Commentary

 

The Big Ideas

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By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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

Footnotes:

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #986

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986. And they repented not to give Him glory, signifies that they were unwilling to turn themselves to living according to the Lord's commandments. This is evident from the signification of "repenting," as being to turn themselves from evils and their falsities, here before the Last Judgment and condemnation and punishment come upon them; also from the signification of "giving glory to the Lord," as being to live according to His commandments (see above, n. 874.

(Continuation respecting the Sixth Commandment)

[2] As all the delights that a man has in the natural world are turned into correspondences in the spiritual world, so are the delights of the love of marriage and the delights of the love of adultery. The love of marriage is represented in the spiritual world as a virgin, whose beauty is such as to inspire the beholder with the charms of life; while the love of adultery is represented in the spiritual world by an old woman, whose deformity is such as to inspire in the beholder a coldness and death to every charm of life. Therefore in the heavens the angels are beautiful according to the quality of conjugial love with them, and in the hells the spirits are deformed according to the quality of the love of adultery with them. In a word, the angels of heaven have life in their faces, in the movements of their body, and in their speech, according to their conjugial love, while the spirits of hell have death in their faces according to their love of adultery. In the spiritual world the delights of conjugial love are represented to the sense by odors from fruits and flowers of various kinds, while the delights of the love of adultery are there represented to the sense by the stenches from excrements and putridities of various kinds. Moreover, the delights of the love of adultery are actually turned into such things, since all things pertaining to adultery are spiritual filth. Therefore from the brothels in the hells stenches pour forth that excite vomiting.

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