Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rick Warren and America's Founders Had no Problem With the Swedenborgs

WorldNetDaily differs with America's Founders on this issue.

As they write:

But critics point out the physicians who crafted the program apparently don't share the church's professed evangelical beliefs, espousing instead various forms of Eastern mysticism and the tenets of a Christian cult, Swedenborgism.


Oz, host of the Emmy-winning "Dr. Oz Show" and professor of surgery at Columbia University, says he is inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century cult founder who taught that all religions lead to God and denied orthodox Christian beliefs such at the atonement of Christ for sin, the trinity and the deity of the Holy Spirit.


McConkey pointed out the followers of what is called Swedenborgianism believe all religions lead to God and that Christianity must go through a rebirth. The group also denies the existence of a personal devil and believes the Bible is not inspired. When people die, the followers believe, they become an angel or an evil spirit.

Emanuel Swedenborg said he had a vision in 1745 in which he saw creatures crawling on walls. He asserted God then appeared to him as a man and told him to promote the new teachings to the world.

Check out my post from a few weeks ago at Dispatches From the Culture Wars on George Washington's friendliness to the Swedenborgians.

Thomas Jefferson, in fact, invited them to preach in the Capitol. Here is Rev. John Hargrove's sermon.

Oh and here Victoria Jackson says the following about Mormons:

On my first cruise, I'm meeting strangers who will be friends for life. One is Jerry Johnson. ... Jerry brings up Glenn Beck's Mormonism and I start to realize that the god Glenn Beck has been praying to for the healing of our land is not the God I've been praying to. I've had a fuzzy understanding of Mormonism, but, in a quest for truth, I listen to the facts Jerry is sharing with me and decide Beck has the freedom to worship any god he chooses, but he and Mitt Romney cannot accurately call themselves "Christians." I now realize why the 8/28 event had a strange element with the ecumenical lineup Beck brought onstage with him. Praying to "any" god is not what 2 Chronicles 7:14 meant.

Once again we see the dynamic of folks calling themselves "Christians" but, not being so, accordingly. The Declaration of Independence -- which was designed to foster such political theological communion between orthodox Christians and "others" like Mormons (or back then, Swedenborgs), Jews, unitarians, universalists, Providential Nature only believing deists -- should not resonate with Ms. Jackson and those who believe in her theology.

That is IF they understand what the DOI means. Sadly, they don't.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Neither the the Declaration or the First Amendment requires us to believe all religions are valid and true. That would be a serious interference with freedom of conscience.

This is a very odd argument and post here, Jon. WND is criticizing Rick Warren on theological grounds, not political.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Coincidentally enough, Emmanuel Kant wrote a treatise on Emmanuel Swedenborg in "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer and Other Writings."

They discuss it here at BeliefNet.

And typically, supporters and scoffers of Swedenborg read the same passages and come up with meanings that support their views. So it goes.

As near as I can gather, Swedenborg, the spirit-seer claims to have had

A Conversation with Calvin and Fifty of His Followers Concerning the Athanasian Creed

This is about as deep as I'm interested in going with this, but on a theological level, I can see orthodox Christians having limits to their ecumenicalism, and this sort of thing is it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Interesting link. Didn't know Kant dealt with Swedenborg, but apparently was a big critic of his?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Depends on who you ask, who's interpreting. Much like our battles on history in general. ;-)

From what I gather, many Swedenborgers take Kant's essay as endorsing Swedenborg in some fashion.

I just turned you on to it in case you wanted to dig deeper. This is your thing, not mine.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thanks. One of the many threads I have dangling over me. The dudes of the Enlightenment were heavily into theological discussions, and many of them embraced some kind of non-orthodox theology. Swedenborg, Priestley, Kant, and others seemed to be contemporaries. They didn't know how things would turn out, two hundred and some years later how folks would view them, what their impact would be. Kant became a giant among philosophers, and Priestley, though an important philosopher, political thinker, and theologian in his own right, largely made his impact in science. ES had less of an impact than the other two but is still "founder" of an offbeat religion -- one that seems mild to the rest of us -- but that evangelicals/fundamentalists regards as a "cult."

Jonathan Rowe said...

One of my fellow division workers at Mercer -- who now lives in Morrisville, btw, -- is from Bryn Athyn, PA (used to work at their college) and is a Swedenborg in the cultural/heritage sense.

She wants to take me around the town -- an American nexus for Swedenborgs (Wiki says the cathedral there is "the episcopal seat of the General Church of the New Jerusalem") -- for a tour. Hopefully, one day I'll take her up on it.

And btw, she informs me that the "g" is a soft, not a hard g sound. It rhymes with "George."

Mark in Spokane said...

In your comments about the Declaration, don't forget who it was primarily designed to appeal to: the French, who were overwhelmingly Catholic (at least officially). That is the primary purpose of the theological and natural law language that crops up in the first part of the Declaration, and the Declaration's lack of specificity in attacking the British accommodation of the French Canadians (which featured prominently in the petitions of the Contintential Congress to the King prior to independence being declared). The theological language in the Declaration was designed to build a bridge between the overwhelmingly Protestant (of varying kinds and pieties) Americans and the overwhelmingly Catholic (of varying pieties) French. The natural law language in the Declaration was essential to that purpose -- drawing on a commonality between Protestant thinkers (Hooker, Grotius, Calvin) and Catholic thinkers (Aquinas, Suarez, Bellarmine).

The language of the Declaration was not for domestic consumption. The American Patriots had already decided on Independence, or as Franklin put it, were merely recognizing a reality that already existed -- that the colonies were no longer under the protection of the King and therefore were independent states. The job the Declaration had to do was to persuade the French government that the Americans were worth supporting, that we wouldn't come to terms with the British and resume our allegiance to the House of Hanover.

Jonathan Rowe said...


That's an interesting way of the looking at the French angle with which, I'm admittedly unfamiliar. I usually associate "France" at that time with the more radical Enlightenment.

I've heard the notion -- mainly from the social conservative right (i.e., Russell Kirk) -- that the DOI was a wink towards France, not an expression of the American mind. But I think he meant towards its more radical Enlightenment forces, and consequently wrote the document off.

But I understand nations aren't so easy to "box." There were Whigs, Tories and folks on the fence in America. America was mainly a Protestant nation, but one that was very diverse in a sectarian sense, and there was a continuum where liberal Protestantism turned into Deism. I'd imagine France had a similar kind of diversity within it. Certainly the Enlightenment Deists and traditional Roman Catholics had the common language of "reason" from which to draw as well.

Tom Van Dyke said...

France the nation still had a king, so the D of I was not something he'd have liked.

Lafayette arrived with volunteers in 1777. By 1778, France the nation [w/king] was already at was with Britain, and so helping us fit their purposes.