@LeeWoofenden Alas, time I cannot change, money I cannot enjoy, and effort that wanes quickly.
@LeeWoofenden Yes, but I was criticizing the Pauline Epistles, not the Gospels. For a Jew, one who understands the OT very well, the Synoptics are much easier to stomach. But the Epistles would be too much to consider worth anything.
The Epistles do a lot more "allegorizing" of the OT than Jesus' words in the Gospels does. In fact, Jesus' own words, which in my opinion stand in contrast with a good deal of what Paul and Peter say in their epistles, says:
> Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
But Paul and Peter go on and on about how the Law is "nailed to the Cross".
I realize that others interpret it differently, but it doesn't ever actually explain how Jesus can say the Law ain't going anywhere, but Paul and Peter say "actually, it's all done."
@curiousdannii I hope you are right. But most of the fundamentalist and evangelical literature, articles, comments, and so on that I've read lean so heavily on interpreting the Bible literally that practically speaking they ignore the obviously (to me) metaphorical nature of much of the Bible.
@fredsbend Hmm, sounds like you're saying, "Life sucks and then you die." I hope your life is better than that . . .
@fredsbend If it makes a difference, Swedenborg did not consider the Acts and the Epistles to be canonical. He considered them to be historical and doctrinal works--i.e., Christian history and doctrinal interpretation--rather than being the Word of God.
Having said that, he also said that they are "good books for the church," and that they do not contradict the genuine Christian teachings found in the Gospels.
Still, I consider the Gospels (and Revelation) to be primary sources, and the Acts and the Epistles to be secondary sources. Of course, that puts us an our little band of Swedenborgians at odds with the vast bulk of Christianity, whose theology is primarily derived from Paul, and only secondarily derived from Jesus' own teachings in the Gospels.
The Word of God itself (as Sw's see it) is mostly poetry and story, with very little doctrine or theology. That's why it's so hard to draw doctrine out of it. The Epistles are explicitly doctrinal works, so they're much easier to quote for making doctrinal points.
From our perspective, the Word of God is a conduit for deeper spiritual and divine truth that is embodied in and shines through the literal meaning. Doctrinal works, by contrast, are a case of "what you see is what you get." There may be a few metaphors here and there, but mostly it's explicit exposition of doctrine as understood by the human writers.
Take SDA for example. They say all the time that EG White was a prophet, but the Bible supersedes her works. If she was a prophet all the same with Issiah et. al. then her words are God's all the same.
@fredsbend Yes, but what does it mean for a book to be "genuinely from God"? Did God dictate the words to a human amanuensis? What is the nature of the inspiration that makes a book "the Word of God"? After all, doesn't everything ultimately come from God (assuming God exists, etc.)?
@Mr.Bultitude No. That would be systematic theology, which regularly falls prey to eisegesis. Instead, the reasonable conclusion that two books of the Bible (written by different people at different times) are at odds is always ignored and some other solution is devised.
But here's the list: Old Testament: The Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Psalms, the four Major Prophets, the twelve Minor Prophets. New Testament: The four Gospels and the book of Revelation.
It's not that we reject the other books so much as that we don't think of them as having a deeper, spiritual meaning, and thus as not inspired by God in the manner that the books of the Word of God are inspired.
@fredsbend Well, there's got to be some criteria by which we decide what books are and aren't the Word of God beyond simply accepting the authority of the church. Why are some books in and other books out?
@fredsbend Thing is, Swedenborg went back before all of the councils, and didn't assume that anything the creeds or councils promulgated necessarily had any truth or validity to it. So he built up his theology on an entirely non-creedal, non-council basis.
To most Protestants I know, Catholic is not really something they even know about. Every now and then they flame off on how they worship Mary and believe non-biblical books are written by God too, but that's about it.
Unlike the Protestant reformers, he did not accept the early Christian (read: Catholic) councils as a given. He threw them out as well, so his "reformation" of Christianity was far more radical than theirs.
@fredsbend He considered his experience to be entirely different from the Prophets and other Bible writers. He never called himself a prophet. But he did say that he got the theology in his writings "from the Lord alone while reading the Word."
@Mr.Bultitude I think they rode on Catholic coattails a lot more than they would like to admit. I was rather surprised some years ago to hear a fundamentalist Christian assure me that due to original sin, unbaptized babies would go to hell.
