Friday, April 30, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. Didn't Actually Write that Statement About Swedenborg

A little over a year ago various people announced that Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Swedenborg. (You can find various reports of this if you Google Martin Luther King Jr. Swedenborg.)

What happened was in 2006 King's library was sold at an auction to Morehouse College in Atlanta. During the auction some of his books were displayed, one of which was Emerson's A Modern Anthology. Edward R. Bosley (a director of a National Historic Landmark) was at the auction and he found this written on the front page:
Swedenborg enables us to understand why we were created, why we are alive, and what happens to us after our bodies die. Swedenborg enables us to have the best possible understanding of God’s message as it exists in those Bible books which constitutes God’s Word.
Bosley assumed that this was written by King and told others and the news spread. However, in February Rev. Ray Silverman, chaplain of Bryn Athyn College, contacted the people working with the collection and received this response from Courtney Chartier, the Processing Archivist:
Dr. King’s volume of Emerson does have extensive notes on Swedenborg. However, the handwriting is not his. There is an inscription that reads “Rev Wm Fairfax (colored) Swedenborgian minster”, with an address in New York. He is the likely author of the notes.
So that's the news. It's disappointing but it's good to have the facts straight. I suppose that there's a chance that as they analyze the collection more they'll find other things to connect King and Swedenborg but for now we can't say that Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Swedenborg. ---


Thanks to Jim Lawrence we now have a picture of Rev. William Fairfax and his wife, taken at the 1959 General Convention. Jim also did a little more research about him and found this much out:
William E. Fairfax was ordained by Convention in 1937 and he served until his death in 1964. His church was in Harlem. .... Basically, what we know is that he probably identified in important ways with MLK, and thought he might interest MLK in his favorite theologian as a fellow "colored" Christian minister in the U.S.
I also asked Jim where someone should start if they were interested in doing more research about Rev. Fairfax. He said, "Someone wanting to dig further on Fairfax would probably best start in our own collection here in Berkeley and the archives in Boston associated with our headquarters, which keeps a lot of records on the various societies past and present."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More New Church/Swedenborgian Blogs

Back in September I was celebrating the fact that I'm not the only New Church blogger and the New Church blogosphere (I use that word just to annoy the people who wrote this collection of definitions) has continued to expand since then.

I've mentioned, Dave Lindrooth's church growth blog (, and my theological school classmate, Stephen Muires' blog ( before. And they continue to be some of the most active New Church bloggers. (Far more active than me, in fact.) But they've also been joined by a couple of others that I want to tell you about.

Coleman Glenn's Blog

Rev. Coleman Glenn used to have a blog when he was in theological school and now he's started blogging again as a pastor at He's been blogging quite a bit—on an article from the New York Times about marriage, on the question of whether men and women can be "just friends", and, most recently, a fascinating discussion of the similarities and differences between New Church teachings and Arminianism.


Solomon Keal, another guy I'm in theological school with, has started a blog called Theologi-Keal ( It looks like it's mostly a place where he posts the papers he writes for school (like one on "Why was Jesus a man and not a woman?") and so the posts are pretty lengthy but he also has posted some short reflections on community and what a pastor's flock eats, for example.

Solomon and his wife Tirah also have a marriage blog called Loving Marriage (


I had to mention this blog because it's got such a great title—Swedenblogian ( The author of the blog describes herself as
a wanna-be expert on Swedenborg.
a big fan of his.
happily Catholic.
happily married.
a grandmother.
turning out to love getting old, for some odd reason.
Her posts are usually a pleasant length and often have a picture and a couple of interesting reflections on Swedenborgian ideas.

Heavenly Doctrines Quotes

I found out about this blog from Swedenblogian. It's called Heavenly Doctrine Quotes: Words from the Lord to help us discover His Way ( It's very simple and pleasant. Each day whoever updates it posts a short quotation from the Writings/Heavenly Doctrines, formatted in poem form.

TheGodGuy's Weblog

Swedenblogian also reminded me of this blog. I've come across it occasionally when I've done a search for Swedenborg on Google blog search. The tagline of TheGodGuy's Weblog ( is "Love is the Ultimate Science" and that gives you a pretty good idea of the stuff he likes to talk about—love, science, religion, philosophy, psychology. TheGodGuy is Edward F. Sylvia. He's the author of a book called Sermons from the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating an Inner Garden and a book coming out soon called Proving God: Swedenborg’s Remarkable Quest For The Quantum Fingerprints Of Love.

