Commentary

 

Free speech. Free thought. Free religion.

     

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Sunrise over a field of grain.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought. Freedom of religion. They're important. They're in the news. How do they relate to Christianity? Let's start thinking through it.

What does the Bible have to say about them?

Take John the Baptist as an example. He was the essential free speaker, the "voice of one, crying in the wilderness", preparing the way for God. He spoke freely, declaring a new, living religion. But then Herod stepped in, captured him, imprisoned him, and killed him. John (I have something I must speak freely about) is the good guy; Herod (I don't like your speech) is the bad guy.

In Daniel 6:7-23, there's the famous story of Daniel and the Lions' Den. Daniel was cast to the lions because he was speaking freely -- praying to Jehovah, not to King Darius -- against an edict of the government. Daniel's the good guy. Darius, until he repents, is the bad guy.

Perhaps the most powerful Biblical example is found throughout Jesus's ministry, which required freedom of speech -- the freedom to form, teach, and create a new religion. His free speech revolutionized the thoughts of his listeners. And, what did the powerful religious leaders of the day do? They accused him of blaspheming. They tried to trap him. To get him to recant. To be quiet. He knew that he couldn't do that; His mission was to bring new truths to a thirsty world.

There's a great "free speech" scene during Jesus's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, in Luke 19:37-40:

"And when He was already near to the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples rejoicing began to praise God with a great voice for all the works of power that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!' And some of the Pharisees from among the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, rebuke Thy disciples.' And He answering told them, 'I say to you, If these should be silent, the stones would cry out.'

These are pretty clear examples. The Bible values freedom of speech.

Free speech and free thought are closely related. Deep communication is a big part of what makes us human. Humans developed the ability to have large scale cooperation through shared stories. If we can't speak freely, we lose the ability to communicate real thoughts, and we lose the ability to share new ideas, and our potential drops away.

Here are three excerpts from Swedenborg's works that relate to this:

"...when free speech and freedom of the press are curtailed, freedom of thought, that is, of examining matters in a full and complete way, suffers as well.... Our higher understanding, then, adapts itself to fit the amount of freedom there is to say and do what we are considering." (True Christian Religion 814).

"No one is reformed in a state of intellectual blindness, either. These individuals, too, are not aware of truths and do not know about life, because it is our discernment that must instruct us in these matters and our volition that must act them out. When our volition is doing what our discernment tells it to, then we have a life in accord with truths; but when our discernment is blind, our volition is blocked as well." (Divine Providence 144)

"No one is reformed in states where freedom and rationality are absent." (Divine Providence 38)

I was talking about this with a friend, and he reminded me that there are grey areas, where some freedom and discernment exist, but they are limited. I think he's right; we're mostly living in these grey areas. There are probably rare cases where freedom and rationality are at zero -- maybe when someone is in a coma. And I doubt if anyone has 100% freedom or discernment. In some ways, this makes free speech and free thought even more important. Life is not crystal clear, or free, and things that can help us as we seek understanding and freedom are really precious.

The example of Helen Keller bears on this. She called the day that Anne Sullivan arrived at her house "my soul's birthday". In her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903), Keller described the moment when she realized that the motion of Anne's fingers, spelling w-a-t-e-r into her hand symbolized the water that she was pouring over her hand:

"I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.... The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, set it free!"

Helen Keller also said, “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”

Free speech and free thought need each other. And... what about religion?

Religion is a core set of thoughts. If you're not free to speak, your thinking is trammeled. If you're not free to think, how can you hope to get to the core ideas about why we exist, and what we are going to do -- how we are going to live? Religion is at the heart of it. Even if you reject religion altogether, you're still living by some sort of belief system, even if it's materialistic or nihilistic.

If you're told what you have to believe, it doesn't usually work out very well. There's a natural tendency to rebel. We need that freedom to figure things out for ourselves.

Albert Einstein said something that speaks to this:

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.”

Paul Schilpp, "Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949) ‘Autobiographical Notes’"

And... here's another excerpt from Swedenborg's work, Heaven and Hell:

In a word, anything that does not enter us in freedom does not stay with us, because it does not belong to our love or intentions; and anything that does not belong to our love or intentions does not belong to our spirit. The actual reality of our spirit is love or volition - using the phrase "love or volition" because whatever we love, we intend. This is why we cannot be reformed except in a state of freedom. (Heaven and Hell 598)

M. Scott Peck reinforces this idea:

There is no such thing as a good hand-me-down religion. To be vital, to be the best of which we are capable, our religion must be a wholly personal one, forged entirely through the fire of our questioning and doubting in the crucible of our own experience of reality.
M. Scott Peck - Road Less Travelled

Finally, let's go back to see what the Bible says about it, in these two passages:

Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christians -- trying to destroy their freedom of religion. He had a miraculous conversion experience that led him to be renamed Paul, the great Christian teacher and evangelist. (Acts 9)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were persecuted - thrown in a fiery furnace - for worshipping in their own way, denying the edicts of Nebuchadnezzar. They were saved by an angel, who kept them from being burned. (Daniel 3)

Wrapping it up...

It's pretty clear that free speech, free thought, and free religion are part of the same fabric. They're very much part of being human. They're well supported in the Bible. They've been woven into the better governments of our time.

