Catacomb Resident Blog

What's Real?

20 November 2021

I don't know any more about what's real than any of you do. What I do know is that my Savior lives in my soul.

It's not my thing to jabber about philosophy. It was part of my education, and I haven't stopped studying it, but only because I'm trying to understand human folly. Most philosophy is just that. Today's post is a rare treat if such is your thing. But instead of discussing esoteric concepts, I'll keep it practical.

I have no need to understand reality or what's real in this life. The Bible says, in a roundabout way, that this fallen existence is one big lie, made up of endless little lies. It's not that God lies, but that human perception does. There are fancy words for it, but I believe that whether there is such a thing as objective reality doesn't matter; we cannot know it. We can only approximate things provisionally. Our fallen capabilities are flawed to the point that we simply cannot know how flawed they are. We cannot discern what it is we can know, and can in no wise assess what is unknown.

It's sort of like believing in countless parallel universes, except that they actually overlap some. There's one for each of us, and we do get some shared perceptions simply because we are all pretty much the same creature. Still, no two of us experience exactly the same things. There's a big overlap possible, a certain common experience, but it unravels at the edges. It is utterly nonsensical for one human to suggest another human did not experience something, or that their perceptions are flawed, with any kind of useful authority.

All we have is that overlapping perception, and a great deal of that is likely the result of our fear of being isolated and alone. In other words, a great many people have no idea what's going on or what they have experienced in the first place, so they take someone else's word for it. It's all part of our fallen nature; it's how we are wired after the Fall.

A friend of mine says that "reality is fungible" -- meaning that one man's reality is as good as another. The people in this world who are the most certain in their own minds what is "real" are the people you should trust least. That's something Scripture indicates without flatly saying it. That's because reality isn't real in the sense of what God has made. This "reality" is broken and deceptive. And our minds are part of the breakage. We can't trust our own perceptions fully.

Nor does it make a whole lot of difference. All we really need to know is what we can make of this "reality" thing for the purpose of our mission and calling. We need to understand it just well enough to implement the obligations of spiritual birth and divine calling.

That's what I meant by a practical approach: We don't claim to have a solid academic factual grasp on reality. We should admit that we know only what we can perceive based on our experiences. There's every reason to doubt that we perceive the fullness of what we have experienced. We have to trust the Lord in faith that He'll make use of us in our damaged state. He'll undo some of the damage, but the rest will have to wait until we die, when we leave this false "reality" and enter the ultimate reality.

Now, at this point you begin to understand why physical healing and other miracles aren't a big deal. If God decides it will glorify His Name, He'll do it. But for a lot of human sorrows, it works out for His greater glory if we just deal with it. Only our faith can tell us whether we dare to ask for a particular healing. God isn't consistent in terms of our human reasoning, only in terms of what our hearts can know about moral reality. Making this life better is simply not a Kingdom priority, but making us more moral is.

Of course, most of the world in any given context will be populated with people who aren't connected with the Holy Spirit. Their spirits are functionally dead. That's part of the discussion Jesus had with Nicodemus; without spiritual birth, some things will always be out of your grasp. There's nothing any human can do to resurrect a dead spirit; it's entirely a divine miracle of God. So my explanation here is unlikely to register with someone whose spirit is still dead. It makes no sense without spiritual birth. On top of that, it makes no sense unless you have begun to examine your own convictions and try to obey them -- which the Bible calls "walking in faith". So spiritual birth is the necessary minimum, and walking in faith is the norm. Faith is not something in your head. It's a certainty that operates like an additional faculty, and the Bible says it's rooted in your heart.

The only true certainty in this world is not something that registers in your mind. It registers in your heart as conviction. You can be more certain of God's will than anything else. It's the only genuine certitude humans can have. And moral truth always takes precedence over factual knowledge about this fallen world. You cannot really know this world; all you can know is what God requires of you while you are here.

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