See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2:8-9)
1. Key Facts
|Thirty thousand members and adherents in about twelve countries.
|Three churches are located in Canada in Etobicoke, Ontario (The Olivet Church on Burnhamthorpe); Kitchener, Ontario; and Dawson Creek, British Columbia.
|Cult membership appears to be declining, particularly in England and in the Scandinavian nations.
|Although The New Church has a small membership, it wields considerable influence in intellectual church circles.
|The New Church is unique in that it was founded by one of the most gifted and respected intellectuals of any age, Emanuel Swedenborg.
2. Emanuel Swedenborg
|Early Life & Career
|Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on the 29th of January, 1688. The son of a clergyman and professor of theology, Swedenborg grew up in a household filled with moral, political, intellectual and philosophical dialogue.
|After his formal education at Uppsala University, at the age of twenty-two, Swedenborg began to travel. While in England and Holland he immersed himself in studying many subjects, including: physics, astronomy, mathematics, anatomy, physiology, economics, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology, chemistry, watch-making, bookbinding, and lens grinding.
|Swedenborg produced “a new stove, a magazine air gun, methods of salt manufacture…and drew plans for a flying machine and the construction of docks.” He also worked on a “sort of a ship in which a man can go below the surface of the sea and do great damage to the fleet of an enemy.”
|In 1716, the King of Sweden appointed him Extraordinary Assessor in the Royal College of Mines. Then, in 1719, he took a seat in the House of Nobles (a part of the Swedish legislature), in which he served the Swedish government for some fifty years. Also, the King of Sweden asked Swedenborg to serve as his engineering advisor.
|Swedenborg published many books on a vast number of subjects, including metallurgy and biology. Swedenborg is generally credited with being the first to accurately understand the significance of the cerebral cortex and the respiratory movement of the brain tissues.
|His contributions to his homeland, especially in the areas of high finance and mining, led to his remains being moved by the Swedish navy six years after his death from a London church to a cathedral in Uppsala.
|Between 1743 and 1749, Swedenborg claimed to have experienced heavenly visions and periods of great temptation. Not knowing what to make of these odd experiences, he revealed them nowhere but in his personal journals. He claims to have talked and argued theological issues with Luther, Calvin, St. Augustine, and the apostle Paul.
|In 1745, Swedenborg maintained that he received a divine summons to become “both a seer and a revelator of the things of the spiritual world, and simultaneously of the spiritual truth and doctrine which underlies the literal and symbolic sense of the sacred Scriptures.
|At first, Swedenborg published his books anonymously, and they largely went unnoticed.
|His writings became more accepted after an unusual occurrence in July 1759:
Swedenborg was in Gothenburg, dining with friends at the home of a wealthy local merchant. During the dinner, he suddenly became pale and distraught-looking and withdrew from the table. When asked what was the matter, he replied that he had just had news that a horrible fire had broken out in Stockholm (which was 300 miles from Gothenburg), not far from his own home. Then, at around eight o’clock that same evening, he just as suddenly became relieved, explaining that the fire had been extinguished three houses down from his own home. is words and behavior of that evening became the talk of the town just a few days later, when a messenger arrived from Stockholm with news about the fire Swedenborg had described. Upon questioning, it was discovered that his description of the event had perfectly matched, in much detail, what had actually happened that summer evening. Soon afterward, the first surge of interest in his theological Writings began, spurred on not only by the strange story of his uncanny knowledge of the Stockholm fire, but also by several other episodes which demonstrated his ability to communicate with people in the spiritual world.
|From then until his death, Swedenborg studied the Bible and wrote numerous theological works which have become the foundation for The New Church. His visits to the other world reportedly continued in this time.
3. Theological Beliefs
|The Old and New Testaments provide guidance for our spiritual growth in the form of commandments and parables. The spiritual meaning of these teachings is unlocked in the new revelation given to The New Church through the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. These writings together serve as a complete and meaningful authority for The New Church and any individual who wants to understand the Lord’s Word.
|The Bible is the very Word of God; that the sixty-six books comprising the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Spirit of God and are therefore wholly without error as originally given by God; and that it is our final authority, our only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.
|There is only one God, and that God is the Lord. The New Church teaches that God Himself came down to earth, and His body was called “the Son,” and His everlasting soul, “the Father,” and His operation on people, “the Holy Spirit.” Just as we have a soul, a body, and an effect on people, so the Lord has three attributes which are called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
|God self-exists in three distinct Persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is to be honored and worshipped.
|People of all faiths are welcomed into heaven if they have lived according to what they sincerely believe to be the Lord’s will. Those who use their freedom to reject the Lord’s will choose eternal life in hell.
|Salvation is the free gift of God, neither deserved nor obtained by any work of man, but received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is entirely by the sovereign grace of God through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.
|Devils are not fallen angels, but rather disobedient humans. Satan is not an individual, but a collection of people choosing to lust, hurt and hate
|Satan was created by God as an angel, but he rebelled against God and now exists as an evil person, the originator of sin, and the archenemy of God and man. His final doom and judgment by God are sure.
|True marriage love continues to eternity in heaven.
|There are no marriages or weddings in heaven.
|The Second Coming
|The second coming is primarily a spiritual event. We needn’t be looking for dramatic changes of government or climate, because the Lord’s kingdom is not a civil authority or a geographical location. His kingdom is concerned with the government of the human mind – with a life according to divine laws. The signs that He has come again should be the changes in our own hearts.
|Jesus Christ will personally, gloriously, and visibly return to earth.
|In the world of spirits we are allowed to choose either heaven or hell, but the choice we make will be determined by what we have become here on earth. If we have consistently chosen evil on earth, we will continue to choose it in the other world. If we have tried to live good lives here, then that choice will be confirmed in the other world and we will be led to heaven, where we will become angels.
|On the day of judgment, the bodies of both the righteous and unrighteous will be raised. The righteous will eternally exist in a state of joy with the Lord; the unrighteous will eternally and consciously endure punishment.
“The great tragedy of EmanuelSwedenborg is that he would not submit himself and his great mind to the discipline of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. Because of this, and because of his deliberated preoccupation with spiritism and the occult, in direct disobedience to the express teachings of God, he was despoiled, even as Paul had warned. He was deceived by dreams and visions and the machinations of him whom the Scriptures describe as the ‘spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Ephesians 2:2b).”
Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults