What really happened at Easter?

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What does the New Church teach about Easter? It’s a short question, but it involves a big network of connected ideas. It can’t be answered right in a sound bite, so bear with me…

First, we believe in God – just one God – who creates and sustains everything, including our physical universe.

We believe that God is love itself, and wisdom itself. It is the nature of love to want to love others outside of oneself, and to make them happy, and to be conjoined with them. It is the nature of wisdom to provide the means, the know-how, to bring love into effect.

God, acting from his core of Divine Love, using his Divine Wisdom, created the universe (the Big Bang?), and, eventually, as part of it, our galaxy, solar system, and the Earth. Through his creative providence, life began on earth. Over millions of years, it evolved into progressively more complex life forms, until, in time, God could bring about the development of human beings with rational minds capable of understanding spiritual truths. Through those truths, people would be able to love one another as neighbors, and to love God, walk in his ways, receive his love and wisdom, and be conjoined to Him.

It’s part of God’s Providence to always keep open a way to communicate with us, so that we can receive truths accommodated to our state. He communicated with early humans through a more direct awareness, but as we became more external, he used some men as prophets, or revelators, to write down his truths, and to tell them to others. Some of these revelations are very ancient, by human standards. In the Books of Moses, maybe 3500 years old themselves, Moses refers to even more ancient books – “The Wars of Jehovah”, “Annunciations”, and “The Book of Jasher”, which formed parts of an ancient Word.

At the time before Jesus Christ was born, the truths from the Ancient Word had been corrupted or largely forgotten, and polytheism and idolatry were widespread. Of the 12 tribes of the Children of Israel, 10 were dispersed, and swallowed up into the surrounding culture. In Jerusalem and its surrounds, the Jewish church still preserved the Old Testament, and the faithful still observed its tenets, but even within Judaism, some of the external worship was hollow. There were still some people in simple good, who would receive the Lord’s new truths gladly – Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon, and later the apostles, and then the multitudes who gathered to hear Jesus preach the truth, and to be healed by Him.

The New Church teaches that Jesus Christ was God himself, who took on a human body, so that he could live among us, and teach us the essential truths we need so that we can follow them, and by doing so open our minds to receive and transmit his love.

We also believe that part of his method of redeeming us was to take on a human heredity with its temptability, so that he could directly fight evil. Where was the evil coming from? We believe that people have immortal souls. When our bodies die, we live on in a spiritual world. In that world, we can’t pretend we are good if we are not – our true natures become evident. And, we gravitate towards like-minded people, much as we do in this world, except with clearer sight. If we fundamentally love our neighbor and God more than ourselves, we will create friendly, neighborly societies. If we fundamentally are looking out for “number one”, our societies will tend towards the nasty, forming hellish places. God didn’t create hell, but he does not force us to be good, since that would destroy our freedom. So, he permits us to create hells for ourselves. We can do it on earth too, when evil people have power. Nazi Germany was one ultra-clear example of this, among too many others.

Now, in the New Church we believe, as many people do, that there is a relationship between the spiritual world and the natural world, and that we are subject to spiritual influences. The popular image of the guardian angel actually has some basis in spiritual fact, and the image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other is also more real than is comfortable to think about.

We are tempted, while living our lives, to do evil things. These temptations flow into us from evil people in the spiritual world. In the normal order of things, the power of this evil is kept in check by balancing influx from heaven, where the Lord’s love flows through good societies and communicates itself to us. At the time of the Lord’s birth, the balance was precarious – the hells had grown too strong and evil was too influential. We see illustrations of this in the stories of the New Testament, where Jesus and his disciples in many cases are healing demon-possessed people.

So, part of the Lord’s mission was to rein in the power of hellish influence, and he did this by allowing himself to be tempted through the human that had had taken on from Mary, and by winning each temptation in turn, to cap the power of each hellish society. In the stories of the New Testament we see some of those temptations – when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. But, he conquered each one, even the final ones where he was doubting whether His mission had succeeded.

What, then, happened at Easter?

God incarnate had come to earth, as Jesus Christ, fulfilling a whole series of Old Testament prophecies. He had, through a lifelong series of temptations, fought with and subdued the powers of hell, restoring the balance which allowed people to freely choose their course in life. He had taught us the new truths that we needed, so that we could learn, if we wanted to, how to be good. He had opened a new channel of communication – we could now picture him in human form – not just as a remote, formless God, but as a Divinely Human God who loves us, wants to save us, and in whose image and likeness we are made.

The crucifixion was the climactic temptation, and victory, in a life of victory over evil. The human body that the Lord took on from Mary was glorified, converted to Divine substance. That’s why it was not found in the tomb on Easter Sunday, when the stone was rolled away.