We need to take good care of them. They're necessary for us to be able to learn truth, and reject falsity -- and to "Cease to do evil, learn to do good." (Isaiah 1:16)

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Divine Providence #38

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38. No one who is caught up in the pleasures of cravings for evil can know anything about the pleasures of desires for what is good, the delight that fills the angelic heaven. This is because these two kinds of pleasure are absolute opposites inwardly and therefore just under the surface, even though they differ very little on the surface itself.

Every love has its own pleasures. A love for what is evil gives us pleasure when we are caught up in its compulsions. This holds, for example, for loving adultery, vengeance, cheating, theft, or cruelty, and among the worst of us, for loving blasphemy against the holy values of the church and spouting venomous nonsense about God. The wellspring of these pleasures is a love for being in control prompted by a love for ourselves.

These pleasures come from compulsions that obsess the deeper levels of our minds and flow down from there into our bodies, where they stimulate filthy reactions that excite our very fibers. The result is a physical pleasure prompted by mental pleasure in proportion to our compulsions.

[2] After death, in the spiritual world, we can all discover the identity and nature of the filthy things that excite our physical fibers. In general, they are like corpses, excrement, manure, sickening odors, and urine. The hells are overflowing with filth like this. (On their correspondence, see material in Divine Love and Wisdom 422-424.) Once we enter hell, though, these filthy pleasures turn into dreadful things.

I mention all this to aid in understanding the nature and quality of heavenly happiness in what follows. We recognize things by their opposites.

  
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Angelic Wisdom about Divine Providence 1-26 The Lord's Divine Providence Has as Its Goal a Heaven from the Human Race 27-45 In Everything That It Does, the Lord's Divine Providence Is Focusing on What Is Infinite and Eternal 46-69 There Are Laws of Divine Providence That People Do Not Know 70 It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Act in Freedom and in Accord with Reason 71-99 It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Put Aside Evils in Our Outer Nature, Regarding Them as Sins and Doing So in Apparent Autonomy, and That This Is the Only Way the Lord Can Put Aside the Evils in Our Inner Nature and in Our Outer Nature Alike 100-128 It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Not Be Compelled by Outside Forces to Think and Intend and So to Believe and Love in Matters of Our Religion, but That We Should Guide Ourselves and Sometimes Compel Ourselves 129-153 It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Be Led and Taught by the Lord, from Heaven, by Means of the Word, and Teaching and Preaching from the Word, and That This Should Happen While to All Appearances We Are Acting Independently 154-174 It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Not Sense or Feel Anything of the Working of Divine Providence, but That We Should Still Know about It and Acknowledge It 175-190 Our Own Prudence Is Nothing--It Only Seems to Be Something, As It Should. Rather, Divine Providence Is All-Inclusive Because It Extends to the Smallest Details 191-213 Divine Providence Focuses on Eternal Matters, and Focuses on Temporal Matters Only As They Coincide with Eternal Ones 214-220 We Are Not Granted Inner Access to the Truths That Our Faith Discloses and the Good Effects of Our Caring Except As We Can Be Kept in Them to the End of Our Life 221-233 Laws of Permission Are Also Laws of Divine Providence 234-274 Evils Are Permitted for a Purpose: Salvation 275-284 Divine Providence Is for Evil People and Good People Alike 285-307 Divine Providence Does Not Charge Us with Anything Evil or Credit Us with Anything Good; Rather, Our Own Prudence Claims Both 308-321 Everyone Can Be Reformed, and There Is No Such Thing as Predestination 322-330 The Lord Cannot Act Contrary to the Laws of Divine Providence, Because to Do So Would Be to Act Contrary to His Own Divine Love and His Own Divine Wisdom, and Therefore Contrary to Himself 331-340
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 630

Divine Providence 45, 58, 123, 202, 253, 323


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

From Swedenborg's Works

 

True Christian Religion #814

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814. Since the Germans of any duchy are specifically subject to authoritarian rule, they do not therefore have the freedom to speak and write enjoyed by the Dutch and British. When the freedom to speak and write is restricted, so is freedom of thought, that is to say, freedom to take the widest view of things is kept under restriction. It is like a dam built around the basin of a spring, which raises the level of the water to the outlet of the spring, so that water no longer flows out. Thought is like the current of water, and the speech it gives rise to is like the basin. In short, the inflow is proportional to the outflow; likewise understanding from a higher level is proportional to the freedom to speak and express one's thoughts. As a result that noble nation is little given to matters of judgment, but more to matters of memory. This is why they are especially devoted to literary history, and in their books they rely on their men of reputation and learning, quoting their judgments at length and supporting one of them. This state of theirs is represented in the spiritual world by a man carrying books under his arms; and when anyone argues about a matter of judgment, he says, 'I will give you an answer;' and immediately selects one of the books under his arm and reads from it.

