Frequently Asked Questions

Who are you and what do you do?

Here you go – a whole page dedicated to answering this question!

What does it mean that you are a “New Church (Swedenborgian)” minister?

From Wikipedia:

The New Church (or Swedenborgianism) is the name for several historically related Christian denominations that developed as a new religious movement, informed by the writings of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772).

“The New Church” in Swedenborg’s works refers to a reborn Christianity, rather than any particular denomination. It can get a little confusing, though: my denomination, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, sometimes brands itself as “The New Church” as well. Here’s a blog post on the conundrum of what to call ourselves.

Who was Emanuel Swedenborg?

Emanuel Swedenborg was an 18th-century scientist who began experiencing spiritual visions when he was in his fifties. He claims that he was called by God to write several books of Biblical exegesis, theology, and description of the afterlife. The Wikipedia article on him is pretty good, as is this video:

What is the “Doctrine of the New Church”?

The “Doctrine of the New Church” is one way to refer to the theological works of Emanuel Swedenborg. Other terms include “The Heavenly Doctrine(s),” “The Writings,” “The Teachings for the New Church,” and of course, “the theological works of Emanuel Swedenborg.” I wrote a blog post exploring the reasons for the different terminology.

Do you consider the Doctrine of the New Church to be Scripture?

I do hold the Doctrine of the New Church to be completely inspired by God and authoritative, although different Swedenborgians hold different views on this. However, I do not believe that it takes precedence over the Bible; instead, it provides a lens through which to see the Bible, and it encourages readers to explore the Bible for themselves. See, again, this blog post.

What book should I start with if I want to read Swedenborg?

Great question. It depends on what you’re interested in. I wrote a blog post on this, and you can find suggestions at the end of this video.

Do you believe in the Bible?

Yes – I believe the Bible is the Word of God. There are some parts – for example, the first eleven chapters of Genesis – that I do not believe were ever intended to be taken literally. But I do believe in Divine inspiration of the Bible, and word-for-word inspiration of many books in the Bible.

Why do you differentiate between different books of the Bible?

According to New Church doctrine, many books of the Bible are written in symbolism (“correspondences” in Swedenborgian terms) that contains a continuous, infinite depth of meaning. Those books make up the Word itself in a unique way, and every word in them is dictated by the Lord. Other books, for example the Epistles, are written in a different style – they are still true and inspired by God, but they are doctrinal rather than symbolic, and so do not contain an infinite depth of meaning in the same way.

Do you worship Swedenborg?

Nope.

Do you speak for your denomination, or are all views and opinions your own?

OK, fine, no one asks this question. But the answer is, all views and opinions expressed are my own. If I critique a movie or praise a musical, you can rest assured that there are folks within my own denomination who will vehemently disagree with me. I do realize that in some sense I can never take off my “ordained clergy” hat, but as far as possible please do read all views expressed as my own personal take on things.

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