Merry Christmas, Flatland

In Series 3, Episode 12 of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon mentions that Flatland is one of his favourite imaginary places to visit. Flatland is the title of a Victorian novel by Edwin Abbott Abbott (I don’t have a problem with giving a child a surname as a second name – after all, Nathan’s second name is Campbell (Megan’s maiden-name) – but to give him his own surname as a second name really does take a special kind of vanity or insanity). The Flatland world is two-dimensional, and it is forbidden even to talk about the possibility of another dimension. The narrator, a square, was himself sceptical of the existence of dimensions beyond his own until he was visited by a sphere from a three-dimensional world – Spaceland.

I think it is the perfect analogy for Christ. A God who could create a universe would have to, by very definition, be outside of its dimensional constraints. He would not be bound by our sense of space or time, since His world would not operate by our world’s laws. Like the people in Flatland, however, we could only understand our world in two dimensions (three in our case). All of our attempts to comprehend a world not bound by our dimensions could only be speculative, and based on our own understanding of our own dimensional limitations. Thus God could never be understood through logic (it is based on Flatland rules); we would by incapable of proving or disproving his existence using our own intellectual or experiential tools. The only way to understand a being beyond our own dimensions would be if, like the Sphere in Flatland, that being revealed himself to us.

And that is what sets the birth of Jesus apart. All other religious experience (and I include atheism in that) tries to come to an understanding of the Divine through reasoning (which is based on the laws of a Flatland universe) or through experience (trying to perform actions that would actualise Divinity). But all our attempts are two dimensional, and thus futile. Revelation is key.

And so two thousand years ago, in the form of Jesus, God, in His wisdom, stepped into the world.

Now I, as a natural skeptic, would be very suspicious – and rightly – of anyone claiming to be God. The world is full enough of delusional lunatics. I would demand proof that he was who he said he was.

I don’t find Jesus’ miracles, the prophecies, the virgin birth, or rising from the dead difficult to believe. Any actions performed by a being from dimensions beyond our own would seem miraculous to our three dimensional eyes and reasoning. In fact, those miracles are a necessity if Jesus is to validate that he is, in fact, from beyond our world.

In Flatland, the Square is imprisoned for trying to convince his society of the reality of Spaceland. They don’t want their comfortable reality to be overturned, so they prefer to remain in their ignorance. And they are the poorer for it.

Don’t be like that regarding Jesus. The only way we could ever understand life would be through its Author. The only way we could understand Him would be by revelation. Two thousand years ago, God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus. He offered various miracles as proof. He did away with our attempts to understand Him through the “curse of the law” or through rational argument. He simply offered us evidence that demands a verdict. Are you content to be comfortable (and poorer) in your ignorance, or will you dare to believe?


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