"…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 corinthians 4:18 NASB
We can divide the universe into two categories of reality: the material and the non-material; or that which is seen and that which isnot seen. In talking about unseen reality, I'm obviously not talking about things that must be relegated to fantasy or pure imagination. Rather, I'm talking about unseen (yet real) fixed concepts which our world operates by constantly. Take, for example…
Moral absolutes (e.g. Child abuse is wrong.)
The uniformity of nature (e.g. We live on the assumption that planets and stars move in a predictable fashion. On this assumption we plan trips not only to grandma's house, but to the moon and beyond.)
Universal Laws of Thought* (e.g. The principle of contradiction: a maxim stated by Aristotle as: "contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously." [cf. aristotle's metaphysics, 1011b13-14]) avicenna is said to have put it more colorfully, "Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.
These are all things that are real, yet are unseen. Laws of thought and moral absolutes may not be able to be weighed, measured or stored in a cupboard, but we count on them and live by them every day just the same.
From what I've observed, both children and adults in Christian circles struggle at times with the things they are called to believe in. God seems like a distant idea. Doctrine seems far removed from day-to-day life. At times, you or someone you love may be tempted with the thought, "I wonder if God, salvation, heaven and hell is all just a made up fairy tale."
At that point you should take a step back and remember that everyone has a faith in their particular view of the world. Worldviews need to be evaluated by whether or not they account for the unseen realities mentioned above. Fortunately, biblical Christianity (not to be confused with tainted, politicized, or hypocritical forms of Christianity that bear no resemblance to the life and message of Jesus Christ) is a worldview that is well able to account for these unseen realities. The biblical God (note well, not just general theism) capably undergirds all unseen moral absolutes, natural constants and universals. Other competing worldviews are weighed in the balance and found wanting.
When we are called on to believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 corinthians 5:5), we should recognize that this is anotherunseen reality. The truths of galatians 2:20 belong in the category of the unseen as well…
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20)
Let's not gloss over the fact that we are called to believe in unseen things. But at the same time let's not jump to the wrong conclusion that Christ asks us to take an idiotic leap in the dark. We all believe in well-founded unseen things everyday.
This week in chapter four of Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality (I'm reading through the works of Schaeffer and posting about it regularly here at crosswalk the devotional), he calls our attention to this biblical view of truth by underscoring that there are "two streams, two strands of space-time reality—one in the seen, and one in the unseen…"
"[God] is not asking us merely to act on some psychological motivation, but on what really is… there is a Holy Spirit who has been given to us to make service possible.
"The Christian dead, including my loved ones, are already with Christ now, and Christ really lives in the Christian. Christ lives in me.
"Here is true Christian mysticism—not based on content-less experience, but on historic, space-time reality—on propositional truth. Christian mysticism is communion with Christ. It is Christ bringing forth fruit through me, the Christian, with no loss of personality.
"He is the Christ who has died, whose work is finished, who is raised, who is ascended, who is glorified. It is this Christ. Not simply an idea. It is the Christ who was seen after the resurrection… by Stephen, by Paul, by John."
Let's walk on today, confidently believing in these unseen realities—Christ was not raised mythically; Jesus, the apostles and the Christian martyrs were not liars; and "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us" (romans 5:5).
Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you at a loss for words when asked why you believe in unseen things? Learn how to converse with others in terms of their own beliefs in unseen things (like moral absolutes, etc.), and help them discover the worldview that is charged with the majesty and grandeur of God.