What I've read of his hasn't really grabbed me yet. (The main problem may be that I haven't read that much of it.) Maybe it's just not my particular blend of religion, philosophy, and science. Regardless, I'm glad that he's doing what he's doing and I hope you like it.


For more New Church blogs check out my blogroll and the posts I have categorized as blog. And, if you have or know of an awesome New Church/Swedenborgian blog that I've failed to mention, please leave a comment.

Support for WWJD in the New Church

In the 90s a couple of my Christian friends wore WWJD bracelets and I wondered whether thinking about "What would Jesus do?" was a good idea in the New Church. It's probably pretty obvious that trying to live according to the Lord's example is a good idea but in case, like me, you weren't sure, here's a passage that confirms it.
[T]he Lord's life in the world was an example according to which the men of the church are to live, as the Lord Himself teaches in John:
"I have even unto you an example that ye also should do as I have done to you. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them" (John 13:16, 17).
So in other places the Lord compares Himself with others; for example, in John:
"Jesus said, Even as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; abide ye in My love, as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:9, 10). (Apocalypse Explained 254:2)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something New Church for Earth Day

Tomorrow is Earth Day. In celebration of that I wanted to point you to an article recently published on New Church Perspective on an Earth Day related topic—land ethic. In 6 parts Edmund Brown outlines what a land ethic is and various arguments for it, concluding with some New Church arguments. Here are links to the 6 parts: Introduction; Instrumental Arguments; Utilitarian Arguments; Intrinsic Value Arguments; Theological Arguments; New Church Arguments.

It's lengthy but very interesting. Edmund has evidently given careful thought to a topic that I haven't really put much thought into and I'm grateful to have his research and conclusions to draw on. If you're short on time, you could just jump to the section on New Church Arguments for a land ethic but, if you have the time, read the other sections because they give useful context and a brief history of the debate and help you understand what he's referring to in the New Church arguments section.

Here's a bit from his introduction to get you started:
Faced with the huge, daunting ecological challenges our technological society has created, what is an appropriate Christian response? More specifically, do the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg justify developing an intimate relationship with the land that supports us a la “The Land Ethic” so eloquently envisioned by Aldo Leopold

If you haven't heard of New Church Perspective you could read my post about New Church Perspective.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Did the Lord Have to Die?

Have you ever wondered why the Lord had to die? In this week's Bryn Athyn Post Rev. Jeremy Simons provided a good explanation of how the New Church addresses this question. (Here's a link to the full April 1, 2010 issue (PDF))
A persistent question that comes up at Easter is the question of why it was necessary for the Lord to be put to death. The New Church rejects the traditional Christian teaching that He died to pay for the sins of the human race. But the New Church does teach that His death and resurrection were necessary as part of His saving work. The central New Church teaching about this is:

"The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and the passion of the cross was the last combat by which He fully conquered the hells, and fully glorified His Human" (Doctrine of the Lord 12).

The Lord conquered hell and glorified His Human by choosing spiritual life over physical life, according to His words:

"He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life in this world will keep it into eternal life" (John 12:25).

This is the same pattern that the process of regeneration follows:

"Regeneration takes place to the end that the life of the old man may die and a new, heavenly life may be instilled" (Arcana Coelestia 8403:2).

But whereas the "death" of the "old man" does not mean physical death in the regeneration process, in the Lord's case physical death was necessary.

"The Lord willed to undergo death and to rise again the third day to the end that He might put off everything human that He had from the mother and might put on the Divine Human" (Apocalypse Explained 899:14).

This "putting off" of what He had from Mary and "putting on" of the Divine Human was taken to the extreme of physical death because in His life everything was representative, so that spiritual processes were manifested tangibly - and recorded in the Word as events. Accordingly He rose again with His whole glorified body the third day.

We are also taught that this was a sign to the church about its rejection of God (True Christian Religion 130), which would result in understanding and new belief.

The passion of the cross should not be seen isolated from the Lord's whole life, teaching, and resurrection. In all of this He overcame the power of hell by making Himself visible, so that He can be known, loved, and obeyed, establishing the kingdom of heaven.