Thursday, October 11th, 2012

How should we define “reality”?  We can’t say “reality is what exists” because that is tautologous.  To say something exists is just to say that it is real.  

Neither can we define reality as “any X that has the property of being rather than non-being”?  “Being,” like “exists,” is just another way of referring to what is real, and thus this too is tautologous.  

Neither can we say that “reality is that which is mind-independent” because this definition excludes the mind from the realm of reality.  Surely the mind is real.  If it weren’t, it couldn’t be contemplating the proper definition of reality! 

How do we define reality in a way that avoids tautologies or excludes certain things we know to be real?  

And is there a difference between the definition of reality (kind-defining) and the way we determine what is real?  For example, I think William Lane Craig defines existence as any X that exemplifies at least one property.  That is definitely a good test for determining if some X is real, but does that really tell me what it means to say some X is real?

Philippians 4:13 reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  This is taken by many to mean they can do anything they set their mind to through Christ’s strength. 

NT scholar Ben Witherington argues that this is a misreading of the text.  He notes that the Greek does not say “do.” The only verb in the Greek is “ischuo” which means “to be able, strong, healthy, valid, powerful.”  A literal rendering of the verse is “I am able all things in Him who empowers me.”  Read literally, it doesn’t make any sense.  Able to what?  The helping verb is missing, and can only be supplied by the surrounding context.  So what is the context of Paul’s statement? 

In verses 10-12 Paul wrote: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. [11] Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (ESV). 

Paul had learned to be content in any state he found himself in.  He learned to endure both the good and the bad through Christ’s empowerment.  A better translation of Phil 4:13 then would be, “I am able [to be content in] all things in Him who empowers me” or “I am able [to endure] all things in Him who empowers me.”  This verse affirms our ability to persevere through the good and the bad by trusting in Christ, not our ability to accomplish any feat we want.