True Christianity #137

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137. The fourth memorable occurrence. I heard that a council had been summoned that was made up of those who were famous for writing and research on the modern-day faith and on the justification of the elect by that faith.

This was in the world of spirits. I was allowed to attend in spirit. I saw that the participants were from the clergy. There were some who agreed and some who disagreed. To the right stood people who in the world had been called the apostolic fathers, who had lived in the centuries before the Council of Nicaea. To the left stood men from after those centuries who were well known for their printed works or works their followers had copied in manuscript form. Many in the latter group had clean-shaven faces and wore curled wigs of women's hair. Some of them had collars with ruffs; some had collars with bands. The former group, however, were bearded and wore no wigs.

Before both groups stood a man who had been a judge and critic of the writers of this century. With the staff in his hand, this chairman banged on the floor and brought about silence. He stepped up onto the dais where the central chair was and uttered a groan. After groaning he intended to shout out loud, but the breath expended in groaning made the shout catch in his throat.

[2] Finally, when he was able to speak, he said, "Friends, what times we live in! Someone has risen out of the herd of the laity. He has no gown, no cap, no laurel. Yet he has pulled our faith down from heaven and thrown it into the river Styx. What a crime! Yet that faith is our only star. It shines like Orion during the night and like Lucifer in the morning. That man, although well advanced in years, remains completely blind to the mysteries of our faith because he has not opened our faith and seen in it the justice of the Lord our Savior, as well as the Lord's mediation and appeasement. And since he hasn't seen these aspects of our faith, he has also missed the wonders of justification by that faith. These wonders are the forgiving of sins, regeneration, sanctification, and salvation.

"Instead of accepting our faith, which is supremely effective for one's salvation because it is a faith in three divine persons and therefore in the whole of God, this man has redirected belief toward the second Person - in fact, not even the whole second Person, but just his human manifestation. That human manifestation we do indeed call divine, because it was the incarnation of the Son from eternity; but who thinks of it as anything other than something merely human? What faith can we have in that except one that gushes materialist philosophy like a fountain? Since that kind of faith is not spiritual, it is virtually the same as faith in a substitute or a saint. You all know what Calvin said in his day about worship from a faith like that. Any one of you, tell us, please, where faith comes from. Doesn't it come directly from God? That is why it contains all the means of salvation. "

[3] At that the chairman's colleagues on the left side (the men with clean-shaven faces, curly wigs, and ruffs around their necks) burst into applause and shouted, 'Very wisely said! We know that we cannot receive anything that is not given us from heaven!"

[Then the chairman continued,] "That prophet should tell us where faith comes from and what faith is if it isn't this. It is impossible for faith to be different or to come from any other source. Revealing another true faith besides this one is as impossible as riding a horse to some constellation in the sky, grabbing one of its stars, hiding it in your coat pocket, and bringing it back with you!"

He included this last comment to make his friends laugh at any new faith.

[4] The men on the right side, though, who were bearded and wore no wigs, were upset when they heard this. One of them, an old man, stood up. (Later, however, he looked like a young adult, because he was an angel from heaven, where people of every stage of life become young adults.)

The old man said, "I have heard the nature of the faith you all have - the faith the chairman praised just now. But that faith is nothing but the tomb of our Lord after the resurrection, locked up again by Pilates soldiers. I have opened that faith but found nothing inside it except magicians' wands used by the sorcerers in Egypt for doing miracles. To your eyes, your faith looks like a treasure chest made of gold and encrusted with precious stones; but when it is opened, the chest is empty, except perhaps for some dust from papal relics left in the corners. Papists have the same faith, you see, except that they are hiding it now behind external acts of piety.

"To use a simile, your faith is also like the Vestal virgin in ancient times who was buried alive for extinguishing the sacred fire. In fact, I can state it directly: to my eyes your faith looks just like the golden calf around which the children of Israel danced after Moses had left to go up to Jehovah on Mount Sinai [].

[5] Don't be surprised that I have spoken about your faith in these analogies - this is the way we who are in heaven speak about it.

