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6:19 PM
A: What is the basis for the Swedenborgian view that the most common concept of God in Christianity (the Trinity) is a belief in three gods?

Lee WoofendenThough Swedenborgians generally don't put much focus on charging mainstream, trinitarian Christians with tritheism, a rejection of the Trinity of Persons is key to Swedenborgian doctrine. A key part of that rejection is that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity is viewed as being a belief in t...

This answer was originally posted in reply to the question, Is the concept of God in Christianity (the Trinity) three Gods or One?
@AndreasBlass I would say, rather, that he is simply stating, based on the wording in the Athanasian Creed and on common knowledge, that trinitarians picture three different beings in their minds, which is tantamount to thinking in terms of three gods. If you want to discuss this further, feel free to take it up in the Polemics and Apologetics chat.
This may correctly explain Swedenborgian doctrine, but by doing so it shows a terrible failure to understand Trinitarian doctrine.
@eques Comments on questions and answers are not to be used to object to or disagree with the perspectives stated in those questions or answers. That sort of thing can be taken up in chat if you wish.
I'm not disagreeing with your perspective as a Swedenbordian doctrine. I'm asserting that you fail to correctly describe the Trinitarian doctrine you are refuting, thus leading to negative and false implications about the beliefs of the other school of thought.
@eques Once again, this is not the place for doctrinal debates. I would be happy to take it up with you in chat if you like.
6:19 PM
In particular, you describe the icons as depicting the Trinity as 3 beings, but if you understood iconography, you would understand the context and symbolism inherent in that art form rather than assuming it means what you think it means
I'm not debating doctrine. I'm pointing out your answer is factually inaccurate about Trinitarian doctrine. Explain yours by all means, but do not incorrectly state what others believe
@eques I am flagging all of your comments for moderator deletion. If you want to engage in this conversation, please go to The Upper Room, where we can debate doctrine all we like.
Please point out where I'm debating doctrine.
@eques The doctrine of the Trinity of Persons is a doctrine. You view it one way, Swedenborgians view it a different way. That's a doctrinal debate.
So you are free to say false things about what some other concept is in order to describe your own doctrine? I thought the point of StackExchange sites was to encourage quality answers based on factual sources, etc
I understand the basics of the Swedenborgian view and your answer covers it well. What you fail to do correctly is distinguish between why Swedenborgians believe what they believe and why they reject the Trinity from what Trinitarians actually believe and why they believe it
@eques My answer states quite truly what Swedenborgians believe about the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons. You may think that Swedenborgians are wrong in what they think. But that doesn't alter the fact that what I said in my answer is what Swedenborgians believe on the subject. That's what the question asks for, and that's what the answer provides.
And that's what C.SE is for.
Stating what various groups and denominations believe on various subjects.
6:24 PM
Yes, you assert that Trinitarianism amounts to Trithesism and of course Trinitarians would dispute that. However, you assert that when Trinitarians say "We believe in One God" that they must be saying "Three" but that says nothing about Swedenborgian views and only shows a failure to grasp Trinitarian views. Similarly with the entire section on Trinitarian iconography.
There are hundreds of answers here that I happen to believe are doctrinally wrong, and that I would love to debate. But they do accurately reflect what the particular group (Catholics, Pentecostalists, etc.) believe. So even though I think they're wrong, the answer is still a perfectly valid answer on C.SE.
The whole structure of C.SE is designed specifically to avoid the sorts of doctrinal debates and flame wars that dog many other religious-themed sites.
@eques Once again, you're free to think that Swedenborgians are wrong. And I'm perfectly happy to debate it with you here in chat if you wish. (I am an ordained Swedenborgian minister.) But the comments area of questions and answers is not intended for that sort of debate.
You are still missing my point. The point is not whether your doctrine is right or wrong or even whether your doctrine is based on a flawed understanding of another doctrine, but that you blatantly state as fact another's doctrine incorrectly to defend your own. That would be like me stating Jews don't eat pork because God kept tasty meats from them until Christ came.
@eques I think he's not saying "When Trinitarians say 'we believe in one God', they believe in three". He's saying, as I understand him, that "Swedenborgians believe that when Trinitarians say...."
And based on his quote from Emmanuel Swedenborg, this does appear to be what they believe. Whether they're correct in that belief is another question.
Which I'm not set to debate right now :-D
@MattGutting My personal opinion, and the opinion of Swedenborgians generally, is the former. But yes, the answer is saying the latter.
@LeeWoofenden Understood. What I meant, I suppose, is "What he's saying in the answer...:"
6:28 PM
@MattGutting Right.
"@MattGutting to state it another way, the post does not clearly indicate enough which elements are Swedenborgian statements about Trinitarian doctrine as opposed to outright Trinitarian doctrine.
Too much of the answer relies on a terrible failure to understand Trinitarian doctrine and does it overly than necessarily to justify Swedenborgian views
@eques That's covered in the second paragraph of the answer:
> The basis for the Swedenborgian view that the traditional Trinity of Persons is a belief in three gods rather than in one God is as follows:
Everything in the answer must therefore be read as the basis for the Swedenborgian view.
@eques You view it that way. I don't.
