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 #490

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)

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490. It is plain from the first chapter of Genesis that everything created by God was good. It says there that 'God saw that it was good' (verses 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), and at the end 'God saw everything that He made, and behold, it was very good' (verse 31). It is also plain from man's primeval state in paradise. Evil, however, arose from man, as is plain from Adam's second 1 state, that is, after the fall, by his being expelled from paradise. It is clear from these facts that if free will in spiritual matters had not been given to man, God Himself, and not man, would have been the cause of evil; in this case God would have created both good and evil, and it is wicked even to think that God created evil too. The reason why God did not create evil, since He bestowed on man free will in spiritual matters, and never puts any evil into his mind, is that He is good itself, and in good God is omnipresent, continually urging and demanding to be received. Even if He is not received, still He does not go away. For if He did, man would instantly die, or rather dissolve into non-existence, since man gets his life, and the continued existence of all he consists of, from God.

(References: Genesis 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21, 1:25, 1:31)


[2] Evil was not created by God but introduced by man, because man turns the good which continually flows in from God into evil, by turning away from God and turning towards himself. When this happens, the pleasure given by good remains, but it now becomes the pleasure given by evil; for without an apparently similar pleasure being left man would cease to live, since it is pleasure which makes up the vital principle of his love. These two pleasures are still diametrically opposed, though a person is unaware of this so long as he lives in the world. After death, however, he will know this and indeed feel it plainly, for then the pleasure given by the love of good is turned into heavenly blessedness, but the pleasure given by the love of evil into the torments of hell. These arguments prove that everyone is predestined to heaven, and no one to hell; but it is the person who commits himself to hell by misusing his free will in spiritual matters. As a result he embraces the ideas wafted from hell, since, as was said above, everyone is held mid-way between heaven and hell, so that he can be in equilibrium between good and evil, and consequently have free will in spiritual matters.

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Footnotes:

1. Reading secundo for secundum.

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