This one is for Swedenborg:
And Swedenborg and Joseph Smith, and many others:
Sermon: Ascension – 2017
9 hours ago
"A liberal Baptist preaching by special arrangement in the Presbyterian Church, Fosdick had become increasingly dismayed by conservative intolerance of liberal Christians. Since the close of the war, liberals and conservatives had been sparring on such issues as biblical authority, evolution, and foreign missions. In response to the escalating militancy of the fundamentalists, Fosdick launched a counteroffensive and thereby precipitated the Presbyterian controversy." (p. 9)
"Fosdick specifically addressed all but the third of these 'opinions', contrasting the 'points of view' of fundamentalist Christians with those of their more progressive counterparts. Fosdick allowed that many devout Christians believed that the virgin birth was an historical event, that 'it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle.' But, he argued, many others within the evangelical churches accepted another point of view. These Christians held that 'those first disciples adored Jesus --as we do; when they thought about his coming they were sure that he came specially from God--as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God's special influence and intention in His birth--as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modern minds cannot use.' Likewise, while many evangelical Christians affirmed the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the literal second coming of Christ on the clouds of heaven, others believed the Scriptures were 'the progressive unfolding of the character of God' and taht development, not supernatural intervention, was God's way of working out his will ih the world." (p. 10)
"From 1922 until 1936 the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was wracked by conflict. sparked by a sermon of Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Baptist preaching in a Presbyterian pulpit, the Presbyterian controversy raged for fourteen years over such issues as ordination requirements, the mission of Princeton seminary, and the orthodoxy of the board of foreign Missions. Though at the height of the conflict in the mind 1920's the church managed to hold together, the controversy resulted in a loosening of the church's ordination standards, the reorganization of Princeton theological Seminary, the creation of Westminster theological Seminary, and the eventual founding of the Presbyterian Church of America." (p. 4)
"The Presbyterian controversy was one major aspect of the wider fundamentalist--modernist controversy of the era. In the cultural crisis that followed World War I, differences within the church, which had been developing for over fifty years, exploded. Numerous factors contributed to this disruption. In the intellectual arena, the advent of Darwinism, historicism, higher criticism of the scriptures, and comparative religion all strained traditional modes of thought."While there were many changes in thinking and also in society, strangely, however, the war of the controversy was strangely said to have been one among the "generals". This is probably because among the general population these changes are not so great that they change their view of the world. Most important things stay the same even as the world changes.
The Presbyterian controversy was, by and large, a conflict among generals; it was they who prosecuted the war and they who worked to galvanize a constituency.
Longfield attempts to fairly and finely balance the most pivotal denominational split of 20th century America. He does so by briefly biographing and documenting the interaction of the PCUSA's main players at that time. The documentation is excellent. The problems enter when Longfield interprets and implies motives. The main problem is Longfield succumbing to the whole problem Machen was fighting against in the modernist contrversy: historical consciousness. As a result the reader is not given an objective account. Machen is categorized as a fundementalist in the same category with William Jennings Bryan. Anyone familiar with Machen's intense new testament scholarship and political stances know otherwise. And to someone like myself who greatly admires Machen, such a depiction is borderline blasphemy. Machen was a brilliant and faithful standard bearer, not a demagogue or reactionary (as implied by fundementalist label). I recommend this book with serious reservations to discerning readers. 'Toward a Sure Faith' by Chrisope serves as an excellent account setting the stage for Machen's latter battles.
...But the Swedenborgian errs, not because he reads the Scriptures otherwise than rightly; not because he reasons ill; not because he has any regard for the authority of the Church; but because he sets Scripture, reason and the Church all aside, and yields up his whole soul submissively to the authority of one blind man. I do not think that I go too far in saying that, as a teacher and an authority, Swedenborg is placed above all the apostles and prophets, and even above our blessed Saviour. He professes to reveal much, more than our Saviour revealed. He claims to make the words of our Saviour mean what they do not obviously mean, what they obviously do not mean, and what no man before him ever dreamed to be their meaning, he says that our Saviour did not mean what our Saviour knew every human being, from the very constitution of his nature, must understand Him to mean. He substitutes a new Church for that which our Saviour established. I do not at all design to say that either Swedenborg or his followers ever intended to lower the reverence of men for the Redeemer, or to compare Him with any mortal. But so far as our Lord is a guide and a law-giver, they do certainly place the word of Swedenborg in the place of the word of Christ. Thus, my dear brethren, you perceive that Swedenborgianism attempts to be, not a form of Christianity, but an addition to Christianity, and a substitution for Christianity. The Bible, interpreted by common sense, by reason, by the Church, or by individual conscience, is not its rule; but a certain part of the Bible, interpreted by Swedenborg, and interpreted in a manner so utterly his own, so wild, so destitute of all support, that no person can for a moment credit the interpretation, except because he looks on the interpreter as far more enlightened than any apostle. It assumes to be, to this extent, a new religion, having a new author.
