What is faith? Join hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose to learn eighteenth-century philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s answer.
Curtis grew up with Swedenborg, but one of his biggest moments of realization came when he went to college and was exposed to a lot of other schools of thought. When he could see where Swedenborg’s teachings lined up with others and where they were different, he realized what makes the message special.
Like Curtis, Jonathan was raised in the tradition. When it really clicked for him, he was attending a lecture while he was twelve and he realized that Swedenborg had unique insight into the Second Coming. He told the adults around him, and they kind of already knew, but Swedenborg’s understanding of the Second Coming was what really stuck with him.
Weekly Swedenborg Keywords
In this section, Curtis and Jonathan explore another essential Swedenborgian word: faith. For Swedenborg, every important word had its counterpart, and this was his counterpart to love.
To start with, let’s look at what faith isn’t.
To believe what is taught by the Word (or by the church’s theology) without living by it appears to be faith, and some people even suppose they are saved by it, but that faith by itself saves no one. It is a mere religious persuasion, the nature of which I will now describe. Religion is a mere persuasion when the purpose behind people’s belief in and love for the Word and the church’s theology is not service to their neighbor, or in other words, service to their fellow citizen, their country, the church, heaven, and the Lord himself. So their purpose is not living rightly, because life consists in serving these types of neighbor. Instead their goal is affluence, high rank, and a scholarly reputation. People with this kind of religion focus not on the Lord and heaven, then, but on themselves and their worldly advantages. (Secrets of Heaven §9363–64)
For some people, that might be a very different view of faith—seeing it not as a blind adherence to a particular doctrine, but as something that is lived and breathed. In the end, Swedenborg tell us, faith is nothing without love. It exists to help people.
First of all, faith is formed by our turning to the Lord, because faith that is real, that is, faith that brings salvation, is faith from the Lord and faith in the Lord. . . .
Second, faith is formed by our learning truths from the Word, because faith in its essence is truth. All the elements that constitute faith are truths. Faith, then, is nothing but an array of truths shining in our mind. Truths teach not only that we need to have beliefs but also in whom to believe and what to believe. . . .
Third, faith is formed by our living by those truths, because a spiritual life is a life that follows truths. Truths are not actually alive before they exist in actions. Truths dissociated from actions are just thoughts. If they do not become part of our will, they are not inside us; they are only on our threshold. Our will is our true self. Our thinking reflects our true self only to the extent that it is connected to our will. (True Christianity §347:1, 2, 3)
It’s worth noting that while Swedenborg generally does mean the Bible when he talks about the Word, he also makes it clear that the Word is more than that: it refers to all sources of divine truth, which can be found in many cultures and even in the images in nature. But, as we see in the third point, it isn’t enough to know spiritual truth—we need to put truth into action.
The core thing that defines the Lord is love for the whole human race. If faith is knowing the truth of how to fix something, then love is actually getting up and fixing it, as Curtis and Jonathan learn via a broken window. Just knowing something is not enough.
Swedenborg witnessed this in the spiritual world. Let’s have a look:
Spiritual World Road Trip
Swedenborg found himself in a room of spirits, and found something quite surprising—when they disagreed with him, their heads began to disappear. They literally faded away when they did not share his faith, because they had moved into a different sphere. In the same way, he found, people who don’t have both love and faith are invisible to the Lord (and the Lord is invisible to them).
He found that even when people seemed to share faith, but not love, this same disappearance would occur. The Lord only truly appears to people who join faith with love.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Here’s what they asked—just click a question to see the answer:
- You said in a previous episode, that even if you think an evil thought, it’s as if you did it. Is the thought form of faith different?
- Do some people limbo between heaven and hell? Have love for what is good and true, but unfortunately also have hellish liking sometimes?
- How different can our physical self be from our spiritual self? Is there a thin line?
- Was it always the plan that evil spirits would try our faith?
Curtis interviews one of our viewers—Regina, of Colorado City. She tells him that she first learned of Swedenborg by encountering a Swedenborgian church that happened to be a beautiful building. After visiting it for years, she found a DVD called Splendors of the Spirit and felt a real resonance with it.
After reading some of Swedenborg, she found the channel and started watching all the videos. It helped her through some difficult times, and helped her understand a spiritual experience she’d had as a child.
At the beginning, we asked viewers where they were when they first heard about Swedenborg. Here are some of the answers.
- Baby crib
- Reading New York Times church ads
- Reading a book called We Are Immortal
- My dad introduced me to Swedenborg
- Reading about William Blake 45 years ago
- Asking dad about spiritual stuff
- From an aikido instructor
- From their grandfather
- Edgar Allen Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”
- Friend who loved offTheLeftEye
- Researching NDEs
- Prison library
- Ghost stories on YouTube
- Wife who had passed came to them in a dream
- Searching for truth on YouTube
- Searching for Illuminati videos
- Searching for extraterrestrial research
- Relief after life tragedies
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live 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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