Commentary

The Big Ideas

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

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Footnotes:

1. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 15, 16, 23, 301, Divine Providence 46, True Christian Religion 11, 19.

2. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 29, 30,Apocalypse Explained 297, Heaven and Hell 13, 545.

3. Divine Love and Wisdom 31, 32, 57, 59, 84, 169-171, 329, 330, Divine Providence 3, 27.

4. Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 179, 180, 213, 230, 363.

5. Divine Love and Wisdom 44, 45, 55.

6. Divine Love and Wisdom 42, 43, 52, 154, Divine Providence 3, 5.

7. Divine Providence 27, 71, 72, 75, 129, True Christian Religion 459, 490.

8. Divine Providence 145, 322, 324, 325, 328, Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 522, True Christian Religion 457.

9. Divine Providence 67, 322, 333, 334, Heaven and Hell 312, 319, 324.

10. Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 479, 481, 525, 598. The True Christian Religion 795.

11. Arcana Coelestia 168, 1854, 3016, 5078, 6008, 8939, Heaven and Hell 445, 461, 493, 498, Divine Love and Wisdom 90, Last Judgment 25.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #333

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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333. The premise is that for our salvation, divine providence begins at our birth and continues to the end of our life. To understand this, we need to realize that the Lord knows the kind of person we are and the kind of person we want to be and therefore the kind of person we will be. Further, he cannot deprive us of the freedom of our volition if we are to be human and therefore immortal, as amply explained above; so he foresees what our state will be after death and provides for it from our birth all the way to the end of our life. He does this for evil people by both allowing and constantly leading them away from their evils, and for good people by constantly leading them to what is good. So divine providence is constantly at work for our salvation; but it cannot save more of us than want to be saved. We want to be saved if we believe in God and are led by him, and we do not want to be saved if we do not believe in God and we lead ourselves. In the latter case, we are not thinking about eternal life or salvation, while in the former case we are. The Lord sees all this and still leads us, doing so under the laws of his divine providence, laws he cannot violate because that would be to violate his divine love and his divine wisdom, and therefore himself.

[2] Since he foresees everyone's state after death and foresees our place as well--in hell for people who do not want to be saved and in heaven for people who do--it follows that, as just stated, he provides places for the evil by permitting and leading them away and for the good by leading them to their places. It follows also that if this were not being done constantly for everyone from birth to the end of life, neither heaven nor hell would endure. Without this foresight and providence, that is, there would be neither a heaven nor a hell, only confusion. (See 202-203 above on the fact that we are all provided with places by the Lord in his foresight.)

[3] To illustrate this by a comparison, if an archer or musketeer were to aim at a target and a straight line a mile long were drawn behind the target, then if the aim were off just a hair, at the end of that mile the arrow or ball would have strayed far from the line behind the target. That is what it would be like if the Lord did not have his eye on eternity at every moment, every least moment, in his foresight and provision for everyone's place after death. The Lord does this, though, because to him the whole future is present, and to him everything present is eternal.

On the fact that divine providence focuses on what is infinite and eternal in everything it does, see above, 46-69, 214 and following.

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