3DS - Three Dimensions of Salvation
This developed from an exposition of Romans chapter 8 in the Bible for a Nigerian RCCG church in August 2011. Since then, the idea of 'three-dimensional salvation' has become more useful, and this page is being built to be a summary of it, prior to fuller discussion.
By "salvation" do we mean "justification by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, being put right with God"? That is just one dimension of salvation; salvation has three dimensions, which all happen to occur in Romans 8:
- Dimension 1: Right with God through Christ (Romans 8:1-3) ...
- Dimension 2: ... which allows the Holy Spirit to remake us inside (Romans 8:14-17) ...
- Dimension 3: ... So that the rest of creation can experience in joy something of its Creator (Romans 8:19-23).
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.
I put my trust in Jesus Christ to make me right with God.
I was told that guaranteed my place in heaven when I died.
I should be thankful and serve God all the rest of my life.
"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" [Romans 8:1].
(This is the salvation the Reformers discovered and died for in the 1500s - then it was new and exciting, bringing joy.)
But I didn't have any experience of God in my life.
No answered prayer;
The Bible was a textbook;
No changing of my nature by the Holy Spirit;
No heartfelt calling God "Father".
Worship was a duty.
My salvation had but one dimension.
Through Philippians 2:13 I began to discover new things.
Prayers started to be answered.
The Bible started to be fascinating for me.
I genuinely desired what God wanted.
Prosperity of various kinds grew.
I gained joy.
I loved God, as my Father.
Worship became natural.
My salvation gained a second dimension to salvation -
We can expect to experience God here-and-now!
"Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God"
"We cry out 'Abba Father' [Romans 8:14-17]
(This is the salvation experienced by Pentecostals and in revivals from the 1800s onwards.)
But this seemed rather self-centred,
a constant chasing after more experiences of God.
It made little impact on world problems.
It had little to do with my everyday life in the world.
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.
God's main purpose in saving us
is not just for our sakes
- whether in 'heaven' or here-and-now -
but for the blessing of His world
by people who are like Christ.
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:
The forests groan as they are felled to make way for palm-oil.
The seas groan as they are filled with plastic and other waste.
The atmosphere groans as we pump stuff into it.
People groan from poverty, slavery, meaninglessness and war.
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].
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.
Table Summarising the Three Dimensions
(Click on links for more.)
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.) |
| THEOLOGY |
| 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 |
| Problems addressed
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 16:40] |
| 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" |
| LIFE |
| Personal life |
| 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 |
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. |
| Communal life |
| 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.
Origin of the Idea of Three-Dimensional Salvation
For those, like me, who want major theological ideas grounded clearly in Scripture, I will say that this idea of three dimensions came to me while I was reading Romans chapter 8. It begins "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (dimension 1), progresses through the struggle of spirit and flesh to "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" and calling God 'Abba Father' (dimension 2), to "The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (dimension 3). An exposition of this is given in a separate page on Romans 8.
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.
Historical Revealing of Each Dimension
Dimensions of salvation are what God thinks important, as a goal or purpose of bringing salvation into the creation. All dimensions are necessary for full salvation. One-dimensional salvation is basic, necessary but narrow; two-dimensional salvation is better but still flat; three-dimensional salvation is rich, full, exciting and motivating. Since the Reformation and Renaissance the dimensions have been revealed (rediscovered by Godward people) in order D1, D2, D3, and this section outlines that history. However, in fact the three dimensions should all be there together, and to some extent were all present in partial form in the Mosaic Law and the Prophets of Israel, and this is described too.
Dimension 1 Rediscovered
From the Middle Ages in Europe, Roman Catholic Christendom (RC) has seen salvation as gaining a place in heaven by belonging to the Church and doing good or religious duties in place of good (enacting the Mass and doing things to shorten the time in Purgatory). In the middle of the second millennium, the Reformation questioned the RC means of gaining heaven, and found in the Scriptures the importance of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ 1500 years earlier, which 'paid the price' for our sin and obtained justification. (Perhaps the thousand years of RC before this were a time when God waited patiently for European humanity to be prepared?)
The following are some of the people whom God used in widespread redisovery of Dimension 1 (incomplete list):
- Martin Luther
- John Calvin
- John Knox
- The Anabaptists
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".
