By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – October 11, 2015) — If you’re reading this right now, stop. Take a look around the space your in (possibly a room, an office, the kitchen, or an airport). Do you see things? Maybe a desk or a dog? A chair or computer screen? A pencil or another person? A book or BBQ steak?
Whatever you see around you, you’re assuming that the object is real, correct? Your mind—via your eyes, sensory organs, neurotransmitters, and synapse—takes in the image and sends it to your brain, and then your brain processes the information so you understand that the objects are concrete entities before you; that if you reach out and touch them, you will feel a real object?
Go ahead and try it. If there is a pencil, pick it up. If a book, read it. A steak, eat it. The reality that you perceive around you can be known and acted upon. That is, you can know that there is something else in the space around you, and that something else can be known, touched, felt, eaten, sensed, etc.
Though this is a fairly simplicity view of the term realism, it can act as a general guide in understanding the concept. According to philosopher, Norman Geisler, “Realism is the view that there is a reality external to our minds that we can know.” Put another way, a realist believes there is a “correspondence between thought and thing, between the mind and reality.” It must be said, however, that not all realism deals with concrete objects such as chairs and tables, but with ideas and concepts (such as truth, God, etc.).
There are various schools of thought regarding realism, some ancient and some modern. Historic, Christian realism can be summarized as classical realists, as exemplified by Augustine (b. 354), Anselm (b. 1033), and Aquinas (b. 1225). Each Christian realist dealt with physical and metaphysical (beyond nature) ideas in unique ways.
Augustine held that concepts (called universals) existed before the material world. Anselm taught that a person could derive what is true about an object or concept from a universal. And Aquinas argued that someone could use reason to make a connection between universals and objects (though human reason could not totally comprehend God).
One of the big questions all realists deal with is the idea of whether our thoughts match and agree with the real world. Classical realist believed that things or ideas (called “first principles”) are self-evident. And that once the idea or object is known, you can be reasonably assured that it is true. As an example, if there is a chair in the room you’re in—and you touch and test that it is real—you can be sure that the idea of the chair matches the object of the chair, and is therefore real.
Though there are slight disagreements between the classical realists, they can agree that there are relationships between the principles of knowledge and the objects of the knowledge. Put another way, people can know something about creation and concepts, the world and words, items and ideas. Because of this, all realists stand in disagreement with skepticism and agnosticism—which doubt certain things about the world in which we live (God, etc.).
For more information on issues important to the Christian faith, check out Veritas Evangelical Seminary: http://www.ves.edu/
All quotes from Norman Geisler are taken from The Big Book of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books.
Photo captions: 1) The Big Book of Apologetics, Norman Geisler. 2) Dr. Norman Geisler speaking (Copyright 2015 by NGIM.org). 3) Veritas—Truth. 4) Brian Nixon
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon
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