When Faith is Not Saving

Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Faith alone can in no way produce any good, that is, that from faith alone no good fruit can come.

It is supposed that faith is to believe that the Lord suffered the cross for our sins, and thereby redeemed us from hell, and that it is mainly a faith in this that justifies and saves. It is supposed, moreover, that faith is –
• a believing that God is triune
• a believing of what is taught in the Word
• a believing in eternal life and in the resurrection on the day of the Last Judgment
and the other things that the church teaches

And as they separate faith from the life of charity, which is doing what is good most persons at this day suppose that to know these things and to think and speak about them is the faith that saves; consequently they pay no attention to willing them and doing them; they do not even know what they ought to will and do. Nor does the church teach this, because the doctrine of the church is the doctrine of faith alone, and not the doctrine of life. The doctrine of life they call moral theology, which they make of little account, because they believe that the virtues of a moral life, which in themselves are good works, contribute nothing to salvation.

But that knowing, thinking, and speaking about these things is not faith, and even if this be called faith it does not bring forth what is good, as a tree its fruits, can be seen from the following:

(1) All things that a man knows, thinks about, and talks about so far as he understands them, he calls truths; and all things that he wills and does so far as he loves them, he calls goods; thus truths belong to man’s faith, and goods to his love. From this it is clear that the truths, which pertain to faith, are distinct from the goods, which pertain to love, as knowing and thinking are distinct from willing and doing. That they are distinct, and how far they are distinct, man can know from this –

that it is possible for a man to know, to think about, speak about, and even to understand, many things that he does not will and do because he does not love them

but on the other hand –

whatever a man wills and does from love, that he thinks and speaks about from faith; if not before the world yet with himself when he is alone and left to himself.

From this it follows,

(2) that a man’s love and will enter into all things of his faith and thought, but faith and thought cannot enter into his love and will.

For that which a man loves he also loves to do, loves to know, loves to think about, loves to speak about, and loves to understand, and thus loves to have faith in.

So if the will be taken in place of the love: that which a man wills he also wills to do, wills to know, wills to think about, wills to speak about, wills to understand, and thus wills to have faith in.

Similar things may be said of the will as of the love, for the reason that the love is of the will, and the will is the receptacle of the love.

From this it now follows that –

love produces faith as the will produces thought.

And as faith, like thought, is produced, and love, like the will, produces, it follows that –

it is a perversion to say that faith produces love.

From this it is now first evident that to believe that faith produces goods, which are called good works, as a tree produces fruits, is to believe what is contrary to order.

(3) Similar things as have been said of faith and love are to be understood also of truth and good, for truth pertains to faith and faith to truth, since that which a man believes he calls truth; also good pertains to love and love to good, since that which a man loves be calls good.

Truth regarded in itself is nothing but good in form

for while good may be made evident to the feeling it cannot be made evident to the sight except in some form; and the form in which it is made evident to the sight in the thought, and thus in the understanding and perception, is called truth.

From this, too, it follows that –

love produces faith as good produces truth; consequently that faith does not produce the good of love as a tree does fruit.

(4) Again, knowing and thinking and speaking therefrom are from the memory; but willing and doing from love are from the life.

Man can think and speak about many things from the memory that are not from his life, which is love; this every hypocrite and flatterer can do; but when he is left to himself he cannot think and speak anything from the life that is not from his love, for love is the life of everyone, and such as the love is, such is the life.

But the memory is only a storehouse, from which the life selects what it may think and speak, and what serves the life that it may be nourished by it.

To say, therefore, that faith produces goods as a tree does fruits is to say that a man’s thought and speech produce his life, and that his life does not produce his thought and speech; and yet the evil, even the very worst, can think and speak truths from the memory, while only the good can do so from the life.

(5) 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 thought without affection, of life without a soul, of existere without esse, 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 goods in act, which are good works, as a good tree produces fruits, is a contradiction, whereby what is believed to be something is not anything.

(6) 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. Such persuasive faith exists from every confirmation of what is false. For every falsity can be confirmed until it seems to be a truth; and a falsity so confirmed shines with a fatuous lumen. From this also it is clear that such a faith cannot produce what is good.

(7) As faith of thought is nothing but historical faith or persuasive faith, it follows that it is merely natural faith. For –

spiritual faith is produced from spiritual love, which is charity, just as light is produced from the sun; and it does not produce that love, as light does not produce the sun.

Therefore merely natural faith is produced from merely natural love, which derives its soul from the love of self, and the delight of that love is a delight of the flesh, which is called pleasure, lust, or lewdness, from which evils of every kind gush forth, and from evils falsities. Thence it is clear that faith proceeding from these cannot produce goods as a tree does good fruits, and if it produces any goods they are goods from what is man’s own [proprium] which are in themselves evils, and at the same time are meritorious goods which are in themselves iniquitous. But it is otherwise with spiritual faith.

(Apocalypse Explained 789)

Emphasis by Reviser


About mike

The Lord is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and from the human race, an angelic heaven would be formed. The reason for my creation was to perform Divine uses - The Divine Providence looks to eternal ends. My gain, honor or reputation no longer could be the focal point of what drives the engine. One day I will lay aside this material body and will wake up in the spiritual world never to return; there will be a continuation of life, and my ruling love will be what guides me to my final situation. 'Where a tree falls, there will it lay' (Ecc 11:3) We only have a few years in these bodies compared to eternity. What is fossilized on our souls in this short period is important to how we spend eternity. We are not left to blind faith, The Lord has come in His Word to reveal rationally how we can be made 'a vessel of honor, able for the master's use.' I truly hope the post create a thirst. If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to email me. --Mike
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