Why do bad things happen to good people? Eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Providence can answer that question—come have a look with hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose!
Sometimes Jonathan finds thoughts in his head that just don’t reflect his understanding of himself. These kinds of violent or absurd thoughts often need to be rejected on a daily basis.
Curtis wasn’t particularly prone to gossip, but he has been focusing on rejecting that type of evil love. Other evil loves, such as his short temper, haven’t been as easy to shed.
Swedenborg Book Club
To do that, the book covers how the universe is run, including not only what God does for us but also how we need to act. In fact, a good headline for this book might be something like:
“What God takes care of and what you need to take care of.”
So what’s inside?
Where Divine Love and Wisdom is about how the universe is put together, Divine Providence is more about your place in it and how you can become a better person. Think of it as a sort of self-help book. As Swedenborg says in the last chapter: “Instant salvation by direct mercy is impossible” (Divine Providence §338).
To get a sense of the scope of the material, we’ll take a look at three relevant passages.
Where divine providence comes from and what it is. It is Divinity working among us, banishing our love for ourselves. As already noted, love for ourselves is the devil, and its cravings and their pleasures are the evils of its kingdom, hell. Once this has been banished, the Lord comes in with impulses of love for our neighbor. He opens the skylights and then the windows in our walls and enables us to see that heaven is real, that there is a life after death, and that there is eternal happiness. By the spiritual light and the spiritual love that then flow in together, he enables us to recognize that through his divine providence, God is taking care of everything. (Divine Providence §207)
An all-consuming love of self above all others blinds you to the beauty of a universe of love. Recognizing God’s divine providence is the path toward punching through that poisonous brand of self-love.
The Lord’s divine providence works things out so that what is both evil and false promotes balance, comparison, and purification, which means that it promotes the union of what is good and true in others. . . . These useful functions are provided by the Lord through the union of what is evil and false that prevails among people in hell, since the Lord’s rule (which is not only over heaven but also over hell) is a functional rule and the Lord’s providence intends that there should be no one and nothing there that does not do some service or enable some service to happen. (Divine Providence §§21, 26)
Note that even hell falls within God’s purview. According to divine providence, nothing happens that does not serve divine purpose.
The means of salvation boil down to these two, that we are to abstain from evils because they are against the divine laws in the Ten Commandments, and that we are to acknowledge that God exists. We can all do this, provided we do not love what is evil. The Lord is constantly flowing into our volition with the power to abstain from evils and into our discernment with the power to think that God is real. However, no one can do one of these things without doing the other as well. They are united the way the two tablets of the Ten Commandments are united, the one being for the Lord and the other for us. From his tablet, the Lord is enlightening and empowering everyone, but we accept that power and enlightenment only as we do what is on our tablet. Until we do that, it is as though the two tablets were lying face to face and closed with a seal; but as we do what is on our tablet, they are unsealed and opened. (Divine Providence §329:1–2)
While God is reaching to bring us closer to him, salvation all comes down to meeting God halfway.
If you want to find out more about the laws of divine providence, check out our episode “7 Laws of Divine Providence.”
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- Did Swedenborg ever say how long it would take for his teachings to be globally known?
- Why do some NDEs envision a fiery hell and others do not?
- Which other contemporary religious or spiritual movements align most closely with Swedenborg’s cosmology?
At the beginning of the episode, we asked about evil loves you’ve rejected. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- Smoking. – INSPIRATION MOMENT 101
- Alcohol. – princessncg1
- Smoking. – Jen Blossom
- Smoking. – Dawnabrat
- Negative thinking. – Virginia Solan
- Putting myself second as much as possible and others first. It’s hard not to put yourself first in your line! – Jeff Wood
- Gossiping! – w m
- Attachment to my own lack of forgiveness. Resentment is an addiction. – King Lear
- I am a recovering alcoholic. Alcohol can truly be evil!! – Pamela Collins
- Telling tall tales… – mtp358
- Infidelity, something strong in my line of spiritual heredity. – Sean Smith
- I’m trying to reject the temptation to negatively judge people. – Maudy Paden
- I would have to say judgement. I’m diligently trying to alter the ego to have less of it. So far, so good, didn’t realize it was such a struggle, but it is! Thank GOD for this show!! (Thank you!) – Leianne Lazarus
- I’d like to reject my computer, but do daily battle with negative thinking. My place is to love and be accepting of others as themselves. I’ll leave the negativity to denizens of the lower realms. – Carolyn Norton
- The evil love of my life has always been anger. Now I choose to be more patient with the things that try to trigger it. I connect with my Better Angels instead. – Pete Dawson
- I do my best to reject the continual negative and seductive influences to spiritually judge others or presume I know what they should/should not do. – Matt Cline
- I’ve chosen to reject agreeing with others who have no compassion for others – Eternal Spring
- Breaking confidences with a “it’s better for stuff to be in the open so I’m not so evil” excuse. – Julia Irina Enescu
- I’m dealing with racism, unforgiveness, attributing good to myself. – michele33 S
- After spending so many years in the military and flying professionally, I chose to be more accepting, respectful and loving to my loved ones and colleagues. – George David Lenis
- Everyday I try to pay attention to every and anything that may seem hellish, then pray and and rebuke it. – nik nik
- In recognition of the multiple influences…As soon as I recognize there workings…I simply “choose” not to entertain them, declining their persistence invites…Thus rejection. – Vikki Collins
- Violence. I’d like to say hatred and anger, but those will arise unbidden. I can avoid acting on them though, so violence. – EarInn
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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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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