It is still being worked out. So please expect some inconsistencies and even errors below and work them out with lenience; try to see the whole picture rather than the details. .
Much of Christendom focuses on only one at the expense of others, and thereby misses out of God's full joy - and might even misrepresent God.
Each of these dimensions seems to have been present in the New Testament era, but became largely lost in the mediaeval church. The church should be the organisation that works out D1, D2 and D3 in harmony in all cultural contexts, but instead it became self-serving. Each began to be rediscovered at a different period in history over the past 500 years, giving rise to different movements and mindsets. 500 years ago the first was rediscovered via the Reformation. 150 years ago the second was rediscovered via the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. Today the third is being rediscovered.
The three dimensions are different from each other but each contains echoes of the others, because in God's eyes, they are inseparable. The three working together bring a full, rich, glorious redemption that satisfies and transforms all spheres of life (Romans 8:28-end). With only one or two, salvation remains one-dimensional or flat two-dimensional.
This page is in process of construction. Some of the above are incomplete, some only in outline form. Please enjoy what is there.
But I didn't have any experience of God in my life.
My salvation had but one dimension.
Through Philippians 2:13 I began to discover new things.
My salvation gained a second dimension -
But this seemed rather self-centred,
Prayers centred on me, God and those I loved.
Scriptures not relating to me were boring.
My love for God was like teenage infatuation.
Worship became the chief end of Man.
It started to seem a bit flat, merely two-dimensional.
Then I discovered a third dimension to Christ's salvation.
Prayer began to be part of ministry in the world.
The Bible shone with new light, even well-known verses.
I felt God with me in bold environmental politics.
I felt God with me in academic life.
I rejoiced in God's heart for His world.
I gained a new understanding of the times.
"The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" [Romans 8:19-23].
Creation "groans" because of what human beings have done and are doing:
Politics groans from corruption or futility because we serve ourselves.
The economy groans as it's bloated with meaningless financial devices,
and used to supply meaningless goods and services that satisfy not.
The intellectual world groans as aspects of reality are wilfully ignored.
Religion groans as it becomes a power-operated shame-management system [Note 1].
(For a full account of the above, see my Spiritual Journey.)
So, to sum up ...
Those who are God's people,
filled with the Holy Spirit
and walking with Father here-and-now,
are the ones through whom
God will satisfy and heal the groanings
of each of these realms of Creation.
Is that not why
"Creation waits with eager longing"
to experience the 'sons' of God?
At last!, Paul felt as he wrote chapter 8 of Romans -
at last God is acting
to save the whole Creation.
No wonder Paul ended the chapter with a paeon of praise.
Here is a summary in tabular form of the idea of three-dimensional salvation, which also acts as index into the main text. Skip to main text.
Dimension 1 |
Dimension 2 |
Dimension 3 |
Blessing the rest of creation
|(Apology: Some browsers render the first two columns in smaller font. Column texts should be same size. Am investigating.)|
|When rediscovered widely||
1500s, the Reformation
|1800s, the Pentecostal and Methodist revivals||1980s onwards (no name yet)|
|Why each dimension is important||Depth; without it, just thin versions of humanism||Excitement and power; without it we operate by rule and are ultimately ineffective||Impact in world, representing God and further His Plan; without it we are self-absorbed|
Guilt, need for forgiveness; |
Separation from God
Little experience of God here-and-now; |
Things of God mean little to me;
Lack of inner Christlikeness;
Lack of power
Inwardlookingness, elitism, selfishness (of those who experience D1, D2); |
"Affluence, Arrogance, Unconcern" [Ezek 16:49]
| Effect of this dimension of salvation |
(What it means for us)
We are right with God |
"No condemnation" [Romans 8:1]
All by faith
Experience God here and now [Romans 8:14] |
We grow to be like Christ
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Loving God as Father [Romans 8:17]
Fruit of the Holy Spirit [Galatians 5:22,23]
We bring blessing to the world [Romans 8:19, Galatians 6:10] |
We do this with Christ and in the power, guidance and joy of the Holy Spirit
We have the same self-giving attitude to the world as God does
The error of making a division in creation between sacred and secular (SSD) is disclosed and addressed.
