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 #65

Study this Passage

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65. The useful functions of everything created tend upward, step by step, from the lowest to us, and through us to God the Creator, their source. As already stated [52], these "lowest things" are all the elements of the mineral kingdom--various forms of matter, some stony substances, some saline, some oily, some mineral, some metallic, with the constant addition of a humus composed of plant and animal matter reduced to minute particles. Here lie hidden the goal and the beginning of all the functions that arise from life. The goal of all useful functions is the effort to produce [more] functions; the beginning of all functions is an active force that comes out of that effort. These are characteristics of the mineral kingdom.

The intermediate things are all the elements of the plant kingdom--grasses and herbs of all kinds, plants and shrubs of all kinds, and trees of all kinds. Their functions are in support of everything in the animal kingdom, whether flawed or flawless. They provide food, pleasure, and life. They nourish [animal] bodies with their substance, they delight them with their taste and fragrance and beauty, and they enliven their desires. This effort is inherent in them from their life.

The primary things are all the members of the animal kingdom. The lowest of these are called worms and insects, the intermediate ones birds and animals, and the highest humans; for there are lowest, intermediate, and highest things in each kingdom. The lowest are for the service of the intermediate and the intermediate for the service of the highest. So the useful functions of all created things tend upwards in a sequence from the lowest to the human, which is primary in the divine design.

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