What is Reality?

During my college days, I took a class in Philosophy that was required in a liberal arts education curriculum. I liked it so much that I decided to take two more! I think that part of my motivation was in the fact that my professor was a family friend. He and his wife would later host our outdoor wedding reception at their house in Charleston. I can distinctively remember the antics that Dr. Taylor would perform during his classroom instructions. On one occasion, he took a simple chalkboard eraser and spent the whole hour making his point! (And yes, I date myself in writing "chalk!" This was many years before dry erase marker boards would become popular!)

Eraser and Chalk
Image: Public Domain

The eraser was held before us for a few seconds while the professor stood with an impish grin at his lectern. Then, with a dramatic movement, he held it behind him to simulate how it had disappeared from the students' view. Dr. Taylor followed up with these questions, "Is the eraser real? Does it exist now that you can't see it?"  This led to a discussion of George Berkeley's metaphysical theory that "objects of sense exist only when they're perceived." Or something like that, as I recall. This exercise teased out the point that we understand reality with our senses. Taylor loved this kind of interaction and reveled in the notion that his instructional antics lived up to the very definition of philosophy as "the love of wisdom!" 

This extended discussion of reality has stuck in my mind throughout the years. It isn't always easy to determine what is real and what is not. Access to a social media site is empowering for many who dream of disseminating information to others in a format that seems authoritative like a reporter sitting at a news desk or standing before a governmental building with a microphone in hand. It's a "heady thing" to have such power at our finger tips!

Most of us can think of individuals we know who have innocently or otherwise written things or passed along information that upon reflection, read or sounded more like gossip than anything fact-based or connected to reality. This kind of communication requires responsibility, an ethical motivation, and due-diligence in research. During my active ministry years, I used to lead and encourage our staff members to be disciplined in writing down summaries of their various church activities. The notion was "the first to write it down defines reality!"

Doubting Thomas Believes!
Image Credit: nqhparrish.com

Defining reality assumes being morally responsible and accountable. Inflation and exaggeration have been the temptation and even downfall of many! We all work hard and want to be successful in our efforts for the Lord. However, recording experiences, statistics and information must be done with accuracy and truthfulness. Reality is reality and not wishful thinking! 

After the resurrection, as Jesus began to reveal himself to Mary and the other disciples, there was a ripple effect of hope mixed with unbelief. They welcomed the great news that Jesus was alive, but some of them needed the reassurance of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances and fellowship with the Lord. Imagine writing this down as Paul had the opportunity, "Christ was raised...and he appeared to Peter, and then the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred... at the same time!" (1 Corinthians 15:3-6 NIV).

Undoubtedly, one of the most storied of the post-resurrection accounts regarded Thomas and his reaction to the other disciples' declaration, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas boldly responded, "Unless I see the nail marks... and put my finger where the nails were... I will not believe it!" (John 20:25). A week later, as Thomas would experience the reality of resurrection with all of his senses, he would humbly confess, "My Lord and my God!" (20:26).

Believers understand that the Christian faith is a reality-based decision! Actually, the whole of our lives should reflect a reality-based foundation as well! It does not look good for any of us to get caught up in passing along half-truths, falsehoods, or anything akin to gossip! We can and must do better!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com



  1. I agree Mike. Every time we speak or write something, we are reestablishing social covenants that are weakened or strengthened in the minds and hearts of others. As Jesus is the WORD revealed, I pray that this WORD is revealed in my conduct, words and thoughts. Good writing today!

  2. Thanks, my friend! Your prayer is mine as well!! "The Word revealed in my conduct, words and thoughts." Amen!


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