... So we are engaged in gospel dissemination to all, healing work to human and non-human creation, changing structures of society (juridical, attitudinal and beliefs), academia (building humanity's body of knowledge in all disciplines).
We understand the times, especially in these days the need for environmental responsibility, where we take leadership.
|Dimensions of what Jesus Christ does / has done||His death paid the price for our sin||
He makes us ready to receive the Holy Spirit; |
He showed and told us how to live in the world [Matthew 5-7 etc.]
| He is the coherence and completion of all, bringing "all things" together [Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20]; |
Jesus has all authority on earth as well as in heaven, so through Him God's Plan is implemented [Matthew 22:18-20].
|Dimensions of the Holy Spirit||Convicts, draws to Christ and regenerates the individual||Sanctifies, assures, comforts, gifts the individual||Guides individuals and groups, empowers, brings unity|
|Dimensions of God the Father||Sends Christ||Sends the Holy Spirit||Creates, speaks; His kingdom|
|'Kingdom of God'||Those who are justified||
God's rule in our inner person and our lives; |
Transformation of our worldviews [Rom 12:2]
God's rule in our lifestyles; |
Structures of society (laws, attitudes, assumptions) in line with God's intent;
The world filled with the knowledge of God [Hab. 2:14]
|The glory of each dimension (click each for more)||
Atonement, no condemnation; |
The self-sacrifice of God.
|Sanctification, devotion, worship||Representing God in His world; Natural world saved, Social justice, God's people in vanguard|
|Dangers of elevating each (click each for more)||Dry, rule-based Christianity||Self-absorbtion and 'prosperity gospel'||Humanistic, 'social gospel'|
|What each dimension might say to a non-believer||"You are worth something to God; Christ died to bring you put you right with God."||"Your life is messed up; Christ died dto give you newness of life and so the Holy Spirit can work in you."||"Your desire for justice is echoes the heart of God. Christ died and the Holy Spirit comes to make you effective in as representative of God."|
|Sinful attitude in each dimension||
Ignoring God. |
Relying on religious rituals or good works to please God.
|Holding onto things in my life that the Holy Spirit wants to change.||"Affluence, arrogance and unconcern for the poor" [Ezek 16:49]|
|What each dimension says about persecution and perseverance:||"Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life"||Joy in the midst of persecution||"We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has beforehand prepared for us to do." Eph 2:10|
|What each dimension says about sin||"Sin makes us guilty before God"||"Sin is unChristlikeness, harming others"||"Sin in structures of society"|
|Seeking God||Seek God's hand - rejoice in seeing Him doing great works||Seek God's face - rejoice in His Presence, in worship||Seek God's heart - rejoice as He does when the world is healed, or when someone repents|
|Attitude||Always aware - including deeply - of how much I need God's mercy, grace, forgiveness.||Experiencing God every day, and every week in fresh ways not tasted before.||Deeply concerned about, and active in and giving time to, environmental concern as well as justice for the poor, powerless, under-resourced and voiceless.|
|Decline in attitude||I get complacent that God loves and accepts me.||My experience of God here and now palls or becomes rote.||I vote for those who protect my own lifestyle, my own family, my own nation, rather than those who seek justice and mercy for those who have no voice or resources.|
|Status of the body of believers||Those chosen out of the world||The worshipping community, the community of support and gentle critique||Representing God in the world|
|Societal, global life|
|Why we are still in this fallen world?||To invite people to Jesus the Christ, letting them see the difference that the Holy Spirit makes.||To become more like Jesus the Christ; this happens because of difficulties, troubles, persecutions, etc. [K.P. Yohannon]||To be salt and light, bringing justice in the world, encouraging people towards rightness, and leading the world in opening up the diverse potential of the creation.|
|Prosperity (wealth, comforts, conveniences, pleasures, safety)||Prosperity can be an idol, drawing and turning our hearts and devotion away from the True God. Luke 9:24, 18:22. See more.||
God's people are always provided for with all they need. Never have God's people been abandoned nor "begging bread" [Psalm 37:25]. Usually this is 'just-enough' (rather than superfluity) and we gain deep enjoyment from all around; occasionally, to overcome a false asceticism, God gives abundantly. What should they do with wealth? That is answered by D3. See more.
