I was told by a Jewish person that he enjoyed the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, but he could not accept Jesus as Divine and had a problem with that. This is also a problem for many Muslims who regard Jesus as just a prophet; moreover it is a problem for Christians in Muslim countries as it is viewed to worship something created as blasphemous against the Creator. So what is the answer? It is quite a logical argument, something for which few Christians give a proper answer. So here is the summary of the problem I gave to the Jewish person:
SUMMARY PROBLEM AND ANSWER
Most Jews and Muslims have 2 problems with declaring Jesus as Divine:
- Worshiping something created as Creator, and,
- Multiple personal beings in the Godhood.
If you look deeply into what was revealed to Swedenborg, he was told this:
- The human personality is composed of multiple levels, to simplify, the internal soul and the external body. Jesus' external human form was indeed something created. But his internal form is Jehovah Himself. What happened is that Jesus successfully put off this external human form from the mother, until it was transformed into a Divine Human. This is why, in the Gospels, Jesus kept his identity secret until He rose from the dead.
- In New Church theology, Jehovah was born into a lower human state and had to progress back to a state of union with the Divine, as all humans must progress towards God by resisting sin and doing His will. What happened is that by becoming incarnate, Jehovah could do battle against all of hell by resisting sin and temptation through the human form that was inherited from Mary. This could not be done unless as a human He was born into a finite limited state of being. Jesus's prayers indicate the Divine can lower itself into a lower state of being, but it is a false appearance to regard Him as someone as distinct from the Divine.
So given that, the definition of a trinity of three persons is a definite falsehood. Many Muslims who see this teaching thus become attracted to the New Church, as the New Church also accepts that some sort of revelation was given to Muhammed.
As for Judaism, many of the rituals will not be understood until one understands the hidden spiritual sense, but much of it will remain hidden until one understands the doctrine of the Divine Human.
Before the incarnation, Jehovah could not reveal Himself except through an angelic being. What Swedenborg described was that angels would be invested with an influx from the Divine and speak as if they were Jehovah Himself. But as mankind become more sinful, this connection with the angelic realm became cut off. The only way to restore it was for Jehovah to become incarnate in human form.
Another point: the Divine, as an abstract concept, cannot be held in the thought without an external form. In New Church theology, the Divine itself is unreachable by human understanding, but is reachable in its external form, which is the Divine Human. The invisible Divine and the visible Divine is known as the Father and the Son. It is a mistake to assign separate distinct personal identities to different titles of the Divine.
SOME FURTHER THOUGHTS
Here is where the Christian revelations of the New Church can give answers to those who have real rational and intelligent doubts about Jesus Christ, whereas older Christian churches cannot give a rational answer. And since they have no answer, they avoid the topic altogether. This is because in most older Christian churches, people are just taught to believe on the basis of authority. The other issue is there are hidden falsehoods in the theology of the older Christian churches. So Muslims and Jews actually have point. These falsehoods in doctrine prevent Christians in general from providing a rational argument for their faith, to wit:
- There is no such thing as a trinity of three persons. In the New Church, this a complete non issue. There is one Divine being, One Personal Being who is Being itself. The True Trinity is that of the Divine itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine operation or Divine proceeding of God's spirit.
- The theology of vicarious atonement was adopted in the Catholic Church in the 11th century, and from there the Protestants inherited it. This is not the true method of salvation. Jesus saved humanity by fighting against the power of hell in His Human, and when he overcame hell He made His human Divine. From this, His spirit can now flow into us to resist sin and temptation, and live a spiritual life. A spiritual moral life, not a religious sort of apathy of belief only. Protestant churches in this regard fail in this regard as they have made religion of belief only, which is in fact not taught by the Bible.
- The Catholic Church further corrupts Christianity by encouraging prayer towards Mary, and an undue focus on the holiness of saints. In true Christianity, the focus is on Jesus, on the one God who alone is Holy. The more one worships the self or one's ego, the more one withdraws from God.
