The seven Ninian Smart’s dimensions of religion include practical and ritual, for example baptism, prayer and worship; narrative or mythical, for instance historical stories of Moses and Jesus in the bible; ethical and legal, as evidenced by the ten commandments and beatitudes in Christianity; doctrinal and philosophical, which entails justification of the faith through scriptures; experiential and emotional, expressed through deep emotions when something believed to be supreme or profound is experienced; institutional and social as evidenced by existence of churches, mosques and temples; and material aspects such as architectural structures, music and religious symbols. This paper analyses Christianity by exploring how the seven dimensions are expressed in the religion.
Expression of the Seven Religious Dimensions in Christianity
The practical and ritual dimension is expressed in Christianity through regular gatherings, prayer and worship. Christians usually meet for prayers on Sundays while other sects have their prayers on Saturday. The religion also has certain days within the calendar year, such as Lent, Easter Monday and Good Friday and Christmas when the adherents meet for prayers (Jewish Virtual Library 2008). Moreover, there are solemn rites of passage in Christianity, which include the Holy Communion observed by Catholic faith adherents, baptism, confirmation, church weddings and funerals, each of which is associated with a specific sacrament in the Catholic doctrine.
Christianity also expresses the narrative and mythical element. To this end, there are historical narratives such as freeing of Israelites from Pharaoh’s slavery under Moses’ leadership, wars in which God led His people to victory, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the first sin and Jesus life and mission on earth (DeAnza 2004). In addition, the, mythical aspect is expressed through creation accounts and stories of religious leaders such as Lot and prophets. What is more, the book of revelation in which Jesus’ coming days and eschatology is narrated reveals Christianity’s narrative dimension (Danbhai n.d).
Moreover, the ethical and legal dimension is evident in Christianity in a number of ways. For instance, the religion emphasizes love and kindness to each other, summed up in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The religion is also based on God’s Ten Commandments (Danbhai n.d) and the six commandments observed by Catholics, which are supposed to guide the faithful in their daily lives. There are also the beatitudes taught by Jesus to his followers. The adherents observe the ethical and legal regulations, the violation of which comprises a sin against God.
The Christian faithful believe that only repentance saves the sinner from God’s wrath.
Christianity expresses the doctrinal and philosophical facet through many ways, including the Holy Trinity and the Cross. The Holy Trinity, comprising God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit symbolizes God’s completeness and oneness (Jewish Virtual Library 2008; Danbhai n.d). The cross symbolizes Jesus’ persecution and eventual crucifixion which the Christians believe was God’s plan to save humankind from sin and destruction (Jewish Virtual Library 2008). The said dimension is also evident in the religion’s philosophical belief in Mary the Virgin, particularly among the Catholics. Jesus’s teachings on faith and love for one’s neighbor, God’s ultimate plan for humankind as described in the old and new testaments, as well as Jesus’ command to his disciples to spread the Gospel to the entire world, which Christianity is based on, are other expressions of the religion’s doctrinal and philosophical dimension.
Furthermore, the social and institutional dimension in Christianity is epitomized by the church and its hierarchical leadership (Jewish Virtual Library 2008). The church is a social institution for prayers, worship and other religious, social gatherings. The Christian faith is shared among Jesus’ followers world over, and is founded on the premise that humans are social beings, hence must fellowship together in worship. The social aspect is also evidenced by regular social meetings and Christian groups such as men’s, women’s and youth Christian groups.
Moreover, Christianity expresses the experiential and emotional dimension of religion in numerous ways. Certain emotional experiences in the bible, such as the conversion of Paul who was a believers’ persecutor invoke deep emotion among Christians. When Christian adherents experience something that they believe is divine or profound, such as receiving the Holy Communion sacrament, undergoing baptism, participating in prayer and worship, or joining the clergy as a priest or nun (Jewish Virtual Library 2008), they react with deep, religious emotion, sometimes weeping when the experiential emotions overwhelm them.
Lastly, Christianity, like most other religions has a material dimension.
For example, the architectural construction of churches inspired by history or the religion’s doctrines expresses the material facet of the religion (Curious Christian 2011; Danbhai n.d). This is evident in churches’ curved windows and doors, installation of crosses, and inclusion of relics and sculptures, such as the statue of Virgin Mary. Christian music and other artistic creations such as sculptures are also a result of the adherents’ religious experience or encounters. Holy rosaries, crucifixes, religion-inspired clothing, and other symbolic materials are also evident in Christianity and embody the material dimension of the faith.
All in all, Christianity, like other religious, expresses the seven dimensions of religions in different ways that include regular prayer and worship meetings in churches, believing in specific doctrinal and philosophical principles such as the Holy Trinity and Jesus’ teachings, adhering to the Ten Commandments and other regulations whose violation attracts God’s punishment unless solemn repentance is tendered, and presence of material facets such as religious symbols and architectural and artistic creations inspired by the religion’s doctrines. Christians practice many rites of passage, engage in emotional worships and other religious activities and believe in many historical and theological narratives and myths that are found in the bible and define the faith.
Curious Christian. The Seven Dimensions of Religion. Mattson, 24 Dec. 2011. Web. 28 Oct.
Danbhai. Seven Dimensions of Religions. Danbhai, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013
DeAnza College. Dimensions of Religion. DeAnza, 27 Sept. 2004. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
Jewish Virtual Library. Religion: Christianity. Jewish Virtual Library, 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.