@eques I don't think so. The answer clearly states, "The basis for the Swedenborgian view that the traditional Trinity of Persons is a belief in three gods rather than in one God is as follows:"... and everything that follows is indeed a belief (as it appears) of the Swedenborgian Church. Thus every element of the answer after this statement is the Swedenborgian view of the Trinitarian view of the Trinity.
Does the Swedenborgian view rely on a particular viewpoint of iconography?
I think Swedenborg understood the doctrine of the Trinity better than trinitarians do. He was simply willing to call a spade a spade.
6:32 PM
@LeeWoofenden I'm going to leave before I get sucked into a theological debate I really don't have time for today :-) Fare well!
@eques No. I introduced the iconography to illustrate the Swedenborgian view.
@MattGutting Thanks for stopping in and lending a hand.
This answer is very apparent Swedenborgians don't understand the doctrine of the Trinity better than Trinitarians because you get the fundamentals of what the Trinity is wrong.
the iconography section doesn't really further your explanation of the Trinity from Swedenborgian view of Trinitarianism. It's the same parroted of Trinity = 3 Gods because it can't be One.
@eques To my mind as a Swedenborgian, the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons is obviously polytheistic. To your mind as a trinitarian, it is not.
The answer is a blend of quotes from Swedenborg (good), your explanation of the quotes (good) and additional comments on Trinitarianism (not so good). You would do much better to emphasize with your commentary that it comes the Swedenborgian understanding, rather than presuming certain things of Trinitarians. Perhaps there is a fine line between stating the Swedenborgian view of the Trinity and stating the belief of Trinitarians
@eques In order to speak of the Swedenborgian view of the Trinity, it is necessary to state the traditional Christian view of the Trinity, because that's the subject matter.
And quite fundamentally, Swedenborgians view a trinity of Persons as inherently polytheistic.
6:39 PM
yes, but your statement is incomplete. It shows a selection bias and a presumption of thought.
Do you understand what is meant by Person? Essence? Being? Goodness? Divinity?
Or Will? Nature?
@eques I disagree. I think it shows what trinitarians are actually thinking and picturing in their minds (hence the iconography) as opposed to what they are saying with their lips. And I think that there is an irreducible contradiction between the two.
As Swedenborg stated in the quote provided, trinitarians are saying "one" but thinking "three." And you can't erase the picture of three gods in the mind simply by saying, "there is one God."
If I say, "that barn is blue," but in my mind I'm picturing a red barn, what is my real view of the color of the barn?
It's what we picture in our minds, not what we say with our lips, that represents our real thinking on a particular subject.
And the iconography illustrates the reality that trinitarians are actually thinking of three figures, each of which is God. That's polytheism.
Disagree to which statement?
@eques Hover over my statement, and it will show in gray highlight what it is responding to.
@eques I understand what these terms mean. And I do not think that saying that the three Persons of God are "one in essence" erases the picture of three gods in the minds of trinitarians.
If I picture three red barns in my mind, but say they are "one in essence," I am still picturing, and thinking of, three barns, not one barn.
The fact that all three share the essence of barniness does not make them one barn.
My point was that your argument mostly referenced a quote from the Athanasian creed, called it a contradiction, but there is a plenitude of writings over centuries about the Trinitarian doctrine in depth, what is a person, what is essence, etc.
@eques Yes. But the Athanasian Creed is the definitive statement of the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.
6:48 PM
actually it isn't.
All the rest is really just commentary.
The Athanasian Creed is devotional, but the Trinity was first expounded in Detail at the Council of Nicea in 325 hence the Nicene Creed
and expanded at the First Council of Constantinople.
@eques The Athanasian Creed is accepted as definitive in Catholicism and much of Protestantism. Orthodox Christians don't accept it mainly because of the filioque controversy.
The filioque is in the Nicene Creed
@eques The Nicene Creed really doesn't provide a clear definition of the Trinity. It doesn't even contain the word "persons."
It is the Athanasian Creed that provides the clearest definition of the doctrine of the Trinity.
@eques Yes. But the Athanasian Creed follows from the Nicene Creed, and is a further development and definition of its statements.
6:51 PM
The doctrine you are referring to is the double-procession of the Spirit, which isn't even referenced directly in the Athanasian Creed
Are you starting to see why I would doubt Swedenborgians understand Trinitarianism better?
@eques The filioque controversy is addressed in the Athanasian Creed, in this line:
> The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding.
Structurally and functionally the Athanasian creed is more devotional than doctrinal
The wording "of the Father and of the Son" is the position of the Athanasian Creed on the Filioque clause, as seen on the relevant Wikipedia page here.
single procession is excepted by Trinitarians in general.
@eques And yet, the Athanasian Creed is what Western trinitarians look to for their definition of the Trinity. And Eastern Christians believe the same thing, except for the issue of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son or from the Father and the Son.
6:56 PM
It has some neat short lines which make decent summaries of aspects, but like most things in the Catholic/Orthodox tradition, the full doctrine cannot be simply stated in single statements,
But all of that is mere quibbling. The overarching issue is that trinitarians see God as consisting of three Persons--something that the Bible never says, but that was formulated by human beings centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. Swedenborgians reject those human formulations as functionally polytheistic.
yet Father Son and Holy Spirit occur in sequence several times in Scripture
and how do we know what is Scripture?
@eques A flood of words does not really help in understanding fundamental Christian doctrine. The concepts themselves are quite simple. And when boiled down to its essence, I believe that Swedenborg was correct about the nature of the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.