After Easter, the Lord could – and did – still appear to his followers, but they were seeing him with their spiritual eyes opened. They followed him to Galilee, and witnessed his ascension to heaven. And then they spread out around the world, teaching the truths that he had taught them, and leading by example, so that Christianity became the world’s largest religion.

As the Christian religion spread, false ideas crept into it. Here are some key points in our belief, that combat those falsities:

– We don’t believe that Jesus was a separate person from God. He was God.

– We don’t believe that he sacrificed himself on the cross to atone to God for the sins of humankind. He WAS God. Instead, he allowed himself to be crucified because by doing that he could show that even the death of the physical body was not something final – not something that really had power over good and truth. His resurrection was the key event.

We believe that Mary was good, but not that she was perfect, nor that she was born without sin. She was chosen to be the mother of the Lord because she was, like Joseph, part of the remnant of simple, good people who obeyed the Lord’s will, and whose faith would enable the fulfillment of His mission. However, the heredity through Mary contained normal tendencies towards evil that opened Jesus to temptations, which was a necessary part of the plan.

There are also non-Christian ideas that have currency in our culture, though we think they are false. Here are some key points in our belief:

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ had a romance with or married Mary Magdalene.

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ was merely a good teacher or man of exemplary character, who was later deified by his disciples.

– We DO believe that Jesus Christ did exist as a historical figure, and that he was God incarnate, and that the Gospels contain essential truths that we should live by.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

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Discovering the True Significance of Mary Magdalene: An Easter Surprise

Swedenborg Foundation

 

By Soni Soneson Werner, Associate Professor Emerita of Psychology at Bryn Athyn College

 

“Mary Reaching for His Garment” by Soni Soneson Werner

With Easter Sunday soon upon us, my thoughts turn to the role and nature of Mary Magdalene in the gospel Easter story. In modern times, she has emerged as one of the most intriguing figures in the New Testament. When my interest in Mary Magdalene piqued years ago, I began collecting and critically analyzing evidence about whom she really was. I have gone to France, England, and Israel in search of stories about her and have found illustrations in stained glass, architecture, statues, paintings, and mosaics.[1] I have reviewed literature from both ancient and modern theological scholars and have studied contemporary Broadway plays, novels, and movies that engage Mary Magdalene in some way. I visited two chapels where their followers were worshipping her relics. At this point in my quest, I have come to the conclusion that she has been misrepresented by the conventional Christian traditions, by French politicians, and by artists. People have rewritten her story to fulfill their own needs and desires.

For my reading of Mary Magdalene, I look to Emanuel Swedenborg, who provides clues about her significance that are more profound than what is said about her by any of the other legends. First, let’s review what is not in Swedenborg’s works about Mary Magdalene. There is nothing about her:

  1. sex life as an adulterer or prostitute;
  2. using the ointment from the alabaster jar;
  3. being married to Jesus or being pregnant;
  4. traveling to France to spread the good news;
  5. being a saint;
  6. representing a divine feminine spirit;
  7. holding a red egg when preaching;
  8. being represented by a rose or “V”;
  9. relics being involved in spiritual practices; and
  10. in relationship to the Holy Grail.[2]

Swedenborg’s works focus on the events of Easter morning and furnish an internal sense of the importance of Mary Magdalene’s role. In the four canonical Gospels, we find stories in the plain sense of the text that describe aspects of her Easter role:

  1. Coming to find Jesus in the burial tomb/sepulcher;
  2. Seeing brightly clothed angels at the tomb;
  3. Talking to the angels and Jesus (who had not yet ascended);
  4. Witnessing the earthquake.
  5. Going to tell others the good news.

Swedenborg provides an interpretation of these remarkable events that I have not found anywhere else in either scholarly or popular literature about Mary Magdalene. Throughout his works, Swedenborg’s approach is to describe the internal sense of the biblical stories. For instance, that Mary came to the tomb (sepulcher) and “met brightly clothed angels” corresponds to her spiritual sight being opened by God. At that moment, she was ready to receive and perceive the deeper truths being shown to her:

That . . . angels appeared clothed in garments is evident from [those] who sat at the Lord’s sepulcher, and were seen in shining white garments by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James . . . and especially is the same thing evident from the Lord himself when seen in his glory by Peter, James, and John, in that his [clothing] was then white and glistering, and was like the light . . . by which [clothing] there was also represented the Divine spiritual, that is, the Divine truth which is from him. (Arcana Coelestia §9814:2)[3]

The earthquake Mary beheld refers to an enormous change that was about to happen in the state of the church and to the fact that Christianity was being born with the new awareness of the afterlife as demonstrated by Jesus’s ascension:

Concerning the earthquake which took place when the angel descended and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher, it is thus stated:When “Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary to see the sepulcher; and, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone from the mouth, and sat upon it” (Matt. xxviii. 1, 2). Those earthquakes took place to indicate that the state of the church was then being changed; for the Lord, by His last temptation, which He sustained in Gethsemane and upon the cross, conquered the hells, and reduced to order all things there and in the heavens, and also glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine. (Apocalypse Explained §400:14)

That Mary met Jesus as he was ascending and was instructed not to touch him signifies that she was brought into the spiritual understanding that Jesus’s human aspect was being united with his divine aspect and was becoming the Divine Human:

In heaven, by [the Lord’s] death and burial, are not meant death and burial, but the purification of His Human, and glorification. That this is the case, the Lord taught by the comparison with wheat falling into the earth, which must die, in order that it may bear fruit. The same is also involved in what the Lord said to Mary Magdalene:“Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John xx. 17).By ascending to His Father, is meant the [union] of His Human with His Divine, the human from the mother being completely rejected. (Apocalypse Explained §899:14)

The unity of the triune God lies in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one God, and Mary felt confident in this truth and that he was the promised Messiah.
Then Mary was urged to tell what she had seen to the Lord’s brethren, signifying that she must go back to all of his followers and tell them what happened so that she might encourage goodness in everyone she met:

Jesus said to Mary, “Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father” ([John] xx. 17). Similarly here the disciples are called brethren, because the disciples, equally as brethren, signify all those of His church who are in the good of charity. (Apocalypse Explained §746:8)

What an astounding significance for the role, nature, and purpose of Mary Magdalene in the biblical narrative![4] In my search to better understand Mary Magdalene, I have sorted through many of the resources and in turn have come to appreciate the following:

  1. the Eastern Orthodox Church, which never followed along with other traditions that conflated the name of Mary Magdalene with unnamed sinful women;
  2. the artists of the Medieval and Renaissance eras who created remarkable images of the Easter story;
  3. scholars, such as Karen King (see Suggested Readings, below), who have analyzed the non-canonical Gospels that mention Mary Magdalene;
  4. the Russian Romanov family, who built my favorite Magdalene shrine in Jerusalem;
  5. Swedenborg, who provided readers with a powerful and penetrating spiritual interpretation of the Easter story; and
  6. Mary Magdalene, herself, who bravely followed Jesus and spoke up even when it was against the custom of the times for women to have a voice regarding spiritual matters.

If we sort through the legends, conflations of characters, politics of religion, and fanciful tales, we are left with the simple essence of Mary’s role in the Easter story. Then, if we consider the internal sense of those powerful, biblical accounts of her experiences (based on the writings of Swedenborg), we are given a great gift: the chance to vicariously sense the Lord Jesus Christ ascending to heaven and urging us to share the Easter story. Both men and women have been writing and speaking about this story for centuries; but I am particularly appreciative of Mary Magdalene, who found her voice and blazed the trail for female scholars like myself.

[1] For a more in-depth summary of this pilgrimage, see my book entitled Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.

[2] Soni Werner, Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action (Rochester, MI: Fountain Publishing, 2011), 81.
[3] Secrets of Heaven is the New Century Edition translation of Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia.
[4] Werner, 180. See also Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia §§720, 5063, 6472, 9263; Apocalypse Explained §§198, 586; Conjugial Love §100; Heaven and Hell §257; True Christianity §§443, 508.

Suggested Readings

Currie, Susannah. “Mary Magdalene, companion of the Lord.” Unpublished manuscript (see http://www.bridgewaternewchurch.org).

Ehrman, Bart D. Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Haskins, Susan. Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor. NY: Riverhead Books, 1995.

The Holy Bible: Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 15:1–11; Luke 24: 1–11; John 20:1–18. 

King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2003.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Apocalypse ExplainedWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.

_____. Arcana CoelestiaWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.

_____. Charity: The Practice of Neighborliness. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1995.

_____. Conjugial LoveWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998.

_____. Heaven and HellWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.

_____. True ChristianityWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.

Werner, Soni. Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. Rochester, MI: Fountain Publishing. 2011.

Visit our Swedenborg Studies bookstore page to explore our series of scholarly titles >

Read more posts from the Scholars on Swedenborg series >

http://www.swedenborg.com/

What did Jesus Accomplish by His Death on the Cross?

Christ’s death was needed for our salvation; but it was not to appease an angry Father.