...That after death, men who have loved falsehood, repair to such places as clefts of rocks; conspirators to dark rooms and corners; men proud of science to sandy places; men who studied doctrines, but did not live by them, to heaps of stones; avaricious persons to cells where "swinish filth" is found; voluptuaries to places full of uncleanness; adulterers to brothels; and revengeful persons to places full of dead corpses. That all these choose such abodes, and have there their gratification. That [12/13] Swedenborg saw the great Luther in the world of spirits, not yet admitted to heaven; informed him of the end of the old Church, and the substitution of the new; and led him over, by degrees, to this belief, though at first "he became very indignant and stormed." That he saw the pious Melancthon in a cold, filthy stone chamber, wrapped up in a bear-skin. That he attempted in vain to convert the pious Calvin, who finally went to a cavern under ground, with other predestinarians, "where they are forced to work for their food, and are all enemies to one another." That the pious and zealous Moravians could not abide in heaven, but cast themselves out headlong. That the planet Saturn is the most distant from the sun. That men before the fall did not breathe with their lungs. That various diseases with which Swedenborg was afflicted, even such as the toothache, proceeded not from natural causes, but from the influx of evil spirits. That in hell there are such punishments as bruising a sinner in a mortar, or grinding him in a mill, his fellow sinners being the executioners. That in heaven the plays of boys and little children are a part of the celestial festivities; and that all things earthly are repeated there; houses, chambers, gardens, libraries, books, papers, colleges, museums, all mechanic arts, feasts, food, and wine. That in hell Swedenborg saw two of the Popes, one holding his feet in a basket full of serpents, and the other sitting upon an ass which was on fire, with red serpents creeping at its sides. That he saw David, the man after God's own heart, amongst wicked spirits, himself engaged in most horrid and shocking conduct. That the inhabitants of the planet Mercury are intellectual, but haughty and excessively loquacious, and choose rather the form of crystalline globes than that of men; that those of Jupiter live in low wooden houses, sit cross-legged, are devoted to the doctrines of the Swedenborgian Church, and have been sometimes vexed with popish emissaries; that those of Mars have yellow foreheads and black chins, and wear clothes made of bark; that those of Saturn do not bury their dead, but cover them with boughs of trees. That some of the inhabitants of Venus are giants, while those of the moon are as small as children, and speak, not from the lungs, but from the abdomen, with a voice like thunder.
Why do we repeat these preposterous tales? Only that the true character of the delusion may appear, which must be received by any who admit the revelations of Swedenborg. You may possibly be told, however, that there is no obligation to receive them; that he sometimes erred; that the system does not rest on his authority, but commends itself by its own harmony and beauty. On that supposition, it stands on the same level with all speculations; and this is a day in which many speculations are sent forth more inviting than these; and we must be free to say that neither the system nor its author displays any such superior wisdom as should entitle it to a preference above speculations which our own minds are quite competent to originate in our idlest moments. But no; when the notion that Swedenborg saw heaven and hell is removed, the whole fabric sinks into dust and confusion; and whoever believes that he did see heaven and hell, must receive his statements of all which he saw there, down to the most grotesque and enormous of his reveries. If there be any who, taking the name of a "New Church," would arrange its doctrines and its practice without even the guidance of Swedenborg, simply by their own judgment and fancy, and in entire freedom from the authority of the old Church and the Bible, wherein is that better than simple Deism?
