Saturday, September 29, 2012

For Swedenborg and other Seers

This one is for Swedenborg:

And Swedenborg and Joseph Smith, and many others:

Tolstoy and Prebyterians 3

Ok, the "Presbyterian Controversy"  is really not coming along, but the book has now been renewed for the third time;  it seems no one is actually looking for that book, nor the Swedenborg compendia which are languishing by the front door.  But we will say a few things about it below and provide an introduction.

On the other hand, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is about half through, since I've sat up late to get at least as far as Levin and Kitty finally agreeing to get married.  It was a strange deal between the two and mostly I feel sorry for Kitty, which is probably Tolstoy's objective here, seeing that the liberation of women, so to speak, needed to happen at some time.  The novel is starting to seem somewhat eternal, not in terms of the depth of the subject matter but according to the length of it.  I've begun skipping things about politics and economics just to see how it would go with Levin and Kitty.

Poor Kitty reminds me of some women in Jane Austen's stories, who seem to have no options in life except to try and make a good match, all the while trying to maintain their dignity, sensitivity and sense of romance--not a simple matter.  I suppose for women it is always such a thing, needing to marry for love and common sense at the same time since a poor match for a woman is much more devastating to her and her offspring, her health and joy, than  for most men.  Still, among these nobles, the double bind was something even more torturous.  (This reminds me of all the other poor Queens I've read about, who got married off into foreign lands into more or less traumatic situations, Catherine the Great, Catherine the wife of Henry VIII, and Marie Antoinette.  These are just the well-known ones.  To mind comes also Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of "Infidel", who fled her country finally because she was expected to make an advantageous match with someone whom she did not love romantically.)  Yes, this is the stuff of heartache, long novels, plays and movies.

But poor Kitty--she agrees to marry Levin even before he can confess to her something he really feels she needs to know, all for the sake of his own "sincerity".   He needs to tell her that he is an "unbeliever" and that he has not been chaste before marriage.  He supplies his diaries for her to read all the details regarding this sort of subject matter.   Kitty cries because he gives her all this information--too much information, as we say today.  However, the fact that he is an "unbeliever" is ok, since is such a great soul.  Eieiei... what a match made in heaven indeed.  They have been so in a torturous love all this time, but no one knew this about Levin.  Poor girl Kitty, having to make her decisions of "yes" or "no" with such little choice and knowledge base, as her sister Dolly explained once to Levin.  Yes, I do feel kind of bad for the women.

And then we have Anna Karenina, who was probably married early also in this kind of horse trade fashion and now has discovered romantic love.  She will be the tragic heroine.

I am intrigued how Tolstoy will develop further his theme of soul and brotherhood of man, so we do have to finish this long book.

So, let's try and connect this to the Presbyterian controversy.  Somehow following the "enlightenment" and into the romantic period we get a philosophy or theology which wants to dispense of "believing" in the Bible as a "real" truth, in the common sense. In its place we get a "real" Christianity, which can dispense with the written word and go only with a "spiritual" sense.  I don't know exactly how this happened but it seems to me that generally the German writers get blamed for this and this may be so.  Usually Schopenhauer comes up and what's his name, who wrote regarding "Christianity and its cultured despisers."  (I don't really know that much about it because when it comes to reading theologians, I always curve back to Luther, leaving the others aside.  This is because Luther can make me happy in Christ in a single paragraph, hedonist that I am.  The American Lutherans in LCMS could probably provide more literature on this, since they largely ended up in America for religious liberty reasons and had probably undergone this same controversy in Europe already.)

So it happened that the American Presbyterians also came under the sway of German philosophers and theologians, and people like their own transcendentalists had fallenl nicely into step with these trends, though I'd probably agree with a good chunk of their criticism of Calvinism.  There arose among them a number of liberal theologians, who felt they were unfairly castigated by their conservative "bretheren" and pleaded for tolerance for themselves in the church.  The eventual cause of the outbreak of the controversy and the ensuing battles was a sermon by a Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Baptist preaching in a Presbyterian pulpit.  The occasion was Sunday morning, 21 May 1922, in New York.  The title of the sermon was "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"  We can see that the battlelines were already drawn and likely entrenched.

