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Many scientists and philosophers claim to be seeking the ultimate basis of reality. Yet they refuse to accept the evidence on display right before their eyes!
How can billions of human beings live together on planet Earth yet see reality so differently? Scientific American magazine asked this question in its September 2019 issue, but the best they could do is propose that “truth is not entirely clear-cut” and that human beings must “make guesses about reality based on the sensory signals they receive.”
There is some truth to that. We “see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The Apostle Paul understood that, as human beings, we are limited in what we can see, hear, and know.
So, how can we make sense of it all? How can we sort through so many often-contradictory views of reality? How can we find the truth in a world that offers us so many competing “realities”? And what is the greatest reality of all? As Christians, this is one of the most vital questions we need to answer!
We often hear social critics urge us to “face reality.” Nobody wants to be accused of living in a fantasy world of make-believe. But when information around us is increasing at unprecedented speed, how can we keep up with all that is real? Can something be real yet unimportant? Where do you and I fit in the real world? As Christians, we need answers to those vital questions.
If you look at a current television schedule, it is easy to see that many people these days like to watch what has come to be called “reality television.” Most often, however, such programs can more accurately be described simply as “unscripted” or “minimally scripted” drama. In the real world, nobody wins thousands of dollars for eating insects or voting their roommates out of the house. Normal relationships aren’t launched with cameras pointed at an eager bachelor or bachelorette and with the prospect of big money for whoever comes out on top in what is basically an on-air game show.
Of course, despite a handful of obsessive fans, most recognize that “reality television” is far from reality. So, where can we turn to find reality? Surely, we may think, we can find it in the realm of science. In its September 2019 special issue, “Searching for Reality in Unreal Times,” Scientific American sought to explore reality through three topics: neuroscience, physics, and mathematics. The magazine’s goal? “To explore how it is that we can all live in the same universe yet see reality so differently” (p. 27).
Scientific American admitted that theirs was a difficult challenge. “Even in physics and mathematics, truth is not entirely clear-cut. And mounting evidence from neuroscience indicates that our perceptions are not direct representations of the external world. Rather our brains—each one unique—make guesses about reality based on the sensory signals they receive.”
Certainly, there are some absolute truths within science and mathematics. Without them, twelve astronauts would not have been able to walk on the moon and astronomers would not have been able to land probes on the planet Mars to carry out years of remarkable explorations. For that matter, physics allows wingless human beings to design aircraft that carry us around the world at speeds our ancestors would not have believed. As Scientific American contributor George Musser put it:
Physics seems to be one of the only domains of human life where truth is clear-cut. The laws of physics describe hard reality. They are grounded in mathematical rigor and experimental proof. They give answers, not endless muddle. There is not one physics for you and one physics for me but a single physics for everyone and everywhere. Physics often seems weird, but that’s a good sign—it is not beholden to preconceptions. In a world that can seem claustrophobic, where the same debates go round in circles, physics injects some genuine novelty into life and jolts us out of the ruts we fall into (p. 30).
But we may ask: Where did those laws come from? Did they exist at the beginning of the universe? And just how rare and special is life and our planet Earth? Astronomer Carl Sagan called our Earth a “lonely speck” in the cosmic dark. Must we then conclude that we are so insignificant as to be meaningless?
Consider the precision required for the existence of the universe—and the existence of intelligent human life. Astrophysicists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose comment on the precision required at the origin of the universe:
If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been less by one part in 1010, the universe would have collapsed after a few million years. If it had been greater by one part in 1010, the universe would have been essentially empty after a few million years. In neither case would it have lasted long enough for life to develop. Thus one either has to appeal to the anthropic principle or find some physical explanation of why the universe is the way it is (The Nature of Space and Time, pp. 89–90).
Some scientists are so desperate to avoid facing the reality of divine creation that they have advanced a theory of a “multiverse” in which there are infinite universes, such that our universe—however improbable it may be—must exist alongside countless failed universes not containing life, and others containing every possible variation of human choice and activity. When philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003 published a paper suggesting that the world around us is actually a computer simulation, many scoffed. In subsequent years, however, the “simulation argument” has become a convenient way for agnostics and atheists to deny the reality of God. When faced with the very real evidence of intelligent design in the world around us, those who reject God are willing to imagine a superhuman entity creating a computer simulation of which we are part. But, then, who created the creator of the simulation? The “simulation argument,” at its core, is a lazy way to postpone acknowledging the reality of God as the Creator.
When we look up to the sky and see the vastness of space above and around us, the notion that we live in a computer simulation becomes absurd. The simulation idea reminds us of how creative the human mind can be, but also of how easy it can be to misdirect that creativity. For those of you in big cities with lights that obscure the night sky, perhaps you have visited an observatory or have visited the NASA website. Perhaps you have marveled at the “Cartwheel Galaxy” some 500 million light years away, or the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant, or the Crab Nebula, the Cone Nebula, the Swan Nebula, the Tadpole Galaxy, and so many others.
Those nebulae and galaxies can exist only in a universe in which predictable and absolute laws are operating. And if there are laws, there must be a Lawgiver. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).
