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


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.


From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #75

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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75. It is different for us, since we have not only desires of earthly love but desires of spiritual love and desires of heavenly love as well. Our human mind has three levels, as I explained in part 3 of Divine Love and Wisdom. This means that we can rise from earthly knowledge to spiritual intelligence and from there to heavenly wisdom; and because of these latter two, the intelligence and the wisdom, we can turn to the Lord, be united to him, and therefore live forever. This raising of our desires would not be possible, though, if we did not have the ability to raise our discernment because we are rational and to do so intentionally because we are free.

[2] It is by means of these two abilities that we can think inwardly about what we are perceiving outwardly with our physical senses and can think on a higher level about what we are thinking on a lower level. Any one of us can say, "I was thinking about this," or "I am thinking about this," or "I intended this," or "I intend this," or "I understand that this is true," or "I love this because of its quality," and so on. We can see from this that we are able to think about our thinking from a higher perspective and apparently see it down below. This ability of ours comes from our rationality and our freedom. Rationality enables us to think on a higher level, and freedom enables us to think that way from desire, intentionally. If we did not have the freedom to think that way, that is, we would not have the intention and therefore would not have the thought.

[3] The result is that if we do not want to understand anything except what has to do with this world and its nature, if we do not want to understand what is good and true on moral and spiritual levels, we cannot rise from knowledge into intelligence, let alone from intelligence into wisdom, because we have blocked off these abilities. We have then made ourselves human only in the limited sense that we could understand if we wanted to, because of our inborn rationality and freedom and because we are able to want to.

It is these two abilities that enable us to think and to express our thoughts by talking. In other respects, we are not people but animals, and actually worse than animals because of our misuse of these abilities.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Divine Providence 92, 116, 129, 161, 249, 251, 265

Other New Christian Commentary

Human 1

Thought 1

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