Q: What do the “Christian beliefs” in the list below have in common?
A: None of them are taught by the Bible.
“Christian beliefs” that the Bible doesn’t teach:
- There is a Trinity of Persons in God
- We are saved by faith alone
- Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins
- The Bible is inerrant
- Only Christians can be saved
All of these beliefs were originated by human beings hundreds or even thousands of years after the Bible was written.
Are they wrong? I think so. But the purpose of this article isn’t to show that they’re wrong. It’s to show that even though millions of Christians believe them, they are not actually taught by the Bible. They are human interpretations.
People who believe these things quote many Bible passages to support them. But they can’t point to a single passage that clearly teaches any of these things. And some of these beliefs are specifically denied by the Bible.
There are many valid Christian beliefs that require interpretation of the Bible. However, any belief that is essential or fundamental to Christianity and to salvation should be clearly taught in the Bible. It should not require interpretation.
Does this mean that people who believe the things on the list will go to hell? Of course not! That’s not taught by the Bible, either.
Here is a quick look at each of these “Christian beliefs”:
“There is a Trinity of Persons in God”
The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. And though the Bible does mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it never calls them “persons.”
The idea that there is a Trinity of Persons in God is one of the oldest “Christian beliefs” that the Bible doesn’t teach. However, it still did not become a part of “Christian belief” until several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. It was originated by human beings who were having trouble understanding the meaning of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament.
It’s not surprising that early Christian theologians were confused by the mention of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many of them were converted pagans, or came from pagan backgrounds and cultures. For these former polytheists, who were still surrounded by people who believed in many gods, the idea that there were three distinct “persons” of God probably seemed fairly ordinary.
In short, the idea that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit form a “Trinity of Persons” in God is a human interpretation; it is not taught in the Bible.
For more, see:
- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- What is the Biblical basis for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity?
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
“We are saved by faith alone”
Salvation by faith alone is the idea that the one and only thing that saves us is believing in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do, good or bad, has any effect on our salvation. Only believing that Jesus Christ died for us matters. Once we believe this, we are automatically saved. This idea is common among Protestant Christians—especially fundamentalist and evangelical ones.
However, “faith alone” appears only once in the Bible, and in that one passage, it is specifically denied: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Please read the whole passage, in which the apostle James teaches that faith without works is dead: James 2:14–26.
The apostle Paul does not teach faith alone, either. When Paul said, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the Law” (Romans 3:28), he did not mean we do not have to do good works in order to be saved. He meant that those who believe in Jesus do not have to follow the laws of animal sacrifice, circumcision, and the other ancient Jewish ritual and behavioral codes found in the Hebrew Torah, or Law (the first five books of the Bible).
In fact, Paul made it very clear that we must do good in order to be saved. See Romans 2:5–16.
For Jesus’ own teaching about who will be saved and who will not, read Matthew 25:31–46.
The doctrine of salvation by faith alone did not become a widespread “Christian belief” until after Martin Luther promulgated it as part of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.
After the Trinity of Persons, salvation by faith alone is one of the most common “Christian beliefs” that the Bible doesn’t teach.
For more, see:
- Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does
- Faith Alone Is Not Faith
- What is the biblical basis against Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone, apart from works)?
- Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8–9 Teach Faith Alone?
“Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins”
Sorry, the Bible just doesn’t say this.
The closest it comes is 1 Corinthians 15:3: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” But dying for our sins is not the same thing as dying to pay the penalty for our sins. If an innocent person dies because of another person’s wrongdoing, the person who did wrong is still guilty. Whenever the Bible talks about penalties, it always attaches them to the one who committed the offense.
No matter how hard you search, you will not find a single passage in the entire Bible that says anything about Jesus paying the penalty for our sins. That’s because this is a “Christian belief” that the Bible doesn’t teach.
The technical, theological name for this belief is “Penal Substitution,” which is a variation of the “Satisfaction Theory of Atonement.” It is also sometimes called “The Vicarious Atonement.” These ideas are not taught anywhere in the Bible. In fact, they were not part of Christian doctrine or belief for the first 1,000 years of the Christian Church. They were then originated and developed by human beings who were having trouble understanding what the Bible teaches about how Jesus Christ saved humanity.