There are several theories in the Christian world about how Jesus Christ saved us from sin and reconciled us to God. Traditional Christianity teaches that the human race had turned away from God and God was angry and ready to destroy the human race. According to this view, Jesus interceded and offered the sacrifice of Himself, to die, to appease the wrath of the Father. This teaches that we are saved by acknowledging that Jesus, by dying on the cross, took upon Himself all the sins of the human race, and by a confession of belief in His sacrifice all of our sins are washed away and we are saved – made acceptable to God and able to enter into heaven. This is why an emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is stressed by traditional Christian theology. It is, in their eyes, the way, and the only way, to heaven.

New Christianity teaches that God saved the human race by coming on earth, but He didn’t come merely to die. He came to restore freedom to human beings so we could again be free to choose. He came so that we would have a clear understanding of who God is, and what He asks of us. Before the Lord came on earth, the influence of hell had risen to such a level that it was essentially choking off the life from God with the human race. It was like a completely cloudy and polluted atmosphere which needed to be purified. The Lord cleared the way by taking on the attacks of the hells with His vulnerable humanity, and by His own inner strength putting them under lock and key so that they didn’t over-extend their influence and cause an imbalance. The final battle was the one on the cross – it was not the only battle. When Jesus proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” He was declaring that all the work He came to do against the hells was complete. On Easter morning His body was no longer in the tomb because all that was human was unified with the Divine, and made Divine.

https://newchurch.org/

 

The True Spiritual Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection: Christus Victor

As Easter approaches, many are going to be reminded of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the central event of Christianity, yet very few truly understand how salvation was effected by this. Many are taught that our sins are transferred to Jesus on the cross, and that by this act Jesus removed the “penalty of sin.” I heard that phrase mentioned again recently, but here is the fact: nowhere in scripture does it teach that Jesus removed the penalty of sin on the cross. So what happened? Is there a rational explanation for Christianity? Why did God need to become incarnate in human form? What is the meaning of the cross and resurrection? Why was this necessary for salvation?

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE CROSS

In the gospels, the cross was an extreme form of torture, signifying how the Jews had completely rejected and profaned the Divine truth. In later times, men started to apply false theological meanings to the cross, where today the suffering of the cross is seen as a means of salvation. But this is an apparent truth. The spiritual truth is much deeper.

“It is a common belief at this day that the burnt offerings and sacrifices signified the Lord’s passion, and that by this the Lord made expiation for the iniquities of all, indeed, that He drew them away upon Himself, and thus bore them; and that those who believe are in this manner justified and saved, provided they think, though but in the last hour before death, that the Lord suffered for them, however they may have lived during the whole course of their life. But the case is not really so: the passion of the cross was the extremity of the Lord’s temptation, by which He fully united His Human to His Divine and His Divine to His Human, and thus glorified Himself. That union is itself the means by which those who have the faith in Him which is the faith of charity, can be saved. For the Supreme Divine Itself could no longer reach to the human race, which had removed itself so far from the celestial things of love and the spiritual things of faith, that they no longer even acknowledged them, and still less perceived them. In order therefore that the Supreme Divine might be able to come down to man who was such, the Lord came into the world and united His Human to the Divine in Himself; which union could not be effected otherwise than by the most grievous combats of temptations and by victories, and at length by the last, which was that of the cross.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2776.2)

In other words, no sins are transferred at the cross. This is a later theological invention, which first became prominent in the Catholic Church, and from the Catholic Church the Protestants adopted it. It is not followed by the Orthodox church which preceded the other two main branches of Christianity. The New Church explains this further: salvation was effected by transforming the human form into a Divine Human, which was done by spiritual combats and temptations in a spiritual warfare against the powers of hell. The suffering on the cross is merely the last temptation that preceded the union of the Divine with the human form:

“As to [the Passover, or Easter] it is to be known that it specially signifies the glorification of the Lord’s Human, thus the remembrance of this and thanksgiving on account of it, for by this glorification and the subjugation of the hells by the Lord, man has liberation from evils and salvation. For the Lord glorified His Human by combats against the hells and then by continual victories over them. The last combat and victory was on the cross; wherefore He then fully glorified Himself, as He also teaches in John: When he [Judas] was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him (xiii. 31, 32).” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10655.2)

Again:

“The Lord came into the world that He might save the human race, which otherwise would have perished in eternal death. And He saved the race by this, that He subdued the hells which were infesting every man that came into the world and that went out of the world, and at the same time by this, that He glorified His Human, for thereby He can hold the hells under subjection to eternity. The subjugation of the hells and the glorification of His Human at the same time were effected by temptations admitted into His Human and then by continual victories. His passion on the cross was the last temptation and the full victory.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10828)

