The right to life...

Po New Christian Bible Study Staff

Meeting the new baby

In the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

How does this square with New Christian thought? In this short article, we'll focus on the unalienable Right to Life, and starting thinking it through.

Admittedly, the 1776 Declaration is an American-centric place to start from, and the New Christianity transcends political entities and borders. But new thinking was clearly in the wind at that time, in many places. Swedenborg published his capstone work of theology, " Vera Christiana Religio", or True Christian Religion, in 1770. Six years later, the American Revolution help create a sea change in the way we think about human rights, all over the world, and about government. It's the universality of the thinking in the Declaration that makes it an important thing to compare to the tenets of religion.

The Bible clearly values life. In the Ten Commandments, we have the plain command: "Thou shall not kill", in Exodus 20:13.

Cain's murder of Abel is condemned, in Genesis 4:8 and the following verses.

Jesus emphasizes the promise of eternal life, but still saves people's natural lives -- e.g. Jairus's daughter (in Mark 5:22), and his friend Lazarus (Luke 7:11), the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5) and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3).

Swedenborg makes the point that life flows in from the Lord, who is life itself. The universe is created as a place where life can be formed, and -- though this may seem self-centered -- where human beings can develop to the point where we can actively exercise spiritual freedom and rationality -- making decisions about good and evil. See The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 278.

If we think that life is a gift from the Lord, flowing to us, and not really ours, we'll treat it with respect. When we're setting up governments, we'll do it in a way that protects human life.

To come back to our initial question... does the "right to life" square with New Christian thought? Yes.

(Reference: The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 278)

Iz Swedenborgovih djela


The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Teachings #278

Proučite ovaj odlomak

/ 325  

278. The inflow of life into human beings in particular. There is only one source of life; from it comes the life found in everyone in heaven and everyone in the world: 1954, 2021, 2536, 2658, 2886-2889, 3001, 3484, 3742, 5847, 6467. That life comes from the Lord alone: 2886-2889, 3344, 3484, 4319, 4320, 4524, 4882, 5986, 6325, 6468, 6469, 6470, 9276, 10196 (which include various illustrations). The Lord is life itself: see John 1:1, 4; 5:26; 14:6. Life flows from the Lord into angels, spirits, and people in this world in a wondrous way: 2886-2889, 3337, 3338, 3484, 3742. The Lord flows in because of his divine love, the nature of which is to want what belongs to it to belong to others: 3742, 4320. All love is like that, so divine love is infinitely that way: 1820, 1865, 2253, 6872. As a result, our life seems to be within us and does not seem to be flowing in: 3742, 4320. Another reason our life seems to be within us is that the principal cause, which is life from the Lord, and the instrumental cause, which is we ourselves as a recipient form, act as a single cause and therefore we as the instrument perceive life as our own 1 : 6325. The pinnacle of angels' wisdom and intelligence is to perceive and know that every bit of life comes from the Lord: 4318. I perceived a joy that angels were experiencing as a result of leading a life that comes from the Lord and not from themselves; things they said to me confirmed my perception: 6469. Evil people are unwilling to be persuaded that their life is flowing in: 3743. Doubts that our life flows in from the Lord cannot be removed as long as we are controlled by illusions, ignorance, and negativity: 6479. As all people in the church should know, everything good and true comes from heaven (that is, through heaven from the Lord) and everything evil and false comes from hell; in fact, every bit of life goes back to either goodness and truth or evil and falsity, and apart from these there can be no life at all: 2893, 4151. This is the clear message of the teachings of the church that have been drawn from the Word: 4249. Yet in spite of all this, people do not believe that life flows in: 4249. In reality, if our communication and connection with spirits and angels were taken away, we would die instantly: 2887. This also shows us that all life flows in from the primary reality underlying life. Nothing arises from itself; things arise only from other things that are prior (which means that absolutely everything arises from the primary underlying reality), and in all cases things maintain their existence in the same way that they arose, because continuing existence is constant coming into being: 4523, 4524. Angels, spirits, and people in this world have been created to receive life, so we are all simply forms that are receptive to life: 2021, 3001, 3318, 3344, 3484, 3742, 4151, 5114, 5986. The kind of forms we are depends on our receptivity: 2888, 3001, 3484, 5847, 5986, 6467, 6472. So the basic nature of people in this world, spirits, and angels depends on the basic nature of their forms for receiving life from the Lord: 2888, 5847, 5986, 6467, 6472. We have been created in such a way that in the inmost parts of ourselves, and therefore in other parts as well, we are capable of receiving what is divine and being raised up and joined to the Divine through the good things we love to do and the truths we believe; and therefore we, unlike animals, live forever: 5114.

[2] Life from the Lord also flows into evil people, so it flows into people in hell as well: 2706, 3743, 4417. However, they turn what is good into evil and what is true into falsity; so they turn life into spiritual death, since our nature is what determines how we accept the life that is flowing in: 4319, 4320, 4417. Goodness and truth are still constantly flowing into them from the Lord, but they reject or stifle or pervert them: 3743. The life that is in people who are devoted to evil and falsity is not genuine life; what the life they have is like: 726, 4623, 10284, 10286.


1. In the usage of Scholastic philosophers, a principal cause is “a cause which works by the power of its own form and makes the effect in some way like itself”; an instrumental cause is “an instrument or tool serving as a subordinate cause; a cause without initiative in the start of action, but applied and directed as a help to its efforts and purpose by a principal agent, and influencing the product chiefly according to the form and intention of the principal” (Wuellner 1956, 19; compare the discussion by the Catholic theologian Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae 3:62:1 [= Aquinas 2012, 20:22]). Swedenborg’s point is that human beings, though merely instruments of life, experience divine life (the principal cause) as inhering in themselves. He uses this terminology of principal and instrumental cause in other contexts; for example, in Secrets of Heaven 10738[4] he refers to the body as the instrumental cause and to the will as the principal. He emphasizes the apparent but misleading unity of principal and instrumental in other passages as well; see, for example, Secrets of Heaven 2021; Soul-Body Interaction 11[2]; True Christianity 473. [SS]

/ 325  

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.