For more, see:
- Did Jesus Really Die to Pay the Penalty for our Sins?!?
- The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 5: Jesus Paid the Penalty For Our Sins?
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
“The Bible is inerrant”
The word “inerrant” does not appear anywhere in the Bible.
In fact, it was only in the last couple of centuries that some conservative Christians began saying that the Bible is inerrant. They came up with this idea, not because it is in the Bible, but because they believed they had to defend the Bible against modern science and history.
The passage most commonly quoted to say that the Bible claims inerrancy for itself is 2 Timothy 3:16–17. But that passage does not say that the Bible is free from error. It says, “All scripture is inspired by God.” The idea that “inspired by God” means that everything it says is historically and scientifically true exactly as written is a human interpretation.
In the same way, the Bible never says that everything in it is literally true. If anything, the Bible cautions us against overly literal interpretations. Jesus commonly spoke in “parables,” or figurative language. Perhaps the clearest statement in the Bible about a literal vs. a spiritual view of the Bible’s Christian message is found in 2 Corinthians 3:5–6: “Our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.”
The idea that the Bible is inerrant and literally true throughout is a fairly recent “Christian belief” that the Bible doesn’t teach. It is a human interpretation that goes back only as far as the 1800s.
For more, see:
- Can We Really Believe the Bible?
- The Bible: Literal Inerrancy vs. Divine Depths of Meaning
- How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads
“Only Christians can be saved”
Those who believe this may think they have an open-and-shut case because of passages such as these:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16–18)
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
First, these passages do not actually say that only Christians can be saved. And the problem with reading them that way is that the Bible also tells us how non-Christians can be saved:
God will repay everyone according to what they have done. To those who by patiently 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 anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6–11)
And even more briefly:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
And once again, for Jesus’ own teaching about who will be saved and who will not, read Matthew 25:31–46.
If our interpretation of passages such as John 3:16–18 and Acts 4:12 is contradicted by clear teachings elsewhere in the Bible, then we must be mistaken in our understanding of those passages. Would the Bible really contradict itself on such basic a issue as who can be saved?
This is too large a subject to deal with in such a small space.
However, here’s the key to understanding John 3:16–18, Acts 4:12, and similar passages: If Jesus Christ is God as Christians believe, then anyone who believes in God and lives according to the teachings that God gave us as the Lord Jesus Christ is, in fact, believing in Jesus Christ and in the “name,” or reputation and character, of Jesus Christ. This is true even if they don’t identify God as Jesus Christ.
For more, see:
- Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
- Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?
- Did Jesus ever actually say, “If you don’t believe in me you will go to hell”?
- If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
What does it all mean?
I realize that all of this may be very upsetting to people who believe these things. Millions of people have been taught these things, and have believed in them all their lives. Millions of people have staked their eternal salvation on them.
If any of this is upsetting to you, relax! It’s not the end of the world. You are not going to hell if you believe, or don’t believe, any of these things. God is far bigger than any of these beliefs. And there are much deeper and more satisfying beliefs, which the Bible does teach.
If you are confused, or searching, or even angry that these “Christian beliefs” should be questioned, we invite you to explore the linked articles. We invite you to browse through Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. See if you find something that gives you greater understanding and peace of mind.
Of course, we also invite you to:
- Ask questions
- Post Bible passages that you’d like to understand better
- Bring up other “Christian beliefs” that you wonder about. (We might add them to the list!)
If you are happy with your current beliefs, we wish you Godspeed. We have no desire to debate them with you.
But if you are looking for a deeper and more soul-satisfying Christian belief, we invite you to join us on the spiritual journey.
For the companion piece, see:
Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach
The Christian Church is Not Christian
Here’s an article about basically the same subject: https://www.relevantmagazine.com/faith/7-unbiblical-statements-christians-believe/
What do you think about it?
I think it’s mostly rather unimportant things, on some of which the article is wrong.
