Once upon a time a denomination of the Swedenborgian Church hosted a debate between two Swedenborgian experts on various spiritual topics. The first panelist had suggested that hell was eternal, that the human will was totally corrupt and the kingdom of heaven was not easy to obtain.
The second panelist eventually agreed, reluctantly, that “hell,” at least as theologian Emanuel Swedenborg described it, is an eternal outcome. The reason why this agreement was not immediate was because it seemingly challenged the idea of God’s Infinite love and mercy—which is what gets church pews to fill up.
We now cut to the live and continuing discussion over the other two highly contested remarks made by the first panelist:
“Swedenborg states in many places in his theological writings that the human will has complete control over the human intellect and makes it conform to its own disposition,” said the second panelist. “Therefore, something in the human will must be good in order for individuals to discern and make the best moral choices. So the human will cannot be totally corrupt.”
The second panelist notices the first panelist is shaking his head and immediately begins to provide more supportive ideas for his belief that the human will is not totally corrupt.
“The human understanding is capable of learning and considering nobler ideas, like God’s Ten Commandments, which challenge us to transcend the flawed proclivities of our worldly will. These higher principles of living can last long enough in the brain so that one’s earth-bound will, little by little, gets used to heaven-bound thinking and begin to make better choices,” said panelist number two.
“Nope,” said the first panelist. “The will that we are born with, including all its inclinations and compulsions, is put off during one’s spiritual evolution and salvation. An entirely new ‘heavenly will’ must be created by the Lord God to set the process of salvation in motion. God does not make the old will better.”
Clinging to some residual effect of his earth-born will, the second panelist reacted as if this statement were a personal attack. “Read Swedenborg’s statement in his work Heaven and Hell, number 533. It suggests to me, at least, that the process of salvation is continuous and commences from the old will as it gets better information,” said the visibly irritated second panelist.
“You cannot simply pick a quote by Swedenborg to get the big picture,” replied the first panelist. “My statement that the human will is totally corrupt comes from a synthesis of many of his writings. If we are attentive and look further into this matter we learn that it is not from our native will that God conducts His work of salvation. The Lord works from what Swedenborg called ‘remains.’ These are affections and bits of information that a child experiences in life and the Lord secretly stores away for safekeeping within the unconscious or involuntary mind. The remains keep the child inwardly connected to heaven and its angels. When the process of spiritual regeneration begins, the Lord activates a person’s remains so that it can become a matrix or plane by which a new will and intellect is generated. This can also be understood as the formation of both a new conscience and a spiritual body, capable of living in heaven’s unique ecosystem.”
“Well, even if you are correct, that doesn’t mean it is difficult to get to heaven,” said the second panelist as he sat back in his seat and folded his arms over his chest.
“Proper humility is the hurdle,” replied the first panelist. “Unfortunately, the human race is allowed to sensate on earth that life and goodness flows out from the person—rather than flow into the person from God and heaven. Even when novice spirits are being prepared for a heavenly life after their departure from this terrestrial orb, they can unexpectedly be put into a situation whereby they experience a most unflattering revelation. Spirits communicate their affections and thoughts with others of their spiritual community. Swedenborg observed an experiment where spirits were temporarily removed from the spiritual community their hearts and minds were intimately conjoined with. This separation caused these particular spirits to enter into a diminished cognitive state whereby they falsely perceived that all goodness and truth proceeded from themselves and was their own. When their error was pointed out to them they became indignant. (Angels have no such illusion.) Accepting such a reality is anti-intuitive to human experience from living on earth, and creates a real challenge to one’s worldview and self-esteem. Acquiring this kind of humility, which is angelic, is not as ‘easy as pie.’”
Dear readers, please comment on which debater you believe made the most convincing points.