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 #46

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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46. In Everything That It Does, the Lord's Divine Providence Is Focusing on What Is Infinite and Eternal

It is widely recognized in Christian circles that God is infinite and eternal. In fact, it says in the doctrine of the Trinity named after Athanasius that God the Father is infinite, eternal, and omnipotent, as are God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but that there are not three infinite, eternal, and omnipotent beings, but only one. It follows from this that since God is infinite and eternal, only what is infinite and eternal can be attributed to him.

However, we finite beings cannot grasp what anything infinite and eternal is--and yet at the same time we can. We cannot grasp it because the finite cannot contain the infinite; and we can grasp it because there are abstract notions that enable us to see that certain things do exist even though we cannot see what their nature is.

There are such notions about the infinite--for example, that because God is infinite, or Divinity is infinite, God is reality itself or essence itself and substance itself, love itself and wisdom itself, what is good itself and what is true itself, the Only--in fact, the essential Human. Then too, if we say that the infinite is the all, then infinite wisdom is omniscience and infinite power is omnipotence.

[2] These concepts, though, will get lost in the dim depths of our thought and perhaps even fall from incomprehension into denial unless we can rid them of elements that our thought gets from the material world, particularly those two essential features of the material world called space and time. These can only limit our concepts and make abstract concepts seem like nothing at all. However, if we can rid ourselves of them the way angels do, then the infinite can be grasped by means of the things I have just listed. This leads to a grasp of the fact that we ourselves are real because we have been created by the infinite God who is the All, that we are finite substances because we have been created by the infinite God who is substance itself, that we are wisdom because we have been created by the infinite God who is wisdom itself, and so on. For if the infinite God were not the All, substance itself, and wisdom itself, we would not be real, or would simply be nothing, or would be only ideas of existence, according to those dreamers called idealists.

[3] Material presented in the work Divine Love and Wisdom may serve to show that the divine essence is love and wisdom (Divine Love and Wisdom 28-39), that divine love and wisdom are substance itself and form itself and that divine love and wisdom are substance and form in and of themselves, and are therefore wholly "itself" and unique (Divine Love and Wisdom 40-46), and that God created the universe and everything in it not from nothing but from himself (Divine Love and Wisdom 282-284). It follows from this that everything that has been created, especially ourselves and the love and wisdom within us, is real, and is not just an image of reality.

If God were not infinite, then, nothing finite would exist; if the Infinite were not the All, there would not be anything; and if God had not created everything from himself, there would be nothing real, nothing at all. In short, we are because God is.

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