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In this week’s installment of our close look at eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s works, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose take on four of his short works from 1763 (also referred to as the Four Doctrines): The Lord, Life, Faith, and Sacred Scripture.
For you, what are the ingredients for a spiritual way of life?
Jonathan likes to set aside time for reading and contemplation to keep himself spiritually hydrated. The other part of this, he suggests, is to “walk the walk” in daily life—to practice kindness toward others and to watch what he says and does.
Curtis agrees with these techniques, and he also does what he thinks of as “thought policing.” He watches the ideas that travel through his head and is careful to make sure they reflect love and goodness. A spiritual way of life, for him, is just living life better in all ways, both big and small.
Swedenborg Book Club
Continuing Swedenborg’s exploration of everything that matters in life, we’ll look at four books that reveal a clear path to a new spiritual era.
To describe what’s going on in these books, Jonathan gives us a headline: “New Cornerstones for Christianity.” And to get a glimpse of what these books specifically have in store for the reader, we take a quick look at the table of contents for The Lord:
These books from 1763 represent a sort of reset period for Swedenborg, one in which he writes much shorter works that include more biblical quoting.
A lot of these ideas flew in the face of what was common in Christianity at his time. The most radical idea here was that the life you live has everything to do with your spiritual reality, regardless of your faith, and that faith alone does not save. Nevertheless, these books clearly targeted a modern Christian audience.
Since there are four books included here, we’ll take four bites instead of three. In this passage from The Lord, we learn the truth about Jesus’s sacrifice.
It is common knowledge in the church that the Lord conquered death, which means hell, and that afterward he ascended into heaven in glory. What the church does not know, though, is that the Lord conquered death or hell by means of battles that are tests, and in so doing also glorified his human nature; and that his suffering on the cross was the last battle or trial by which he effected the conquest and glorification. (§12)
According to Swedenborg, Jesus’s crucifixion was about his divine transformation and not about redeeming humanity.
In Sacred Scripture, Swedenborg discusses the true meaning of the Bible.
The spiritual meaning [of the Word] is not the meaning that shines forth from the Word’s literal meaning when we study and interpret the Word in order to confirm some dogma of the church. . . . We cannot see the spiritual meaning in the literal meaning; it is within the literal meaning the same way the soul is within the body, thought is within the eyes, or a feeling is within a facial expression—the two act together as cause and effect. It is primarily this meaning that makes the Word spiritual not only for us but for angels as well; so by means of this meaning the Word is in communication with the heavens. (§5)
With this inner meaning at its core, the Bible functions as a spiritual technology connecting heaven and earth.
In Life, Swedenborg highlights the importance of turning from evil.
To the extent that we turn our backs on evil deeds we are with the Lord and in the Lord; and to the extent that we are in the Lord the good deeds we do come not from ourselves but from the Lord. This yields the following general law: To the extent that we turn our backs on evil deeds, we do good deeds. (§21)
Just as it says in Isaiah 1:16–17, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.”
And in Faith, the focus is on what makes faith real.
There can be no faith without caring or caring without faith, and . . . faith without caring is like the breathing of the lungs without a heart. This is impossible for any living creature; only an automaton could do it. Caring without faith is like having a heart but no lungs, in which case we would have no awareness that we were alive. So caring does useful things by means of faith the way the heart accomplishes action by means of the lungs. (§19:2)
So caring is faith in action.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- How was it possible that Swedenborg did so much different stuff? Did he sleep? Where did his funds come from?
- Is it possible that those who have an NDE have different experiences from those who pass on permanently?
- Please explain how innocence aligns us and allows heaven to pour into an individual.
In this segment, Curtis and Jonathan explain Swedenborgian concepts in just one minute or less.
- Curtis: The Trinity
- Jonathan: Swedenborg’s theology
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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“What the Bible Is”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”
“Why Did Jesus Suffer and Die?”
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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