Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Did Jesus Die to Appease an Angry God? Is Vicarious Atonement True or False?


The revelations of the New Church expose quite a few foundational errors that are taught in modern Christianity. Most people are not willing to question what they have been taught and accept it blindly, thus when an alternative understanding is given they are most likely to label it as a cult. Unfortunately, the opposite is true: many Christian Churches have become so corrupt they do not know what is true or false any more. Many are tritheistic and believe that Jesus died to appease an angry God, and Protestants keep repeating the false teaching that belief alone saves, and it does not matter what you do. The utter blindness of church theologians and pundits is shown by how far they can box in their mind by their teachings. For example, the website gotquestions.org has this to say to the question, What is Swedenborgianism? It says "is well outside of orthodox Christianity in its beliefs and can definitely be labeled as a cult."  I already addressed the "cult" issue in Was Swedenborg a Cult Leader, and is the New Church a cult? So what issues does gotquestions have?  Here they are, with some typical blather:
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.
None of these teachings are compatible with biblical Christianity. The God of the Bible is the only true God (Exodus 3:13-14;Isaiah 43:10). All other gods are idols; creations of man (Exodus 20:4-5). The Holy Spirit is definitely declared to be God in the Bible (Acts 5:3-4), as is Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14) and God the Father (Philippians 1:2); the Trinity is a valid, biblical reality. The Bible is also very clear on Jesus' vicarious atonement of our sin (1 Peter 2:24;1 John 2:2), and that it is only through belief in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that salvation is possible (John 14:6;1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The after-life will be experienced in one of two places—heaven or hell—and that in a physical body (Revelation 22).
Swedenborgianism, and its churches by whatever name they might be called, are as far outside historical, biblical Christianity as a group can get. Although they might claim to base their teachings on the Bible, every teaching is tainted by heresy, confusion, and sometimes lunacy.
I am going to just skip the statement that heaven and hell will be experienced in a physical body - which Revelation 22 does NOT teach. So besides that, lets remove some typical blatant falsehoods in the above paragraph:

God has many names, depending on the beliefs/religion of the individual

This is probably got to be the most irrelevant accusation I have heard of and shows quite a bit of intolerance for other religions - as well as just plain ignorance.  Of course God has many names - even in the Bible it states by the time of Moses, they FORGOT God's name! Instead of calling him Jehovah they called him Shaddai. That does not mean they were worshiping an idol.

the Holy Spirit is not God; the Trinity does not exist

The problem with many former churches is they have no conception of God except for a tritheistic one. They have to have three beings or three persons. The Holy Spirit is simply God's spirit which flows from the body of Jesus, pure and simple. A spirit of a person is not another person. There does exist a Trinity, but it is a Trinity of soul, body and spirit in ONE PERSON, Jesus Christ. What has happened to modern Christianity actually happened long ago in ancient times, when each aspect of God was taken to be a different person - thus the origin of idolatry.

the Trinity is a valid, biblical reality

No, a trinity of three persons is only a reality that was defined in the Nicene Creed by a church council in the 4th century A.D.; later more explicitly by the Athanasian Creed of the 5th century A.D. This tritheism is completely foreign to the Bible, and has no support especially from the Old Testament. There is no statement in the New Testament that declares God is three beings or persons.

salvation comes by practicing what you believe, whatever religion it might be

Protestants churches especially have a problem with any plan of salvation outside of belief alone. The truth of the matter is God is good itself, and everyone will be judged according to the good that they did according to the truth that they knew. And in heaven, everyone will have the opportunity to learn more. Those who did good can learn better than those who were in just belief alone - in fact, those who were in belief alone were cast to hell in Matthew 25. For it is the will that survives after death more so than one's beliefs that one did not act upon. If you know the truth and do not follow it, you are much worse off than those who are in good and in no knowledge through no fault of their own. And what did Jesus say about other religions? He said this:
Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side." (Mark 9:38-40)
With that out of the way, I want to concentrate on one particular point mentioned in the above paragraph: and that concerns vicarious atonement...

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS VICARIOUS ATONEMENT?

