What did Jesus say about other Religions?

Lately, there has been a lot of intolerance expressed in the name of religion.  There are many, who grow up in a particular religion, and assume a prideful intolerance of others who are different.  Others will use people’s ignorance to create a false fear of others. There are many, who assume that their religion is the one true religion, and if one does not believe the way they believe, you will be condemned to hell.  And unfortunately this turns a lot of people off to the truths contained in Divine revelations. The general public ends up avoiding religion altogether.

This is what happens when people focus on belief, and not on how one lives their life.

So what did Jesus say about other religions? Actually quite a bit, It so upset the religious leaders, it was the religious leaders who had Jesus killed.  Because if salvation is from how one lives their life, and not on head knowledge or belief, this lessens the strict exclusiveness of a religion. So lets take a look at what Jesus had to say on this matter.

RELIGION VERSUS HOW ONE LIVES ONE’S LIFE

Jesus, as it turns out, cares more about how you live your life over what you believe in terms of religion. This will come as a surprise to many, but it is true. It is more important how one lives one’s life according to the Lord’s will:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

Jesus also makes it clear that he does not care for people who use religion to get attention from others:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:5-6)

And Jesus is quite against religious people who do not life a life of charity and love towards others:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)

He then follows the above quote that He does not care for those who just believe, but rather those who hear what He says and actually does it (Matt. 7:24-27)

WHAT OF OTHER RELIGIONS?

Religious differences are not new, and there were different religions in the day of Jesus. Here is one episode that is only recorded in the gospel of Mark:

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,  and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40)

Which means, one should tolerate other religions that have similar beliefs.  Do not be focused on “who follows what” or if others do not recognize your belief as an authority. If the religion has a positive view of Jesus, all the better. For Jesus said He is the Truth, and if there is any truth in other religions, He is there present, but hidden.

Now, in Jesus’ day there were multiple groups, but the Jews had a general dislike of another religious group known as the Samaritans. Not only did the Samaritans had different religious practices, but they only believed in the first five books of Moses.  All the other books they rejected. Sound familiar? Since they tended to hate each other, this is why Jesus selects a Samaritan in the parable of the good Samaritan:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.And the next day he took out two denarii  and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)

Again, this shows that Jesus cares more about how you live your life, not your religious beliefs.

WHAT OF THOSE WHO NEVER KNEW JESUS CHRIST

There are many Christians who do believe that if one is not a Christian, who do not know Jesus Christ, will be condemned. But this is really short sighted, and actually goes against what the Bible teaches. God is love, and all are judged according to their works (Matt. 16:27), not according to one’s belief system. The New Testament makes clear that even those who did not know Jesus Christ had made it to heaven:

  1. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are listed as among those in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:28).
  2. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are listed as currently alive in heaven (Matt. 22:32).
  3. Abraham is shown to be in heaven (Luke 16:22-30)

The reason why Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are mentioned, is that in a higher sense these patriarchs refer to the three levels of heaven. Paul mentions the third heaven in one of his personal experiences (see 2 Cor. 12:2). So these patriarchs refer to those who were righteous.

So what about those who did not necessarily live such a good life, because they were unaware? This is actually mentioned in a parable in the gospel of Luke, where a master of a household entrusts his possessions to his servants, who then abuse the responsibility they have been given, beating other servants, and living a slothful life. Note the end, where punishment is different between those who know and those who do not know:

 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)

In other words, religious knowledge and religious belief do not help if you choose to live an evil life. In fact, those who know and live an evil life will be judged more severely than those who lived an evil life and did not know.

Moreover, one other point here, after the crucifixion Jesus made a descent into the netherworld, and released souls from spiritual captivity:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 3:18-20)

This goes a bit beyond the scope of this blog post, but this refers to an intermediate spiritual world between heaven and hell, where periodic judgments are made to separate the good from the evil. These are typically those who lived a good life but in external appearance only, or those who were good but followed some false ideas. The point is here, that even if one does not know the truth, they will have a chance to learn more in the other life. Lack of knowledge does not mean condemnation. However if one does evil intentionally, and enjoys it, that does mean condemnation.