For example: “5. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”
The Bible actually does say this:
It’s just that the Bible also says the opposite:
This is a bit inconvenient for biblical literalists, as the people at the linked website seem to be. But you can’t just accept one thing that the Bible says and ignore the other if you claim to believe everything the Bible says.
Back to the main issue: The article is simply wrong about its point 5.
Though I couldn’t easily find a statement of faith on the website, it seems to accept the usual unbiblical traditional Christian beliefs covered in the above article. These are much bigger and more important errors than the rather minor seven points taken up in the linked article.
In short, I think the article, and the website that hosts it, is straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel.
What about the doctrine of eternal security? If there is no eternal security, how can I know for sure that I am going to heaven?
“Once saved, always saved” is not in the Bible.
“Once saved, always saved” is plainly contrary to the Bible, which talks on multiple occasions about righteous people backsliding into sin, resulting in death. See, for example, Ezekiel 18:24.
Why do you want to know for sure that you’re going to heaven? Just keep walking the Christian path, loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself, and leave your eternal fate to God. God is loving and compassionate, and will not send you to hell for no cause. Your job is to do your best to follow God’s commandments, especially the two Great Commandments.
Did Jesus Really Die to Pay the Penalty for our Sins?
What about 1 John 5:13?
Basically, 1 John 5:13 says, “Trust the Lord.” I’m saying: Don’t worry about whether you’re saved. Just follow the Lord’s commandments, and God will do the rest. Worrying about our salvation is failing to trust in God’s love and mercy.
Have you seen Psalm 12:6 and 19:7 and Proverbs 30:5? What about 2 Timothy 3:16? Don’t they suggest Biblical inerrancy, at least for the original Hebrew and Greek texts?
It all depends on the mind of the person reading. For a person with a materialistic or “fleshly” mind, these passages will look like they’re talking about literal inerrancy. For a person with a spiritually awakened mind, they will look like they are talking about spiritual matters, not physical ones.
For those reading in, here are the verses:
Does the Bible teach that God is infinite? I believe that hte word “infinite” is not in the Bible. As far as I know, there is no Greek or Hebrew word for that. The word “Infinite” is native to Latin. Did Romans say “Infinitus” which I think may be the Latin form? Or was that word invented centuries later?
I know the Bible uses the term “Almighty God,” for example the Isaiah verse series “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And his name shall be called wonderful counselor, almighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace.” I don’t remember the reference.
Does the Bible teach that God is omnibenevolent (all-good)? I know that there’s a Psalm and a verse in 2 Samuel that says “As for God, his way is perfect.” What’s the Hebrew word for perfect and what does it mean? I don’t know which verse. I’m not all that good at remembering references.
For the most part, the Bible doesn’t use philosophical language such as “infinite” and “omnibenevolent.” The closest the Bible comes to philosophical thought is in the Gospel of John, which has some highly philosophical passages, including in its opening chapter. However, even these tend to be more practical than the theories of your average Western philosopher.
Still, it’s pretty clear that the Bible writers did view God as almighty, infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnibenevolent, an so on, even if they used more practical terms such as his mercy having no bounds, or his mercy enduring forever. You’ve quoted some of these passages yourself. It would be tedious to go through them all. You’ll encounter them as you read the Bible for yourself.
Many Bible scholars and religious leaders have become confused because the Bible also attributes limited human attributes to God, such as anger, jealousy, changing his mind, and so on. These are human appearances of God’s nature, but many Christians read them literally, at face value. They therefore build up a limited and faulty image of God in their minds.
In general, the words in such languages as Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that are commonly translated into English as “perfect” have the root meaning of “complete, finished, whole, entire.” From there they take on the meaning of “without blemish,” since something that is complete is also something that has every attribute it is meant to have in full measure, without lacking any of them.
Specifically, the Hebrew word used in 2 Samuel 22:31 and its parallel passage in Psalm 18:30 is תָּמִים (tāmîm), whose root meaning is indeed “complete, finished.”
Another example of this root meaning of “perfect” is that in grammar, the “perfect tense” is not the greatest, unblemished tense, but rather the tense that indicates completed action that is now in the past.