  
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THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH 1-3 (i) THE WHOLE OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURE AND ALL THE DOCTRINES EXTRACTED FROM IT BY CHURCHES THROUGHOUT CHRISTENDOM TEACH THAT THERE IS A GOD AND HE IS ONE. 6-7 (ii) THERE IS A GENERAL FEELING EMANATING FROM GOD AND FLOWING INTO MEN'S SOULS THAT THERE IS A GOD, AND THAT HE IS ONE. 8 (iii) THAT IS WHY THERE IS NO NATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD POSSESSED OF RELIGION AND SOUND REASON WHICH DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD AND THE FACT THAT HE IS ONE. 9-10 (iv) THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY NATIONS AND PEOPLES HAVE FORMED VARYING IDEAS OF THE NATURE OF THAT ONE GOD, AND CONTINUE TO DO SO. 11 (v) THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN LEAD THE HUMAN REASON, IF IT WISHES, TO GRASP AND DEDUCE THAT THERE IS A GOD AND THAT HE IS ONE. 12 (vi) IF THERE HAD NOT BEEN ONE GOD, THE UNIVERSE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN CREATED AND KEPT IN EXISTENCE. 13 (vii) ANY PERSON WHO DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD IS EXCOMMUNICATED FROM THE CHURCH AND DAMNED. 14 (viii) THE CHURCH CANNOT HOLD TOGETHER AT ALL IN THE CASE OF A PERSON WHO ACKNOWLEDGES NOT ONE GOD, BUT SEVERAL. 15 (i) THE ONE GOD IS NAMED JEHOVAH FROM HIS BEING, THAT IS, FROM THE FACT THAT HE ALONE IS, [WAS] AND WILL BE, AND BECAUSE HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, ALPHA AND OMEGA. 19 (ii) THE ONE GOD IS SUBSTANCE ITSELF AND FORM ITSELF, AND ANGELS AND MEN ARE SUBSTANCES AND FORMS DERIVED FROM HIM; TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY ARE IN HIM AND HE IN THEM, SO FAR ARE THEY IMAGES AND LIKENESSES OF HIM. 20 (iii) THE DIVINE BEING IS BEING (ESSE) IN ITSELF, AND AT THE SAME TIME COMING-INTO-BEING (EXISTERE) IN ITSELF. 21-22 (iv) THE DIVINE BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF CANNOT GIVE RISE TO ANOTHER DIVINE WHICH IS BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF. CONSEQUENTLY ANOTHER GOD OF THE SAME ESSENCE IS IMPOSSIBLE. 23 (v) THE PLURALITY OF GODS IN ANCIENT TIMES, AS WELL AS TODAY, WAS ENTIRELY THE RESULT OF A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE DIVINE BEING. 24 (i) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE-IS AND COMES INTO BEING IN HIMSELF, AND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS AND COMES INTO BEING FROM HIM. 28 (ii) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE EXISTED BEFORE THE WORLD DID, AND THUS BEFORE SPACE AND TIME CAME INTO EXISTENCE. 29 (iii) SINCE THE MAKING OF THE WORLD GOD IS NON-SPATIALLY IN SPACE AND NON-TEMPORALLY IN TIME. 30 (iv) THE INFINITY OF GOD AS PREDICATED OF SPACE IS CALLED IMMENSITY, AND AS PREDICATED OF TIME IS CALLED ETERNITY. DESPITE THESE PREDICATIONS HIS IMMENSITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF SPACE AND HIS ETERNITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF TIME. 31 (v) THERE IS MUCH IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN ENABLE ENLIGHTENED REASON TO SEE THE INFINITY OF GOD THE CREATOR. 32 (vi) EVERY CREATED OBJECT IS FINITE, AND THE INFINITE IS CONTAINED IN FINITE OBJECTS AS IN RECEIVERS, AND IN HUMAN BEINGS AS IMAGES OF IT. 33-34 (i) GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, THESE TWO MAKING UP HIS ESSENCE. 37 (ii) GOD IS GOOD ITSELF AND TRUTH ITSELF, BECAUSE GOOD REFERS TO LOVE AND TRUTH TO WISDOM. 38 (iii) SINCE GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, HE IS LIFE ITSELF, OR LIFE IN ITSELF. 39-40 (iv) LOVE AND WISDOM ARE ONE IN GOD. 41-42 (v) THE ESSENCE OF LOVE IS LOVING OTHERS THAN ONESELF, WISHING TO BE ONE WITH THEM AND DEVOTING ONESELF TO THEIR HAPPINESS. 43-45 (vi) THESE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE LOVE WERE THE REASON THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED, AND ARE THE REASON IT IS PRESERVED IN EXISTENCE. 46-47 (i) OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE ARE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE WISDOM RESULTING FROM THE DIVINE LOVE. 50-51 (ii) THE OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD CANNOT BE RECOGNISED EXCEPT THROUGH A KNOWLEDGE OF ORDER, AND THESE FACTS ABOUT ORDER: THAT GOD IS ORDER, AND THAT HE INTRODUCED ORDER INTO THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH ITS CREATION. 52-55 (iii) GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE PROCEEDS AND WORKS IN THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF HIS ORDER. 56-58 (iv) GOD IS OMNISCIENT, THAT IS, HE PERCEIVES, SEES AND KNOWS DOWN TO THE TINIEST DETAIL EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS ACCORDING TO ORDER; AND FROM THESE THINGS ALSO WHAT HAPPENS CONTRARY TO ORDER. 59-62 (v) GOD IS PRESENT EVERYWHERE FROM FIRST TO LAST IN HIS ORDER. 63-64 (vi) MAN WAS CREATED TO BE A FORM FOR DIVINE ORDER. 65-67 (vii) MAN HAS FROM DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE POWER AGAINST EVIL AND FALSITY, AND FROM DIVINE OMNISCIENCE WISDOM ABOUT GOOD AND TRUTH, AND FROM DIVINE OMNIPRESENCE IS IN GOD, TO THE EXTENT THAT HE LIVES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE ORDER. 68-70 THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE 75-80 CHAPTER TWO 81-84 (ii) JEHOVAH GOD CAME DOWN AS THE DIVINE TRUTH, WHICH IS THE WORD, YET HE DID NOT SEPARATE THE DIVINE GOOD FROM IT. 85-88 (iii) HE TOOK UPON HIMSELF HUMAN FORM IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS DIVINE ORDER. 89-91 (iv) THE HUMAN BY WHICH HE BROUGHT HIMSELF INTO THE WORLD IS THE SON OF GOD. 92-94 (v) THE LORD BY ACTS OF REDEMPTION MADE HIMSELF RIGHTEOUSNESS. 95-96 (vi) BY THE SAME ACTS THE LORD UNITED HIMSELF WITH THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER WITH HIM. 97-100 (vii) THUS GOD BECAME MAN, AND MAN GOD, IN ONE PERSON. It follows that Jehovah God became man and man became God in one person as the consequence of all the previous propositions in this chapter, and particularly these two: Jehovah the Creator of the universe came down and took upon Himself 101-103 (viii) HIS PROGRESS TOWARDS UNION WAS HIS STATE OF EXINANITION, AND THE UNION ITSELF IS HIS STATE OF GLORIFICATION. 