Watch full episode here!
We’re always talking about God’s enduring love for us all, but the Bible doesn’t make it obvious. In some verses, God just seems angry. Doesn’t that seem a little . . . inconsistent?
Eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg didn’t think so. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose discuss why.
Jonathan has gone from feeling like God just isn’t there to feeling like he’s incredibly close. When he was younger, he felt like God was impossible to please. As one of his friends once told him, “Just because you have a relationship with God doesn’t mean it’s a good relationship.” There are ebbs and flows, but over time Jonathan has gained more of a lens into God’s infinite mercy.
Curtis remembers that earlier in his life he thought about God as a sort of intellectual abstraction, and then he went from that to feeling like God wasn’t available when he was really needed. Increasingly, Curtis has come to understand that when he is acting in accordance with Swedenborg’s ideas, God makes himself known.
Our feelings about the sun will change depending on the conditions here on earth. For example, if you’re in a hot desert in the middle of the day, you’ll curse the same sun that you’d be desperate to see during the middle of a cold night.
In the same way, our perspective of God can vary based on what’s going on with humanity. People often think of the Old Testament God as mean and the New Testament God as peaceful, but the truth is that there are references in both testaments to him being fearsome and loving. In fact, such opposing references can at times even be found right beside each other!
So if God is love, why the apparent dichotomy? Well, according to Swedenborg:
The Word . . . speaks according to human appearances. (Secrets of Heaven §589)
Let’s dig in.
It’s important to understand a cosmic rule of intellectual freedom: God’s truth can only come to people through their current state of mind.
Divine truth issuing directly from the Lord’s divine humanity cannot be heard or understood by any human, not even an angel. In order for divine truth to be heard and understood, then, it has to pass through some kind of medium, and the medium it passes through is heaven. Afterward it passes through the angels and spirits present with us. This fact is plainly visible from the consideration that we cannot even hear the spirits who are with us talking to each other. If we did hear them, we would not understand them, because the language of spirits lacks the kind of words we use and is common to all tongues. Furthermore, spirits cannot hear angels, and if they could, they would not understand them, because angelic language is still more universal. In fact angels of the deepest heaven are even harder to hear and understand, because their language is a language not of ideas but of feelings that embody heavenly love. If these languages lie so far beyond our reach that we cannot possibly hear or understand them, what about divine “language,” which infinitely transcends the languages in the heavens? I am calling it divine language, but I mean divine truth emanating from the Lord’s divine humanity. This being the case, you can see that if divine truth emanating from the Lord is to be heard and understood, it must reach us by passing through different kinds of medium. The final medium is the spirit accompanying us, who exerts an influence either on our thoughts or through audible words. (Secrets of Heaven §6996:1, 2)
Sometimes, there needs to be conflict and challenge for us to get at the truth.
On a similar note, we perceive God according to where our heart is.
Foes, enemies, and haters are so called [in the Word] not because the Lord is their foe or hates them but because they oppose the Deity with hatred and hostility. When they bring about their own devastation and hurl themselves into damnation and into hell, it looks to them as though these experiences come from the Deity. This appearance or illusion brings to mind people who see the sun revolving daily around our planet and believe that the sun is therefore what moves, when it is really the earth. It also brings to mind people transgressing the law who are judged for their transgression by a monarch or a judge and receive a punishment they believe comes from the monarch or judge when it really comes from the transgressors themselves. . . . The situation is the same for people with evil in their heart who brashly challenge the Deity and wade right into the consequences. (Secrets of Heaven §8282)
So God doesn’t see anyone as an enemy, but some people choose to basically pick a fight with him. Similarly, in human relationships, we can project our negative feelings onto others.
When evil spirits are put upon, even they have a habit of blaming heaven.
When evil spirits or demons approach heaven’s light, they start to suffer distress and torment. This they blame on heaven and consequently on the Lord, although the torment is actually self-inflicted. Evil feels tortured when it goes near goodness. (Secrets of Heaven §5798:7)
Having planted those three seeds in our minds, let’s take a moment to meditate on these ideas.
From the sun’s perspective, it’s just sending energy 24-7. For God, it’s the same—all he’s doing is feeding us love. Sometimes it’ll get caught in the clouds, but it’s still there fueling our journey.
So what’s the takeaway?
Across the physical and spiritual worlds, we notice things that appear differently than what they are. When we love what’s evil, it feels like God is our enemy even though he’s always on our side. Sometimes it takes some practice and research to truly comprehend the love and mercy and compassion that permeates the Bible.
At the beginning of the episode, we asked how your feelings about God have changed over time. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- I’ve felt like God has treated me differently in different periods of my life. Sometimes more difficult of a time and more of a need for me to step into my life. -Ben Wells
- I’m going through a change of relationship with God right now. I thought he would always be there… like obviously. Now it just seems like he’s so far away. -Erika Lee
- No I never felt different though at times not as close or able to get answers. -Dawnabrat
- Most of the time, I believe in God’s love, but there have been times when I could not believe that there is a God, and at worst, I’ve felt like God was punishing me for not being good. -Pamela Collins
- Started talking to God at 9 ~ have felt him strong at some moments and other moments not at all. -Christina B
- My views changed so much throughout the years. The largest liberation, peace and joy has come from first hearing Howard Storm and being introduced by a friend to Swedenborg and OTLE. -Matt Cline
- In the past I used to FEAR God and NOT in just a respectful way—-but literal fear of something that I could not please. -janie manasco
- I have changed from a God of rites and rules to a God of love. -Damian Baker
- Yes. Right before I found y’all I even wondered if I was making it up and there wasn’t even a God! Sometimes I’m so clear about His Love, Wisdom, Providence. I’ve felt forgotten, I’ve felt precious. -Joy Borazjani
- I have always felt God as a friend; as I mature, he shows Himself in the friendship in more complex ways. -David Higgins
- I was immensely afraid of God until my age 30 due to grandparents religious views of hellfire and damnation and the wrath of God. I eventually became brave enough to question… everything. He loves me -Ellen Wood
- As a child it was drilled into me that God would punish me if I tried to hide my “sins”. It was only in my 20’s when I found Spiritualism that I realized that God was only Love. -Pete Dawson
- I always feels differently about God when my state changes. -Eternal Spring
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
Related Swedenborg & Life Videos
Free E-Book Downloads
Want to watch more Swedenborg & Life videos? Visit our offTheLeftEye YouTube channel and be sure to subscribe for new uploads!
Support Swedenborg & Life! Enjoy our programming and want to help us produce more free videos, books, and other faith and spirituality content? Make a donation or become a member of the nonprofit Swedenborg Foundation!
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.
View the entire Swedenborg & Life Playlist
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.
View our offTheLeftEye YouTube channel