How to recover reality in an age of attractive illusions
So, here we are, occupying our little place in space, our short moment in time. What do we know? More to the point, how do we know what we know is true? If we are gods, we can decide what is true and what isn’t. If we are God’s, he decides.
We decide for ourselves every time we respond to something the Bible says with a cautious, “I’m not sure if that is true for me.” We do it when we want to decide our identity without trusting God’s description of humanity. We do it when we trust what others say is true without testing it against what the Word says is true. We do it when we assert what we know is true because, well, we know it! We act like gods deciding truth.
C. S. Lewis called us “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.” We all want to decide for ourselves what is true. Adam audaciously took Satan’s bait and ran a test on God’s word to see if God was true. Testing ideas for truth is not in itself misguided; that is a fundamental characteristic of being made in God’s image. But what we choose to trust may be misguided. Adam had to choose between trusting what God said, what Satan said, or finding out for himself. The choice was God-given. So were the criteria. Adam was responsible for choosing within the framework of all that God had made known to him.
The truths we choose to trust extend beyond moral issues. Knowing truly has a critical place in our daily lives. If the engineer’s calculations aren’t based on truth, you wouldn’t be wise to stand on her bridge. If the artist’s construction of reality is not true, you’d not be wise to live in his space. And if politicians can propagate “alternative” truths …
When Moses asked who God was, he answered,“I am” (Exodus 3:14). God alone is self existent, all knowing. He is Creator beyond creation. Unlike God, we are creatures in a created universe – his created universe of time and space. As created beings, we can know nothing but what he already knows and reveals for us to know.
Knowledge that denies God’s unique self-existence and our dependent creatureliness can work, but it can never be true. The engineer who denies God, can build a bridge that works, because God works in our world “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). But that engineer does not truly know the source of the laws she employs.
The artist may reconstruct creation in his own image as if there is no God, but in God’s providence he paints with brushes and pigments that conform to God’s order. No matter what he paints, he cannot silence creation’s declaration of God’s glory (Psalm 19:1).
The politician who declares “I rule,” refusing to submit to God’s law, is nonetheless God’s agent to bring order to society (Romans 13:1-6). As one of the greatest politicians in history discovered, God rules (Daniel 4:34-37).
Does knowing truly really matter, then? If God holds it all together and makes it all work, does it matter whether we know as he knows? Yes. It matters because our calling is to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Faith in Jesus does more than bring us into a right relationship with God; it brings us into life with God and for God. That means, among other things, taking every thought captive so that it conforms to Christ. Trusting in the One who came full of grace and truth (John 1:14) leads to fitting what we know into his framework of truth and applying it truly in his service.
That in its turn means that everything from worldview to momentary choices, from academic studies to social engagement, must be obedient to what God has spoken. Every thought must be framed and applied in submission to the Bible. True, the Bible does not speak about everything that can be known, but it speaks to everything that can be known.
We know truly when every thought is made captive to what God has spoken and is enslaved to the service and glory of Christ.
Michael Drake is an associate staff worker in Auckland