104-106 (ix) FROM THIS TIME ON NO ONE FROM CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES CAN COME INTO HEAVEN, UNLESS HE BELIEVES IN THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR, AND APPROACHES HIM ALONE. 107-108 ADDITIONAL NOTE 109 (i) THE REAL REDEMPTION WAS THE CONQUEST OF THE HELLS AND THE ORDERING OF THE HEAVENS, AND PREPARATION BY THIS MEANS FOR A NEW SPIRITUAL CHURCH. 115-117 (ii) BUT FOR THAT REDEMPTION NO PERSON COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, NOR COULD THE ANGELS HAVE REMAINED UNHARMED. 118-120 (iii) THE LORD THUS REDEEMED NOT ONLY MEN, BUT ALSO ANGELS. 121-122 (iv) REDEMPTION WAS AN ENTIRELY DIVINE DEED. 123 (v) THIS REDEMPTION COULD ONLY BE EFFECTED BY AN INCARNATE GOD. 124-125 (vi) THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE LAST TEMPTATION WHICH THE LORD UNDERWENT AS THE GREATEST PROPHET; THIS WAS THE MEANS BY WHICH HE GLORIFIED HIS HUMAN, THAT IS, UNITED IT WITH HIS FATHER'S DIVINE; SO THIS WAS NOT IN ITSELF THE REDEMPTION. 126-131 (vii) IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL ERROR ON THE PART OF THE CHURCH TO BELIEVE THAT THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE REAL ACT OF REDEMPTION. THAT ERROR, TOGETHER WITH THE ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN THREE DIVINE PERSONS EXISTING FROM ETERNITY, HAS SO PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHURCH THAT THERE IS NO REMAINDER OF 132-133 (i) THE HOLY SPIRIT IS DIVINE TRUTH, AND ALSO THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY WHICH PROCEEDS FROM THE ONE GOD, IN WHOM IS THE DIVINE TRINITY, AND SO FROM THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR. 139-141 (ii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE, GENERALLY SPEAKING, REFORMATION AND REGENERATION, WHICH LEAD TO RENEWAL, QUICKENING, SANCTIFICATION. AND JUSTIFICATION; AND THESE LEAD TO PURIFICATION FROM EVILS AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, AND ULTIMATELY TO SALVATION. 142-145 (iii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WITH THE CLERGY TAKES THE PARTICULAR FORM OF ENLIGHTENMENT AND INSTRUCTION. 146-148 (iv) THE LORD CONFERS THESE BENEFITS ON THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. 149-152 (v) THE LORD WORKS OF HIMSELF FROM THE FATHER, AND NOT THE REVERSE. 153-155 (vi) A PERSON'S SPIRIT IS HIS MIND, AND WHATEVER COMES FROM IT. 156-157 ADDITIONAL NOTE 158 (i) THERE IS A DIVINE TRINITY CONSISTING OF FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT. 164-165 (ii) THOSE THREE, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, ARE THE THREE ESSENTIALS OF A SINGLE GOD, WHICH MAKE ONE AS SOUL, BODY AND ACTIVITY DO WITH A PERSON. 166-169 (iii) THIS TRINITY DID NOT EXIST BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, BUT IT WAS PROVIDED AND MADE AFTER THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, WHEN GOD BECAME INCARNATE, AND THEN WAS IN THE LORD GOD, THE REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST. 170-171 (iv) A TRINITY OF DIVINE PERSONS FROM ETERNITY, OR EXISTING BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, IMPLIES THINKING ABOUT A TRINITY OF GODS; AND THIS THOUGHT CANNOT BE BANISHED BY A VERBAL CONFESSION OF BELIEF IN ONE GOD. 172-173 (v) THE TRINITY OF PERSONS WAS UNKNOWN TO THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, BUT WAS THE INVENTION OF THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA, LEADING TO ITS INTRODUCTION INTO THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, AND THUS TO THE CHURCHES WHICH SPLIT FROM IT. 174-176 (vi) THE TRINITY AS DEFINED BY THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA AND BY ATHANASIUS CAUSED A FAITH TO ARISE WHICH HAS PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. 177-178 (vii) THIS IS THE SOURCE OF THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION AND THE AFFLICTION SUCH AS HAS NEVER BEEN NOR SHALL BE, BOTH OF WHICH THE LORD PREDICTED IN DANIEL, THE GOSPELS AND REVELATION. We read in Daniel: 179-181 (viii) FURTHER, UNLESS A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW CHURCH ARE FOUNDED BY THE LORD, NO FLESH CAN BE SAVED. 182 (ix) FROM A TRINITY OF PERSONS, EACH OF WHICH INDIVIDUALLY IS GOD, AS ASSERTED BY THE ATHANASIAN CREED, MANY ABSURD IDEAS OF VARIOUS KINDS HAVE ARISEN ABOUT GOD, WHICH ARE MERE FANCIES AND ABORTIONS. 183-184 CHAPTER FOUR 189-192 II. The Word contains a spiritual sense unknown up to the present. 193 (i) WHAT THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS. 194 From the Lord there proceed, one after the other, the celestial Divine, the spiritual Divine and the natural Divine. The name 'celestial Divine' is given to whatever proceeds from His Divine love, and it is good. 195 (ii) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS PRESENT IN EVERY PART AND DETAIL OF THE WORD. 196-198 The Lord, when He was in the world, spoke by means of correspondences; so He spoke spiritually as well as naturally. This can be proved by His parables, the individual expressions of which contain a spiritual sense. Let us take as an example the parable of the ten virgins. He said: 199 (iii) IT IS THE SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH MAKES THE WORD DIVINELY INSPIRED AND HOLY IN EVERY WORD. 200 (iv) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD HAS UP TO THE PRESENT BEEN UNKNOWN. 201-207 (v) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD WILL IN FUTURE ONLY BE GRANTED TO THOSE WHO ARE IN POSSESSION OF GENUINE TRUTHS FROM THE LORD. 208 (vi) REMARKABLE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE WORD FROM ITS SPIRITUAL SENSE. 209 III. The literal sense of the Word is the basis, container and support of its spiritual and celestial senses. 210-213 IV. The Divine truth in the literal sense of the Word is in its fulness, holiness and power. 214-216 (i) THE TRUTHS OF THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE PRECIOUS STONES FORMING THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NEW JERUSALEM IN Revelation 21:17-21). 217 (ii) THE FORMS OF GOOD AND TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE URIM AND THUMMIM ON AARON'S EPHOD. 