In relation to God, the meaning of “perfect” also carries this root meaning of being “complete, finished,” in the sense of being fully “developed” (but this is not a temporal thing with God), and having every possible attribute in all completion. That these attributes are unblemished and sinless, to use the common present-day meanings of the word “perfect,” is a corollary of the primary meaning. That sort of perfection is also true of God, but it is a secondary attribute of God, whereas God having every possible attribute in all completion is the primary meaning of God’s perfection.
However, the Bible doesn’t dwell on these philosophical issues. The Bible’s primary purpose is to lead people to eternal life. This involves teaching and moving people to repent from their evils and sins, and live a good life of love and service to God and the neighbor instead. Salvation is not a philosophical pursuit, but a practical pursuit. Therefore the Bible mostly remains in the realm of the practical.
Philosophy is not bad. But it can easily lead intelligent, educated people to get all wrapped up in theory, and neglect the work of rebirth. That work is not all in the head, but necessarily involves getting our hands dirty.
Do you believe the Holy Spirit God? Swedenborg didn’t. But doesn’t the Bible equate the Holy Spirit with God?
Doesn’t the Bible ever say “Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” verbatim?
Where did you get the ridiculous idea that Swedenborg didn’t believe the Holy Spirit is God? Certainly not from anyone who knows what Swedenborg taught.
I would suggest reading Swedenborg’s True Christianity. It has a whole chapter on the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, here’s the short, plain English version:
Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
The source is https://www.gotquestions.org/Swedenborgianism.html It says the following: These writings include teachings such as: God has many names, depending on the beliefs/religion of the individual; the Holy Spirit is not God; the Trinity does not exist; Jesus Christ’s death did not atone for our sin; salvation comes by practicing what you believe, whatever religion it might be; the afterlife is spiritual, but dependent on how well you lived in your physical body.
That makes sense. Gotquestions is a fundamentalist site that is wrong about almost everything it teaches because it accepts human tradition rather than the Word of God. Clearly its authors have very little knowledge of what Swedenborg teaches, matching the ignorance of most fundamentalists about Swedenborg.
Gotquestions lost me with this (regarding whether people who have never even heard of Jesus are going to hell): We are called to spread the gospel throughout the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We know people reject the knowledge of God revealed in nature, and that must motivate us to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Only by accepting God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can people be saved from their sins and rescued from an eternity apart from God.
Me: We enter the world a blank slate. We have to be taught things, including about God. To say that someone who doesn’t even know that God/Jesus exists can somehow read Him into nature is preposterous. If everyone could do that, then evangelism would be pointless because we would just “know.”
Hi Sarah Lea,
As I said to WorldQestioner in my previous reply to him, GotQuestions is wrong about almost everything it teaches because it follows human dogmas and traditions rather than the Word of God.
Yes, the Bible calls us to spread the Gospel throughout the world. But it never says that people of other religions will go to hell. There are certain passages that traditional and fundamentalist “Christians” such as the ones at GotQuestions twist to make them sound like those passages say this, but the Bible itself never actually says that all non-Christians go to hell. In fact, in Matthew 25:31–46 and Romans 2:5–16 Jesus and Paul tell us that people of all nations, Christian and non-Christian alike, who live good lives according to their conscience are saved by Jesus Christ.
I linked you to a number of articles about these things in my earlier reply to you here. Just one more for now:
Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
Don’t pay any attention to GotQuestions and similar sites. They are blind leaders of the blind, so that both fall into the ditch.
What of those passages where Christ says to sell or give away all possessions -seemingly implying it’s sinful to own stuff?
On that, please see this article:
You Cannot Serve both God and Money
Hi Lee I got this comment off a Youtube video explaining the differences between evangelical Christianity and Swedenborg.
” Evangelical “christianity” is heretical in that it says, as you put it, all one simply needs to do is believe, when our Lord Jesus (as well as Peter, Paul, John, and James) plainly says we also have remain in Him by obeying His commandments and endure to the end — the end being death and the last judgment. In preaching against the necessity of remaining in Jesus, the evangelical movement is leading a lot of people away from Jesus and thus to Hell and damnation.