"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)

The faction that was called the "fundamentalist" held the line at these doctrines:  the virgin birth of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, and the literal second coming of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven.

(--That does indeed make me also a "fundamentalist" by American nomenclature.)

"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)

According to Fosdick the church should just stop bickering about this and accept the liberal faction the way it is, so it can get on with its work and attract young people to it.  (Isn't if funny how things like these are always done 1.  to attract young people  2.  get more work done  3.  for those with the firmer opinions expected to bow to those with the flimsier opinions rather than the reverse.)

This assault on orthodoxy were met by the "fundamentalist" champion J. Gresham Machen.  He condemned Fosdick's preaching as "dreadful undogmatic Christianity."  Another leader in the fight, Clarence Edward Macartney from Philadelphia, gave a point by point response to Fosdick in a sermon titled:  "Shall Unbelief Win?"   He contended that "the naturalistic views described by Fosdick were simply irreconcilable with the doctrinal position of the Presybterian Church.  It was therefore the duty of the church and all evangelical Christians to make this incompatability known, to fight for the faith--'earnestly and intelligently and in a christian spirit'  but nevertheless to fight." (p. 11)

"The virgin birth, he maintained, far from being myth or rubbish, was historical fact; the Bible was the inspired and authoritative Word of God; and premillenarians, though mistaken in their exegesis, were at least loyal to the 'Person and claims of Jesus Christ.'  Liberal preaching, on the other hand, was 'slowly secularizing the chruch.'  The minority of modernists and rationalists in the church, Macartney argued, depended on the tolerance of evangelicals to let them spread their message.  But tolerance could only end in an emasculated gospel.  The future was clear.  If left unchecked, liberalism would lead the church to a new type of Christianity,  'a Christianity of opinions and principles and good purposes, but a Christianity without worship,  without God, and without Jesus Christ." (p. 11)

--As for myself, having lived mostly in the second half of the 20th century, I have been able to observe the effects of this liberalizing tendency in the Canadian Churches.  In Canada the United Church was formed in 1925 by uniting mostly Presbyterians and Methodists, along with some other groups.  My own experiences with encountering individuals from these churches, largely from singing in community choirs with them, hiring them as staff, and from reading their publications sent to us for our clinic waiting room, has shown to me the extent of their discomfort with the Bible.  In all encounters, the Bible can be used as anyone pleased.  Supposedly it contradicts itself all over the place.  (This is mostly by hearsay, because their Bible knowledge was actually not that extensive; -- this would by corollary of saying that it's all wrong;  why would you study it.)  Talk centers about liberal politics and how the Bible is not true.  A strange doctrine for a church.

Once I went to hear a talk by an Edmonton woman doctor who had spent most of her life in Nepal founding and running a hospital somewhere in a remote location.  When she returned to Canada, she said she could not believe what had happened to her denomination (originally Methodist).  It was disheartening for her to discover, that all the faith had been hollowed out and practically collapsed in her absence.

All of this makes me think of how Matthew Harrison keeps quoting Luther:  the gospel is a sudden heavy rainshower (Platzregen);  it has come and watered and then it is gone.  If we will let it go, it will be gone, to our own sorrow and regret.  We will be in a post-Christian society.  But the rain will move on.  And it seems it is moving to China and such other places.  In meeting Chinese Christians I have discovered their ripeness for learning about God.  They've been through Communism, Atheism and Buddhism, etc.  All of it is philosophy, they say.  But Christianity tells the truth about God.  So it is.  Amen.  Lord, keep us in your grace, help us and leave us not.

Enough for today...

Small Catechism cont.

The Seventh Commandment cont.
You shall not steal.

2.  ... nor acquire it by false measure, goods or trade.