218 (iii) THE PRECIOUS STONES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, IN WHICH THE KING OF TYRE IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN, HAVE A SIMILAR MEANING. We read in Ezekiel: 219 (iv) TRUTHS AND DIFFERENT KINDS OF GOOD IN THEIR OUTERMOST FORMS, OF THE SORT FOUND IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, WERE REPRESENTED BY THE CURTAINS, VEILS AND POSTS OF THE TABERNACLE. 220 (v) LIKEWISE, THE EXTERNAL FEATURES OF THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM. 221 (vi) THE WORD IN ITS GLORY WAS REPRESENTED IN THE LORD AT HIS TRANSFIGURATION. 222 (vii) THE POWER OF THE WORD AT ITS OUTERMOST LEVEL WAS REPRESENTED BY THE NAZIRITES. 223 (viii) THE WORD'S POWER IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION. 224 V. The doctrine of the church is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word and supported by it. 225 (i) THE WORD IS NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT DOCTRINE. 226-228 (ii) DOCTRINE IS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, AND PROVED BY MEANS OF IT. 229-230 (iii) THE GENUINE TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, ON WHICH DOCTRINE IS BASED, IS NOT VISIBLE TO ANY BUT THOSE WHO ARE ENLIGHTENED BY THE LORD. 231-233 VI. The literal sense of the Word produces a link with the Lord and association with the angels. 234-239 VII. The Word is to be found in all the heavens and is the source of the angels' wisdom. 240-242 VIII. The church depends on the Word, and what the church is like in the case of each person depends on how he understands the Word. 243-247 IX. The details of the Word all contain a marriage of the Lord and the church, and so a marriage of good and truth. 248-253 X. Heresies can be extracted from the literal sense of the Word, but confirming them leads to damnation. 254-260 An example from nature may serve to illustrate this idea, that many things in the literal sense of the Word are appearances of truth, in which genuine truths are hidden; and that it is not injurious to think and to speak in simple terms according to the appearances of truth, but that it is 257 The reason why it is injurious to confirm the appearances of truth in the Word, thus leading to the creation of a fallacy and so the destruction of the Divine truth hidden within it, is precisely because every detail of the literal sense of the Word communicates with heaven. 258 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 XI. The Lord when in the world fulfilled everything in the Word, and thus became the Word, that is, Divine truth, even in its outermost form. 261-263 XII. Before the time of the Word which we have in the world to-day, there was another Word, now lost. 264-266 XIII. The Word also serves to enlighten those who are outside the church and do not possess the Word. 267-272 XIV. If the Word did not exist, no one would know of the existence of God, heaven and hell, and life after death, even less of the Lord. 273-276 The Ten Commandments were the height of holiness for the Israelite church. 283-286 The literal sense of the Ten Commandments contains general instructions on doctrine and life; but their spiritual and celestial senses contain universal instructions. 287-290 THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 291-296 THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 297-300 THE THIRD COMMANDMENT 301-304 THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 305-308 THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 309-312 THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 313-316 THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 317-320 THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 321-324 THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 325-328 The Ten Commandments contain everything to do with love for God and everything to do with love towards the neighbour. 329-331 CHAPTER SIX. FAITH 336 I. Saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. 337-339 The reason why we must believe, that is, have faith in God the Saviour Jesus Christ is that it is faith in a visible God, in whom there is an invisible God; and faith in a visible God, who is man and at the same time God, enters into a person. 339 II. Faith in brief is this, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by the Lord. 340-342 The previous section (336-339) showed that saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. But the question may be raised, what is the leading point of faith in Him? The answer is that it is acknowledgment that He is the Son of God. 342 III. A person acquires faith by approaching the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living by them. 343-348 The being of the faith of the new church is: (1) Complete faith in the Lord God, the Saviour Jesus Christ; (2) Trust, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by Him. 344 Having given a summary of the things which go to make up spiritual faith, I shall now give too a summary of the things which go to make up purely natural faith. This is essentially a firm conviction which pretends to be faith, but is a conviction of falsity, known as heretical faith. 345-348 IV. The mass of truths, which cohere as it were in a bundle, raises the level of faith and brings it to perfection. 349-354 (i) It is evident that the truths of faith are capable of being multiplied to infinity from the wisdom of the angels in heaven being for ever increasing. The angels also say that there is never any limit to wisdom, and the only source of wisdom is from Divine truths analytically arranged by 350 (ii) The truths of faith are arranged into groupings, and thus, so to speak, into bundles, a fact that up to the present has been unknown. The reason for this ignorance is that the spiritual truths, out of which the whole of the Word is woven, have been rendered invisible, because of the 351 (iii) It follows from what has been said above that faith is brought to perfection in proportion to the volume and coherence of the truths. This is demonstrated in the case of everyone who assembles the reasons, and perceives the effectiveness of multiple groups, when they cohere as one. 352-353 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 V. Faith without charity is no faith, and charity without faith is no charity, and both are lifeless unless the Lord gives them life. 355-361 (i) It was shown above in the third section (343-348) that a person can acquire faith for himself. This showed that faith is in its essence truth, and anyone can acquire truths from the Word; and that in so far as anyone acquires them for himself and loves them, so far does he begin to acquire 356 (ii) A person can acquire charity for himself. 