This was the question asked ad nauseam in the drug-induced “reality” of the 1960’s and 70’s. Philosophers have spent countless oceans of ink on the question. But the Bible is still the best source-book on reality, defined as such as the truth about what is. It involves the truth about life materially, spiritually, psychologically, philosophically, socially, ecologically, theologically, etc. That which is true to life is reality. That which is reality can be known to us as such. That which is not real (unreality) has no place in the definition of reality. Fantasy itself is part of reality, but the object of fantasy is not.
Unreality is the failure to get wisdom; it is to live on the basis of what is false or untrue. Folly is “unreality” in the truest sense of the word. What do we mean when we say someone “lives in their own world”? Often we mean they do not think of others much, but in general we mean that the person operates on the basis of a conjectured or false reality, or one that is not entirely in sync with ours. From our vantage-point they consequently “do not have a full deck.”
Nevertheless, it is much more serious than that: unreality is the failure to live with intrinsic truth, to have wisdom about reality. Wisdom internalizes the truth of God, enlivening us, whereas unreality deadens us. Wisdom defines reality accurately, and part of being wise is living in reality. Wisdom enables us to better live in reality. In this sense “unreal” does not mean as in the colloquial, “wonderful,” but in biblical terms it means what is false.
One of the most profound aspects of biblical faith is that biblical truth corresponds accurately and truly to reality, since it is truth from God who created reality. That is, it accurately incorporates/teaches the truth about the seen and unseen worlds, the moral, the material, the internal and external, the human, inanimate, animal, the personal, and the meaning of life itself. It also treats all major questions of life head-on, not shirking the task of truthfully conveying God’s perspective on all of the above and more. Most incredibly, it is this very aspect of Christian and biblical faith that is so frequently rejected by unbelievers who dismiss it as nothing but unreal fantasies. Nothing could possibly be more antithetical to the truth and to reality. Walking in God’s light, truth, understanding, wisdom, love, faith, trust, righteousness, belief, discipline, and rationality in fact gives us a true grasp of that elusively defined thing we call “reality.” Simply put we walk in light as he is in the light. This does not mean that we have no unanswered questions or struggles to know and understand, but it means that we can have confidence that we progressively live more and more in reality as God has defined it, when we are reading it with his Word ever in us and before us. We do see through a glass darkly, but we do see . . .
“. . . whoever chases fantasies lacks sense” (Prov 12:11)
- Ignorance, avoidance, and denial of truth always has disastrous consequences, whether spiritual or material (space-time reality). Most closely and painfully affected are the relations between humans and God and humans and one another. Family peace, finances, and the well-being of human flourishing (shalom) are disrupted and destroyed. The ignorant path of avoidance and denial of truth always has disastrous consequences, whether spiritual or material (space-time reality). Most closely and painfully affected are the relations between humans and God and humans and one another. Family peace, finances, and the well-being of human flourishing (shalom) are disrupted and destroyed. The ignorant path of avoidance may often seem the easier, or the more desirable one, yet it leads to destruction.
- Foolish belief, thoughts, actions, and words always have disastrous consequences. It is so easy to be deceived (about reality and many things in it), that it is imperative that we rely on God’s revelation of truth about reality. Failure to do so is akin to building one’s
spiritual house (one’s whole life) on the sand. The inescapable question for every living person is, would you prefer being a fool or would you prefer to be wise? Incredibly, so many rush headlong into the dark abyss of foolishness (unreality) when the truth of God is made accessible to build on solid and everlasting foundations of wisdom.
- What “seems” and what “is” do not always coincide. Indeed, what “seems right” to a man, may be the way of death (Prov 16:2, 25; 12:15). That is, appearance and reality may be very different (in reality) because humans have all been deeply corrupted in their minds and hearts. Also, the deceiver of hearts always leads away from reality, since his path is untruth, and thus to the destruction of reality. In radical contrast, the giver of life, truth, and wisdom always leads towards the restoration of reality through redemption. Wisdom, insight, understanding, knowledge, and fear of the Lord lead to fullness of life and blessedness and peace and confidence and shalom. These also lead to restoration and preservation of human relations and relationship to God.
- Living in accordance with the truth of God, according to reality, always has fruitful consequences of life and peace. All of God’s truth, words, laws, wisdom, insights, guidance, commands, are good for human flourishing that lead to shalom. This path may not necessarily be an easy path, nor the most traveled, but it is the path of truth that leads to redemption. The path towards such life and peace is not one of comfort and ease, since commitment to living in reality according to truth may sometimes bring suffering.
- The path of life is particularly one of integrity, not pretense, since it means living in accordance with God’s truth which is always good and righteous, bringing shalom and restoration. Pretension and pretending are intrinsic to living falsely and without integrity, since such is not in accord with reality, and thus the edifice of which will crumble (Prov 13:6-7). Lack of an infinite reference point for reality and our lives leads to disintegration. That is, seeking our integration or infinite reference point in what is finite will fail. Embracing, on the other hand, God as our infinite reference point in truth and life, gives us true integrity and restoration to wholeness and reality.
- Out of angst and fear of others’ perception of us, and the frequent accusation that we arrogantly believe that we have all the answers, we too often forgo living in reality according to the truth, even though that truth has made available to us all of the answers and resources
necessary to live in reality with wisdom and integrity. Most seriously, we must not live according to other peoples’ versions of reality for us if we intend to follow Christ into the true restoration of all of creation and reality. Indeed, contrary to what so many believe, and contrary to appearances, God’s purposes for creating this space-time reality will be fully realized when the creation itself is liberated from its bondage to decay (Rom 8:18-25), and when all of reality is renewed as his unmediated glory again fills all of the earth.