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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

The fourth dimension

Science is nothing more than a method of learning and research. It is not the end-all of knowledge, and it is only as good as those doing the research. Scientists are people, and people have imperfections and biases. One of the big problems with science today, if not the biggest problem, is that some of what is said and done under the guise of science belongs in the realm of religion and belief. The alleged conflict between Christianity and other belief systems that some assert is really not a clash between science and religion, but between belief and belief. It can also be called a clash of worldviews and not scientific facts. There are no actual scientific facts that are in conflict with the Bible, and sometimes things that are asserted as facts later turn out to be wrong. Some things asserted as facts are really only hypotheses and theories. However, science does have its value if done right.

There are parts of science that seem strange to the layperson. Two examples are Einstein's theory of relativity which deals with space and time in a way and at a scale that we mostly do not experience in our daily lives. Another theory is quantum mechanics which deals with the opposite end of the spectrum - the extremely microscopic. Based on current understanding, both seem to be true.

Another seemingly strange concept is four dimensional space. Our minds can understand three dimensional space because that is how we experience the world in our daily living. We observe the height, width, and depth of objects every day. The idea of a fourth dimension seems odd to us. Geometry helps to illustrate this concept. One way is to see an animation of one three dimensional cube inside of another with lines connecting them. This is sometimes called a tesseract. Another way to understand it is through perspective. Einstein believed the fourth dimension is time. The concept of a fourth dimension has led some to propose other ideas such as multiple universes and fourth dimension beings. The film "Interstellar" by Christopher Nolan brings up the idea of a fourth dimension in at least two ways. The film refers several times to "them", inferring either fourth dimensional beings or humans from the future. In one conversation about which direction to go, the team of astronauts is discussing the problems they have encountered experiencing relativity. One of them asserts that the fourth dimension may be love - an immaterial force that transcends time and space.

What does this have to do with the Bible? There are a few interesting passages that may connect in some way to the concept of a fourth dimension. There is certainly some crossover between the spiritual and the material, and some people even think that theories such as Einstein's may even give some insight into the spiritual dimension. The first passage is Ephesians 3:17-19, which says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." The word translated breadth means width, implying great extent. It only appears here and in Revelation 20:9 and in Revelation 21:16. The word translated length only appears here and in Revelation 21:16. This word literally means length, and Thayer says this word spiritually means "language used in shadowing forth the greatness, extent, and number of the blessings received from Christ". The word depth literally means the measurement of up and down. Thayer says the spiritual meaning is the profundity of the deep things of God as in Romans 11:33 and 1Corinthians 2:10. The word translated height means on high, altitude, high station, or heaven. It also appears in Revelation 21:16, which says, "And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal". This is part of the description of the new Jerusalem. It can be discussed whether this is a description of a literal or spiritual place, or even both. However, it is noteworthy that three of the four words used in Ephesians 3:17-19 also appear here, and that these words are not often used in other passages. This seems to indicate some correlation. We should also note that the description of new Jerusalem is that of a city that is a cube of about 1,400 miles on each side in this same verse (Rev 21:16). In Ezekiel' visions (chapters 1-11), he described a wheel inside of another wheel, which is an unusual geometrical shape somewhat like a gyroscope which is used in stabilizing aircraft.

Ephesians 3:18 uses four measurements to describe the love of God. Revelation 21:16 uses the same words to describe the cubed city of new Jerusalem. Does this have anything to do with the scientific concept of a fourth dimension beyond the normal perception of man? It could in at least one way. Ephesians 3:16-19 shows us that we can only comprehend the love of God through the Spirit and faith because it passes human comprehension. In fact, the Greek word used to describe the love of God, agape, does not appear in secular Greek literature before the New Testament was written. The altruistic, self-sacrificing love that puts others first has nothing to do with emotion. It is based on the will, not feelings. It is different than what the world often calls love, and it is even different than what some Christians mistakenly and unscripturally attribute to God. God's love is above and beyond human understanding, ability, and experience. It is what drove Him to come to earth in the flesh as Jesus Christ and die for our sins (Jn 3:16). There is no greater love (Jn 15:13).

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