The Seven Types of Christians

In 1766, Emanuel Swedenborg published Apocalypse Revealed, expounding a deeper meaning in the book of Revelation. Revelation is famous for its fantastic imagery: seven headed dragons, beasts from the land and the sea, stars falling from heaven. But one of my favorite sections of Apocalypse Revealed is its exposition of the tamest part of Revelation: John’s letters to the angels of the seven churches.In the literal sense, these letters chastise and encourage seven churches in Asia Minor as the … [Read More...]

I Was a Preteen Wannabe Jedi

Forty years ago yesterday, the first Star Wars movie was released. I wouldn’t be born for another six and a half years, too late to catch even Return of the Jedi in theaters. But my middle childhood was shaped by Star Wars. I must have been in third grade when I first saw the movies on video. I loved them, but they didn’t take hold of my life until a year later, in the fateful winter of ’94 when I caught a bad cough that kept me up at nights, and looking for something to read I picked up Timothy … [Read More...]

Unruffled Is Their Spirit

In the last few weeks I've had opportunities to give chapel services at the Academy of the New Church and Bryn Athyn College of the New Church. At both schools I spoke on worry about the future (aka "care for the morrow"), and I read one of my favorite passages from Arcana Coelestia. Several people asked me afterward for the reference, so here's that passage, in case anyone needs to read this today: "Care for the morrow" does not mean the care of procuring for oneself food and clothing, and eve … [Read More...]

The Worst Excuse in the World

The worst excuse in the world is also one of the most subtly sinister: “I was only joking.” Seems pretty harmless, right? But I suspect that more cruelty has been excused under the guise of “just joking” than under any other pretext.This isn’t to say that joking around is the cause of evil and cruelty. But there’s something about humor that lets us off the hook emotionally for doing terrible things to other people. In reports of horrific events, from death camps to video-recorded assaults, mo … [Read More...]

The Best Things: Worship Music Edition

Previous entries in my “Best Things” series have focused on online content, particularly Swedenborgian content (mostly because I’m hoping to highlight things people don’t know about, and Swedenborgiana tends to fall into that category). I’m branching out in this entry - rather than online resources, I’m highlighting three music albums that everyone should know about, and one of them (to my knowledge) has no Swedenborgian connections at all. Precious Memories by Alan Jackson OK, maybe this album … [Read More...]

Does God Harden Hearts?

Lee Woofenden has an excellent post today on the question of whether God hardens anyone’s heart, and whether we can be held responsible if He does. Lee outlines his answer: 1. The Bible often speaks according to the human appearance rather than the divine reality.2. This is necessary for the Bible to achieve God’s purpose for it: to save our eternal souls.3. God will not allow us to achieve enlightenment that we are unable to sustain.4. God’s love and mercy is turned into its opposi … [Read More...]

In Defense of Religious Extremism

Last Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization on the grounds that they were an “extremist” organization.It’s not completely clear what their precise violations were, but the state-owned TASS news agency reports that prosecutors cited Jehovah’s Witnesses for opposing blood transfusions, “controlling” their members, and “insisting on their own exclusiveness, which … contradicts the law on resistance to extremist activity.” A Law Library of Congress report exp … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 5, The Purpose of Faith

This is the final post in a series of reflections sparked by Matt Bates's new book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone. I haven't tried in this series to provide a comprehensive overview of the book; instead I've shared various thoughts it has inspired. Most of these thoughts have centered around the first five chapters of the book, which explore the meaning of the word "faith" (Greek pistis) and argue that "allegiance" is the better overarching word for the concept of pistis.More than asking … [Read More...]

Our Books Are Here! (As Are All Our Other Earthly Possessions)

I was hoping to publish the last post in my Faith & Fidelity series this week, but life got very hectic very quickly, and that post will probably have to wait till next week.On Monday afternoon we got word that our belongings from South Africa would be delivered on Wednesday. We had known this was a possibility, but we had expected them to take longer clearing customs. Tuesday was a mad scramble to build bookshelves and clean cupboard to make room for everything. The movers arrived with … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 4, Battling Lust and Learning to See

I’ve been sharing my reflections on faith and fidelity in a series of posts sparked by Matthew Bates’s book Salvation By Allegiance Alone. In the last post, I departed from the book somewhat to explore the way that belief leads to obedience, and that obedience in turn leads to deeper belief. This post is about some of my own experience with that process, so I encourage you to read that post first. My struggle with pornography I thought about posting this separately from this series on faith and … [Read More...]