Every now and then you will hear someone say that so and so has lost touch with reality or some such thing. Or they may even question the existence of reality. So I think it’s worth thinking about, the question, what is reality? It might seem like a dumb question at first, but it isn’t really. In fact, it’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly. So, to begin, let’s look at the definition of the word. It is “The state of things as they actually exist”. My own one-word definition is, “truth.” And as you will learn in this life dear children, truth can at times be quite evasive.
As I’ve discussed before in these letters, we are living in two different worlds at the same time. There is the natural world and the spiritual world. So granted, if we are defining reality in terms of this material world only, then the question of reality might rightly be judged as a dumb one. Not many people question the existence of physical things.
However, we should remember that some things are abstract, that is to say that they’re neither physical or spiritual. A man can be living with his wife, for example, and have no idea that she is secretly planning to divorce him in a year. He may be making plans for his family’s future, but unfortunately, he’s not living in reality. He is in fact ignorant of reality and is on a collision course with it. So let us first conclude that one does not need to acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world to understand that reality extends beyond physical things. That is the first challenge, even for the atheist, of keeping our feet firmly planted in reality. And it is also important to consider that had this man acknowledged the spiritual world, namely the existence of a personal God and Savior, it might well have helped him avoid his blissful ignorance.
Another barrier to grasping reality is change. As time moves along things seem to be in a constant state of flux. Standards appear to morph over time. So, since we all experience this change, especially in social mores, we can see how we could see change as normal. And we can also see how we could then define reality as that which we consider normal based on our experience. It has become normal and acceptable, for example, that it is good for a woman to have her unborn child put to death because she doesn’t want him. That is normal, so it is what we experience, and so it is reality and so it is moral. Increasingly, understanding reality as a mixed bag of propositions that contradict each other defines the culture in which you live. Such a culture is in the process of losing touch with reality. So be warned, to buy into the cultural mindset of “normal” is to exit reality. But we will discover that reality is not simply wished away. It has a way of imposing itself on us after all.
As older generations die, with them die an old and more realistic way of seeing this world. As the young of each new generation enter society they will not only be the product of 12 years of secular humanist education, they will also increasingly be the product of parents who are themselves products of secular humanist’s education. The world you are living in, therefore, is in the midst of a great shift. The mindset that there is no truth will not only be prevalent in your world, it will become even more prevalent with the passage of time. You can expect, therefore, that anyone who holds that absolute truth does exist will be seen as abnormal, and even immoral. This reality will present you with some challenges that are, perhaps, unique to your time. You must not only hold fast to the truth that there is truth, you must hold fast to the truth.
Indeed, the belief that there is truth, is the starting point. You will discover that there is another question, which is epistemological in its nature, and which must be considered if you will have any hope of living in reality. That question is, “Can truth be known?” We can believe all day long that truth exists, but if we are also convinced that truth cannot be known, its existence makes little difference. So, let me emphatically answer that question for you: Yes! Truth can be known! There is a higher order. Reality exists, and you can know it. The claim that truth cannot be known is a proposition that, like many popular propositions in your time, that is self-defeating. It ought to raise the question right away, “How can you then know that your claim is true?” If one is to be consistent he must admit that he can’t know. But you will find that those who do not live in reality seldom concern themselves with the internal consistencies of their worldviews. Don’t be like that yourselves, especially if living in reality seems like something you’d like to do.
It is a stubborn thing, reality. Man cannot create or rearrange it to suit his preferences or pleasures. You will either live in reality, or you will be on a collision course with it. If I believe that I can jump off a cliff and not get hurt, the moment I jump I will have set an appointment with reality, no matter how much I deny its existence on the way down. In the same way, if I set sail on the sea of life in a ship constructed on the basis that truth can’t be known, I will have also set an appointment with reality. Unfortunately for me however, since I deny that I can know truth, I won’t even realize that it was my own faulty compass that brought my life smashing against the rocky shores of reality. Such is the nature of truth I suppose. If you deny it can be known, then a shipwrecked life is nothing more than “stuff happens”. But you don’t have to live this way.
Jesus told us that He was the way, the truth and the life. There are reasonable and rational reasons to believe that He was indeed all of these, and much more. So, with this in mind, let us look to His words:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt 7:24-27)
To be sure, “stuff does happen”. Storms were a reality for both of these houses. They will also be the reality in your life. The only real question is, will your house still be standing when it’s over? Will your “reality” going into the storm be the same as your “reality” coming out of the storm? Are the particulars of your mindset, your worldview and your reality strong enough to withstand the winds of reality? I pray that they are.
In closing, let me simply give you a few pointers to help you live in reality.
First, be open to the fact that you will have blind spots. In the same way that you can see things in the lives of others that they can’t, they can see things in your life that you can’t. If they love you they will won’t to help you. Don’t dismiss their concerns. Their love for you is trying to move you toward reality. God made us to be relational, and part of relationships is just this sort of “building each other up”. In that regard be approachable. The truth often hurts and as such is often difficult to hear from a friend. Love those who love you you enough to hurt you in order to make you better.
Second, renew your mind. Paul admonishes us to not conform to this world, which is not according to reality, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Rom 12:2) We renew our minds by programming it to think Biblically, and we program it to think Biblically by reading the Bible and asking God to teach us. As our minds are renewed reality becomes increasingly clear. We can discern the rocky shores long before we can see them.
Third, resolve inconsistencies. Here are four ways to be consistent in your life and thinking.
- Live a life that is consistent with scripture. God speaks to us through His Word. Ask for God’s help that you may live according to his Word. Remember that you are not earning your salvation, but are simply living it out.
- Avoid holding to internal inconsistencies. We can’t, on the one hand for example, claim that God’s law no longer applies and then, on the other hand, say it’s wrong when someone steals our wallet. That would be inconsistent and so therefore unrealistic. Be aware that some internally inconsistent ideas are more difficult to resolve than they may at first appear. That’s Ok. Wrestle with them.
- Learn history, and especially the history of God’s Church, then think consistently with that history. Don’t get sucked into “normal”. God did not change his mind about things according to how they fit with an era or culture. Still, you will find that consistency with historic views will be inconsistent with contemporary views. Be aware also that old does not mean true. Every age and place is impacted by the winds of that particular culture and place, so always start with scripture. Look for consistencies throughout the history of Christianity, then try to remain consistent with those things. God leads and directs His Church. Be careful of “new-found” thinking or revelation. You, right now, are living in a great falling away from the Church in America, a great apostasy. The same denominations that are now confused about sins that are popular with culture, were the first ones to embrace other “new ideas” a hundred or so years ago. Think beyond your own times.
- Understand your words. Think about what they mean when you speak them, but more importantly, when you think them. Many times inconsistencies are present without our even realizing it simply because of the way we define words. This is most evident in how we understand the word “love”, as well as what we expect from those who love us, and how we interact with those we love. We can know that we are not living in reality when the meanings of our words morph, but our use of them does not.
I pray that you would live your lives in the city of reality. I pray that you would be ever growing in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ, as the deceptions of this world grow ever darker. It will be a battle for you, but it will be a battle that you, and your mother and I, can fight shoulder to shoulder.