114.  1 Thessalonians 4,6:

This is God's will that no one transgress or wrong his brother in trade, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things.

115.  Leviticus 25:36

Take not commit usury or take advantage, but fear your God, so that your brother may live.

116.  Leviticus 19, 35-36.

You shall not deal fraudulently or unequally in the courts, nor with measure of length, with measure of weight, with measure of volume.  Among you are right scale, a right pound and a right scoop shall be found.  I am the Lord your God.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Small Catechism cont.

The Seventh Commandment

You shall not steal.

1.  You shall not steal another person's money or goods. 

111.  Leviticus 19:11,12

You shall not steal;  you shall not deal falsely;  you shall not lie to one another.  You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God:  I am the LORD.  

112.  Ephesians 4,28

Whoever has been stealing should quit doing it, but find work instead and create something good with his own hands, so that he has something to give to the needy.

113.  Proverbs 29:24

Whoever partners with thieves hates his own life because he covers everything up.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wonderful Fall--Evidence

We can walk to the North Saskatchewan River in about 10 min.

Tolstoy and Presbyterians 2

Between the beautiful weather and the "Anna Karenina", there isn't much room for the Presbyterian controversy just now.

There is a new Anna Karenina movie coming out this November, starring Keira Knightley.   I am reading bits and pieces of this lengthy novel to my husband, who is providing appropriate historical context and questions.  For one thing he wondered how Tolstoy's family fared during the revolution.  Then he told me some things about Lenin and his links to Germany, which I have already forgotten. I think I may have him take me out to see the new movie.  Wouldn't that be romantic?

Here is the trailer for the movie plus several teaser clips:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tolstoy and Presbyterians

The autumn weather in our parts has been extraordinarily wonderful with heat and bright blue skies and hardly any frost so far.  We are savoring it to the last drop.

I wanted to write about the Presbyterian controversy, but in my spare time have taken to reading a book a friend lent me, the famous "Anna Karenina", by Tolstoy.  This led me into looking up the story of Tostoy's life and philosophy.  There was a movie made about his life, recently, called:  "The Last Station";  most parts of this movie are found on Youtube.  Tolstoy met a very strange end, dying in a train station, after leaving his family in order to live as a homeless wanderer; an idea of asceticism had possessed him.  In reading bits and pieces of his "Confessions", it seems that he had taken some strange ideas, discarding orthodox Christianity, becoming a pacifist and some kind of promoter of human unity through love.  We all, of course, want unity and love and no war, but there is here something in play which reminds me of things I have recently come across in 19th century writing. He decries church doctrine such as the trinity and creation.  He fumed at the Bible saying that light was there before the sun, (which in our days is no problem at all with the factor of the cosmic rays being there at the beginning).  It seems that the 19th century was roiling over Darwin's doctrine in all countries and many lost their nerves over their faith in the Bible.  This does lead us directly into the Presbyterian controversy by accident.

Let's have a look at our library book once more, Longfield's "The Presbyterian Controversy".

"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)

Why does this matter to the rest of us?--I'm not really solid on U.S history but it seems like this controversy is something of a prototype for the controversies in other denominations related to the issues related to Biblical liberalism vs. literalism.  The famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 falls into this time period and involves some of the same people.

"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.

This is really kind of sad.  This sort of thing is often top-down.  And lately, too, I have learned how the academic elite calls Bible believers all kinds of names and the average person is disregarded.  How much sorrow has been caused even lately all over the place by oppressive measures.

This is all I'm going to say right now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


3.  and each one love and honor his husband or wife.  

106.  Genesis 2:18

It is not good that man be alone:  I will make him a matching companion. 

107.  Matthew 19:6

What God has fit together, man shall not pry apart. 

108.  Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ has loved the church and gave himself for her.

109.  Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives should be submissive to their husbands, as to the Lord.  Because the husband is the head of his wife, just as Christ is the head of the church, his body,  and is himself  its Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 

110.  Titus 2, 4-5

Wives are to be self-controlled, loving their husbands and children, chaste, looking after their households, gracious and submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God is not maligned. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Presbyterian Controversy

There is another book that needs to go back to the library.  I read it entire with great interest and can recommend it for good insights. I suspect that the entire series is very good.

