Red Pill

Our upbringing determines our view of reality. It gave us the cold truth of the rational and of the material. A truth that is solid. Only it isn’t. It is at best a shadow. Of course, Plato said much the same thing, but I am not arguing for Plato. In fact, it was the Greeks who mislead us, for they were wrong.

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor makes the point that several hundred years ago we saw the world differently, a world that drew its meaning from the unseen, framed by God and by spiritual forces. Now, we have rejected that. For the only thing that really matters, the only thing that is really real is the material world around us. It is our certainty. Only it isn’t. We don’t need to look too far to puncture this balloon. Even science tells us that things are not what they appear. Time is not what it appears. Even matter as not as solid as we once believed. All, in their own ways, illusions, mere appearances.

We, like Thomas, declare we will not believe unless we can see. Yet, that does not mean that it is not true. In fact it is the height of our arrogance. Yet, our marginalising of the unseen has left us in an uncomfortable place, a place of desolation. Alone and meaningless in a empty universe. Yet we have our doubts. Something tells us there must be more, so we grope blindly in the dark for something, because anything is better than the emptiness of our nothing.

Yet, we do not need to walk blindly. We have a different story, the story told in our scriptures, of an unseen God, a God who stepped into our world to become as a man, the man Jesus. And what we saw shocked us. For having humbled himself to become like us, he then laid down his life, even to death on a cross, loving us, even as we are. For a short while, the unseen became seen and the world is no longer the same. For sure, this was not a new story. It is the same story told since the beginning, but for the first time we understood. Now we saw it in new light, a light that brought life. It is a light that even death could not put out, because Jesus rose again. The barrier between the seen and the unseen is now torn and we can pierce that barrier through our imagination by faith, enabling us to see beyond the seeing of our eyes and into the reality that lies beyond and into the reality that matters.

For Neo, in the film ‘The Matrix’, there was a pill he could take to dissolve the illusion. For us there is no pill, but the message of the gospel that we need to believe, a message that the church has not always preached clearly, clouded by problems of a different age, problems that are no longer relevant and stop the gospel being heard. Yet the power of the gospel remains and just as Luther needed to find its message for the Middle Ages, we too must learn to find its message for our generation. When we do, we will find that it is a decision worth taking, for, unlike the bleak and desolate world Neo discovered, we find that it is the bleak and desolate world we leave behind.

For more information see: Big Picture


Our view of reality places limits on what we do. We sensibly recall Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Yet, do we always have the wisdom to know the difference? History suggests, not.

Wisdom told us that it was impossible to run a four minute mile. It was unimaginable to everyone. Everyone except Colin Banister that is, who could imagine its possibility, and then went ahead and did it. Of course, once others saw it was possible, the unimaginable became imaginable – to the point that today it almost seems common place. Although I still struggle to imagine that, as my best remains closer to 15 minutes!

In the sixties, segregation and racial discrimination was an excepted fact of life, until Martin Luther King gave people a dream. A dream that helped people imagine a different future, until that imagined future pervaded society and the dream became increasingly a reality, to the point that, today the U.S. has a black president, something that would have been utterly unimaginable only a generation earlier.

Wherever you look, there have been great leaders who have caused us to reimagine things, whether a Winston Churchill or a Steve Jobs. They help us see the world differently, not as it is, but as it could be. They help us imagine victory when we see defeat, success when we see failure, a way forward when we see none.

We need to imagine.

Not long ago I was asked why I write this blog. This is the reason.

The New Testament describes a reality that is not seen today. We have lost something and do not know the way back. I am not even convinced there is a way back, even assuming we should want to take it. The path for us has to be forward. Yet, what do we make of the past we have left behind or the promised reality that we cannot see?

It seems to me that there are two main approaches to this. The first is to say that that was a former time. A time that is not to be repeated and even, when viewed from the sober judgement of today’s reason, may never have been in the first place. Trying to recreate what may never have been, or was a once off, is foolishness.

The second approach is to allow myself to be drawn into a different reality. I may not know how to change my life so that I live in the truth of the Kingdom of God and its limits, rather than those of the world around me. I don’t even know what that looks like. But I can begin to imagine.

So, I am imagining how things were. Recreating a past from different angles to help me see afresh, for I have become too familiar with the old truths and they no longer reach me. Then, I can begin to reimagine those truths for today. The two worlds colliding, and in that collision, to once more make the unimaginable imaginable again.

I cannot imagine myself ever running the four minute mile, but I can imagine the day when my imagination no longer constrains me, but draws me forward into a greater reality. That is my aim. That is why I write these stories. I share them for anyone else that wants to listen.