The term "vicarious atonement" is the prevailing theory of salvation in Protestant and Catholic churches, and means that somehow sins are transferred away from us and put on Jesus on the cross. While it is a foundational belief for Protestant and Catholic churches, it is not for the older Orthodox Church - see The Older Forgotten Branch of Christianity. The New Church follows a similar doctrine to the ancient Orthodox Church - that Jesus came to overcome the power of hell and sin over humanity, thereby saving all mankind. But as theologians have written endless books on this doctrine - which became widespread only in the 11th century A.D. - they are opposed to this doctrine of the New Church and will tend to label it as a cult. But the Orthodox Church does not follow it either. Does that mean the ancient Christian church was a cult? No, of course not. This label comes from the person's own mindset of what they have been taught as the truth - anything outside of the "box of truth" is declared to be a heresy. They find it inconceivable that the church they were born in might in itself be corrupt. Most people think the religion they were born in is the "absolute truth", and never question what they have been taught.

In support of vicarious atonement, the author of gotquestions.org had actually mentioned some scripture to support it, and this bears further discussion. The relevant scripture are those that mention the word translated as "propitiation."  The word propitiation appears four times in the epistles of the apostles:
being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed (Rom. 3:24-25)
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17)
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
So do the above quotes prove that vicarious atonement is correct? Well no, because they do not say how propitiation was effected. The word "propitiation" is a Latin word meaning to appease a god, often by sacrifice. But what is the original word translated as propitiation? It is a translation of the Greek word hilasterion (or hilasmos in 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10). But does this Greek word have the same meaning as the Latin word propitiation? Actually there is strong evidence that it does not in these contexts. The same Greek word is used to refer to the mercy-seat cover of the ark of the covenant in Hebrews 9:5, and this follows the Septuagint which uses the word hilasterion for the Hebrew word meaning covering, often translated as "atonement."  Thus hilasterion does not necessarily mean "propitiate," but can also have the meaning of "expiation" - which is just another Latin theological word meaning to remove sin. And this definition is supported by the Septuagint, which was often quoted by the apostles. I found this interesting entry on "propitiation" in Wikipedia:
The case for translating hilasterion as "expiation" instead of "propitiation" was put forward by C. H. Dodd in 1935 and at first gained wide support. As a result, hilasterion has been translated as "expiation" in the RSV and other modern versions. Dodd argued that in pagan Greek the translation of hilasterion was indeed to propitiate, but that in the Septuagint (the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) that kapporeth (Hebrew for "atone") is often translated with words that mean "to cleanse or remove" (Dodd, "The Bible and the Greeks", p 93). This view was challenged by Leon Morris who argued that because of the focus in the book of Romans on God's wrath, that the concept of hilasterion needed to include the appeasement of God's wrath (Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, p 155). Dodd's study is also criticized by David Hill in his detailed semantic study of hilasterion, in the book Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soteriological Terms. Hill claims that Dodd leaves out several Septuagint references to propitiation, and also cites apocryphal sources.
So which is correct? The Greek word actually has both meanings of propitiate (to appease an angry God) and expiate (to remove sin). In his own writings Swedenborg did not make the distinction between these two words, but with the word definitions we are using the correct definition is expiation (remove of sin), and the Bible translations which translate it that way are correct. Why is this? Not only from the Septuagint, but also from the following principles:
1. God is Love itself, and does not get angry. He only appears angry to those who are in sin.
2. If God does not get angry, he does not need to be appeased.
3. Moreover, there is no such thing as a trinity of three persons here. There is only one person, Jehovah, and Jesus is Jehovah incarnate.
4. As there is only one being or one person here, who is a Supreme Being of love, the whole idea of appeasing an angry God falls apart. Who is being appeased? No one. Because God himself became incarnate to save humanity out of love, not to appease another angry god.
The truth of the matter? Vicarious atonement is a concept born out of the idea of three gods. Because when you have three persons, a false theology has to be invented to give each person a different role to play.  The idea of propitiation is not only false, but it leads to a logical contradiction in theology: is God a God of love, or of anger? I will again quote from Wikipedia:
Thus the definition of Christian propitiation asserted by Calvin, Packer and Murray holds that within God there is a dichotomy of love and anger, but through propitiation love trumps anger, abolishing it. "'The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath... (John Murray, The Atonement, p.15)
Does it make any sense? No it does not. It is illogical, and irrational. It only makes sense if one is tritheistic in one's concept of God. So who is promoting lunacy? Who is promoting moral apathy? Is it any wonder that people in church behave one way in church, and live a completely different life outside of it?

