Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 21 Number 1 January 2019
Page 2

Editorial

Alternate Reality

Louis RushmoreWikipedia says, “The phrase alternate reality often serves as a synonym for a parallel universe” (“Alternate reality”). “A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one’s own” (Wikipedia, “Parallel Universe”). Some cosmologists and physicists imagine the existence of one or more parallel universes alongside of the physical universe in which we live.

From science fiction to science fact, there is a concept that suggests that there could be other universes besides our own, where all the choices you made in this life played out in alternate realities. The concept is known as a “parallel universe,” and is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse. The idea is pervasive in comic books, video games, television and movies. (Space.com)

Neuroscientists observe in patients with mental disorders their imaginary worlds, which often intersect imperceptibly with the real world. Furthermore, “Neuroscience shows us that we all create our own concept of reality” (Jacobs). In addition, there are many people, today, who appear to be in their own little worlds or self-made universes, which are running parallel or even on a collision path with reality. Not surprisingly, anecdotal evidence especially notes young people, who have immersed themselves totally in video games, are increasingly unable to distinguish between a fantasy world and the real world. Also, children who have been overly sheltered or showered with an overabundance of material gifts fail to mature properly—leading them to experience a sort of alternate reality and not preparing them for the real world. All of these are in store for a rude awakening when their alternate realities crash into reality.

There is another, similar confusion over an alternate reality pertaining to spiritual matters. The physical world and the spiritual world truly are parallel to each other. They are both real, but they differ. For instance, the physical world had a beginning (Genesis 1:1), and is temporal, meaning it will end (2 Peter 3:10-12). Likewise, humans possess souls within their bodies, and when the body dies, the soul leaves and returns to the custody of God (Ecclesiastes 12:7; James 2:26). Ultimately, souls will live eternally, either in Heaven or in Hell (Matthew 25:46). Prior to habitation of an eternal dwelling place, souls will be transformed for living in a purely spiritual world. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NKJV).

Therefore, what is real and really matters most is the spiritual realm with its permanence. After all, the physical realm is inferior and temporary. However, we more readily identify with our physical existence rather than with our spiritual being. No doubt it is much easier to do so owing to our five senses (i.e., touch, taste, hear, smell and see). We cannot squeeze a handful of spirituality with our hands. Neither can we taste, hear, smell or see spirituality. Hence, we might easily mistake the spiritual realm for an alternate reality. Doubtlessly, most people and many Christians incorrectly view the physical realm as reality and suppose that the spiritual realm is comparable to an alternate reality or a parallel universe. That is a spiritually fatal mistake!

The spiritual realm is not hypothetical. It is not relegated to comic books, video games, television and movies, though spiritual characters and places may be the subject of fiction in media. The spiritual realm is not an imaginary world. Neither can the reality of the spiritual realm be morphed successfully and actually into something more palatable to human fancies. Ultimately, the misguided ideas about what really and eternally matter, held by myriads of the world’s inhabitants, will crash into and be crushed by reality at the end of time (Matthew 7:21-23).

Correctly construed, the spiritual realm is the reality, and this mortal life is the alternate reality or parallel universe. The former deserves greater emphasis and focus than the latter. Every soul ought to concern himself primarily with spiritual matters (Matthew 6:33), and Christians must put spiritual things above physical things. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).

Works Cited

“Alternate reality.” Wikipedia. 12 Dec 2018. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_reality>.

Jacobs, Charles S. “An Alternate Reality.” Psychology Today. 23 Aug 2017. 14 Dec 2018. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/management-rewired/201708/alternate-reality>.

“Parallel Universe.”  Wikipedia. 14 Dec 2018. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_universes_in_fiction>.

“Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence.” Space.com. 9 May 2018. 14 Dec 2018. <https://www.space.com/32728-parallel-universes.html>.


Editorial

The Difficult Art of Listening

Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor

Are you a good listener? Listening is a true learned discipline that many of us would have to admit we are still working on. I want to be a better listener! I want to truly learn this wonderful discipline, to really be able to help people and myself better. Listening well is more difficult than it may seem, whether in a counseling situation or in a conversation. You likely think you are better at it than you really are. If we can master its art, it becomes our most effective tool in solving problems, changing attitudes and motivating others! It is often so difficult to really listen to another person’s feelings, hurts, disappointments, joys or concerns. Why? Usually, we are busy thinking of what we will say or how we will react to the other person’s statement or question. The Good Book clearly states, “…let every man be swift to hear…” (James 1:19b). What are some practical ways I can be a better listener? How can I be “swift to hear”?

Firstly, focus your attention. If we are not focused on the conversation at hand, we can never be good listeners. We are often far too focused on our reaction, our answer or our feelings that we are distracted on what another is really saying. Learn to repeat back exactly what the other person has stated to make certain that you heard him or her correctly. Phrases like, “So are you saying” or “Did I understand you correctly?” will really help with your focus and attention to the other person’s words. Also, work at “desensitizing” your triggers and temper. Far too often, some become instantly angry at another’s words, so much so, that the rest of the conversation is not even heard. The wise man affirmed, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29 ESV). “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:22). Oh, for the times this author should have heeded this divine advice! Better listeners focus their attention!

Secondly, forego your answers. We are often so quick to speak, before we really think the situation through completely. The Lord’s half-brother clearly affirmed that every man should be, “…slow to speak…” (James 1:19b). “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28). “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23). While it is not always the easiest thing to do, keeping silent is often the best thing to do! You do not have to answer everything right away. If we learn to engage the mind before we engage the mouth, how much better would our lives would be! Someone has correctly said that God gave us two ears and one mouth; therefore, we should listen at least twice as much as we speak! Better listeners forego their answers!

Thirdly, feel for your associate. Compassion, sympathy and empathy are invaluable traits to help us be better listeners. Seeing another’s “point of view” will aid greatly in the art of listening better. When Jesus saw people, “He had compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36; 20:34). In other words, Jesus felt for others. Feeling for those with whom we are communicating helps bring a special element of love, concern and empathy into the equation. Even those with whom we disagree can be viewed through different eyes when we really feel for their situation and understand better why they may be saying the things they are saying. The words to a song of yesteryear speak to this end, “Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes, Yeah before you abuse, criticize, and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.” Better listeners feel for their associate!

Imagine how many marriages could be saved, congregations be unified, people be united and wars never started if only we were better listeners! What kind of listener are you? Someone has astutely pointed out that the word “listen” has the same letters as the word silent! Listen patiently, lovingly and carefully, and enjoy all that you have been missing! “Let every man be swift to hear…”


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