It's title is:  The Presbyterian Controversy.  Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates. Author:  Bradley J. Longfield.   From the Religion in America Series.  Harry S. Stout, Editor.

I should have taken some notes while I was going through it but I will try and find some of the things which I found particularly relevant to the things I've been thinking about.

The author decided to illuminate the controversy by exploring in great depth the background and motivations of the persons involved.  This was certainly a fruitful approach because through the biographies much useful material could be introduced naturally and interestingly.  We can also learn to see how certain people arrive at their positions in various ways, some through great trials, some more or less in a facile way.  Of course, you would think that more credence should be give to those with greater trials and depth, but we can see that character and popularity also play into this.

The main criticism of the book, as seen on Amazon, seems to be the characterization of a central figure, J. Gresham Machen of Princeton Seminary.  Here is one opinion:

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.

What interests me in this complaint above is the distinction someone is trying to draw between kinds of "fundamentalists".   "Fundamentalist" is not a word in my active vocabulary, nor in people's who I know in person, i.e. in "real" life as opposed to on the internet.  For some on the internet, this is a huge hot button.  "Fundamentalist" seems to be synonymous with literal Bible believing total idiot, bigot and justifiable object of derision.

In Germany, we had pastors who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and somehow managed to preach something on Easter Sunday.  We also did have  pastors who proclaimed the resurrection of the dead, according to scripture. -- We, as the poor sheep, would distinguish between the kinds of pastors as "believing" or "not believing".

All of this, however, is somehow connected, call it what you want.  The liberal calls the "believer"  all kinds of insulting things.  And the conservative considers the liberal pretty much as anti-Christ, which in my opinion comes pretty close.  Denying that Christ came "in the flesh", may have referred to Docetism and Gnosticism, etc., but coming up with various anti-reality or pleasing metaphorical schemes is really not that different. These not only dare to deny the teaching about Christ but also persecute and malign those who hold to the word as blasphemers (even Christ was called Beelzebub), profane idolators...  and today someone called it a "throwing the dice at the foot of the cross for Christ's robe".  Sure, we will take away the substance and substitute a vendetta against those who confess Biblical teaching.

Ok, ok, ok.  That's all for now.  Time is running out.  I'll will try and get some notes from the book.

Catechism Translation: Sixth Commandment continued

You shall not commit adultery (break your marriage vows).

b.  in words

100.  Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

101.  1. Cor. 15:33

Do not be deceived.  Bad talk ruins good morals. 

 c.  in deeds

102.  1. Thessalonians 4:3

This is the will of God, your sanctification:  abstain from sexual immorality.

103.   2. Tim. 2:22

Flee youthful lusts;  but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with all who call upon the Lord with pure hearts. 

104.   Luke 21: 34

See to it that your hearts are not weighed down with gluttony and drunkenness and worries about this life.

105.  Proverbs 1:10

My child, when bad men are goading you, do not follow them. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fresh Start

Let's get ourselves back on track for the Catechism Translation.  It seems I've got derailed already on July 14/ 2011, where we have the last post and only got to the Sixth Commandment.  It seems, at the time, it was the Becker on "The Foolishness of God" which got us going in a different direction.  This was fruitful reading, however, and having received permission from the publishing house I proceeded to publish as many quotes as I did.  I should put them in order and publish them as one decent, continuing post, somewhere.  This would also serve as a good review of an excellent book, for myself.  (Put on list of things to do.)

Then, when I was quoting Becker all over the place, finding him quite profound, even on Facebook, when my new friend (S.S.)  :)  came along and plagued me with his opinions on the unsuitability of all this quoting.  From there I read and learned many interesting things and met American authors out of my usual circle, and pretty much off the radar screen in Canada, some of whom I appreciated more than others.  In the end, however, the catechism, great doctrine, and good, old authors don't go away and are not incompatible with other thinking and writing, or even creativity.

