Monday, August 29, 2011

Swedenborg/Part 2/Christianity Intellect Compatible

This Post is the Second of a Three Part Series, or actually, it may be 4 or 5 Parts by the time I'm done, on a Link that BB-Idaho Left me, Relating to Religious History, or more Specifically Emanuel SwedenborgMy Previous Post is about the Trinity, God's Wrath and God's Holiness.  This One is more about the Positives in Swedenborg's Theology and how the Basics Gospel Message does not have to be in Conflict with the Intellect.  The Basics are General Enough that there is a lot of Room for Various Forms of Intellectual thoughts and Ways of Understanding Things.  It is Only those who are Overly Dogmatic that cause Intellectual Conflict within those who Like to Think Things Through.

I am not One to Be Dogmatic about any Particular Theology among the Various Theologies that are Debated between those who Believe in Christianity.  That is as Long as there is Biblical Backing for whatever Theology is Proposed.  My Thinking is that Some Things are Obvious and some are not, so let that which is Less Obvious be Decided by Each Individual in their Own Way, in what ever Manner God Leads them.

May the Calvinists and Armenians Accept each other in Love and may God Reveal Truth to all of Us in His Own Way, yet we do Need to be Sure that what we Believe Matches with the Scripture, for if it does not, then the Belief can not Correctly be Called Christianity.

Anyway, since God's Holiness and God's Love is Actually Stressed more by the Church then God's Wrath, Swedenborg's Ideas about God's Anger, just by itself, is not really that Serious of a Conflict with the Christian Church.  His Idea about the Trinity and his Rejection of the"Born Again" Idea, though, are another Matter and this, no Doubt, was the Main Conflict that Caused the Lack of Acceptance of his Ideas by the Christian Church and the Trinity and Born Again Beliefs within the Church Still Stand Today.  Swedenborg's Doctrine on these Issues are a Serious Diversions from Christianity.  You can Read more about these Issues in my Previous Post.

I am Writing Now about some of the Positives within his Theology, though, for the Sake of Showing that the Christian Message can be Compatible with the Intellect.

So Laying that Conflict aside for Now, let's Look Now at some of what Swedenborg Said that I Find Way more Interesting than Controversial.  For Example, I Really Liked this Statement from the Linked Article...

"As we grow spiritually, our will, or emotions become God and neighbor centered.  Our understanding teaches our emotions how to love intelligently."

What a Beautiful Description of the Sanctification Process.  The Focus is on Growth and Understanding (a Process and I have no Trouble at all Viewing that as an Emotional process).  Some may not Like his Focus on the Emotions, yet I do not Find this Particular Idea to be in Conflict with the Christian Church at Large.  Pentecostals are Highly Emotional and Focus more on this Aspect then Other Christian Churches.  In a lot of Ways, it is much more Healthy to Focus on the Emotions, rather then on Trying to Force the Will through the Legalism of Works.  That is Basically what the Mood and Spirit of the Message of Grace, rather then Works, is all about.  God is Patient with the Flesh (Selfish, Unsanctified Emotions) and Offers Grace to us During the Sanctification Process.  The Sanctification Process Takes Time and that is the Whole Reason Why Grace is Necessary.

So Many of Swedenborg's Ideas have more to do with Sanctification, then with the Initial Action of Conversion.  The Sanctification Idea, though, is not an Original One, for it is Both Biblical and Christian.  Many of his Ideas are not in Conflict with Modern Day Christianity.  Here is another Good Quote from the Linked Article...

"Our rational mind is formed by study of the Bible, theology and by our life's experience.  This wisdom works on our emotions and modifies them into spiritual loves."

The Focus on the Mind is not an Idea that Goes against the Scripture, for it says...

"And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."  (Romans 12:2, KJV)

Also, Any Verse that Focuses on the Reading and Studying of Scripture is a Mind Focused Scripture and Here are a Few of those...

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV)

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."  (Psalm 119:11, KJV)

"This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy word hath quickened me."  (Psalm 119:50, KJV)

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  (Psalm 119:105, KJV)

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  (Romans 10:17, KJV)

"That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word."  (Ephesians 5:26, KJV)

"You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you."  (John 15:3, NRSV)

I was Surprised in my Word Search, how many of the "Word" Related Verses that I Remember are from Psalm 119.  This Fact Inspired me to Read this Psalm again and though it is Quite Long, it is also a Really Neat One, for the Theme of it is not just Love for God, but Love for His Precepts, Statures and Laws.  In Other Words, the Love of Service and Obedience to God, as well as a Love for his Word.  It's Like Saying, I not Only Love You, but I also Love Serving You and I not Only Love You for Who You are, but also for "Your Words", or for what You have to Say.  I Love Your Laws.  I Love Your Words.  I Love what You have to Say.  I Love what You Stand for.  I even Love Obeying Your Laws.  That's sort of a Paraphrased Description of the Theme of this Psalm.  I Found it to be Quite Powerful and I was Moved when I Read it.