Dimension 2 Rediscovered
Around the 1800s, though perhaps a bit before, something more emerged among those who read Scripture: enjoying God's presence now, holiness, love and power here and now in this life, as an immediate, intimate experience. This expanded the concern with justification (D1) by making it relevant to this life (D2), as sanctification and indwelling by the Holy Spirit. D1 should lead to D2 (as James said, faith without works is dead), but D2 cannot be achieved without D1 (works without faith are useless). But it's not just works here and now, but, as some Methodists discovered, love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, and, as the Pentecostal movement discovered, gifts of the Holy Spirit. Salvation was broadened into the here and now, not just the hereafter.
Here are some of the people whom God used in widespread redisovery of Dimension 2 (incomplete list):
- John Wesley
- The American methodists, Hannah Whittal Smith and her four discoveries
- The Pentecostal saints
- Evan Roberts and the Welsh 1904 revival
- Rwanda revival
- Laestadian revival
- Reformational thinking with D2
Dimension 3 Rediscovered
Since around the 1980s, Bible-centred Christians have discovered what is perhaps a third dimension, D3. Both D1 and D2 could be inward-looking, focused on 'me'. Dimension 3 is concerned with the rest of creation - both human and non-human - and is outward-looking. D3 is concerned with restoring humanity's mandate to represent God to this rest of creation. D3 gives wider, deeper and richer meaning to D1 and D2 beyond merely experiencing God, to "working together with God' in his world, while D1 and D2 are necessary conditions for full effectiveness in D3.
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):
- Francis of Assisi
- Celtic Christians
- John Calvin, John Knox
- John Wesley
- William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury
- David Livingstone
- Cadbury, Lever, Heinz?
- Herman Dooyeweerd
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.
That is, of course, somewhat oversimplified, but it is the discernible shape of history.
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.
The Dimensions in Mosaic Law and Prophets
The Law of Moses (Torah, Pentateuch) contains many references to all three dimensions, and some with all three together.
- Dimension 1, About being acceptable with God.: Passages in the Law to do with sacrifices for atonement are to do with restoring acceptability with God. So are passages to do with uncleanness.
- Dimension 2, God at work in our lives; being holy people: Passages that promise God's protection, guidance or correction, are to do with experiencing God here and now as God's holy nation. Passages about being holy are also of this dimension.
- Dimension 3, God working through his people to bless the world: Passages that speak about how the nations will be blessed
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.
2. DIMENSION 1: NO CONDEMNATION BECAUSE OF CHRIST
Dimension 1 concerns our status before God as sinners who are saved, and our eternal destiny.
2.1 The Glories and Importance of Dimension 1
- The heinousness of sin; original sin
- The mercy of God
- The atonement
- Past sins wiped out; forgiveness; guilt lifted
- The self-sacrifice of God
- Eternal security
- Supreme thankfulness
- Our duty after such a wonderful gift
2.2 The Insufficiency of Dimension 1
- What if we have little feeling of guilt? Either we reject the idea that we need saving of, if we are sensitive people, we might try hard to 'feel' our sinfulness, so as to make the Cross of Christ more 'real' as a symbol of atonement. We might keep on seeking sin in ourselves, at the expense of getting on with God's wider work. (That's what happened to me.)
- Struggling against the flesh, in a way that is ineffective.
- "Shall we sin that grace may abound?" cannot be answered.
- Sacred-secular divide
- How can we love God as a duty?
- Predestination v free will
- Paradox of eternal security v. warning
- Problem of baptism
- "Would you rather save a soul or save a rainforest?" - cannot be answered
- There is no logical reason why we should help or support the vulnerable. If our eventual destination is infinitely-important, the only thing that really matters, then suffering here on earth is a tiny concern. Yet the Scriptures (OT, NT) keep on telling us we should help the vulnerable. Either we ignore that (e.g. "It was of the Old Covenant, which no longer applies") or we see it merely as a PR stunt to attract people to Christ. It requires D2 and especially D3 to make sense of why we should support the vulnerable.
