II Letter to Christopher Neiswonger

Christopher-I find it strange that you say you expected nothing less than a well thought response from someone you wrote so condescendingly to. However, since you appear to concede what I said about taking me out of context, etc., it would be less than gracious of me to not sheath Sarcasticus and invite you to sit and have some tea with me. I’m afraid that you won’t find it terribly sweet, but it will certainly quench the flames in our mouths. I have a very good friend whose opinion matters greatly to me who also chided me for the swipe. He believes that people won’t be won over by cutting words, and he’s right. But I’m not trying to win anyone over. I am trying to wake you up. There’s a difference. However, I do think that I have your attention for the moment, and I can’t say I think that’s a bad thing. I don’t desire that anyone embrace my way of thinking or particular beliefs, at least in the sense that I win over people to agree with what I say or even worse, try to get me to do their thinking for them. What I am trying to provoke is you, not to anger or shame, but to think. What is certainly true is that I bear you no malice nor seek to lead you astray. We can talk about Jehovah and Jesus later. I would like to tell you a story first.  You do seem to be well-read, so this preface is not meant to be read as a lecture to you, but rather as to serve as background for those readers who might not be as familiar with the subject. Philipp Melanchthon was one of the founding theologians of the Lutheran faith. Emmanuel Swedenborg disagreed with Melanchthon’s insistence of Sola Fide, the argument that salvation can be achieved through faith alone regardless of deeds. Swedenborg is a very interesting figure who was a highly respected scientist who began to suffer strange dreams and visions in his fifties. It would be easy to dismiss him as suffering from delusions, but his writings are remarkably coherent for someone who claimed with a straight face to have literally spoken with angels. The story I’m going to tell you is one that Swedenborg said was told to him by an angel.  When Melanethon died, he awoke in a home that was identical to his own in the natural world. This happens to most newcomers to Eternity and it is why they are ignorant of their death. His books, chair, and pens were all there and he sat at his table and began to write about salvation by faith alone without a single word on charity. This omission was noted by the angels and they sent messengers to question him. He told them that he had proven with his writing beyond any shadow of a doubt that there was nothing in charity that was essential to the soul and that salvation was attainable by faith alone. He spoke with great assurance, never once suspecting he was dead and that his lot stood outside Heaven. The angels departed. Over the next few days everything in his house vanished except for the chair, the table, the paper, and his inkstand. His clothes became coarser and the walls became encrusted in lime and the floors with a yellowish glaze. Undaunted, he continued writing about faith and denying charity and was so persistent in this exclusion that he suddenly found himself far underground in a kind of workhouse surrounded by theologians much like himself. After several days in the gloom he found himself doubting his doctrine and found himself back in his old house. He immediately tried to convince himself that his experience must have been a hallucination and began writing again about to extolling faith and belittling charity. One evening soon after his return, Melanethon felt cold and began examining the house and soon discovered that the rooms no longer matched those of his own in the natural world. One room was cluttered with instruments whose use he did not understand; another was too small to enter at all, a third had not changed but its doors and windows opened onto vast sandbanks. One of the rooms at the back of the house was full of people who worshipped him and told him that no theologian was ever so great as he. The praise pleased him. But, since some of them had no faces and others appeared to be dead he grew to hate and distrust them. At this point he decided to write something concerning charity, but what he wrote one day was not visible the next because the pages were written without conviction. Melanethon received many visitors but was ashamed because the house was in such poor condition and he wanted them to believe he was in Heaven, so he hired a neighboring magician to create illusions of peace and splendor. The moment his visitors left, and sometimes a little before, the adornments would vanish, leaving him in drafty ruin. The last the angels told of Melanethon was that the magician and one of the faceless men had taken him far into the sandy hills where he is now a sort of servant to demons.  I hoped you enjoyed the tea and the story.

-Winston Delgado

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