This was necessary, as now the Divine can interact directly with humanity which had become separated from heaven in this lower material plane. I say this “material plane,” because above and below this material plane there are higher spiritual planes of heaven, and lower planes of hell. Human life on this material plane is governed by spirits from both planes:

“That it was also for the sake of liberation from evil and from falsities of evil, is because by the subjugation of the hells by the Lord and by the glorification of His Human is all liberation from evil, and there is none without these means. For man is ruled by spirits from hell and by angels out of heaven from the Lord. Wherefore unless the hells had been altogether subjugated and unless the Human of the Lord had been altogether united to the Divine Itself, and thus also made Divine, no man could ever have been liberated from hell and saved, for the hells would always have prevailed, since man has become such that of himself he thinks nothing but what is of hell.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10655.4)

These planes of heaven and hell are dimensional planes, that exist where space and time have no meaning, but they interact with us in this material plane from within, to govern how we think and act.

SALVATION IS LIBERATION FROM HELL

What this means, is that the doctrine of vicarious atonement, which is presently the foundation of theology for the Catholic and Protestant churches, is patently false. It encourages people to think they can get away with the sins of their life through mere belief, which is not the case. It has to be removed through repentance:

“It is believed by most persons within the church that the Lord came into the world that He might reconcile the Father by the passion of the cross, and that afterward they might be accepted for whom He should intercede, also that He released man from damnation by this, that He also fulfilled the law, which otherwise would have condemned every one, and thus that all would be saved who should hold that faith with confidence and trust. But they who are in any enlightenment from heaven may see that it cannot be that the Divine, which is Love itself and Mercy itself, could reject from Itself and condemn to hell the human race, and that It had to be reconciled by Its Son’s passion of the cross, and that in this way and in no other way It was moved with mercy, and that henceforth the life should not condemn any one if only he had a confident faith concerning that reconciliation, and that all salvation is effected by faith from mercy. They who so think and believe can see nothing at all. They speak but understand nothing. They therefore call those things mysteries which are to be believed but not apprehended by any understanding. So it follows that all enlightenment from the Word, showing the case to be otherwise, is rejected; for light from heaven cannot enter when such darkness from contradictions reigns. It is said darkness, because there is no understanding.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10659.2)

A “mystery of faith” means not only is it not understood, but also it has no rational justification. This keeps the majority of people in ignorance, and to maintain that ignorance many churches resort to the logical fallacy of argument from authority: it must be true because we said it was true. This closes off the higher spiritual understanding (see Truth by Religious Tradition & Authority vs. Spiritual Truth).

“The Lord came into the world in order that He might subjugate the hells and reduce all things there and in the heavens into order, and that this could not in any wise be effected except by the Human; for from this He could fight against the hells, but not from the Divine without the Human; and so also that He might glorify His Human in order that thereby He might for ever hold all things in the order into which He reduced them. Thereby is man’s salvation; for around every man are hells, inasmuch as every one is born into evils of every kind, and where evils are, there are hells, and unless these were cast out by the Divine power of the Lord, no one ever could have been saved.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10659.3)

SALVATION IS FROM REPENTANCE, AND LIVING BY THE COMMANDMENTS

The other falsehood: no one is saved by immediate mercy. There is no such thing as instantaneous conversion:. Salvation is turning away from evil, and living by God’s commandments:

“To be led away from evils, to be regenerated, and thus to be saved, is mercy, which is not immediate, as is believed, but mediate, that is, to those who recede from evils and so admit truth of faith and good of love into their life from the Lord. Immediate mercy, namely, such as would extend to every one merely from the good pleasure of God, is contrary to Divine order, and that which is contrary to Divine order is contrary to God, since order is from God and His Divine in heaven is order. To receive order into one’s self is to be saved, and this is effected solely by living according to the Lord’s commandments. Man is regenerated to the end that he may receive into himself the order of heaven, and he is regenerated by faith and by the life of faith, which is charity. He who has order in himself is in heaven, and indeed is heaven in a certain image, but he who has not is in hell and is hell in a certain image. The one cannot in any wise be changed and transcribed into the other from immediate mercy, for they are opposites, inasmuch as evil is opposite to good, and in good is life and heaven, but in evil is death and hell. That the one cannot be transcribed into the other the Lord teaches in Luke: Abraham said unto the rich man in hell, Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they cross from thence to us (xvi. 26). If indeed immediate mercy were given, all would be saved, as many as are in the world, neither would there be a hell, for the Lord is Mercy itself because He is Love itself, which wills the salvation of all and the death of no one.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10659.4)

THE UNION OF THE DIVINE WITH THE HUMAN IS A TYPE OF REPENTANCE

As Jehovah became incarnate, and fought off the hells in temptations in His human until the very human was united and one with the Divine, so each one of us must recognize temptation and fight against it.  This is the process of reformation and spiritual regeneration. The work that the Lord did goes hand in hand with one’s spiritual development. He did not want us to be lazy, and just believe. Spiritual development transforms one’s life in how one lives, and one must put effort into it for the Lord to act from within. Belief alone does not save, and there is no faith without withdrawing from evil and doing good. But evil must be removed before good can become implanted in one’s heart, and there is no way to do this except through temptation, and resisting it with the Lord’s help.