So the catechism continues in my booklet on page 50, with Bible quote #100.  We'll back to it tomorrow.  There is a bookmark in the right place, now.  The other books on the go, at the moment, are some apologetics by Alister McGrath and also by Michael Coren, who is coming to our Concordia University College of Alberta on Nov. 17th.  We will probably be interspersing them.

In terms of producing fresh works from your own experience, I think I have learned some valuable lessons and gained also some freedom and better idea of how it's done, but where something like the "enthusiasm" of Swedenborg happens, we are on the very wrong road, headed for the bushes and forest and marshes and getting lost altogether. Dangerous territory.  Watch out lest someone deceives.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Final Swedenborg installment

At this point, I believe this will be the final Swedenborg post.  To be blunt, I have no desire to read one more word of his because it is a waste of time.  The stuff is so completely without merit, I can hardly believe that good, serious, decent and educated people have ever given it any credence or found something useful in it.  It is easy to understand why his name and writings have pretty much become obscure and forgotten.  Every time, I mention him to someone, even very educated philosophy people and theologians, they don't recognize the name.  Nevertheless, one comes across his name frequently when reading about other people who were influenced by him in the past.  This is something of an enigma.  And then, of course, there was the encounter with the author at Costco with his angel books, sold deceptively as "Christian romance."

I did have a chance to discuss the reading I have done and my analysis with educated people last night.  I think I'm good and finished now.  We talked about English literature and philosophy and anti-realism, and fact and fiction and the philosophy professor summarized it this way:  there are a lot of English professors doing bad philosophy. -- This could be a clue.

For some reason Imanuel Kant was taken with Swedenborg initially. I still wonder how this early appreciation influenced his philosophy;  (but not much;  I'm not wondering much;  barely, actually.)

Part of the mystique must have been that in times before actual space exploration and travel, people found the idea that all the planets have human life on them compelling.  This must have somehow caught their imagination.  (I am really straining to see what they saw.)

We can see that Joseph Smith was influenced by these ideas and copied many of them.  This is explored thoroughly here.  We already mentioned Quinn's book on magic in New England.  Someone mentioned somewhere that the fact that similar ideas appear with Swedenborg and Joseph Smith must somehow prove that they were divinely inspired.  This is most laughable.  (It must be the collective unconscious which told them both to talk to men on the moon and have many wives.)  

I never got much into writing about his rejection of justification by faith and decent theology taught by ministers in his area.  Swedenborg dismisses all the clergy as puffed up buffoons with their "education", doctrines, robes and offices.  Obviously, Swedenborg's fantastic non-sense did not go down well with them.  So Swedenborg counters the doctrine of justification by faith with the idea that people should have both "truth" (right doctrine) and "good"  (charity).  This he carried into everything he says, but only in the "spiritual" sense, without hardly any practical idea on how one should be good or better than other people.  Of course, one should be "open" on the "interior" like he is, which enabled him to speak to all these angels and spirits. Arguing in sequence from point to point and coming to conclusions this way was not a good thing.  This is likely where the theologians failed in his mind.  So, we have to take Swedenborg's word over the ordained minister's word or rational discussion.

I think not.

And we are also supposed to take it over the Bibles word, as we have seen already.   I think not, that either.

Back to the library with your books, Swedenborg.  They can just sit there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rev. Burgess on Swedenborgian Delusion in 1870

Excerpts from an excellent sermon on Swedenborgianism.

A.D. 1858,

...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 "

Thank you to the preacher.  Well said and cogent.

The last verse in the ESV is Colossians 2:18

 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.

I think besides showing how the Bible is completely set aside and Swedenborg put into place as an authority in its place, we can see why, even though everything seems inane and preposterous, it holds an attraction for some.  -- It is easy.

