Salvation: The“New Church” at its best, and the New Testament at (close to) its worst.

Here is the New Church on salvation (the New Church is based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg):

The requirements for salvation are simple: live well, believe rightly, and you will be saved. We believe that all people who live good lives, no matter what their religion, have a place in heaven. Heaven is limitless in its capacity for angels, in fact, the more angels there are, the more heaven thrives. Everyone born on this earth has been predestined for heaven. The only reason someone would go to hell is because they have chosen to go there of their own volition.”

Three central focal points in Christianity are 1. the role of the human will in coming to faith, 2. the role of faith and works in reconciliation between God and man, or, to put it another way, the role of faith and works in justification, and 3. the reason for the incarnation (the Word becoming flesh), that is, why Christ came to earth. The manifesto on salvation of the “New Church” mentions all three, which any Christian manifesto should do. In this discussion I focus on 2 and 3; mainly on 3.

How, according to the “New Church” does God “really” save?

(Original bold emphasis; my italics and underlining).

God desires for us all to go to heaven. He doesn’t judge us, or condemn evildoers to hell. Those who choose evil condemn themselves to hell by choosing to withdraw from the Lord’s love and mercy. The Lord God Jesus Christ saved us by showing us how to live our lives. His entire life on earth was about overcoming evils and temptations, and his death was the conclusion of that struggle. Just as we are faced with evils and temptations in our lives, Jesus struggled against those same temptations as a human. In overcoming them, He taught us the way to live. We are saved…by living our lives loving him. What does that mean? It means obeying his commandments (avoiding evil), being of use and loving others. We may have been taught that believing in the Lord is enough to save. But belief (or faith) without actively living that faith is not truly believing. Certainly, we cannot earn our way to heaven by our works. But we only truly believe or have faith when we actively work to do God’s will. Love (or charity) must be united with faith in order for either to be real.”

Jesus saved us, not through his death, but through his life. He overcame evil and restored a sense of balance in the world, leaving us in freedom to choose good or evil. He taught us how we should live our lives; in fact he showed us how to do it. It is only by so doing that we can be truly happy. When we die, we continue to make these choices, which determines whether we live in heaven loving God and doing his will, or turn away from him to hell. Jesus set the stage so that we are free to choose. We must do our part to choose good, which will draw us closer to the Divine. This is how Jesus saves.”

I discuss the italicised/underlined sections.

Paragraph 1

A. The Lord God Jesus Christ saved us by showing us how to live our lives….He taught us the way to live. We are saved…by living our lives loving him.

B. We may have been taught that believing in the Lord is enough to save. But belief (or faith) without actively living that faith is not truly believing. Certainly, we cannot earn our way to heaven by our works. But we only truly believe or have faith when we actively work to do God’s will. Love (or charity) must be united with faith in order for either to be real.”

Paragraph 2

C.“Jesus saved us, not through his death, but through his life” (original bold).

D. We must do our part to choose good, which will draw us closer to the Divine. This is how Jesus saves.” (This is a reiteration of A. in paragraph 1).

I summarise sections A, C and D (I deal with B shortly):

It’s not through Jesus’ death but through His life that the “evildoer” (that is, a sinner) is saved. Jesus shows and commands an “evildoer” how to live. If the evildoer chooses to follow Jesus’ example by obeying His commands of how to live, he will be saved.

How does A, C and D resonate with B, where B says, “Certainly, we cannot earn our way to heaven by our works. But we only truly believe or have faith when we actively work to do God’s will. Love (or charity) must be united with faith in order for either to be real.”

We know that “faith,” or “belief,” refers to faith/belief in Jesus. For faith to fly it requires two wings: who Jesus is, and what He did.

First, who is Jesus? Jesus is the Creator because “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3 ESV). The “New Church” agrees but with this difference: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are different manifestations of the same divine person. God (all three manifestations) is composed of spirit AND matter:

We believe that God is both fundamentally Divine and Human (original bold emphasis)There are not three gods, nor three persons in one God, but rather one God with three aspects to His being. Just as we all have a soul, a body and the actions of our lives (and are one person), so it is with God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are names given for the soul, body and activity of the Lord God Jesus Christ.”

Second, what did He come to accomplish? The Bible is as clear as the sky is blue on a cloudless day on what Jesus came to do. Here are a few passages (from the ESV translation):

2 Corinthians

[14] For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; [15] and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised…[18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians ESV).

(I shall not discuss here who “all” and “world” refer to in the context of the above passage because my focus is not on who the “elect” are).

Romans 3:25

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 2:17

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Here is the ESV note on “propitiation” (Romans 3:25):

Jesus’ blood “propitiated” or satisfied God’s wrath (Romans 1:18), so that his holiness was not compromised in forgiving sinners. Some scholars have argued that the word propitiation should be translated expiation (the wiping away of sin), but the word cannot be restricted to the wiping away of sins as it also refers to the satisfaction or appeasement of God’s wrath, turning it to favor (cf. note on John 18:11). God’s righteous anger needed to be appeased before sin could be forgiven, and God in his love sent his Son (who offered himself willingly) to satisfy God’s holy anger against sin. In this way God demonstrated his righteousness, which here refers particularly to his holiness and justice. God’s justice was called into question because in his patience he had overlooked former sins. In other words, how could God as the utterly Holy One tolerate human sin without inflicting full punishment on human beings immediately? Paul’s answer is that God looked forward to the cross of Christ where the full payment for the guilt of sin would be made, where Christ would die in the place of sinners. In the OT, propitiation (or the complete satisfaction of the wrath of God) is symbolically foreshadowed in several incidents: e.g., Ex. 32:11–14; Num. 25:8, 11; Josh. 7:25–26.”

Propitiation” means “Jesus’ blood satisfied God’s wrath (Romans 1:18).” “God” in Romans 1:18 is understood as the “Father.” According to the “New Church,” (see above) Jesus and the Father are manifestations of the same person, so Romans 1:18 must have some other meaning; what, I cannot fathom.

With regard to B in Paragraph 1 “We may have been taught that believing in the Lord is enough to save. But belief (or faith) without actively living that faith is not truly believing. Certainly, we cannot earn our way to heaven by our works. But we only truly believe or have faith when we actively work to do God’s will. Love (or charity) must be united with faith in order for either to be real”:

How many times does one have to reiterate that although justification is by faith(as the “New Church” (in the above paragraph) rightly states) genuine faith must be accompanied by good works? One must reiterate this truism, no matter how irritating, beyond the point of exasperation. Having said that, this truism is an aside to my main focus, which was the “New Church’s” idea that one is saved by

Living our lives loving him.”

which – because of its distorted theology in so many areas – is Swedenborg and the “New Church” at their best, and the New Testament at (close to) its truncated worst.

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