There is an opinion circulating in our culture that ‘perception is reality’. This means that your perception of and interpretation of the sense-data you receive creates the reality within which you exist. In other words, there is no such thing as an objective point-of-view; existence and experience is purely subjective. It is as though we live in a dream world because the ‘out there’, or that which stimulates the senses in the first place, can never be directly known; it’s real but not ‘really real’. So, if you run into a tree, you will have an interpreted perception of “hardness” (among other things, like pain) but even then it is purely subjective (some might perceive it as harder, or softer, and have more or less pain than you); the hardness is in our head, not ‘out there’ where the tree is, or where we think it is but can’t know for sure.
This opinion, and others like it, stands or falls on the presupposition that nothing from the ‘outside’ can enter our subjectively constructed worlds because we have no means by which to perceive it. We only have our senses and they alone provide the material of experience. This is the triumph of empiricism and materialism over all other contenders while also a very convenient doctrine for those trying to get us to think a certain way. Since there is no direct experience of an ‘out there’ but only our perceptions, the interpreting of these perceptions can be done for us by those in positions of political power via the manipulation of available media, or, worse, with brute force and military power; North Korea is a prime example. Once enough people buy into the ‘official’ interpretation it becomes the societal ‘norm’.
A significant consequence of all this is moral relativism. The fallacy of this misguided social and political doctrine is the untenable position that when two sets of perceptions (moral or otherwise) are opposite yet both claim to be true, there is no way to decide which one is the most accurate nor what the best course of action is. Everyone’s moral point of view is as good or true as everyone else’s. Again, the greater the number of people who subscribe to a particular interpretation the more likely it will be the ‘norm’. So the mayhem that characterizes world politics and the numerous moral policies set forth by nations is explained. And, closer to home, it explains why our society is in political and moral shambles.
On the other hand, Christianity claims, among other things, that there is such a thing as objective knowledge and that we can know it, experience it, and govern our lives by it. The hardness of that tree we ran into earlier really is hard not just because we perceive it to be but because the Source who made the tree gave it ‘hardness’ and made sure our perceptions, though truly limited, are nevertheless accurate and dependable (some of you will hear echoes of Descartes here). But for this to work we have to invoke the concept of faith, accept that it allows us to know objectively and that it is not just a perception gone bad. This will probably seem like a stretch especially to our worldly associates who lump any appeal to faith along with our using the term ‘mystery’ when explaining the unexplainable (like the Trinity, for example).
But consider the fact that all of us depend on faith everyday. For example, we conduct our lives today as though tomorrow will come, yet we have absolutely no perception of tomorrows sun rising. We must, then, base our conviction on past instances of the sun rising in a regular and predictable manner. Yet, we have no justification that it will once again repeat its usual behavior but we act as if it will. This faith is built-in so to speak, just like our sensory organs are built-in. The difference, of course, is the experience of faith is immediate; i.e. not dependent on a mediated sensory perception.
Because of the immediate perception of faith Christians maintain that the reality we experience is a created one not by our interpreted perceptions but by a Creator and we who occupy this reality have been given the means to live and thrive in it. Even though we to not have the physical means to experience this Creator empirically (like the tree), we do experience the effects of His presence in our world through the mediation of the senses and the immediacy of faith. The upshot is that, of all people in the world, Christians have the wherewithal to experience both mediated (empirical) reality and immediate (non empirical) reality and therefore make claims about all of reality that others just can’t.
One thing Christian’s know is that the unseen part of reality is more real than the seen part (Heb. 11:3) because the visible was made by the invisible. So, we know Who made the tree and that there is a meaning and a purpose behind the collision that no amount of empirical interpretation alone could ever discover. And it’s this way with all our experiences, good or bad.
However, if people deny or ignore God, then they remain trapped in their own subjectivity (the aforementioned ‘opinion’ is right after all) and are wrong-headed to think they’re doing their own independent thinking; someone, or something, else wants them to experience and interpret reality the way they, or it, does while hiding the truth that there is much more going on than meets the eye.