Year of Regeneration 2022–2023
Edited excerpt from Inner Light: Swedenborg Explores the Spiritual Dimension
By Brian Kingslake, Edited By Jim Lawrence
Repentance means a true conversion, and conversions may be sudden or gradual. It may take a few seconds, perhaps during a sermon, or as a result of some great shock or disaster; or it may take many years of slow change, here a little, there a little—first in one area, then in another. Some people have to be converted over and over again; for others, once is sufficient. But, converted we must be, if we are to stop desiring evil and begin desiring good.
Since the old will is inevitably corrupt it must be destroyed, and a new will must be allowed to grow in its place. This process is called rebirth, or, in the Latin language, regeneration. We destroy the old corrupt will by resisting its promptings, saying “no!” to it, or as Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23) In Swedenborg’s terms, we must “shun evils as sins against God.” That is to say, we must flee from evils because yielding to them would be acting in opposition to the purpose of God. It is useless, from the point of view of our regeneration, to shun evils merely because they are bad for our health, or because they might get us into trouble, or lower people’s opinion of us—for then the motivation would be selfish. We should flee evils because they separate us from God. Gradually, then, the old will shrivels up, and the God removes it from us and replaces it with a new will from God’s own Self, which can only desire the things of heaven. We are born again as his children, growing up in his image and likeness.
This rebirth usually takes a very long time, perhaps a whole lifetime. Conversion, as we have seen, may be instantaneous. A person might be able to say, quite truly, “I was converted on such and such an occasion, or at such and such a time,” but we cannot give a date for our regeneration. We cannot even say how far we have gotten with it. Only God knows. Rebirth is God’s work only. We cannot regenerate ourselves. All we can do is to say no to our egotistic cravings: we have the power of veto. Then, as the new will begins to grow in us, we can say yes to its unselfish promptings. We thus open ourselves to God, and then God’s life floods into us, and we become new creatures.
Read the full issue of the January/February 2023 Messenger
Meet Rev. Brian Kingslake
Rev. Brian Kingslake (1907–1995) served churches in the north of England and South Africa and as Principal of Mooki Memorial College, a Swedenborgian college in Soweto, Africa. His last pastorate ministry was a ministry for eleven years at Convention’s national cathedral, Church of the Holy City in Washington, DC. Author of numerous works, including popular children’s books, this edited excerpt is from Inner Light: Swedenborg Explores the Spiritual Dimension (J. Appleseed & Co., 1991), which is now available fully online.