Where is the Garden of Eden?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by the Rev. Fats Montsho:

Does Swedenborg in any of his books geographically describe Eden in detail?

Thanks for the interesting question, Rev. Montsho!

The River of Life c.1805 by William Blake 1757-1827

The River of Life, by William Blake

When we hear “Eden” we usually think of the garden of Eden. However, the Bible says that God planted a garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8). This suggests that Eden was a wider area, and the garden was an area within it.

Still, the second Creation story in Genesis chapters 2 and 3 focuses on the garden of Eden, not on the wider area. So we will also focus on the location and meaning of the garden of Eden, while not forgetting that the garden was most likely a specific area within the land of Eden.

In terms of physical geography, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) associates the garden of Eden with the land of Canaan. This is unusual. The garden of Eden has most often been placed in ancient Babylonia just north of the Persian Gulf, in the area where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet.

However, Swedenborg did not think of the garden of Eden as a literal garden where two literal human beings were placed. Rather, he said that the Creation stories in Genesis represent an early culture of human beings who were the first to become aware of God and spirit. He therefore spends most of his time explaining the spiritual symbolism of the garden of Eden. Because of this, he gives us only a few hints about the physical location and geography of Eden. And yet, what he does provide ties in beautifully with its spiritual symbolism.

Finally, in a story in his book Marriage Love Swedenborg describes a beautiful spiral garden in heaven. This garden has a fabulous tree at its center that some of the angels who live in the area call the tree of life. This heavenly paradise garden offers a picture of the garden of Eden that is both physical and spiritual.

Let us look at all of this more closely.

For more on the garden of Eden, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

War, Military Service, Violence, and Self-Defense: What’s a Christian to Do?

The Bible sends mixed messages about war. The Lord is presented as the Prince of Peace; the Lord is also presented as a warrior, commanding the people in battle. How can a Christian decide about war, military service, violence, and self-defense?

There are many wars in the Bible, and God often serves as the Commander in Chief. But from a spiritual perspective, the real wars we face are the inner wars of good against evil: of love for God against lust for power, of love for others against greed and self-indulgence.

As long as we have selfish and materialistic desires in our hearts, we will come into conflict with others. It is the desire for power that drives our efforts to control others and conquer their lands. It is the desire for wealth beyond any usefulness that drives our efforts to acquire others’ possessions for ourselves through fair means or foul.

Even if we ourselves have no desire to rule others and gain their wealth by force, we may find ourselves up against others who wish to do so. How can we decide when, if ever, violence and war is justified? Why are there so many wars in the Bible? Why does God allow war in the first place?

For more insight on these difficult issues, please read on.

For more on violence and war, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Pain and Suffering, The Bible Re-Viewed

Jesus Changed Paul’s World

(Note: This post is an edited version of one of my responses in an ongoing conversation with a reader. Click here to see the original version within its thread.)

Hi Ben,

Thanks for sticking with the conversation.

Halftone Mona LisaI wish I could run a cable from my brain to yours and upload not just the answers to your specific questions, but the grand picture in which those answers become clear. Without that big picture, the details make no sense. It’s like examining a newspaper photo with a magnifying glass. All you see are isolated blotches of light and dark. But when you pull back, a coherent picture emerges. All those little dots suddenly make sense, even while receding from specific notice.

Alas, technology has not yet achieved brain dump functionality, and I lack Spock’s mind melding capabilities. I therefore must stick with these awkward and time-consuming words in communicating these things to you.

In this conversation you have presented many grainy details of specific verses where Paul says this and that. And while not avoiding the graininess of particularity (hence the wordiness of my previous replies), I have also attempted to pull back and show you the picture as a whole, so that those dots of Scripture resolve into a coherent picture. That picture is not the one contemporary Christianity sees, because contemporary Christianity is still using a magnifying glass and missing the big picture.