That the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection is a type for all of us to follow is declared by Paul:

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. 6:4-6)

The doctrines of the New Church explain this further: in the Lord there was a complete union between the Divine and His human form, until He became a Divine Human. This Divine Human is the Son (not a separate person as others would have you believe). However in each of us, there is not a union of the Divine with our human nature, but a conjunction between ourselves and the Divine. It is through repentance that there is the taking away of sins through the Lord:

“Something shall now be said as to what is meant by taking away sins. By taking away sins the like is meant as by redeeming man and saving him; for the Lord came into the world that man might be saved. Without His Coming, no mortal could have been reformed and regenerated, and thus saved; but this could be done after the Lord had taken away all power from the Devil, that is, from hell, and had glorified His Human, that is, united it to the Divine of His Father. If these things had not been done, no man would have been able to receive any Divine truth that would remain with him, and still less any Divine good; for the Devil, who before had superior power, would have plucked them out of his heart. From these things, it is manifest that the Lord did not take away sins by the passion of the cross, but that He takes them away, that is, removes them, in those who believe in Him, in living according to His commandments; as the Lord also teaches in Matthew: Think not that I am come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. Whosoever shall break the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens (v. 17, 19).” (Doctrine of the Lord, n. 17)

In effect, the path to salvation did not change between the Old and New Testaments, it was preserved, and a new spiritual means was given in greater spiritual light. Unfortunately, due to false teachings, many ignore the Old Testament. It was through this union whereby the Lord has conjunction with the entire human race through good and truth, where He lives inside each one of us:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)

THE NEW CHURCH RESTORES THE ORIGINAL DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY

The doctrine of the New Church, how the Lord saved humanity by the union of the Divine with the Human is spelled out in more detail in The Doctrine of the Lord (part of The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem) and True Christian Religion (both are found in The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem). The passion of the cross is distinct from redemption and salvation, but was yet a means to it.  This of course is going to be new to many, but those of the Orthodox church will say, “I told you so,” although they treat it as somewhat a mystery without explanation.  In modern theology, this is known as “Christus Victor” and is seeing somewhat of a revival: see A Rational Explanation for Atonement: Christus Victor, the Divine Human. This was the original doctrine of Christianity which has been lost, and now restored or “resurrected” from the dead. The doctrine of the New Church is not exactly “new,” it can be found in scattered references of the early church fathers before false theology entered the church. The doctrines of the New Church explains why the Jehovah became incarnate, why He suffered from the cross, and why He rose from the dead, in much more spiritual detail than ever before. These revelations, along with revealing the internal spiritual sense of scripture, is the Second Coming (see Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?)

 Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Physics And The Easter Miracle

The Lord’s resurrection on what is now celebrated as Easter Sunday certainly challenges our modern assumptions about physics. Not only did this miraculous event require radical reverse entropy (the reversal of disorder and decomposition), the Lord’s restored physical body seemed to have also gained new capacities. For instance, the Lord could completely disappear from the tomb and reappear before Mary Magdalene. His physical body could ascend to heaven and descend back to earth. He could suddenly be present in a room with shut doors as well as be physically touched by His disciples and even eat fish.

Did the resurrection event require God to suspend the laws of nature or make use of laws that were already in place? If it is the latter, which I am proposing, then new and richer scientific concepts are required for unveiling the hidden nature of reality. If the natural world is not the ultimate reality then it must be a lawful expression of some greater dynamic.

Some serious scientists, whom I have studied and become acquainted with, feel that the answer to the Easter miracle may have something to do with quantum physics. Quantum physics does seem to be tied to “consciousness,” however, its uncertainty principle offers us very little information about how an all-knowing Creator does things. In fact, quantum physics needs to be reformulated. If science and theology are to be united, Divine action in the world should show that nature’s laws are consistent with God’s nature, which is Infinite Love. And, Divine action is certainly purposeful.

Like Einstein and David Bohm, I reject ontological indeterminism. Rather than fundamental reality consisting of irreducible chance, there is irreducible love. The reason for this faith-based thesis is that quantum behavior, while it seems to us to be random, generates the regularity we see in the classical world of Newtonian physics. Randomness is at odds with nature’s compulsion for self-organization. The wave function and its superposition principle do not explain how outcomes of measurement (actualization) lead to an orchestrated universe.