HOW ARE SINS REMOVED? BY REPENTANCE ONLY

Those theological pundits who would have you believe in vicarious atonement, would have you believe that by a mere lip confession of belief that all your sins are removed and transferred to Jesus on the cross. But this it not only false, it is illogical and irrational. It is not applicable to real life. Just from the fact no one can explain it should tell you it is a false concept. So how are sins removed? Through repentance:
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:4)And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3)and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47)
Removal of sin by repentance did not change. So what changed? With the coming of Jesus, his spirit can now dwell in us and remove the evil influences encouraging us to sin. But that happens only inasmuch as we repent. So that is how Jesus removes sin - by interacting with us when we repent, for he first had to do this before he can do it for us:
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:17-19)
It is the Divine truth - symbolized by the blood of Jesus - which cleanses us from sin, for when we acknowledge falsehood and sin to turn away from it, we acknowledge it by the truth. This puts us in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. The way salvation was effected was not through some "mysterious transfer" of sin, but by Jehovah becoming incarnate in human form and fighting against hell directly, by resisting all sin and temptation in the body he inherited from Mary. As he fought in his human against sin, so he fights for us when we repent. By becoming incarnate, Jehovah in His human launched a direct attack against hell - thus the gospels relate how Jesus kept on casting out demons - the evil influences that encourage one to sin. And this is what the Orthodox Church teaches. So the New Church is not a cult, it is literally "Orthodox." So if that's the case, who is teaching falsehoods to the masses? Does God get angry? NO:

For God so loved the world... (John 3:16)


And for those who continue to teach vicarious atonement, and a trinity of three persons, it remind me of this:



Monday, April 14, 2014

The Spiritual Meaning of Palm Sunday

As Passover approaches, I noticed an increased interest in the post The Spiritual Meaning of Passover.  A "spiritual Passover" takes place whenever one decides to remove a sinful behavior in one's life. Removal of evil is the first step on any spiritual path, and deliverance from hell. For anyone enslaved to a sinful behavior - which is symbolized by the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt - one's will is enslaved by evil spirits. For we are not truly individual beings - all of our thoughts originate from the spiritual world, and it is our choice whether we follow the heavenly world or the one from hell. This is the true origin of human free will.

As I already discussed the symbolism of the Passover ritual, what is the spiritual meaning of Palm Sunday which preceded Passover? Palm Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem:
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: " Hosanna! ' Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' The King of Israel!"
Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
"Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey's colt."
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:12-16)
Some skeptics may just say that Jesus did this as he was well versed in scripture. However the prophecy of Zechariah is more remarkable from the statement that comes right after it:
He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth (Zech. 9:10)
The Jews of course expected a literal king to restore the kingdom of Israel, not realizing that his kingdom was spiritual - his kingdom on earth is the church. And the Christian Church honoring Jesus certainly spans from sea to sea and is found in every corner of the earth. Who could have predicted that?

Most who read this passage state that the reason why Jesus rode in on a donkey into Jerusalem was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, and will get no further than that. If we ask questions like, WHY a donkey? And WHY honored with palm branches? No one will answer. Because hidden behind these literal historical events, and the prophecies predicting them, is a hidden spiritual symbolism. It is only when one understands the spiritual symbolism can this be applicable to everyday life.