"Our faith, on the other hand, is, was, and will be to eternity a belief in the Lord God the Savior, whose humanity is divine and whose divinity is human. It is a faith, then, that is adapted for reception. It is a faith that unites what is divine and spiritual to what is human and earthly. It becomes a spiritual faith on an earthly plane. What is earthly then becomes transparent from the spiritual light of our faith.

"The truths that constitute our faith are as many as the verses in the sacred tome. These truths are all like stars, whose light reveals, and shows the shape of, our faith. People acquire this faith from the Word by means of their earthly light - the light of knowledge, thought, and persuasion; but if people believe in the Lord, he turns this faith into conviction, trust, and confidence. Through this process their faith comes to be spiritual as well as earthly, and enlivened by goodwill. To us this faith is like a queen decorated with as many precious stones as could be seen in the wall of the Holy Jerusalem (Revelation 21:17-20).

[6] "So that you won't think the words I am saying are exaggerated and discount them as a result, I will read you something from the Holy Word that will make it clear that our faith is not faith in a human being, as you think it is; it is faith in the true God in whom everything divine exists. John says, 'Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life' (1 John 5:20). Paul says, 'All the fullness of divinity dwells physically in Christ' (Colossians 2:9). In the Acts of the Apostles it says of Paul, 'To both Jews and Greeks he preached repentance before God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ' (Acts of the Apostles 20:21). The Lord himself says that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18); but these are just a few passages. "

[7] After that the angel looked at me and said, "You know what the beliefs of the so-called Evangelicals are or should be about the Lord the Savior. Recite a few of them so that we may know whether they foolishly believe that the Lord's human manifestation is merely human, or whether they ascribe anything of divinity to that human manifestation, and if so, how. "

I then read out loud excerpts from the book of Evangelical orthodoxy called the Formula of Concord, printed in Leipzig in 1756. I read the following: "In Christ the divine nature and the human nature are so united that they are one Person" (pages 606, 762). "Christ is truly God and a human being in an individual Person; he remains so to eternity" (pages 609, 673, 762). "In Christ God is human and a human is God" (pages 607, 765). "Christ's human nature has been exalted to all divine majesty" (with quotes from many of the apostolic fathers, pages 844-852, 860-865, 869-878). "In his human nature Christ is omnipresent and fills all things" (pages 768, 783, 784, 785). "In his human nature Christ has been given all power in heaven and on earth" (pages 775, 776, 780). "In his human nature Christ sits at the right hand of the Father" (pages 608, 764). "We are to call on Christ in his human nature" (page 226; this statement is supported there by Scriptural passages). The Augsberg Confession completely supports this worship (page 19).

[8] After I read these things out loud, I turned to the chairman and said, "I know that all who are here are associated with people on earth who are like them. Tell me, if you would: do you know whom you are associated with?"

He answered in a solemn tone, "I do know. I am associated with a famous man, a commander of battalions in the church's army of the enlightened. "

Because he answered in such a solemn tone, I said, "Forgive my asking if you know where that famous commander lives. "

"I do know," he said. "He lives not far from where Luther is buried. "

Smiling at this I said, "Why do you say where Luther is buried? Don't you know that Luther has risen, and that he has now recanted his errors regarding justification by faith in three divine Persons from eternity? Surely you know that because of this he has been transferred to join the blessed in the new heaven, and that he laughs when he looks upon his insane followers. "

"I know," he retorted, "but what difference does that make to me?"

Then in the same tone he had used, I addressed him and said, "Pass on to the famous person you are associated with that I am concerned that on a recent occasion he went against the orthodoxy of his own church and took away the Lord's divinity. He let his pen plow a furrow and carelessly sowed materialist philosophy in it when he wrote against the worship of our Lord the Savior. "

"I can't do that," the chairman replied, "because on this topic he and I are more or less of one mind. Besides, he doesn't understand the things I tell him, although all the things he tells me I understand very clearly. The spiritual world enters the material world and perceives the thoughts of people there, but it doesn't work the other way around. These are the present conditions of interaction between spirits and people. "

[9] Since the chairman and I were already conversing, I added: "If possible I'd like to digress to some other questions. Do you know that the orthodoxy of the Evangelicals, presented in their church handbook called the Formula of Concord, teaches that in Christ, God is human and a human is God and that his divinity and humanity exist in one individual person and remain so to eternity? If so, how then could he, and how can you, befoul the worship of the Lord with materialist philosophy?"

