There are a few religious organizations out there who would have you believe that Swedenborg was the founder of a cult, and that the New Church is a cult. Nothing could be further from the truth. For one, cult leaders are ego-centric, and love to get attention from their followers. Many self-proclaimed "prophets" have not overcome their basic selfish love of the ego. Compare that kind of psychology to Swedenborg: he published his works anonymously, and he never sought to establish any church. For the New Church would be different from any other church that preceded it: it would be established by the Lord Himself.
It is unfortunate, because what was revealed to Swedenborg in his visions is perhaps the greatest revelation ever received in Christianity. Yet few Christians even know of him. He was a well known and respected scientist, had no reason to lie - in fact, he had much to lose by publicizing his visions. He has a few clairvoyant visions, one of which was verified by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
So if you want to look at the opposition, they mostly come from Protestant mind sets. Why is that? Well lets take a look at what they say.
Here is one from The Hall of Church History: the Cultists. It mentions Swedenborg, but does not dive into any details. It says simply this:
All cults have this in common: they deny the biblical doctrine of justification by faith.
So is justification by faith alone a Biblical doctrine? Or did this doctrine appear late in church history, say 16th century A.D.? It appears late, and is not part of the original doctrines of the church. Yet it is a foundation stone for any fundamentalist Protestant. It is based on one verse out of the whole Bible:
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Rom. 3:28)And with that, everything else which states that one must live according to God's commandments is thrown out the window. For it is taken out of context: what Paul was talking about was the external rituals of the Mosaic law. NOT the ten commandments. They ignore that Paul later says everyone will be judged according to their works. But even if they would agree to that, Protestants have a tendency to belief only, for a man cannot will to do good from himself. Each person is a "passive" subject. However a true faith is active, and does not become faith unless conjoined with charity, or rendering good use to others. That the Protestant doctrine is false, is shown by this verse:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:36-40)To love one with all one's heart is with all one's will. Not mind only. Anyone who says that, ignores the first and greatest commandment.
So let's move on. Here is a statement from another Protestant website, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, run by an individual. It sums up Swedenborgianism like this:
This is a dangerous mystical non-Christian religion. Its denial of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, the vicarious atonement, and rejection of Acts and the Pauline epistles clearly set it outside of Christian orthodoxy.
Not exactly sure what is meant by "dangerous". If he means "intelligent", maybe so, for Swedenborg is estimated to have an IQ of over 200. And it is encouraged for everyone to seek the truth for themself, regardless of religious authority. But even so, the theology that was revealed to him went way beyond his own intelligence and knowledge. So, lets go through this one by one:
1. Denial of the Trinity. What Protestants and other Christians fail to admit to themselves is that although they say with the mouth that they believe in one God, they in fact worship a trinity of three persons. It is Tritheism, plain and simple. For they cannot say what that "one" is. The truth of the matter: there is a trinity of soul, body and spirit in every person, and in Jesus Christ it is the Holy Trinity. In him resides the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 1:19), in Him there is a Trinity of the Divine Itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine Proceeding. There is one Lord, Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals have a similar position. Is Monotheism dangerous? I think not.So lets move on to another web site, called Jude Ministries: Contending for the Faith. Let's go through the main laundry list:
2. Denial of the Holy Spirit. For Tritheists, there is no other understanding that when an aspect of God is mentioned it must be another person. This in fact is the origin of ancient idolatry. A man's spirit is not another person, it proceeds from the life that resides in his body. Same is true of Jesus. How else could Jesus come and reside in our heart? This accusation is plainly false.
3. Denial of Vicarious Atonement. Protestants, and Catholics, believe that Jesus saved mankind by taking the punishment for our sins, fulfilling the requirement of the law, and that our sins were transferred to Him on the cross. This again, is late theology, and originated some time in the 11th century A.D. According to Swedenborg, the Lord saved humanity by taking on a human being and making it Divine, by resisting all sin and temptation. In such a way, He enters into us when we repent and resist temptation. When that happens, He removes it. Thus there is no salvation apart from repentance. Protestant theology teaches differently: it is by belief alone and lip confession. But this theology is not new: it is ancient! The Orthodox Churches hold to a similar view and reject the Protestant theology. So are we to believe that the Orthodox Church is a cult?