Anyway, Back to the Point, the Hearing and Reading of the Word is an Activity of the Intellect and doing this Helps us to Not Sin, Comforts, Quickens, Guides, Builds Faith, Sanctifies and Cleanses.  The Love of the Law that is Mentioned in Psalms 119 Describes the Full Maturity of our Love and Yes, this Love is Emotional.  This is not at all Unlike what Swedenborg said in what I Quoted above and Here are the Quotes again, with my Emphasis Added....

"As we grow spiritually, our will, or emotions become God and neighbor centered.  Our understanding teaches our emotions how to love intelligently." 

"Our rational mind is formed by study of the Bible, theology and by our life's experience.  This wisdom works on our emotions and modifies them into spiritual loves."

I Actually Liked Swedenborg's Ideas about Sanctification Enough that it made me Feel Sad that he did not also believe in the Trinity and in the Basic Gospel Message, Including the Idea of Being "Born Again".  It's too Bad that he Rejected these things because his other thoughts are Truly Excellent and not Out of Line with Christianity, or more Specifically, the Christian Idea of Sanctification.  Ideas such as; Balancing Self Love with Love for our Neighbors, being Created to be Useful to the World and to our Neighbors, the Good of Working to be Useful to Society and of Loving Useful Work; are not Ideas Unique to Swedenborg.  They are Very Basic Christian Ideas and Even his Ideas about Symbolism in Nature is not Out of Line with Christianity.  I've Heard Lots of Sermons along those Lines.

Yes, the Sun Represents God, or sometimes I've heard the Giver of Light, Described, not as the Sun, but "the Son".  That is God's Son, Jesus.  And Yes, the Light Represents Truth.  Jesus Compared Faith to the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32) and the Tree is a Symbol of Stability and Strength (Psalms 1) and the branches of the Vine are Symbols of something that is Connected to, Nourished by and Firmly Grounded in God (the Vine), and that can not Bear Fruit without God (John 15:1-8 and Further if Desired).

And Swedenborg is also not the Only One who has Ever Used Symbolism to Interpret the Old Testament Stories of the Bible.  That's Common and Very Christian.

When I came to the Part of the Article that Talked about "Rebirth", however, I realized that there was a Fairly Big Problem, yet Perhaps that will Need to be the Subject of Part Three.  For Now, I'm just Going to say that it is not about Reincarnation, but it is not about the Christian Concept of Being Born Again Either.  Stay Tuned.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can We Trust Religious History?/Trinity/God's Wrath/Holiness/Swedenborg

Well, I'm now Allowing BB-Idaho to Inspire me to do a Post Based on the Last Link that he Left me and Here is the Link.  It is about the Theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, which BB Claims is Quite a "Different Kind of Christianity".  So Far, it Looks Like this is going to be the First in a Series of about Three Posts.

What has Frustrated me in the Past about Links that Relate to Religious History is that they Continually Give Credit to People who Hold so Called "New Ideas" that in Reality are not at all New.  This was how I felt about the Previous Link that BB Gave me, in which Saint Augustine was given Credit for the Original Sin Idea, rather then the Original Biblical Writer, Paul.  This Idea did not Originate with Saint Augustine, but with Paul and this Belief was Held by those in the Early church, when the Original Apostles that Knew Christ Personally were Still alive, Long before Saint Augustine was Born in 354 AD.

When I was Reading the Linked Article in this Post about Swedenborg, my First impression was that he too had been Given Credit for Some Things that may not have Really been all that New.  At First, I Thought that the Ideas of Swedenborg were Actually Quite Similar to those of Christianity and In Fact, Most of them are.  He may have a Unique Way of Explaining Things and he may have his Own Unique Emphasis on Certain Ideas, yet the Part of his Ideas that are not in Conflict with the Church are also not New.  As I Read the Article a Second Time, I Realized that it is what he has Decided not to Accept that has Caused the Conflict between him and the church.  The Conflict is not in what he has Included, but in what he has Excluded, such as the Christian Idea about the Trinity and about Salvation. 

Aside from the Trinity and the Basic Gospel Message Conflicts, that which is Really Good in this Article is Good because it was already Supported by Scripture, was very Possibly already a Christian Idea and had been for Centuries.  To say that all of these ideas are New, that the Modern Day Church has Rejected Every Part of his Beliefs and that Aside from the Trinity Idea and his view of the Basic Gospel Message, all of his Ideas are Unique from Present Day, or Even Traditional Christianity, is Misleading and gives Swedenborg Far more Credit then he Deserves.

You see, not all Christians are Shallow.  There are some that are Thinkers and to Assume Otherwise is to Miss a Big Chunk of what Christianity has to Offer.

