Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Basic Principles of the Swedenborgian Religion
Jeremy K. Finkeldey
Greetings blogfollowers! This one will not be so long and tedious as the others. A brief read after which you may or may not be a little better informed as to the nature of the religion derived from the theological writings of the 18th century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. This religion is alive and well today globally with three branches. Having been born and raised in the branch headquartered in Bryn Athyn, PA, I must confess to being heavily influenced by Swedenborg's theological doctrines. That does not mean that I don't appreciate other religions. In fact, I see myself as being an "Interfaith Swedenborgian" meaning that I look for and find the good in every religion. I believe this is the essential practice that will eventually create a peaceful world in which our descendants can live. Please feel free to join my Facebook group which I have named "Lay Interfaith Leaderless Alliance" (LILA for short). If you're a Facebook member become one. Then, click on this link to join the movement that will eventually make a peaceful takeover of the world and help the Lord's kingdom to arrive in the here and now.
The "Swedenborgian religion" is also known as the "New Church" and is sometimes referred to as the "New Jerusalem" which is a reference to the "New Jerusalem" mentioned in Revelation 21:9-27. It is a fact that Swedenborg (1688-1772) himself never intended for a religion to be founded in his name. He was called by the Lord to write and publish the doctrines of the New Church soon to be raised up by the Lord both among the "gentiles" (non-Christians) and among those of the Christian persuasion who were able to receive and understand those doctrines. He saw himself as a humble servant of the Lord. Swedenborg wrote his works in Latin as was fairly common with intellectual works in his day. Swedenborgian and Latin scholar Rev. Dr. Jonathan S. Rose writes, "These theological volumes were the product of more than two decades of labor. They comprised eighteen separate and quite distinctive works in twenty-five quarto volumes totaling about three and a half million words -- researched, composed, published, and (for the most part) distributed by Swedenborg himself." Additional theological works by Swedenborg have been published posthumously by his readers. To clarify what the principles of the Swedenborgian religion are I will quote from Swedenborg's work "True Christianity" translated by Rev. Dr. Rose. Listed in that work in paragraph number three, subsection two, are the specifics of faith on a person's part in the "new heaven and the new church". They read as follows:
1) There is one God, the divine Trinity exists within him, and he is the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ.
2) Believing in him is a faith that saves.
3) We must not do things that are evil -- they belong to the Devil and come from the Devil.
4) We must do things that are good -- they belong to God and come from God.
5) We must do these things as if we ourselves were doing them, but we must believe that they come from the Lord working with us and through us.
At that same reference Swedenborg makes the point that, "the first two points have to do with faith, the second two have to do with goodwill (sometimes translated as "charity"); and the fifth has to do with the partnership between goodwill and faith, the partnership between the Lord and us" (True Christianity 3:2).
It needs to be understood that, although the "New Church" is decidedly christian in nature, it does not necessarily have to be overtly so with any given individual. Because it is essentially spiritual rather than rhetorical or even doctrinal, the deciding factor on where the Lord's church truly exists is good.
All good is from the Lord Jesus Christ and wherever good is -- there also is the Lord. This is what makes the Lord's church "universal" as Swedenborg often explains in his theological works. One of the things this means is that a verbal, doctrinal acknowledgement of the Lord Jesus Christ being the one God of heaven and earth is not necessarily a requirement of salvation. In fact, Swedenborg himself writes (in another of his theological works known as Divine Providence), "the means for salvation have been provided for everyone, and... heaven is such that all who have lived well, of whatever religion they may be, have a place there" (Divine Providence 330:4).
Swedenborg reports that if people live a good life according to the teachings of their own religious traditions they can easily be led to an acknowledgement of more specific truths in the spiritual world after the death of the body. He writes in his seminal theological work Arcana Coelestia (or "Heavenly Secrets"), "although they do not know the Lord while they are in the world they nevertheless have within themselves a worship and virtual acknowledgement of him when good exists within them, for the Lord is present within all good. For this reason also they acknowledge the Lord in the next life without difficulty, and receive the truths of faith better than Christians do in whom good is not so much present...." (Arcana Coelestia 3263:2).
Arguing about theological doctrine is not recommended by Swedenborg. He repeatedly says that while goodwill joins minds together "from many making one" arguing about points of doctrine has the opposite effect. In fact, he writes, "there are... many among the inhabitants of hell who have been more expert in matters of doctrine than anybody else. But those who have led lives of goodwill are all in heaven" (Arcana Coelestia 1515).
When it comes to spiritual practice most Swedenborgians would agree that practicing the good of love through usefulness to others essentially captures what the will of God is for everyone on planet earth.