4. Rejection of Acts and Pauline Epistles. This is a half truth. What Swedenborg said was that these writings were not Divinely Inspired in such a way where the literal sense corresponds to the spiritual sense. What he did say is that these were useful for doctrine for the general Church. And he did not deny Paul's theology, but rather, shows how Protestants misinterpret Paul. He also said that the statements contained in the writings of Paul were "Divinely influenced". Not all Swedenborgians know that, so I will classify this as a "half-truth". But since 90% of their sermons come from Paul, and most of the Old Testament is ignored, they get really upset by this.
A denial of the atonement, the Trinity, the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
We already covered this accusation, except for one: a denial of the deity of Christ? Are they serious? No, the New Church states that Jesus Christ is Divine, He is the human form of Jehovah. Not only that, but that He is completely Divine: a Divine Human. I can actually turn this argument against them: it is Protestants who deny the deity of Christ by stating that He has two natures: a Divine nature and a human nature. What they fail to realize is that the "human nature" is Divine as well, and is known in the Gospels as "the Son of God". This originated from the Council of Chalcedon, which in previous blog posts I explained that in the prophecies of Daniel this is known as the "abomination of desolation".
All religions lead to God (pluralism!)
Yes and no. First, it must be understood that Jesus Christ is the Divine Truth in human form. There are many other religions that contains aspects of this Divine Truth; followers just do not know God has appeared in human form. Another way said: there are many truths that lead to God, but among all religions there is one Love. Loving others is what makes all religions common. There is one religion, however, which leads people away from heaven, and that is Arianism, the modern form of which is the Jehovah's Witnesses, for they deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Islam is different, because they have no knowledge of the Word. I may have to devote a separate blog for this item. It is from God's Divine Providence that He will put bread crumbs here and there in this forest of darkness to lead us back to Him.
There is no devil
There is no such thing as an individual devil. Every human will either become an angel or spirit, or if he or she turns against God, will become a devil or demon, depending on how selfish they were and what evils they held in their heart. All of hell together forms one devil. There is nothing in scripture which states that there is one individual devil; Jesus fought against many of them.
The Scriptures can only be properly interpreted through Swedenborgianism
Completely false. Swedenborg said that for those who follow the Lord, and simply believe in the Word, his writings are unnecessary. It is written for those who have questions. But without Swedenborg, or knowing his method of using scripture to interpret scripture and the symbolism behind it, much of the Old Testament, and the book of Revelation, will be a closed book. Thus they stick to the letters of Paul.
One may sin in heaven
Yes. But this requires a bit of explanation concerning the afterlife. I will simply quote this scripture:
Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error,How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before a moth? (Job 4:17-19)The only valid portions of the New Testament are the four Gospels and Revelation
Again a "half truth". The writings of Paul were Divinely influenced, and necessary for the church.
Salvation is by good works
The Protestants ever stick with belief alone as the way of salvation. So why does Paul and Jesus say everyone will be judged according to their works? Lets move on.
There is no physical resurrection
Only Jesus rose from the dead as to the body. Everyone else will rise in a spiritual body. This spiritual body will be in a complete human form, of a more refined substance that does not interact with light. As Jesus said, God is God of the living, not of the dead. Which means many have already risen and dwell in heaven. Those who believe in an actual physical resurrection also believe in a more physical literal kingdom of God on earth.
Angels (and evil spirits) are not supernatural creations of God, but are rather, humans who have died
That is right. So answer this: where did the angels come from, and why do they have human form?
At death, a person’s mind falls asleep for three days in a place called the world of the spirits. Afterwards, he awakens and those spirits who have died before help him adjust. He then forms his own spiritual body in which to reside.
That is right. So answer this: why did Jesus reside for three days and nights in the tomb before He rose from the dead? Why did Jesus say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were among the living?
And then comes this very odd statement:
I want to take a moment to add a lengthy paragraph from one of the commentaries on the place of sexual love in this group. We have already seen other cults where sex and free love are important elements (i.e., the Moonies), but these comments will also set the stage for some understanding of more extreme examples.
The predominant subject in the teacher’s mind was “conjugal love,” which was indeed in his view “heavenly love in its highest form,” and is according to him a great subject of interest, and conversation among the angels. In spite of our Lord’s denial, they do “marry and are given in marriage in heaven!” There are passages in Swedenborg’s writings so grossly indelicate, Dr Pond assures us, that they ought never to have been translated. Swedenborg gives 55 cases in which a married man may judge himself free to be unfaithful to his marriage vows; and in certain cases he permits and even recommends flagrant immorality.