"I am still picturing, and thinking of, three barns, not one barn" Does who God is depend on whether you grasp it correctly? The fact that people may not correctly understand it doesn't make it right or wrong
@eques Are you talking about Biblical canon?
6:58 PM
The doctrine of the Trinity was first explained 70 years before the first solid list of the Canon of Scripture
@eques But if a doctrine is impossible to grasp because it contains a fundamental internal contradiction, then I happen to believe that it is wrong.
but that is a separate issue from the point made by whether "you are still picturing, and thinking of, three barns, not one barn"
Add the fact that the Bible never calls God a "trinity," and certainly never identifies Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as "persons" of God, and from a Swedenborgian perspective, there is simply no Christian and biblical reason to believe in the Trinity of Persons.
It is an incontrovertible fact that the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons is not stated in the Bible, but was formulated by human beings several centuries after the Bible was written.
Bible also never says Incarnation.
@eques But it does say that the Word (which was with God and was God) became flesh and dwelt among us.
There are no equivalent passages saying that the Father is one Person, the Son is another Person, and the Holy Spirit is a third Person.
7:02 PM
Christ and the Father are one. Baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, Son and The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is referred to as both the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ
@eques And do you know in whose name new converts were baptized as recorded in the Acts and the Epistles? There is not a single instance in the Acts and the Epistles of people being baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." But there are several instances of people being baptized in the name of Jesus.
There is an implicit assumption in your vie that all doctrine must be spelt out precisely in Scripture
Clearly, the name of Jesus is the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or else the Apostles were errantly disobeying a direct commandment of Jesus Christ himself.
"and the Word was God"
@eques No, not all doctrine. But fundamental doctrine must be. And the Trinity of Persons is considered by mainstream Christians to be fundamental Christian doctrine. This, in fact, is the key objection to it in my answer here:
A: What is the Biblical basis for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity?

Lee WoofendenYes, it's long! Yes, I know this is a long answer. Sorry about that! However, given the huge amount of ink (and pixels) that has been expended on the doctrine of the Trinity for almost two thousand years now, I do not see how justice can be done to the subject in the brief answers that are pref...

My view is that for any doctrine to be considered essential to Christianity, it must be stated plainly in the plain words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity of Persons fails that test.
7:06 PM
And where do you get that doctrine?
@eques Which doctrine?
that essential doctrines must be stated plainly in Scripture.
and where do you get what is Scripture?
Technical note: in any StackExchange chatroom you can reply to specific statements of others by hovering over the statement and clicking on the rightmost bent arrow "reply" icon. This makes it easier for people to follow exactly what you're responding to.
right; sorry
@eques That is my belief. I am well aware that the Catholic Church does not accept that belief, but believes that the Church can promulgate essential doctrine. In practice, Protestants believe the same thing, since they give Luther and Calvin precedence over the Bible.
@eques I believe that God speaks to us in the Bible. And I believe that God is quite capable of stating plainly the things that are essential to our salvation. So especially when it comes to salvation, if a doctrine is not stated plainly in the Bible, I do not consider it to be essential Christian doctrine.
7:11 PM
my point is that why is that belief valid. If you decide it on your own, what prevents you from deciding something else abitrarily.
@eques Once again, are you talking about biblical canon? About what books the various branches of Christianity accept as Scripture?
@LeeWoofenden And where does that belief come from? Is that in Scripture?
@LeeWoofenden Yes.
@eques If you believe that the church can promulgate essential doctrine, though I completely disagree with you, I don't dispute your right to believe that. For my part, however, I will trust the Word of God over human formulations.
@eques The Swedenborgian canon of Scripture is a subset of the Protestant canon. See:
Q: What writings are held as "biblical canon" by Swedenborgians?

AndrewReading an article on Emanuel Swedenborg, I came across the following fact: It should be noted, however, that Corinthians is not included in the list of books that, according to Swedenborg, constitute the divinely inspired Biblical canon. (Source: Heaven and Hell (Swedenborg), on Wikipedia) ...

@LeeWoofenden leaving my beliefs aside for now, you assert that all essential doctrine must come from Scripture because God speaks in Scripture and can state things quite plainly. However, where does that belief come from? Is it in Scripture? If not, by your own stated belief, it cannot be essential then.
However, I am conversant with the Protestant canon, and in practice accept the Protestant canon when debating Protestants. I am not as familiar with the books of the Apocrypha, though I have read them. But I would entertain debate with Catholics based on the Catholic canon as well.
7:15 PM
@LeeWoofenden My point was how do you know those books and those books alone are inspired (thus God speaks through them about the essential doctrines which are necessary for salvation by your belief) and not any other books could be inspired?
@eques It is stated poetically Psalm 19:7-10:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
the law of the Lord is perfect. but how do you assert that is Scripture?
@eques The word "law" here is the Hebrew torah, which is a reference to the five books of Moses, or the core of Jewish Scripture.
so why can't you throw out the New Testament or the Prophets? They aren't Torah
@eques They also weren't written at the time the Psalms were composed. At the time the Psalms were composed, the Torah was the Scriptures, or Word of God.
7:19 PM
yes, so how can the Psalms refer to something not yet written?
In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms as Scripture. See especially Luke 24:27, 44.
