Heaven on Earth
There is a children’s movie called Flatland, in which the main characters are geometric shapes that exist in a two dimensional world. One day, a huge commotion breaks out when there is a report of a creature that can appear and disappear in a moment’s notice. This being is breaking into safes and materializing behind closed doors, and no one knows how. It turns out this being is a three-dimensional shape, a sphere. Imagine that there were creatures living in a piece of paper, and you could put your finger anywhere through the paper. The only part of your finger these two-dimensional creatures could see would be the cross-section of your finger on the paper. If you lifted your finger and placed it anywhere else through the paper, it would seem to them that your finger had teleported. But before discussing the implications of these dimensional interactions, let us clarify: what is a dimension? Look around you: the world we live in and perceive is in three dimensions, with the components of length, height, and width. In modern physics, space and time are connected to create the space-time continuum, which consists of four dimensions. This one higher dimension defies our natural perception of a physical reality, as aspects like distance are distorted. One can only imagine what changes in the higher-up dimensions, as new variables are introduced and with it a new set of natural laws and conventions. And we should also establish the mathematical principle of dimensions: every lower dimension is subsumed under its higher counterparts. Each lower dimension is a part of those higher than itself, and the higher dimensions contain those lower.
Imagine if a four-dimensional or higher being acted in our world as the three-dimensional being acted in Flatland. The fullness of its existence would be out of our natural scope of understanding and perception, and it would have powers we struggle to comprehend. We could only catch a glimmer or a shadow—a three dimensional image—of its higher-dimensional existence. Just as the idea of capturing only a glimpse of a being’s essence is logical under the mathematical assumption that there exists more dimensions than we are able to perceive and that they permeate through dimensions lower than themselves, looking from a religious perspective, perhaps we’re able to see glimpses of a spiritual realm in which a god or deity dwells and how it may filter through our physical reality.
For the purposes of my own faith and this article, I interpret this in terms of Christianity and the Christian God, and consider some of the implications that arise from such a perspective. Within this framework, God must exist in the infinite dimension, because Scripture describes God as an infinite and eternal God. Jeremiah 23:24 says,
“Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.”
Just as the third dimension contains the first and second dimensions, God, on the infinite dimension, fills all the ones below Him, and we can see how this echoes throughout God’s characteristics. God is touted as omnipresent: He fills the vastness of space. God is eternal: time exists in a lower dimension for Him. And this is why God is considered omniscient: He can see everything that happens and might happen as well. Earth, existing in the third dimension, is only capable of capturing a shadow of God’s glory. The earth simply cannot contain His glory, and that is why when God manifests on earth, in the form of a pillar of fire, a burning bush, or a huge cloud in the Old Testament, these are physical wonders that are temporary and do not fully make sense to us.
Although something does not make complete sense to us does not mean it does not exist. God exists behind a veil that we can never lift and lives in a space we can never reach: He is beyond us, and the most we can ever know about Him is a shadow of His entire glory.
But now, what are the implications for approaching Christianity within this framework? If each dimension is contained in the one above it and God is in heaven, this begs the question: is heaven right in front of us? Just as the second dimension is not a separate bubble of space that we enter into, what if our dimensional three- space is not a separate bubble from heaven, but in actuality, a part of heaven?
If heaven exists in a higher dimension, then we, as humans, cannot see anything that might be happening in heaven, since we are limited in our ability to observe the characteristics of these higher dimensions, heaven included. Just like the citizens of Flatland, we can only see how these supernatural ripples affect our world. There is no denying that Christianity is founded upon elements of divine intervention. An example of this is the prophetic gift. Another example is the divine inspiration of the Word of God. The prophetic gift allows us to see and sense past that veil and beyond the space-time continuum to see what God sees. The inspiration of the Word brings these higher dimensions down to earth, revealing to the world who God is. In either of these situations, it is the Holy Spirit and the spiritual aspect of our identity that allows us to experience and recognize the supernatural. In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14, Paul writes to the church in Corinth:
“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words…because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
Furthermore, 1 Peter 1:21 also says, “for prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
From these verses, we see an illustration of what the life that we live could be if we moved in the Spirit and what the words we say would mean if we spoke from the Spirit. On the other hand, C.S. Lewis writes in his Reflections on the Psalms, regarding the illumination of the Scriptures,
“Stories do not reproduce their species like mice. They are told by men. Each re-teller either repeats exactly what his predecessor had told him or else changes it. He may change it unknowingly or deliberately…. When a series of such retellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.”
C.S. Lewis makes it clear that in some way, the re-tellers and writers of the Scriptures were guided by God, and that there was purpose in God’s decision to move in their spirit to write such stories.
These verses, along with this excerpt from C.S. Lewis, point to a gift that is instilled within us as humans in the core of our spiritual identity: to be led along by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps these are signs that our world exists within the heavenly realm, that our spirits, guided by the Holy Spirit, testify to a spiritual reality above our physical existence, even though we are still on earth. We may not be able to discern the fullness of heaven’s presence on earth, but from this cross-section of the spiritual realm, we see glimpses and shadows of realities greater than our own. By living and walking in the Holy Spirit, our actions reflect the spiritual reality above us, and thus, in doing so, we bring heaven down to earth.
1 For the sake of this article, I won’t discuss those implications here, but I am more than happy to meet and have a conversation about it.
2 I think it’s perfectly viable to look at this mathematical argument and make a case for pluralism or for the truth in any other religion. The point of this article isn’t to prove Christianity as the one true religion by any means. Please come discuss this with me if you want.
3 To not detract from this article, I will not prove the infinitude of God, but for a biblical assertion of this, see Revelations 1:8 and 2 Chronicles 2:6. For a non-biblical assertion of an infinite God, see Thomas Aquinas’ Contra Gentiles.
4 So this article is not scattered, those who have questions on how this idea of God’s omniscience can be reconciled with the idea of free will can also come talk with me, and we can engage in delightful conversation.
5 Contextually, Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church, but in our day and age, I interpret this to apply to all believers that allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them, as I believe that this gift has been extended to all believers.
6 Academically speaking, scholars say that Genesis borrows heavily from Babylonian and Mesopotamian creations myths, such as the Enuma Elish, as well as other myths from that time period and cultural context. Also, C.S. Lewis is speaking from a Christian perspective.
Peter Yuanxi Chen is a sophomore at Pomona College, trying, unsuccessfully, to balance his love for Mathematics, Art, and Religious Studies. He enjoys taking his time and thinking. Please go talk to him.Aquinas, CS Lewis, Flatland, heaven, literature, mathematics