This has got to be a very blatant misrepresentation of the view on sex: for sex is only proper within a marriage relationship. But Swedenborg then discusses different degrees of sexual relationships that depart from marriage love. Just because he describes different states of love and sex does not mean he condones it, but it may be upsetting to those who have a prudish mindset. And then when they marry they don't know what to do, leading to life long unsatisfactory relationships. There is an entire book devoted to this called Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love. The denial of marriage relationships comes from a misinterpretation of one of the answers of Jesus, which belongs in another blog. Rather than regard sex as "evil", sex is highly spiritual, when between one man and woman in a marital relationship. Really, is support of marriage a sign of a cult? This is not "free love" as the author would have his readers believe, for Swedenborg said that adultery leads directly to hell.
So lets move on. Here is a website called Emanuel Swedenborg was Definitely Unsaved. First, very bad choice in title, for scripture forbids condemning one to hell or saying one shall go to heaven. Only God is in a position to judge one's spiritual state. But lets go through the list, probably one of the more detailed I have seen:
- Bible: If you believe, God will forgive all your sins and give you power over sin. God has a hell for those that are called good yet call Jesus a liar.
- New Idea: God's mercy involves helping us become better people. God is willing to forgive everyone, and is more concerned how we live than with what we believe.
- Bible: God is 3 Persons. Jesus is Son of God, distinct Person from the Father.
- New Idea: God is One Person: Jesus Christ. The Father is the Soul, the Son is the Body, and the Holy Spirit is the Activity of the One Divine Person.
- Bible: The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity.
- New Idea: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is the regenerating and enlightening influence of Jesus Christ, not of some third person.
- Bible: We are saved instantly just by believing that Jesus died for our sins. We don't need to put any effort into our salvation.
- New Idea: Faith alone is not enough. We must actively resist evil, while acknowledging that the effort to resist comes from God.
This time I will skip the statements on marriage and sex. For some reason that's an issue. Actually, maybe I will blog a bit more about sex since some find this to be a "disturbing" subject. Lets move on:
- Bible: Heaven is a place of praise and activity.
- New Idea: Heaven is a place of usefulness.
Needless to say, most theologians have never had visions or revelations concerning the afterlife. Many will actually deny them outright, similar to the Sadducees of old.
- Bible: The Bible should be taken literally unless otherwise indicated.
- New Idea: The Bible has an inner meaning.
- Bible: Adam and Eve were actual people.
- New Idea: Adam and Eve were symbols of the Lord and His Church.
- Bible: Jesus saved us by receiving the punishment that was meant for us atoning for our sins.
- New Idea: Jesus saved us by overcoming evil and glorifying His Human form.
- Bible: Blood means life; let us drink of his blood and eat of His flesh.
- New Idea: Blood means Life and Truth; Jesus saves us by giving us life and truth.
- Bible: God punishes people, bad things are the result of sin.
- New idea: The Lord wills only good, but permits bad things for the sake of our freedom.
- Bible: We are saved by faith (that is new birth) alone apart from the works of the law.
- New Idea: We are saved by the Lord through love, faith and good works.
- Bible: Christians are saved and those who have not heard of Christ are saved if they accept the Creator for if they were introduced to Christ they would accept Him.
- New Idea: Good people from all religions are saved.
- Bible: We are saved by faith alone. When you commune with God, He will increase the fruit of His love in your life daily.
- New Idea: The most important command is to love God and others.
- Bible: God the Father has a Holy anger and wrath that punishes sinners and condemns them to hell for calling His Son a liar.
- New Idea: God is always loving and merciful--the anger is just an appearance.
So I could go through other websites, but they essentially repeat the same points above...so what religion is true: one of Tritheism, where the Father God seeks to punish us in His wrath, but those who simply believe or make a lip confession in His son will not go to hell...or is it one where God is Love itself, and He Himself has appeared to us human form, so that He might save us? Which leads to a more spiritual life: a religion of belief alone and lip service, which tells you your sins are covered or taken away with no repentance, or one that tells you you should examine yourself, repent of your specific sins, to remove the evil and lead a good and useful life?
Should we believe this new doctrine of the 16th century, or go with the more ancient teaching of the first century?