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

True Christianity #490

True Christianity (Rose translation)

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490. Everything God created was good, as the first chapter in Genesis makes clear. As we read there in verses 10, 12, 18, 21, and 25, "God saw that it was good. " Then in verse 31 we read, "God saw all that he had made, and yes, it was very good. " This is also apparent from the fact that human beings were originally in paradise. Evil arose from humankind, as is evident from the state of Adam after or as the result of the Fall, namely, that he was expelled from paradise.

From these points it is clear that if we had not been given free choice in spiritual matters, God himself, not us, would have been the cause of evil, and therefore both good and evil would have been created by God. It is atrocious, though, to think that he created evil. God endowed us with free choice in spiritual matters, and therefore he was not the creator of evil. He never inspires anything evil within us. This is because he is goodness itself. God is omnipresent in goodness and constantly urges and demands that he be received. If he is not received, he still does not leave, because if he were to leave, we would instantly die; in fact, we would collapse into a nonentity. Our life and the subsistence of everything we are made of is from God.

(References: Genesis 1:21, 1:10, 1:31, 1:18, 1:25, 1:12)


[2] God did not create evil. It is something we ourselves introduced, because we turn what is good, which continually flows in from God, into what is evil, and by means of that evil we turn ourselves away from God and toward ourselves. When we do so, the delight connected with that goodness remains but becomes a delight in evil. (Without a seemingly similar delight remaining, we would no longer be alive, because delight produces the life of our love.) Nevertheless, these two kinds of delight are completely opposite to each other. We do not realize this as long as we are alive in this world, but after our death we will recognize it and sense it very clearly. There, the delight that accompanies a love for what is good turns into heavenly blessedness, but the delight that accompanies a love for what is evil turns into something horrible and hellish.

From all this it stands to reason that all of us are predestined to heaven and none of us is predestined to hell. We devote ourselves to hell by abusing our freedom in spiritual matters; then we embrace the types of things that emanate from hell. As was noted above [475-478], we are all kept in the central area between heaven and hell, so that we are in an equilibrium between good and evil and therefore have free choice in spiritual matters.

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