Belief, Truth and Reality

You search the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to me! Yet you won’t come to me so that I can give you this life eternal!

John 5:39-40

What is belief, what is truth, what is reality?

For many Christians, these three are congruent. Reality is also linked to truth in most dictionaries. Belief obviously is not.

But if we take a closer look at the words, there are quite a few differences—at least in the biblical sense.

I am aware that it is somewhat ironic to go through the Bible to find Jesus after posting above bible verse. But that is not my intention. I want to deconstruct the barrier that we put up reading the Bible to really come to Jesus.

Almost every time the New Testament speaks about truth, the word aletheia is used. Aletheia means non-concealment.

Jesus tells us that by nature he cannot and will not hold anything back from us by telling us that he is the truth, that is, non-concealment.

If Jesus tells us to follow him, he means: come on a journey with me, during which I will reveal everything to you.

I think of the Emaus disciples. They were walking with Jesus and he opened the scriptures to them and showed them where it spoke of him.

I think of revelation. Bit by bit, Jesus reveals to us who he really is, killing everything we mistakenly believe about him and about reality.

By now it is already clear that we speak of three different things when we speak of faith, truth and reality.

Paul tells the Athenians that we live, weave and have our being in God.

Everything is in God the Father and therefore God is the ultimate reality. Thus God is also the absolute, unchangeable truth as we define truth today: the correspondence between reality and proposition.

Truth, aletheia in the biblical sense, however, is not absolute, but progressive.

As the third in the league, our faith is a mixture of what we have learned about reality and what we believe which does not correspond to reality.

So it should be clear that belief is constantly evolving, in the sense of deconstruction and reconstruction.

This deconstruction and reconstruction is the process that truth uses to make our belief more and more real.

God expresses this process as follows:

See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:10

So Jesus is truth by changing our beliefs by removing the veil more and more and thus revealing the errors and loopholes in our faith and at the same time correcting and filling them in, because he holds nothing back.

If Jesus revealed the truth to us all at once, it would be like the flood of Noah. Our small thinking, our limited comprehension, our young consciousness would be overwhelmed and we would drown.

That is why God had Noah built the ark over a period of a hundred years. I think that Noah had many ideas about the flood, corrected them, filled them in, had doubts about what he was doing, realigning himself again, wrestling with God, and so fulfilling his calling, growing into his destiny.

This reminds me a lot of our faith life.

God is so much bigger, reality so different from what we can imagine. And yet it is God’s wish to share reality, that is, himself with us. He holds nothing back and reveals us more and more of himself, as you do with children. He calls this process and the person who does it truth.

We could say it like this:

  • The father is the reality we live in and its source.
  • Our worldview, our distorted perception, our attempt to explain this reality is our belief.
  • Jesus is the Incarnation and Christ is the principle of bringing our worldview closer to reality through revelation.

Jesus exemplified what life really means and taught us what reality really is.

But that doesn’t mean that we now know.

We interpret Jesus’ words and deeds through our lenses.

These lenses are again limited by our beliefs. What does that mean?

We interpret within the framework of our beliefs, our worldview, our perception, our character, our understanding, and our comprehension.

It’s like using a map instead of reality. We are planning a trip on a map, but this map is only a distorted and limited representation of reality.

Maps have improved over the centuries. From approximate hand drawings with relatively little reference to reality, they have become more and more accurate thanks to new means such as surveying, aerial photography, satellite images and GPS data.

But even our best maps, e.g., the ones in the GPS systems in our vehicles or the map programs on the Internet, often lag behind reality and do not show all the details of reality.

Our beliefs evolve similar to those maps.

There are two basic processes that are used:

First, the existing technology is used to get the best possible image of reality and the greatest possible coverage of the entire area. Of course, this also includes fine adjustment and correction.

But then a new technology comes. We discover how low-resolution, naive and sometimes wrong our representation has been, and we start the process all over again with the new technology.

What is relatively simple with maps is often very difficult regarding our beliefs.

It is clear to everyone that a 25,000 series map of Switzerland allows better navigation than a hand drawing of a boy scout. And GPS devices are vastly superior to both.

But a change of belief system is much more difficult and associated with a lot of uncertainty. It often seems to you as if all of your previous meaning in life has been removed, the ground pulled out from under your feet. Everything that has been believed so far seems to be put to the test.

But actually it is about “transcend and include”. We are growing beyond what we have done and believed so far, but instead of throwing everything overboard and doubting it, we are integrating what still makes sense.

As the Bible says: eat the grapes and spit out the seeds.

We have reached such a point in time once more. And we are in a very special situation. The church in general did not go through the last two technological changes. It has refused the last two paradigm shifts.

With great resistance, it integrated some new aspects into the old world view, but eluded the change of system.

We are actually like the Emaus disciples who have misinterpreted the latest development. Jesus has been speaking to us for centuries, revealing truth to us, holding back nothing, but we did not see and hear correctly.

I think the time has come when Jesus wants to break bread again—and as he did, it fell from their eyes like scales. But for that we have to ask him to come into the house and eat with us.

We have reached the point of a radical change in our beliefs. If we let this happen, our faith will correspond more to reality, that is, to the absolute truth. Will it be congruent with reality? Not really, but it will be a better approximation.

Will we follow Jesus in this? Jesus has promised us that he will not hold anything back.