Friday, February 22, 2013

The Prophecy of Pauline Christianity

WHAT IS PAULINE CHRISTIANITY?

One important point I have seen in the scholarship of Biblical criticism, and in studies of the Christian religion, is that certain scholars - who tend to come from outside the church - talk about the theory of "Pauline Christianity."  This line of thought appeared in the 20th century, and it talks about how the gospel as preached by Paul was perhaps different then the gospel preached by Jesus and the original apostles. Which I found to be a very interesting line of thought. This is naturally opposed by Christian theologians, and they have their point too. Practically all of Christian theology is devoted to a study of the letters of Paul, who never knew Jesus in person, and never directly quoted a saying of Jesus. So are the scholars of Pauline Christianity right? It is not a simple yes or no answer, and its debatable.

When we come to the revelations given to Swedenborg, he was shown in vision that the letters of Paul are not Divinely inspired in the same way as the four Gospels and the book of Revelation are. Direct Divine inspiration is symbolic in nature, where each word, sentence -- sometimes even the very letters themselves -- have a spiritual meaning. Not so with the letters of Paul. The letters of Paul were included to provide explicit and simple doctrines for the Church. Did Paul preach a different gospel? Not exactly. What Swedenborg stated was that the Protestant interpretation of Paul's words, where one is justified by faith without works of the law, is a distortion of the original gospel. Paul himself never intended to mean that the works of charity are nothing, what he meant was that it was no longer necessary to follow the Mosaic rituals intended for the Jews. For those Mosaic rituals and ordinances were intended to be representative symbols of the future spiritual Church. So its not Paul who changed the original gospel: the Protestants who interpreted Paul in a certain way were the ones who did. And that is why the scholars of "Pauline Christianity" have a point in their line of thought.

PAULINE CHRISTIANITY AND "BLOOD ATONEMENT"

However, to counter what I just said, there is another point to speak about. Paul, in his letters, was not exactly specific at times by what he meant by the word "law". As Swedenborg pointed out, the word "law" can refer to all of scripture, or to the first five books of Moses, or to the ordinances of the Mosaic law, or to the law of the 10 commandments. And because Paul was not specific in his terminology, there was confusion in his day where there were those within the Church who opposed him. On a careful reading of Paul, he is always defending himself against "slanderers." After Jesus died and rose from the dead, the leadership of the early Christian Church passed on to James the Great, the half-brother of Jesus. James was well known in his time, but this aspect of Christian history has been somewhat suppressed by the Catholic Church who maintain the perpetual virginity of Mary. The epistle of James was written by him, and anyone who reads it can see he is speaking against a certain (now Protestant) interpretation of the teachings of Paul. And, on careful reading of Paul, there were some things that even Paul did not understand, when he speaks of the "foolishness" of the gospel to those who reject it. How is it foolish? It is apparent that many, including Paul, did not understand the symbolism of the "blood of Jesus" in communion. When one carefully examines the symbolism of scripture, one can understand that one of the meanings of "blood" is that it refers to the Divine Truth: it is Divine truth which washes one clean from sin, for one must see the truth that something is a sin in order to remove it. In the case of Jesus, His blood is the Divine Truth which flowed forth from his glorified body: the blood flowing from the cross in itself is a symbolic representation. What do most Christians understand? They interpret it literally, as the blood which flowed from the crucifixion. Thus most Christian theologians follow the idea of "blood atonement" - where sins automatically transfer from someone who is evil to someone who is good, to satisfy a "wrathful" God. Whether or not Paul thought the same thing is again debatable, but it is apparent that he understood that Jesus fulfilled many of the Biblical prophecies, and by His blood ended the era of animal sacrifices, which was a "type" of things to come.

I tend to follow a simple rule: if it does not make rational sense, it is probably not true. And the theological interpretations of "blood atonement", my friend, make no sense whatsoever. There is no way to logically defend that position. One has to resort to the all too common "mystery of faith" to defend an indefensible position. The Orthodox speak of how Jesus redeemed all of humanity by redeeming His own human, and that is the truth: for by doing this, the Lord can enter in all of humanity via His spirit (the Holy Spirit), to help us resist sin and temptation. I had reached this conclusion independently, before I even encountered the writings of Swedenborg. When I saw the revelations given to Swedenborg, it was a Godsend, my jaw just dropped when I read some of the insights into Christian theology. The view of Swedenborg expressed an ancient Orthodox view of how Jesus saved humanity. And it makes perfect sense.