Easy--is what I said to someone the other day about Relativism.  It's easy.  You can think and say whatever you want.  It's all good.  A key to explain away any doctrine.  A way to call yourself good and better than others without having and demands placed on yourself. -- "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."

And still we have those with us who want to have just a little religion in their lives who indulge themselves with so-called "Christian Romance", calling it deep spiritual insight.  No need to worship.  No need to pray.  No need to go to and support a church and a community.  No need to understand and defend doctrines, no need to adhere to a moral code or repent and ask for forgiveness.   Instead, one can even sit on the high horse and sneer at those scandalized fundamentalists and bigots with their morbid, medieval religion.

There seem to be "prophets" everywhere.

I just did a little house-cleaning on this blog removing some elements and then for the fun of it hit "next blog" at the top.

It can be quite fun to see what you get at random from blogger.

This was next blog:

What moves these "prophets"?

Perhaps Gene Veith gets at it here in the introduction to his current short article on vocation of ordinary life:

Many people today are bored with ordinary life; they want life to be extraordinary. Some try to escape their meaningless humdrum lives by keeping themselves entertained, by anesthetizing themselves with alcohol or drugs, by breaking up their marriages, or even by pursuing religion. They seek to transcend this world by means of spectacular experiences, whether pleasurable or mystical. Non-Christian religions, such as Hinduism or the New Age movement, often reject the material realm altogether. Even some forms of Christianity teach that we should separate ourselves from the world in order to be purely spiritual. In contrast, the Lutheran doctrine of vocation offers a spirituality of ordinary life.
In medieval theology, the word “vocation”—the Latin word for “calling”—referred only to the calling to be a monk, nun, or priest. These “holy orders” required vows of celibacy (not marrying or having children), poverty (not participating in worldly economic activity), and obedience (being subject only to the church rather than to secular government). In recovering the Gospel, Martin Luther insisted that having a family, working to make a living, and being a citizen of the culture are also vocations from God. All believers are priests. The Table of Duties in the Small Catechism refers to husbands, wives, parents, children, rulers, subjects, employers, and employees all as occupying “holy orders.” Luther worked out the relationship between the Church and the world in the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which emphasizes that Christians are citizens of both kingdoms and that God actively governs them both.
-- See full article here. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Swedenborg says he gets to talk with angels and spirits and others don't.

While waiting at a car dealership, today, I got a little reading done from a Swedenborg compendium.  This is the book I have:  "Miscellaneous Theological Works of Emanuel Swedenborg" issued by the Swedenborg Foundation of New York in 1951.  It is borrowed from the library of Concordia University College of Alberta.  From there I also have another compendium in hand.  

I felt a little bad after having written about sexual libertinism and syphilis, but there are good reasons for doing this.  There definitely was a movement to so-called Free Love in the United States, and as we know sexually transmitted diseases are a difficult but common reality of life.  Also, we will see that Swedenborg allowed for "mistresses" before marriage and "concubines" while married.  There were over 60 reasons with Swedenborg why you could put your wife out of the bedroom and bring in a concubine.  (This is not included in the compendium put out by the Swedenborg society.)  We will get back to that another day.  

Today, I want to quote what Swedenborg has to say about why he can converse with angels and others can't and why he has these supposed revelations.  

I'm reading from Swedenborg's  "The Earths in the Starry Heavens" (he is conversing with spirits from planets beyond our solar system now.)

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)

Swedenborg deftly links the belief or disbelief in life after death to his revelations.  Men of faith will not reject this teaching about angels and spirits (if they are men of faith).  The granting of these connections to him  is a grace so that no one can complain afterward that no one told them about these spiritual beings and worlds.   In contrast, we have the word of scripture.  Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16: 

 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.' "

**We have Jesus CLEARLY saying here that there is a great chasm fixed between these worlds and also that such warning to the living will NOT be supplied. --  They have Moses and the Prophets.  If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.  Thus Swedenborg's words go DIRECTLY and SPECIFICALLY against Jesus' words.  (This alone should be enough to convince anyone that he is a fraud.) 

