November 23, 2016

Understanding Predestination

Passage from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
To make clear how pernicious the belief in predestination is as generally understood these four propositions must be taken up and established.

First: Any predestination except to heaven is contrary to the Divine love, which is infinite. That Jehovah or the Lord is Divine love, and that He is infinite and the Being (Esse) of all life, and that man was created into the image of God after the likeness of God, has been shown in the work on The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. And as every man is formed by the Lord in the womb into that image after that likeness (as has also been shown), it follows that the Lord is the heavenly Father of all men, and that men are His spiritual children. Thus is Jehovah or the Lord called in the Word, and men likewise; for He says:

Call no man your father upon the earth, for One is your Father, who is in the heavens (Matt. 23:9);

which means that He alone is the Father in respect to the life; and that the earthly father is the father only in respect to the life's covering, which is the body; therefore in heaven no father is mentioned except the Lord. That men who do not pervert that life are said to be His sons and to be born of Him is also evident from many passages in the Word.

Thus it can be seen that the Divine love is in every man, both the evil and the good; consequently that the Lord who is Divine love can not act towards them otherwise than as a father on the earth acts towards his children, and infinitely more so, because the Divine love is infinite; and again, that He cannot withdraw from any one because every one's life is from Him. He appears to withdraw from the evil; but the evil withdraw from Him, while He from love still leads them. So the Lord says:

Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. What man is there of you who if his son ask for a loaf will give him a stone? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to them that ask Him? (Matt. 7:7-11).

And elsewhere that

He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. v. 46).

Moreover, it is admitted in the church that the Lord wills the salvation of all, and the death of no one. All this shows that any predestination except to heaven is contrary to the Divine love.

Secondly: Any predestination except to heaven is contrary to the Divine wisdom, which is infinite. The Divine love through its Divine wisdom provides the means whereby every man can be saved; consequently to say that there is any predestination except to heaven is to say that the Divine love is unable to provide the means by which there is salvation. Nevertheless, as has been shown above, all have the means, and they are from the Divine providence, which is infinite But the reason why there are some that are not saved is that the Divine love wills that man should feel in himself the happiness and blessedness of heaven, since otherwise it would not be heaven to him; and this is impossible unless man's thinking and willing is made to appear to him to be from himself. For without this appearance nothing could be appropriated to him, nor would he be a man. This is the purpose of the Divine providence, which is of the Divine wisdom from the Divine love.

But this does not invalidate the truth that all are predestined to heaven and none to hell; and yet it would if the means of salvation were lacking. But that means of salvation have been provided for every one, and that heaven is such that all who live well, of whatever religion they may be, have a place there, has been shown above Man is like the earth, which produces fruits of every kind, and it is because of this power that the earth is the earth; and that it produces bad fruits also does not preclude its ability to produce good fruits also, but this would be precluded if the earth had never had the ability to produce any thing except bad fruits. Again, man is like an object that variegates in itself the rays of light; if the object presents nothing but disagreeable colors the light is not the cause, for rays of light are also capable of being variegated in pleasing colors.

Thirdly: That only those born within the church are saved is an insane heresy. Those born out of the church are men equally with those born within it, they are from the same heavenly origin, and are equally living and immortal souls. They also have a religion from which they acknowledge that there is a God, and that they must live rightly; and he who acknowledges God and lives rightly becomes spiritual in his degree and is saved, as has been shown above. It may be said that such have not been baptized; but baptizing saves none except those that are spiritually washed, that is, regenerated; for baptism is for a sign and a memorial of this.

Such, it may be said, have no knowledge of the Lord, and without the Lord there is no salvation. But no one is saved for the reason that the Lord is known to him, but because he lives in accordance with the Lord's commandments; and the Lord is known to every one who acknowledges God, for He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself teaches (Matt. 28:18, and elsewhere). Furthermore, those outside of the church have the idea of God as a man more than Christians have; and those that have the idea of God as a man and live well are accepted by the Lord. Such also acknowledge God as one in person and essence, as Christians do not. They also think of God in their life, for they make evils to be sins against God; and those who do this think of God in their life. Christians have the precepts of religion from the Word, but there are few who draw from it any precepts of life.

The Papists do not read it; and the Reformed, who are in faith separated from charity, pay no attention to what relates to life in it, but only to what relates to faith; and yet the whole Word is nothing but a doctrine of life. Christianity exists only in Europe; Mohammedanism and Gentilism exist in Asia, in the Indies, in Africa and America, and the human race in those parts of the globe is ten times more numerous than in the Christian portion; and in the latter there are few who place religion in life. What more insane belief, then, can there be than to hold that only these latter are saved and the former are damned, and that man gains heaven by his birth and not by his life? Therefore the Lord says:

I say unto you that many shall come from the east and west, and shall recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out (Matt. 8:11, 12).

Fourthly: That any of the human race are damned by predestination is a cruel heresy. For it is cruel to believe that the Lord, who is love itself and mercy itself, suffers so immense a multitude of men to be born for hell, or so many myriads of myriads to be born condemned and doomed, that is, born devils and satans, and that He does not from His Divine wisdom provide that those who live well and acknowledge God shall not be cast into eternal fire and torment And yet He is the Lord, the Creator and Saviour of all, and He alone leads all and wills not the death of any. It is therefore cruel to believe and think that so great a multitude of nations and peoples under His auspices and oversight have been handed over by predestination as a prey to the devil.

(Divine Providence 330)