I’ve been a student of the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg for over 35 years. His theological writings have helped me to get a better and more rational grasp of religious truth—especially concerning spiritual growth and personal transformation.
In fact, a church has been established based on Swedenborg’s theological writings.
Once when I was sitting at a table with two other Swedenborg scholars, I asked one of them whether the Swedenborgian Church was walking away from teaching the knowledge of correspondences (the symbolic language of God’s Holy Word).
The reply I got was that the church hadn’t ignored correspondences but was concentrating more on “simple good.” I had felt for years that both the liberal and conservative sides of the Swedenborgian Church were “dumbing-down” their message and moving in a more standard and “expected” direction.
I contemplated this reply for a while and acknowledged that the symbolic language of correspondences was indeed challenging to many worshippers in the Church based on Swedenborg’s writings. It is much simpler for ministers to communicate the idea to their congregations that one must simply seek goodness. After all, the Swedenborgian Church is based on the doctrine of LOVE.
However, to me, simple goodness is merely the “price of entry” into the process of eternal salvation. (Any church can practice simple goodness. In fact, most do.)
Swedenborg made it clear that becoming a good person is not a simple process. Why? Well, one does not start “doing good things” for others and automatically acquire the sincerity and quality of innocence necessary for true spiritual goodness.
The reason is that a person’s goodness is impure—and carries a lot of baggage with it. So Swedenborg introduced a novel theological idea—the process of spiritual growth involves purifying our acts of goodness (AC 6427)! The Lord God activates this process of purification through temptations (inner combat) within our conscience. This requires that we make unpleasant discoveries about ourselves and resist their influence.
This means that when a person begins to sense their own inner fragility and unworthiness, a minister should help this uncomfortable process along—not squash it! Instead, most people demand from their church ministers that their self-esteem and self-worth be constantly authenticated with soothing words and comforting hugs—because God loves them and therefore they are important.
People want to be good without going through hell (after all, life on earth is difficult enough). But when we study God’s Holy Word from the elevated knowledge of correspondences we learn that all the biblical battles and infighting represent the conflicts that we can observe in our own hearts and minds—if we can bear it.
This news can be so devastating to the average worshipper that I was once warned to keep my mouth zipped during Sunday services.
The Lord told his disciples that He had more secrets to reveal—but that they could not bear these things now (John 16:12).
What could you not bear (about yourself)?