Love offers us a principle for potential actualization that is every bit as legitimate as randomness (which I tackle in my next book, Proving God).

We live in a world that is ordered, has orientation, and is unified. Since the essence of love is to unite, I have maintained that love is the creative causal principle and formative substance (substantia prima) of creation and the ultimate science. The world is unified through shared utility. For something to exist, previous things must coexist. And coexistence emerges from mutual support and interdependence.

All self-organization finds its existence in some form of utility, which is an analog of altruism and spiritual love. A God of love cannot create anything that is not ultimately useful. What this means is that higher causal levels of order and activity (like conscious love) adapt the lower level forms of nature to their own disposition (emergence of complexity). The scientist/theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg, called this top-down self-similarity the science of correspondences.

The closest idea to Swedenborg’s science of correspondences I have found in modern thinking is the concept of supervenience, whereby higher leveled phenomena, like ethics, morality, and altruism influence the lower level properties of nature and biological structure. The unity of nature is a causal consequence of Divine Love.

The science of correspondences implies that the laws of nature are, in fact, an extension of spiritual laws and forces into the constraints of spacetime. This means that the universe and its laws are perfectly fine-tuned for the Easter resurrection to occur.

God’s heavenly spirit supervened into a human body provided by the virgin birth, where it reached its ultimate actualization in the measurement outcomes of the Lord’s life of fulfilling Scripture on earth. Making the Word “flesh” was a lawful process by which higher-level realities and lower-level realities became perfectly united. Put into scientific terms, the a-temporal and a-spatial dynamics of the hidden microworld became fully expressed in the Lord’s macro bio-structure or physical body. So “quantum tunneling” through the shut doors of the room where the disciples had gathered after the crucifixion was no problem for the Lord’s resurrected body.

Do you think science and theology can be unified? Would that strengthen your faith?

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The Divine Rope-a-Dope

With Easter approaching I was inspired to share a new “detail” with my readers concerning what the Lord actually accomplished on earth by his life and death. His coming into the world involved a most unique strategy that is not to be found among any of the current Christine dogmas.

Some students of the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg have humorously described the Lord’s strategy of coming into the world for the sake of human salvation as the divine “rope-a-dope.”

This cosmic maneuver by the Lord in fighting evil and falsity cannot be fully appreciated unless one realizes that most of the drama in the Lord’s struggles on earth took place behind the scenes. In fact, the real blow-by-blow action took place not on earth but in the spiritual world.

Without understanding this important detail, the real dynamics behind the Lord’s glorification will continue to elude current Christian theology.

What is not taken into account is that God’s sustaining influence (creatio continua) must pass through the spiritual world (top-down causation) before reaching the physical world. This means that God’s love and living force is actually intercepted by both the angels and devils in the a priori realm of heaven and hell, before reaching us humans in the form of various compulsions or noble strivings. (Just block out the world from your mind for a moment and you will notice the constant “chatter” taking place in your head.)

The Lord God wisely uses this situation to protect human free will, which is a gift from divine love. Free will is meaningless without real choices. But there must be a careful balance between these opposing influences or things will go haywire.

When evil is favored over good in the world, it will have an enormous effect on the populations of Hell as people die and take their proclivities with them. This puts human freedom in jeopardy.

At the time of the Lord’s arrival on earth this was the case and things were cosmically stacked against humans. What is not well understood by Christian orthodoxy is that Jesus was Jehovah in the flesh! The reason why the Creator and Lord of heaven came into the world was that nothing finite (like the hells) could engage the Infinite in a fight. By being born of a human female, and putting on a finite body of flesh and bones, the Lord provided the hells with a finite medium for combat. In other words, the Lord could suffer all the weaknesses of the flesh.

So, the hells were tricked into a fight with God, which they could not resist.

This spiritual combat is only alluded to in the literal narrative of Scripture (as when the Lord is tempted by Satan in the wilderness). But translated into its highest quantum vocabulary, all the events in the Sacred Word actually represent the step-by-step process by which the Lord conquered Hell’s influence (and made the Word flesh).

With every victory over temptation the Lord removed the human traits derived from his mother while making His human increasingly divine. This is why he never calls Mary “mother.” The removal of His mother’s genetic and human contributions consisted of profound humiliation before the Father.

Hell’s devious temptations consisted of influencing the Lord to resist humiliation in favor of dominance over others and to come under the intoxicating power of self-love. This combat was more subtle than evil simply attacking good. It included something much more sinister – flattery. But as the Lord defeated temptations of every kind, even his flesh was made fully divine. Glorification was a process by which the Lord became fully united with the Father from top to bottom (His heavenly essence became one with His human).