357 (iii) A person can acquire for himself a life of faith and charity. 358 (iv) But still faith, charity or life in either of them is not in the least created by man, but only by the Lord. 359 I stated before that faith present in a person is to begin with natural, and as he comes closer to the Lord it becomes spiritual, and the same with charity. But no one yet knows the distinction between natural and spiritual faith and charity. 360-361 VI. The Lord, charity and faith make one, just as in a person life, will and understanding do; if they are separated, each of them is destroyed, like a pearl collapsing into dust. 362-367 (i) The Lord flows into every human being with all His Divine love, all His Divine wisdom, and so with all His Divine life. 364 (ii) The Lord flows in likewise in the case of every person with the whole essence of faith and charity. 365 (iii) How the influences flowing in from the Lord are received by the person depends upon his form. Form here means the person's state as regards his love together with his wisdom, in other words, as regards his affections for the various kinds of good of charity, and at the same time his 366 (iv) The person, however, who separates the Lord, charity and faith is not a form which can receive them, but rather one which destroys them. 367 VII. The Lord is charity and faith in the person, and the person is charity and faith in the Lord. 368-372 (i) It is being linked with God, which affords a person salvation and everlasting life. 369 (ii) A link is impossible with God the Father, but it is possible with the Lord, and through Him with God the Father. 370 (iii) The link with the Lord is reciprocal, so that the Lord is in the person, and he is in the Lord. 371 (iv) This reciprocal link between the Lord and man is created by means of charity and faith. 372 VIII. Charity and faith are present together in good deeds. 373-377 (i) Charity is having good will, and good deeds are doing good from a good will. 374 (ii) Charity and faith are merely unstable mental concepts unless, when possible, they are realised in deeds and come into existence together in them. 375-376 (iii) Charity alone does not produce good deeds, much less does faith alone, but charity and faith together do. 377 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378-381 (i) There is only one true faith, and this is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ, and is possessed by those who believe Him to be the Son of God, the God of heaven and earth, and one with the Father. 379 (ii) Spurious faith is any faith which departs from the true and only faith, and is possessed by those who climb up another way and look upon the Lord not as God, but merely as a human being. 380 (iii) Hypocritical faith is no faith at all. 381 X. The wicked have no faith. 382-384 (i) The wicked have no faith because evil belongs to hell and faith to heaven. 383 (ii) All those in the Christian world have no faith who reject the Lord and the Word, although they live moral lives, and talk, teach and write rationally, even about faith. 384 I 394-396 (i) THE WILL AND THE UNDERSTANDING. 397 (ii) GOOD AND TRUTH. 398 (iii) LOVE IN GENERAL. 399 (iv) SELF-LOVE AND THE LOVE OF THE WORLD IN PARTICULAR. 400 (v) THE INTERNAL MAN AND THE EXTERNAL MAN. 401 (vi) THE PURELY NATURAL AND SENSUAL MAN. 402 II. When the three loves are duly subordinated, they increase a person's perfection; but when they are not, they corrupt and turn him upside down. 403-405 III. Every person taken singly is the neighbour who is to be loved, but he should be loved according to the quality of his good. 406-411 IV. Man collectively, which is one's community, great or small, and as a group of communities, which is one's country, is the neighbour who is to be loved. 412-414 V. The neighbour who is to be loved in a higher degree is the church, and in the highest degree the Lord's kingdom. 415-416 VI. The essence of loving the neighbour is not loving a person, but the good in him. 417-419 VII. Charity and good deeds are two different things, as are wishing well and doing good. 420-421 VIII. Real charity is dealing fairly and faithfully in whatever position, business or work one is engaged in, and with those with whom one comes into contact. 422-424 IX. The kindnesses of charity are giving to the poor and helping the needy, but with prudence. 425-428 X. Some charitable duties are public, some domestic and some private. 429-432 XI. Charitable recreations are lunches, dinners and parties. 433-434 XII. The first thing in charity is to banish evils, the second is to do good deeds which may be of use to the neighbour. 435-438 XIII. In the exercise of charity a person avoids attributing merit to deeds, so long as he believes that all good is from the Lord. 439-442 XIV. When a moral life is at the same time spiritual, this is charity. 443-445 XV. A bosom friendship contracted with a person without regard to his spiritual character is harmful after death. 446-449 XVI. Spurious charity, hypocritical charity and dead charity. 450-453 XVII. Bosom friendship between the wicked is implacable hatred between them. 454-455 XVIII. The linking of love to God and love towards the neighbour. 456-458 CHAPTER EIGHT 463-465 I. The fact that two trees, one of life and one of the knowledge of good and evil, were put in the Garden of Eden, means that man was given free will in spiritual matters. 