessings and mercies upon them. They couldn’t possibly be penalties for sin because they were not offered due to sin. And even the sin and guilt offerings were not penalties, but rather, as I just said, a means to show one’s faithfulness and obedience to God, recognize one’s own sin and guilt, and pledge to God not to commit those sins again.
Satisfaction theory of atonement in general, and penal substitution theory in particular, completely misses the meaning of “atonement” or “propitiation” in the Old Testament and its OT-based meaning in the New Testament. “Propitiation” or “atonement” has nothing to do with paying penalties for one’s own sin, let alone Christ paying the penalty for others’ sins. Rather, it has to do with recognizing our sins and pledging through a ritual act not to commit them again. This honoring of God through ritual sacrifices recognizing the people’s guilt and sin, together with a commitment no longer to commit those sins, was the basis of the “atonement” meant by כָּפַר: God mercifully pardoning and forgiving the sins of his people when they recognized them, repented from them, and in Israelite society, offered the required sacrifice commanded by God as a physical act testifying to their recognition of and repentance from their sin. See, for example, these two verses from Leviticus 4:
This is a huge subject, and I can’t possibly do justice to it even in this rather long comment. However, what I have written here should make it sufficiently clear that “propitiation” or “atonement” in the New Testament, including in the passages you have quoted, has nothing to do with Christ paying a penalty for our sins. Rather, it has to do with Christ bringing about forgiveness of sins to those who recognize that they have sinned, repent of their sins, and commit themselves to no longer sinning in that way again. That is why the first and primary message preached to the people John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples was “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” See, for example, Mark 1:4; Luke 5:31–32; 17:1–4; 24:44–48; Acts 2:38; 5:29–32.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the means by which Jesus brings about this forgiveness is through paying the penalty for our sins. That is a pure invention of the Protestant reformers.
So when you quote these and similar verses, I am not “ignoring them as if you’ve said nothing at all.” I am simply pointing out that none of them actually says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. That is a serious misreading and misunderstanding of what the Bible says, in its original languages, about what is commonly translated into English as “atonement” and “propitiation.”
Or to put it simply: You still have not quoted me a single passage in which the Bible says that Christ paid the penalty or the price for our sins.
That’s because the Bible never actually says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
Now about penal substitution.
The first and most important point is that nowhere in the entire Bible does it ever say that Christ paid the penalty or the price for our sins. I challenge you to read the Bible for yourself, and see if you can find anywhere that it says this. The simple fact of the matter is that this is not a biblical teaching. It is found nowhere in the Bible.
And that is why, for the first 1,500 years of Christianity, not a single Christian believed that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. The very idea did not come on the scene until the Protestant Reformation. For 1,500 years of Christian history before that, penal substitution was absent from Christian belief. And even today, it is held to only within Protestantism, which constitutes a little over 1/3 of Christianity as a whole. Neither Catholicism nor Orthodox Christianity holds to penal substitution. So even today penal substitution is a minority view within Christianity.
I would recommend that you read and study about the various theories of atonement throughout Christian history. For a basic synopsis of the four main theories of atonement in Christianity, see my answer to this question on Christianity StackExchange: “What does it mean to say ‘Jesus died for our sins’?” You can also read about various atonement theories in Wikipedia’s article on “Atonement in Christianity,” though the article has some serious flaws.
What is not in any serious dispute among scholars of Christian doctrinal history is that for the first 1,000 years of Christianity, the reigning atonement theories were Ransom Theory and Christus Victor. These two are sometimes lumped together, as they are in the Wikipedia article, but they are actually distinct theories.
Neither one of these has anything to do with Christ paying the penalty for our sins. And as I said, these were the beliefs held to for the first 1,000 years of Christianity—until Anselm originated the satisfaction theory of atonement that is the basis for the current Catholic understanding of atonement, and the foundation of the Protestant penal substitution theory of atonement. The only major branch of Christianity that still holds to a “classical” view of Atonement is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which never abandoned Christus Victor in favor of the newer satisfaction-based theories that took over in Catholicism and formed the basis for the atonement theory of its daughter, Protestantism.