Enjoyment of life is to be seen as a gift, not as a goal or a right, and God's people should learn to be content in whatever circumstances they find themselves [Hebrews 13:5, etc.].
|Prosperity is given to God's people, not for their own comfort, convenience, pleasure or safety, but to enable them to be effective in representing God in the world - so that they can give generously to others [Eph 4:28; II Cor 5:15], have resources to do good, and use their nation's prosperity for the good of the entire world and planet. As in the reigns of Ahab and Manasseh, prosperity turns us to idolatry and injustice, misrepresenting God. Jesus warns that it is hard for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God. See more.|
For those like me, who are suspicious of theological ideas built on just a single verse or passage, Romans 8 must be backed up not just by a few other passages but all through Scripture. Indeed, whatever is truth is 'breathed' throughout Scripture. I have found the three dimensions breathed throughout Scripture, though only clearly fulfilled in Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit in each culture as it unrolls in the Cosmic Plan of God.
This document seeks to explore the three dimensions and how they are breathed throughout Scripture and how they make sense of the times in which we live as well as the past 4000 years. Sadly, for 1500 years or so, Christians have tended to make D1 and then more recently D2 the sum total of God's Cosmic Plan, but when D3 is introduced, they are seen as narrow or flat, lacking the richness and joy that D3 can bring. However, each dimension has its own special glory, but each is also incomplete without the other dimensions. For each dimension there is a section that sets this out, and outlines how the dimension has been recognised through the ages. Following these is a comparison of them, so that we can see a whole picture.
The following are some of the people whom God used in widespread redisovery of Dimension 1 (incomplete list):
But they did not question the goal of salvation, to gain a place in heaven, though they gave it a different emphasis, often calling it 'justification' or "being made right with God".
Here are some of the people whom God used in widespread redisovery of Dimension 2 (incomplete list):
The following notable individuals had a yearning for action in God's world, but they stood out as lone heroes, whom ordinary Christians might admire (or loathe!), but not seek to emulate (incomplete list):
But from the 1980s Dimension 3 began to be something that every Christian could be involved in. Initially it focused on social justice, then it widened to environmental responsibility under God, and now it goes wider still. D3 is a home for those who wish to bridge what Mark Green calls the sacred-decular divide. D3 more clearly expresses the nature of God, and what Christopher Wright calls the mission of God. D3 resolves various conundrums that arise from the other two.
There have always been echoes and hints of D3. For example, in D1 there is the supposed imperative to evangelise, but it is understood mainly as a command to obey rather than something that inspires us (Acts 1:8 as command rather than promise). Liberal Christianity has always been interested in social justice, but has denied both the power of the Holy Spirit and the need for justification. Pentecostal and Charismatic movements facilitated a renewed interest in faith communities, but these were still seen as isolated from the world and even at war with the world, rather than bringing healing to the world.
For example, Thomas Müntzer was preaching pentecostal ecstasy and the gifts of the Spirit (Dimension 2) in 1520, but this remained a minority sect until much later. Concern for the rest of creation (the poor and animals) was manifest in the 1820s, and Francis of Assisi cared for the non-human creation (Dimension 3) nearly a millennium ago, but these remained a mere moral obligation until recently. Either Christendom refused to follow where God was leading, or there is a kairos (right time) for all things to come to fruition.
At this time, humankind is actually having a major harmful impact on nature, planet and populations, where we could instead bring blessing - and hence Dimension 3 has become extremely relevant and urgent at this time. Maybe, in His mercy, as He has done before, God will act in revival.