466-469 II. Man is not life, but a receiver of life from God. 470-474 III. So long as a person lives in the world, he is kept midway between heaven and hell, and he is there in spiritual equilibrium. This is free will. 475-478 IV. The fact that evil is permitted, a state enjoyed by everyone's internal man, makes it obvious that man has free will in spiritual matters. 479-482 V. Without free will in spiritual matters the Word would not be of any use, nor in consequence would the church be. 483-484 VI. Without free will in spiritual matters man would have no means of establishing a mutual link with the Lord. The result would be not imputation, but complete predestination, which is a detestable doctrine. 485 Predestination is the offspring of the faith of the church at the present time, because it is the product of a belief in man's utter impotence and lack of choice in spiritual matters. 486-488 VII. But for free will in spiritual matters God would be responsible for evil, and thus there could be no imputation of charity and faith. 489-492 VIII. Anything spiritual to do with the church which enters freely and is freely accepted lasts, anything that does not, does not last. 493-496 IX. A person's will and understanding enjoy this free will; but wrong doing in both the spiritual and natural worlds is curbed by laws, since otherwise society in either world would cease to exist. 497-499 X. If people did not have free will in spiritual matters, everyone throughout the world could in the course of a single day have been brought to believe in the Lord. But this would be impossible, because what a person does not accept of his own free will does not last. 500-502 The question is asked today why miracles do not happen as they once did; for people think that if they took place, everyone would acknowledge them in his heart. The reason why miracles do not take place at the present time as they did formerly is that they compel and take away free will in 501 I. Repentance is the first stage in the development of the church in a person. 510-511 II. Contrition, which is said at the present time to precede faith and to be followed by the consolation of the Gospel, is not repentance. 512-515 III. A mere verbal confession that one is a sinner is not repentance. 516-519 IV. Man is born with a tendency to every kind of evil, and if he does not partially remove evils by repentance, he remains subject to them, and if so cannot be saved. 520-524 The saying goes that no one can keep the law completely, and this is even more difficult, because the person who breaks one of the Ten Commandments breaks them all. Yet this manner of speaking does not mean what it sounds like. 523-524 V. Recognition of sin and a person's self-examination are the beginnings of repentance. 525-527 VI. Real repentance is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, appealing to the Lord and beginning a new life. 528-531 VII. True repentance means not only examining what one does in one's life, but also what one intends in one's will to do. 532-534 VIII. Those too repent who do not examine themselves, but still refrain from evil actions because they are sins. This kind of repentance is practised by those who perform charitable deeds for religious reasons. 535-537 IX. Confession ought to be made before the Lord God the Saviour, and then prayer should be offered for help and the power to resist evils. 538-560 X. Real repentance is easy for those who have repented a number of times, but highly distasteful to those who have not. 561-563 XI. A person who has never repented, or looked into himself and examined himself, ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and what the good that saves him, 564-566 I. Unless a person is born again and as it were created anew, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 572-575 II. A new birth or creation can only be brought about by the Lord through charity and faith as the two means with the person's co-operation. 576-578 III. Since all have been redeemed, everyone can be regenerated, in each case depending on the person's state. 579-582 IV. The process of regeneration is on the model of a person's conception, gestation in the womb, birth and upbringing. 583-586 Many scholars have maintained that the development not only of trees but of all plants corresponds to human reproduction. So by way of an appendix I shall add a few remarks on this subject. 585 V. The first stage of re-birth is called reformation, a process affecting the understanding; the second stage is called regeneration, a process affecting the will and thus the understanding, 587-590 VI. The internal man must be reformed first, and the external by means of the internal; that is how a person is regenerated. 591-595 VII. When this happens, a struggle ensues between the internal and the external man, and the victor then controls the other. 596-600 VIII. When a person is regenerated, he acquires a new will and a new understanding. 601-606 IX. A person who is regenerate is in touch with the angels of heaven, one who is not with the spirits of hell. 607-610 X. In so far as a person is regenerated, so far are his sins removed; this removal is the forgiveness of sins. 611-614 XI. Regeneration is impossible without free will in spiritual matters. 615-617 XII. Regeneration is impossible without truths through which faith may be formed, and with which charity may link itself. 618-620 CHAPTER ELEVEN 626-627 II. Imputation as part of present-day faith is a double concept. There is imputation of Christ's merit and imputation of salvation as a result. 628-631 III. The idea of faith imputing the merit and righteousness of Christ the Redeemer sprang first from the decrees of the Council of Nicaea concerning three Divine Persons from eternity; and this faith has been accepted by the whole Christian world from that time to the present. 632-635 IV. Faith which imputes Christ's merit was unknown to the earlier, Apostolic church, and is nowhere to be understood in the Word. 636-639 V. It is impossible for Christ's merit and righteousness to be imputed. 640-642 VI. There is imputation but it is of good and evil, and at the same time of faith. 643-646 VII. The faith and concept of imputation in the new church cannot by any means be combined with the faith and concept of imputation current in the former church. If they are combined, there is such a clash and conflict that a person loses all trace of anything to do with the church. 