Ritual - 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. Clearly this dimension is far more important in Orthodox and Catholic churches with their elaborate services than it is to austere Protestant churches or to members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), who sit together mostly in silence.
Experiential-The second area is the experiential or emotional. This has already been illustrated and I have indicated the importance that I attach to this.
Myth-The third dimension is the narrative or mythic. Each religion has its story or stories. 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. Only the saving death of God?s Son Jesus offered a way of escape or salvation. At the end of time Jesus will come again to judge the world.
Doctrinal-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. We shall see how important the creeds and other summaries of belief have been to many Christians, who have unhitched those with whom they disagreed and at times persecuted people whose opinions were regarded as unorthodox, whom they called heretics.
Ethical-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? (Matt. 5:44) has led Christians to argue about whether or not they should take part in war. This fifth dimension is the ethical or legal.
Social-The sixth dimension is the social or institutional and is the one to which Richard Gombrich drew attention. It is about the community to which people claim to belong and their sense of identity. One difficulty, however, is that not all Christians recognize that others who claim to be Christian are really so. A decree of the Council of Florence (1438-45) said that ?The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and proclaims that none of those who are outside the Catholic church -- not only pagans, but Jews also, heretics and schismatics -- can have part in eternal life, but will go into eternal fire.? Heretics and schismatics were those who thought of themselves as Christian but did not agree with the Holy Roman Church.
Material-The seventh dimension identified by Ninian Smart is the material. 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. Sometimes their upkeep is a drain on resources and some Christians may feel that the money would be better used helping the poor. It is also true that there are many people who are heirs to Christian culture and have a deep appreciation of cathedrals, Christian music and Christian art, who do not have a personal belief in Jesus Christ