Are We Headed for an AI Apocalypse?

It’s a staple of science fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Terminator; The Matrix; I, Robot. The plot: Humans create machines with artificial intelligence (AI). The machines become conscious. The machines turn on their human creators and kill or enslave them.

Popular movies and novels commonly reflect the hopes and fears of present-day society, even if they’re set in the distant past or future. And the fear of AI taking over the world is a very real one for some very smart people. Famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking issued an ominous warning that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Technological entrepreneur Elon Musk joined the chorus of fear, saying, “Mark my words: A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes.”

Others disagree. Computer scientist Michael Littman wrote an op-ed piece arguing that “the ‘rise of machines’ is not a likely future.” Computer Science professor Subhash Kak agrees in his recent article, “Why a computer will never be truly conscious.” Neuroscientist Anthony Zador and computer scientist Yann LeCun argue that since AI didn’t need to evolve in a competitive environment as humans did, it didn’t develop the survival instinct that leads to a desire to dominate others (see: “Don’t Fear the Terminator”). Besides, LeCun argues elsewhere, “One would have to be unbelievably stupid to build open-ended objectives in a super-intelligent (and super-powerful) machine without some safeguard terms in the objective.”

And so the debate continues.

Personally, I’m with the optimists. Yes, I enjoy an exciting apocalyptic sci-fi flick of the humans vs. robots variety. But in the real world, I don’t think machines will ever develop consciousness and enslave or exterminate humanity. Aside from the inherent scientific limitations of electromechanical devices, and the supreme stupidity of designing machines without safeguards, robots do not have a soul—and I don’t believe they ever will.

For more on artificial intelligence and the end of humanity, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History

If the Second Coming has Already Happened, When do Things Start Getting Better?

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

I hear you say that the second coming or apocalypse has already happened? My question is, when will the world start getting better? I live in South Africa, and we have 55 murders per day. Crime here is unexplainable, and people fear for their lives every day. Surely this cannot continue till the day that we all pass away?

Thanks for your important question, Stan.

It is difficult to feel hope for ourselves, our families, communities, careers, and the future when we are living during a difficult time in a challenging locale. In this response I will offer you some practical and spiritual insights. As it turns out, you have asked a question about a subject that is very personal for Annette and me.

For more on fixing the world’s problems, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Pain and Suffering

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

Dear Readers,

Since Annette and I began this blog in 2012, we have received many expressions of surprise and excitement about the beliefs and ideas presented here. Perhaps it would be helpful, then, to provide more specific information about the origin of our theology, and of the church organizations associated with it.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) - scientist, philosopher, spiritual seer

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

The beliefs presented on our blog are based on the Bible as interpreted by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), an eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, and explorer of the spiritual world. Swedenborg wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible, opening up a deeper spiritual meaning within the literal meaning. He also presented a new perspective on Christianity—one that is solidly founded on the plain statements of the Bible.

Though Swedenborg wrote about a new era of the church that he said was beginning in his day, he never made any effort to start a church organization. However, fifteen years after his death, a small group of his readers founded the first New Church (Swedenborgian) organization, in London, England. From there it spread around the world.

Despite the relatively small number of avowed Swedenborgians, over the years Swedenborg’s teachings have had a major influence on our society’s changing views of Christianity, the Bible, spirituality, and the afterlife. Much of this influence happened not directly, but indirectly through well-known figures in the subsequent history of Western thought who read Swedenborg and incorporated some of his ideas into their own writings. For some examples, see the article, “Swedenborg’s Cultural Influence” at the website of the Swedenborg Foundation.

For more on Swedenborg and the Swedenborgian churches, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History

Spiritual Insights Volume 1: God and Creation, by Lee Woofenden

Volume 1 of articles reprinted from Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life is now available in paperback and Kindle formats:

This hefty 507 page tome offers a selection of 53 articles organized into three parts:

  • Part 1: Who is God?
  • Part 2: Who God Isn’t
  • Part 3: Creation

Part 1 presents the beautiful and satisfying teachings of the Bible and Emanuel Swedenborg on the loving, wise, and powerful nature of God.

Part 2 explains exactly why traditional Christian beliefs about God, such as the Trinity of Persons, are unbiblical and false.

Part 3 offers much light on how and why God created the universe, and how God governs everything in the universe, including human society. It also tackles the thorny issue of why, if God is all-loving and all-powerful, there is so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

To preview or purchase the paperback edition on Amazon, click here.

To preview or purchase the Kindle edition on Amazon, click here.


To see the rest of the volumes in this series, please click here.

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Posted in All About God, Books and Literature

Why Isn’t Paul in Swedenborg’s Canon?

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

Paul’s letters have a central role in Christian doctrine, yet Swedenborg does not mention them. Why? Thanks.

