The right to life...

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Meeting the new baby

In the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

How does this square with New Christian thought? In this short article, we'll focus on the unalienable Right to Life, and starting thinking it through.

Admittedly, the 1776 Declaration is an American-centric place to start from, and the New Christianity transcends political entities and borders. But new thinking was clearly in the wind at that time, in many places. Swedenborg published his capstone work of theology, " Vera Christiana Religio", or True Christian Religion, in 1770. Six years later, the American Revolution help create a sea change in the way we think about human rights, all over the world, and about government. It's the universality of the thinking in the Declaration that makes it an important thing to compare to the tenets of religion.

The Bible clearly values life. In the Ten Commandments, we have the plain command: "Thou shall not kill", in Exodus 20:13.

Cain's murder of Abel is condemned, in Genesis 4:8 and the following verses.

Jesus emphasizes the promise of eternal life, but still saves people's natural lives -- e.g. Jairus's daughter (in Mark 5:22), and his friend Lazarus (Luke 7:11), the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5) and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3).

Swedenborg makes the point that life flows in from the Lord, who is life itself. The universe is created as a place where life can be formed, and -- though this may seem self-centered -- where human beings can develop to the point where we can actively exercise spiritual freedom and rationality -- making decisions about good and evil. See The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 278.

If we think that life is a gift from the Lord, flowing to us, and not really ours, we'll treat it with respect. When we're setting up governments, we'll do it in a way that protects human life.

To come back to our initial question... does the "right to life" square with New Christian thought? Yes.

(References: The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 278)

From Swedenborg's Works


The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine #278

Study this Passage

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278. Of the influx of life with man in particular.

There is one only fountain of life, from which all live both in heaven and in the world (n.1954, 2021, 2536, 2658, 2886-2889, 3001, 3484, 3742, 5847, 6467).

This life is from the Lord alone, illustrated by various things (n. 2886-2889, 3344, 3484, 4319-4320, 4524, 4882, 5986, 6325, 6468-6470, 9276, 10196).

The Lord is life itself, may be seen (John 1:1; 1:4; 5:26; 14:6).

Life from the Lord flows in with angels, spirits, and men, in a wonderful manner (n. 2886-2889, 3337-3338, 3484, 3742).

The Lord flows in from His Divine love, which is of such that it wills that what is its own should be another's (n. 3742, 4320).

All love is such; thus the Divine love is infinitely more so (n. 1820, 1865, 2253, 6872).

Hence life appears as if it were in man, and not as inflowing (n. 3742, 4320).

Life appears as if it were in man, because the principal cause, which is life from the Lord, and the instrumental cause, which is the recipient form, act as one cause, which is felt in the instrumental (n. 6325).

The chief of the wisdom and intelligence of the angels consists in perceiving and knowing that the all of life is from the Lord (n. 4318).

Concerning the joy of angels perceived and shown by their discourse to me, from this that they do not live from themselves, but from the Lord (n. 6469).

The evil are not willing to be convinced that life inflows (n. 3743).

Doubts concerning the influx of life from the Lord cannot be removed, so long as fallacies, ignorance, and the negative reign (n. 6479). All in the church know that all good and truth is from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord, and that all evil and falsity is from hell; and yet the all of life has relation to good and truth, and to evil and falsity, there being nothing of life without them (n. 2893, 4151).

The doctrinal of the church derived from the Word teaches the same thing (n. 4249). Nevertheless man does not believe that life inflows (n. 4249).

If communication and connection with spirits and angels were taken away, man would instantly die (n. 2887).

It is evident from hence, that the all of life flows in from the first esse of life, because nothing exists from itself, but from things prior to itself, thus each and all things exist from the First; and because everything must subsist from the same source from which it first existed, since subsistence is perpetual existence (n. 4523-4524).

Angels, spirits, and men, were created to receive life, thus they are only forms recipient of life (n. 2021, 3001, 3318, 3344, 3484, 3742, 4151, 5114, 5986). Their forms are such as the quality of their reception (n. 2888, 3001, 3484, 5847, 5986, 6467, 6472). Men, spirits, and angels, are therefore such as are their forms recipient of life from the Lord (n. 2888, 5847, 5986, 6467, 6472). Man is so created, that in his inmost, and hence in those which follow in order, he can receive the Divine, and be elevated to the Divine, and be conjoined with the Divine by the good of love and the truths of faith, and on this account he lives to eternity, otherwise than beasts (n. 5114).

Life from the Lord flows in also with the evil, thus also with those who are in hell (n. 2706, 3743, 4417, 10196). But they turn good into evil and truth into falsity, and thus life into spiritual death, for such as the man is, such is his reception of life (n. 4319-4320, 4417). Goods and truths from the Lord also continually inflow with them, but they either reject, suffocate, or pervert them (n. 3743). They who are in evils, and thence in falsities, have no real life; the quality of their life (n. 726, 4623, 4747, 10284, 10286).

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