So what sort of world is this? Is it a world of materiality only—that things are only what they appear to be or what our science tells us? No. This point-of view is rejected by most people, and by me, and by Scripture. Well, then perhaps the “something more” of this world is subjective—it’s what I decide it is. It’s my personal opinion. It’s the meaning that I assign to it as an observer or as the one who experiences it. This is a widely held belief in our society and in our churches, “Well, it is true for me, even if it’s not true for you….After all, ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’—and so is truth, for that matter.” In this perspective, it is “I” who assigns (or determines) the meaning, the truth, the beauty.
Alas, though this may be the dominant belief today, this is not what Scripture reveals, nor what the church has taught, that is, until the rise of the cult of individualism.
So what does Scripture have to say when we ask the question, “What sort of world is this?” The historic Christian view is a different, more unified account of the reality of this world.
Fr. Stephen Freeman again:
“The world is not simply matter…” [Thus rejecting a mere material universe—part 1 of this little series]
“The world is not simply matter—devoid of any meaning other than that inferred through ideas.” [Thus rejecting the concept that reality is of my own making, the beautiful is what I deem beautiful, truth is what I see as true—part 2.]
“We don’t live in a world of mere things, disconnected and without reference to one another and to God. Creation exists with the capacity to reveal God, ‘For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.’”(Romans 1:20a).
None of this denies the material character of creation. We are certainly material beings and we live in a material universe, but we—and creation—are more than material because God is present everywhere and reveals himself to us through his own creation.
Thus, in one sense, there are two realities: the material reality we see every day and the spiritual reality of God everywhere present, revealing his power and his presence in all created things. But, here is the strange thing: they are not separate realities but one, and that single stunning reality is given to us as a mystery.
Thus, we do not assign meaning, we do not assign beauty, we do not assign truth, we do not assign goodness. It is revealed to us and we discover it—a very big difference. So this world is not a world where we can assign the meanings we choose. However, we can discover the true meaning, we can discover true beauty, we can discover true goodness, but only if we acknowledge that God knows better than we do. We must submit to his way of knowing, his path of righteousness. In humility, he will reveal those things to us.