Here is an interesting article: a pastor is telling people to quit church: I'm a pastor and I want you to quit church. Now! He is recognizing a fact: church attendance is shrinking, apathy is growing, and there is a lot of doubt about core beliefs. And yet he is completely blind as to the root cause.
But here is the point he is missing: the core foundational beliefs of the church are simply false. True Christianity over the centuries has been falsified. Instead of a belief in one God, there is a belief in three gods. And since it cannot be explained, ministers don't attempt to, but keep emphasizing a blind faith. And this goes against the modern age of enlightenment, where true spirituality is in agreement with reason, and not just blind belief based on tradition and authority.
What those within the traditional churches fail to see is that the religion from within is dying. The theology is inconsistent and not rational. Swedenborg pointed this out over 200 years ago:
"The rulers of the church insist that the understanding is to be kept under obedience to faith, nay, that faith, properly speaking, is a faith in what is unknown, which is blind, or a faith of the night. This is their first paradox; for faith is of truth, and truth is of faith; and truth before it can become an object of faith, must be seen in its light and understood; otherwise what is false may be believed as true. The paradoxes flowing from such a faith are many, as that God the Father begat a Son from eternity, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both, and that each of these three is a Person by Himself and a God: that the Lord, both as to His soul and body, was from the mother: that the above three Persons, consequently three Gods, created the universe; and that one of them descended, and assumed human nature, to reconcile the Father, and thus to save mankind; and that they who by grace obtain faith, and believe these paradoxes, are saved by the imputation, application, and translation, of His righteousness to themselves; and that man, at his first reception of that faith, is like a statue, a stock, or a stone, and that faith comes by the mere hearing of the Word; that faith alone without the works of the law, and not formed of charity, is saving; and that it produces the remission of sins without previous repentance; and that, merely by such remission of sins, the impenitent man is justified, regenerated, and sanctified; and that afterward charity, good works, and repentance, spontaneously follow: besides many other like paradoxes, all which, like offspring from an illegitimate bed, have issued from the doctrine founded on the idea of three Gods." (Summary Exposition, n. 54)
And since this theology cannot be explained in a rational manner, it is simply avoided by the ministers:
"the tenets of the present church cannot be learned and retained without great difficulty, nor can they be preached or taught without using great care and caution to conceal their nakedness, because sound reason neither discerns nor receives them." (Summary Exposition, n. 58)
This leads to a spiritual dilemma to those who can discern it: that there is something not quite right in what the church is teaching. They just want you to blindly believe and follow without understanding. Because they themselves do not see the truth. This is prophesied by Jesus as what will happen near the end of the age:
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)
And so ministers, who are blinded by their own faith, cannot see the source of the problem. They wonder why people attend church and do not apply it to their lives. Because they themselves teach faith alone saves, which to them is but a belief in the memory and empty words in the mouth. The paradoxes that are taught are many:
"They teach that faith without good works, as being alive, justifies; and at the same time, that faith without good works, as being dead, does not justify. They teach that faith is neither preserved nor retained by good works; and at the same time, that good works proceed from faith, as fruit from a tree, light from the sun, and heat from fire. They teach that good works being adjoined to faith make it perfect; and at the same time that being conjoined as a marriage, or in one form, they deprive faith of its saving essence. They teach that a Christian is not under the Law; and at the same time that he must be in the daily practice of the Law. They teach that if good works are intermixed in the business of salvation by faith, as in the remission of sins, justification, regeneration, vivification, and salvation, they are hurtful; but that if not intermixed they are profitable. They teach that God crowns His gifts, which are good works, with rewards even of a spiritual nature, but not with salvation and eternal life, because He crowns faith with these, without works." (Summary Exposition, n. 59)
So the answer? Quit the old traditional church, and join the New Church. The New Church corrects the many errors that have entered Christianity through the traditions and teachings of men. And the New Church is founded on direct revelations from Jesus Christ. The tenets of the New Church are simple:
1. Worship one God in one person, who revealed Himself in incarnate form as Jesus Christ, and,
2. Shun evils as sins, and do what is good.
Which Swedenborg says in his own words:
"But do you, my friend, snatch yourself from such contradictions, and shun evils as sins, and do good, and believe in the Lord, and saving justification will be given you." (Summary Exposition, n. 59)
True faith is living by the truth, according to God's word, and worshiping Jesus Christ as the One God of the universe. It is not a blind belief where the rational understanding is suspended. Even the apostle Peter stated we should be ready to give a rational argument:
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15)
And if you can't make a rational defense to a devil's advocate, something is wrong. Of course you cannot share your faith if you can't justify it. Before making a defense, examine the teachings yourself: is what your church teaching true or false? There are two kinds of people: those who believe what they are told, and those who examine what they are told to determine if they are true or not, by reading scripture themselves.