SWEDENBORG’S VISIONS OF GENTILES IN HEAVEN

Swedenborg spent a full 27 years having waking visions of heaven and hell, and recording the spiritual sense of scripture. He confirmed that just because one was not born into Christianity and had no knowledge of Jesus Christ, it does not mean one is condemned. One is judged according to how one lived their life.  Here is the passage in particular, which may come as a surprise to many Christians, who would falsely reject it if they were not aware of scripture:

“It is a common opinion that those born out of the Church, who are called heathen or gentiles, cannot be saved, because they have not the Word and thus do not know the Lord, and without the Lord there is no salvation. But still it may be known that they also are saved, from this alone, that the mercy of the Lord is universal, that is, toward every one; that they are born men as well as those within the Church, who are respectively few; and that it is not their fault that they do not know the Lord. Every one who thinks from any enlightened reason, may see that no man is born for hell, for the Lord is love itself, and His love is to will to save all. Therefore He has provided that all may have religion, and by it acknowledgment of the Divine, and interior life; for to live according to one’s religious belief is to live interiorly, as he then looks to the Divine; and as far as he looks to This, so far he does not look to the world, but removes himself from the world, thus from the life of the world, which is exterior life.
“That gentiles are saved as well as Christians, may be known by those who know what it is that makes heaven with man; for heaven is in man, and those who have heaven in themselves come into heaven. Heaven in man is to acknowledge the Divine and to be led by the Divine. The first and primary thing of every religion is to acknowledge the Divine. A religion which does not acknowledge the Divine, is not religion; and the precepts of every religion look to worship; thus they teach how the Divine is to be worshipped, so that the worship may be acceptable to Him; and when this is fixed in one’s mind, thus as far as he wills it, or as far as he loves it, he is led by the Lord. It is known that gentiles live a moral life as well as Christians, and many of them a better life than Christians. Moral life is lived either for the sake of the Divine, or for the sake of men in the world; the moral life which is lived for the sake of the Divine is spiritual life. Moral life and spiritual life appear alike in outward form, but in inward form they are altogether different; the one saves man, the other does not save him. For he who lives a moral life for the sake of the Divine, is led by the Divine, but he who lives a moral life for the sake of men in the world, is led by himself.” (Heaven and Hell, n. 318-319)

I emphasize the latter part, because one’s actions are judged by one’s purpose or intent.  Doing good for the sake of self, for selfish gain, is not good, that is just being done for self gain.  All is judged according to how one loved others, for in loving others one is loving God, for God is love.  Love is the answer to all things. Just as “all roads lead to Rome,” so all truths lead to One God, who is love itself.

To make it clear, I am not saying that religion is completely irrelevant, but rather, truth becomes one’s guide as to how one lives one’s life. I would say the advantage that Christianity has is that it reveals God is a personal being, who became incarnate in human form, to show that He loves us. More accurately, God is Being, God is Man, we are His image. There is a closer and deeper connection, more so than thinking of God as something abstract. And when one understands He became incarnate to fight directly against the hells, so He can fight for you to overcome sin and temptation, and to live a better spiritual life.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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Chapter XVI. The Limbus Retained After Death

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THIS diagram illustrates the limbus surrounding the whole spirit of man after death and serving as a cutaneous envelop to hold the spirit securely in form to eternity.

F is the gross material body now rejected, the spirit being separated from it and risen into conscious life in the spiritual world.

The natural or external memory of man in the world is seated in the limbus the extreme ultimate of the natural mind. This memory consisting of the states impressed upon the limbus during life in the world, remains after death but is quiescent.

If this diagram be taken to represent the whole angelic heaven, E is their aggregate limbus. Extending the view, E represents the limbus of the spirits of this earth and all earths in the universe regenerate or unregenerate.


Previous: Chapter XV. The Limbus. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XVII. All the Degrees in Trines.

 

Atheists and Quantum Theory

 

While I personally do not believe that quantum theory is yet a complete theory, as a philosopher/theologian, I derive some satisfaction in that its implications challenge the ideas of material realists who find no need for there to be a Creator-God.

Quantum theory holds that fundamental reality consists not of actual “stuff” but of possibilities or tendencies to exist. In other words, before something becomes an actual, non-reversible physical event, it first existed in strange mixed state of occupying multiple locations simultaneously (called the superposition principle).