2.3 Dimension 1 Anticipates Dimensions 2, 3
- reactions against the emergence of D2; anti-charismatics
3. DIMENSION 2: THE HOLY SPIRIT AND EXPERIENCING GOD HERE AND NOW
Dimension 2 concerns our experience of God here and now, in our lives.
3.1 The Glories and Importance of Dimension 2
- precious jewels for Christ's crown
- the new convenant
- a new heart of flesh replacing the heart of stone
- the Father heart of God
- the gifts of the Holy Spirit
- power and spiritual warfare
- excitement and pride in my faith
- new personalities: the fruit of the Holy Spirit
- loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength
- enjoying worship
- beginning to enjoy the world as God created it: nature, arts, etc.
- evangelism with pride and devotion
3.2 The Insufficiency of Dimension 2
- But to what end do we become sanctified?
- To what end do we have a new heart and will?
- To what end do we enact the gifts of the Spirit?
- To what end are we excited?
- To what end are we changed?
- Limited views of the Holy Spirit
- the selfishness of D2 Christians ...
- ... enjoying God in the midst of suffering, injustice and destruction?
- The perversion of spiritual warfare
- Teenager-style devotion
- The selflessness of God
- Agape love and its paradox are not understood
- Want to make sense of evangelism: what is the real motive
- Revivals that fade too soon, or even leave the place open to genocide 60 years later (Rwanda)
3.3 Hints of a Third Dimension?
- Christians in politics against abortion etc.
- reactions against the emergence of dimension 3: selfish, unconcerned Christians
4. DIMENSION 3: REPRESENTING GOD TO THE REST OF CREATION
Dimension 3 concerns our role in the world, to 'image' or represent God in this world, bringing knowledge and some experience of God to the rest of humanity and the rest of creation, at all levels (personal, communal, societal, global).
4.1 The Glories and Importance of Dimension 3
- whole creation meaningful in God's sight
- social justice
- environmental justice
- engagement with secular and other thought
- evangelism with confidence, humility and joy
- cross-cultural mission
- the fruits of revival
- mature sons, like Christ
- representing God
- salt and light making a difference to the world
- evangelism as part of social and environmental action
- Glory of continuance
- Engagement with academia and opinion-forming
- Engagement with politics
- Boldness in the world
- God's people in the vanguard, not lagging behind
- God's people leading environmental responsibility, and responsibility to children and the weak
- Job: God reveals to Job not only his character but his plan - that it involves more than Job and humanity but also animals - and that Job can be part of this plan.
4.2 The Insufficiency of Dimension 3
It is too early to understand fully the insufficiencies of Dimension 3, because it has not yet even begun to be worked out widely.
- D3 needs D2. Individuals, communities, and even humanity as a whole, know that the world needs goodness. But if they try to achieve it without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, their attempts will fail after a time, and even turn to evil. Their goodness is not sustainable.
- D3 needs D1. To succeed in bringing goodness into the world in an effective, sustainable way also requires the hope of forgiveness and eventual full salvation. Otherwise D3 becomes a mere arduous grind and hopelessness and despair.
- Danger of this-world-only; need to remember the next; continuance.
- Danger of forgetting D1, D2, leading to secular "social gospel" and mere morality, "tolerance" or "do-goodery".
5. COMPARING THE THREE DIMENSIONS
5.1 Issues and Themes
5.2 Why Each Dimension is Needed
Some who focus on D1 think that D2, D3 are distractions. Some who focus on D2 see D3 as distraction and D1 as merely a necessary precondition. Some who focus on D3 leave D1 and D2 behind and even deny them. But in New View, all three are needed together, and we don't leave D1, D2 behind. On the other hand, it recognises that D1 and D2 are not complete without D3. The following sets out several kinds of reasons why each is needed.
- D1 lends depth; without it, all we have is a thin version of humanism.
- D2 gives excitement and power; without it, we are weak and operate according to rules not joy and power.
- D3 gives impact and the fulfilment of God's Cosmic Plan; without it, we become self-absorbed and dishonour God.
Some of those who find each dimension precious often tend to react when the next dimension enters.
- D1: react against the Charismatic movement and experientialism because of fear of losing the importance of D1. React against D3 on grounds that it is merely of this world and feels like 'social gospel'.