The main doctrine of the atonement - the satisfaction theory - predates the Protestants, and can be traced to one St. Anselm of the 11th century A.D.  So its not just a problem in Protestant theology, they inherited this theology from the Catholics. Roman Catholicism is blinded by their theological opinions concerning Mary. For Jesus, when born, inherited an infirm human body from his mother Mary which had sinful tendencies, and it was through that infirm body that He could be tempted to do evil. His soul, being Divine, could in no way commit or succumb to evil. From that sinful nature He inherited in His human from Mary, He could be tempted, until He put off that human body and replaced it with the Divine Human in the resurrection. And that is something hard for Roman Catholics to swallow, as they believe in the immaculate conception of Mary. Those who do not understand, that the natural external body is different from the internal soul that survives death, may have a problem in understanding this as well. But I am digressing.

DIVINE FORESIGHT CONCERNING PAULINE CHRISTIANITY

It is well known, especially among the Protestants, that there was Divine foresight concerning the development of Christianity, that one line of it would degenerate into a priesthood that would appropriate that which belonged to the Divine in Roman Catholicism, and use religion as a means of self-rule and dominion. This is represented by prophecies concerning Babylon. The other line would degenerate into faith alone: this is represented by the Philistines (see the previous blog, The Prophecy of September 11 and America). Which of course is harder to see if you subscribe to the doctrine of faith alone: the doctrines you learn from childhood, and from your religion, can either enlighten you, or they can blind you. Now, as Paul has a strong influence within Christianity, was there Divine foresight concerning that as well? Yes there is, and this one is in plain sight.

Paul's true name was Saul. As Saul, he was a Jewish Pharisee who once intensely persecuted the early Christian Church. He probably would have succeeded in wiping it out, but then he had a waking vision of Jesus who spoke to him, and was struck blind for a few days as a result. He made a complete turn-around: he became the biggest proponent of Christianity among the Gentiles. At some point in time he changed his name from Saul to Paul, perhaps to make a break with his previous life.  In two statements, Paul (Saul) writes that he belongs to the tribe of Benjamin:
For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (Rom. 11:1) 
[I am] of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5)
So why is this significant? Because in the Old Testament, the first king over the Jews was one named Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin. This comes from the book of Samuel. Although it is now classified as a "historical" work, the Jews do not view the historical books in this way. These works are also grouped among the Prophets, as they are prophetic writings:
Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying,
"Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me."
So when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him, "There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people."
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, "Please tell me, where is the seer's house?"
Samuel answered Saul and said, "I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today; and tomorrow I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart.
But as for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not be anxious about them, for they have been found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on you and on all your father's house?"
And Saul answered and said, "Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?"
(1 Sam. 9:15-21)
In scripture, a priest represents an aspect of Divine Love, but a king represents an aspect of Divine Truth. Or in the opposite sense, a king represents falsity which opposes Divine Truth. It is no coincidence that the first king over Israel was Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, and that the earliest proponent of Christianity was also a Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. Originally, the tribes of Israel were ruled by priests. Samuel, who was a judge and priest over Israel, gave the office to his sons, who then began to act unjustly and abuse their office. As a result, the people approached Samuel and asked for a king to rule over them. Samuel, initially upset by this, then hears the following words from God:
And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day --- with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods --- so they are doing to you also.Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them."So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day."Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles."And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD.So the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." (1 Sam. 8:7-22)
As God picked Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to rule over Israel, so he picked Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to be an apostle to the Gentiles:
Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (1 Cor. 9:1-2)
But notice, when the people of Israel, who represent the church, ask for a king to rule over them (Saul), they are in a sense departing from God, who is their true king.  If you look at most of theology, and look at most of the sermons preached in the church, they go to one source: the writings of Paul (Saul) of the tribe of Benjamin. There are several example of this, where a higher spiritual truth is rejected, so God provides a lower truth that the people will follow. Take for example animal sacrifices of the Jews: these rituals were given by permission, because the people expected it from their former religion.  Or the command concerning divorce: Jesus said that commandment was given because of the evilness of their hearts, but originally that kind of law was not even necessary. In a sense, following the writings of Paul (Saul) is following a lower kind of truth, a sort of spiritual enslavement, as Samuel warned the people of Israel.