So the very idea that without penal substitution there is no way to understand the Bible’s statements about redemption, sacrifice, and propitiation is put to the lie by the fact that Christianity existed for 1,500 years without any such understanding of the Bible’s statements and teachings on these matters.
Is God really so bad at delivering to us the message of salvation that it took us 1,500 years to see it in the Bible?
No, my friend, Protestantism with its newly invented penal substitution theory is very far from the Bible’s teachings about atonement and salvation. The Bible never—not in a single verse—says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. You have been misled by sincere but blind teachers who neither see nor understand the Bible’s teachings about salvation.
I would once again recommend that you read carefully these articles here:
I have found that Protestants rarely know the historical origins of their own beliefs. I would urge you to study where your beliefs came from. You will find that they originated with particular human beings at a particular time in Christian history—mostly 1,000 to 1,500 years after the last books of the Bible were written.
And I have found that Protestant belief is filled statements that sound sort of biblical, but aren’t actually in the Bible, such as:
These and many other such slogans have become touchstones of Protestant belief. And the common denominator in all of them is that they are human-invented sayings that are stated nowhere in the Bible. Your mind seems to be full of these non-biblical Protestant slogans. They are preventing you from reading and seeing what the Bible actually says.
Once again you seem obsessed in using “human reasoning” as the foundation of your rejection of “penal substitution”
You keep parroting the oft repeated line “nowhere does the bible teach that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins”, but you fail to provide any biblical justification for your stand
You just keep repeating that it is a doctrine invented by Protestants etc
Yet I have provided numerous verses that show that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was a “substitution”, a “ransom”, the just for the unjust etc
You can go through the rest of your life rejecting penal substitution as a man made protestant doctrine and carry on with all your “human reasons” for your rejection of it, and believe me there’s tons of it, from what I’ve seen on your links and other blogs, and neither Rohan Pereira nor I will shake you from your position…..BUT at the end of the day Lee, YOU have sinned and a Holy, Righteous God cannot and will not allow you into his presence unless a payment can be made for your sins, ….”and without shedding of blood is no remission” Hebrews 9:22
Heb 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”
Your rejection of that payment unfortunately will insure that you will hear these words at the judgment ” And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23
So go on Lee, continue to trust Swedenborg who has utterly deceived you, go on with rejecting every doctrine in the bible, (penal substitution, a REAL Devil, a REAL lake of fire, a REAL Noah and Flood, the LITERAL Physical return of Jesus Christ etc etc), yup keep rejecting these doctrines and spiritualizing them away, and assigning them “deeper meanings” and you will find out to your horror that the bible was literal all along and that I and millions of others were correct
Once you’re dead Lee, it will be too late to accept the payment for your sins, I highly suggest that you trust Christ as your savior and trust HIM for His substitutionary death on the cross that paid the PENALTY for your sins, otherwise there will be nothing to look forward to except………”But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” Hebrews 10:27
I know you will reject what I say as the ramblings of a brainwashed protestant, and you will spiritualize away the verses that point to a real fearful judgment and a LITERAL lake of fire for those who reject Christ, as just figurative language, but I will leave you with my final words:
What if Swedenborg and the allegorical position is wrong??
Yes, you are a brainwashed Protestant. But I don’t hold that against you. And neither will God. When it comes your time to die, you will discover for yourself that God is far different from the harsh, condemnatory God that you have been taught to believe in.
Fortunately for you (and for everyone else), you will discover to your delight that God is far more loving, merciful, and kind than you have believed. You will find, as John told us, that:
You will find that God loves his enemies just as he taught us to do, and that:
Yes, my friend, you are in for a pleasant surprise when you die.
When you see the truth in the clear light of heaven, you will, of course, be very embarrassed at the dark and false doctrines you held to here on earth.
But as long as during your lifetime on earth you had loved God and loved your neighbor as Jesus taught, actively serving your fellow human beings when they were in need as if you were doing it for God (see Matthew 25:31–46), then despite the doctrinal errors you have fallen into because your teachers have twisted and ignored the plain teachings of the Bible, you will find that what God has in store for you is far greater than anything you have been led to believe.