And if you want to take a shortcut, and avoid the long arduous path of searching, examine the theology of the New Church in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. It will answer all your questions, but you must be ready for one thing: be ready to admit that the way you think, what you believe, may be wrong.
But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and when you see it, you will quit the old church and join the new. And there is no turning back. So yes, quit the church, but for a completely different reason then what this pastor is saying: reject what is false and follow what is true. For this is the truth of the Second Coming, revealed from heaven.
And then you will have a new personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and acknowledge Him as the One Person you should pray to. For He is the One, and there is no such thing as a second or third person. For within Him the Divine itself is the Father, His human form is the Son, and the Divine proceeding from Him is the Holy Spirit. And in the teachings of the New Church, the true spiritual meaning of scripture will be opened, where one will see the light of heaven to apply it to one's daily life, to live a new life and to turn away from the old way of death, which the masses blindly follow.
I agree with the general point and direction of your article. My big question at this point in my life is: What would people actually join?
The organized New Church as it currently exists has major problems, and is in serious decline. I question whether it really represents what Swedenborg taught. I think it has put the new wine of Swedenborg's teachings into the old wineskins of traditional religious institutions, culture, and forms of worship.
Having grown up in the organized New Church and even become an ordained minister in it, I now think that the organized New Church as it currently exists will most likely cease to exist along with the institutions of traditional (and now corrupted) Christianity that the new church Swedenborg spoke of will, in time, replace.
Along these lines, see my article:
Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!
One of my big questions right now is what this new church will look like. I no longer think it will look like a church with pews, a chancel, and a priest or minister leading people in a ritualized worship service. But I have no clear sense yet of what it actually will look like.
Swedenborg said that in the new church there would be no externals separated from internals (I'm quoting from memory). This means to me that whatever the new church is like, it will spring organically from people's spiritual lives rather than being a ritualized representation of them. So my main theory so far is that the new church will mostly exist in the living out of people's daily lives rather than in some institutionalized and ritualized form.
However, that's not really something you can "join."
About as far as I've come in a more formal sense is that people will still need spiritual teachers to guide them toward the truth and toward a direct relationship with Jesus Christ. That's why, though I've ceased to be a pastor, I still continue to teach and lead people through my blog, and have plans for other modes of teaching in the future as well.
It is striking to me that when Swedenborg describes a worship service in Marriage Love #24, it consists of a sermon explaining a particular subject closed with a prayer delivered by the preacher, and nothing else. No order of worship, no ritual.
I would be interested to hear any of your thoughts on what the new church will look like in human and societal terms.
Hello Lee, apologies this blog is getting bombarded with spam and I finally started to go through them and found some real comments.Delete
As the way it is now, the New Church is represented by the woman hidden in the wilderness described in Revelation 12. My personal opinion is that the period of 1260 days (or 42 months) represents a period of 1260 years. Given that the revelation was given in the mid 18th century, we are looking at after the year 3000 A.D. before the New Church comes out of obscurity and into the light. I have blogged about these prophetic time periods but it will probably not be generally accepted as Swedenborg only discusses the highest universal concept for these time periods.
There are several passages, where the true spiritual nature of the western Christian world is shown, and it is dark and evil. Capitalism and materialism reigns, and this is partly represented by the dragon in the book of Revelation (America happens to be mainly Protestant, and Swedenborg identified the dragon as those who separate faith from charity). At the end of True Christian Religion, Swedenborg is shown that the New Church will probably revive in Africa. For the U.S., probably a long period of spiritual decline since for most money is the end all in life.
So those are my thoughts for now, I guess its a bit dismal but probably its a realistic one.
As for external forms of worship, I guess I dont really care but I think the general guideline is for order to be maintained, and that any ritual be symbolic in form. There should be teaching (which is the spiritual meaning of the Sabbath), communion, baptism, and singing. Communal worship should not be rejected, but as it is now, I sort of have to teach in a hidden way when I attend other churches. Once in a while a light bulb turns on. Jesus went to Jewish synagogues and obviously the Jewish teaching was completely corrupt, but Jesus did not cease engaging them. However since in Christian tradition authority is accepted without question, that tends to stifle discussion or freedome of thought.Delete
Matt. 24 teaches that when one sees the abomination of desolation - that is, when one sees that the church is corrupt, Jesus advises that those of Judea should flee to the mountains, which means despite the corruption we should still practice a life of love. The top of the mountain is a bit lonely, but that is the way to go, one cant follow the masses.