@LeeWoofenden but he doesn't refer to the Letters of Paul or the Gospels as Scripture
@eques Precisely. The Psalms are referring to the Scriptures, or Word of God, as they existed at the time the Psalms were written. It's not much of a leap to apply that to the rest of the Word of God.
@LeeWoofenden and how do you know that the Gospels are Scripture?
@eques The Gospels contain the words of Jesus Christ himself. It would be hard, therefore, for Christians to reject them as Scripture. The book of Revelation contains the words of the risen and glorified Jesus Christ, and is presented as written by the apostle John. It, too, has a strong claim to being the Word of God.
7:23 PM
@LeeWoofenden Are you familiar with the concept of the Gnostic Gospels?
You should be aware, though, that Swedenborgians, myself included, don't consider the Acts and the Epistles to be part of the Word of God--though we do see them as good books for the church. And as I said previously, when debating traditional Christians, I am happy to accept their biblical canon for the purposes of debate.
@eques Yes. And I have read a few of them. But they present a very different view of Jesus Christ--one that I do not agree with.
They were rightly excluded from the Christian canon.
Gnosticism is not compatible with Christianity.
@LeeWoofenden so how do you know that the 4 in your canon of Scripture are the only valid Gospels? because everyone else accepted them? because they are consistent with each other?
@eques We could engage in that debate if you want. But first, what is your canon of Scripture? (I am assuming you are a Christian?)
@LeeWoofenden Of course, that wasn't my point. My point was the early Church rejected certain texts, but why did they and how did they do that?
@LeeWoofenden My canon of Scripture is the only Canon of Scripture you will find enumerated in the first ages of the Church, namely 73 books, including the deutrocanonicals.
@eques I do believe that God's providence was involved. Though for reasons that would probably be too complex to explain here, I also believe that the various Christian councils included in their canons a number of books that are not actually the Word of God. But I believe that all of the books of the Old and New Testaments that are the Word of God were included under God's providence.
@eques So you accept the Catholic canon of scripture?
7:27 PM
@LeeWoofenden Yes.
@eques The question of biblical canon is a complex one. Various branches and churches have various canons, and provide various reasons for their canon. I doubt we're going to resolve the issue of biblical canon here in chat.
@LeeWoofenden God's Providence was involved. But not enough that various Councils could declare as Word of God things not the Word of God? That doesn't seem very Providential
@eques If you really want me to explain my view on this, I will. But I'm not sure it can be boiled down into short soundbites.
@LeeWoofenden my point was that you state that all essential doctrine must be found in Scripture, hence by that statement what scripture is must be found in Scripture.
@LeeWoofenden and furthermore your statements of belief "that all essential doctrine necessary for salvation must be found plainly stated in Scripture" and "God speaks plainly in Scripture" if they are essential doctrine for salvation, must be found in Scripture
@eques Swedenborg's canon of Old Testament Scripture can be found fairly clearly defined in the New Testament. It consists of what the New Testament calls "the Law and the Prophets," or what is the same, "Moses and the Prophets," plus the Psalms, as stated most clearly in the two verses from Luke 24 linked above.
As for the New Testament canon, obviously the New Testament itself cannot provide that, because its books were composed over a period of at least half a century. But by parallel from the Old Testament canon, it's fairly easy to see the New Testament "Law" as the Gospels, and the New Testament "Prophets" as the book of Revelation.
7:33 PM
@LeeWoofenden but that only passes the buck along. How do you know which Prophets are authentic? Does Christ ever list out all of them? How do you know the 4 Gospels are?
The Acts and the Epistles are equivalent to the Jewish "Writings" or "K'tuvim," which is the third division of Jewish scripture. Swedenborgians don't see it as the Word of God, but as supporting books for the Word of God.
@LeeWoofenden are those parallelisms in Scripture?
@eques We don't really have to deal with every single book of the Prophets because when Jesus spoke of "The Law and the Prophets," he was speaking of two sets of books that were already fairly well established.
But we can also look at what books Jesus quoted from as Scripture, which helps to establish the same thing.
@LeeWoofenden You sure about that? Most Christians would call Daniel a prophet yet Jews oftentimes don't.
@LeeWoofenden Did you know he often quotes from the Septuagint codex which includes the deutrocanonicals?
@eques As I said, the issue of biblical canon is complex and highly debated. I doubt we're going to solve it here. And quite frankly, I don't think it really matters, because the Scriptures themselves commonly point to the Scriptures (as they existed at the time) as the primary source of spiritual knowledge.
Jesus said, "Search the scriptures . . ." and he commonly quoted them as authority.
Do you really want to argue that we should not look to the Scriptures for the primary teachings of the church? Do you really want to argue that human beings and their doctrinal formulations should take precedence over the Word of God?
7:37 PM
@LeeWoofenden The New Testament refers to term "Scripture" a few times yes, but it's a presumption that it is referring to the New Testament under that heading (since they didn't exist as a cohesive unit)
@eques I agree. I think Protestants, in particular, are mistaken when they try to make the New Testament define its own canon.
@LeeWoofenden I'm not arguing that Scripture isn't divinely inspired. Or that humans are the source of Doctrinal formulas. I'm arguing that arguing from Scripture alone is a circular-argument.