We might disagree but that was a very kind, and loving comment you just wrote, and I just wanted to acknowledge that
Thank you for your kind words, and allowing me to comment on your blogs………. and with that I’ll depart in peace
Thank you. Godspeed on your spiritual journey.
What is your opinion of this suicide note from the 70’s? “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”
Any time it comes to a suicide note a person is getting desperate. Some people have internal reasons for committing suicide, and nothing anyone does will stop them. Other times they have been treated badly—and that’s just one of the reasons it’s important to treat everyone well, not just the people we like.
I wouldn’t put my fate in the actions of random people who are dealing with their own issues and who might not even notice me. The person who wrote that sounds lonely. I’d smile at them 🙂
Why do you ask?
I just thought it was sad… I wish you didn’t say the “I wouldn’t…” part though. Stop analyzing the person and just smile, or whatever lesson you get out of it that suicide note.
I would drive there and smiled.
This post and comment thread caught my interest. So I’ll watch the blog for a bit and see what happens. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Glad to have piqued your interest.
Hi Lee~ I’ve had many opportunities over the years to have conversations with apologists of many kinds, and it seems to be a recent phenomenon to find some with what I would call a reformist bent. Future Martin Luthers if you will. Your Theology might not be new but it’s new to me. There’s another fellow on social media I’ve met recently who espouses the teaching of Karl Barth. Both from what I’ve read so far wouldn’t be what I would term as Dominionist frameworks for theology. I find this very refreshing as an apostate and it’s my sincere wish those visions are successful in the future. It certainly might give me less to do as an activist for the separation of Church and State.
I’m a strong proponent of separation of church and state. Perhaps if both the church and the state hadn’t become so corrupt the two could get along. But considering that both the church and the state have become quite corrupt, putting those two powerful and corrupt institutions together only creates a toxic and often deadly mix.
This is a spiritual blog, so I won’t expand upon the corruption of the state. But as for the corruption of the church—specifically, of the Christian Church—here is a small sampler of articles on this site:
And there are plenty more where those came from!
But more philosophically, the church is meant to focus on ensuring the spiritual health, safety, and wellbeing of humans and human society, while the state is meant to focus on ensuring the material health, safety, and wellbeing of humans and human society. Mixing them together tends to dilute and vitiate the specific, crucial roles that each institution is meant to play in human society.
It would be like trying to have one company and one management team produce both cars and television shows. The two are very different tasks. They require very different skill sets. Attempting to have the same people do both will only ensure that neither the cars nor the television shows are very good.
I think we can agree on many things even though we are in completely different camps on god belief. Thanks for the reading tips, I’ll be sure and have a look.
I did skim and skip through a few of your blog posts, so I’m aware that we’re “in completely different camps on god belief.” However, at least on my side, the separation is not quite as stark as you might assume based on your contact with other, more traditional Christians. See, for example, my article: “Do Atheists Go to Heaven?”
Hi Lee~ I did try and reply to the article and ran into barriers I’m unable to master, so I apologize that this will post in the thread of a different article and thus be “off topic”.
Hi Lee~ You’ve given me the inspiration for an “athy” post [thank you!], so I’ll do a short answer here and address some of the broader topics in my post.
You forgave my referring to you as a “Martin Luther” so in the spirit of reciprocity I’ll try and be understanding of your use of Pslm 14 in your article. I speak for myself obviously but I’m aware of how many other atheists feel about this verse particularly when it’s used out of context. It’s VERY annoying.
However we parse the meaning of atheism, in either a philosophical context where everything is a belief, or a more colloquial naturalistic context where much like heat and cold are contrasting physical states: presence of heat [belief] and absence of heat [non belief] , things are at their core either true or untrue independent of belief. When belief becomes more important than truth, it’s often a path to things very much like the “traditional Christianity” you often refer to.