In this reply I’ll pan out from the graininess to look at the big picture, without which the details of what I have said to you about particular Bible verses will make no sense.
For more on Jesus, Paul, and the changed world, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History, The Bible Re-Viewed

Is Christianity an Abusive Relationship with God?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Gonzo:


I love reading your posts and do find them both comforting and inspiring in my personal life.

As one who’s coming to Christ as of recently, I want your insight on the notion, that I often feel holds some truth, of Christianity being an “abusive relationship” with God, or an abusive relationship with those who speak for God with the absence of a physical God here on Earth. The article below outlines this, and although it’s clear the guy writing it seems to be pushing a different religious agenda, his points do still stand for me:

Christians, Are You in an Abusive Relationship with God? by Dr. Bo Bennett

Much thanks.

Thanks for your kind words, Gonzo, and for your good question and the related link.

As he says on his website Positive Humanism, Dr. Bennett is a secular humanist. He rejects God and religion altogether, believing in human philosophy, reason, and science instead. It is not surprising, then, that he takes a dim view of Christianity. In the introduction to the linked article he writes:

Michelangelo, Creation of the Sun and Moon, face detailThankfully, many organizations exist to help both men and women who find themselves in abusive relationships and people, in general, are becoming more aware of the signs of abuse—at least when it comes to abuse by mortals. But what about the Christian God, or at least the idea of the Christian God? Without question, some interpretations of Christianity and God are more benign than others, but it is those “others” that we need to worry about. I will argue that Christianity is, at its core, a system that promotes this abusive relationship where God is the abuser and his flock is the abused.

I share Dr. Bennett’s thankfulness about our growing understanding of abusive relationships, and about the many organizations that are now helping people to break free from them. For one such organization, see the website of The National Domestic Violence Hotline (USA).

But does Dr. Bennett have a point about Christianity?

Yes and no.

For more on Christianity and abusive relationships, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Sex Marriage Relationships, The Bible Re-Viewed

What if my Family Doesn’t Approve of the Person I Want to Marry?

Here is a recent comment (slightly edited) that a reader named Alyssa left in response to the article, “What if My Partner and I Have Different Religious Beliefs? Can Interfaith Marriage Work?”:

True love

(stock photo)

I really enjoyed reading your article. I am a Christian and was raised in a strong Christian/conservative family. My boyfriend of three years is spiritual but does not identify as a Christian. My family does not accept him at all. I have felt many times like I must choose between him and my family. Moreover, I am (was) very close to my family. My grandmother told me that she would not come to our wedding if we got married. As engagement gets closer (I think he is going to propose soon) I am becoming increasingly worried about the rift with my family only getting bigger. My grandmother is the most important person to me and it is going to break my heart if she does not come to the wedding. Additionally, my mom has only talked to my boyfriend a few times in the three years we have been dating and has not allowed him to come over or accepted his invitations to get to know him better. Is this going to ruin our marriage? It has already taken a toll on our relationship at times. However, we have talked in detail about where our religions align and where they differ. We have talked about raising children, and come to a common consensus every time. But I am worried that this issue with my family is going to tear us apart. Thoughts?

Here is my response, again slightly edited, and with headings added:

Hi Alyssa,

Thanks for stopping by and telling your story. Unfortunately, this situation is quite common, and there isn’t an easy answer. It looks likely that you will indeed have to choose between your boyfriend and your family—at least, as far as where your primary relationship and loyalty will lie.

Here are two principles I would suggest in navigating this very difficult issue and decision:

  1. If your family objects to your marrying someone, it is a good idea to listen to them and consider whether they have valid concerns.
  2. Once you make up your mind to marry someone, that relationship must replace your relationship with your family as your primary relationship.

For more on family vs. marriage, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships

Answering the Lord’s Invitation

The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)

Please click here to read on

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

The Biggest Banquet Ever

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. (Matthew 22:2)

Please click here to read on

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Buying Into Heaven

The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vine­yard. (Matthew 20:1)

Please click here to read on

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Debits and Credits

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. (Matthew 18:23)

Please click here to read on

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

A Fish Story To End All Fish Stories

The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47–48)

Please click here to read on

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed
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