Commentary

The Big Ideas

A girl gazes into a lighted globe, showing the solar system.

Here we are in the 21st century. We know that the universe is an enormous place. We're just bursting with scientific knowledge. But how are we doing with the even-bigger ideas? Our human societies seem to be erasing them, or ignoring them - maybe we think we're too busy for them.

Here on the New Christian Bible Study site, we'll buck the trend. We want to explore the big ideas that give us a framework for living better lives. Here's a start on a list of big ideas from a New Christian perspective. For each idea, there is a footnote that lists some references in Swedenborg's theological works:

1. God exists. Just one God, who created and sustains the entire universe in all its dimensions, spiritual and physical.1

2. God's essence is love itself. It's the force that drives everything.2

3. God's essence comes into being, that is, it exists, in and through creation.3

4. There are levels, or degrees, of creation - ranging from spiritual ones that we can't detect with our physical senses or sensors, to the level of the physical universe where most of our awareness is when we're alive here.4

5. The created universe emanates from God, and it's sustained by God, but in an important way it is separate from God. He wants it to be separate, so that freedom can exist.5

6. God operates from love through wisdom - willing good things, and understanding how to bring them about.6

7. The physical level of creation exists to provide human beings with an opportunity to choose in freedom, with rationality, whether or not to acknowledge and cooperate with God.7

8. God provides all people everywhere, regardless of their religion, the freedom to choose to live a life of love to God and to the neighbor.8

9. God loves everyone. He knows that true happiness only comes when we're unselfish; when we're truly motivated by a love of the Lord which is grounded out in a love of the neighbor. He seeks to lead everyone, but will not force us to follow against our will.9

10. God doesn't judge us. He tells us what's good, and what's evil, and flows into our minds to lead us towards good. However, we're free to reject his leading, and instead opt to love ourselves most. Day by day, we create habits of generosity or of selfishness, and live out a life in accordance with those habits. Those habits become the real "us", our ruling love.10

11. Our physical bodies die eventually, but the spiritual part of our minds keeps going. It's been operating on a spiritual plane already, but our awareness shifts - so that we become fully aware of spiritual reality.11

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Footnotes:

1. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 15, 16, 23, 301, Divine Providence 46, True Christian Religion 11, 19.

2. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 29, 30,Apocalypse Explained 297, Heaven and Hell 13, 545.

3. Divine Love and Wisdom 31, 32, 57, 59, 84, 169-171, 329, 330, Divine Providence 3, 27.

4. Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 179, 180, 213, 230, 363.

5. Divine Love and Wisdom 44, 45, 55.

6. Divine Love and Wisdom 42, 43, 52, 154, Divine Providence 3, 5.

7. Divine Providence 27, 71, 72, 75, 129, True Christian Religion 459, 490.

8. Divine Providence 145, 322, 324, 325, 328, Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 522, True Christian Religion 457.

9. Divine Providence 67, 322, 333, 334, Heaven and Hell 312, 319, 324.

10. Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 479, 481, 525, 598. The True Christian Religion 795.

11. Arcana Coelestia 168, 1854, 3016, 5078, 6008, 8939, Heaven and Hell 445, 461, 493, 498, Divine Love and Wisdom 90, Last Judgment 25.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #3016

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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3016. 'Abraham, being old, was advanced in years' means when the state was reached in which the Lord's Human could become Divine. This is clear from the representation of 'Abraham' as the Lord, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 1893, 1965, 1989, 2011, 2172, 2198, 2501, 2833, 2836, and many times elsewhere; from the meaning of 'old' or old age as casting off what is human and putting on what is heavenly, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 1854, 2198, and when it has reference to the Lord, putting on what is Divine; and from the meaning of 'day' as state, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 23, 487, 488, 493, 893, 2788, and therefore from the meaning of 'advanced in years' as the point when a state has been reached. The reason why 'old' and 'advanced in years' mean these things is that with angels the notion of old age does not exist, nor that of getting older, meant by 'advanced in years', only the notion of state as regards the life that is theirs. Consequently when getting older or old age is mentioned in the Word the angels present with man can have no other idea than that of the state of life that is theirs or that is men's as they pass through the different stages of life until they reach the last, that is to say, as they accordingly cast off what is human and put on what is heavenly. For man's life from infancy to old age is nothing else than an advance from the world towards heaven, the last stage of which is death and the actual transition from one life to the next. Burial therefore is also resurrection since the casting-off process is completed then, Arcana Coelestia 2916, 2917. Such being the idea that angels have, nothing else can be meant by 'advanced in years' and by 'old age' in the internal sense - the sense which exists primarily for angels and for men who have minds like those of angels.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 487-488, 2916-2917; Exodus 8:26; Genesis 24:1)

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