It is important now to take a look at the corruptions of the protestant or reformed churches. In The Bible just as Babylon referred to the declined state of the Catholic Church, the Dragon refers in general to the violations of the Protestant church at their end state. The primary corruption Swedenborg points out over and over in his writing is the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This doctrine goes hand in hand with the doctrine that the sins of humanity were washed away or atoned in a unilateral way by ‘the blood of Christ shed on the cross’ meaning that He removed the sins of humanity by His sacrifice. As I have shown above the internal meaning of this phrase and many like it refers to the redemption the Lord provided by subjugating the hells and restoring equilibrium; it does not mean that Jesus removed the sins from the body and soul of persons or humanity. As I have also shown before it is not possible for God or man to remove sins from another; the removing of sins or hereditary evil is entirely a reciprocal process by which man is regenerated under the providence of the Lord. On its face value this doctrine allows that a person can live as they wish, and at the end confess belief in the Lord and be saved. This was a corruption of religion that caused the decline and externalization of the church from the reformation to 1758. It still goes on today but much light has been added to it since then. From the beginning this doctrine was untenable and many justifications have been formulated to reconcile it to the rest of scripture. Today, by these reconciliations the teeth has been taken out of it, but nevertheless, as a doctrine it is fiercely held on to by evangelical churches. The way this doctrine is reconciled are several and varied and too confusing to site here (although Swedenborg does exactly that in ‘Apocalypse Explained’ 786). Here is scripture from Revelation about the dragon which I will examine:
And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven (Revelation).
Swedenborg describes the correspondence of how salvation by faith alone and the dragon are linked:
And they worshiped the dragon which gave authority unto the beast, signifies the acknowledgment of salvation and justification by faith alone, established and corroborated by these devised modes of conjunction, and thus received in doctrine. This is evident from the signification of “to worship,” as being to acknowledge and revere as Divine, and thus to receive in doctrine that is for the church; for such as acknowledge the Divine and from such acknowledgment revere it, these worship it, and also receive it in doctrine which is for the church. Also from the signification of “the dragon,” as being those who are in faith separated from charity in doctrine and in life. It is said that the dogma of salvation and justification by faith alone is established and corroborated by devised modes of conjoining it with good works; but it must be understood that this doctrine can in no way be established and corroborated by such means, for this dogma is meant by “the dragon,” and the confirmation of it by reasonings from the natural man is represented by this “beast;” and “the dragon and its beast” signify what is discordant with the Word and cannot be conjoined with it (AE, 789).
The beast coming up out of the sea,” signifies the reasonings of the dragon from the natural man confirming the separation of faith from life, and “the beast coming up out of the earth” signifies the confirmations of the dragon from the sense of the letter of the Word, and the falsification of it. That the dragon is also meant by the two beasts, is evident from its being said that “the dragon gave to the beast coming up out of the sea his power and his throne and great authority “(Apocolypse Explained, 774).
The dragon refers to the spiritual warfare of the evil ones that infiltrate religion and seek to take the soul out of it by confirming falsities in the hearts and minds of the leaders and the people. The fact that the doctrine of salvation by faith entrenched itself in the protestant church was a triumph of evil. This doctrine began with Luther’s effort to separate from the Catholic church. There was much good in his leadership to break from the Catholic Church and its corruptions, but in this effort to distinguish and separate the reformed church from the Catholic church he strategically hit upon the doctrine of faith alone. But by separating faith and charity the essence of the spirituality of religion is removed and it becomes external. It is significant to understand why it is that the separation of faith and charity is so damaging to the individual and to religion, but this is not to say by any means that those who believe this doctrine are going to hell or anything of the sort. As I mentioned even those who profess this do not really live by it, but usually apply the rest of religion to life. (I will put out another article soon that about the spiritual and devotional value of the union of love and wisdom (faith and charity) to life and religion). The point here is to see how this doctrine itself is false, its historical effect, and that God has providentially worked around it to a large extent. My desire is certainly not to pile on against religion and cause others to leave it, but I feel that if we can accurately as possible define its points of failure we can reconcile our feelings about it and deepen our faith. For now the following quote explains the essential nature of the marriage of faith and charity; it also harkens back to the spirituality that we receive from the sun referred to earlier in this blog:
In their radiation heat and light (from the natural sun) become separated, as is shown by the things on which they act, some of which receive more heat and some more light. This is particularly true of people, for in this case the light of life, which is intelligence, is separated from the heat of life, which is love. This is because a person needs to be reformed and regenerated, which is impossible unless the light of life, which is intelligence, shows what ought to be willed and loved. It should, however, be known that God is constantly working to link love with wisdom in a person, though he, unless he looks to God and believes in Him, is constantly working to separate them. In so far as these two are separated in a person, so far does he become an image of Lucifer and the Dragon, and is cast down from heaven to earth, and then into hell beneath the earth.
