How do you see it?
Last month on the Internet, a particular dress went viral when people couldn’t agree on whether the dress was blue and black or white and gold.
When my daughter showed me the photo, I saw a blue dress with black lace. My daughter, however, said she saw a white dress with gold lace. When we showed the photo to her dad, he had a hard time accepting that he wasn’t the target of a joke. I must admit, the thought crossed my mind too — until a few hours later, when I saw a white and gold dress instead.
Experts explained that, due to things like chromatic adaptation and how the human brain perceives and processes color, two people looking at the same photo could see the same dress in different colors.
“How we see an object has everything to do with how that object is illuminated,” Jenny Marder explained in an article on PBS News Hour Online.
The dress phenomenon drives home just how differently people can perceive reality. And that got me thinking about how we decide what’s real. Sometimes what we see deceives us — and sometimes what we can’t see is true. How do we decide what to believe — especially when it comes to faith and God?
In Everything New, Jeff Cook says the glasses through which we choose to view the world will determine what we see. “Much of the philosophy coming out in recent years shows us that the way we look at the world influences and affects what we claim is true,” he says. “That is, all ‘facts’ are theory-dependent. As such, the glasses we first decide to wear (or choose to change during the course of our lives) dictate what we believe is real.”
Science replaces inadequate glasses often, Cook says. For example, when Einstein’s theory of relativity replaced the Newtonian view, it changed the way we saw the world and our relationship to it.
“We all have different philosophies and paradigms that filter and color what we believe is real,” Cook says. This helps explain why so many brilliant men and women fall on both sides of the God question. Lack of evidence isn’t the problem, he says, but rather “how we choose to look at the evidence.”
In The Skeptical Believer, Daniel Taylor says “truths of all kinds are not independent little pebbles of facts lying on the beach . . . looking the same in one collection as in another. Truths are more like notes of music on the score, waiting to be played.”
In other words, “Facts are not truths until they are placed in a story. Or, to keep the metaphor going, a musical score.” And the end result? Perhaps the Messiah — or a commercial jingle, says Taylor.
“We now live in the age of story wars . . . [where] people appear to throw ‘fact stones’ at each other from their rock collections, but most conflicts in the world are actually story collisions,” he says. “My story of the world collides with your story of the world, and each of us wonders why the other can’t see the facts for what they are.”
So, how do we know which story is true? “The best test for that,” says Taylor, “is found in the living of it.”
In God’s story, this is where we not only find him but where others can find him as well — especially when we live out that story together.
Just as illumination affects how we see a dress, the story we live by or the glasses we wear affects how we see the world.
As C.S. Lewis — who switched glasses himself — put it: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Carmen Andres, a former editor of the Mennonite Brethren magazine Christian Leader, lives in Alexandria, Va.
Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.