- D2: some react against D3, and the environmental movement and justice movements, for fear that they are 'liberal' and will turn our hearts away from pure devotion to God to self-work and 'social gospel'. Tends to despise D1-ers as trapped in old stuff.
- D3: no next D (yet). But might tend to react against D1ers and D2ers as 'too heavenly minded to be any earthly good".
5.3 When We Omit Dimensions
Focusing on one or even two of the dimensions leads to a thinner or flatter experience of God's plan and salvation:
- D1 (acceptability with God) without D2 and D3 can be joyless, unemotional, because it lacks here-and-now experience of God, and breeds arrogance and self-centredness, because it focuses on the self rather than on the rest of creation.
- There can be some joy by meditating on future salvation and one's own unworthiness of it, but it is a joy born of deduction rather than a fully emotional joy. I have always found it difficult to maintain this joy for long. Especially when I remember all those who will not find acceptance with God ("go to hell"). This is an echo of D2, but not in its fulness.
- There can be some reduction in self-centredness when one is motivated by the logic of wanting to bring as many other people into acceptability with God as possible: the evangelist's motivation. Though preachers keep urging us to share the gospel and tell others about Jesus, it has little power to make us do so. This is an echo of D3, but not in its fulness.
- D1 with D2 but without D3 has joy but tends to breed even greater arrogance. The Christian feels not only "I'm OK for eternity" but also "... and God is loving me so much and my life is so happy and successful."
- D2 (experience of God here and now) without D1 (acceptance with God) is unsustainable. It might be that Hebrews 6:4,5 is referring to this.
- D2 without D3 is self-centred and can become "affluent, arrogant and unconcerned" [Ezekiel 16:49].
- D2 without either D1 or D3 can become shallow and arrogent and unconcerned.
- D3 (working for the good of the rest of creation, whether human or non-human) without D1 leads to an attitude that can have at least three deleterious consequences.
- (1) It can lead to self-righteousness and even hypocrisy and superiority, because we think that we, the active ones, are OK (sinless) and it is "the others" who are not - as exemplified by the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law in Jesus' time.
- (2) A version of this, seen today, of blaming "the establishment", "the system" for all wrong and seeking to destroy or overthrow it.
- (3) Alternatively, we believe that humanity are all basically OK, which leads to a semi-humanistic political correctness.
- D3 with D1 but without D2 becomes a hard grind, a duty. "We are saved to serve" is a favourite slogan - but we do so with little joy nor power. Moreover, since D1 tends to emphasise human being, their D3 tends to ignore the rest of creation. I might be wrong, but are people who hold this view often against those who seek to overthrow the status quo, and do they acquiesce too readily to the status quo?
5.3 The Message of Each Dimension
(These to be completed.)
5.3.1 What each dimension might say to a non-believer
These are all valuable, and which we use will depend on the person and their circumstance.
- D1: "You are worth something to God, regardless of what religion says; Christ died to bring you into relationship with God."
- D2: "Your life is messed up; Christ died to give you newness of life and so the Holy Spirit can work in you."
- D3: "Your desire for justice is good, and echoes the heart of God. But ultimately you will be ineffective in bringing it about, even though you might get politicians, business and media on your side for a while. Christ died and the Holy Spirit comes to make you effective by dealing with the things deep inside you. You will then be representing God Himself, not just some ideology."
5.3.2 What each dimension might wrongly say about being 'truly spiritual'
- D1: "You cannot be truly spiritual, if you don't internalise the importance of the wrath of God and the need for forgiveness."
- D2: "You cannot be truly spiritual, unless you speak tongues or do some other miraculous things."
- D3: "You cannot be truly spiritual, if you don't work for the poor and marginalised - and especially cannot if you are "right wing"."
5.3.3 What each dimension says about persecution and perseverance
- D1: "Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life." This looks forward to the next life,
- D2: Joy in the midst of persecution. Many Christians have discovered that it is in the midst of trouble and persecution that they have the most intense experience of God.
- D3: "We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has beforehand prepared for us to do." [Eph 2:10] Written when Paul was in prison. Even and especially in the midst of persecution we are called not just to be faithful, not just to enjoy God, but to do good in this world. Like Joseph, God might occasionally give us opportunities to change the direction of society, even from within prison or persecution; be patient and wait.
