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


True Christian Religion #457

Study this Passage

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457. The case is different with those who only worship God and do not at the same time perform good deeds out of charity. These people are like those who tear up an agreement. It is different again with those who divide God into three, and worship each one separately; and different yet again with those who approach God, but not in His Human. These are the people who do not go in by the door, but climb up another way (John 10:1, 9). It is different yet again with those who are confirmed unbelievers in the Lord's divinity. None of these groups can achieve linking with God, and as a result salvation. Their charity too can only be spurious, and this does not allow linking face to face, but only at the side or back.

[2] A few words must be said on how the linking takes place. God flows into what everyone knows about God, bringing about an acknowledgment of God, and at the same time imparting His love for mankind. If a person receives only the first and not the second, the inflow reaches only his understanding, and not his will, and he remains knowing about God without any inward acknowledgment of God, so that his condition resembles that of a garden in wintertime. But if a person receives both the first and the second, the inflow reaches his will and comes from there into his understanding, so occupying his whole mind. Then he makes an inward acknowledgment of God, which brings to life what he knows about God, so that his condition resembles that of a garden in springtime.

[3] The reason why linking is produced by charity is that God loves each and every human being; and because He cannot do good to them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people, He therefore breathes into people His love, just as He breathes into parents love for their children. Anyone who receives that love is linked to God, and the love of God makes him love the neighbour. In him, the love of God is contained within his love towards his neighbour, and it is this which gives him his will and ability to act.

[4] Since no one can do any good deed unless it seems to him as if his ability, will and activity come from himself, this appearance is granted to him; and when he does it freely as if of his own accord, it is imputed to him, and accepted as the reciprocal act which brings about linking. This is like the relationship between active and passive, and the co-operation of the passive being produced in it as the result of the active. Or it is like the will being present in actions, and thought being present in speech, and the soul working at the innermost level on each of these. Or it is like effort in motion; and like the reproductive principle of the seed, which acts from within on the juices, causing the tree to grow until it produces fruit, and by means of the fruit to produce fresh seeds. Or it is like light falling on precious stones, the reflexion of which depends on the texture of the parts it strikes, thus producing various colours, which seem to belong to the gems, when in fact they are properties of the light.

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