That said, I agree with some of your other points regarding what belief is in a religious context, and that it’s easy to get bogged down in the semantics of a word and end up not seeing the forest for the trees.
Heh. And if I end up in heaven, I’ll be surprised. 🙂
Hmm. What, specifically, were the barriers to commenting on the other post? You should be able to comment anywhere on the site now, though if you include more than one link your reply will be held for moderation. See our Comments policy.
Since, as you say, this thread would be a bit misplaced here, for now I’ll just say:
Prepare to be surprised! 😀
Meanwhile, let me know when you post your related article.
Your blog requires a separate login to comment when I don’t use WPReader as a utility to reply. For reasons I have yet to figure out, wordpress won’t accept my login from the pop up menu I get. Perhaps it sees it as an attempt at multiple login or something I don’t know. It probably would have accepted my twitter acct as a credential but then I’d have to waste time explaining who I am, etc.
I’ll ping you and drop you a note when the articles up. Thanks for your patience.
That’s strange. I’ve never had that problem on any WordPress blog I’ve visited or commented on. My login carries over to any WP blog that I visit and enables me to comment as my WP persona (which happens to be my real first name). So I’m afraid your problem goes beyond my experience or expertise. As Dr. McCoy said (I think?), “I’m a theologian, not an IT guy!” 😉 Anyway, I hope you’re able to get it sorted out.
I’ve been known to do stuff wrong before so there’s that 😀
Thanks again. Cya around the neighborhood.
Yeah. I always thought it was weird that God literally wiped out the entire earth and killed everyone. Since, ya know…God is supposed to be all loving…? And forgive everyone for their sins…?
So yeah, it makes more sense that it was supposed to be symbolic. I was also thinking of the idea that it could represent consequences for your actions, or karma (not actual religious karma, of course). The flood was a punishment for bad people, so maybe it represents karma.
What do you think?
Though, I’m not 100% sure if the state of humanity was that bad back then. I mean, I guess it makes sense since they didn’t exactly learn right from wrong yet, but at the same time, humans are naturally empathetic creatures. Thats why Mencius believes that human nature is naturally good, because in his words, “if one were to see a child fall down a well, their minds will naturally be filled with alarm, distress, pity, and compassion”. He mentions that they don’t feel this way because they want to ingratiate themselves with the child’s parents, nor that they want commendation from their friends, nor that they would even hate the bad reputation, they do it because we’re naturally prone to pity and compassion.
Therefore, I’m having completely understanding this. I mean, I do think that humans are naturally good, but also selfish as well. That’s why toddlers scream and cry when they don’t get something that they want. So I guess it isn’t that farfetched. I don’t know.
Yes, we humans are naturally good . . . and bad. We start out wrapped up in our own wants and needs, but also as innocent little creatures with no intention of hurting anyone. Where we go from there depends partly on our inborn character, partly on how we are raised, partly on the environment in which we live, and partly on the choices we ourselves make along the way.
So yes, it’s complicated!
The idea of the Flood is that these early people were like infants in that they had no “gatekeeper” on their feelings and thoughts. Whatever they felt, whether good or bad, they expressed. Babies don’t think about whether they should laugh or cry or scream. Whatever they feel, they immediately express it. So when these early people “went bad,” they did so in a big way! The Flood represents their being overwhelmed by their own negative desires, which they had no way of controlling or keeping in check.
At the time of the Flood, we gained the ability to want one thing but do another if we realize that acting on our desires at this particular time and place would not be a good idea. It’s like toddlers realizing that now (when we’re at home and Mom is annoyed) isn’t the best time to scream, but now (when we’re in the department store surrounded by people) is the perfect time to scream for maximum effect!
About that child falling down a well, yes, most people are “filled with alarm, distress, pity, and compassion” at such an event. However, what if it’s the child of your mortal enemy, and you threw that child down the well out of hatred and revenge? Then your feelings would be very different. (By “you” here I obviously don’t mean you!) It all depends on the sort of person we are. Most people have their natural compassion intact. But some people have driven it out of themselves, or have lost it somewhere along the way, and don’t have the same feelings about others’ suffering.