And while we see evidence of the Lawgiver many thousands of light years away, we can also see that evidence in our own human bodies. In his book A Short History of Nearly Everything, evolutionist Bill Bryson remarks on the amazing process of protein production in the human body. “Proteins can’t exist without DNA, and DNA has no purpose without proteins. Are we to assume then that they arose simultaneously with the purpose of supporting each other? If so: wow” (p. 289). Though Bryson retains a belief in evolution, he acknowledges its improbability. “For random events to produce even a single protein would seem a stunning improbability—like a whirlwind spinning through a junkyard and leaving behind a fully assembled jumbo jet, in the colorful simile of the astronomer Fred Hoyle.”
Just how information-rich is DNA? Writing for Science magazine, Robert F. Service explains its amazing capacity:
Humanity has a data storage problem: More data were created in the past 2 years than in all of preceding history. And that torrent of information may soon outstrip the ability of hard drives to capture it. Now, researchers report that they’ve come up with a new way to encode digital data in DNA to create the highest-density large-scale data storage scheme ever invented. Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks (“DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room,” March 2017).
Similarly, Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute has studied extensively the evidence for intelligent design in the creation. In the powerful documentary film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, he explains that “everything we know tells us that information-rich systems arise from intelligent design—but, what do we make of the fact that there is information in life? In every living cell of every living organism? That’s the fundamental mystery. Where does that information come from?”
So, ask yourself: which requires a greater “leap of faith”? Belief in random chance? Belief that we live in a “simulation” designed by some unknown superintelligence? Or belief that we live in a wonderful reality designed by a loving God?
Sadly, alongside the beauty and majesty we see all around us, we see deception—social, political, and even religious. “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9). In a world so full of lies and liars, it is vital that we hold fast to the truth. If there is a Lawgiver who has set into motion the laws that govern our universe, shouldn’t we expect that He has set into motion laws that govern human life? And shouldn’t we expect that when we understand those laws, we will be able to make the most of life? Jesus Christ told His disciples plainly that “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
By ourselves, we could not expect to know the full truth about God and His creation. Christ explained that most of the world is deceived, except for a few whom God the Father has called to know the truth (John 6:44). Those few are not necessarily the great scientists and philosophers; indeed, Jesus prayed, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25).
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the young evangelist Timothy, there was not yet a “New Testament” canon. Yet he told the young evangelist:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14–17).
Yes, the word of God is truth—and the Bible is the written word of God. And how does that relate to every human being? Jesus made this plain statement: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4).
The Creator has all power in the universe. Human beings have inflated images of themselves, but God compares them to “grasshoppers.” God also created all the galaxies and astral bodies and knows every star. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:21–22).
Physicists and astronomers have powerful tools with which they carry out their research. But God has given each of us a very powerful tool—the tool of prayer. Your Bible is filled with encouraging promises concerning prayer. Jesus gave one such promise in the gospel of Matthew:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:7–12).
Unlike the “armchair philosophers” whose ideas cannot be tested and verified, prayer is a reality you can prove for yourself. And, as you claim God’s promises in prayer, He will give you light and encouragement to see reality with more clarity than before. He also gives us this amazing promise through the Apostle Peter:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:2–4).
In what other ways has God promised to answer our prayers? Here are just a few:
The prophet Isaiah exhorts us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). The prophet Amos warns of a time when God’s truth will not be available: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it’” (Amos 8:11–12).
If you are coming to understand what you are reading in this magazine, and you feel that God is calling you to become one of His faithful firstfruits in this age, please contact the Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 4). One of the most amazing realities is that the same God who created the vast universe and who is working out His prophesied plan here on planet Earth is also preparing that planet, and the whole universe, as an inheritance for His people. Yes, God tells us that faithful Christians will inherit “all things,” including the universe (Revelation 21:7; Romans 8:32). The universe exists as the environment for lowly human beings to recognize the greatest reality. And you can be part of that! God is not just all-powerful—He is all-loving. In fact, another of the greatest realities is that “God is love.” That’s not just a slogan; we find it stated plainly in the Holy Scriptures (1 John 4:8, 16).
Scientists and philosophers can invent elaborate schemes for denying the reality of God and His power. What does God say about their efforts?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:18–20).
So, how important is it that we understand not just that the universe exists, but why? Astrophysicist Hawking put it plainly: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason. For then we would know the mind of God” (The Theory of Everything, p. 136). How wonderful it is that Christians can come to know the mind of God—and experience His power in their own lives. That power is at the heart of the greatest reality of all.
What is that reality? In three words, God reigns supreme. We find this encouraging truth throughout the Bible. “God reigns over the nations; He sits on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:8). Even in times of difficulty, we can have confidence that God is in charge—that He can use even the most challenging circumstances to bring about His desired purpose. We remember from the book of Daniel that the “Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses” (Daniel 5:21). If God has put a tyrant or a bumbler in place as the ruler of the nation where you live, you can take comfort in the reality that, as a Christian, your true citizenship is in heaven, awaiting the soon-coming Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:20).
The last book of your Bible, the book of Revelation, restates this most important reality: “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6).
Finally, please do not ever forget that God’s word reminds us that this awesome omnipotent God is personally interested in the reality of your future: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The omnipotent God the Father sent His son, Jesus Christ, to shed His blood so that you can partake in the greatest reality of all. Will you respond to His loving offer?