A five-year-old said, “Wonder Woman is a real person - and she really does all those things on television.” When questioned about his philosophy of reality, he strongly insisted that he “knew” his heroine was very real.
Philosophy is simply the pursuit of wisdom. One aspect of this pursuit is understanding what is real, what actually exists. Whether a philosopher teaches at a university, or just sits in front of a TV set, most (over 5) agree that Wonder Woman exists only on film in television studios. But what about other things? How do we know what is real?
Back in the days of Aristotle, the “realists” said reality is found in what we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. In other words, if a thing could not be somehow perceived by the senses, it is mere illusion or imagination. The extreme realist denies the value of reasoning and logic as he searches for wisdom and truth.
In contrast, Plato, another philosopher, said truth is found only in the mind of men; that man through intellectual reasoning could reach an understanding of what is real and true. He believed discernible matter only confused the issue. Of course the extreme “idealist” denies the value of sensory experience and the reality of the physical world.
There are, of course, oversimplifications of complex philosophical ideas. However, both Plate and Aristotle expressed ideas about reality that are common today. They especially become evident when the subject of God and faith is raised.
On these subjects, the philosophy of the ordinary realist sounds something like this, “I won’t believe in anything I can’t see!” He demands visible, material proof of the existence of God. Evidence exists but this is rejected and the realist proclaims himself to be an atheist or agnostic.
There are people who think like Plato too. They presume that ultimate reality is only found in the mind. Therefore, the evidence for God is rejected in favor of looking inside their own minds. Unfortunately, the mind of man cannot rise any higher than himself so they stop there. The best they can do is shape a god of their own imagination, one made in their own image - and that is the god they choose - usually to their disappointment.
The Christian has a philosophy of reality too. We believe that ultimate reality can only be found in God. We don’t find it a problem that He is Spirit and cannot be seen. Nor do we rely on what can be seen in His creation to be a complete statement of what He is like. Instead, we draw our understanding of the reality of God from His revelation of Himself through His written Word, the Bible, and through His living Word, Jesus Christ.
That revelation does not mean Christians reject the value of the human mind or of the senses. Reasoning has importance and so does sensory experience, but our reasoning and perceptions are inaccurate because of sin and the fact that we are finite.
Proverbs tells us not to “lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge Him” . . . “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end of it is the way of death.” We don’t know everything.
Hebrews 11 says “ . . . the things that are seen were not made of things which appear . . . “ We can’t see everything.
God transcends both our minds and what we see . . . He created both.
Human vision is too narrow, the mind too small. The philosophers of this world look in vain for that which cannot be seen through observation, and reason in vain about that which cannot be perceived through reasoning.
Instead, the Bible says that wisdom and understanding begin with “the fear of the LORD.” Obviously, before we can fear Him and find wisdom, we must believe that He exists. To know Him through faith in His revelation of Himself opens us to a wisdom that sees reality through His eyes and a philosophy that understands it through His thoughts.