@fredsbend I think I did answer that before, but in a nutshell, Swedenborg considered the Christian church as it had existed up to his time to be at an end theologically and as the reigning "church" or religion on earth. He stated that a whole new church was now beginning--one that he saw as truly Christian rather than only nominally Christian as he believed the previous Christian Church had been at least since the Council of Nicaea.
@fredsbend It's the "fix it" that Swedenborg had a problem with. He did not think that the Christian church as it had existed up to that time would be "fixed." Rather, he thought that it was at the end of its (spiritual) life cycle, and was dying, to be replaced by an entirely new church.
@fredsbend I wouldn't say that Swedenborg's was so much a new canon as a subset of the accepted Catholic and Protestant canons.
@fredsbend I suppose you could say that the church was in apostasy, though I don't think that's a word Swedenborg used. He said that the church was "devastated" as to truth, such that there was no truth left in it.
@fredsbend It happened, he said, due to two forces within human beings. To use the traditional Swedenborgian terminology: "love of dominion from love of self" and "love of the world." Or in more modern terminology, a desire for power and a desire for wealth and pleasure.
The Catholic Church, he said, had been infected by a love for power, which caused it to become completely corrupt. Protestantism, he said, was infected by faith-alone theology, which caused it to divorce religion from life, which was its destruction.
I don't think it's a coincidence that he traced the doctrinal downfall of Christianity to the Council of Nicaea, which, historically, was precisely when Christianity became a state religion wielding worldly power.
@Mr.Bultitude I'll have to get on that. Unfortunately, I don't understand Oneness Pentecostal theology as well as I should. I spent some time reading up on it a while back, but not enough to really feel that I'd gotten the full story.
The closest I've found (outside of the Bible) of an old theology that Swedenborg subscribed to is that his soteriology seems to be fairly close to Christus Victor. However, I haven't yet read the book on Christus Victor, and I think Swedenborg rejected some aspects of that theology, too.
Modalism says that God appears in three different ways, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Swedenborg rejects that. He says the Father never appears, but appears only through the Son, and the Holy Spirit is God's love, wisdom, and power flowing out, so it is God's presence us.
@fredsbend When I was young and even more foolish than I am now, I lived for argument! Now, I'm not so excited about it. I'm more interested in reaching minds that can be reached, and "shaking the dust off my feet" from those who can't. On my blog, I simply delete most fundamentalist comments aimed at "converting" me. Not gonna waste my time arguing with them.
@curiousdannii What I did read of Oneness Pentecostalism indicated that, like Swedenborg, they rejected the Trinity of Persons and believed in one Person of God instead. But by the time I got distracted to other things I was starting to get the impression that the two theologies go in pretty different directions from there.
@fredsbend What "you" are you talking to? If it's me, I don't consider any of the ritual laws to be derived from God, but rather derived from human culture and put to use for God's purposes, for particular reasons relating to the nature of human beings and human culture.
@curiousdannii Do you think the surrounding people noticed or even cared? God had a lot of opportunity to amaze people then and today and show He's really Almighty. Instead, we're left with myths, an aggressive people that still behaves badly, and an ancient text that mostly can't relate to people today without significant study.
@curiousdannii The problem is that the speculations requires that God was trying and all we really got out of it was the OT. If we take the reasonable conclusion, we should say that the whole lot of it is just a bunch of ancient ideas for an ancient people that have long since passed.
@fredsbend A lot of these issues are addressed (for a popular audience) in my article, How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads. Our concept of what makes the Word of God the Word of God is really quite different from the reigning authority-based models.
@fredsbend One more thought. I've heard the idea that the food laws are based on idealistic categories. God created an ordered creation, but creatures that seemed to blur the lines, such as flying featureless creatures (bats) or sea creatures that didn't swim (crustaceons) weren't to be eaten.
@fredsbend I actually agree with Paul, and with the Letter to the Hebrews (whoever wrote it) on this subject: the OT is "a copy and a shadow" of things to come. I.e., it is a symbolic and metaphorical representation of deeper, spiritual things that would be revealed in Christianity.
From Sw's perspective, the cultures of Old Testament times were wholly materialistic and earth-focused, and could not accept or follow any religion that had any genuine spirituality in it. They were therefore given a very guttural, physical, earth-focused religion that meant something to them in their materialistic state.
