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


Divine Love and Wisdom #179

Study this Passage

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179. There are levels of love and wisdom, consequent levels of warmth and light, and also levels of atmosphere. Without a knowledge that there are levels, what they are and what they are like, what is to follow will be incomprehensible, since there are levels in everything that has been created; therefore they exist in every form. Consequently, I need to discuss levels in this part of Angelic Wisdom.

We can tell clearly from the angels of the three heavens that there are levels of love and wisdom. Angels of the third heaven so surpass angels of the second heaven in love and wisdom, and these in turn so surpass angels of the farthest heaven, that they cannot live in the same place. Their levels of love and wisdom mark them off and separate them. This is why angels of the lower heavens cannot climb up to angels of the higher heavens, and why if they are allowed to climb up they do not see anyone or anything around them. The reason they do not see anyone is that the love and wisdom of the higher angels is on a higher level, a level beyond their perception. Every angel actually is her or his love and wisdom; and love together with wisdom is human in form because God, who is love itself and wisdom itself, is human.

Occasionally I have been allowed to see angels of the farthest heaven go up to angels of the third heaven. When they managed to get there, I heard them complain that they could not see anyone; and yet they were surrounded by angels. They were afterwards told that these angels had been invisible to them because they could not perceive their love and wisdom, and it is love and wisdom that give angels their human appearance.

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