647-649 VIII. The Lord imputes good to everyone and hell imputes evil to everyone, 650-653 IX. It is what faith combines with which is the deciding factor. If true faith combines with good, that is a decision for everlasting life; but if faith combines with evil, that is a decision for everlasting death. 654-657 X. One's thoughts are not imputed to anyone, only one's will. 658-660 CHAPTER TWELVE 667-669 II. The washing called baptism means spiritual washing, which is purification from evils and falsities, and so regeneration. 670-673 III. Baptism was instituted to take the place of circumcision, because the circumcision of the foreskin was a representation of the circumcision of the heart. The purpose of baptism was so that the internal church should take the place of the external, which in every detail prefigured the 674-676 IV. The first purpose of baptism is to be introduced to the Christian Church, and at the same time brought into the company of Christians in the spiritual world. 677-680 V. The second purpose of baptism is so that a Christian may get to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and follow him. 681-683 VI. The third purpose of baptism, which is its end in view, is a person's regeneration. 684-687 VII. By John's baptism the way was prepared for Jehovah the Lord to come down into the world and carry out redemption. 688-691 CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE HOLY SUPPER. 698-701 II. A knowledge of correspondences allows us to know what is meant by the Lord's flesh and blood, much the same as by bread and wine. This is that the Lord's flesh and the bread mean the Divine good of His love and also all the good of charity; and the Lord's blood and the wine mean the Divine 702-710 Anyone who has received enlightenment from heaven can perceive for himself that flesh here does not mean flesh, neither does blood mean blood, but that both in the natural sense mean the passion on the cross, of which they are a memorial. 704-705 The reason why the Lord's blood means His Divine truth and that of the Word is that His flesh means in the spiritual sense the Divine good of love, and these two are made one in the Lord. 706 It is clearly established from the Lord's words that bread has much the same meaning as flesh: 707 WINE MEANS MUCH THE SAME AS BLOOD, AS IS PERFECTLY CLEAR FROM THE LORD'S WORDS: 708 III. By understanding this it is possible to grasp the fact that the Holy Supper contains everything to do with the church and heaven, both at the universal and at the particular level. 711-715 IV. The Lord is wholly present in the Holy Supper, and so is the whole of redemption. 716-718 V. The Lord is present and opens heaven to those who worthily approach the Holy Supper. He is also present to those who approach it unworthily, but He does not open heaven to them. Consequently just as baptism is being introduced to the church, so the Holy Supper is being introduced to heaven. 719-721 VI. The people who worthily approach the Holy Supper are those who have faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour, so those who have been regenerated. 722-724 VII. Those who worthily approach the Holy Supper are in the Lord and the Lord is in them. Thus it is through the Holy Supper that they are linked with the Lord. 725-727 VIII. The Holy Supper for those who approach it worthily is a kind of guarantee and seal put on their adoption as sons of God. 728-730 CHAPTER FOURTEEN 753-756 II. The present time is the final period of the Christian church foretold and described by the Lord in the Gospels and Revelation. 757-759 III. This final period of the Christian church is absolute night, in which the previous churches ended. 760-763 IV. This night is followed by morning, and morning is the Lord's coming. 764-767 V. The Lord's coming does not mean His coming to destroy the sky we see and the earth where we live, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, as many people up to now have imagined through not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word. 768-771 VI. This, which is the Lord's second coming, is taking place in order that the wicked should be separated from the good, and those should be saved who believe in Him and have done so; and so that a new heaven of angels and a new church on earth should be formed from them. 772-775 VII. This, the Lord's second coming, is not in person, but in the Word, which is from Him and which He is. 776-778 VIII. This, the Lord's second coming, is taking place by means of a man, to whom He has shown Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, so that he may teach the doctrines of the new church which come from the Lord through the Word. 779-780 IX. This is the meaning of the new heaven and the new earth, and of the New Jerusalem coming down from there, as described in Revelation. 781-785 X. This new church is the crown of all the churches which have up to now existed upon earth. 786-791 SUPPLEMENT 792-795 Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin in the spiritual world. 796 As for Melanchthon, I was allowed to learn a lot about his fate his first coming into the spiritual world, and what it was later upon on, not only from angels, but from himself, for I spoke with him a number of times, though not as often or at as close range as with Luther. 797 On the subject of Calvin, I heard the following. (1) When he first arrived in the spiritual world, he did not believe he was anywhere but still in the world in which he was born. 798-799 The Dutch in the spiritual world. 800-805 The British in the spiritual world. 806-812 The Germans in the spiritual world. 813-816 The Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 817-821 The Saints of the Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 822-827 The Mohammedans in the spiritual world. 828-834 The Africans in the spiritual world; also something about other nations. 835-840 The Jews in the spiritual world. 841-845

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


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