The problem with Swedenborg’s gospel — even more heretical than evangelicalism — is that he thinks we just have to do good according to our own conscience, a very humanistic approach and certainly not even in Christ to begin with, let alone remaining in Him. For this reason, Swedenborg is farther along the spectrum of heresy. But nonetheless, both evangelicalism and Swedenborg are wrong. And really they are on the same spectrum, for in the “just me and my Bible” and “all I need is my own faith” mentality of evangelicals, they essentially put themselves on the humanistic spectrum of Swedenborg, who claims we just follow our own conscience. In both evangelical heresy and Swedenborg heresy, the fundamental assumption is that each individual man gets to decide what God says, not God or His Church, whether through interpreting the Bible for oneself (evangelicalism) or simply following one’s own conscience (Swedenborg). Both these positions are lacking dependence on Jesus Christ and His Church that He established and relying more on human efforts.
The truth is, the Bible teaches us to be obedient and to be zealous for holiness, remaining in our Lord Jesus and His commandments. Read 2 Peter and you will see that the gospel is not protestant. Peter says, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.” And so says Paul… “as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
and this remark
“Swedenborg’s material was all channeled. He later admitted that the “angels” that spoke to him would often lie …and wanted people that are deceptive. All cults seem to “make sense” to the devotees…..”
Saying that Swedenborg “thinks we just have to do good according to our own conscience” is a major oversimplification of what Swedenborg said. But on that subject, notice this statement of Paul:
Paul himself says that for non-Christians, it will be their conscience that bears witness and either accuses or excuses them on the day of judgment.
For Christians, it is a different story. Yes, of course, Christians must live according to their conscience. But more importantly, Christians must live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Otherwise they are not even Christians. That’s why Jesus asked, rhetorically, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
In response to this:
That is a rather free and interpretive translation of 2 Peter 1:20. It is clear enough from the next verse that what Peter is saying is that the prophecies do not come from the prophet’s own interpretations:
In other words, what the prophets spoke was not their own idea, but was inspired in them by God.
In response to this:
Whoever wrote this is just plain ignorant. Swedenborg’s material was not channeled, nor did he “later admit” that it the “angels” who spoke to him would often lie. I don’t know where this person even got that.
In fact, in his last-published work Swedenborg emphatically denied that any of the teachings of the New Church came from angels (let alone from spirits):
There was no “later” for him to “admit” the opposite. Even on his deathbed, when the Rev. Arvid Ferelius, the Swedish Lutheran pastor who was resident in London at the time of Swedenborg’s death, asked him if there was anything he wished to recant now that he could gain nothing more from it, Swedenborg rose up in his bed, put his hand on his heart, and said:
For more about Swedenborg and the nature of his inspiration and spiritual experiences, please see:
Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
How do you respond to people that say he was a heretic, insane or a cult leader speaking to demons that deliberately misled him?
Honestly, I mostly just ignore them. They clearly are entirely ignorant of the reality of who Swedenborg was and what he taught. Why throw pearls to pigs?
This is the video those comments came from by the way.
I’m watching the video, and will make some comments along the way. (I hope you don’t mind if I edited your link to remove the timestamp, so that the video would start at the beginning rather than halfway through.)
The first, historical part of the video is reasonably accurate, with only a few small glitches. For one thing, people were beginning to read Swedenborg’s writings while he was still alive, not only a decade after his death.
But the real problems begin when the video starts talking about Swedenborg’s teachings. The YouTuber has clearly done some research—which is more than I can say for many non-Swedenborgians who post videos and articles about Swedenborg—but he does not have a full understanding of what Swedenborg taught, and falls into a number of errors that are especially common among evangelical Christians.
On the Trinity, the video falls into the common error that Swedenborg’s teaching is the same as Oneness Pentecostalism. This is not true. Swedenborg’s teaching about the Trinity decisively rejects modalism, which is what Oneness Pentecostals believe. See:
What is the difference between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God?
“Swedenborgianism denies the distinction, saying that we are ontologically the same kind of being as God.”
