The Real Thing

By Ben Swift

‘Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending all reality’ (Charles Colson).

In the year 1969, Australian singer songwriter Russell Morris could be heard bombarding Australian radio with his call to ‘come and see the real thing’. In a time of psychedelic drugs, alcoholic binges and a Western cultural revolution, I wonder what people were thinking the real thing would turn out to be. The same question could certainly be asked today, ‘Just what is the real thing?’ Perhaps deep down this is a question that really calls us to nut out our understanding of where wisdom and knowledge exists in reality.

While the current trend in the Western World is to see wisdom subjectively and to gather it from an assortment of proclaimed truths that appeal to the individual, elements of Eastern religion have crept into the psyche of many seeking a form of spirituality. It’s interesting to note however, the influential roots of many Eastern religions, particularly those who have their roots in the Vedas. According to Roberto Calasso in his book, ‘Ardor’, Vedic men developed many of their ideas on wisdom while under the influence of soma, a drink containing hallucinogenic properties. Not only did the Vedic men depend on soma as their source of life but they worshiped it and its ability to give immortality. Consider the following quote as recorded by Calasso: “O King Soma, prolong our days like the sun prolongs the days of spring”.

At this point it is important to confront the popular notion that all religions are compatible and that their teachings can be co-accepted by the individual without internal conflict. Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias, has often made the strong point, “My premise is that the popular aphorism that ‘all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different’ simply is not true. It is more correct to say that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different.”

In a world that offers truth, reality and wisdom as a smorgasbord of choices, where shall we turn our eyes and ears as we attempt to chisel away at our worldviews? Is it really like they say on the X Files, that the truth is out there? Or are Eastern teachings such as Buddhism more accurate in teaching that the truth can be found on the inside, if we can only get in touch with our inner selves? One thing is for sure however, the truth, like cream in a milk vat, will eventually rise to the top for all to see. The existential moments in our lives will soon bring us reality checks that will expose the futility of wisdom built on shaky foundations.

The comedic character of Mr. Bean illustrates this time and again in his skits and films as he embarrassingly attempts to cover up his endless chain of misdemeanors. Take for instance the scene where Mr. Bean, after destroying the original Mona Lisa in an art gallery, uses chewing gum to replace the real thing with a fake, removing the original and sticking it to his bedroom wall. Like any attempt to replace the real thing with a poor-quality fake, it was eventually exposed for what it was, a lie; a poor imitation of the authentic.

When it comes to truth imbedded in reality, the hunt for the real thing will always be underway as life has us posing questions about meaning, purpose and reality.

Perhaps one of the greatest books to address questions of meaning and truth is that of Ecclesiastes. Surely, if we could learn from this book, we could save ourselves much heartache as we wrestle to find meaning in life. Having considered everything that a human can do to create meaning, purpose and truth, the writer concludes:
When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth – his eyes not seeing sleep day or night – then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17)

While there is much to say concerning the wisdom presented in Scripture, it is important to understand that our human wisdom can only be made complete in Christ. Graeme Goldsworthy in his book, Gospel and Wisdom, expresses this well when he writes, ‘Christ justifies our confused wisdom by having perfect human wisdom for us. He sanctifies our confused wisdom by patterning the truth and by giving his Holy Spirit to lead us in the paths of that truth. Finally he will glorify our wisdom when we are renewed through our resurrection and are made to reflect his character perfectly’.

As followers of Christ we have been called not only to see the real thing, but to experience the real thing. We have been set free from having to construct meaning, purpose and truth from sources detached from truth and life itself; sources that will crumble and fall when the realities of life leave us needing something real to lean on.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

May Christ be forever the pinnacle of our ultimate source of truth and wisdom; the only real thing.

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