True Christianity #16

True Christianity (Rose translation)

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16. To these points I will add a memorable occurrence. I saw some people who had recently left the physical world and arrived in the spiritual world talking among themselves about three divine persons from eternity. They were ministers; one of them was a bishop.

They came over to me. After I talked to them about the spiritual world - something they had known nothing about before - I said to them, "I heard your conversation about three divine persons from eternity. Could I ask you to explain this great mystery by telling me your view of it? I'm interested in the mental images you had of it when you were in the physical world that you recently left behind. "

The leader looked me up and down. He said, "I see that you are a layperson, so I shall disclose the view I have had of this great mystery and instruct you.

"My view has been and still is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit sit in the middle of heaven on exalted and majestic chairs or thrones. God the Father sits on a throne made of pure gold and has a scepter in his hand. God the Son sits to his right on a throne of pure silver and has a crown on his head. And God the Holy Spirit sits next to both of them on a throne of dazzling crystal and holds a dove in his hand. Surrounding them are three tiers of hanging lamps glittering with precious stones. At quite a distance from this inner circle stand countless angels, all adoring and glorifying them.

"Furthermore, God the Father is continually discussing with his Son which people should be granted justification. Between the two they arrive at a decision and they decree which people on earth are worthy to be accepted by them among the angels and crowned with eternal life. God the Holy Spirit hears the names and immediately rushes across the world to those people, bringing gifts of justice as proof of salvation for those granted justification. As soon as he arrives and breathes on them, he blows away their sins like someone with a fan blowing the smoke out of a furnace and then whitewashing it. He also takes from their hearts the hardness of stone and gives them instead the softness of flesh. At the same time he renews their spirits or minds and makes them born again, giving them the face of a child. Finally, he marks their foreheads with the sign of the cross and calls them the chosen ones and children of God. "

When his lecture came to an end, the leader said to me, "When I was in the world that is how I untangled this great mystery. And because many of our priests there applauded the views I have expressed to you, I am convinced that you as a layman will likewise put your faith in them. "

[2] After the leader said this I observed him and the ministers with him, and I perceived that they were all in complete agreement. So, launching into a reply, I said, "I have considered the beliefs you just uttered, and from them I gather that you are attached to, and you cherish, an utterly physical and sensory picture of the triune God; in fact I would even call your view materialistic. The idea of three gods inevitably flows from your picture. Isn't it a sensory idea of God the Father to think of him sitting on a throne with a scepter in his hand? And to think of the Son as sitting on his own throne with a crown on his head? And to think of the Holy Spirit sitting on his own throne with a dove in his hand and then rushing all over the world following the orders he has heard? Since your depiction leads to a physical picture of God, I cannot put my faith in what you said. Ever since I was a little child I have not been able to allow any other idea of God into my mind except the idea of one God. And because I have allowed this idea and it is the only one I hold, nothing you have said has any effect on me.

"Later I came to see that the throne on which Jehovah sits, according to Scripture, means his kingdom. His scepter and his crown mean his governing and his power. Sitting at the right hand means the omnipotence God has through his human manifestation. And the things said about the Holy Spirit refer to the actions of the divine omnipresence.

"Please, my lord, give consideration to the idea of one God, and use your reason to ponder the idea appropriately. In time you will come to see clearly that it is true.

[3] "Now, all of you do indeed say there is one God, because you give the three persons one essence, as well as giving each person an individual essence; but you do not allow anyone to say that that one God is one person. You maintain that there are three persons, because you do not want to lose your idea of three gods. You give each person different characteristics from the others. Yet doesn't that divide this divine essence of yours?

"Given all that, how could you think and say that there is one God? I would understand if you had said there is one divineness; but when someone hears that 'The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and each person is individually God,' how can that person think there is one God? It is a contradiction to which faith could never adhere.

"Therefore you cannot say 'one God' though you could have said 'the same divineness. ' For example, many people go together to make one senate, one committee, or one council. You cannot call them one person; but when each and every one of them has the same opinion, you can say that they share one point of view. Three diamonds are made of the same substance; you cannot call them one diamond, but you can say they are of one substance. Yet you can also say that the diamonds differ in value according to each one's weight, which you couldn't say if there was one diamond rather than three.

[4] "I gather, however, that you call three divine persons, each of whom is God by himself or individually, one God. You order each person in the church to speak in this way, because sound and enlightened reason across the globe recognizes that there is one God; so you would blush with shame if you did not do the same. And yet, while you are pronouncing 'one God,' even though you are thinking 'three,' somehow that sense of shame does not keep the two sets of words stuck in your throat, but instead you utter them both. "

After this exchange the bishop and his ministers left. While he was walking away, he turned back and wanted to shout, "There is one God," but he could not do it, since his thought stopped his tongue. Instead he opened his mouth wide and thundered, "There are three gods!" When the people who had been standing nearby saw this bizarre occurrence they burst out laughing and went elsewhere.

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True Christian Religion 183

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