This is incorrect. Ontologically, God is made of divine substance, whereas humans are made of spiritual substance, and, during our lifetime on earth, of physical substance as well. There is a clear and ineradicable distinction between God, who is infinite and uncreated, and humans, who are finite and created. Created humans are human in the image and likeness of God, who is the only fully, infinitely human being. Ontologically, humans are a limited reflection of the infinite humanity of God.
About rebaptism, this also varies among Swedenborgian denominations. Historically, most have accepted any Christian baptism, and have not practiced rebaptism. Some of the more conservative denominations, such as the General Church (where the YouTuber probably got this information) do practice rebaptism.
Similarly, he seems to have gotten his information about the Holy Supper from the General Church website. The GC does insist upon fermented wine. Other bodies of the New Church don’t believe that is critical. Many of them serve both fermented wine and grape juice (“unfermented wine”). Some serve only grape juice.
About the canon of scripture, the YouTuber neglects to mention that from a Catholic and Orthodox perspective, Protestantism itself has rejected a number of books from Scripture. See:
Why Isn’t Paul in Swedenborg’s Canon?
The video just assumes that the Protestant canon is correct. But even outside of Swedenborgianism, there are various canons of the Bible. Swedenborg’s just happens to be the smallest.
As for those Swedenborgians who believe that Swedenborg’s writings are the Word of God, put simply, they are wrong. Swedenborg never said any such thing. I have read the book this YouTuber mentions titled What the Writings Testify Concerning Themselves. As hard as the compiler of that book tried, he could not find a single passage in Swedenborg where Swedenborg says that his writings are the Word. There are two schismatic bodies who believe this: the General Church of the New Jerusalem and the Lord’s New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma. Schisms tend to be based on human-invented beliefs not found in the Bible or in the other sacred writings of their religion. This is precisely the case with the error that Swedenborg’s writings are the Word. See:
Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
“Doing good things to obtain salvation is damnable.”
The implicit error contained in this is that Swedenborg taught that we should do good things in order to obtain salvation. That’s not what Swedenborg taught. He taught that we should do good things out of obedience to God, out of understanding and accepting the truth and goodness of God’s commandments and teachings, and out of love for God and the neighbor. That’s an entirely different thing than doing good works in order to obtain salvation.
“Swedenborg’s theology was very close to universalism, which teaches everyone goes to heaven.”
Entirely incorrect. Swedenborg did not teach that everyone goes to heaven. He never gave any number or ratio comparing how many people are in hell compared to how many are in heaven. But his visits to hell make it clear that there are myriads of people in hell, from all different parts of the world. If his theology was “very close to universalism,” there would be few to no people in hell. That’s simply not what Swedenborg reported. Yes, Swedenborg taught that all people who live good lives, regardless of their religion, go to heaven. But the reality is that many people, of every different religion, do not live good lives, and choose to go to hell instead.
About hell, the quotation from OffTheLeftEye is okay, but there actually is torment in the hell that Swedenborg describes, and many people there really don’t have a very decent life at all. It’s just that all the torment comes as a direct consequence of the evil actions that people in hell engage in on an ongoing basis because that’s what they love to do. The OffTheLeftEye quotation is reasonably accurate about the higher (milder) hells, where people’s lives tend to be a lot like the lives that jerks and selfish people live among themselves here on earth. But things get rapidly worse for people in the lower (worse) levels of hell.
Note that in this “reaction comment,” I am making no attempt to demonstrate the unbiblical falsity of the beliefs this YouTuber identifies as evangelical beliefs. I’ve done that in many, many articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. Here I’m just pointing out some of the factual and conceptual errors this YouTuber has made about Swedenborg and the New Church. He gets a B+ for actually doing some solid research on Swedenborgian websites, but an F for perpetuating a number of errors and fallacies about Swedenborg and the New Church that are especially common among evangelical Christians.
In short, this isn’t the worst video or article I’ve seen by non-Swedenborgians attempting to explain the New Church. He does provide some good quotations and explanations of various Swedenborgian teachings. But it still contains many basic errors that are common to people who do not have a full understanding of Swedenborg’s teachings.