THE SYMBOLISM OF A DONKEY


Every person, object or animal has a spiritual symbolism, signifying something about the inner psychology of the soul. There is a correspondence between every material thing with a more eternal, abstract spiritual idea. A donkey is mentioned along with an ox in the tenth commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
nor his male servant, nor his female servant,
nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's. (Ex. 20:14)
The tenth and final commandment speaks concerning desire for material things - thus it is mentioned last, for the desire of material things is furthest from following God (the first commandment). In a more general sense, the tenth commandment speaks against the love of self and the world, which opposes everything in the 10 commandments. But note the pattern in the commandment: first house and wife, then male and female servant, then ox and donkey. So why such word order? Again, even the order of the words has a spiritual meaning. Things will either relate to that of the will or doing good, or it will relate to that of the thought or knowing the truth:
By house is meant all good in general, by wife all truth in general, by manservant affection for spiritual truth, by maidservant affection for spiritual good, by ox affection for natural good, and by ass affection for natural truth. These are the things which are not to be coveted, that is, which are not to be taken away from any one, and which are not to be harmed. That these things are meant in the internal sense, is because the Word in that sense is for those who are in heaven, inasmuch as those who are in heaven do not perceive the Word naturally, but spiritually, thus not house, nor wife, nor manservant, nor maidservant, nor ox, nor ass, but the spiritual things that correspond to them, which are the goods of love and the truths of faith. In a word, the external sense or the sense of the letter is for those who are in the world, but the internal sense for those who are in heaven, and also for those who are in the world so far as they are at the same time in heaven, that is, so far as they are in charity and faith. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8912).
To explain this symbolism further would entail yet further word studies on house, wife, servant, ox, and so on, which Swedenborg amply explains in Heavenly Arcana. The word order show degrees of order from highest to lowest: good and truth itself; then the spiritual affection for good and truth which are servants as these affections serve what is good and true; then finally, the natural affection for what is good and true. The natural affection is lower than the spiritual affection, and the spiritual affection is lower than that of love and truth itself. For example, everyone has a natural desire for friendship. Within this natural desire, there is hidden a spiritual affection for what is good and true inside people. Hidden within this spiritual affection, is the love of God himself, who is the origin of good and truth. The house and the wife can be said to be in the most internal sense God's dwelling in heaven and the church, for the church is the bride which teaches people the truth. Materialism, and capitalism which promotes it, destroys these spiritual affections.

The ox and the donkey are animals which represent the lowest natural desires of any person. Animals, in general, represent affections, as opposed to plants which in general represent truth. So why should it be declared that the Messiah should ride on a donkey when entering the city of Jerusalem?  The reason is: to enter the church (Jerusalem), one must subordinate one's natural desires to the Divine truth (the King on the donkey).
To ride upon an ass was a sign that the natural was made subordinate, and to ride upon a colt the son of a she-ass was a sign that the rational was made subordinate. That the son of a she-ass signified the same as a mule, has been shown above (at the passage from Gen. xlix. 11). From this their signification, and because it belonged to the highest judge and to a king to ride upon them, and at the same time that the representatives of the church might be fulfilled, it pleased the Lord to do this (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2781.8).
And this is the reason why in the Old Testament there are so many laws given concerning one's ox and donkey:
Since by an ox and an ass the natural man as to good and truth is signified, many laws were therefore given in which oxen and asses are mentioned, which laws at first sight do not appear to be worthy of mention in the Divine Word; but when unfolded as to their internal sense, the spiritual meaning in them appears to be of great moment (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2781.10).
THE SYMBOLISM OF PALM TREES

So what of the palm trees, what do those signify? Palm trees were used in rituals from ancient times. It was one of the trees to be used in the Jewish feast of tabernacles:
Ye shall take for you in the first day the fruit of a tree of honor, spathes of palm-trees, and a branch of a dense tree, and willows of the torrent; and ye shall be glad before Jehovah your God seven days (Lev. 23:40)
Moreover, it is said that King Solomon carved angelic cherubs, palm trees and flowers for decorating the temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:29, 32). And palm trees were used also in Ezekiel's new temple (see Ez. 41). But that is not all, this symbol is very ancient. Here is a carving of angelic beings taking fruit from a palm tree from ancient Assyria:

Here is another example from ancient Assyria:

There are many more depictions of the sacred palm tree, which can be drawn from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. There was once a shared symbolism across the Middle East, and this was from a more ancient revelation that had preceded Abraham and Judaism. Some of these symbols, such as the palm tree, survived in Biblical scripture. But it is so ancient that all of these meanings have been lost. What does the palm tree signify? Why would it always be portrayed in the temple? Here is what Swedenborg had to say:
[the signification of "palm-trees" as being the goods of the spiritual church, which are the goods of truth; and because by "palm-trees" are signified goods, by them is also signified the affection of good, and the consequent delight, for all delight is from the affection of good. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8369)
And there is another interesting comment on the passage from Leviticus:
Ye shall take for you in the first day the fruit of a tree of honor, spathes of palm-trees, and a branch of a dense tree, and willows of the torrent; and ye shall be glad before Jehovah your God seven days (Lev. 23:40); by "the fruit of a tree of honor," is signified celestial good; by "palm-trees," spiritual good, or the good of truth; by "a branch of a dense tree," the truth of memory-knowledge; and by "willows of the torrent," the lowest truths of the natural; thus by these four are signified all goods and truths in their order. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8369)
So its beginning to make sense: first comes the subordination of the natural man, our lowest self, and bringing our selfish desires under control. Our lowest self is signified by the donkey. A spiritual affection for the truth is signified by the palm trees: this is the second step after purification or repentance from sin. And the third step? God's spirit begins to dwell within us: this is signified by Jesus riding on the donkey as he enters Jerusalem. This is something that I had described in The Three Steps of Spiritual Development. The three steps are:

  1. Repentance from one's particular sins, turning away from them. This is the purification stage (represented by Passover).
  2. Living by the truths that are learned (represented by Pentecost).
  3. Acting out of love: love comes first instead of truth (represented by the feast of Tabernacles).
So the first act for any spiritual path is to bring the natural person under control - that is controlling one's desires, and fighting against them. If we are not willing to acknowledge a sin as a sin, and just ignore it, we are stuck outside the door. But repentance brings us into the door of the spiritual temple. Thus Jesus rides on a donkey when he enters Jerusalem. What does he do next? In the synoptic gospels, he cleanses out the temple of money changers. This is what happens to us when we cleanse our inner selves of material desires.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Hidden Christian Truth of Islam and Muhammed

Was Muhammed a prophet?  Many Christian churches say no, and consider Islam as something evil. This is because most people believe the religion they were born in is the "absolute truth", and every other religion is a false heresy. The reality is that throughout history God's revelations concerning Himself have been progressive, where the complete truth was not revealed, and adaptive, where the truth is adapted to the culture receiving it. Rather than regard Islam as something evil, the New Church view of Islam regards it as a necessary good, but with caveats. In his writings Emanuel Swedenborg revealed that Islam arose due to Divine Providence as a means to wipe out idolatry, and returning people to a monotheistic concept of God. However the revelation was not intended to be complete, as it was adapted for eastern cultures where polygamy was an accepted practice. Thus Islam is not a complete and final revelation, but rather a lower revelation:
That it may be fully known that that religion was raised up from the Lord's Divine Providence, to destroy the idolatries of many nations, it shall be told in some order. ...For the extirpating these idolatries, it was brought about from the Lord's Divine Providence, that a new religion accommodated to the genius of the people of the East should auspiciously begin; in which there should be something from the Word of both Testaments, and which should teach that the Lord came into the world, and that He was a very great prophet, the wisest of all, the Son of God. This was done through Mohammed, from whom that religion was named. It is manifest from this that that religion was raised up, from the Lord's Divine Providence, and accommodated to the genius of the people of the East, as already said, to the end that it might blot out the idolatries of so many nations, and give them some knowledge of the Lord before they should come into the spiritual world, which they do after death. And this religion would not have been received by so many kingdoms, and had such power to extirpate idolatries, if it had not been conformed to the ideas of their thoughts, and especially if polygamy had not been permitted, because the Orientals without that permission would have burned for filthy adulteries more than Europeans, and would have perished (True Christian Religion, n. 833)
The principle division between Christianity and Islam concerns the Trinity:
Mohammedans are hostile to Christians chiefly on account of the belief in three Divine Persons, and the consequent worship of three Gods, so many Creators; and to the Roman Catholics, still further, on account of their kneeling before images. Therefore they call these latter idolaters, and the others fanatics, saying that they make a three-headed God, also that they say one and mutter three (True Christian Religion, n. 831).
Although Swedenborg does not discuss this at length, this was the other purpose of Islam: to fight against the idea that God is a trinity of three persons who are somehow one. In this matter, the New Church and Islam are in perfect agreement, for in the New Church the trinity of three persons is known to be a great falsehood that corrupted much of the Christian church. It began with the Nicene Creed of the fourth century A.D., which invented a "Son of God born from eternity," whereas in the original apostolic church the Son of God was simply Jesus born in time to the virgin Mary. Endless disputes then arose as to the nature of the human body of Jesus. This was then settled in the 5th century A.D. by the Council of Chalcedon, which divided Jesus into a human nature and a Divine nature.

