From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #330

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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330. To show how vicious belief in predestination is, at least as predestination is commonly understood, I need to pick up these four propositions and support them.

(a) Any predestination but predestination to heaven is contrary to divine love, which is infinite. I explained in the book on Divine Love and Wisdom that Jehovah or the Lord is divine love and that this love is infinite and is the essential reality of all life, as well as that we are created in the image of God after the likeness of God. Since (as already noted [328]) we are all formed by the Lord in the womb in this image after this likeness, it follows that the Lord is the heavenly Father of us all and that we are his spiritual children. "Father" is in fact what Jehovah or the Lord is called in the Word, and "children" is what we are called in the Word. So it says, "Do not call your father on earth your father, for one is your Father, the one who is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9). This means that he alone is our Father in respect to our life, while our earthly fathers are fathers only as to the clothing of life, the body. This is why no one is called father in heaven but the Lord. We can also see in many passages of the Word that we are called his children and are said to have been born from him if we have not inverted that life.

[2] We can tell from this that divine love is in all of us, the evil and the good alike, and that therefore the Lord who is divine love must treat us with as much love as an earthly father treats his children--with infinitely more love, in fact, because divine love is infinite. Further, he can never withdraw from anyone, because everyone's life comes from him. It does seem as though he withdraws from evil people, but it is the evil who are withdrawing: he is still lovingly leading them. So the Lord says, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. Who among you will give a stone if his son asks him for bread? If then you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those who ask him?" (Matthew 7:7-11); and again, "Because he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). It is also recognized in the church that the Lord intends the salvation of all and the death of none.

This enables us to see that predestination to anything but heaven is contrary to divine love.

[3] (b) Any predestination but predestination to heaven is contrary to divine wisdom, which is infinite. It is through its divine wisdom that divine love provides the means by which we can all be saved; so to say that there is a predestination to anywhere but heaven is to say that divine love cannot provide the means of salvation. Yet we all do have the means, as just explained, and these come from divine providence, which is infinite.

The reason some of us are not saved is that divine love wants us to feel heaven's happiness and bliss in ourselves. Otherwise it would not be heaven for us; and this feeling cannot happen unless it seems to us that we are thinking and intending on our own. If it were not for this appearance, nothing could be given to us, and we would not be human. This is the reason for divine providence, which is the result of divine wisdom stemming from divine love.

[4] Still, this does not negate the truth that we are all predestined to heaven, and none to hell. This truth would be negated, though, if the means of salvation were lacking. However, I have already shown [326, 329] that we are all given the means of salvation, and that the nature of heaven is to provide a place there for all who lead good lives, no matter what their religion may be.

We are like the earth. It brings forth all kinds of fruit: this ability is what makes it the earth. The fact that it brings forth bad fruit does not negate its ability to bring forth good fruit; though it would negate it if it could bring forth only bad fruit. We are also like an object that changes the light rays that strike it. If we offer only ugly colors, that is not the fault of the light. The light rays can also be changed into attractive colors.

[5] (c) It is an insane heresy to believe that only those born in the church are saved. People born outside the church are just as human as people born within it. They come from the same heavenly source. They are equally living and immortal souls. They have religions as well, religions that enable them to believe that God exists and that they should lead good lives; and all of them who do believe in God and lead good lives become spiritual on their own level and are saved, as already noted [326].

Someone could point out that they have not been baptized. But baptism saves only people who have been spiritually washed, that is, regenerated. Baptism serves as a symbol and reminder of this.

[6] Someone could point out that they do not know the Lord, and that apart from the Lord there is no salvation. But no one is saved because of knowing about the Lord. We are saved because we live by his commandments. Further, the Lord is known to everyone who believes in God because the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, as he tells us in Matthew 28:18 and elsewhere.

Particularly, people outside the church have more of a concept of a personal God than Christians do; and people who have a concept of a personal God and lead good lives are accepted by the Lord. Unlike Christians, they believe in God as one in both person and essence. Further, they think about God as they lead their lives. They treat evils as sins against God; and people who do this are thinking about God as they lead their lives.

Christians get the commandments of their religion from the Word, but not many of them actually take any commandments of life from it.

[7] Catholics do not read it, and Protestants who believe in faith separated from charity pay no attention to what it says about life, only to what it says about faith. Yet the whole Word is nothing but a theology of life.