But that religion also embodied a symbolism that expressed through material, cultural cultic practices a deeper spiritual meaning that could not be opened up and revealed until people became less materialistic and more spiritual--something that didn't happen until Christ came, turned the tide of spiritual history, and gave new and more inward-looking teachings.
The cultic practices, dietary laws, and so on, were derived entirely from the cultures of the day. They were not divine in any way in and of themselves. But they were adopted and used as a bearer of deeper meanings that would be revealed in the future.
@fredsbend God was saying "I am not part of the creation. The plants and animals around you are not spirits. Honour me by living lives different from the nations around you. The creepy creatures of the seas are not to be honoured through sacrifice. You are not to attempt to attain a spiritual experience through temple prostitutes"
@fredsbend I'm content to let science tell us how the physical universe unfolded. Swedenborg was pre-Darwin, so he believed in spontaneous generation and special creation. However, I think that's just because it's all he had based on the science of his day.
@fredsbend From a Swedenborgian perspective, creation is not something that happens through time, but something that happens through discrete layers of reality from within (the Divine Being) outward through the spiritual and material layers of reality.
@fredsbend To my knowledge, there was not a coherent theory of evolution or development of species in Swedenborg's day. If there were, he certainly would have known about it, because he was an avid scientist.
Anyway, what I'm attempting to say is that I don't think Swedenborg's science was any more advanced than the best science of his day. So I don't look to Swedenborg for answers about the nature of the material world and its laws.
@curiousdannii No, creating a distinct culture would be neat. But creating a distinct culture via arbitrary and purposeless nonsense is plain stupid. It doesn't look like something an omniscient God would do.
What I do think is that the laws of the material universe were created by God, and are expressions of God's nature as it manifests in a world constructed of physical matter. God's role is to create and maintain both the laws and the existence of everything in nature from within.
@curiousdannii I think you missed my point. Making a distinct culture is not really remarkable by itself. Making a distinct culture via something actually useful and obviously divine would be remarkable.
The people in the OT look like a bunch of primitive, violent morons.
@fredsbend So the stuff they were doing back then relates quite directly to the stuff we're still doing. But they did it in very physical, pragmatic ways, which makes it a lot easier to see than some of our modern, more psychological shenanigans.
I think that the Bible--the OT specifically--was written among "bronze age nomads" (to use a favorite atheist term) precisely because they were primitive, violent morons whose "sins" were so clear and obvious that no moron, primitive or modern, could fail to get the point.
@curiousdannii It all depends what you think needs mediation. We don't think God requires a mediator, but that humans require a mediator. In a nutshell, Jesus Christ is God serving as his own mediator for human beings who have divorced themselves from God.
To use the Bible's own language (in the traditional KJV), "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Not reconciling God to the world, or to humanity, but reconciling the world (meaning humanity) to God.
In Swedenborgian theology, God never was angry at us, and never required us to go to hell or any such thing. Rather, we humans had rejected God, and were separating ourselves from God, and sending ourselves to hell. God reached down as Jesus Christ in order to turn us around and get us moving back toward God.
As I wrote in a comment to my question "Because you only need a mediator when you can't peaceably interact with them yourself." Non-trinitarians will probably have a different understanding of the idea of 'mediator'.
@LeeWoofenden Ah yep. Well the wrath of God is all over the Bible I think.
@LeeWoofenden I don't think this represents the Biblical language of mediator or intecessor
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). God is there at the door, waiting and wanting to come to us. If we'll only open the door, he will. Jesus is the one standing at the door knocking.
@curiousdannii I actually don't think "mediator" and "intercessor" are the strongest themes in the Bible.
However, to get more specific, in Swedenborgian theology Jesus is the divine humanity of God, which mediates between the core divinity of God and human beings. We cannot approach the core divinity of God (called "the Father" in the Bible) directly, because it's beyond our ability. But we can approach God through his human presence, which is Jesus Christ.
@curiousdannii Yes, it's there. But I think it has been over-emphasized for the purpose of supporting Catholic and Protestant doctrine.
So when Swedenborg interprets Bible passages that speak of "God's wrath," he interprets it as God's love as it appears to those who are opposed to divine love, but live from hatred, anger, and wrath themselves.