Below is a second quote from Swedenborg (The Earths in the Starry Heaven. 123):  

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. 

There is a lot here to be discussed and I'm running out of steam.   For now I will pick up only one thing.-- When, in the Bible, someone meets and angel or the Lord, they are terrified because they are unworthy sinners.  "Woe unto me because I am a man of unclean lips."  "I believe, help my unbelief."  There is not one person who dares stand upon his laurels.  But not so Swedenborg.  He has his interior wide open, full of faith and love of God, has a right doctrine and a right life.  He alone is able and worthy to receive these revelations. Therefore, he gets to see and hear all these marvelous things and is made the transmitter.  What could be more contrary to the right attitude to have?  Why is it we do not hear about sin and forgiveness?  Whenever Jesus or an angel appears to someone in the Bible, the first words out of their mouths to the human being is some sort of assurance "Peace be with you!"  This is because we are properly in fear and trembling when we meet the holy and good.  "Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy"  -- is what we say.  And to know our need for mercy we need no extra special messages from beyond.  We only need to look at ourselves.  Repent and believe, Jesus said.   Believe God's word, Moses and the prophets.  Prophets who actually told the truth and foretold the Messiah.  Prophets who walked in humility. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Joseph Smith and Swedenborg

Here is a book I wouldn't mind reading in relation to Joseph Smith, Swedenborg and the "Magic World View"  of the 19th century New England.  The author, Michael Quinn, is acknowledged all around to have written an impeccably researched book while having access to the archives at Brigham Young University during his teaching days there.

Love Life Conference 7, Edmonton, Concordia University College of Alberta

The next Love Life Conference at Concordia University College of Alberta is scheduled for November 17, 2012.  The speakers will be Rev. James Lamb of Lutherans for Life, and Michael Coren of Sun TV  and author of many columns and books.  Michael Coren has also recently published two books with themes of Christian apologetics.  "Heresy:  10 lies they spread about Christianity"   and   "Why Catholics are Right".
Come on out!  You will find it time well spent.  We are always impressed with the depth our speakers bring to discussing issues of human life.

Please, find all the information on our new site.

(You can ask me questions about the conference, as I am working on the planning committee.)

What happened to your blogging? / Swedenborg

What happened to my blogging, people asked me twice last week.  Well, I was working full time for some time and summer is summer, and Facebook and other correspondence can be quite distracting.  Someone also asked what happened to the Catechism Translation Project.  Yes, it would be good to keep going with that.

So what I really want to do is finish reading Martin Brecht's Luther biography and also an Heiko Oberman I started some time ago but found a tough read.  Yes, and finish the translation.  There is also something else I would like to translate.  Last time I was in Germany a biographical story came into my hands, dealing with the hardships endured by a pastor during the third Reich and all the oppressive tactics in place, then, against the church.  The end of the story is quite ironic and I won't talk about it now.  Perhaps, this can get done this winter.

But before that, I want to make notes about something else.  In conversation over some months with a dear illustrious friend (and simultaneously combative enemy), I came into contact with literature and ideas which were foreign to me--and maybe it would be better just to let it all lie, since possibly time has already passed by these issues and the personalities involved.  Of course, what I know about these things is quite limited and getting much deeper into them is not one of my objectives at this point.  However, the matter concerns the relationship between some literary figures, also psychologists and psychiatrists, and  theology.  I don't know where to begin, except to outline two things.

Firstly, there lived a man, Emanuel Swedenborg, of whom I had never heard before, who seems to have been quite brilliant, yet insane.  I will say this right of the bat based on his supposed extensive interactions with spirits and angels from everywhere including the men of the planets Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.  I have read some of his works and "insane" is the word that works for me, here.  I read some of it to my husband last night and he said:  "I have patients like this.  They have a very long list of medications they are on."  (He is speaking about his demented patients he treats as a dentist in a hospital setting.)  Personally, in the same vein, I wonder a lot about syphilis.  I have to read about that, too.  Some of these people did not believe in marital fidelity, and you wonder what sexually transmitted diseases did to their mind. I am not being  frivolous here.  It is not a modern manifestation that men would like to have a different woman when they are finished with the previous, or at the same time.  And sexually transmitted diseases were, of course, more difficult to treat in former times.  Syphilis, in particular comes with wide-ranging manifestations, including mental problems.