To that he replied, "Do I know that? Yes and no. "

Therefore I went on to say, "I ask your associate, although he is absent, or else you in his place: where did the soul of the Lord our Savior come from? If you say it came from Mary, you are insane. If you say it came from Joseph, you desecrate the Word. But if you say it came from the Holy Spirit you have the right answer, provided that by the Holy Spirit you mean the Divinity emanating and having an effect, which means that the Lord is the Son of Jehovah God.

[10] "Again I ask, what is the hypostatic union [in the Lord our Savior]? If you reply that it is a union between two entities, one above and the other below, you are insane, because in that case you could view God our Savior as two entities just as you have viewed the Godhead as three entities. If you say that it is a personal union like the partnership between the soul and the body, you have the right answer. This follows your doctrine and the doctrine of the church fathers. See the Formula of Concord pages 765 to 768.

"Also check the Athanasian Creed where it says, 'Proper faith is for us to believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is both God and a human being. Yet although he is both God and a human being, still he is one Christ, not two. He is one in every way, not by a mixing of substance but by a oneness of person. For as the rational soul and the flesh is one human being, so God and a human being is one Christ. '

[11] "Still further I ask, what was the damnable heresy of Arius that caused Emperor Constantine the Great to call the Council of Nicaea? Wasn't it the denial of the divinity of the Lord's human manifestation?

"For another thing, tell me whom you see as the subject of the following words in Jeremiah: 'Behold, the days are coming when I will raise up for David a righteous offshoot who will rule as king; and this is his name: Jehovah is our Justice' (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16). If you say 'the Son from eternity,' you are insane. He was not the Redeemer. If you say 'the Son born in time, who was the only begotten Son of God' (John 1:18; 3:16), you have the right answer. By redeeming us, he became the justice on which you base your faith. Also read Isaiah 9:6 and the other passages predicting that Jehovah himself was going to come into the world. "

At this the chairman looked away in silence.

[12] The presiding officer then wanted to end the council with a prayer but suddenly a man in the left-hand group interrupted. He had a cloth head-covering on with a hat on top of it. He touched his hat with one finger and said, "I too am associated with a man in your world. He has been appointed to a highly exalted position. I know this because I speak on his behalf as on my own. "

I asked him where that eminent man lives. He answered, "In Goteborg. From him I once got the impression that your new doctrine smacks of Muhammadanism. "

I saw that all the spirits on the right where the apostolic fathers were standing were shocked when they heard that word, and their faces fell. I heard them crying, both in thought and out loud, "What an outrage! What times we live in!"

To calm their understandable wrath I lifted my hand and asked for their attention. When they gave it to me, I said, "I am aware that a man of stature wrote some such accusation in a letter; later the letter was printed. If he had known at that point, however, what blasphemy it was, he would surely have torn it to pieces with his own fingers and given it to Vulcan to consume. The Lord responded to a similar attack when the Jews said that Christ was doing miracles with something other than divine power (Matthew 12:22-32). Among other things, the Lord says in that response, 'Whoever is not with me is against me. Whoever is not gathering with me is scattering' (Matthew 12:30). "

At this, the chairman, his ally, lowered his face. Soon, however, he lifted it again and said, "Now I have heard harder things than ever from you!"

I countered, "There are two doctrines behind these proceedings: materialist philosophy and Muhammadanism - lies invented by treachery, two deadly stabs aimed at turning and deterring the human will from the holy worship of the Lord. "

I turned to the man from the left-hand group and said, "Tell your man in Goteborg, if you can, to read what the Lord has said in Revelation 3:18 and also in Revelation 2:16. "

[13] When I said that, a riot broke out, but it was calmed by light sent down from heaven. As a result of the light, many on the left crossed over to join those on the right. Two groups who stayed on the left were those spirits whose thoughts were without purpose and who would therefore hang on the sayings of any authority, and those spirits who saw the Lord as only a human being. The light sent down from heaven seemed to be repelled by these latter two groups, but it seemed to flow into the spirits who crossed from left to right.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for the permission to use this translation.