by contributing writer, Sally Fam
The first question, what is real?
The Short Answer— “God and His kingdom.”
The Long Answer:
Dallas Willard, a Christian Philosopher and author (who is now in heaven), gave us Jesus’s response to this question. According to Willard, Jesus pointed out that God and His kingdom are our ultimate reality.
What does Willard mean by God is our reality?
God says that His name is “I AM that I AM” (Exod. 3:14). That means that God’s existence and character are based only on His own being. He is not dependent on anyone or anything else to exist. Nothing can alter God’s nature.
In contrast, all beings have a beginning. Thus, their existence depends on a cause. Ultimately, if we trace what caused the universe, we are left with a big gap that cannot be filled by chance or necessity. Chance cannot create; it can only influence what already exists. Moreover, there is nothing necessary about our universe or its existence. In other words, the contingent nature of creation cannot explain why it exists.
Therefore, while created things are real, their reality and existence rest on someone else’s will and power to bring them about. In contrast, God’s existence is uncaused and necessary; His nature is unalterable. Consequently, He is the ultimate unalterable reality.
We know that Jesus taught a lot about God’s kingdom from the Gospels. The “kingdom” stands for God’s “range of effective will” (Willard, Knowing Christ Today,Kindle Location 81).
“Does not all of God’s creation serve as a range of His effective will?” you might wonder.
It is true that God has “issued” one eternal decree. Out of all possible worlds God could have decreed, He decreed one only. The results of which (i.e., events of creation, history, etc.) are executed in time and in successive order. But this is not precisely what Jesus or Willard are trying to turn our attention to, I think.
But, why not?
We know that there are things that happen which do not please God. For example, God does not cause or will moral evil despite His allowance of it. One reason for God allowing evil is to teach us about our evil and sinfulness. He lets us see directly what happens when we decide to reign our own little kingdoms (e.g., where we live and work) according to our sinful nature and independent of Him. The consequences of which are also things that are not in accordance with His will. Christians with sound essential doctrines, regardless of their position on human free-will, agree on this one conclusion despite their different explanations. God does not force anyone to commit evil; evil arises from our sinfulness which dominates us (James 1:13).
So, what is ‘the kingdom’?
The kingdom refers more precisely to a specific subset of God’s reign. In this subset, we have citizens who voluntarily want to align their wills with God’s. We pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-13). We also know this from reading the Beatitudes in the gospel of Matthew. The Beatitudes describe to us the distinguishing characteristics of the real citizens of the kingdom.
Which kingdom do you think will last eternally and is, therefore, more real?
God allows those, who want to establish their corrupt kingdoms to practice their limited powers independent of Him. However, in the end, only His Kingdom will last forever. God will destroy all evil and all that is founded on it.
So, I find that the answer “God and His kingdom” coherent with the Christian worldview.
But I Object!
But, one might argue back that this does not demonstrate the truth of Christianity. Yes, and that’s correct. All that I gave you is the Christian answer to what counts as real. At another point, we must cross check the Christian answer against the evidence we have. This, however, applies on all worldviews in question, not just Christianity. But to do so effectively, we must know how each worldview answers life’s most important questions to avoid critiquing distorted versions of these worldviews.
The Christian answer to the first question is that God and His kingdom are real. God’s nature and His plan endure through time, evil, opposing wills, and afflictions. What could be more real than that?
Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.