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7 Dimensions of Religion
Transcript of 7 Dimensions of Religion
The 7 Dimensions of Religion was a concept developed by
Ninian Smart. It was a way of defining the different world
religions, but allowing them be compared, based on 7 key elements:
Experiential & Emotional
Narrative & Mythical
To help you, we have given you examples of each dimension using Christianity.
1. Ritual Dimension
The first is the practical or ritual dimension. This includes church services, with their patterns of worship, including the sacraments and preaching, festivals and rites of passage. Christianity centres on the story of Jesus Christ as told in the four gospels. The narratives (stories) are often reflected in the rituals, so the two dimensions of ritual and story are closely related. At Christmas, for example, countless nativity plays re-enact the story of Jesus’ birth.
The second area is the experiential or emotional. This encompasses the emotional bond that people have with their religious community or the faith that they feel towards God. The experiential dimension also includes the spiritual cleansing or connection that is felt in response to a Church service or mass and prayer.
3. Narrative & Myth
The third dimension is the narrative or mythic. The biblical story is that God created the world, including man and woman. Adam and Eve gave in to temptation, whereby sin entered the world. At one time, most Christians regarded this as factually true, but now most would regard it as a ‘myth’ or a story with a deep truth about the human condition. In this way the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, illustrate the human experiences of failure, guilt, broken relationships and conflict.
The fourth dimension is the doctrinal or philosophical. This is the attempt to answer such questions as ‘Does God exist?’ or ‘Did God make the world?’ or ‘Does God answer prayer?’ Christianity traditionally has given considerable emphasis to correct belief. The Apostle’s creed is an excellent example of a Doctrinal dimension in Christianity. The scriptures in both the old and new testaments make up the doctrinal dimension in Christianity.
Christians have also struggled to see what the central Christian story means for every aspect of life. Jesus’ concern for the sinner, for example, has something to say about how criminals should be treated. His injunction to ‘love your enemies’ (Mt 5:44) has led Christians to argue about whether or not they should take part in war. The 10 commandments is a prime example of the ethical dimension.
The sixth dimension is the social or institutional dimension. It is about the community to which people claim to belong and their sense of identity. Religious identity may condition who can receive communion with whom, admission to a school or whether a person can be married in church.
The social dimension also includes how the hierarchy of church is structured.
The seventh dimension identified by Ninian Smart is the material dimension. This includes sacred buildings and sacred art. Christians have built churches of great beauty in many places, which are consecrated or set apart for the worship of God.
Rosary beads, the bible, the cross are all examples of the material dimension.
Ritual - Judaism & Hinduism