--So, Emanuel Swedenborg, in spite of the very weird things he wrote (we will explore this), for reasons difficult to understand at this point, had a very wide impact on famous men, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (who was an unknown to me until recently, also), Carl Jung (whom I only know from lectures on CBC radio), William Blake and his mythology (we all have to learn some of that in basic English classes), Northrop Fry (via Blake's mythology, at least), James Williams (who was an unknown to me also, but reading only tiny bits of his thoughts on Luther showed me that I don't respect him further than I could throw him.  I consider him incompetent on matters related to theology and probably affected by eugenic thinking.)  You just have to google these people and the entries will tell you that these men were influenced by Swedenborg. Also Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, shares a lot of ideas with Swedenborg and comes from the millieu where his idea had currrency.  This can be easily seen by comparing their doctrines.  It seems that in Mormonism Swedenborg's ideas live on most fruitfully.  To top it off, I read a story about a German author who was interviewed for his 80th birthday, in the Frankfurter newspaper, and who surprisingly also kept a picture of Swedenborg in his office, as related by the journalist.  ( When questioned about this he says, he can't remember how the picture got there but he's had it for a long time.  ???  These are the people who keep notes on everything in case they want to write a book about it.)

--And-- to really, really top it off, I went to my local Costco store the other day, and lo and behold, there was an author at a book table, selling his books.  I did not stand very far off thinking that this could be a useful conversation and sure enough he flagged me down.  He praised his books in various ways.  Most importantly I would gain very deep spiritual and emotional insights based on these stories that begin with angels meeting in 1956.  (???  Say that again?)  After him saying this sort of thing several times and me asking what he meant by deep "spiritual and emotional insight", I asked him whether he was Swedenborgian. He said, that yes he was.  I just about fell flat on my back to meet a living, breathing and confessing Swedenborgian in Costco, in Canada in 2012, and felt pretty agitated for some time after that.  I explained to him why I would not be purchasing his books but that I would keep the bookmark with all his information.  I won't give him any publicity here, (I have his name, his webadress, and titles of his books.  On his website he bills his books "Christian romance series".) but I will type out the prayer on the backside:  "Guardian Angel Prayer.  Oh Angel of God, my guargian [sic] dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.  Amen."

Two things stand out to me here.  First of all, we don't pray to angels.  Secondly, how many people in Edmonton would have been able to ferret out a Swedenborgian within a couple of minutes?  I asked my friends in church this, yesterday, and they assured me that most likely No One in Edmonton ( 1 million people), besides me, would have figured this out within a couple of minutes.  This is also a little scary because these books on angels are everywhere.  They are on your neighbor's coffee table. They are not Christian books.

The second matter to look at is this:  the doctrine of justification by faith alone was a big stumbling block for Swedenborg.  This interesting to me on several fronts. One, what was the situation in the church where he lived?  Two, how was Lutheranism and Calvinism involved in a kind of confusion of the issue?  Three, why is justification by faith, and God dying for your sins still the stumbling block for people who consider themselves cultured?  Why does, even now, a sizable portion of the intelligentsia have to make shipwreck on this rock?--???

It comes to me now, and I am not sure I should put this here, that this is what the song of the Lorelei is about:  the mariner looks at the beautiful girl combing her hair, and he crashes on the rock.  Similarly, the love of the world will always interfere with the having a God who dies for you.

Ok, that's enough for today.  I gave two aspects, one the widespread insinuation of Swedenborg's ideas and second the confusion over justification by faith alone.

PS:  I see that the Lorelei song was written by Heinrich Heine in 1823.   We memorized it in school.