Staunch materialists are obliged to live with the uneasy idea that fundamental reality is non-material and its activity is non-local, that is, the domain of quantum potentials is not in spacetime. So the ordered universe of classical measurement does not have its origins in a physical cause.

This has led some (brave) physicists to suspect that mind or consciousness is fundamental to the material universe, its laws, and forces.

Furthermore, there is a problem of figuring out how the world of classical (Newtonian) mechanics, that we directly experience, can be governed by fundamental randomness at the quantum microscopic scale. There is a real contradiction between the physics of the very small and the physics of the very large. However, since the universe is a unified whole, one must be the logical outcome of the other.

I believe this can only be resolved if there is a non-material organizing principle already operating on the quantum level. That is, potentials are not to be understood as random but as deterministic. Consciousness and mind are the only operations I know of that cannot be pinpointed in space, yet, as principles of agency, they always work with possibilities and seek to determine these possibilities into concrete forms.

Consciousness and mind are the only operations non-physically complex enough to explain nature’s incessant drive for self-organization and bio-complexity as emerging from a realm of mere potentials.

Here is where theology can now enter into the equation. What non-material principle of consciousness and mind has the aptitude and drive to create a unified and coherent universe? What non-material principle would tell us that it came from God?

The answer is LOVE. The essence of love is to unite. Nothing is more apparent in the observable universe than its profound capacity to create structure by forming relationships.

I predict the next upheaval in science will come from the recognition that love is more than a romantic notion. Love is the ultimate substance and non-material principle of agency in the universe.

Love is also the fabric of our spirit and life. What we love and intend governs how we choose to turn the inner realm of possibility into the concrete activities of our physical bodies.

Posted on July 24, 2008 by thegodguy

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How do I find my spiritual source?

Experiencing my centre and spiritual source isn’t something that just happens for me. I find I need to make a conscious effort to search out this higher power and that means turning in the right direction. But you can’t turn round unless you first recognise which way you are currently facing.

Perhaps this is why I couldn’t write this article yesterday. There was ample time available and plenty of peace and quiet around me. But to focus your mind on something as profound as one’s spiritual source you really have to be in the right place within yourself. And I just wasn’t there. Too busy hankering after something that I know deep down isn’t part of the uplifting journey of my life. Too occupied with what I greedily wanted rather than prioritising food for the soul. I had to remind myself that if I really wanted the creative juices to flow, and get some inspiration, then I really must stop indulging in what is harmful to my inner life and instead turn towards something higher and better.

spiritual sourceThe sun as a symbol of the spiritual source

One symbol for what is highest and best that I find helpful is that of the sun. Without its warmth and light no plant would grow or animal survive. Likewise, is there not a fundamental centre to existence that supplies us with loving feeling and enlightened thought? Without a divine source for warmth and light, how can humanity develop and prosper?

The sun appears to us as small, yet it is really enormous. Similarly, although the creative source of all that we know is infinite, doesn’t it seem to us that, when we are wrapped up in our own concerns, the God of religion is small and often goes without notice?

The sun hides away at night and there is darkness but really, it is there all the time: it is just that as the earth spins on its axis, we occasionally turn away and face the opposite direction. Don’t we also have times when we feel perplexed and puzzled trying to see our way through the difficulties of daily living? It seems to us at the time that we are in the dark about what to do for the best. Perhaps we are facing in the wrong direction.

We think the sun’s heat and light is different in summer and winter but actually they never vary. It is only the tilt of the earth in its orbit that causes the seasons. In the same way, don’t we at times turn our backs on loving feelings and the light of true conscience, thus tilting ourselves away from the principles which had guided our life?  Love and light were there all the time, just hidden by our worry, fear, and negative mood.

Conscious turning towards our spiritual source

All this highlights for me the need for a conscious turning towards my spiritual source. Without effort to take stock and reflect on my inner state, I am not going to notice my complacency. Only when I remember just how much my life needs to turn round, and how inadequate I am of myself for this task of personal transformation, am I energised to try to seek the spiritual power that can really improve me. Only when I turn towards my spiritual sun can I hope to receive the gift of genuine warm-heartedness and illuminated insight. Only when I throw away the illusion that love and light are hidden will I trust I can find them again.