The Lord did NOT save humankind through the passion of the cross. This was his final and most severe temptation. Even more intense than the physical pain of crucifixion the Lord had to suffer the emotional pain of being rejected, compounded with the natural human urge to come off the cross and compel the world to worship Him and acknowledge His self-importance.

So, if the Lord had come down from the cross and not suffered total humiliation, the hells would have been victorious.

What the Lord did accomplish during his life on earth was to subjugate the Hells so that human free will could be preserved, keeping the door open for salvation.

In a future post I will address what making flesh “divine” means in terms of the laws of the universe. It has everything to do with my thesis that Love is the ultimate science.

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The Shepherd of Israel

The Shepherd of Israel

A Holy Supper Address by Rev. James P. Cooper

revcooper.ca



As we begin our celebration of Easter, our thoughts are naturally drawn to the stories we have loved since childhood: the story of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, riding on a colt as the people welcomed Him as a king shouting their “hosannas” and laying their garments and palm branches in His path. We think of Him boldly preaching His message of peace and charity towards the neighbor in the synagogues and streets of Jerusalem during the day, but returning to the Mount of Olives at night while His enemies plotted His death. We feel the hatred and fear of Him that has been growing throughout His ministry beginning to focus and intensify as He enters the center of the Jewish church to challenge the scribes and Pharisees in the midst of their own strength. Once again we feel the grief and sorrow as the wolves and other wild beasts gather to attack and kill the shepherd, scattering the terrified flock.

The prophet Zechariah foretold the events of the Lord’s crucifixion when he wrote, “’Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’” (ZEC 13:7) And so it seemed to the disciples. The Lord had led them, taught them, protected them, and suddenly they were without Him. They were lost, afraid that the same mob anger that had crucified the Lord might turn against them next. They were indeed sheep without a shepherd, scattering in terror.

The prophet Ezekial was also inspired by the Lord to write of Him as the Good Shepherd: “For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.’” (EZE 34:11, 12) Has not Ezekial eloquently described how we sometimes feel? It may be very well to speak of flocks of sheep contentedly grazing in fields of green grass, watched over by a gentle shepherd, but that is not always our state. Too often we feel instead the growing frustrations of too many things to do, and no time to do half of them. We can feel as if we are being pulled in a hundred different directions by the demands that are placed on us by our families, our work, our fears, our physical aches and pains, and our spiritual failings – both real and imagined.

At such times we don’t see ourselves as sheep grazing contentedly under the watchful eye of a gentle shepherd. Rather, we feel scattered, like sheep dispersed and lost during a storm in the night. At such times we should remember that the Lord really is our good shepherd, we should have the confidence that He knows our fears and our pains for He Himself has lived on earth as we live, and has felt as we feel. He has even given His life for His sheep, and in so doing has conquered death itself for our sakes. No more do we need to fear death, for we know that the grave cannot hold us, the Lord has gone before us to show the way to eternal life. He assures us through the prophet Ezekial that He will seek out His scattered sheep, and deliver them; He will bring them into a land all their own where He will feed them in good pasture; He will bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. (EZE 34:16)

The Lord called Himself the “good shepherd” and told us that the “good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (JOH 10:11) As we approach the Holy Supper at this time of year, having prepared ourselves by reflection and self-examination, we may find that we bear a considerable burden of guilt and sadness. And yet we should celebrate! for by shunning what is evil, and vowing to do what the Lord commands, we bring ourselves into the full warmth of the Lord’s love, for as He Himself told us “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.” (JOH 15:13,14)

The Lord laid down His life for the sake of our eternal, spiritual lives, and He conquered death for us, reminding us that every state of genuine humility is followed by a state of glorification. The disciples came to the tomb full of grief and despair, but found that the stone had been rolled away and that He was not there. That Easter morning was the dawning of the disciples understanding of what had been happening during the past three years of the Lord’s ministry, that Jesus Christ was not an earthly Messiah, but that He was God with us.

Let us remember this as we prepare for Holy Supper this Easter season. The self-examination that we do in preparation is a temptation similar to that which the Lord Himself went through during the week before Easter. We, like Him, are battling against Hell. What we need to remember is that we too will pass through the temptations and make it to Easter morning if we trust in the Lord’s power to save us, a power which He has shown by doing something never done by any other, before or since – raising Himself from the dead by His own power. As the angels told the women who came to the tomb with balm and sweet spices that long ago Easter morning, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but risen!” (LUK 24:5-6) Amen.

The Swedenborg Project