A lot of Historical Writings can not be Trusted because they Misrepresent the Ideas of "Modern or Contemporary Christianity", Claiming that these Wonderful "New Ideas" of the People who these Articles are Honoring were not and are not "Accepted by the Traditional or the Current Christian Church"They Confuse what is New and Controversial and what is not.

This Reminds me of a Verse in Ecclesiastes...

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."  (Ecclesiastes 1:9, KJV) 

The Trinity, though, is an Issue of Controversy, so much so that Groups that Reject it, such as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, are often Referred to by the Mainstream Church as Cults.  There are also Other Reasons for this, yet I'm not Going to Get into that Right now.  In Fact, I don't even want to Get into a Lengthy Discussion of all of the Bible Verses that Support the Deity of Christ and therefore the Trinity Right Now, Except to say that Jesus Claimed to be God Often enough that He was Accused of Blasphemy and this was the Reason He was Crucified.

This Article Confused me a Little because on the One Hand, it States that Swedenborg Rejected the Idea of the Trinity, yet on the Other Hand, it Explains Swedenborg's Belief that "God Came Down to Earth as Jesus.", that Jesus was "Fully Divine" and that "God brings Healing Love to us in our Own form."  To me, this is an Unexplained Contradiction and it Makes me Wonder if Swedenborg was just Frustrated with the Way that the Trinity was Explained Specifically by the Lutheran Church that he was a Part of.

There have always been Different Theologies and Different Ways of Interpreting Things and this Includes Various Ways of Understanding the Trinity, Godhead.  The idea that Christ is, In Fact, God, though, is Key to Christian Theology.  The Way I Understand the Trinity is that there are Three Aspects to God, just as there are Three Aspects to every Person, that is the Mind (the Connection to the Physical Body), Soul and Spirit.

Sigmund Freud Divided the Person into the Trinity of the Ego, Super Ego and Id.  This is Similar to the Soul (the Will or Ego), the Conscience (the Super Ego, the Spirit or the Part of us that can be Connected to God if we are Willing) and the Id or Flesh (the Sin Nature, which is also a Part of our Temporal, Corruptible, Mortal Body).  The Descriptions of Freud of the Three Parts of the Trinity within the Person may be Different then the Descriptions of the Three Parts of the Person, as Described within the Bible, yet the Fact that they both Described a Trichotomy Indicates that there is a Trinity Reality within the Person that has Inspired Freud's Thoughts.  Because of this Trinity within us, it is not Really so Hard to Imagine People Talking to themselves, nor to Imagine Jesus Talking to the Father.  The Difference is that all Three of the Parts of the Human Person are Trapped Inside of the Human Body.  The Trinity that Makes up the Godhead, though, is not so Restricted because God is Huge and has the Ability to be Everywhere at Once.

Since the Trinity is Hard to Understand, it is not Surprising that there are some who have Rejected it, rather than Trying to Find an Explanation that they can Wrap their Head Around.  In my Opinion, though, this is Intellectually Lazy, as well as Arrogant.  It is Lazy because, though Difficult, the Trinity Idea is not Impossible to Understand and it is Arrogant, because Assuming that we Ought to be able to Understand Everything about something as Massively Huge and Powerful as God is, well, just Plain Foolish.

The Next Subject in Question is God's Anger or Wrath, an Idea that Swedenborg Rejected.

When I First Read this Article, I was doing so, Giving Swedenborg the Benefit of a Doubt, and Focusing on Similarities with Christianity, rather then Differences.  Because of this, I Over Looked, at First, the Fact that he had Basically Rejected the Basic Gospel Message that Christians Teach is the Key to Salvation.  After Reading the Article a Second Time, I Realized that he does not Accept the Idea of Being Born Again, as is Described within the Christian Church.  The Reason for the Rejection of this Idea, though, Appears to be his Aversion to the Idea of God's Wrath.

In Order to Reject the Idea of God's Anger or Wrath, One has to Deal with the Definitions of the Biblical Words that are Translated as Anger and Wrath.  I don't have Time for such a Study at the Moment, yet for the Most Part, God's Wrath is not what is Stressed in Christian Churches.

My Understanding of the Basic Gospel Message is more Based on God's Holiness, then on His Wrath.  Since God is Holy and Pure, He is not Able to Tolerate Impurity and that is why Sin Blocks our Fellowship with Him.  Generally, the Way this is Explained is with a Picture of two Cliffs on Either Side of a Canyon.  Since God is Holy and Man is not, there is a Great Canyon that Divides us from His Presence.

The Consequence of Our Sinfulness is Death, but when Christ Died on the Cross, His Blood was Able to Cleanse us and Justify us and this is why in the Picture of the two Cliffs and the Canyon, the Cross is Pictured as the Bridge that Allows us to Cross the Great Canyon that Divides us in our Sinfulness from God in His Holiness.

The Bible says, though, that...

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV)


"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him and I will raise him up at the last day."  (John 6:44, KJV)

And this is Why there are some who will Never Understand this Message.