Christianity is found only in Europe. Islam and other non-Christian religions are found in Asia, the Indies, Africa, and America; and there are ten times as many people in these latter parts of the world as there are in the Christian part of the world--and relatively few of these latter people make their religion a matter of their lives. What could be more insane than to believe that these and only these individuals are saved, and that the others are damned, that heaven is ours by right of birth and not by conduct of life? That is why the Lord says, "I tell you that many will come from the east and from the west and will recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, while the children of the kingdom will be thrown out" (Matthew 8:11-12).

[8] (d) It is a cruel heresy to believe that any member of the human race is damned by predestination. It is cruel, that is, to believe that the Lord, who is love itself and mercy itself, would allow such a vast number of people to be born for hell, or that so many millions would be born damned and doomed, that is, born devils and satans. It is cruel to believe that in his divine wisdom the Lord would not make sure that people who lead good lives and believe in God would not be cast into the flames and into eternal torment. After all, the Lord is the Creator and Savior of us all. He alone is leading us, and he does not want anyone to die; so it is cruel to believe and think that such a multitude of nations and people are by predestination being handed over to the devil as prey under the Lord's own guidance and oversight.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #326

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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326. We need to look at these one at a time and expand on them.

(a) Belief in God brings about God's union with us and our union with God; and denial of God brings about severance. Some may believe that people who do not believe in God can be saved just like people who do, provided they lead moral lives. "What does belief accomplish?" they say. "Is it anything but a thought? I could easily believe in God if I knew for certain that God actually existed. I have heard about him, but I haven't seen him. Show me, and I'll believe." Many people who deny the existence of God talk like this when they are given space to argue freely with someone who does believe in God.

But I shall illustrate the fact that belief in God unites and denial of God separates by sharing what I have learned in the spiritual world. If people there think about others and want to talk with them, they are immediately present. This is taken for granted there and never fails. The reason is that there is no distance in the spiritual world the way there is in this physical world, but only an appearance of distance.

[2] Then too, just as thinking about others, together with some awareness of them, causes presence, so a feeling of love for them causes union. This is what makes people accompany each other and converse amiably along the way, live in the same houses or in the same community, meet with each other often, and work on tasks together. The opposite happens, too, if people do not love each other, and even more so if they dislike each other. They do not see each other or get together. They are as far from each other as their lack of love or their active dislike. If by any chance they do meet, that meeting triggers the dislike, and they vanish.

[3] These few examples show what makes for presence and what makes for union in the spiritual world. Specifically, presence comes from remembering others and wanting to see them, and union comes from a feeling that arises from our love.

The same holds true for everything in our minds. There are countless elements there, all arranged and united in accord with our feelings, or the way one element loves another.

[4] This union is spiritual union; and it works the same in widely inclusive instances and in individual ones. The source of this spiritual union is in the union of the Lord with the spiritual world and with the physical world, again in inclusive and in individual instances. We can see, then, that to the extent that we believe in the Lord and think about him on the basis of what we understand, the Lord is present, while to the extent that we believe in him on the basis of a loving feeling, the Lord is united with us. Conversely, to the extent that we do not believe in the Lord, the Lord is absent; and to the extent that we deny him, we are separated from him.

[5] A result of union is that the Lord turns our faces toward him and then leads us; and a result of separation is that hell turns our faces toward it and leads us. So all the angels of heaven face toward the Lord as the sun, and all the spirits of hell face away from the Lord. This shows what belief in God does and what denial of God does.

Further, people who deny God in the world deny him after death. They are inwardly structured as described in 319; and the structure adopted in this world remains forever.

[6] (b) Our belief in God and union with him depend on our living a good life. Everyone who knows anything religious can know about God. People can talk about God from this knowledge or from memory, and some of them can even think intelligently about God. If they do not live good lives, though, this brings only a presence. They are still perfectly capable of turning away from him and turning toward hell, which they do if they live evil lives.

Heartfelt belief in God, though, is possible only for people who live good lives. Depending on those good lives, the Lord turns them away from hell and toward himself. This is because it is only they who actually love God. They love the divine values that come from him by living them. The divine values that come from God are the commandments of his law. These commandments are God, since he is the divine nature that emanates from him. This is also loving God, which is why the Lord said, "Whoever does my commandments is the one who loves me, but whoever does not do my commandments does not love me" (John 14:21-24 [John 14:21, 24]).

(References: John 14:21-24)

[7] This is why there are two tablets of the Ten Commandments, one for God and the other for us. God is constantly at work to enable us to accept the things that are on his tablet. However, if we do not do the things that are on our tablet, we are not open to the heartfelt acceptance of the things that are on God's tablet; and if we are not open to them, we are not united. As a result, the two tablets are united as a single one and are called "the tablets of the covenant," and "covenant" means "union."

