Swedenborgianism – The New Church

Background

Swedenborgianism is one of the three main branches of the ‘Church of the New Jerusalem.’ What each branch has in common is that they basically accept the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg as divinely inspired.

Emmanuel Swedenborg who lived from 1688-772, was born into a pious Lutheran home. As an intellectual he travelled widely and had many influential friends. He excelled in the fields of metallurgy and crystallography.

At the age of 57 he was granted a direct perception of the spiritual world, a perception which he recognised as a revelation from God… He understood this event to be the birth of the New Age. – Swedenborg, A Spiritual Philosophy. (Pamphlet published by the Swedenborg Movement.)

Many have said that he developed spiritualistic gifts of automatic handwriting and clairaudience, hearing voices. This is denied by the British officials of the church in London but when I tried to discover from them more information they refused to talk any further. Some also add that he practised astral travel and visited the spirit world communicating with the good and evil there. Those, he claimed to have talked to, include the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther and Calvin. These discussions led him to see that the Bible needed special interpretation.

Today

The logo for the group in this country is The New Church – a new Christianity. Having read that you need immediately to ask the question, what is wrong with the old?

A small bookmark advertising the church reads,

The New Church is not a sect. The New Church is not a cult. The New Church is Universal. It has new teaching based and founded on the Word of God.

All the emphasis is on the ‘new’ and the fact that it is different to the old. However, if the old is the original surely the new can but be a copy. The Swedenborg Movement takes up this matter of the ‘new’ in their leaflet The New Age and the ages that came before it. Here we first read that,

…perhaps the fullest and earliest revival of the Five Age concept, and especially of the New Age is to be found in the theological writings of Swedenborg. He integrates the Classical Ages of the Greeks and Romans with the Biblical pattern, and then claims that the New Age has begun.

Later we read,

Swedenborg even nominates a particular year, 1757, as the end of the old Christian Age, which will be overtaken by a New Christian Age, and one which will happily embrace similar compatible religions, as they too come to accept the values of the New Age.

Members of this group believe that Swedenborg’s writings are “a revelation for mankind.”

Beliefs

To see the beliefs of the New Church in their own words – go here.

The following is a summary of the main beliefs and each of them is clearly different to the belief of evangelical Christians.

God is one – He is the Lord Jesus Christ, God of heaven and earth, who shows Divine Human qualities of love and wisdom.

The Father is the Divine Soul of the Son

The Holy Spirit is a ‘Divine influence’ in our lives.

The Trinity is an image the Lord uses to present Himself to man.

This was summed up by one member of the group, in an e-mail, as follows:

God is viewed as having a Divine soul, a Divine body and from these a Divine presence with all people. These are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So none of these are denied but they are viewed in a different manner

This means that they deny the person of God the Father, the person of God the Son and the person of God the Holy Spirit, as understood by evangelical Christians.

Salvation is an ongoing process made possible by turning away from our selfishness and living lives in obedience to God’s commandments. Everyone who accepts that ‘there is a God’ and who tries to live a good life, can be saved.

The Bible is not God’s Word but rather a “symbolic parable of our inner life.” We should not try to understand it literally but rather spiritually.

Every person has a soul, which lives in the spiritual realm while our bodies live in this world. At death we shed our physical bodies and know the fulness of the life of the soul.

Heaven and hell are both within us and we choose our own future through the choices we make concerning good or evil in this life. Life in heaven is “full and joyful”, whereas life in hell is, “shallow and miserable”.

Communication

The sort of questions that we can ask to try to communicate with these people are:

What is the basis for choice of where to go in the future? Is it just a sort of lottery or are there some specific ‘rules’ laid down.

Where is there an answer to all the wrong things in this world, the evil and the sin? No one has ever claimed to have another answer other than Jesus Christ on the Cross. It may be that some of the Bible is difficult to understand but there are some very plain words of Jesus. For instance in John 3. Should we not obey these?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly seen in Scripture to be of grace and not works that I must do after I’m dead. In fact, the Bible shows us plainly that everything to do with salvation must be completed before I die.

Categories: Apologetics

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