The powers of existentialism have saturated the global philosophy of Postmodernism. In this generation the reality of life and death seems more difficult to face. Increasingly, mankind has involved itself in the realm of drugs or anything that can bring an ease to the mind in living life and facing the reality of self. The “virtual” world is becoming more and more the “real” world to much of humanity.
Unfortunately, the effects of this tragic situation have not bypassed evangelical Christian churches. The vast majority of Christianity is plagued with professing Christians who display anything but true, biblical victory over the everyday situations of life. It is clear that they have failed to appropriate the fullness of Christ’s atonement through His Word, becoming “unbelieving believers,” or “Christian atheists.” Although they may declare they are believers in Christ, when it comes to daily living, their minds are controlled by fear, doubt, despair, defeatism; darkness cloaks their minds and hearts with seemingly no hope of escape. We need to ask the question: How have such powers taken over the mindset of the nations, especially in a time when man boasts of such technical and medical prowess? Why are we found in this mental and emotional plight? It seems the more we learn in the natural, the worse we become emotionally and mentally. The more conveniences we have, the worse off we are. Where has this leech come from which is sucking the very existence of hope and victory out of the thoughts of humanity? Bondage seems to be the noose that has wrapped itself around refreshing and encouraging thoughts in life. What is happening to mankind? The very living of life is dying within man; the very heart and soul of existence is rapidly decaying, demanding a change in definition merely in order to survive. Humanity is transitioning from the real to the artificial and the virtual. Where are the children of God who demonstrate that “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)? Why are we being overcome by the powers of the age rather than being the biblical victorious overcomer? The salvation of Jesus Christ must include our minds! While the world seemingly has gone insane, is there not healing for the mind of the believer? The need is critical in our day while the world, the flesh, and the Devil are warring against our minds in order to control our thinking.
The Imagination of the Mind
The creation of man has proved to be so complex that man perhaps will never come to understand the vastness of his capabilities this side of eternity. Truly, the multifaceted complexity of the body is still being explored, and with certain parts and functions, the purpose of their existence and realms of function are just being discovered and are still fascinating the scientific and medical world.
Our burden in these articles is to enter into the invisible realm of human existence: the realm of the inward man. This is the realm of the soul, and within that realm is a power and an existence of which man has been unable to fully fathom its potential, its capabilities, and its power of control. It is this realm of human existence that God made for Himself, a realm capable of God’s Spirit entering even to the point of controlling and experiencing the power of His presence (which is beyond this world) into heavenly places.
We may wonder what realms did the mind experience before man fell into sin? What did the will experience, and what was the experience of emotions and thoughts of God within man? We cannot even conceive of the realms the mind and thought could have known in an unfallen state and with the mind in communion with its Creator.
But the Fall did take place, and in a moment of time the power of the sin principle invaded every aspect of man and opened a world of sight and knowledge that was not for man to know. Man now discerned that he had the capability of thinking beyond God, beyond truth, and beyond righteousness. The vastness of his creation now entered into a different realm of existence, a fallen world, the world of spirits and beings that had made the same choice to rebel against its Creator as man had now made.
Oh, if man had remained in obedience to God, what realms of thought would he have known and experienced in the spiritual? But we will never know what “could have been” had man remained true to God. Yet, from Genesis 3 the Scriptures unfold the history of man in a fallen condition. Biblical history reveals a thought life in man that was capable of inspiring actions against God and against what He intended for the mind to be and to think. We are introduced to imagination, an invisible mental capability of taking thoughts and creating a world alienated from God into a realm of darkness that can invent actions against God and against mankind. So many realms man would have known had he not fallen: realms of purity, holiness, perfection, beauty, love, and of God Himself. Instead man was introduced to a world of hurt, grief, trouble, despair, breakup of the family, and almost an annihilation of life.