The reason our belief in God and union with him depend on our living good lives is that good lives are like the goodness that is in the Lord and that therefore comes from the Lord. So when we are engaged in living good lives, the union is accomplished. The opposite happens with people living evil lives. Then there is a rejection of the Lord.

[8] (c) A good life, or living rightly, is abstaining from evils because they are against our religion and therefore against God. There is ample support for the proposition that this is a good life, or living rightly, in Teachings about Life for the New Jerusalem, from beginning to end. I would add only this, that if you do all the good you can, if you build churches and decorate and fill them with your offerings, if you devote your wealth to hospitals and hospices, if you give alms every day, if you help widows and orphans, if you faithfully attend divine worship, even if you think, talk, and preach about these things in all apparent sincerity, and still do not abstain from evils as sins against God, all these good deeds are not really good at all. They are either hypocritical or self-serving, because there is still evil within them. Our life is in absolutely everything that we do, and good deeds become good only by the removal of evil from them.

We can see from this that abstaining from evils because they are against our religion and therefore against God is leading a good life.

[9] (d) These are the general principles of all religions, through which everyone can be saved. Belief in God and refusal to do evil because it is against God are the two elements that make a religion a religion. If either is lacking, we cannot call it a religion, since believing in God and doing evil are mutually contradictory, as are doing what is good and not believing in God. Neither is possible apart from the other.

The Lord has provided that there should be some religion almost everywhere and that everyone who believes in God and does not do evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven. Heaven, seen in its entirety, looks like a single individual, whose life or soul is the Lord. In that heavenly person there are all the components that there are in a physical person, differing the way heavenly things differ from earthly ones.

[10] We know that there are within us not only the parts formed as organs from blood vessels and nerve fibers--the forms we call our viscera. There are also skin, membranes, tendons, cartilage, bones, nails, and teeth. They are less intensely alive than the organic forms, which they serve as ligaments, coverings, and supports. If there are to be all these elements in that heavenly person who is heaven, it cannot be made up of the people of one religion only. It needs people from many religions; so all the people who make these two universal principles of the church central to their own lives have a place in that heavenly person, that is, in heaven. They enjoy the happiness that suits their own nature. On this subject, though, there is more in 254 above.

[11] We are assured that these two principles are basic to every religion by the fact that these two principles are what the Ten Commandments teach, and they were the basis of the Word. They were given from Mount Sinai by the very voice of Jehovah and written on two tablets of stone by the finger of God. Then they were placed in the ark named for Jehovah and constituted the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the very center of the temple in Jerusalem. Everything else was holy simply by being there. We are told a great deal more about the Ten Commandments in the ark in the Word: see the passages collected in Teachings about Life for the New Jerusalem 53-61, to which I may add the following.

We are told in the Word that the ark containing the two tablets with the commandments written on them was captured by the Philistines and set up in the shrine of Dagon in Ashdod. Dagon fell to the ground before it, after which his head and his hands were found lying apart from his body on the threshold of the shrine. Because of the ark, the people of Ashdod and Ekron by the thousands were plagued by hemorrhoids, and their land was ravaged by mice. Then, on the advice of their leaders, the Philistines made five golden hemorrhoids and five golden mice and a new cart. They put the ark on the cart with the golden hemorrhoids and mice beside it and sent the ark back to the Israelites drawn by two cows that lowed along the way, in front of the cart. The Israelites sacrificed the cows and the cart (1 Samuel 5, 6).

(References: 1 Samuel 5:1, 6:1-19)

[12] Now let us see what all this means. The Philistines meant people who believe in faith separated from charity. Dagon portrayed that system of belief. The hemorrhoids that afflicted them meant earthly loves, which are unclean when they are separated from spiritual loves; and the mice meant the destruction of the church by distortions of the truth. The new cart on which they sent back the ark meant a new teaching, though on the earthly level, because a chariot in the Word meant a teaching derived from spiritual truths. The cows meant good earthly feelings, the golden hemorrhoids earthly loves purified and made good, and the golden mice the destruction of the church taken away by goodness (gold in the Word means what is good). The lowing of the cows along the way pointed to the difficulty of turning the obsessions with evil of our earthly self into good desires, and the sacrifice of the cows and the cart meant that the Lord was appeased.

[13] This is what this story means spiritually. Put it all together into a single meaning and see how it can be applied.

On the meaning of the Philistines as people who believe in faith separated from charity, see Teachings for the New Jerusalem on Faith 49-54; and on the ark meaning the holiest values of the church because it contained the Ten Commandments, see Teachings about Life for the New Jerusalem 53-61.

(References: John 14:21-24)

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