Seeing, we do not see…

Posted on May 18, 2011

 

I have recently been pondering this simple yet significant trap.  Christianity is a belief system based on a worldview to which most western Christians do not ascribe.

Worldview: The unconscious, or semi-conscious lens through which we observe and process our day to day, as well as,  life experiences. We all have one, and it functions like a filter, coloring or even deleting every segment of reality and experience that parades before our eyes.

The Bible should function to give us information about God and His plan, but also to inform us about the nature of reality. This being the case, it is clear that a Biblical worldview clearly portrays a world system consisting of both a natural, material realm, composed of physical-ness, and a spiritual realm, composed of and inhabited by less, visible, but no less real spiritual beings and realities.

Genesis 2:9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Here we see a simple portrayal of a scene in the Garden of Eden where trees (Material, wood, bark, leaves….) produce fruit called “knowledge” and “life”.  This kind of fruit is not a material substance, but is still substantial enough that it could be picked and consumed.  A simple picture, with a radically different worldview from your average western thinker.

Again and again you see throughout the Old Testament that the Bible characters interact with both a physical and a spiritual reality and assume this is simply the nature of reality.  Jesus Himself,  interacts with, and describes a reality that includes the physical and the spiritual realm as two integrated elements of a single reality.

So the assumption we all bring to our experience, about the nature of reality is a radical and crippling departure from the assumption the Bible seems to portray.

If we try to understand and live our Christianity from a purely physical, natural worldview, several faith-killing pitfalls await. (Wait, isn’t faith the assurance of things NOT SEEN?)

1. We assume the weight of living the Christian life depends on our commitment and resolve.

2. We measure our maturity by observing behavior and outward standards.

3. We assume that God does not act any more in the ways He acted in scripture.

4. If God acts like He used to we automatically search for natural explanations.

5. We assume Faith is really about our ability to keep a positive and hopeful attitude.

6. We make knowledge (accrued data) the key to “Knowing God”. ‘

7. We think that being “Born Again” and “Committing to Follow Jesus” are the same thing.

8. We use our mind and senses as the primary tool for interacting with God.

9. Our Knowledge of Good and Evil remains our primary way for living and finding/serving God.

10. We assume the best way to use our will, is to choose to avoid bad things and to engage good things.

The more I write, the more the list seems to grow in my mind.  The more I write, the more I am convinced that most of our struggles in developing a meaningful walk with God, boil down to having a worldview that is not a Biblical worldview.  What an adventure each day would be if we began with the assumption that every moment of our day is filled with, and surrounded by things unseen.

Lord, open the eyes of our hearts and give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might see…


  • “8. We use our mind and senses as the primary tool for interacting with God.”

    Ouch! That one hurt. Too close to home.

  • Jaymes Downer

    You should write a 10 part blog series on that list that you just used. Each point shook my etch-a-sketch mind a little more than the point before.

  • OK Bob you do need to clarify!!! Please! The fruit of the spirit is Love, peace, patience….. all these seem to be visible fruit that I can see! I try to live these daily! Don’t always do it but I am keenly aware of them all the time., in myself and others. So..I am soooo curious for you to further this topic. Love it! Sparked great interest this morning!

  • Janet…I love your thoughts here…but keep in mind, you have never SEEN love, only the evidence of it…you have never seen peace, only the evidence of it…like Jesus said in John 3, you see the trees move, but you don’t really see the wind, so it is everyone (everything) born of the Spirit. You are definitely tuned in!

  • Wow… Great stuff!
    It’s interesting to me that you use the term “lens” for describing world-view because God has been showing me how I have been misunderstanding many truths in scripture that I have heard basically all of my life because I have viewed them through a performance lens, a focus-on-me colored lens. It is insidious.
    I see at least one common thread in your list of pitfalls, and that is the focus on ourselves and our performance instead of focusing on the COMPLETED work of Jesus. Reading scripture through this Jesus-focused lens gives a WHOLE different view of many truths.
    Thanks for continuing to help us think differently Bob!

  • I just got back from a trip along the Oregon coast down to see the coastal redwoods. There is a hush, a cathedral like feel in these forests. People whisper, and they walk slowly. There is certainly a sense of awe – these are magnificent living things, overwhelming in their size and girth and ruggedness. It does reflect to me that we all know that trees were made to be pleasing to the eye. There is no convincing darwinistic explanation for the fact that we all have a deep aesthetic connection to nature. We are in fact aesthetic creatures, and the purpose of grace is to allow us the freedom to choose the right because we want to, not because we are obligated to out of fear (much more about this here if anyone is interested: http://thereforenow.com/?p=975) Trees, mountains, oceans, rivers, flowers, beaches, all speak to this aesthetic nature. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

  • Jim,
    Actually the Hebrew word in this particular verse does not indicate aesthetic beauty, rather it very directly communicates “spiritual in appearance”. The same word is used to describe the burning bush when Moses “turns aside to see what kind of “sight” he might be seeing”. I am not in disagreement with your comments, but I thought it was worth mentioning, in light of the intent of this post….Thanks

