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

True Christian Religion #19

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)

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19. (i) THE ONE GOD IS NAMED JEHOVAH FROM HIS BEING, THAT IS, FROM THE FACT THAT HE ALONE IS, [WAS] AND WILL BE, AND BECAUSE HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, ALPHA AND OMEGA.

It is well known that Jehovah means 'I am' and 'Being'. It is clear from the Book of Creation, called Genesis, that God was so called from most ancient times; for there He is called God in the first chapter, but in the second and subsequent ones Jehovah God. Later on when the descendants of Abraham, starting with Jacob, forgot the name of God owing to their long stay in Egypt, it was recalled to their memory. About this we read:

Moses said to God, What is your name? God said, I am who I am; thus

shall you say to the Children of Israel, I am has sent me to you; and you shall say, Jehovah the God of your fathers has sent me to you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation, Exodus 3:13-15.

Since God alone is I am or Being, that is, Jehovah, therefore there cannot be anything in the created universe which does not owe its being to Him; how this happens will be seen below. The same is meant also by these words:

I am the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:8, 11; 22:13.

This means that He is the one single source from beginning to end, from which everything comes.

[2] God is called Alpha and Omega 1 , the Beginning and the End, because alpha is the first and omega the last letter in the Greek alphabet, and they thus mean everything taken together. The reason is that every letter of the alphabet in the spiritual world stands for some thing. Vowels, which allow words to be pronounced, stand for something to do with affection or love. This is the origin of the speech of spirits or angels, and also of their writing-systems. But this is a mystery not previously known: there is a universal language used by all angels and spirits, which has nothing in common with any human language in the world. Everyone comes into possession of this language after death, for it is inborn in everyone from his creation. Therefore everyone throughout the spiritual world can understand everyone else. I have often been permitted to hear that language, and I have compared it with languages in the world, and found that it does not agree in the slightest detail with any natural language on earth. It differs from them in its basic principle, which is that each letter of every word stands for some thing. That can now be seen to be the reason why God is called Alpha and Omega, the one single source from beginning to end, from which everything comes. On this language and its writing-system, which is derived from the spiritual thought of angels, see CONJUGIAL LOVE 326-329, and also further in this book [280, 365, 386].

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Footnotes:

1. This passage is repeated with minor changes from Apocalypse Revealed 29.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christian Religion 81


   Parallel Passages:

Apocalypse Revealed 29

Other New Christian Commentary

Jehovah 1, 1


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

From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #129

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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129. It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Not Be Compelled by Outside Forces to Think and Intend and So to Believe and Love in Matters of Our Religion, but That We Should Guide Ourselves and Sometimes Compel Ourselves

This law of divine providence follows from the two preceding ones, namely, that we should act in freedom and in accord with reason (71-99), and that we should do this for ourselves, even though it is being done by the Lord--that is, in apparent autonomy (100-128). Since it is not from freedom and according to reason and not in autonomy to be compelled but comes from the absence of freedom and from someone else, this law of divine providence follows directly from the two earlier ones. Everyone recognizes that none of us can be compelled to think what we do not want to think or to intend what we think we do not want to intend. So we cannot be compelled to believe what we do not believe and certainly not anything that we do not want to believe; or to love what we do not love and certainly not anything that we do not want to love. Our spirit or mind has complete freedom to think, intend, believe, and love. This freedom comes to us by an inflow from the spiritual world, which does not compel us. Our spirit or mind is actually in that world. The freedom does not flow in from the physical world, which accepts the inflow only when the two worlds are in unison.

[2] We can be compelled to say that we think and intend something or that we believe and love something, but unless this is or becomes a matter of our own desire and our consequent reasoning, it is not something that we really think, intend, believe, and love. We can also be compelled to speak in favor of religion and to act according to religion, but we cannot be compelled to think in its favor as a matter of our own faith and to intend it as a matter of our own love. In countries where justice and judgment are cherished, everyone is obliged not to speak against religion or to violate it in action, but still no one can be compelled to think and intend in its favor. This is because each of us has a freedom to think in sympathy with hell and to intend in its favor, or to think in sympathy with heaven and to intend in its favor. Still, our reason tells us what the quality is of the one and of the other and what lot awaits the one and what lot awaits the other. Our ability to intend on the basis of reason is our capacity to choose and to decide.

[3] This may serve to show that what is outside cannot compel what is inside. However, it does happen sometimes, and I need to show that it is harmful in the following sequence.

1. No one is reformed by miracles and signs, because they compel.

2. No one is reformed by visions or by conversations with the dead, because they compel.

3. No one is reformed by threats or by punishment, because they compel.

4. No one is reformed in states where freedom and rationality are absent.

5. Self-compulsion is not inconsistent with rationality and freedom.

6. Our outer self has to be reformed by means of our inner self, and not the reverse.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Divine Providence 244, 249

Other New Christian Commentary

Motivation 1

Living Gratefully Series, Part 4 – Gift of Love 1


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


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