“In order to find God, and to become changed into the Divine likeness, and to pass from death into life, we have to seek God with great fervour and intensity.  We seem to be encased in a hard shell of complacency; or to be suffering from an hypnotic spell, which prevents us from becoming sufficiently awake and alert and in earnest to seek God and Reality in such a way as to bring results.” (Christian mystic, HT Hamblin)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

How to be happy from a deeper perspective.

How to be happyYou may be wondering how to be happy — happy in a way that will last. We have only to read the newspapers or watch the television to observe a lot of unhappiness in the world.

“I grew up as this very carefree, happy kid then things turned darker for me. Maybe it was because I saw that the world wasn’t as happy a place as I had hoped it would be for me.” (Angelina Jolie)

They all sang ‘Happy birthday’ to you and wished you ‘Happy Christmas’ but they didn’t tell you how to do it.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” (Lucille Ball)

Plenty of theories about how to be happy

So important is this question of how to be happy, there is even a branch of science looking at it. But would you trust science to discover the answer?

“I went to a happiness conference; researchers looked very unhappy.” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

There are plenty of theories. They vary from bodily pleasure, social status, power, achievement, loving relationships, a sense of belonging, absorbing interests and more. All often thought to be the answer to the question how to be happy. You might be wondering about the money that is needed for these.  Yet:

“Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Being rich is probably not the answer.

Misguided notions on how to be happy

Emanuel Swedenborg the 18th century philosopher claimed to experience a hidden world of spirit. In an altered state of consciousness, he observed spirit people doing what they thought would make them happy.  Each group thought it knew how to be happy. One lot assumed this would be engaging in witty and intelligent conversation, another in enjoying the delights of a garden of paradise, another in feasting on excellent food and drink, and  another in having unbounded wealth and power.

Swedenborg said he was aware of following one group into a large house. In each of the many rooms a different topic was eagerly discussed — politics, morality, business, sexual relationships, religion. At one point he noticed individuals leaving to go out. Following one of them to the door where several sad-faced people sat he asked. “Why are you so sad?”

“After three days in here we cannot bear the sound of talking! We were told that one may enter this house but never leave! We must remain and enjoy the activity we had chosen how to be happy. Now we are desperate.”

He recounts that another group were led through a lofty gate and along winding paths from one lovely garden to another where they could stay among the beautiful flowers, fruit trees and fountains. Some played games, others enjoyed conversation and jokes. Some gathered and ate the many delicious fruits, sang or relaxed in small delightful summer houses. They wandered through grove to grove, through a maze of hedged avenues. All thinking they knew how to be happy. At last Swedenborg came upon a number of people sitting in a rose garden, their faces drawn and sorrowful.

“This is our seventh day in paradise. At first it was wonderful, but now we’ve had enough. We tried to find a way out, but have only gone deeper into this maze. We were told we must stay here for ever because this is our idea of heaven, but we are sick of the sight of it.”

You might think that it might be easy for any of us to fall for a fool’s paradise.

How to be happy spiritually speaking

Swedenborg comments that a happiness that lasts does not come from external pleasures of the world which of themselves are lifeless and soon dull the senses. Instead how to be happy comes from doing something useful for oneself and to others. Unless this is part of one’s life, pleasurable leisure alone becomes empty and wearisome.

In his ‘Sermon on the mount’ Jesus Christ spoke about states of inner happiness. To my mind his message is that happy contentment, peace and joy comes to those when they acknowledge their poverty of spiritual understanding, are sad about times when they have acted selfishly, are humble enough to appreciate that of themselves they lack inner goodness, and when they hunger and thirst for what is good and right, try to be concerned and caring towards others, turn away from what is seen to be impure in thought and work for the active presence of goodwill and peace.

In other words chasing happiness is like trying to grasp a shadow. You can’t find happiness, no matter how hard you look: it finds you. Like the Buddhists say, how to be happy comes as a by-product when you aim instead at the inner life — its values, principles and virtues rather than craving after the things of external life.

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.” (George Orwell)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems