Since about the turn of the millennium we have been inundated with a new genre of television programs called Reality Shows. We don’t have to watch these productions long to realize that they are not really about reality. Often they seem very far removed from reality. They do seem to indicate that there is a deep need and even hunger in our western societies to recover reality. Somehow we have almost lost our hold on it. Of course, when we speak of reality we are talking about that which is real, actual and true.
It seems that God has given us some “reality checks” lately, especially in the US. Our first big reality check came in 2001 with the 9/11 Moslem attacks on New York and Washington DC. Then in 2005 we had Hurricane Katrina which all but devastated our Gulf Coast and the city of New Orleans. Finally in the fall of 2008 we experienced the large-scale financial meltdown that will no doubt continue to trouble us and the whole world for some time.
How do reality checks work? In the case of 9/11 we saw a good portion of our New York financial center go up in smoke. Suddenly people began to realize that their lives on earth and their wealth as well were not permanent fixtures. Once again we began to hear the long-lost chords of “Amazing Grace,” even if it had to be played on bagpipes and sung at funerals for hundreds and thousands of American victims. We began to discover that some of the things we had worshipped so fervently had turned to dust and ashes. Long ago in the Book of Judges it was said, “When they chose new gods, war came to the city gates…” (Jud. 5:8). It was unbelievable and even unimaginable for our strong nation, but war came to our gates.
OUR PHILOSOPHIES HAVE NOT SQUARED WITH REALITY
Especially since the rebellious 1960s and 70s some of the worst philosophies of the Enlightenment, which began a couple centuries earlier, came into the spotlight. Of course many good things came from the Enlightenment but the bad philosophies have continued to hang around and cause us much trouble. One of the most radical philosophers was Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78). Rousseau carried on a deplorable life style with mistresses and abandoned children in its wake. Some of these traits he seems to have bequeathed to many of his twentieth and twenty-first century followers. Another very radical philosopher who is almost the godfather of the great 60s rebellion was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He has been credited with the “God is Dead” philosophy which made a powerful resurgence in the sixties era, particularly with the “Death of God” theology. It may not be surprising that Nietzsche ended his life insane.
Some of the most damaging philosophies which bloomed in the late twentieth century came from the postmodern philosophers. The Frenchman, Michal Fouchalt (1926-1984), is perhaps the best well-known of them. He had experiences with the San Francisco homosexual community and eventually died with AIDS. Others of this group were Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Richard Rorty. These philosophers built heavily upon the foundation of Nietzsche.
The postmodern thinkers generally hold that there is no universal standard of truth. Truth is whatever we make it, and truth can change from day to day. Of course such a depressing doctrine causes many to say that life itself is meaningless. Some decide that the best thing to do is to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow they die. Others have not waited for a meaningless tomorrow and have destroyed themselves by suicide or drugs.
Much of the modern and postmodern philosophy has very little basis in reality. In short, it simply doesn’t work in real life. We have only to think of Karl Marx (1818-83) and his communistic ideas which held powerful sway for a century and which eventually caused the death of close to 100 million people. We are now looking at the wreckage caused by all these godless philosophies and ideas. The results are becoming visible everywhere. We observe it in the wreckage of family life, in the wreckage of our financial institutions, in the wreckage of our political world and the social fabric around us. In fact, our world appears to be coming apart at the seams.
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT DOES SQUARE WITH REALITY?
Strangely, the Bible, that old book that our society has all but cast away, best squares with reality. The wisdom of this ancient book has nurtured numerous generations for almost 3500 years. Its wisdom has been tried in the fire of human experiences millions of times and has always proven true. Let us think of a few ways that the Bible squares with reality.
The Bible sheds great light on our beginnings and our destiny. It answers the big questions of who we are, where we came from and where are we going? It tells us that we and our world were created by a holy and loving God. We were actually made in his image so we are very special. The Bible says in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” When God finished with making humankind and the rest of creation, he proclaimed that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It is clear that mankind was the crown of all God’s creation. The man was ordained to rule over the rest of God’s great works on earth. For a while it all looked pretty rosy in Eden.
But the Bible tells us that humankind developed a very serious problem. The man God chose and placed as vice-regent on earth rebelled against the loving God who placed him here. This is where sin entered into the world. It was like throwing sand into a delicate machine. Soon the created order began to creak and groan (Rom. 8:22). Today both the man and the world have multitudes of problems. The humanistic philosophers refute all this saying that man is essentially good, but the Bible declares him to be essentially evil.
In spite of all the New Age religions of today, man is unable to find his way back to God or to repair the sin-broken world. The Bible makes this assessment that squares perfectly with reality: “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Rom. 3:23). It speaks of mankind’s inner self in this way: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9 NKJ). The world in which God placed the human race is now doomed to destruction because of the ever-growing sin virus.
What can be done? All the humanistic, self-help religions seem to have no answer to man’s basic dilemma. Even those who do not believe in religion now seem to realize that our world is hurtling toward destruction. The philosophers with their wisdom can offer no real solution, but there is one. The solution is found in the Bible as we have said. This wonderful book not only tells about the sin problem of humankind but it tells us how to solve this dilemma.
The problem of human sin was so great that only God could solve it. He did so by sending his only Son as the pure and perfect Lamb to be offered for the sin of the whole world. The Bible says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Imagine that! The divine and glorious Son of God became a human like us. He came to live in this sin-infested world and he died on a cruel Roman cross just for us. The Bible says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
The Bible assures that if we will but trust in Jesus and in his full redemption we will be saved. It says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16). Not only will humankind be saved but it will end in the salvation and renewal of our whole natural order. Indeed, according to the precious old book, the Bible, there will be a new heaven and new earth and it will be filled with righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13). All of us who believe in Christ the Redeemer will have a part in that new world and we will live in it forever.
MAYBE WE NEED TO MAKE OUR OWN REALITY CHECK
How do our homespun philosophies stand up when compared with God’s eternal truths that we have just mentioned? We might ask ourselves that old practical question, “How is it all working out for you?” We all need to take a quick reality check and see if our homespun philosophy of life and religion is really working. Chances are it is not. As we peer out of the wreckage of our own lives, marriages, families and society, we need to ask for some real help. That help comes from God and from him alone. The Bible says in Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, (New York, Harper & Row, 1988).
Dennis McCallum, ed.,The Death of Truth, (Minneapolis, MN, Bethany House Publishers, 1996).
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