By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read.
In my previous article, I presented seven questions that every worldview must deal with. However, I did not go into how the Christian worldview answers the questions. In this article I want to deal very briefly with the first of the seven worldview questions, namely, “What is real?”
My goal is not only to explain what the Bible teaches, but also where in the Bible you can find it, so that you can not only test what you read here for yourself like a good Berean (Acts 17:11), but also to encourage you in the knowledge that the Bible really does give the important answers, and to help you become more comfortable locating those answers.
Only Three Possible Answers to the Question
Now, on the question, “What is real?” To ask it is to deal with metaphysics, the study of “definite” or “prime” reality. We want to look at what’s “really there” behind the universe as we experience it. The world’s religions and systems have answered this question in many ways—God, the gods, the universe, Brahmin, all-is-nothing, all-is-one, etc. But in point of fact all possible answers fall into three categories.
The first is that prime reality is ultimate, but impersonal. Instances of this kind would include Brahman (the world-soul of Hinduism), the cosmos (atheistic worldviews), and the Force from Star Wars. Each of these examples portray prime reality as being unlimited in scope, yet also ultimately unknowable and without personality or self-awareness of any kind.
The second is that prime reality is personal, but not ultimate. Examples would include the ancient Greek and Norse gods and the Mormon god “Elohim,” an exalted man who dwells within our universe near a physical location called Kolob. These deities are personal, relational and knowable, but they are finite. They don’t account for the whole of the physical and spiritual universe.
The third option, which in a sense combines the first two, is that God is prime reality, and he is both ultimate and personal.
God is Ultimate and Personal
Yet in God’s very nature he is personal; in fact the one God, who is one in essence, is also a community of three divine Persons. It has been said that God is “tri-Personal,” and this divine community of three Persons has been existing since before creation in harmonious relationship to one another. Scripture names these three as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
Unlike “the universe,” who is impersonal and does not have a plan for your life, God is personal and knowable. Unlike the so-called gods of ancient Greece and modern-day polytheistic religions, God is unlimited and infinite in his nature.
God’s Relationship to His Creation
Of course if the Lord alone is God, then it stands to reason that no one and nothing else is God. The cosmos is God’s creation, and while it reflects his nature it is not equal to God. Creation is not a part of God (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 66:1). God’s creation includes the physical and the spiritual realms (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), and all his creation is dependent on him (Hebrews 1:3).
Corresponding to God’s ultimacy discussed above, God is transcendent over his creation, meaning he is outside of it sovereign over it; he retains the right to declare creation’s purpose, outcome and guidelines (Isaiah 40:22).
Similarly corresponding to his personality is his immanence—meaning he is present everywhere in the universe (Psalm 139:7-12). It is because of his immanence that he can have a relationship with us. He can hear our prayers. And he is all-knowing, witnessing everything that happens in the cosmos firsthand.
What It Means to Be Lord
Christians call our God “Lord” so often that we might be a little too comfortable with this term, and perhaps not aware enough of the implications of the word. To be Lord is to be Master. Theologian John Frame has defined God’s “Lordship Attributes” as Authority, Control and Presence.
God has authority.
He is the creator and retains his rights as creator of the universe. He can rightfully declare what actions are right and which ones are wrong for his creatures, and he may—and does—decree what events shall happen in the future (Isaiah 46:9-10).
God is in control.
Man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), so he exercises control in a certain sense. Man may freely act in accordance with their natures. Yet Scripture says that even the freely-chosen actions of mankind are subject to the control of God, who plans people’s good and evil actions to occur and ultimately work together for a good and righteous outcome (Genesis 50:20). And this is also true about seemingly random occurrences (Proverbs 16:33). The fact that man is so abundantly sinful, earning God’s wrath, and yet God, having complete control, restrains our punishment and patiently endures and redeems sinners like us, is a testament to his astonishing grace.
God is present everywhere.
While it is true that God is present and active at every location in the cosmos, his special, personal empowering and encouraging presence is to be found with his people (Exodus 33:14) by his Holy Spirit. This God has promised to draw near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8), and to save all who draw near to him through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). For the Christian, therefore, it is equally true to say, “God is everywhere,” and “God is with me and will never leave me” (Hebrews 13:5).
The most foundational understanding of the biblical worldview is that God is real. Both words, “God” and “real” need to be defined and explained by Scripture, so that our mindset will be thoroughly biblical rather than a hodgepodge of our own reasoning and emotions.
When we derive our concept of prime reality from the Bible, we see that the definite reality behind the world we experience is, as Francis Schaeffer put it, “the God who is there.” He is an ultimate, tri-Personal Lord who transcends his creation and yet is intimately present everywhere and especially, graciously so, with his people he has redeemed.