The Fall and its thought life also brought the destruction of the physical body of Abel in the fratricide by Cain. Within these events prompted by sin, we witness imagination, the fruition of thoughts, and from imagination we witness those thoughts in human actions. Such a reality revealed new experiences for the human body that led in Genesis 6 to great immoralities and violence. We read, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). By this time the power of the sin principle was profoundly affecting the mind. Experimentation of the thought life in imagination birthed deeper actions that began to destroy mankind. Sin was destroying the inward man that God had made; man had come to believe he was only “flesh” (Gen. 6:3). His thoughts were consumed only with the body, the flesh. There was no soul, no ability to know God; all of man’s actions flowed from the profound corruption of a perverse mind. We are told that after the Flood, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21b). Though the Lord destroyed most of mankind, He chose to preserve humanity through Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8), and his family. He was the last of humanity at the time of the Flood preserving the godly line; he was a “just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).
The Dark Powers of Imagination Deepened
Though God began another history of humanity through Noah, the sin principle was not destroyed in the Flood. It continued through the seed of mankind. It seems that after the Flood mankind entered and explored another realm of human existence through his inward man. The power of his will and mind had the ability to contact and interact with the spirit world of darkness: to touch it, to enter it, to explore it, and to mingle man’s human powers with the spirit powers of another existence. One hundred ten years after the Flood, two men, a father and son named Cush and Nimrod, left the family of Noah (Genesis 11) and journeyed from the east, where “they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.” When these two men left their relatives (including Noah and the immediate brothers), others chose to leave the godly line (as Cain did in Genesis 4) and went into the land of Shinar. It was in this geography that their imagination entered another realm of thought never known before. They began to embrace the occult world, the conceptualization of other gods and forms of worship heretofore unknown.
By the time we enter the history of Cush and Nimrod and the building of the Tower of Babel, another world is brought into existence for man’s thinking, for his imagination, and his realm of experience. Their imaginations now convinced them to believe they could produce a civilization that was capable of reaching heaven, and making a name, a name to take the place of the Jehovah name. This was a realm of thought never investigated or explored since the fall of man. Though fallen angels had imagined these thoughts, man now believed he could be as great as God, to take the place of God:
God confounded their language, their singular avenue of communication, and “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:8). How does history interpret this crucial moment? The word Balal means “to confuse,” with the word mutating to Balbel, and then Babel—“ the gate to God.” The Aramaic language views it as the “Gate to God,” while the Hebrew root meaning reveals it as “confusion.” What the world would view as the “Gate to God” will be seen by God’s people as “confusion.”
The Mutation of Imagination through History
When Abraham is introduced in history, he is delivered from the idolatry that had begun with the imagination of Cush and Nimrod. He and his offspring were taught the ways of God, thus bringing a new perspective of thoughts and imagination. The world was once again divided into another concept of thought and imagination. The hope of another life, another realm of thought existence for living came through this man called Abraham. The rest of the Old Testament and its unfolding reveals how the mind soared in thoughts of God through unique men such as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David (in the Psalms), and the preaching and writings of the prophets. But simultaneously, we read of a continual falling away into apostasy. Such a deeper falling away from man’s initial fall furthered his powers of thought into greater darkness, wickedness, and destruction to God’s professing people. Then the New Testament unfolded the coming of Messiah and declared Who He is and why He came to earth. The thoughts of God concerning His Son are infallibly expressed in these writings.
In the providence of God, the rich unfolding of Church history brings us to the Protestant Reformation. Such a movement throughout much of Europe brought both the heart and mind of man into the precious vestibule of God, His Son, and the Word of God, the Bible. The intricate influence of the Reformation profoundly affected almost every aspect of human society in Western civilization. But there came a reaction to the objective revelation of God during the Enlightenment. Man’s rejection of God, His Son’s work on the cross, and the infallibility of the Bible, brought a violent reaction in the minds of men which drove them deeper into a spiritual and mental chasm of existence in their imaginations. From the days of the metaphysical philosophers of Greece, the noblest thinking of man was at least in the realm of sound reason, truth, and absolutes. It was the belief that next to the revelation of God’s Word, “reason was the best raft” to get man through his generation. Such reason was based on absolutes.