The original Christians of the Middle East opposed the Council of Chalcedon to the last, and were labeled as heretics and given the name "Monophysite" as they held to the original doctrine where Jesus had one nature, the Divine. The Monophysites were then persecuted by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. At this exact moment in history Islam arises under Muhammed. In that time, any idea that popped up within the Christian Church which declared God to be one person in Jesus Christ would automatically be declared as a heresy. So the purpose of Islam is twofold: not only to wipe out idolatry, but to fight against the false idea of a trinity of three persons.

The revelation of Islam is a lower revelation, or an incomplete revelation, from the fact that Muslims are not allowed to know the true identity of Jesus Christ. In higher spirituality, polygamy is not allowed and one should only have a monogamous relationship. In the same manner, in ancient Judaism polygamy was allowed and thus they were not given higher spiritual truths. In Christianity only monogamy is allowed, for the marriage of one man with one woman symbolically represents the marriage between Jesus and his church. The other reason why Muslims are only allowed to know Jesus as just a prophet, is it makes Islam more effective in fighting against a trinity of three persons which is ingrained in the false theology of modern Christian Churches.

IS THE QURAN (OR KORAN) DIVINELY INSPIRED?

We now come to the question: was the Quran Divinely Inspired? When it comes to the Divine Inspiration of the Bible, the writings of Swedenborg are very clear on this point: certain books of the Bible are "Divinely Inspired" by virtue of a symbolic correspondence that is hidden behind its literal sense of scripture, and word by word Swedenborg provides the proof for this. Explicit doctrinal writings, with no symbolism, do not have this correspondence and are not Divinely Inspired. Writings that fall into this category are the epistles of Paul and the apostles, plus the majority of the latter section of the Jewish Old Testament. These writings are historical or doctrinal in nature. Nevertheless, Swedenborg says the epistles were "Divinely influenced" - that is, Divine Providence guided the apostles on what to write in matters of doctrine for the public. If anything, on reading the contents of the Quran, one's first impression is that the contents of the Quran was Divinely influenced to guide people in matters of doctrine.

Opposed to this view of the Quran are literary critics, who will be quick to point out that the original Arabic in the Quran contains many grammatical errors and disjointed sentences. If English translations appear poor, it is because the original Arabic is often written that way. The Quran does contain some obvious historical errors and anachronisms. As Muhammed was illiterate, it is easy to see how these errors could have crept in. From a New Church point of view, an error in the literal sense of a text does not automatically mean the text is not Divinely Inspired. A so-called "error" in the literal sense may actually have a spiritual meaning behind it.

