Living in the Matrix


So much the more men exalt themselves, so much the less will they surely be disposed to exalt God.”
Jonathan Edwards

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1

The desire of certain people to dispose of God can take many forms. The first attempt was by Adam and Eve in the garden, when they denied the authority of God’s Word and chose to be governed by their own rules. Since then men has pursued various ways to deny the existence of God and reality as He created it.

In the process, men turn the blessings of God against the Giver of those blessings. God has blessed men with wondrous and powerful imaginations, enabling them to create beautiful art and amazing technological advances. But those same blessings have been used to demean, deny, and dispose of God. Instead of using art and technology to glorify God men have too often used it question God and reality.

Man and his imagination

For example, the movie The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction thriller depicting a dystopian future in which people are caught up in the simulated reality of cyberspace. This reality is controlled by a computer and enforced by machines the computer has manufactured. The humans are subdued and live in large test tubes with their body heat supplying the energy to run the machines. The hero, “Neo,” learns this truth and joins the rebellion to fight against the machines for the purpose of freeing humanity from the simulation into the real world.

No God, and no reality we can know for certain means a world where might makes right and survival is the highest form of the good life.

This made for a great movie; but is it real or fiction?

This is not a new question. Philosophers have been asking it for a long time. Are we real, and how do we know we are real?

The Matrix may be old stuff by now, but the questions it raised continue to enthrall. A group of physicist at the University of Washington is trying to write a computer program that will test reality to see if it is real. They hope to determine whether we are real or just a computer simulation made by our ancestors or some other superior beings. They also hope to learn whether other parallel simulations exist and whether we can communicate with them.

These people are serious. They consider it worth the time and money to investigate the issue. Perhaps they hope to provide the ultimate scientific proof of God’s non-existence?

Now, most of us will question this effort and wonder if it represents a sound use of precious resources. For most of us, I suspect, reality is real enough. I remember the last time I hit my thumb with a hammer. I quickly discovered reality and the pain that comes from making a mistake in the real world.

I’m reasonably certain this wasn’t a computer simulation.

Since most of us have suffered similar experiences, why brother pursuing this question? Because when we question reality it has far reaching implications affecting our worldview.

Universal implications

Questions such as UW’s scientists are pursuing have not only led men to doubt their reality, but also to question the existence of God. If reality is not what we think it is, or if there is no reality, then our actions are meaningless. We can do neither good nor evil. In that case, we no longer need to argue over matters of right or wrong. Man becomes the arbiter of right and wrong, and power – whether physical, martial, or technological – is the way to enforce values.

This puts us into a surreal world where “responsibility” is a strictly relative – and changeable – idea, and “accountability” finds us always looking over our shoulder. Without absolutes of reality and truth, personal responsibility then becomes as arbitrary as the virtual world.

The real issue

Secular science has for over a century insisted that God either does not exist or is not relevant. Without God, the only constraints on mankind are the ones we place on ourselves, which suits people committed to a secular and relativist agenda just fine.

Yet given the natural sinful tendencies of men, we know where such a worldview leads. Without God, right and wrong become a matter of taste and preference, and everyone is free to do what seems right in his own eyes. The goal of fallen man is total independence from God. Are UW’s physicists hoping to aid us in achieving that status?

The scientists at the University of Washington are on a fool’s mission. They may come to the conclusion we are a virtual reality being manipulated by a computer programmed written by an ancient intelligence. But believing in such a view of reality does not make it true, no matter what answer their matrix-seeking computer program provides.

Remember the first rule of computing, “junk in, junk out.”

Next steps

How does a Christian know that God and the world are real? Is there a difference between the way Christians know the world and non-Christians know it? Talk about these questions with some Christian friends.

For more insight to the nature of worldviews, and how we may interact with them, order Glenn Sunshine’s new book,
Portals: Entering Your Neighbor’s World, from our online store. You might also like to read the article, “Dealing with Our Doubts: Is Someone Out There Watching?”, by Regis Nicoll.



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