5.3.4 What each dimension says about sin
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:8), and it can be of kinds we had not previously considered. Some Christianities focus on only one or two kinds of sin and ignore (or even deny) others.
- D1: Sin making individuals guilty before God, separating us from God. e.g. disobedience or rebellion against God. Self on the throne of our lives.
- D2: Sin as unholiness, unChristlikeness. Attitudes of bitterness, revenge, jealousy, self-centredness, self-protection or idolatry. Sin that harms others, especially sin that harms relationships.
- D3: Sin against the wider Creation. This especially takes the form of structural sin in society, which makes it easier for people to live unrighteously than righteously (see definition of "righteousness" as right relationships among all things in the Created Order). Ezekiel 16:49. Structural sin constrains the individual, bending them towards unrigtheousness and sinful lives in three main ways, not just laws, but attitudes and beliefs. I use the example of "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: they were afflent, arrogance and unconcerned for the poor" [Ezekiel 16:49]:
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.
6. TOWARDS A 'NEW VIEW'
To be written. For now, See New View. This idea of Three Dimensions emerged out of thinking about a new view.
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.
7. COMPARISON WITH VARIOUS THINKERS
This section discusses how it relates to the thinking of Christian thinkers and practitioners in the UK and Europe, in America, in Africa and China. It provides principles for comparing this 'new view' of three dimensional salvation with others: principles of humility yet boldness.
7.1 UK Christian Thinkers
7.1.1 Christopher Wright 'Mission of God'
7.1.2 N.T. Wright
7.1.3 John Stott
7.1.4 C.S. Lewis
7.2 European Thinkers
7.2.1 Karl Barth
7.2.2 Herman Dooyeweerd
7.3 American Thinkers
7.3.1 Billy Graham
7.3.2 Rick Warren
7.3.3 Rob Bell
7.4 African Thinkers
7.4.1 Janani Luwum
7.4.2 Benson Idahosa
7.5 Chinese Thinkers
7.5.1 Watchman Nee
7.5.2 Brother Yun
See Brother Yun page.
7.6 Principles of Comparison with Other Thinkers
The genius of Scripture as we have it (and of its Author!) is that if people take it seriously, even if they focus on one Dimension they will begin, perhaps unknowingly, to enact some tenets of others. Especially, those who have focused on Dimensions 1 or 2, especially during the periods in which they have been rediscovered, have begun to enact Dimension 3. (Those who cling to, or over-emphasise, one dimension with pride or idolisation or self-interest, however, will probably not enact the others; so eschew such people however persuasive they might seem.) The three Dimensions are woven together in God's Plan into something inseparable.
- Seek to engage: affirm, critique and enrich
- Love builds up
- Find the good
- Uncover assumptions
- Reveal presuppositions
- Especially the sacred-secular divide
- Remember God's Cosmic Plan
The Usefulness of Three Dimensional Salvation
- If we keep all three dimensions in mind, it helps ensure we don't become completely one-sided in our thinking, praying, preaching, counselling.
- If we keep all three dimensions in mind, we can keep on setting each in the context of the others:
- Being right with God is only the start of a wonderful life of blessing God's creation, with him in our lives.
- Having an intimate relationship with the Father and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of representing God to the rest of creation in blessing, but can only happen if we are right with God.
- Being God's representative to bless his beloved creation sustainably is only possible with power if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and we are right with God.
We need people who will take Christ seriously, not just for justification by the death of Christ on the cross, not just for the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification and giving us power here and now, but for their responsibility as mature 'sons' of God to heal and bless the world, including the non-human creation. These are the three dimensions of what it means to be God's representatives (image) in the world, and Christ's witnesses and likeness.
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.
NOTES and REFERENCES
Note 1. The idea of religion as a shame-management system I first found in Wayne Jacobsen's So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore, page 144.
I am very grateful to Layne Matthews for going through this page in June 2019, to find errors of various kinds. I am grateful that she also commented on what she liked, and was interested that she was not put off by its 'classic HTML' style, and that she felt that it is suited to "young people".
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.