while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:18
Typically, in a philosophical discussion, we define truth as that which corresponds to reality. It is a good definition, as far as it goes. The problem is, for the believer anyway, it does not go far enough. In the above verse, Paul reveals two levels of reality. There is the seen, temporal reality we may be experiencing at any given moment in time, and then there is the immutable, eternal realities of the Kingdom of God. These two realities can often seem to be at odds with one another. The real question for us is, “Which of these two versions of reality are we going to believe?”
When we speak of truth from a biblical perspective (truth with a capital “T” as it were), we are not referring to our current circumstances which, as Paul says, are temporal. There may be any number of situations we find ourselves in which reflect a present reality, but they are at best temporal circumstances and certainly do not constitute immutable, eternal realities. We might say, then, that there is a distinction between what is fact (the present, temporal reality) and what is truth (that which is immutable and eternal).
If God’s Word is truth, as the scriptures attest (John 17:17), then His Word represents those eternal realities which transcend our current circumstances. Thus, for the believer, the statement, “I am in need,” may be a statement of fact, but the verse, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack,” is truth, and faith in the eternal, transcendent realities of God’s Word can change the temporal circumstantial “fact” we may be presently experiencing. God’s promises reveal His will and provision. They are upheld by His integrity and fulfilled by His power. It is impossible for Him to lie; thus, we are called upon to believe His promise, “by His stripes, we were healed,” over the symptoms of sickness we may see or feel in our bodies. It does not mean we do not accept the current reality as fact; we simply don’t give it final authority over God’s Word, which is an infinitely more enduring and unchangeable reality.
Faith always looks to the transcendent, unseen reality over the temporal, visible circumstance. Faith perceives as real what we do not yet possess and cannot yet see, simply on the basis of God’s Word. Faith then, produces a hope (a sure and certain expectation of fulfillment) in spite of – indeed, in the face of – contradictory, sensory evidence. This is why Caleb could see the same giants and walled cities as his unbelieving brethren and still see the promised land in his possession, just as surely as if he held the title deed in hand. His faith in the promise yet unseen was stronger than the sensory evidence that stood in opposition to that promise. It was this same faith that enabled the great heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 to see past the present reality of unfulfilled promises to a heavenly reality, a city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:12). They saw the promises afar off and received them for they had eyes to see a heavenly country which was eternal, unchanging, and sure (see Hebrews 11:13-16).
Today, we live in a world suffering from sensory overload, which professes to place value only on those things which we can see, feel, and touch. Yet, despite all such professions of materialism, we read our horoscopes, wish upon stars, and wonder if our dreams mean something. We cannot escape the spiritual curiosity that tugs at an awareness just beyond our conscious everyday reality, which causes us to occasionally stop and ponder the larger questions, such as, “Is there any real meaning to life? Is there something beyond our current reality? Where do we go when we die?” We are torn in our dilemma of living in a pragmatic world which requires tangible answers to life’s daily needs and our hunger for meaning, value, and assurance. We are stuck between the physical and the metaphysical, the temporal and the eternal.
This is why, while we may give many rational reasons as a basis for faith, real faith is never wholly reached by logic or rationalism alone. As it has been said in different ways many times before, there is enough “evidence” to make faith rational, but not enough to get you there by evidence alone. There is a “jump” between the purely rational and the realm of faith, for if our confidence in the transcendent came on reason alone, it would require no trust in God.
Still, there is that something in us that wants to believe. It is that part of us that still feels disconnected from our Maker. It is not a question that can be satisfied by debate alone, and yet it is a question that returns no matter how much the evidence against faith seems to pile up. We may be told that “God is dead” or that “science has displaced the divine,” but something in us knows better. We know that our knowledge is fragmentary, imperfect, and biased, often presented to forward an agenda rather than to objectively discover truth. Scripture tells us that both the outside testimony of creation (Romans 1:18-20) and the inner witness of conscience (Romans 2:14-15) reveal God sufficiently as to hold us accountable for our response (or lack thereof) to Him.
Reality is not what we make it. It is not subjective, though our limited subjective perspectives may skew our perception of it. Simply put, God is both author and arbiter of reality. To have faith in God is to trust that though reality may be beyond our scope of vision, and we may not understand why things are the way they are, He is trustworthy and true. To believe anything else is to assume that our own perception or view of reality is correct, and that is far too important an issue to leave in the hands of amateurs.