THE SPIRITUAL ENSLAVEMENT OF FAITH ALONE

In what way are the writings of Paul spiritual enslavement?  And why was this provided?  One is, God foresaw how His truth would be perverted by the church, and there is less profanation of what is holy when one perverts the writings of a man instead of the words of God. One of the biggest perversions or misinterpretations of Paul, is that one is saved by belief alone, without reforming one's life.  And there is warning after warning about this in the visions of Swedenborg:
They who are in faith separate from charity, and have confirmed themselves in it from Paul's saying to the Romans that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Rom. iii. 28), adore this saying like men who adore the sun; and they become like those who fix their eyes steadily on the sun, by which means the sight is so clouded that they cannot see any thing in the midst of light. For they do not see that by the deeds of the law are meant the rituals described by Moses in his books, which are everywhere called the law in them; and that the precepts of the decalogue are not meant. Wherefore lest it should be thought that these are meant, Paul explains, by saying, Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law (verse 31, same chapter). They who from this saying have confirmed themselves in faith separate from charity, from gazing at this passage as at the sun, do not see where Paul enumerates the laws of faith as being the very works of charity; and what is faith without its laws? Nor do they see where he enumerates evil works, and says that they who do them cannot enter into heaven. From which it is manifest what blindness has been induced from this single passage wrongly understood. (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Providence, n. 115).
For what is more universally taught in the Word than to shun evil and to do good? and what is more fully set forth there than that God is to be loved, and the neighbor also? and who does not see that no one can love the neighbor, unless he lives according to the works of the law? and he who does not love the neighbor, does not love God: for in love to the neighbor the Lord conjoins Himself with man, and man conjoins himself with the Lord; that is, the Lord and man are together in that love. And what is it to love the neighbor, but not to do evil to him, according to the precepts of the Decalogue? (Rom. xiii. 8-11.) And as far as a man is not willing to do evil to his neighbor, so far he wills to do him good. It is manifest from these things, that it is blasphemy to exclude the works of this law from salvation, as they do who make faith alone, which is faith separate from good works, solely saving. By blasphemy (Matt. xii. 31, 32; Apoc. xvii. 3; Isa. xxxvii. 6, 7, 23, 24), is meant to deny the Lord's Divine, as the Socinians do, and to deny the Word. For they who thus deny the Divine of the Lord, cannot enter heaven; for the Lord's Divine is the all in all of heaven; and he who denies the Word, denies all things of religion. (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 571).
It is not the apostle Paul who causes the spiritual enslavement, it is the false interpretation of his writings which says belief alone saves, without actions of reformation, repentance, and living according to God's will, which are summarized in the 10 commandments.

SAUL THE KING AMONG PROPHETS, AND SAUL AMONG THE APOSTLES

Saul (Paul), as a strong influence over Christianity, was Divinely foreseen in the historical events of Israel when Saul of the tribe of Benjamin was chosen as the first king of Israel. Initially he was good, but he turned away from God and became evil. At one point the Spirit of God comes upon Saul, and he prophesies among a group of prophets whom he meets on a hill.
So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.
When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Then a man from there answered and said, "But who is their father?" Therefore it became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
(1 Sam. 10:9-12)
Saul, chosen as a king, was an outsider to a group of prophets. Likewise Saul was an outsider to the apostles of the Lord, and yet he was also chosen. Both of them were given a change of heart. Like Saul of old, there was initial disbelief that Saul had converted to Christianity:
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.
And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."
Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."
But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:10-16)
...Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?"
(Acts 9:20-21)
In both cases, there is surprise among the people to see Saul among the prophets, or Saul (Paul) among the apostles of Christianity.

Saul, the king of Israel, is successful in delivering them from the Ammonites. Likewise Saul (Paul) is successful in defending Christianity against its enemies, and finds many converts. But even after the victory of Saul over the Ammonites, Samuel warns the people of Israel that they have committed great wickedness in selecting king Saul to rule over them, and urges them to obey the commandments. As a sign of God's displeasure, he prays and it immediately thunders with a downpour (1 Sam. 12:13-18). And that is what has happened with the writings of Paul (Saul): people have turned it into a religion of belief alone. 