  • marsia

    Bob- amazing!
    Again-it just seems like flesh vs faith, and works vs grace? Why is the cycle the same??! IT doesn’t matter what topic or situation, it is in the end the same-God’s ways are higher than ours, His thoughts-beyond mind-boggling to our humaness, and His gifts and presence-without measure? We are surrounded but not hedged in by the present world-it’s up to us to choose to see. And-like my friend teaches me-live differently. love you~m

  • Bob, thanks for the response, I love dialog over scriptures and ideas! I was actually responding to Gen 2:9, that tress are “pleasing to the eye.” Here is what my Greek lexicon gives me for this – it sounds like aesthetics to me:

    =====================
    02530 dmx chamad {khaw-mad’}

    a primitive root; TWOT – 673

    AV – desire 11, covet 4, delight 2, pleasant 1, beauty 1, lust 1,
    delectable things 1; 21

    v
    1) to desire, covet, take pleasure in, delight in
    1a) (Qal) to desire
    1b) (Niphal) to be desirable
    1c) (Piel) to delight greatly, desire greatly
    n f
    2) desirableness, preciousness
    ========================

    Love the post and the dialog – I’m certainly not wanting to be contentious here!!!!

  • Mareh, Strong’s # 5758 is the word for “sight” as in “pleasing to the… sight
    1) sight, appearance, vision
    1a) sight, phenomenon, spectacle, appearance, vision
    1b) what is seen
    1c) a vision (supernatural)
    1d) sight, vision (power of seeing)
    The idea is that it is Chamad, or “aesthetic” to the spiritual sight….not the optical sight. The translation “pleasing to the eye” is an English translation that actually makes my point. We have a material worldview, so our mind and translators minds automatically point toward the material.
    I don’t hear contention at all, I too enjoy the conversation.

  • Denise W.

    Bob……when I read this post there is something inside me that is excited and hope seems to spring up in my spirit. The physical world around me right now is difficult but my spirit is renewed at the concept that this is not all there is…… even now. Not that we have to wait for that time when we are together with the Lord (which will be glorious) but that if the eyes of my heart are opened I will see the physical and the beauty of the spiritual word intertwined even now! God made me an artist and even though I am in a struggle right now I am believing him for my voice to be restored and somehow I know it has something to do with this very subject. Please keep posting as the physical world is so hard to ignore in the midst of harsh symptoms and your posts bring me back to the true reality and give me hope. Beautiful message. Thank you.

  • Thanks for the friendly reply, I enjoy interchange which sharpens. Obviously I agree with your main point, that Christianity is based on a world view which even many Christians are uncomfortable with, and this at the very least adds to graceless un-supernatural ways of looking at virtue and morals. It goes along with Jesus’ imperative “Him who has ears to hear, let him hear.” As I am fond of saying, we must not forget that the Christian faith is shocking and asks us to believe and affirm shocking things. It does no good to sugar coat this or pretend that our faith is purely rational. It is not. As Paul says, we experience peace which surpasses understanding.

    I still think you are stretching these words in Gen 2:9, I don’t think the lexical information we have nor the context warrants this specificity. We begin to stray into philosophical territory, where we divide between optical sight and mental sight. Do we ‘spiritually’ see because we compare what we physically see against some kind of platonic ideal? Is it even possible to only have platonic sight? If you have physical ears only, but you are physically deaf, can you be said to inwardly hear? Do we have to nail down our understanding of Kant before we can say that a tree is beautiful? It smacks of splitting hairs. Clearly, however we apprehend it, believers and unbelievers alike grasp the aesthetic beauty of nature. This aesthetic apprehension speaks almost directly to us of God – Romans 1:19-23.

  • Laura Mantey

    Enjoyed reading every word. Especially enjoyed your points 1-10. Our western Christian culture makes a lot of assumptions, and those assumptions separate us from those who need us to represent Christ and God as Father to them. Love the way you think and write.

  • Bryan Pierre

    To Bob and Bryan: Thanks for the insight. I was wondering what the Father wanted me to study in His Word, seeming He’s got me on the subject of “Identity”. I was hoping to find the answer of who I am in the Bible (not that I won’t.) However, like both of you said, either in class or via this post, it’s not what you know but how you know it. For the past several months, I’ve been studying Scripture under the idea that the more I know, the better. But, if I simply look at each Scripture through the “Lens” of COMPLETENESS accomplished through Christ on the Cross, the only thing I have to continuously do is believe, confess, and surrender to what He’s already done and not try to add or subtract anything from it. After all, “IT IS FINISHED.” Focusing on His completed work (not just for freedom’s sake, but for focusing sake) introduces His victory to a battle I’ve been fighting with harassing thoughts–a battle I should never have been fighting. Much appreciated!

  • Steve Rosenberg

    Bob, I have been grappling with the awesomeness of this great biblical revelation which I heartily embrace, and yet I found myself overwhelmed by the reality of all the “churches” which have simply given additional knowledge from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and heaping additional condemnation upon those who came for help, without providing any “life”. This revelation has got to get out! It makes sense that people are frustrated when the source of salvation is relegated to nothing more than another set of unattainable rules. Where is the life in that? I do not want to live one more day simply offering an alternative to Hell when real “life now today” is what is being provided by Christ Jesus. While I am not yet operating at the spirit level, I do expect to be set free and live “life” surrendered to God.