When looking at Swedenborg's statements of the Quran, he never exactly answers the question if its Divinely Inspired or not, but just merely says that "Muhammed wrote the Quran" (technically, orally transmitted until standardized in written form 20 years after his death). The mere statement from Swedenborg that "Muhammed wrote the Quran" implies it is just a Divinely influenced writing similar to the writings of the apostle Paul, but not Divinely Inspired in the same manner as true scripture. So the issue would seem settled, except for one statement concerning Islam that Swedenborg was shown in his visions but he never published it. It is a curious statement, found in his work Last Judgment Posthumous, in which he discussed his encounters with Muslim societies in the spiritual world. Swedenborg wrote this:
It was told me that there is a book among the Mohammedans which is common in their hands, in which some pages were written by correspondences, like the Word with us; from which pages there is some light in the heavens (Last Judgment Posthumous, n. 99).
What in the world is this book? This is the only information we are given. The information is probably valid - see The Confirmed Clairvoyance of Emanuel Swedenborg. Could it be a portion of the Quran? To be "written by correspondences" means it was written in a symbolic fashion, where each word has hidden behind it a spiritual meaning. So it is not likely the Quran, and if it were, he would have been told that. More likely it is some other book - "common in their hands" - known to them, but having no idea about the true spiritual value of the writing. So what could this be referring to? Other than the Quran, here are some of the more popular Islamic writings in the Muslim world (by no means complete):
  1. The Masnavi, by Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi). The Masnavi is a "a six-volume poem regarded by some Sufis as the Persian-language Quran. It is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry. It contains approximately 27000 lines of Persian poetry." In recent times Rumi has become popular in the west.
  2. The Conference of the Birds, by Farid ud-Din Attar, the mentor of Rumi. It is "is a tale of a journey of a group of thirty birds to the summit of the world mountain, Qaf. An allegory of the Sufi journey to realization of the nature of God, each bird has a particular signficance, a special fault, and a tale to tell."
  3. The poems of Hafez, a Persian poet. "His collected works composed of series of Persian literature are to be found in the homes of most people in Iran who learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day. His life and poems have been the subject of much analysis, commentary and interpretation, influencing post-fourteenth century Persian writing more than any other author."
Rumi's works are extensive, but Attar's poem is highly symbolic representing the union of the human with the Divine. The poems of Hafez are not only kept as a book in Iran, but they are also used in Iran in a form of divination known as "Bibliomancy" - a random page will be opened and it will be considered that passage relays some point regarding the future. Some of this poetry is similar to the Song of Solomon.

So which work does Swedenborg possibly refer to as containing some Divine inspiration in it? In the tradition of Sufi mysticism, I am not going to tell you. If you have a guess or suggestion drop me a comment.

STATEMENTS ON THE BIBLE BY THE QURAN

One problem in any dialogue with Muslims, is that they are taught from childhood that the Bible has been corrupted over time. This is repeated over and over to them so that they do not read it, and even if they do, they regard it with skepticism. Not only is this teaching false and not supported by Biblical manuscript evidence, but this teaching goes against the very Quran itself. For example, oddly enough, the Quran states that the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, but perhaps referring to the Old Testament in general) and the Gospels are Divinely Inspired:
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (Sura 3:1-3)
And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. (Sura 5:46)
If only they had stood fast by the Law, the gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. (Sura 5:66)
Say: "O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. (Sura 5:68)
The above quotes are from Yusef Ali. There is another modern translation by Abad, who adds to the above verses "what remains" of the law and gospel. The words "what remains" are added because these statements are a bit problematic to the teaching that the Bible was corrupted. The Quran speaks of corruption of the former revelation, but this does not mean the manuscripts themselves were not preserved. The manner in which scripture is distorted is through the teachings of the Jews and the Catholic Church, where certain passages of scripture are just simply ignored or distorted. But that the Bible itself was preserved and not corrupted is explicitly stated by the Quran itself:
Say: "Shall I seek for judge other than Allah. - when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail." They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it hath been sent down from thy Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt. The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all (Sura 6:114-115).
And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him. (Sura 18:27).
There is no doubt in the New Church, and among Muslims, that the former Christian revelation was distorted. But unlike Islam, in the visions of Swedenborg he was shown that the Bible was preserved and the scripture remains intact, and has not been distorted in the text which is what most Muslims have been taught. Another interesting comparison between the New Church and Islam is that of the New Testament, the Quran only mentions the Gospels. This is quite significant, for it was shown in the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg that among the books of the New Testament, only the four Gospels and the book of Revelation are Divinely Inspired. The writings of Paul were added later, slightly changing the original gospel of Jesus in that Paul emphasizes faith over that of works, which ultimately got further distorted by Protestant theology. So in this sense, the other statements of the Quran which talk about the distortion of scripture are stating the truth.

