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Swedenborgianism is the belief system developed from the writings of the Swedishmarker theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772). Swedenborg claimed to have received a New Revelation of Jesus Christ with differences from Pauline Christianity. It is claimed by its followers as a new form of Christianity. The movement was founded on the belief that God explained the spiritual meaning of the the Scriptures to Swedenborg as a means of revealing the truth of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Followers believe that Swedenborg witnessed the Last Judgment in the spiritual world, along with the inauguration of the New Church. Some Swedenborgian organizations teach that the writings of Swedenborg (often called The Writings or The Third Testament) are a third part of the Bible, and have the same authority as the Old and New Testaments. Other names for the movement include Swedenborgism, New Christians, Neo-Christians, The New Church, and Church of the New Jerusalem.

History

Swedenborg spoke of a "new church" that would be founded on the theology in his works, but he did not try to establish an organization. At the time of his death, few efforts had been made, but on May 7, 1787, 15 years after Swedenborg's death, the New Church movement was founded in England. It was a country Swedenborg had often visited and where he died. Missionaries carried Swedenborg's and New Church ideas to the United States. One famous Swedenborgian was John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed.

Early missionaries also travelled to parts of Africa, as Swedenborg believed that the "African race" was "in greater enlightenment than others on this earth, since they are such that they think more interiorly, and so receive truths and acknowledge them." (A Treatise concerning the Last Judgment, n. 118) At the time these concepts of African enlightenment were judged highly liberal; Swedenborgians accepted freed African converts to their homes as early as 1790. Several of them were also involved in abolitionism.

In the 19th century, occultism became increasingly popular especially in France and England. Some followers blended Swedenborg's writings with theosophy, alchemy and divination. What fascinated these followers most was Swedenborg's mystical side. They concentrated on his work Heaven and Hell. It tells of Swedenborg's visit to Heaven and Hell to experience and report the conditions there. In structure, it was related to Dante's The Divine Comedy.

Bryn Athyn Cathedral


In the U.S., Swedenborgianism was organized in 1817 with the founding of the General Convention of the New Church (sometimes referred to as the Convention), now also known as the Swedenborgian Church of North America.

The movement in the United States grew stronger until the late 19th century. A controversy about doctrinal issues and the authority of Swedenborg's writings caused a faction to split off to form the Academy of the New Church. It later become known as the General Church of New Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as the General Church). Its headquarters are in Bryn Athynmarker, a suburb of Philadelphiamarker.

In the 1930s, a doctrinal issue about the authority of Swedenborg's writings arose in the General Church. Members in the Hague branch of the General Church saw Swedenborg's theological writings as the Word of the Third Testament, which they wrote about extensively in their Dutch magazine De Hemelsche Leer. Faced with discipline by the leading Bishop of the General Church, those holding this new doctrinal view split off to form the Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma.

Today, the General Church has about 5,000 members in 33 churches. The Swedenborgian Church of North America, with headquarters in Newtonmarker, a suburb of Bostonmarker, now has 37 active churches with about 1,500 members in the U.S. The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma, with headquarters in Bryn Athyn, now has about 28 active churches with about 1900 members worldwide.

 the most recent membership figures for the Four Church Organizations were[34258]:


  • General Conference (Great Britain): 1,314
  • General Convention (USA): 2,029
  • General Church of the New Jerusalem: 5,563
  • The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma: 1,000


The Lord's New Church is primarily associated with South Africa, although roughly 200 members are found in the United Statesmarker. It is noted for its concern for social justice. The nations of Australia and Germanymarker are estimated to have 504 and 200 members, respectively. When counting additional members in Asia, Africa, and South America, current sources put the total of Swedenborgians as between 25,000-30,000.

Membership in the United Statesmarker has been in long decline since peaking in the 1850s. It was never a large organization. In 1911 the total US membership in all Swedenborgian organizations was estimated at roughly 9,400.

Beliefs

The doctrines of the New Church are as follows:
  1. That there is one God and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Within the single Person of God there is a Divine Trinity.
  2. That a saving faith is to believe in Him and also to live a life of charity and piety as described in his writings.
  3. That all evils originate in mankind and are to be shunned.
  4. That good actions are of God and from God, and are therefore necessary for life and should be done.
  5. That these good acts are to be done by a person as if from him/herself; but that it ought to be acknowledged that they are done from the Lord with him/her and by him/her.
  6. That one's fate after death is according to the character one has acquired in life; specifically that those governed by the love of the Lord or the love of being useful to others are in heaven, and that those governed by love of self or the love of worldly things are in hell.
  7. That marriage can take place in heaven.
  8. That salvation is available to people from all religions, regardless if they embrace the cross of Jesus Christ to reconcile them with God or not, as long as they are prepared to live a good life.


(see Swedenborg's True Christian Religion, author's introduction)

Swedenborgians believe that marriage is eternal. They state that an individual will be married to his or her spouse in the afterlife if he or she has a true spiritual marriage. If a person dies unmarried he or she will find a spouse in heaven.

Swedenborg held to a "oneness" view of God, such as expressed by modern day Oneness Pentecostalism. He believed that the concept of "three persons in God" came only as a third-century development by Tertullian.

Non-organized Swedenborgians

The term may be used to refer to people inspired by some part of Swedenborgian philosophy or theology who take an eclectic approach to spiritual topics. They may blend "pure" Swedenborgian thought with ideas from other systems, including Jungian psychology, Spiritualism, and "traditional" Christianity. Such Swedenborgianism bears little resemblance to the ecclesiastical form usually referred to by the term.

External links

Resources



Organized churches

International



USA



Other English speaking countries



References

  1. Carl Bernhard Wadström: biography and bibliography
  2. [1]



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