Also, the Greek word graphe can simply mean "writings" or "written materials." Most of the time it clearly refers to "Scripture." But in some instances, including the famous one about "the other scriptures," I think it was being used in the broader sense of "writings, written materials,"
You have to assume Scripture alone and what is Scripture before you can cohesively draw doctrine from Scripture
"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction."
@eques I don't think so. Regardless of our differing biblical canons, all Christians (that I'm aware of) do have a biblical canon, and believe that those books are the Word of God. Even Catholicism looks to Scripture as a primary source, if not the primary source, of doctrine.
@eques Right. That's the passage I was referring to.
The important thing, in my mind, is that God has given us a written Word expressing his will for us. And that we look to that Word of God as the foundation of our faith and our Christian life.
7:41 PM
@LeeWoofenden we look to Scripture, but we have coherent reasons for why we believe certain books to be inspired and others are not, reasons which are consistent with what we doctrinally believe. The Protestant view and yours relies on some implicit assumption that somehow someone decided correctly which books are right
@LeeWoofenden even though most people couldn't read until the modern erra?
And perhaps it was based on his Protestant background, but Swedenborg viewed the Word of God as the source for Christian doctrine. The various creeds and councils he felt free to ignore as merely human formulations of doctrine.
@eques I don't think the Catholic arguments for its scripture are any more compelling or "intrinsic" than the Protestant or Swedenborgian ones. They are all based on certain beliefs and assumptions.
@eques Everyone can listen. Before widespread literacy, people would listen to those who were literate reading the Scriptures to them.
@LeeWoofenden Our arguments are that we believe what the earliest Christians believed. That the Councils, etc were convened under the authority of the existing Church, built by the doctrine passed down from the Apostles who learned from Christ.
@LeeWoofenden Yes, everyone can listen. Which is why the Church preached and taught. She didn't just read.
@eques And it's a fine argument. But it is still a human argument. Obviously Protestants disagree. They think their arguments are the better ones.
@eques Right. But what the Apostles, and later the priests, preached and taught was not itself the Word of God. Rather, it was meant to be based on the Word of God.
2 Thessalonians 3:6
And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.
During my decade as a pastor, I preached many sermons. But I didn't for a moment think that any of them were the Word of God. They were my preaching based on the Word of God.
7:45 PM
@LeeWoofenden of course never said it was. But the word of God (scripture) is not the same as the Word of God (Christ).
@eques If you want to battle quotes, I'll quote you Jesus saying about making the Word of God of none effect by your traditions.
@eques I don't accept that distinction. The word of Christ in the Gospels is also the Word of God. That's why the Gospels are the Word of God--and also the book of Revelation, where the risen and glorified Jesus Christ speaks.
@LeeWoofenden It's not a battle of quotes. Scripture as a whole, entire passages, etc must be coherent. So Christ saying something about tradition doesn't necessarily counter anything Paul says about Tradition.
@LeeWoofenden So you don't understand philosophy. Scripture is not Christ.
@eques But in my view, the Catholic (and Protestant) traditions that have grown up around the Christian Scriptures are no different than the ancient Jewish traditions that grew up around the Hebrew Scriptures. Both are an accretion of falsity and obscurity that must be swept away to see the genuine message of the Word of God.
@eques Yes it is. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.
@LeeWoofenden So the Bible is Christ, a divine person in flesh?
@eques The Bible, when read as the Word of God, is the presence of Jesus Christ with us, yes.
When we read the Bible as the Word of God, and look for the Lord in it, the Lord will speak to us in its pages.
7:49 PM
@LeeWoofenden The Word became flesh is Christ coming from heaven to be born as human. The words written down in Scripture (whether Law, History, Prophets, etc) are from God, but they are not God (source vs essence)
@LeeWoofenden The Lord speaking to us through them doesn't make them him
@eques That depends how we approach them. No, the Bible is not literally Jesus Christ in the flesh. But if it is the Word of God, then God must be present in it. It is, in effect, the presence of the Holy Spirit with people who approach it as the Word of God.
Every word that comes out of the mouth of God is also God. That's the Holy Spirit.
But for those who don't approach it as the Word of God, it is merely words on a page.
@LeeWoofenden I really don't have time to give you a remedial course in Philosophy
@eques And I don't have time for you to think you can school me on philosophy. So let's drop that particular line.
@LeeWoofenden The point is you asserted Scripture is Christ, then said it wasn't unless "approached" that way. They are fundamentally distinct things, but interrelated.
@LeeWoofenden Your understanding of philosophy is exactly why you cannot understand the Trinity as we believe it (not that you have to accept it, but you can't argue effectively against something you don't even understand) and it's why you don't get the importance of some of my questions.
@eques I would rather not get caught in the weeds of philosophical niceties.
@eques Blah, blah, blah. I've heard this all before.
7:54 PM
@LeeWoofenden The reason Protestantism fails in the long run and will continue to fail is that it cannot adequately and consistently explain itself.
@eques Most of the folks I debate doctrine with end out telling me I'm wrong and stupid. Not impressed.
@eques Ditto for Catholicism.
@LeeWoofenden We can explain all our doctrine through logic, philosophy, Scripture and history.
@eques Unfortunately, much of that logic, philosophy, and history is wrong.
And I'll take the Word of God over human philosophy any day anyway.
@LeeWoofenden I can in fact pull multiple quotes from documents shortly after the last Apostles died that show beliefs that Catholics still have but Protestants reject
Plus, Swedenborg could run circles around traditional Christians philosophically.
