The Boundaries of Reality
Ἕστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1
In our culture, faith is frowned on as mere imagination — the hopes and wishes of the common man. Evidence is what matters, we are told — and not just any form of evidence. We’re told we can only “know” things after they have been demonstrated time and again through stringent scientific method, and even then future experiments might change up what we thought was true.
The Bible offers a different position. True faith is substance. It is evidence. The word “substance” in Hebrews 11 is ὑπόστασις — hypostasis — and it means “confidence” or “assurance.” It has the connotation of a foundation or substructure, something stable and unmoving on which things can be built. It is substance that gives real existence. The word hypostasis was used in ancient title deeds as a guarantee of ownership. It refers to the real essence, the real content. Faith is the essence of a future reality, despite the appearances of the physical world around us. There is more to this physical world than meets the eye, and in this little book we’re going to explore what I like to call the “boundaries of reality.”
Despite the failure of the scientific method to explore it, we understand that there is more to reality than the physical world. We sense it, but it’s ultimate reality can be quite elusive.
As a scientific term, hypostasis is antithetical to lack of knowledge. Hypostasis is the substance, the reality. It’s something proven. It’s the evidence of things not seen. The word ἔλεγχος — elegchos — is a legal term for evidence that is accepted for conviction. It’s what makes us certain about something. In 2 Timothy 3:16 it is translated “reproof,” but it is the information that leads to our being convinced, that gives us conviction. The person of faith lives out his belief based on what his mind and spirit are convinced is true.
Faith is not relegated to religious issues. The entire business world rests on faith, because credit cards, checks, 401(k)s and securities require our reliance on things that we cannot see or touch. We have faith that if we go to the bank and ask for our money, the bank will hand us cash. We have faith that we will be able to exchange that cash for goods and services. These things have been proven to be effective for us, but frankly, faith is the only foundation that they have. If we as a society decide that the cash in our hands is worthless, the system crashes.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that our faith is not merely a hope or a fiat system of currency. Our faith is not a dream or wish or fantasy. It’s reality. Our faith is substance. It is evidence. Hope must have a foundation, and that foundation is Scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts gives us a confidence in the events still future and unseen. The writer of Hebrews tells his readers that they must wait patiently until the Word of God comes to pass, but even their faith demonstrates the reality of the things that aren’t yet seen.
That’s what we’re going to start exploring here. The life of the believer is lived in the assurance of another reality, a reality outside the realm of our immediate experience. Although we cannot reach out and grab the future God has promised us, the person of faith is convinced of its substance.
The Bible gives us a great many hints about the unseen world around us, a world beyond our physical eyes. We know that angels and demons work behind the scenes, hidden from us by our spiritual blindness. We know that after the Resurrection, Jesus was able to walk through walls. These give us hints about the greater dimensionality of the universe. Yet, even the four dimensions of our physical space-time domain are mysterious. In Hebrews 11:1, we are told that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Two verses later, the writer says something else interesting:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
— Hebrews 11:3
The things we can see are made from things that aren’t visible. Even from a completely secular view, this is clearly true. Just within this past century, scientists have been able to explore the exceedingly small building blocks of our physical world, moving down past the cell to the universe of subatomic particles. We can’t see them, but we know they’re real. They are framed by the ῥῆμα — rhēma — the spoken word of God.
Our known universe was spoken into existence. The phrase “God said” occurs ten times in Genesis Chapter 1, and that’s one of the reasons the ancient rabbis believed that we live in ten dimensions. They are joined today by certain theoretical physicists, who suggest that the world has 10 dimensions along with supergravity, giving us 11 total dimensions. We’ll get into this in more depth when we talk about hyperspaces.
The Boundaries of Reality
Our universe is finite. Astrophysicists tell us that space is expanding, that it’s stretching, but it still has edges. In 2011, Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their observations of supernovae that demonstrated that the universe is not just expanding, but doing so at an accelerated rate. According to their interpretations of light wave data, not only is the expansion of the universe not slowing down, it’s picking up speed! And yet, there is an end to it all. Space does not stretch infinitely into every direction.
I like to call the vast stretches of space the macrocosm. Space is a world for us to explore and discover on the big side of things.
In this little book, we’re going to go the other way. We’re going to explore the world of the small — what I like to call the microcosm — and it too has boundaries.
The world of the small is made up of indivisible units called quanta, hence the term quantum physics. We would think that we could continue to divide something in half no matter how small it gets, but there is a limit to smallness. Max Planck is famous for determining that the smallest length possible is about 1.616199 x 10–35 m. This Planck length is about 1020 times smaller than a proton. If we try to split something that is the Planck length, it loses a property called “locality.”
No particle that we know about is actually found at the size of the Planck length. The water molecule is a v-shaped combo of oxygen and hydrogen that is about 2.75 x 10–10 m, an incredibly small item that is far too tiny to see, but even a single water molecule is almost 6 x 1026 larger than the Planck length. That’s a 10 trillion x 10 trillion times size difference.
Still, all matter is found in tiny packages. We’ve learned that molecules are made of atoms, and the atoms are made of electrons, protons and neutrons. In recent years, we’ve learned that protons and neutrons are made of elementary particles called quarks. Electrons and neutrinos fall in the category of elementary particles called leptons. There’s another category of elementary particles called bosons, the most familiar of which is the photon, the tiniest package of light.
As we’ve explored the domain of the exceedingly small, we’ve discovered that limits exist there as well. Infinity cannot be found in the macrocosm, and it can’t be found at the microcosm either. That’s the real thing we’re going to be bumping up against. At the basis of our physical reality we find indivisible units, and that means our reality is digital. It is a digital simulation, a virtual reality, a shadow of a larger reality that’s beyond our comprehension — the metacosm.
This excerpt is from Dr. Chuck Missler’s new book Beyond Perception