The Protestant Reformation brought into this public arena the belief that the absolutes based upon the inerrant Word of God, the full and complete revelation from God to man, were infinitely higher than human reasoning. However, by 1600, in the rejection of the Scriptures by the men of the growing Enlightenment, man believed his mind was equal to, if not greater than, the Bible. Once this presupposition was accepted, other concepts of reason were experimented with. Yet, up to this point in history, absolutes and natural truth were the most lauded.
The spirit and mood of the Enlightenment drew the inquisitive minds of certain men further away from God and His Word, producing exploration of the mind into other realms of reasoning that took their imaginations totally away from God and sound, sensible thinking. The German philosopher Georg Hegel (1770–1831) began to experiment with altering the thought principle through what he called dialecticism. His mind concept toyed with reasoning that opposites in thought could be brought together, that the reasoning mind could force a thesis and an antithesis to both be accepted as humanly true. However, the mind was forced to be re-calibrated, reeducated, reinterpreted, because this form of reason was not native or natural to the mind. This needed reeducation took place in the realm of imagination; reason and thought were drawn further away not only from sound thinking but also from God and the conceptual way He made the mind. The thesis of life was now joined with its antithesis, creating a synthesis of thought. In so doing, a mindset based on absolutes was made void. There were to be no absolutes, no right or wrong. Everything was to be viewed in a relative context.
Hegel’s dialecticism paved the way for another man to draw the power of the mindset further away from God and Truth. Soren Kierkegaard believed the mind and its thought process could be readjusted and realigned in order that it may create its own truth. Man could create a world where “his personal truth” could exist and possibly be lived by. Such a world might not be the realm of former reality and absolutes, but man’s thinking could be trained to believe in a make-believe world, a fantasy world.
In the early stages of this concept, assistance was sought through the avenues of drugs, alcohol, or some form of mind-altering means. This became the transitional philosophy to break down the mind into mindless thinking and to create by thoughts and imagination its own new truth. The world of reality could be created within one’s self with no need of proof or comparison to anyone else’s thinking or conception of reality. Truth, reality, and desired existence were now to be known singularly in man’s mind and imagination, and no one was permitted to declare any difference of opinion as to the right or the wrong of the thought-conjured truths. The latter part of the twentieth century termed this method of thinking for society as Postmodernism. This has now become the new wave of thought and imagination; man creates his own truth and his own existence. No revelation from God can attack it or denounce it. Man not only is the measure of all things but also becomes his own god; what he says or wills becomes the truth for him.
“Virtual Reality” versus Reality
We have come to a time when the foundation of all truth rests upon the abstractions of an individual’s personal opinions. This pluralistic society in which we are forced to live demands that we accept all of humanity’s thoughts and imaginations. Everyone’s opinion of life and of self must be accepted as true (unless it condemns another person’s perspective, such as the Christian’s belief in absolutes). A world created by an individual’s thought life (in which he is convinced it is reality to him) can never be questioned. All are forced to accept what an individual says about his gender, his preferences, and his lifestyle.
Technology and the medical world have now become an enabling for the dregs and scum of society to live openly by the way they think. Such advancements in both areas of science have enhanced the ability to make the imagination real, at least for a time. Technology is able to provide a “virtual” reality for man to explore his vain imaginations. And what does such a term mean? Virtual reality means “being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact.” This word virtual has been used in the computer sense of “not physically existing but made to appear.” Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that employs “3d near-eye display to give the user an immersive feel of a virtual world.” It is a companion to the imagination of the mind, to the whole of man’s feeling and sensing the simulation of that reality.
We have noted this technology for several decades in personal video games, simulated amusement park rides, and the sights and sounds of general entertainment. They all have added to the artificial enticement (for a brief season of time) of our sensory perception and stimulation. Could the mind become so controlled and even empowered by such technological powers enabling the mind to live in imagination, even though what is imagined is not real?
