Watch full episode here!
In our last episode, we looked at how everyday luck fit into a divine plan. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose go live to learn more from eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s understanding of divine providence.
While this show is absolutely not a commercial for Swedenborg’s book Divine Providence,you can download it for free from this very website if you’d like to know more.
Jonathan feels like you always see divine providence in the rear-view mirror. When he looks back at his career, he realizes how perfectly one of his earlier jobs prepared him for work on the New Century Edition translations of Swedenborg’s works.
For Curtis, his role now as host of Swedenborg and Life is clear evidence of providence at work in his life. Since divine providence works in every little thing, it’s no big thing to say your life today is a result of God’s divine plan.
Freedom, Reason, Shunning Evil
It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Act in Freedom and in Accord with Reason (Divine Providence §71)
The most basic element of divine providence is what it protects—our own freedom. That might seem like an unexpected first rule of divine providence, but Swedenborg explains that being able to choose freely is absolutely vital to our spiritual development—which is the Lord’s goal. We talk about this more in our episode on “Spiritual Freedom.”
It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Put Aside Evils in Our Outer Nature, Regarding Them as Sins and Doing So in Apparent Autonomy, and That This Is the Only Way the Lord Can Put Aside the Evils in Our Inner Nature and in Our Outer Nature Alike (Divine Providence §100)
The laws are designed so that if we do our best to do good with what we know, God can help protect us from evil we don’t know about. We talk about this more in “Repentance: How to Be in Heaven Now.”
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 (Divine Providence §129)
This law is why it is impossible to change someone’s spiritual mindset from the outside, no matter many promises a group or individual might make about changing your life. That’s also why God doesn’t offer definitive proof of his existence—if you’re forced to believe something, it takes away your free choice, and without free choice, you’re not truly making the belief part of your being. We talk about this more in “Why Doesn’t God Prove that He Exists?”
It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Be Led and Taught by the Lord, from Heaven, by Means of the Word, and Teaching and Preaching from the Word, and That This Should Happen While to All Appearances We Are Acting Independently (Divine Providence §154)
Without risking our free will, God does provide ways to reach his truth. However, as Jonathan points out, it’s not just a matter of blindly accepting what we’re told—we have to really think about and evaluate the things we hear. It’s a delicate balance between divine wisdom and our very finite point of view. We talk about this more in “The Infinite in You” and “How to Write the Word on Your Heart.”
It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Not Sense or Feel Anything of the Working of Divine Providence, but That We Should Still Know about It and Acknowledge It (Divine Providence §175)
It’s easy to feel alone when we’re facing big life decisions, and at times like that, we might wonder where God is in that process. Swedenborg himself struggled with this: he could communicate with angels on all types of spiritual topics, but when it came to more mundane topics like how to get the word out through his books, they had nothing to say. As we saw with the previous law, there’s a balance. Feeling divine providence as it happens might risk our free will, but knowing about it helps us move in alignment with it.
Laws of Permission Are Also Laws of Divine Providence (Divine Providence §234)
Permission means that many things are possible, even the bad ones. While God wants good things to happen, sometimes evil things have to be allowed to happen for the sake of our free will. Sometimes, providence needs to take some unpleasant steps before it can take us to heaven. But underlying this is a comforting message: the bad things that happen are only allowed to happen if they will eventually lead to good. We talk more about this in “Why Bad Things Happen.”
The Lord Cannot Act Contrary to the Laws of Divine Providence, Because to Do So Would Be to Act Contrary to His Own Divine Love and His Own Divine Wisdom, and Therefore Contrary to Himself (Divine Providence §331)
If these are spiritual laws, does even God have to abide by them? God created the rules to maximize love in the universe, so he chooses not to work outside them. It’s not that God is a stickler for rules; it’s that he knows that this is the way to produce the best, most loving outcome for everyone. We cover this in our episode on “What God Can’t Do.”
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- If those in the world of spirits aren’t aware of us here, does that invalidate the many thousands of readings by mediums who pass on messages from the Other Side?
