The Big Ideas

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


From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #5078

Study this Passage

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5078. 'And the baker' means among the things in the body which are subject to the will part. This is clear from the meaning of 'the baker' as the external or bodily senses which are subordinate or subject to the will part of the internal man. The reason 'the baker' has this meaning is that everything which serves as food or is consumed as such, for example, bread, solid foods in general, and anything made by a baker, has reference to good and so to the will; for all good feeds the will, just as every truth feeds the understanding, as stated immediately above in 5077. By 'bread' is meant what is celestial, or goodness, see 1798, 2165, 2177, 3478, 3735, 3813, 4211, 4217, 4735, 4976.

[2] The reason why here and in the rest of this chapter external sensory powers of both kinds are dealt with in the internal sense is that the previous chapter dealt with how the Lord glorified or made Divine the interior aspects of His Natural, and therefore the present chapter deals with how the Lord glorified or made Divine the exterior aspects of that Natural. The exterior aspects of the natural are rightly called bodily ones, being both kinds of sensory powers of perception together with their recipient members and organs; for these recipients together with those powers make up that which is referred to as the body, see above in 5077. The Lord made Divine all that constituted His body, both its sensory Powers and their recipient members and organs, which also explains why He rose from the grave with His body, and after the Resurrection told His disciples,

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me have. Luke 24:39.

[3] Most people at the present day who belong to the Church believe that everyone is going to rise again on the last day and to do so at that time with his body. This supposition is so universal that scarcely anyone, because of what he is taught, believes anything different. But that supposition has gained strength because the natural man imagines that the body alone is the possessor of life. Consequently if he were not allowed to believe that this body is going to receive life once again he would refuse to believe in any resurrection at all. But the truth of the matter is that a person rises again immediately after death, at which point he seems to himself to be in his body just the same as when he was in the world, having a face and members, arms, hands, feet, breast, belly, and loins like the ones he had before. Indeed when he sees himself and touches himself he says he is exactly as he was in the world. However, that which he sees and touches is not his external which he carried round in the world but the internal which constituted the real person. That internal is what had life within it, but it had the external surrounding it, or outside every individual part of it, enabling it to exist in the world where it could act in the right way and carry out its functions.

[4] The actual earthly body is of no further use to him. He is in another world where he possesses other functions and other strengths and powers for which the kind of body he has there is suited. He sees that body with his own eyes - not the eyes he had in the world but those he now has in that other world. They are the eyes of his internal man, the ones he had used previously to see with through the eyes of his body and behold worldly and earthly objects. He also touches and feels that body - not with the hands or sense of touch he had been given in the world but with the hands and sense of touch which he is given in that other world and which had lain behind his sense of touch in the world. Furthermore each of the senses in that other world is keener and more perfect because it belongs to the internal man released from the external. The internal dwells in a greater state of perfection, because it is this that supplies sensory awareness to the external, though when it acts into the external, as it does in the world, that power is blunted and reduced. What is more, the sensory perception of the internal is a perception of what is internal, that of the external a perception of what is external. This being so, people can see one another after death, and they exist grouped together in communities on the basis of what they are inwardly like. In order to become quite sure of this I have been allowed to touch actual spirits and to talk to them many times on this subject, see 322, 1630, 4622.

[5] People after death - who are then called spirits or, if they have led good lives, angels - are utterly amazed at what the member of the Church believes about himself. For he believes that he will not see eternal life until the last day when the world is destroyed, and that at that time he will be reclothed with the dust that has been cast away; when yet one who belongs to the Church knows that he rises again after death. For who does not say, when someone dies, that his soul or spirit is in heaven, or in hell? Who does not say about his young children who have died that they are in heaven? Who does not comfort a person who is [incurably] sick or one who is condemned to death by saying that shortly he will enter the next life? And one who is in the throes of death and has been prepared for it does not believe anything different. Indeed such a conviction about a person's rising again after he has died is what leads many to claim that they have the power to release others from places of condemnation and to admit them into heaven, and to say masses for their souls. Is anyone unacquainted with what the Lord said to the robber, 'Today you will be with Me in paradise', Luke 23:43, or with what the Lord said about the rich man and Lazarus, that the former was carried off into hell, whereas the latter was taken by the angels into heaven, Luke 16:22-23? Or is anyone unacquainted with what the Lord taught about the resurrection when He said that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, Luke 20:38?

[6] A person acquainted with all this thinks in these ways and speaks in these ways when his spirit guides his thought and speech. But when his thought and speech are guided by what doctrine teaches that person says something entirely different, namely that he will not rise again Until the last day. But in fact each person's last day is at hand when he dies, and this is his time of judgement too, as many also declare. As to what is meant by 'being encompassed by my skin' and 'out of my flesh seeing God' in Job 19:25-26, see 3540 (end). These things were said so that people may know that no one rises again in the body that encompassed him in the world except the Lord alone. He did so because, while in the world, He glorified His body, that is, He made it Divine.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.