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

How did the Incarnation Change God’s Relationship with Us?

Talking with GodIn a comment here, a reader named “Seeking to understand” asked some questions about the change in God’s relationship with us from before to after the Incarnation: God “becoming flesh” as Jesus Christ. These questions boiled down to three basic questions:

  1. Was it really a change in how God relates to us?
  2. Does this mean God was less able to save us before the Incarnation?
  3. What part of God “changes” from our human perspective?

Even to understand these questions you might want to click on the first link above and read Seeking to understand’s original comment. This post is an edited and expanded version of the reply I wrote here. It doesn’t exactly answer all of these questions. But the answers should become clear enough as you read my response.

For more on the Incarnation and God’s relationship with us, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed

Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Randy Alcorn and John Piper

Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn

John Piper

John Piper

In a comment posted here, a reader named Eric Breaux asked for my response to a couple of articles by two well-known Christian writers and preachers, Randy Alcorn and John Piper. You can read the articles here:

  1. Do You Think it Is Possible that on the New Earth There Could Be the Essence of Marital Relationships with the Actual Institution of Marriage? by Randy Alcorn
  2. Matrimony No More: Why the End of Marriage in Eternity is Good News, by John Piper

The questions that Randy Alcorn asks in his article are already answered in these articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, which I invite you to read:

Since I’ve already answered those questions, I won’t repeat the answers here.

I also won’t give a point-by-point response to everything said in each article. Rather, I’ll focus on what I see as the primary error of each writer on the subject of eternal marriage. This article is an edited and expanded version of comments in response to Eric that I posted here and here.

For more on Alcorn, Piper, and eternal marriage, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Afterlife

The Tree of Life, by Louis G. Hoeck – A Swedenborgian Commentary on the Bible

I am pleased to bring back into print a classic Swedenborgian Bible commentary by the Rev. Louis G. Hoeck, originally published in four saddle-stitched volumes in 1940. Though the text is freely available online at various websites, this is the first time it has been in print in book form for several decades. It is also available for the first time in Kindle format.

The Tree of Life, Volume 1: The Law of Moses, by Louis G. Hoeck - front cover image

The Tree of Life is the only commentary ever published that covers the entire Swedenborgian canon of the Bible, consisting of every book of the Bible that has a continuous, connected spiritual meaning (see Arcana Coelestia #10325). It provides a chapter-by-chapter overview of the Bible’s spiritual meaning, with many fine, practical-life observations along the way.

Of course, since it was written and published the better part of a century ago, the language and feel of the material is a bit old-fashioned. However, the approach to the text of the Bible as a living account of our own spiritual life and development remains fresh and new today.

For more on The Tree of Life, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Books and Literature, The Bible Re-Viewed

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

(Note: This answer, imported from Christianity StackExchange, is more technical and scholarly in style than most of my posts here. However, the subject is worthwhile and informative for people who wish to gain a better understanding of atonement as presented in the Bible, in contrast to faulty and unbiblical traditional Christian understandings of atonement.)

Preface: 1 John 2:2 in Swedenborg’s writings

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) does not comment directly on 1 John 2:2 anywhere in his published or unpublished theological writings.

He does quote 1 John 2:2 in one of his unpublished notebooks, traditionally titled Scripture Confirmations, which served as a specialized Bible concordance for the composition of his final comprehensive work of systematic theology, True Christianity. In that single quotation of the passage, he translates the Greek word ἱλασμός (hilasmos) into the Latin word propitiatio, which is the standard Latin word for “propitiation.” You can see his original Latin here (it occurs in the fourth line of text), and an English translation here.

Introduction: Swedenborg’s general approach to “propitiation”

Although Swedenborg does not comment directly on 1 John 2:2 anywhere in his theological writings, he does discuss the concept of the propitiation for sins, mostly in his explanation of the meaning of the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the ancient Jewish tabernacle, and also in explaining the meaning of various Old Testament sacrifices and rituals of atonement.

The Ark and the Mercy Seat

The Ark and the Mercy Seat

Swedenborg largely skips over the traditional Christian theology that had grown up over the centuries around the concept of Jesus as the propitiation for sins. Instead, he draws his explanation of the meaning of this concept directly from the biblical text. And rather than relying upon later Greek- and Roman-derived philosophical concepts of “propitiation,” he seems to assume that the use of the Greek word ἱλασμός and its related forms in the New Testament draw their meaning primarily from the terms in the Hebrew Bible that are commonly translated in the Septuagint using various forms of ἱλασμός—and that this Old Testament usage is the primary referent of the term ἱλασμός as used in the New Testament. The writers of the (Greek) New Testament drew heavily on the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures produced two or three centuries before the birth of Christ.

To understand Swedenborg’s interpretation of Jesus as “the propitiation for our sins” as used in 1 John 2:2, then, it will be necessary to delve into the Hebrew word כָּפַר (kaphar) and its derivatives, which are the words most commonly translated in the Septuagint as ἱλασμός and its derivatives, and which therefore provide the primary meaning of ἱλασμός as used in the New Testament.

This we will do below. But first we must cover Swedenborg’s view of the traditional Christian understanding of Christ as a propitiation for our sins.

For more on Swedenborg and propitiation, click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

Spiritual Insights Volume 2: The Bible and its Stories, by Lee Woofenden

Sure the Web is great, but books are . . . great too!

Introducing Volume 2 of articles reprinted from Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life:

(Yes, I started with Volume 2, not Volume 1, of a planned five volume set. Sue me! 😛 )

This 450 page book offers a selection of 51 articles organized into six parts:

  • Part 1: Understanding the Bible
  • Part 2: Human Beginnings
  • Part 3: The Narrative of Israel
  • Part 4: Prophecy and Controversy
  • Part 5: The Lord’s First Coming
  • Part 6: The Lord’s Second Coming

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 Books and Literature, The Bible Re-Viewed

Cast Adrift, by T. S. Arthur

And now for something completely different!

Here is a potboiler of a novel written by T. S. Arthur and first published in 1872.

Cast Adrift was T.S. Arthur’s most fervent cry against the moral, social, and physical degradation in which many children and adults lived in the cities of nineteenth century America. Though it is cast in the form of a novel, it presents a catalog of societal evils. Its intent was to rouse comfortable middle and upper class Americans to action in righting the human wrongs that existed right in their midst.

This edition is based on fresh scans of the 1872 first edition of Cast Adrift. It has been carefully edited to faithfully follow the original text, and re-typeset to convey the flavor of the original. Unlike other available reprints, it also reproduces the original illustrations.

For more on Cast Adrift and T.S. Arthur, click here to read on.

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Posted in Books and Literature

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
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