Posts Tagged ‘hell’

What are the steps I need to take to find heaven?

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

We love plans.  We love steps.  Take a look at the the Oprah magazine …. 5 steps to joy, happiness, better sex, your best life now.   Start a title with “5 Steps To …” and you have a winner!

Steps are important.  Process is more so.

Emanuel Swedenborg commented on how much people desire to know what they need to do and what they need to believe in order to get into heaven.  Such a line of very understandable questioning he posits actually grows more from a fear of hell more then a pull towards the promise of heaven.  Such a line of thought is also, I might add, centered on a conditional view of God’s love.

The answer Swedenborg heard many times from good souls was that people,  “… should do and believe whatever they like; but they should realize that in hell people do not do anything good or believe anything that is true, only in heaven.”  So what is we it should ask?  “Ask what is good and what is true, think about it, and do it if you can.”  (Divine Providence 179)   That is far more a process question than a list of steps.

… do hereby affirm our belief in … eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The Southern Baptist Convention, in June of 2011, passed a resolution stating that they “do hereby affirm our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell…”  The resolution specifically targeted Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.”

Such resolutions are deeply saddening.

It is important to honor, first, that many (most?) Christians – from Baptists to Catholics to those in the New Church – are sincerely motivated to share their faith as a way of helping others find salvation, find resurrection, find new life.  God clearly blesses that motivation.  If we are not sharing our faith – holding it tight out of the mistaken belief that others neither (a) need it or (b) want it – we are far afield from true Christianity.  Christianity does not flourish when we believe we somehow possess it.

And, we in the Christian New Church need to clearly say that the idea of a God who inflicts “eternal and conscious punishment on the unregenerate” is misguided at the best, and calamitous at the worst.

Imagine that kind of God – a God who created a world where – for ALL TIME – individuals who struggle with belief are tortured – actively and consciously – due to their non-belief.  That makes no sense.  That speaks to a pagan, tribal God motivated by conditional love and hatred towards those who fail to offer the proper sacrifice.

It is hard to imagine an image of God more starkly at odds with the image of God presented in Jesus.

The resolution calls the belief in eternal, conscious torment as Biblical.  But is it?  There certainly is room for counterarguments.  Many of those Jesus “healed” and “saved” in no way fit the description many contemporary Christian faiths formally hold of what salvation entails.  The Roman soldier asked Jesus to heal his daughter.  This pagan occupier of the holy land neither underwent baptism, nor declared Jesus his “personal Lord and Savior.”  He simply had faith that Jesus could heal.  And that faith “made him whole.”  Go to a fundamentalist Christian church, ask for their list of what salvation entails and then go to the Bible and see how many times Jesus did that to those he healed.   The answer will surprise.

Statements of course can be pulled from the Bible to create the image of an angry, vengeful God.  Our lives our similar – one could take “sound bites” out of our lives to create any image – from loving to hate filled – that one wished.  And that is why I believe Jesus consistently expounded the Gospel and then returned to the touch stone of love, period.

A loving Jesus and an angry God cannot exist together just as “Hatred and Charity cannot exist together.”  (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine).  It is wrong, and dangerous, and deadly.

Is hell eternal?  From a New Church perspective, Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that hell was our choice, not Gods.  The torment that accompanies that choice is self inflicted, not God inflicted.  And those who choose hell are loved, are held closely by God, as He seeks to pull them as close to Himself as they will allow.  God’s work then of salvation goes on to all eternity.  That is the God of love – Jesus Christ – not the God of punishment.

“While a person is being regenerated and becoming spiritual he is involved constantly in conflict.”

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Regeneration – re-creation – is not for wimps!  Emanuel Swedenborg, who wrote much of our Christian New Church canon, was clear.  It is hard work.  Many of us find ourselves in what can feel like actual hell, far removed from God, our loved ones, and our fellow human beings.  We even feel far removed from ourselves.

That conflict is not without purpose.  Important to acknowledge – these are not “tests” that God sends down from on high.  These are tests of our own choosing, even though we may well not have chosen the particular circumstances we find our life in.  How does that work?

Well, I believe it starts with the candid acknowledgement that if we find ourselves in hell, it is the hell of our own choosing.  We can, as a famous saint noted, make our life “heaven all the way to heaven or hell all the way hell.”  And there is the source conflict.

Visualize a 12 inch ruler measuring the depth of your life.  11 of those inches are often garbage – the petty parts of our human nature – greed, anger, jealously, revenge, avarice – all there.  At the bottom inch is God’s Divine Spark – purely gifted to you, as your own, for you to use as your own.  It is already in heaven.  It is already connected to God.  It is already in God.

Regeneration is about bringing our lives down to that inch, allowing our existence to settle in that place so we can act from that place.  From there we look from the light to the darkness and, miracle, the darkness is no longer dark.  It no longer holds power.  The “11 inches” is nothing – no thing.

It does not happen without conflict.  I see in myself often the mistaken belief that the 11 inches was actually created by someone else, that I never chose it.  And yet, gulp, I did, and I do.  Of course people hurt people – absolutely.   Yet, do we see light or darkness?  From the 11 inches or the 1?  Do we chose heaven all the way to heaven, or hell all the way to hell?

Finding Separation From Our Problems

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Attachment to our problems is one of the more challenging aspects of moving forward in our lives.

The New Church perspective is that many winds of thought course through our minds incessantly.  The sources are spiritual – forces from heaven calling us towards what is good and true, forces from hell calling us towards what is evil and false.  We of course  get to choose which ones we direct our attentive towards.  A phrase carrying a great deal of wisdom in it is to “pay attention.”  Attentiveness “costs” – it is something we must pay for.   To pay attention to the negative influences “costs” us the ability to be attentive towards the good and vice versa.

I have been thinking a lot about how to come from a centered place grounded in God  somewhere beneath these winds that shift back and forth incessantly.  Maybe that is where mediation comes in.

Interesting that “meditating on God’s Word” was one of Emanuel Swedenborg’s “Rules  of Life.”  That concept strongly aligns with the broader Christian concept of centering prayer.  Prayer as meditation on the Word focuses us in.

Imagine a meditation on the Beatitudes – in weakness there is strength, in surrender there is power.    A simple focus – 20 minutes, in a quite space – on those words, while holding the Christ-centered visual image of core light in our soul, the Divine Spark as it were, can pull us under the winds so to speak and allow us into a place where we can witness the ebb and flow of thought in a none-attached way.

Fascinating that New Church theology contains within it the concept that if we truly knew good thoughts were from heaven, evil thoughts from hell, we would be healed, we would be saved at that moment – a clear call to non-attachment as a worthy goal.

In that grounded-ness, in that touch point deep within, lies peace, a peace from which we hold the challenges of the day – challenges of faith, job, relationship – far differently.  That is the place where we can best address the problems that need addressed, and leave alone the problems that need no addressing.

Who is the Devil?

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The “devil” is not a fallen arch-angel ruling over the minions of hell.  More accurate to think of the devil as obsessive self love.

In the New Church we do believe in a heaven and a hell – places where we make our eternal home, a decision we make based in turn on our character.

Individuals in hell are obsessed with evil and the resulting illusions.  Individuals in heaven are driven by desire to do what is good and resulting recognition of what is true.   Maybe that is why we can smile in a sense.  Yes, we harbor obsessive thoughts pointing towards a fallen self.  And, yes we likewise harbor a deep desire to live a life of service, meaning, and compassion.

My money is on God winning the day!