I have always understood that Jesus paid for ALL sins (past, present, and future), not just the ones that Christians commit. Is that what you’re saying here (in your fifth point)? Also, I have a friend whose 19-year-old son died in an auto accident, and she is beside herself thinking he may not have made it to Heaven (even though he was raised as a Christian) because he rebelled against his faith in later years (she said he was just trying to figure things out), so I quoted this scripture to her (which was quoted to me over 20 years ago when I asked a friend whether we could lose our salvation if we sin after becoming saved): For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).
Hi Sarah Lea,
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments. I hope you will find the articles here enlightening and helpful.
First of all, the idea that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins is not biblical. If you read the Bible for yourself, you will find that it never says that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. This idea was invented by human beings 1,500 years after the last books of the Bible were written.
What Jesus did was not to pay the penalty for our sins, but to save us from the power of the Devil by fighting against and overcoming the Devil, and breaking the Devil’s power over humans on earth. Because he did this for us, if we call upon him, he will give us the power to overcome the Devil in our own life also.
For more on what Jesus did to save and redeem us, please see the sections that start with “What is Redemption?” in this article:
Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
For more specifically about the false idea that Christ paid the penalty for our sins, please see these two articles:
About your friend’s nineteen-year-old son, this kind of fear and anxiety is the result of the unbiblical and false doctrines that the traditional “Christian” churches teach their people. It is absolutely false that only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. The Bible specifically rejects this idea in many places. See, for example, Matthew 25:31–46 and Romans 2:5–16, where first Jesus, then Paul, teach us how people of all nations and religions who live good lives according to their conscience are saved by Jesus Christ.
The Bible simply never says that all non-Christians will be damned to hell. There are many articles about this here. See, for example:
The passage you quote is also a very beautiful one showing the great love that God has for all of us, God’s children.
Here are two more articles that I hope will help in overcoming your friend’s fear and anxiety about her son’s tragic death, and where he is now in the afterlife:
(I know your friend’s son was not a gang member. But that article deals with the issue of troubled or struggling teens who die, using an extreme case.)
Put simply, as covered in many articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, there is no reason to think that your friend’s son would be going to hell, and every reason to think he will be going to heaven. God is love, and God lifts up to heaven people of every nation and religion if they are willing to accept God into their heart, mind, and life. Being confused about God and questioning the beliefs we were taught is a natural part of life that many teens and young adults go through. It is part of the messy process of emancipating ourselves from our parents mentally and emotionally, and arriving at our own faith and belief.
I hope this reply, and the linked articles, are helpful to you and your friend. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask. True Christianity does not make our burden heavier. It lightens the yoke on our shoulders.
Hi, I’d like to here your take on this paragraph on swedenborgs views.
It’s a mixed bag, but overall, the author of this book does not know or understand Swedenborg’s teachings very well. As is common with Nicene Christians who want to dismiss Swedenborg’s teachings, he has wrongly linked him with a standard historical Christian heresy—in this case, Pelagianism—and used that as an out to avoid engaging seriously with Swedenborg’s teachings.
I’ll take the points in the Abstract one by one. First about Swedenborg’s view of heaven:
This is generally accurate. However, putting “real” in quotes makes it sound like the author thinks Swedenborg’s experience of heaven was not real, but was generated from Swedenborg’s own mind, as “psychological states.” This is a popular way of dismissing the reality of Swedenborg’s experiences of heaven. You’ll have to make up your own mind about that. Obviously, I think people who dismiss Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences in this way are mistaken.
It is true that Swedenborg was the “inventor of the modern heaven.” After Swedenborg published Heaven and Hell and his other theological works, the popular idea of heaven and angels changed dramatically. That book has had wide-ranging influence on people’s concept of the afterlife throughout the Western world, and even in the non-Western world. This is covered in the (non-Swedenborgian) scholarly book Heaven: A History, by Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang. (The link is to its Amazon page.)
This is also generally correct. Swedenborg did speak of human beings as microcosms of heaven, though not so much as microcosms of the universe. And he did see great powers and possibilities in human beings. However, contrary to where this author goes from here, Swedenborg saw these powers and possibilities as coming entirely from God, so that humans can claim no credit for or ownership of them.
Yes, although Blake, like many other mystics, had a love/hate relationship with Swedenborg. Mystics generally love Swedenborg’s otherworldly experience, but hate his Christian doctrinal specificity.
Quite true. Heaven is simply the state we live in when we have goodness and love in us. Hell is simply the state we live in when we have selfishness, evil, and hatred in us. Though there are punishments in hell, that is not the purpose of hell; it is simply the result of its residents’ ongoing evil actions, which bring punishment upon themselves. Heaven is also not a reward for good behavior. It is simply the consequence of living from God’s love, according to God’s truth. But once again, we must add that being good and filled with love is possible only if we accept God into ourselves, because all goodness and love comes from God alone and is God’s alone.
This is utterly false. I have no idea where this author gets this idea.
Swedenborg’s heaven, and entire cosmos, is entirely God-centered. In heaven, the very sun that shines above the head of everyone who lives there is the abode of God, so that God is present with all angels, all the time, giving them all of their life, love, understanding, and everything else. Angels are constantly turned toward God, and never turned away. Swedenborg’s heaven is thoroughly God-centered.
True. There is no place in the Bible for these things either, nor is there any place in true Christianity. Original sin is a false doctrine perhaps invented, but definitely popularized by Augustine several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. The Bible specifically and emphatically rejects the idea that one person can be guilty based on another person’s sin. See:
The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 2: Original Sin?
Jesus was not an ascetic. In fact he was accused of being “a gluttonous man and a winebibber,” to use the colorful old KJV language (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Only later, as the Christian Church rejected Jesus’ message of abundant life (see John 10:10), did certain self-righteous “Christians” begin to practice self-denial and asceticism, adopting the supposedly “spiritual,” but non-Christian, practices of so many non-Christian religious elites.
Here the author tips his hand that he doesn’t know or understand Swedenborg’s teachings. The battle between the Pelagians and the Augustinians was one of people out on opposite poles who were on those opposite poles because they did not understand how human life works in relation to God and God’s life. The Augustinians thought human life and salvation was all God and little or nothing of the human being. The Pelagians thought that human life was al about the human being and had little or nothing to do with God. Both were equally wrong—though the Augustinian position that won out was probably more damaging overall than the Pelagian position that lost out and was therefore labeled “heresy” by the victors.
The truth is that human life is a relationship between God and humans. All life, goodness, truth, and power comes from God. But humans must freely accept these things into their lives by welcoming God’s love and wisdom into their lives and living according to it. We humans can take no credit whatsoever for the good in us. In this, Pelagius was wrong. But we humans also must live as if we were living from ourselves, so that we can have our own identity and agency, and therefore be human beings in mutual, freely chosen, and loving relationship with God. In this, the Augustinians were wrong—and still are.
In short, Swedenborg rejected the core idea of both Augustinianism and Pelagianism.
Once again, this author simply found an easy way out of seriously engaging with Swedenborg’s teachings by grabbing the nearest heresy he could find and falsely labeling Swedenborg as adhering to that heresy. In reality, both the Pelagian position and the author’s Augustinian position are unbiblical and heretical from a genuinely Christian perspective.
This is generally true. But in using the word “erotic,” the author betrays his physical-minded view of love and marriage, which is typical of Nicene Christians. Marriage is not about “the erotic.” It is about a spiritual oneness that expresses itself in physical oneness. And its origin is the marriage of love and wisdom in God, which is the center and source of everything in the universe. That divine marriage of love and wisdom is expressed in human marriage, just as it is expressed in lesser form throughout the vast realms of nature, both living and non-living.
To sum up, this author has a superficial and faulty knowledge of Swedenborg’s system, leading him to make a number of ignorant and false statements about Swedenborg’s teachings, despite some true statements about it here and there. His mind is skewed by his Augustinian/Nicene beliefs so that he cannot have a clear and true understanding of Swedenborg’s non-Nicene, non-Augustinian, and also non-Pelagian teachings.