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


Heaven and Hell #545

Study this Passage

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545. The Lord Does Not Cast Anyone into Hell: Spirits Cast Themselves In

Some people cherish the notion that God turns his face away from people, spurns them, and casts them into hell, and is angry against them because of their evil. Some people even go so far as to think that God punishes people and does them harm. They support this notion from the literal meaning of the Word where things like this are said, not realizing that the spiritual meaning of the Word, which makes sense of the letter, is wholly different. So the real doctrine of the church, which is from the spiritual meaning of the Word, teaches something else. It teaches that the Lord never turns his face away from anyone or spurns anyone, never casts anyone into hell or is angry. 1

Anyone whose mind is enlightened perceives this while reading the Word simply from the fact that the Lord is goodness itself, love itself, and mercy itself. Good itself cannot do harm to anyone. Love itself and mercy itself cannot spurn anyone, because this is contrary to mercy and love and is therefore contrary to the divine nature itself. So people who are thinking with an enlightened mind when they read the Word perceive clearly that God never turns away from us, and that because he does not turn away from us, he behaves toward us out of goodness and love and mercy. That is, he wills well toward us, loves us, and has compassion on us.


1. [Swedenborg's footnote] Blazing wrath is attributed to God in the Word, but it is the wrath in us; and the Word says such things because it seems that way to us when we are being punished and condemned: Arcana Coelestia 798 [5798?], 6997, 8284, 8483, 8875, 9306, 10431. Even evil is attributed to the Lord, though nothing comes from the Lord but what is good: 2447, 6073 [6071?], 6992 [6991?], 6997, 7533, 7632, 7677 [7679?], 7926, 8227-8228, 8632, 9306. Why the Word says such things: 6073 [6071?], 6992 [6991?], 6997, 7643, 7632, 7679, 7710, 7926, 8282, 9009 [9010?], 9128. The Lord is pure mercy and clemency: 6997, 8875.

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