HOW JESUS GRADUALLY MADE HIS HUMAN DIVINE
So, there are several falsehoods that have grown within the Christian church that originated from the thoughts of man and not from Divine revelation, which have corrupted the Christian church. When these falsehoods are removed, a lot of the disagreements that Muslims and Jews have with Christianity in general sort of go away. The true reality of the situation is that as it is now, no traditional religion is completely true, nor is it completely false. But it is hard for those who grew up in a religion to see their own bias and the hidden falsehood of their religion.
I have not, however, been able to find a falsehood in the Divine teachings as received in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Religious authorities have issues with Swedenborg because they are unable to let go of the falsehoods that they have received from their own tradition. And the problem here is ministers of a particular denomination do not exactly have freedom of thought or freedom of speech to publicly disagree.
So, for example, Catholics are taught that Mary was born perfect, and therefore Jesus was born perfect. Neither of these statements are actually true. Mary was a woman born in sin like us all, and Jehovah had to become incarnate from a human woman so that He could directly fight against the evil tendencies of that human form. This is a concept most Christians are unfamiliar with, and thus they cannot give a rational explanation for Christianity. It is here that the Orthodox have a closer view of the truth, although they may not explicitly teach it well.
As this is hidden from most Christians, I will here quote what was revealed to Swedenborg on the matter.
STATEMENTS ON THE HUMANITY OF JESUS AND HIS MOTHER MARY
"[the Lord] was born as another man and instructed as another man, but the interiors with Him were celestial, which adapted the vessels for the reception of knowledges, and so that the knowledges would afterwards become vessels to receive the Divine. The interiors with Him were Divine, from Jehovah His Father; the exteriors were human, from Mary His mother." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1460)
In the following passage, the "first rational" is one's rational mind which is in love of the self, the "second rational" is one that one receives from the Lord which desires love and truth:
"...it is to be known that though a man be regenerated, still each and every thing of the first rational remains with him, and is only separated from the second rational, and this in a most wonderful manner by the Lord. But the Lord wholly exterminated His first rational, so that nothing of it remained; for what is merely human cannot be together with the Divine. Hence He was no longer the son of Mary, but Jehovah as to each Essence." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2657.7)
"That He was born of the virgin Mary is known, yet as another man; but when He was born again, or became Divine, it was from Jehovah who was in Him, and Who was Himself as to the very Being of life. The unition of the Divine and the Human Essence was effected mutually and reciprocally, so that He united the Divine Essence to the Human and the Human to the Divine" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2798.2)
This is from a passage where it is explained that the Lord had to expel hereditary evil he inherited from Mary:
"...this was hereditary evil from the mother, against which the Lord combated... and from His expelling it, so that at length He was not the son of Mary" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4563.1)
"The Lord was indeed born as another man, and had an infirm human from the mother; but this human the Lord entirely cast out, so that He was no longer the son of Mary, and made the Human in Himself Divine, which is meant by His being glorified; and He also showed to Peter, James, and John, when He was transfigured, that He was a Divine Man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4692.5)
The following passage explains the difference between the regeneration of ordinary men and the glorification of the Lord's human:
"From this it may be evident that man is made altogether new when he is regenerated, for then all things and everything with him are so ordered as to receive heavenly loves. Nevertheless with man the prior forms are not destroyed, but only removed; but with the Lord the prior forms, which were from the maternal, were altogether destroyed and extirpated, and Divine forms received in their place. For the Divine love does not agree with any but a Divine form; all other forms it absolutely casts out; hence it is that the Lord when glorified was no longer the son of Mary." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6872.4)
"It is to be known that with man who is being regenerated, purification from evils and their falsities goes on continually, for so far as man is purified from evils and falsities, so far are implanted the truths which are of faith, and these are conjoined to the good which is of charity, and so far man then acts from the good of charity. Purification from evils and falsities with man is not liberation from them, but is their removal (see n. 868, 887, 894, 929, 1581, 2269, 2406, 4564, 8206, 8393, 8988, 9014, 9333, 9446-9451, 9938). With the Lord however there was not removal, but casting out of those which He derived from the mother, thus full liberation from them, even so that He was no longer the son of Mary" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10057.6)
WHY A NEW REVELATION FOR CHRISTIANITY
This is why a new revelation for Christianity and Jesus Christ had to be made, for as it is now, there are so much falsehoods in the older traditional churches that many cannot make a rational argument to explain the truth of Christianity. So question what you have been taught, and as one removed the falsehoods from within, so many that are without will be willing to come closer to Jesus Christ, to live a spiritual life according to His commandments, where He dwells within each one of us through His spirit.
About the last two quotes, it helps to know that the Latin word removeo, traditionally translated "remove," has more the sense of "moving away" than "getting rid of." So for example, its past participle, remotus, means, not "gone" but "far away."
What Swedenborg is saying in these passages is not that evils and falsities in human beings are "removed" as that word is usually understood, but rather, "moved away"--meaning moved away from the center of the person's life to the periphery of that person's life. They are never actually "removed" from the person's life. Only moved from the center to the edges. And they are kept at the edges as long as the person continues in living relationship with the Lord. But the moment a person rejects the Lord, those evils and falsities can and do move right back to the center of his or her life. They were never actually "gone" or "extirpated" in the first place. Just kept at bay, at a distance from the focal point and active center of the person's life.
In the Lord (Jesus), by contrast, the evils and falsities in the finite human nature inherited from nature were "removed" in the usual sense of that word in English. I.e., they were entirely done away with so that they were no longer part of his nature at all. Not just pushed to the edges. Entirely expelled and extirpated.
In most cases, the Latin word removeo (and its derivatives) should not be translated "removed" as it is in the Standard Edition, because that gives a wrong impression of what Swedenborg is saying. Rather, it should be translated as "moved away," or "moved to a distance" or some variation of that idea. The distinction Swedenborg is making in your final two quotes would then be much clearer. In the Standard Edition, it almost sounds like a distinction without a difference. But in fact, it is two entirely different processes.
Hello Lee, a good point. The unfortunate thing in modern Christianity is that spiritual life for the majority is nothing more than a confession of belief (which they confuse with faith, faith is not belief, but living by the truth), and then they think all the sins are taken away. This stems from the false theology of vicarious atonement (which the Orthodox do not follow) and automatic "imputation" of righteousness. This in fact is something so foreign to Muslims they immediately see it as ridiculous. Sins are not removed, they are put off to the side, but this is only done by repentance, which is to acknowledge the fault, then not to do it. I mention it because I saw this exact teaching at a Protestant church, it is very, very common.Delete
In Hebrew the word for "atone" literally means "to cover" which I think represents this concept well. It is related to the pitch that Noah used to cover the ark, and basically means a level of spiritual protection by the Lord against the temptation to do evil. If one does not self examine, or acknowledge the fault, there is no barrier or protection against it.
For Latin, there is this very good online tool known as the Perseus Digital Library. However it is focused on classical Latin, not Neo-Latin. You can see the online definition here - http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=removeo&la=la#lexicon . They took the entire Latin dictionary of Lewis and Short and indexed it. I used it to look up Latin words in medieval French texts. The owner of the web site of sacred texts had once asked me to arrange Swedenborg's Latin writings, I didnt have time, when I came back to it I found out he had passed away.
One of my pet theories is that perhaps Christianity could have been suitable to root out the remaining polytheism of the Middle East and North Africa, but it was not suitable because the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons had already rendered Christianity itself effectively polytheistic and pagan. Having said that, Swedenborg speaks of the monogamy of Christianity as a reason why it was not suitable to root out polytheism in a still polygamous set of cultures.
About the Hebrew word for "atone," see my recent answer to this question on Christianity StackExchange:
How did Swedenborg interpret 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins”?
My answer is very much along the lines of what you are saying here.
Good answer Lee, I had done a similar word study when translating the Psalms (I was trying to decide between "atone" and "expiate" and "propitiate"). One thing one learns early is how word definitions control the way how people think.Delete
The doctrine of a trinity of three persons, and the subsequent division between the Divine and human natures in Jesus, is the reason why most of Christianity was rooted out of the Middle East. The Byzantine empire eventually declared the original Christians of the Middle east "heretics" (they called them "Monophysites" for believing Jesus had one Divine nature), and these Monophysite Christians allied with Mohammed's forces against the Byzantine Empire.