But now let us advance to a higher charge than that of delusion, however vast. The doctrines of Swedenborg are not only absurd, but directly contradictory to the Word of God. They are so, in the broadest mode, by asserting that the language of the Scriptures has not its plain, natural, and obvious meaning, but a hidden sense which no one but Swedenborg ever could interpret, a sense which may put upon them any meaning at his pleasure, however foreign to their import; a sense which often is directly in the face of their very language. Our Lord, for example, has said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God; and rich men, from the time when our Lord spake, have remembered His words with more or less of profit; but Swedenborg says that "by a camel is signified the principle of knowledge and of science in general, and by the eye of a needle, spiritual truth;" that "by the rich are meant those who are in the knowledges of truth and good, and by riches the knowledges themselves;" and after this, I had almost said lucid explanation, that "the rich come into heaven as easily as the poor." Our Saviour says that in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but Swedenborg says that "there are marriages in heaven as well as on earth," and describes their whole character and arrangements. With such a key as his, with that pretended inward meaning, he may contradict any other words of Scripture as readily as these; for the supposition of such a key is fatal to the supreme authority of the whole.
...The painful task which I proposed is now performed. I have shown what Swedenborgianism attempts to be; then, what is the extent of the delusions which it invokes; and then, how directly it contradicts and overthrows the word of God. That such a system should have any attractions for any minds, may seem wonderful, but admits an explanation. It promises to disclose the secrets of the life to come; and that is a knowledge which to some is so welcome that they will accept any tale of such wonders without the color of real evidence. It softens and smooths down all the more mysterious and difficult doctrines of the Scriptures, professing generally to receive them in name while it removes their substance, and offering also a key through which any doctrine may be explained away. It presents, in practice, the easiest of all religions; counselling little more than to wish well to others, and seek your own enjoyment, assured that at death you will pass to the state which you have chosen. It embraces but a small number of persons; the smallness of their number and the peculiarity of their opinions bind them closely together. It is not a religion for the ignorant, the poor, or the penitent; but it offers sufficiently pleasant associations for those who seek, in their religion, rather to be pleased than to please God and to walk in the truth.
Those numerous volumes which Swedenborgianism would substitute for the Bible, far from indicating genius, depth, or wisdom, are superficial, absurd, and worthless. You may be told that you do not understand what you read in them, and you may suppose that there must be more there than you can understand; but only a little patience is required to see all the meaning which they have, and to see that it has no value. Let me entreat you, then, to withdraw yourselves, and to seek to withdraw all over whom you have influence, from lending any sanction to a system, which, if it could widely prevail, would be most disastrous and fatal to the interests of society and to the souls of men. There can be no compromise. If there is any thing which you love and revere in the Gospel or the Church of Christ, it is virtually renounced and trodden under foot when that Church is exchanged for a new Church, and that Gospel for another Gospel. Remember the words which were read as the text of this discourse, and which, from first to last, are so strikingly applicable to its subject. "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body, by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God "
Because at this day with many in the church there is no belief in the life after death, and scarce any belief in heaven, nor in the Lord as the God of heaven and earth; therefore the interiors which are of my spirit have been opened by the Lord, so that while still in the body, I can at the same time be with angels in heaven, and not only speak with them, but also see the stupendous things there, and describe them; so that it may not chance to be said hereafter, "Who has come to us from heaven and told us that there is such a place, and what there is there?" But I know that they who in heart have before denied heaven and hell and the life after death, will still confirm themselves against them, and deny them; for it is easier to make a crow white, than to make those believe who have once rejected faith in the heart. The reason is, that they always think of such things from the negative, and not from the affirmative. Nevertheless, let what has been said hitherto, and what is still further to be said concerning angels and spirits, be for the few who are in faith. And that the rest also may be led along to something of acknowledgement, it has been conceded to relate such things as delight and attract the man who is desirous of knowing... (124)
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30 " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
They who are in heaven can speak and converse with angels and spirits who are not only from the earths in this solar system, but also with those who are from other earths in the universe out of this system; and not only with the spirits and angels there, but also with the inhabitants themselves, but only with those whose interiors are open, so that they can hear such as speak from heaven. The same is the case with man during his abode in the world, to whom it has been granted by the Lord to speak with spirits and angels. For man is a spirit as to his interiors, the body which he carries about in the world only serving him for performing functions in this natural or terrestrial sphere, which is the ultimate. But it is granted to no one to speak as a spirit with angels and spirits, unless he be such that he can consociate with angels as to faith and love; nor can he so consociate, unless he have faith and love to the Lord; for man is joined to the Lord by faith and love to Him, that is, by truths of doctrine and goods of life from Him; and when he is conjoined to the Lord, he is secure from the assaults of evil spirits from hell. With others the interiors cannot be so far opened, since they are not in the Lord.