However, they are in unfuliflled, incomplete form, as shadows or foretastes of the full version instituted when Christ came. They are all in the context of nationhood and peoplehood among the other nations of the world as it then was, rather than about personal acceptability, holiness and being a blessing.
In the Prophets we find perhaps more emphasis on Dimension 3, probably because the nations of Israel and Judah had overlooked that one the most.
Ben Lindsay, in his book We Need To Talk About Race, Ben Lindsay shows the heinousness of racism and urging Christians to act with courage. That is a D3 message. However, he writes in his final chapter (p.152), "while we are called to fight the powers of injustice ... we need to consider how we power that fight. As Christians we are told in the book of Ephesians that, 'we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, ... the spiritual forces of evil on heavenly places.'" Earlier (p.151) he says - after many chapters on the evils of racism and that we should act - "Protesting against racism should not become an idol or a false god." and "If we do not believe the wisdom of I Peter 5:7 - that we need to cast our cares on him - the burden of racial injustice becomes too much to bear." The success of D3 activity depends on D2, the experience of living with God here and now.
These will now be worked out in more detail.
Interestingly, I find the work of the Christian philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd, useful in understanding this meaningfulness. He took meaningfulness more seriously than most philosophers had done for 2,500 years, recognised that meaningfulness of Creation is diverse and yet wonderfully coherent (as one might expect from a Creator who is Love), and set out to identify fundamental modalities or spheres of meaningfulness. This has given me a practical tool with which to see more clearly the amazing ways in which things around me are meaningful even in God's eyes, and even though distorted by sin. He delineated fifteen aspects of created reality, different ways in which things are meaningful, in which things are Good, and in which things work well together for the shalom of all Creation (bringing glory to God):
Dimensions 2 and 3 are about life here and now. However, a theology of three-dimensional salvation needs a clear idea of the 'next life', the new earth and heavens that will be instituted (Revelation 21-22), and how this life relates to it. In my view, this life is a training ground for the new life, which will be the Real Life as God intended. In particular, in this life, we get a taste of the joys and possibilities to come.
For example, did not Jesus tell us that the people to whom talents were entrusted would then receive responsibility for cities?
Paul uses the metaphor of the seed and whole plant, this life and body being like a seed, and those in the new life being the plant (I Corinthians 15?). Its form and glory cannot be predicted by looking at the seed. However, it is not severed from the seed but rather it fulfils the potential that is in the seed. So with our lives here and now; in the new life their potential will be fulfilled. I find it useful to think in terms of aspects: here and now, we function in fifteen aspects; maybe in the new life, there will be many more aspects, of which we can have no inkling here and now.
Paul also mentions building on the foundation of Christ with gold, sivler, precious stones, that will not be burned up. I see these as good things we develop in this life, especially in the later aspects of doing justly (juridical), loving mercy (ethical) and walking humbly with God (pistic) as Micah 6:8 tells us. The trials we 'suffer' here merely grow us in these three aspects. C.S. Lewis has many good things to say about how our "sad, sweet, stinking selves" need to be curbed and pruned and shaped for glory.
There is of course much more to say, for example, about the leaves of the tree of life being for healing in the new life, the idea in Hebrews that Abraham and others of faith sought a city not of this world, and so on. But that will have to do for now.
The Dimension-2 experience of God here and now, is not just a way to get us through this life, nor just something to give us "abundant life" here and now. Instead, it is a foretaste of what is to come. It is what is to come that is real, and what we have now is only a shadow (I Corinthians 13).
Dimension-3 work that we engage in in this life is not wasted when the new heavens and earth are brought in, but may be seen in the light of these passages. It demonstrates of what kind of heart we are - And is it not the heart that God judges? Let us take the example of action to enhance and ensure climate and environmental responsibility. On the surface it seems like a message to save this planet, and some Christians dismiss it as a 'worldly' concern. But, underneath this, is there not a sense of responsibility, a moving away from a self-centred attitude, and a working-out of the implications of the belief that this world and all its species belong to God and are loved by God and valued by God, and God will require them at our hands when we drive them extinct? Are not at least these three what the Bible calls heart - responsibility, attitude of self-giving, and orientation to God rather than to some other idol? If you wish to explore this more, look at the mini-website Climate Change and Global Economy.