When spiritual heat, which is love, is separated from spiritual light, which is wisdom, charity is separated from faith. Then the enticements of the love of evil, which are in themselves longings, burst forth, untamed and unrestrained by intelligence, but rather fostered, pampered and nourished by it. In short, the separation of love and wisdom, or charity and faith, the two things God constantly strives to link, is, to use a comparison, like depriving a face of redness, so producing a pallor as of death; or taking the whiteness away from redness, which makes the face like a blazing torch. It is also like destroying the bond of marriage between a couple, so that the wife becomes a prostitute and the husband an adulterer.
It is fascinating and important to see how this doctrine operates in and from history. With this knowledge on can see the effects in modern churches. It is important to see because this is the source of many problems unchurched people have with religion, particularly of the evangelical style. The following quote is an exceptionally astute analysis of how this doctrine lingers and limits the genuine expression of faith for many people.
That faith alone, or faith separated from goods in act, which are good works, is not possible, is evident from this, that the essence of faith is charity, and charity is the affection of doing the things that belong to faith; consequently faith without charity is like thought without affection; and as thought without affection is no thought, so faith without charity is no faith. Therefore to speak of faith without charity is to speak of life without a soul, of form without that which forms, of a product without that which produces, and of an effect without a cause; and for this reason faith alone is a nonentity; and from a nonentity to produce good works, as a good tree produces fruits, is a contradiction, whereby what is believed to be something is not anything. Because faith without charity is not possible; and yet the thought and persuasion that a thing is so appears as if it were faith, and is called faith; but it is not saving faith, it is historical faith, because it is from the mouth of another. For one who believes anything from another whom he thinks worthy of belief, and who receives this, stores it in his memory, and from the memory thinks and speaks about it without seeing whether it be false or true, has no other hold upon it than as something historical. But if he confirms this in himself by appearances from the Word and by reasonings, from historical faith it becomes to him persuasive faith, which faith is like the sight of an owl, which sees objects in darkness and nothing in the light.
Very few people understand this, but many have expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the church because of this phenomenon of having hollow doctrine forced upon them. In the above quote Swedenborg gives voice to the source of this problem. People want genuine faith, and of course many find it, but this historical faith too often gets in the way either by entrenching itself in the church or turning people off to the church. Historical faith comes from tradition, from ‘the mouths of others’. Internal faith is the sweet stuff. Those in power of evangelical churches are taught that to be a true church they must teach this doctrine, so it is passed on from crony to crony, and the voice and feelings of others are at least partially frustrated, and it is most often difficult to say exactly why. Now days even churches that profess the doctrine of salvation by faith alone do not really live by it. Any good church teaches that we must do good things in life and apply the teachings of Jesus to our daily lives. So since the second coming much recovery has come about from the corruption of this doctrine, but it still persists as doctrine to a great extent in evangelical churches. In progressive churches Evil has also worked its machinations by an intense reaction to this doctrine. They moved to the polar opposite; that is, in progressive churches there is a great distaste for and rejection of almost all doctrine. Thus these churches give a very low authority to the Bible and the Lord. But Good doctrine is necessary for the understanding of the Word. It gives guidance to the reception and understanding of the Word and form to our beliefs. In my view this later development is the greater tragedy for it tends toward being lukewarm to the Word and God, and this the Lord hates. Evangelical churches serve the great purpose of holding up the divine authority of the Word and Christ. Both nevertheless are under the providential guidance of the Lord and serve to connect humanity in varying degrees to receive knowledge of the Lord and heaven.