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 Providence #3

Study this Passage

/ 340  

3. 1. The universe as a whole and in every detail was created out of divine love, by means of divine wisdom. I explained in Divine Love and Wisdom that the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, is essentially divine love and wisdom, and that he himself created the universe and everything in it out of himself [Divine Love and Wisdom 28-33, 52-60, 282-295]. It then follows that the universe and everything in it was created out of divine love by means of divine wisdom.

I also explained in that work that love cannot do anything apart from wisdom and that wisdom cannot do anything apart from love [Divine Love and Wisdom 401]. Love without wisdom (or our volition apart from our discernment) cannot think anything. It cannot actually see, feel, or say anything. This means that love apart from wisdom (or our volition apart from our discernment) cannot do anything. By the same token, wisdom apart from love (or our discernment apart from our volition) cannot think anything, see or sense anything, or even say anything. This means that wisdom apart from love (or our discernment apart from our volition) cannot do anything. If you take the love away, there is no longer any intention, so there is no action. If this is how things work for us when we do something, it was all the more true of the God who is love itself and wisdom itself when he created and made the universe and everything in it.

[2] Everything that meets our eyes in this world can serve to convince us that the universe and absolutely everything in it was created out of divine love by means of divine wisdom. Take any particular thing and look at it with some wisdom, and this will be clear. Look at a tree--or its seed, its fruit, its flower, or its leaf. Collect your wits and look through a good microscope and you will see incredible things; and the deeper things that you cannot see are even more incredible. Look at the design of the sequence by which a tree grows from its seed all the way to a new seed, and ask yourself, "In this whole process, is there not a constant effort toward ongoing self-propagation?" The goal it is headed for is a seed that has a new power to reproduce. If you are willing to think spiritually (and you can if you want to), surely you see wisdom in this. Then too, if you are willing to press your spiritual thinking further, surely you see that this power does not come from the seed or from our world's sun, which is nothing but fire, but that it was put into the seed by a creator God who has infinite wisdom. This is not just something that happened at its creation; it is something that has been happening constantly ever since. Maintenance is constant creation, just as enduring is a constant coming into being. This is like the way labor ceases if you take the intention out of the activity, the way speech ceases if you take thinking out of it, or the way motion ceases if you take the energy out of it, and so on. In short, if you take the cause away from the effect, the effect ceases.

[3] A force is instilled into everything that has been created. However, the force does not do anything on its own; it depends on the one who instilled it. Look at some other subject on our planet. Look at a silkworm or a bee or some little creature and examine it, first physically, then rationally, and finally spiritually. If you can think deeply, you will be stunned at everything. If you listen to the inner voice of wisdom, you will exclaim in amazement, "Can anyone fail to see Divinity here? These are the marks of divine wisdom!"

Beyond this even, if you look at the functions of everything that has been created, you will see how they follow in sequence all the way to humanity and from us to our source, the Creator. You will see how the connectedness of everything depends on the Creator's union with us; and if you are willing to admit it, the preservation of everything depends on this as well.

In what follows, you will see that divine love created everything, but that it did nothing apart from divine wisdom.

/ 340  

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