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:

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

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

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

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

5Divine Love and Wisdom 44, 45, 55.

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

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

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

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

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

11Arcana 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 #71

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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71. It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Act in Freedom and in Accord with Reason

It is generally recognized that we have a freedom to think and intend whatever we wish but not a freedom to say whatever we think or to do whatever we wish. The freedom under discussion here, then, is freedom on the spiritual level and not freedom on the earthly level, except to the extent that the two coincide. Thinking and intending are spiritual, while speaking and acting are earthly.

There is a clear distinction between these kinds of freedom in us, since we can think things that we do not express and intend things that we do not act out; so we can see that the spiritual and the earthly in us are differentiated. As a result, we cannot cross the line from one to the other except by making a decision, a decision that can be compared to a door that has first to be unlocked and opened.

This door stands open, though, in people who think and intend rationally, in accord with the civil laws of the state and the moral laws of society. People like this say what they think and do what they wish. In contrast, the door is closed, so to speak, for people who think and intend things that are contrary to those laws. If we pay close attention to our intentions and the deeds they prompt, we will notice that there is this kind of decision between them, sometimes several times in a single conversation or a single undertaking.

I mention this at the outset so that the reader may know that "acting from freedom and in accord with reason" means thinking and intending freely, and then freely saying and doing what is in accord with reason.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Divine Providence 116, 129, 249, 251, 265

Other New Christian Commentary

Living Gratefully Series, Part 2 – Freedom & Rationality 1

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Divine Providence and Tragedy
The Lord respects our freedom because He loves us. He respects it so much that He allows us to get into trouble, and then as far as we are willing, He brings us new strength out of our troubles
Worship Talk | Ages over 18


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


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