June 24, 2016

When the Idea of God is Wrong

Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The belief that the passion of the cross was redemption itself is the fundamental error of the church; and this error, together with the error respecting three Divine persons from eternity, has perverted the whole church to such an extent that there is nothing spiritual left in it.

What at the present day more fills and crams the books of the orthodox, or what is more zealously taught and inculcated in the schools, or what is more frequently preached and proclaimed from the pulpit, than that God the Father, being angry with the human race, not only put it away from Himself, but also included it under a universal damnation, and thus excommunicated it; but being gracious, He persuaded or inspired His Son to descend and take upon Himself this determined damnation, and thus appease the anger of His Father; and that under no other conditions could the Father look with favor upon mankind?  And further, that this was actually done by the Son; in that by taking upon Himself the damnation of the human race He suffered Himself to be scourged, to be spit upon, and finally crucified by the Jews as one "accursed of God" (Deut. 21:23); and after this had been done the Father was propitiated, and from love for His Son canceled the damnation, but only on behalf of those for whom the Son might intercede, and that the Son thus became a Mediator perpetually before His Father.

The churches of the present day resound with these and like ideas; they are reverberated from the walls like echoes from the forests, and fill the ears of all there.  But cannot everyone whose reason has been enlightened and made sane by the Word see that God is mercy itself and pity itself, because He is love itself and good itself, and that these are His essence? It is therefore a contradiction to say that essential mercy or good can look upon man with anger and determine upon his damnation, and continue to be its own Divine Essence. Such things can hardly be ascribed to a good man, but only to a bad man, nor can they be ascribed to an angel of heaven, but only to a spirit of hell. It is therefore horrible to ascribe them to God.

But if it is asked why this has been done the answer is, that the passion of the cross has been taken for redemption itself; and from this these ideas have flowed forth, as from one falsity, falsities flow forth in a continuous series, or as from a cask of vinegar nothing but vinegar can flow, or from an insane mind nothing but insanity can flow.  For from a single conclusion kindred principles flow; these lie hidden in the conclusion, and grow out of it one after another; and from the doctrine that the passion of the cross was redemption there may proceed or be drawn many other things that are scandalous and dishonoring to God, until the saying in Isaiah comes to pass:

The priest and the prophet err through strong drink; they stumble in judgment; for all tables are full of the vomit of filthiness (Isa. 28:7-8).

From this idea of God and redemption, all theology from being spiritual has become in the lowest degree natural, and this because merely natural properties have been attributed to God; and yet on the idea of God and the idea of redemption, which makes one with salvation, everything pertaining to the church depends.  For this idea is like the head from which all parts of the body proceed; therefore when this is a spiritual idea everything pertaining to the church becomes spiritual, and when it is a natural idea everything pertaining to the church becomes natural; consequently, as the idea of God and redemption has become purely natural, that is, sensual and corporeal, so all things that have been taught and are taught by the heads and members of the church in their dogmatic theology are purely natural.  And nothing but falsities can be hatched from this theology, for the reason that the natural man acts constantly against the spiritual, and therefore regards what is spiritual as something spectral, or as an airy phantasmAnd in consequence it may be said that owing to this sensual idea of redemption, and thus of God, the ways to heaven, which are the ways to the Lord God the Savior, are beset by thieves and robbers (John 10:1, 8-9); and that the doors of the churches are thrown down, giving entrance to dragons, owls, and the wild beasts of the deserts and the islands, which sing together there in horrible discord.  It is known that this idea of redemption and of God pervades the faith of the present day, which is, that men should beseech God the Father to pardon their offenses for the sake of the cross and blood of His Son, and beseech God the Son to pray and intercede for them, and God the Holy Spirit to justify and sanctify them.  What is this but praying to three Gods in their order?  And wherein does this conception of the Divine government differ from that of an aristocracy or a hierarchy, or such a triumvirate as once existed at Rome, except that instead of a triumvirate it may be called a tri-personate?  And then what is easier than for the devil to "divide and rule," as the saying is, that is, to distract men's minds, and to excite rebellious movements, now against one God and now against another, as has been done from the time of Arius [256AD - 336AD] until now; which is equivalent to hurling from His throne the Lord God the Savior, who has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), and seating upon that throne some of the devil's own minions and offering worship to him; or because worship is taken from him, taking it away also from the Lord Himself?

(True Christian Religion 132 - 133)