- Can you explain your thoughts on the difference between spiritual truths vs spiritual knowledge / facts?
- How could divine providence lead people to Hell?
Spiritual Road Trip
All the laws are built around free will, so let’s look at why it’s important. In his spiritual journeys, Swedenborg had several experiences of encountering spirits who tried to think good things—who asked to be allowed to go into heaven, or to have their false beliefs taken away from them—but, when their wish was granted, ended up being miserable. God can’t wave a hand and make you a good person—it has to be a path that you choose for yourself through your beliefs and your actions.
For more detail on this, check out “The Angels and Evil Spirits With Us.”
At the beginning, we asked when you’ve seen divine providence at work. Here are some of the answers.
- Every trial I have my mind suddenly reminds me of the Biblical stories that are similar. -Bister Minkers love Catnip
- I’ve seen it a number of times honestly. One had to do with a new job. One of them had to do with my gas cap. As weird as that might sound. -Aaron B
- There has been a few times I almost died and I only believe that I was safe because God saved me. -Mary Richards
- I’m a Tarot reader and I see it in EVERY READING. -Anton Slavik
- In the surprise of a coincidence! -Kendall M.
- I believe it was Divine Providence guiding me to come to the U.S. from England so that I could meet and befriend so many wonderful souls who have helped me on my journey. -Pete Dawson
- When things turn out better than I expected or sometimes worse than I planned I realize his will not mine. -Tricia Anne
- I believe Divine Providence is before us, so I accept whatever comes along as things are as they should be. -Jen Blossom
- When I ask for spiritual guidance and notice something more has happened. -mtp358
- I got in a car accident a recently, & in a dreamy state after whiplash, the surrealness of all the passersby stopping to help along with the paramedics, and firemen etc, gave me a feeling of providence. -432 For The Soul
- I’ve been so close to death two times in my life, and was saved, once from the thought to put on my seat belt, and once inexplicably when I was almost hit by a speeder. -Sean Smith
- Honestly, I can’t really see Divine Providence. My life just feels like a whole bunch of suffering. -Asher Raymond
- I noticed Divine Providence when I was reading the Word, as I feel the presence of harmful spirits trying to invade my inner peace given by the Lord. -Tercel Jiminez
- I think Divine Providence led me to Swedenborg, to OTLE, so that I could stop fearing God. And, I was never spiritual before. It’s been a wonderful 4 years. -Carolyn Norton
- I am currently taking care of my mom because of her worsening health conditions. I am an RN and was not working at the time about a year ago. I feel I am meant to be here as it’s my current purpose. -Lisa
- Divine providence leads me to people and to ideas. I would not have been the person I am now if I hadn’t met certain people and taken certain classes at the universities I’ve been to. -Christian Swenson
- I see Providence in the way my faults finally come to light for me. I mean they are evident but it usually takes some wake up for me to see them and God provides those wake up calls. -Jon Childs
- The process that prepared me to be ready for Swedenborg and how y’all came into my life fills me with gratitude. -Joy Borazjani
- I have never thought about His Divine Providence in my life until I started reading Swedenborg. However, looking back, I can see many things governed by His Divine Providence. -Eternal Spring
- I think I’ve always felt that Divine Providence was happening to me but it wasn’t until I found Swedenborg’s writings and OTLE that I was able to give it a name. -Matthew Bush
- Working on a book about some very controversial moral questions. Have sense of being guided and I’ve had dozens of synchronicities. Yet I will not know if it is real until it is done and received. -King Lear
- Over the last 5 years God’s turned me from a 20 year old alcoholic gremlin to something much higher, prayerful and reflective. I’d have preferred a softer approach but…it worked. -Psykter
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
Related Swedenborg and Life Videos
“The Day-to-Day Process of Our Salvation”
“Why Doesn’t God Prove that He Exists?”
“The Infinite in You”
“How to Write the Word on Your Heart”
“Why Bad Things Happen”
“What God Can’t Do”
“The Angels and Evil Spirits With Us”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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