Thanks for the good question, Luca.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) does quote from Paul’s letters in his later theological writings, especially in his final great work of systematic theology, True Christianity. However, in his first published theological work and his greatest work of Bible interpretation, Secrets of Heaven, traditionally known by its Latin title Arcana Coelestia, he does not. Here is his own explanation, in answer to one of his early followers:

In respect to the writings of the apostles and of Paul, I have not quoted them in the Arcana Coelestia, because they are doctrinal writings, and consequently are not written in the style of the Word, like those of the prophets, of David, of the Evangelists, and the Book of Revelation. The style of the Word consists altogether of correspondences, wherefore it is effective of immediate communication with heaven; but in doctrinal writings there is a different style, which has indeed communication with heaven, but mediately. They were written thus by the apostles, that the new Christian Church might be commenced through them; wherefore matters of doctrine could not be written in the style of the Word, but they had to be expressed in such a manner as to be understood more clearly and intimately. The writings of the apostles are, nevertheless, good books of the church, insisting upon the doctrine of charity and its faith as strongly as the Lord himself has done in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation; as may be seen and found evident by everyone who in reading them directs his attention to these points. That Paul’s expression in Romans 3:28, concerning Justification by Faith, has been quite misunderstood, is proved in the Apocalypsis Revelata no. 417, to which you may refer; wherefore the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, which constitutes the theology of the Reformed churches at the present day, is built on an entirely false foundation. (From an April 15, 1766, letter to Dr. Gabriel Beyer published in English translation in R.L. Tafel’s Documents concerning Swedenborg, Document 224, link added)

We’ll dig into all of this further along in the article. But first, we need to take a look at the “canon” of the Bible, or which books are included in the Bible, and why. As it turns out, it’s a much more complicated question than most Christians realize.

For more Swedenborg, Paul, and the biblical canon, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

Was Adam Anatomically in God’s Image?

Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

God is human in the New Testament

God the Father, which is the divine soul, is non-material, and therefore does not have a physical body made out of physical matter as we do.

God the Son, which is the divine body, did become material and take on a physical body just like us, and rose from the tomb with his entire body.

His resurrection body was not made of matter, because it was able to pass through locked doors (see John 20:19) and could appear and disappear (see Luke 24:31). However, it was not a spirit either, since it could directly interact with matter, such as by eating some fish (see Luke 24:36–43).

For more on the divine anatomy, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

What Does it Mean that Jesus was “Glorified”?

In a comment here, a reader named Duane asked:

What do you mean by the process of glorification”?

This article is an edited version of the next few questions and answers in that thread.

Lucas Cranach, "The Crucifixion," 1532

Lucas Cranach, “The Crucifixion,” 1532

When Jesus said to Thomas (not to Philip, as stated in the original comment thread), “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7, italics added), he was referring, not so much to the crucifixion itself, but to what the he was about to accomplish by means of the crucifixion.

The crucifixion was the Lord’s last and greatest trial or temptation, through which he completed the process of glorifying his humanity, and also the task of defeating the power of the Devil, which is the power of all evil. Glorifying his humanity and defeating the Devil go hand in hand.

At the time of the crucifixion the Lord also left behind the last of his finite human substance and heredity from his human mother Mary.

For more on Jesus’ process of glorification, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Is it Right to Call Jesus “Father”?

"My Lord & My God": John 20:28

In a comment posted here, a reader named Duane asked (in an edited version):

Why is Jesus never referred to as “the Father,” aside from that Isaiah prophecy? Is it incorrect to call Jesus “Father” or “Abba”?

This article is an edited version of my response, originally posted as a comment here.

Isaiah 9:6 and similar prophecies make it clear that the one to be born would be not only the Son, but also the Father—and of course, God:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

For more on Jesus our Father, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Does God Grow and Develop? What about Open Theism?

This is the next installment in a series following up on the article, “How did the Incarnation Change God’s Relationship with Us?

In a comment on that article here, a reader named Seeking to understand said:

But let me see if I’m understanding correctly in gathering from everything you’ve said, that in the way that God interacts with us humans through the Divine Humanity, when entering into our time and space and so forth, to work directly with us . . . there can be some degree of growth and development, yes? Could this explain the observations that have led some to the idea of Open Theism? Could it seem, for all intents and purposes, as if the Divine Humanity with which we interact is growing in knowledge and experiencing events with us in a sequence rather than simultaneously in an eternal now (as you say is the case with God’s core)?

This article is an edited version of my response, originally posted as a comment here.

It is correct to say that Jesus, during his lifetime on earth, experienced growth and development in knowledge, understanding, love, and power over time.

It is not correct to say that God experienced that sort of growth and development over time.

Within the arrow of time God is able to express more and more of God’s love, wisdom, and power. Still, all of this is present simultaneously in the conscious awareness and experience of God, who is above and beyond time and space.

For more on God, growth, and open theism, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

How does God Speak to Us, Before and After the Incarnation?

This is the first of a series of articles following up on the previous post, “How did the Incarnation Change God’s Relationship with Us?” In the comments on that article, several readers asked questions that led to some fairly detailed answers. These follow-up articles are revised and edited versions of those answers.

First, a reader named “Seeking to understand” asked about the difference in how God speaks to us before and after “becoming flesh” as Jesus Christ (John 1:14)—which is the plain meaning of the fancy theological term “the Incarnation.” You can read the original comment here, and my original response to the first of two main questions asked here. The next post will cover the other main question.

In the previous post I said:

In the Old Testament, God spoke to people through angels, and also through human leaders such as Moses, Joshua, the High Priest, and the prophets. Ordinary people rarely heard God’s voice directly.

Even when someone “saw God face to face,” it was actually God filling an angel with the divine presence so that the angel represented God.

This article goes into a little more detail about how that works, and about how this changed when God came to us as Jesus Christ.

For more on how God speaks to us please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Science Philosophy and History
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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