In the 1980s, the virtual reality game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) quickly became popular. Similar other elaborate fantasy role-playing (FRP) games also came on the market. These offered a new imaginative frontier for the earnest mind to explore. These games became one of the hottest pastimes in our nation, especially among teenagers and college students. Millions of game sets were sold and continue to be sold. Without going into the details of Dungeons and Dragons, it is a game that becomes an elaborate fantasy game played out in one’s mind using skill and creative imagination. With no game board, no cards, and no strict rules, the players are given a set of dice and general guidelines. There are no limitations on time since fantasy role-playing games are not single-experience contests; they are ongoing adventures or campaigns traversing from one episode to another. In theory a single game could last a lifetime. Because of the excitement involved and the ease in which players may get hooked on fantasy role playing, it draws the participant deeper and deeper into the next realm of imagination. There are no absolutes, no boundaries, no morals, no good or evil. The participant can do anything he can imagine, and it will not be viewed as right or wrong.
Another insight into the character of the game is the terminology used; it is a world of the occult, of gnomes, wizards, and assassins. Once again, because of the excitement involved in its fantasy, players usually will not notice subtle changes that may be occurring in their lives, their moods, and their spirits as a result of playing the games. In such games the best approach in playing is to be evil since there are more advantages in the playing of that role. Note one player’s testimony:
I am the dungeon master 98% of the time. I am the God of my world, the creator who manipulates the gods and humans…. When I’m in my world, I control my own world order…. [But] the more I play D&D, the more I want to get away from this world. The whole thing is getting very bad.†
When it comes to theology in the fantasy role play, the Christian cannot be a part of this imaginative world. It is a make-believe world, contrary to reality, and such games present a polytheistic perspective of gods rather than a monotheistic universe. It is the belief in many gods rather than the one true God. Nor is the theology of such games Christian.
Perhaps the greatest area of concern in modern FRP games concerns the heavy use of the occult. Games may include such fantasy pastimes as magic and the casting of spells, protective inscriptions, astral projection, attempts to communicate with the dead, conjuring and summoning of false deities and demons, the use of psychic powers, and in some games even occult alignment with demons or gods. When one enters into AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) all player characters are to have a patron god.
How sad to note that to date, thousands of deaths, murders, suicides, and other problems have been associated directly or indirectly with Dungeons & Dragons and other FRP games. Ultimately, the mind could enter a realm of fantasy that it believes to be the real world of human existence. The final power of the mind in this avenue of existence is to alter the very consciousness of who we are and what we are.
How far can the mind go in imagination? To what extent will be its exploration, and then, to what depth can it lay hold of what it sees? Eventually, in such an imagination without God in the thoughts, where does truth begin and where does it end? When does the mind cease to lay hold of truth and then enter a world of perpetual error? When does good conclude its influence in thought and evil begin the weaving of its warp and woof? God intended for the mind to be controlled by truth, by His Word and Spirit. The Bible declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). But is it possible for the thoughts of God to become our thoughts, His ways to become our ways? Though man fell into sin and has been on a course of progressive destruction to this very hour, he can know a change in life through Christ that brings a change of mind. This change of mind is called repentance, a change in how we think and how we imagine truth and true reality. God’s Word and Spirit can place the thoughts of God into our mind that could become our very controlling thoughts and imagination.
Such thoughts of God controlling the life can produce, through grace, the “ways” of God in our living:
Then the Psalmist reveals what will bring this blessing to the mind and heart: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (119:15). When the Word of God so envelopes our mind and its thinking, God’s ways will become our ways, and we will have respect in heart and living unto those ways. This is what contributed to David’s being “a man after God’s own heart.”
May the Lord bring salvation to our mind and thought life in a day when the wickedness, the violence, and the dark immoralities all have become the commentary of humanity. What human society has become in this perilous hour is the sad product of its thinking and its imagination.
†Moira Johnston, “It’s Only a Game—Or Is It?”, New West (August 25, 1980): 38.