I have been studying Emanuel Swedenborg’s theological writings for forty years. Each year I am becoming more convinced that I have wrongly interpreted Swedenborg’s insights towards spiritual transformation.
It is true that Swedenborg pointed out the incorrectness of the Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone. The idea of justification by Faith alone simply allows individuals to hold their flaws and evil passions to be of no eternal account, because by believing that the Lord wiped away all sin, Christians can sit pretty.
But Swedenborg stressed that it is one’s deeds (good works) that lead to a real heavenly life because charity and usefulness represents the actual quality of life within one’s faith.
This later idea, although true, has been so stressed over recent years (as ways of growing a loving community and church) that a crucial step in spiritual growth has been overlooked. After all, one can do good deeds in the world from pretense, hidden agendas and egoism.
So, although justification by faith alone is a faulty doctrine, so can doing good deeds in the terrestrial world lead to a bad direction. The problem is that we humans have a dual nature—an inner and outer world. Both worlds have to change.
One cannot legitimately change both worlds towards higher, spiritual or heavenly principles without sincere self-examination and inner cleansing. This practice alone allows nothing to remain deeply hidden or masked when one is being outwardly friendly and charitable towards others.
Throughout the ages, all religion was originally designed to unify both our inner and outer worlds. This universal idea—running through all religion—has been sadly forgotten. But I, at least, am discovering (with horror) that I still cling to many self-delusions—which rely on my keeping both of my worlds separate and from observing each other!