STATEMENTS ON THE TRINITY BY THE QURAN

The statements by the Quran against the doctrine of a trinity of three persons held by modern Christian churches are correct and true, and this is one of the main reasons why Islam was brought about. The falsification and corruption of Christianity begins with the formulation of the Nicene Creed, which declared that the "Son of God" was "born from eternity" - which is utterly false. The Son of God is Jesus, born in time to the virgin Mary. This is what the original apostolic Church taught, and it is what is taught in the New Church and perhaps Pentecostal Churches as well. In Islam, the trinity of three persons is regarded as blasphemy:
They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:73).
In the Bible in the book of Daniel and Revelation, there are prophecies which speak of a "false prophet" that arises and "utters blasphemy" against the Most High. Both speak of the "abomination of desolation." This has puzzled many Christian Churches, some falsely assuming this speaks of the desecration of a future Jewish temple. If one examines the time periods of Biblical prophecy, the abomination of desolation speaks of the desolation of truth in the Christian Church, which begins when the church made a trinity of three persons "orthodox" and any varying opinion as "heresy."

In the New Church, based on revelations received by Emanuel Swedenborg, the Trinity is not that of three persons or beings, but rather the unknowable Divine itself, the Divine in the human, and the Divine proceeding or the Holy Spirit. This emanation of the Divine became manifest in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, for in each human being there is a trinity of soul, body and spirit which makes one person. And surprisingly, this view of the trinity is supported by the Quran, although unknown to most Muslims:
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not "trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (Sura 4:171)
Note the statement well: Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (1) an apostle of Allah, and (2) His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and (3) a spirit proceeding from Him. The phrase "no more than" is added by the translator. You have a hidden trinity within the person of Jesus Christ, which is exactly what was revealed in visions to Emanuel Swedenborg! For the Father - whom Muslims call Allah - resided in Jesus as the soul does the body. In the Christian revelation, Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. And after he was glorified and rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit proceeding from his body became available to all men.

STATEMENTS CONCERNING JESUS BY THE QURAN

Most Muslims regard Jesus as just a prophet. That he was a prophet is true, but not the complete truth. Even in his day Jesus was regarded as just a prophet, for he kept his identity secret. But there are some interesting statements regarding Jesus in the Quran. In this first statement, the word "raise" can mean raised to heaven, or in fact raised from the dead:
Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute. (Sura 3:55)
In the Gospels, Jesus was crucified for blasphemy, for he made himself equal with God. So how could Jesus be cleared of blasphemy? If what he was saying was true. If Jesus rose from the dead, then the other statement of the Quran that says he was not killed by crucifixion is essentially true - he died, but rose from the dead. And now we have this odd statement:
They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah. there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him). (Sura 9:31)
Note, the words "they take as their Lord" is added by the translator. This verse essentially says:
in derogation of Allah and Christ the son of Mary
In this statement, the Quran has no problem with worshiping Jesus Christ as Lord. This is from Yusef Ali, here is another translation by Pickthal:
They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God. There is no god save Him. Be He glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)! (Sura 9:31)
The debate on this one will probably never be settled, considering the odd grammar in the original Arabic of the Quran. Is it possible there is a hidden truth of Christianity in the very Quran itself? Notice this statement, which compares Jesus to the first man Adam:
The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be". And he was. (Sura 3:59)
Even the apostle Paul compares Jesus Christ to Adam:
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)
So what is the point here? Those who know the Quran know my point. In the second Sura of the Quran, Allah commands all angels to bow down and worship Adam:
And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. (Sura 2:34)
Iblis here is Satan who refuses to bow down and worship Adam. Commanding angels to bow down before a created human being in the Quran? That is certainly contrary to its principles of worshiping any human being. The Quran commands that one should bow down before God only:
Those who are near to thy Lord, disdain not to do Him worship: They celebrate His praises, and bow down before Him. (Sura 7:206)
But what if this story concerning Adam in the Quran a symbolic parable? A parable that one should bow down before the new Adam, Jesus Christ, in whom dwells the Divine itself? For in the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg, he was shown that when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he had eliminated the human created element he had inherited from Mary, and had been glorified in a Divine human body. So in essence, by worshiping Jesus Christ, whose body was made Divine in the resurrection, Christians do not worship something created, but the Creator, who has chosen to reveal Himself in human form. It explains why Jesus did not reveal his identity until then: up until that time they knew him as a prophet, who had been executed for committing blasphemy. But after that Jesus then said "all power on heaven and earth has been given to me." Not as another person, but now his human form had become united to his Divine. Thus the Quran confirms, in the form of a parable, the following statement of Paul:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)