Why Do We Believe Swedenborg’s Claim?

From Rev. Alan Cowley
September 2, 2017

This, the Lord’s second coming, is taking place by means of a man, to whom He has shown Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, so that he may teach the doctrines of the new church which come from the Lord through the Word. Since the Lord cannot show Himself in person, as has just been demonstrated, and yet He predicted that He would come and found a new church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man, who can not only receive intellectually the doctrines of this church, but also publish them in print. I bear true witness that the Lord has shown Himself in the presence of me, His servant, and sent me to perform this function. After this He opened the sight of my spirit, thus admitting me to the spiritual world, and allowing me to see the heavens and the hells, and also to talk with angels and spirits; and this I have now been doing for many years without a break. Equally I assert that from the first day of my calling I have not received any instruction concerning the doctrines of that church from any angel, but only from the Lord, while I was reading the Word. (True Christianity 779)

Emanuel Swedenborg’s claim, that he is the man by means of whom the Lord made His second coming, has got to be one of the most powerful and unbelievable claims a person can come across in the Writings for the New Church. Why do we believe his testimony? Many other people have made similar claims in the modern era, writing new revelations, and saying that their revelations are from God. Why do we believe what Swedenborg says, while often discounting the revelations of so many others?

Let us also consider the Lord’s warning to us in the gospel of Matthew concerning false christs and prophets.

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.(Matt. 24:23-25)

How can we be certain that Swedenborg is not among these false prophets? Well, why do we believe what anyone says about themselves? When we believe another person’s testimony there are two thought processes we go through. First, we generally believe a person when we know them to be trustworthy. I say ‘generally’ because we are simply taking their word as true because we have no reason to believe that they would be lying. Now, over the centuries since Swedenborg was alive, there have been many people demonizing him for the teachings he scribed (mostly people who either didn’t know the teachings well or those who felt threatened by them), but there is no evidence that Swedenborg was anything other than trustworthy, caring, honest, and faithful. And this is how he is described by those who knew him best during his lifetime.

Of course this alone does not mean that we should believe his profound claim. I have known a lot of good and honest people in my life, but that doesn’t mean that I would believe them if they claimed what Swedenborg had. No, there needs to be more. The second part of our process in believing someone, is that what they say is found to be true when it is tested. No one, when they come across Swedenborg’s testimony given in True Christianity 779, should be expected to believe him just on this testimony; in fact, that would be very irresponsible. No, we need to test what he is claiming. Which means, that if we want to know for sure that Swedenborg was indeed the human vessel or tool by which the Lord made His second coming, we must try to live according to the teachings he penned. This will not prove the validity of his claim to anyone else, but that is not the point here.

There have been many times in my life when I have been asked why I believe in God, and why I follow the Heavenly Doctrine for the New Church given by means of Emanuel Swedenborg. My answer, though it may not be satisfactory to everyone, is this: “When I live according to my understanding of God I am better able to enact His will for my life, and to love my neighbor, and my God; and the happiness of those around me seems to increase.” For me, that is a sure sign that I am heading in the right direction.


Rev. Alan

(Published in the Aug-Sept edition of The New Church Voice of Florida)

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