7:57 PM
@LeeWoofenden where do you think Philosophy comes from?
@eques Catholicism got off course within a few centuries of Christ. Protestantism took that faulty Catholic foundation, and got even farther off track.
@LeeWoofenden Would you say it was off track by early 2nd century? and if so, what proof do you have of that? (outside Scripture mind you)
I'm no apologist for Protestantism. I view Protestantism as completing the doctrinal destruction of Christianity.
@LeeWoofenden Sorry, we didn't agree on definitions (too Philosophical perhaps). you are Protestant by the original definition
You can assert you aren't but that's a quibble
@eques I believe that the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD was the turning point from which Christianity started to go seriously off the rails. Ever since that time, there has been no Christian Church that is truly Christian. But the seeds were already planted at least a century before, with Tertullian's initial invention of the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.
@eques No, I'm not a Protestant. I reject the fundamental doctrines by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from the rest of Christianity: justification by faith alone, penal substitution, and so on.
8:01 PM
@LeeWoofenden of course, it went off rails precisely when the doctrine you don't accept came into view.
@LeeWoofenden Protestantism in essence is a rejection of the Traditional religion believed to be passed down from Christ. You might differ in some commonalities with them, but you also reject that core principle
@eques Yes. The doctrine of the Trinity of Persons laid the foundation for the doctrinal destruction of the institutional Christian Church. It is the fundamental falsity upon which all the rest of the false, non-biblical doctrine of Christianity is founded. That is my viewpoint.
That is why they were called "Protestants" because they were protesting
@eques So are Mormons Protestants?
You can't define "Protestantism" as "Everything that's not Catholic." It doesn't work that way.
Protestantism is a specific branch of Christianity distinguished by specific doctrines, primarily, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
@LeeWoofenden except for it's awfully convenient ex post facto to assert the point going off the rails is when the doctrine you disagreed with became prominently defined
@eques Whether "convenient" or not, that is my view, and that is Swedenborg's view.
And the very fact that the Trinity is not defined in the Bible, but in human creeds and doctrinal statements, is sufficient for me to view it as suspect, if not outright false (as I believe it is).
8:04 PM
@LeeWoofenden No. It's not everything not Catholic. It's everything that rejected starting in the 16th century the traditional authority of the Church, nature of the sacraments, etc which the Orthodox and other groups split off maintained
I do not believe God would leave something so essential to Christianity undefined in the Word of God, and rely upon human creeds and councils to "fix" what God gave us in the Bible.
@LeeWoofenden which again relies on certain assumptions which you take to be essential yet are not in Scripture themselves
@LeeWoofenden He left us a Church that was the point. He left us people appointed by Christ who were to teach the world and appoint others to carry on after them.
@LeeWoofenden I can point to a number of Catholic practices which pre-date that point and which we maintain
@eques Swedenborg grew up Protestant. In fact, he was the son of a Lutheran clergyman. And he did derive some perspectives from that background, notably, an insistence upon the primacy of Scripture. However, he decisively rejected the doctrinal foundations of both Catholicism and Protestantism. And Protestants themselves decisively reject Swedenborg as one of their own. They view him as a heretic outside the pale of Protestantism.
@LeeWoofenden Good. So he's a 2nd order Protestant then
That point isn't super critical
I realize that the Protestant Reformation was a big event in the history of the Christian Church. But it does not define all subsequent events.
8:07 PM
From your perspective, you reject common Protestant doctrine
from my perspective, you like them reject core doctrines
@eques It is critical. Because if you don't understand that Swedenborg, and Swedenborgians, are not Protestant, you will make all sorts of mistakes in approaching their beliefs and teachings.
@eques Protestants actually accept most of the core doctrines of Catholicism. We, by contrast, reject the core doctrine of Catholicism, which is the Trinity of Persons.
@LeeWoofenden but there are certain assumptions in common between both Swedenborgians and Protestants. They may result in different conclusions, but come from the same principles
Protestants have more in common with Catholicism than we do.
@LeeWoofenden They reject quite a lot. They do keep the Trinity, but depending on specific variant the result is that they reject most or else have so significantly altered it to not even be the same concept
@eques The common assumptions between Catholicism and Protestantism are closer to one another than are the common assumptions between Protestantism and Swedenborgianism. And truth be told, doctrinally, Swedenborgians are actually closer to Catholics than to Protestants, even though we reject the fundamental doctrine of the Trinity of Persons.
8:10 PM
@LeeWoofenden closer how. Name one thing Swedenborgians and Catholics accept but most Protestants reject
It would actually be easier to argue that Swedenborgianism is a form of Catholicism than that it is a form of Protestantism. And in fact, I am more commonly mistaken for a Catholic by people new to my views than I am mistaken for a Protestant.
@eques They also accept Original Sin, in their own development of it. We reject Original Sin.
@eques But Swedenborgians decisively reject justification by faith alone, and believe that salvation requires both faith and good works. This places us closer to Catholics than to Protestants doctrinally. And that's why newcomers to my website sometimes mistake me for a Catholic.
In fact, I recently had a visitor invite me into full communion with the Catholic Church. Little did he know! ;-)
@LeeWoofenden that's it? That is a Protestant-Catholic difference you are on the Catholic side. But everything else seems so different from Catholicism.