Some of those who find each dimension precious often tend to react when the next dimension enters.
So, sin at the individual, communal and structural (societal) levels; all these undermine God's Plan and bring harm in the Creation, both human and non-human. Too often, one or other kinds of sin is ignored or acquiesced to (especially in the coservative - liberal split). See also Page on Sin.
When Dimension 1 was rediscovered, that we become acceptable to God through faith in Christ rather than any religious or good works, there was immense resistance. It led to persecution, resulting in major wars in Europe and major suffering. The Reformation: The Roman Catholic church resisted it, even though it had been prophesied that "a great reformer" would arise in 1516/17 - which was Martin Luther.
When Dimension 2 was rediscovered, first at the time of the Reformation by various sects but then more fully with the Pentecostal movement, it was those of Reformed faith who most spoke against it and resisted it - especially the idea that the Spirit of God gives gifts, does miracles here and now. (Though some were reasonably happy with the idea that the Spirit makes people holy, this was often not seen as part of life here and now but only for 'heaven'.) I remember some of those days in the 1960s and 1970s when the Charistmatic Movement ("Pentecostal-lite") swept through the mainline churches.
Now that Dimension 3 is being rediscovered, I believe it is Pentecostals and Charismatics who are resisting its message - that God wants us to be like loving shepherds to the rest of Creation rather then consumers.
This saddens me. It is those indwelt by the Spirit of God who are most able to bring about this change towards shepherding, away from consuming or merely stewarding, because the Holy Spirit wants to make us mature and self-giving like Christ, not immature, self-centred. Yet much Pentecostal worship, prayer and preaching is self-focused: "I am precious to God", "He comforts me", "He heals me", "He loves me", "I have victory", "He promises me success", "He makes me prosper" and so on. These are all true of course, because Father God protects and provisions those who are working with God, but I find that this self-focus the main thrust in many services from most Pentecostal or 'new' growing churches, including most African big churches. (Of course there are exceptions, but this is the main thrust. Even the communal thrust of much Pentecostal and Charismatic worship is still self-focused, on we-we-we if not on me-me-me.)
Not only does all this self-focus fall short of what God wishes and intends, it is also ultimately meaningless. Many eventually find it unsatisfying and are turning away. It satisfies for a time but soon palls then becomes an idol. First, our real need for healing when ill, money when destitute and comfort when deeply troubled is graciously met by the Lord, but does it not then often reduce to seeking healing, comfort and 'miracles' for their own sakes when we suffer only minor troubles, fostering what Ezekiel 16:49 called "unconcern", and then become either boring or idolatrous? Is it not a spiral downwards? If my self-focus is on prosperity, does not my third expensive car that "the Lord provides" bore me - except for my pride and arrogance (Ezekiel's other two: "affluence and arrogance")? Nothing centred on self ever fully satisfies. We are not here to be pampered princes strutting around the Creation. We are here to become mature 'sons' (of either sex) of God, eagerly longed for by Creation, so its experience of us is its joy and ours. The work of the Holy Spirit in us is never an end in itself, but always towards Christ, in whom all things in all Creation come together (Ephesians 1:10).
As I said earlier, it is Dimension 3 that brings Meaningfulness. We are created not to enjoy ourselves but to bring blessing to 'the other', to the rest of Creation. That is why we can gain much fulfilment in serving the poor, the sick, the lame, the lost (as Ezekiel 34 calls them). That is an important part of 'the other', of the rest of Creation, yet there is also another part, the non-human creation, to which t we are called upon to bring blessing.
That brings not just fulfilment but a different kind of joy. We feel we are fitted comfortably into part of God's Whole Plan, working with God, partners with God through the grace of Christ and the ever-working of the Holy Spirit. That, the blessing of the whole of the rest of Creation, is our 'resting' in Christ: we are called to the privilege of working with Him but it is He who takes the strain of that working,. That is what we were created for as human beings, what we are justified and being sanctified and empowered for, that is where our discipleship of Christ is leading these days, and thatis what we will be in the New Heavens and Earth. That is something meaningful, and deeply satisfying something to turn to before we turn away.