HOW SAUL (= PAUL) GRADUALLY TURNS AWAY FROM THE LORD

There are three things that Saul the king does to turn away from God's commandments, after which he is rejected:
1.  At Gilgal, Saul fails to wait for Samuel the priest to arrive, and instead usurps the office of a priest and makes a sacrifice.  For this sacrilege of the priestly sacrifice Samuel prophesies that the kingdom would be taken away from him. After this, it is stated that the people of Israel had no weapons to fight the Philistines (1 Sam. 13)
2.  Saul makes a rash oath, and says that none of his army should eat any food until they slay all the Philistines. Jonathan his son does not hear of this command, and eats some honey.  Saul rashly condemns his own son to death, but the people refuse to let him kill Jonathan. (1 Sam. 14).
3.  Saul fails to utterly destroy the Amalekites, by sparing the king and the best of the spoil for the people.  For this, Samuel says the kingship will depart from Saul (1 Sam. 15).
These historical events are not just historical events, but prophetic, and signify different spiritual states.  Using the symbolism of scripture as revealed in Heavenly Arcana (Swedenborg's largest work, where he reveals the spiritual sense of scripture) we can abstract ourselves from these historical events and spiritualize them, making it applicable to everyday life:
1.  The first state is where a false truth (Saul the king) is accepted as true worship. This takes place at Gilgal, where the Israelites first entered into the land of Canaan. This state occurs, when one is introduced into new worship. All Christians tend to be introduced to the gospels through the writings of Paul (Saul). When falsity is accepted as truth, the church then has no means to fight against what is false. The falsity here relates to knowledges of faith in the memory, the Philistines, who represent worship of faith alone. Gilgal was where Joshua first circumcised the Israelites, which represents reforming one's life against one's own sins. The Philistines, who are uncircumcised, cannot be fought against as the Israelites have no weapons, which represents truths which fight against what is false. Those who are in faith alone tend not to reform their lives through repentance. This is a spiritual summary of 1 Samuel 13.
2.  Saul commands his army not to eat food, and thus do not have enough energy to defeat the Philistines.  His son Jonathan does not hear of this command, and leads the Israelites to victory. Food represents love. Truth without love is faith without charity. With no charity, or desire to do good, one cannot fight against what is false. Jonathan, like the apostle John, represents good works, and is able to defeat the Philistines. Saul however gets angry with Jonathan for disobeying his order, and orders him killed. This represents how the doctrine of faith alone wants to kill off good works and charity. Although many Protestant ministers command this, they are forced to go back on their false teaching, as they need to allow the church to apply the truth to their life. What theologians think is true in theory, does not work in practice when confronted with the people of the church. This is a spiritual summary of 1 Samuel 14.
3. Saul fails to completely destroy the Amalekites, who represent a falsity which fights against the truth of the church. Saul keeps Agag the king alive, plus all the best of the spoil for the people.  This represents the third state, when falsity is explicitly accepted as truth. Thus Samuel prophesies that the kingdom would be taken away from Saul - which means the church will die due to falsehood from within.  Saul protests, and accidentally tear's Samuel's robe.  To tear a priest's clothing means to distort what is true in order to support a false doctrine. This is a spiritual summary of 1 Samuel 15.
As can be seen from above, the three spiritual states represents a gradual state of decline among those who accept the doctrine of faith alone, based on a false reading of the writings of Paul (Saul).  First, when one enters the church, they are taught only lip confession saves, and they do not see a need to reform one's life, placing worship in lip service.  Second, they vacillate between not doing good works, then doing them.  Third and final, they accept the doctrine of faith alone as saving as their king, and thus the true kingdom of God will be taken away from them: because in this state, they distort the Word itself to support their doctrine.

There is more on Saul - Saul the king and Saul (Paul) the apostle - but this blog is getting too long. Hopefully one can see that the history in scripture is not just history, but contains within it hidden spiritual truths.  All you have to do is open your mind and your heart, and new things will be revealed to you.

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