@eques Make no mistake. Swedenborgians are not Catholics. But doctrinally, especially when it comes to salvation, we are closer to Catholicism than we are to Protestantism.
@LeeWoofenden What's the purpose of the Crucifixion?
And incidentally, during my ten year pastorate, the majority of our new members were former Catholics.
@eques It had many purposes. But in general, it was the Lord's final battle against the Devil and hell, through which he gained complete victory over them, and thereby saved us from their power.
8:19 PM
The non-ancient Churches have a few common traits: a) an appeal to new revelation or b) a total rejection of anything not explicitly stated in Scripture.
@eques Catholicism essentially views the Pope and the Magisterium as a new revelation, in that they are given the power to formulate doctrine that is authoritative.
@LeeWoofenden Define revelation
@eques Also, Swedenborgians certainly don't reject anything not explicitly stated in Scripture. There are many sound Christian doctrines that are not explicitly stated in Scripture. What I said is that the essentials of Christian belief, especially when it comes to our eternal salvation, are stated plainly in Scripture.
@LeeWoofenden essentials then.
@LeeWoofenden but I'd question the idea of non-essential doctrines. Either it is true and thus you should believe it or it is not true and you shouldn't believe it.
@eques And the fact of the matter is that none of the key doctrines by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from the rest of Christianity are actually stated plainly in Scripture. They nominally believe in sola scriptura, but in fact their own key doctrines are not stated in Scripture, and in some instances (such as justification by faith alone) are explicitly denied in Scripture.
The Bible never says that we are justified by faith alone, but explicitly denies it (James 2:24). The Bible never says that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, but explicitly denies the whole principle of exonerating the guilty and condemning the innocent in multiple passages. And the Bible certainly never says that anyone is predestined to hell, as Calvin held.
8:24 PM
@LeeWoofenden well, yes. Protestantism is not philosophically consistent
For over twenty years I have been challenging Protestants to show me a single verse in Scripture that plainly states any of these three doctrines. So far, none has been able to do so. That's because none of them are stated in scripture.
In practice, Protestants actually believe in Sola Luthero and Solus Calvinus, not Sola Scriptura.
@LeeWoofenden but not even that. Plenty of modern Lutherans and Calvinists don't fully adhere to the teachings of their respective founders
@eques They reject some parts of Luther's and Calvin's teachings. But they still adhere to the fundamental, distinguishing doctrines. Or if they don't, they are really no longer Lutherans or Calvinists.
I'm being a little over-the-top with the Sola Luthero and Solus Calvinus. The point is, the teachings of Luther and Calvin on justification by faith alone and penal substitution take precedence in their minds over the Bible.
They cannot point to a single passage in the Bible that actually teaches these doctrines. But they doggedly cling to them anyway.
If they actually believed in Sola Scriptura, they would give the plain statements of the Bible precedence over the teachings of Luther and Calvin. But in practice, they simply don't.
I have had a few Protestants stick with me to the end of the argument. And in the end, they simply couldn't produce any passages that stated their doctrines, but they insisted that they were true nevertheless.
So much for Sola Scriptura.
Reading Protestant attempts to explain away James has become almost a sporting event for me. ;-)
@eques From my perspective, essential doctrine is what we must believe and live by in order to be saved. That is the primary purpose of the Bible: to bring about our eternal salvation. Doctrines that are not essential to our salvation are non-essential doctrine. And I don't think even the Catholic Church claims that a person must believe everything it teaches in order to be saved.
@LeeWoofenden point was there are few Lutherans or Calvinists who rigorously believe what Luther and Calvin taught. They do distinguish themselves from each other, but not as detailed as their original founders did, but in any case, they start from faulty premises.
@eques Right. But the other point is, Protestants in general take certain distinguishing doctrines as definitive and essential to their faith. They may disagree with one another on various points, but on those essentials they agree--and that's what makes them Protestants.
8:35 PM
@LeeWoofenden no, but we reject the idea that certain doctrines are more important than others as regards ecumenical discussions, etc (e.g if group A teaches one thing and group B teaches the other, even if that doctrine per se isn't essential for salvation, we wouldn't say it's okay to believe either as long as we accept some set of essential doctrines. Either one or the other is true and if we know one is true, we must accept that to the rejection of all alternatives
Luther himself set up justification by faith alone as the foundation stone on which the church rises or falls. And that is the common doctrine that all Protestants who remain truly Protestants agree upon.
@eques But do you think that a person must accept every single doctrine of the Catholic Church in order to be saved?
@LeeWoofenden no. But he also may not consciously and knowingly hold false doctrines.
@eques And it is my understanding that the Catholic Church does believe that some non-Catholics can be saved, even though they clearly differ from the Catholic Church on certain doctrines, hence their being non-Catholics.
@LeeWoofenden right, but they must be animated by Charity, sorry for their sins, and invincibly ignorant (effectively)
@eques Those are the sorts of things I would call "essential doctrine." The purpose of the Christian Church is to save souls. Any beliefs essential to that are essential doctrine. Any beliefs not essential to that may be important, but they are not essential, in my view.
And my belief is that anyone who lives by the essential doctrines in practice is saved, regardless of faulty doctrines held intellectually.
So if a Protestant intellectually believes in justification by faith alone, but in fact lives according to the principle that s/he must both believe in Jesus and do good works, that Protestant will be saved regardless of the false doctrine s/he holds intellectually. It is not the beliefs we state, but the beliefs we live by, that matter.
8:42 PM
@LeeWoofenden concurrent with that doctrine is the idea that a soul is required by justice to seek out Truth and thus if they do conclude the Catholic Church is true, they must take whatever steps are possible to join.
@eques Good thing I think the Catholic Church is stuck in much falsity. ;-)
@LeeWoofenden Apart from the fact you reject the Catholic Church, do you think a soul has the moral obligation to move in the direction of goodness?
@eques Yes. Goodness is even more central than faith, in our view.
We reject the whole idea that it is only what you believe that really matters to salvation. Those who believe wrongly, but act with kindness and charity to their neighbor, will be saved regardless of their false belief, presuming their kindness is genuine and not hypocritical.
@LeeWoofenden without getting into philosophy again, that's where our belief that if you are convinced of the Truth of something you must move towards it (e.g. join the Catholic Church). To persist in something wrong, is a rejection of goodness (evil)
@eques Right. That's why we believe that Catholics who become convinced of what is actually true should become Swedenborgians. :-)
I'm being a bit facetious. Organizational affiliation doesn't actually matter that much to us.
But as for moving toward the truth, yes, that is something we should continue to do.
8:48 PM
@LeeWoofenden it matters only in theory to us (since we have the aforementioned doctrine about non-Catholics), but since we consider the Church to be the Body of Christ being affiliated with that as far as possible is a good thing in our understanding
And I do believe that in time, the bulk of Catholics will recognize the error of the Trinity of Persons, and will reject it. But I suspect that will be a process that takes hundreds of years.
@eques We view the body of Christ more philosophically and universally as not referring to any particular human institution, but to the spiritual union of all people who believe in Jesus Christ and live by his teachings.
@LeeWoofenden No we won't. I believe in a few centuries, Protestants and other Christian groups originating after the 16th Century will either become atheists or Catholics/Orthodox.
And we expand that further to a concept of the universal church, which includes all people who believe in God and live a good life according to their particular religious beliefs. All of these people, we believe, are saved.
@LeeWoofenden But Truth is one. There cannot be contradictions. That's our point and why we reject the "Spiritual body" idea (among other reasons IIRC)
@LeeWoofenden Now that I'm not sure I agree with. It's entirely possible, I think, to think one thing and say something different not because one "really believes" in some sense what one is thinking, but because it's easier to talk about the way one says it. For example ...
8:50 PM
@eques Hence our difference of opinion. You are a Catholic, I am a Swedenborgian. You think you're right. I think I'm right. And Protestants, of course, think they're right. As do Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and so on.
I really believe that the Earth and the Sun revolve around a point which is approximately but not quite equal to their center of mass - and there are times when I will even say this. But there are also times when I'll say simply "The Earth revolves around the Sun", not because I "really believe" that it does, but because it's simpler to say, and the difference between the picture and what I know to be reality isn't relevant to what I want to discuss.
It's actually kind of funny to read Jewish discussion threads and hear them forcefully discussing just how wrong, wrong, wrong Christians are. :-)
@LeeWoofenden except for my earlier point about the shifts in doctrine from Lutheran and Calvinist perspectives and the general favoring of closer to non-denominational churches in recent history.
@eques In my view, Catholicism itself abandoned its own historical doctrine of justification and salvation when it adopted Anselmian satisfaction theory 1,000 years into the Christian Era. I believe that the Swedenborgian Church is actually closer to historical Catholic doctrines of salvation than the Catholic Church itself is.
@LeeWoofenden and also the way various groups attempt to Liberalize with women's orders, etc and so some came back towards us and others went further out
8:54 PM
And that Anselmian satisfaction theory led to the even more anti-historical and anti-Christian Protestant doctrine of penal substitution.
@LeeWoofenden interesting theory, but I suspect there's a lot more to it.
In my view, Swedenborgian doctrine is, in fact, a revival and further development of the earliest Christian doctrines of salvation, especially the Christus Victor view, which, along with Ransom Theory, was the dominant view of atonement and salvation for the first thousand years of Christianity.
From my perspective, both Catholicism and Protestantism have abandoned historical Christianity. Only Swedenborgians, to my knowledge, explicitly and officially embrace the key doctrine of salvation that reigned for the first thousand years of Christianity.
@LeeWoofenden which is a similar claim Protestants would make. You essentially have two choices (which could be combined) when countering an established orthodoxy: appeal to restoration of some earlier lost/abandoned idea OR new revelation.
@MattGutting Swedenborg speaks of "appearances of truth," and uses the example of the sun seeming to orbit the earth as an example. He says, basically, that divine truth appears to us in various guises, "veiled," if you will, and that believing the veiled version is not harmful as long as it is done innocently, with a willingness to see the deeper truth when it is shown to us.
So if we say, for example, "the sun rose this morning," but recognize that in fact, the earth turned, and that caused the sun to appear to rise, that's not a problem.
But if we insist that in fact, the sun moves and the earth stands still, when all the evidence now tells us otherwise, that causes us to fall into error.
Apply that to spiritual truth, and you have the general viewpoint on innocently held false beliefs.
@LeeWoofenden yes and when we depict the Trinity in icons as 3 persons, we are not describing them as 3 Gods, we recognize the deeper truth of their unity
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