So, even if we are resisted or even persecuted for this, let us rejoice and pray for our persecutors. It is God's will that they turn and are freed into a life of meaningfulness rather than self-focus.
===== to be written.
A note added from 2 June 2019, on something I am trying to work out: D-Day 75th anniversary is coming up. At D-Day and also Dunkirk, it seemed that a miracle happened with the weather, allowing British or Allied ships to cross the channel. I believe it was a miracle, i.e. arranged by God. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the reason God arranged it was that it was God's plan to defeat Nazism, almost as a chess player makes various moves to defeat their opponent in the end. I see it slightly differently now. Yes indeed Nazism had to be defeated. However, I now believe it may have been that God arranges miracles to support and work with God's people. It may have been that God's people had been influential in working out the two operations, and God arranged the miracles to enable their operations to have been successful. It is not like the chess player moving passive pawns, but the chess player working with active pawns. God seems always to have given the Creation respect, affirming how it works in line with the Law-framework God supplied for it and, in the case of humans, also critiquing and correcting when they go wrong. It is a slightly different nuance on how and why God works miraculously with us than the traditional way, which I am still trying to work out.
That does not mean we must just focus on the third, allowing the first two to be replaced by human self-justification and effort, but rather there is a two-way inter-dependence between them all. The first two are necessary for fulfilling the third, and they are both incomplete and 'thin' without the third. The three are not in any order of importance; they are dimensions of equal importance, but a sequence of foundational and anticipatory inter-dependence. The three dimensions need each other both for this life and the life to come.
This page is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2012, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.
Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: 3 January 2012. Last updated: 23 January 2012 more comparisons. 13 February 2012 benefits. 22 April 2012 persecution. 11 November 2012 types of sin, some alterations to comparisons. 23 December 2012 bullets done, and new intro. 12 May 2013 indenting correct. 12 May 2013 better intro. 26 May 2013 filled up table, and moved it forward. 4 May 2014 reword intro, Contents. 18 May 2014 we don't leave behind D1,D2. 20 July 2014 sinful attitudes in each. 3 August 2014 prosperity. 26 November 2015 Thanks to Chris Gousmett who pointed out that speaking of "bridging the sacred-secular divide" is a category error. 1 May 2016 Intro improved; d1.insuff added to about seeking sinfulness. 17 July 2017 concl. 17 December 2017 Groans, link to sydwtgt.church. 3 October 2018 church as org to workout D1,2,3. 13 October 2018 helping the vulnerable; minor corrections. 14 October 2018 omit.dims section: what happens when we omit dimensions; began list of new material. 12 April 2019 1000 years preparation, and reordered. 21 April 2019 kinds of sin. 23 April 2019 realised there was already, so moved it to incorporate into the 'more' (msg-sin); added headings to messages. 23 April 2019 apology for table fonts. 27 April 2019 oversimple history. 14 May 2019 each contains echoes of others. 6 June 2019 genius of Scripture; note on miracles. 16 June 2019 Made formatting better; corrections from Layne Matthews (for which many thanks) - especially the filling in of the gap of what Jesus does in D3 and wrong way of being truly spiritual! Acknowledgements. Link to orig.sin. 22 April 2020 dash between "No condemnation" and "cos Christ". 25 May 2020 Issues and THemes: what each dimension brings; link to Dooyeweerd's aspects. 31 May 2020 Resistance; also removed a few superfluous references. 1 June 2020 slight reword. 6 September 2020 repentance ignored in D2; D2 retrocipation of D1; triumph of Christ; indication of to-be-written. 14 September 2020 The New Life to Come. 20 September 2020 Amazing Grace anticipates D2. 28 September 2020 Ben Lindsay on how D3 (racism) requires D2. 8 October 2020 community renewal in D3.