An implication of being made in God’s image is that human beings have a unique awareness of reality. That reality is wide and deep and extends to four basic philosophical spheres or dimensions of life. The awareness of and interaction with these spheres illustrates humankind’s uniqueness and makes the discovery of four critical truths possible.
Sphere 1: The Intellectual
Human beings are intellectual creatures. We are capable of rational thought, reflection, intentionality, and the capacity to use our minds to apprehend truth. The intellectual therefore focuses on the virtue of truth. For most of Western civilization, truth has been defined as that which corresponds to reality. So if my belief matches reality, then I know the truth (this is known as the correspondence theory of truth).
Sphere 2: The Moral
Human beings are moral creatures. We have a conscience and feel the pull of the moral ought or should. As moral agents, we weigh our duties and seek ethical goodness. The moral therefore focuses on the virtue of goodness. And the majority of Western civilization has viewed moral goodness as being prescriptive, objective, and discoverable rather than descriptive, subjective, and invented.
Sphere 3: The Aesthetic
Human beings are aesthetic creatures. We recognize, feel attracted to, and appreciate beauty. The aesthetic therefore focuses on the virtue of beauty. Aesthetics then involves the nature and appreciation of beauty, taste, and art. An aesthetic impulse seems to have been part of human culture from the beginning.
Sphere 4: The Spiritual
Human beings are spiritual creatures. We feel compelled to ask deep philosophical and religious questions. An intuition of God and a desire to be in right relationship with the divine characterizes the lives of the vast majority of people. The spiritual therefore focuses on the virtue of unity or wholeness. A spiritual need and drive seems to have been part of human culture from the beginning as well.
Reality in the Christian Worldview
The Christian worldview affirms that God is the transcendent source and ground of ultimate truth, goodness, beauty, and unity. Since human beings are made in God’s image, they possess intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and spiritual qualities and sensibilities. Humans alone are aware of and experience these four profound spheres of reality because they are like God. Exploring these four dimensions of reality brings great richness to human life because these spheres flow from and point to the divine being that is Ultimate Reality (the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Thus, serious reflection upon these spheres, something animals are incapable of, can tell us something special about God and ourselves.
Humankind’s fallen condition, however, negatively affects a person’s ability to fully recognize and appropriately embrace truth, goodness, beauty, and unity as God intended. For example, one of the ways that the Bible describes sin is “blindness” (Romans 1:18–32, 2 Corinthians 4:1–6), which distorts these virtues. Sin runs contrary to the qualities of God and instead causes human error, wickedness, ugliness, and disunity. Sin even causes human beings to misuse these four spheres of reality.
Yet redemption in Jesus Christ allows Christians to be united to the God of all truth, goodness, beauty, and unity. Through redemption, the image of God is restored within human beings so that they may properly appreciate and embrace these four profound dimensions of life.
- For more on the Christian worldview understanding of reality, see my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.
- To understand how the ancients viewed these four dimensions of reality and how they might guide one’s life and vocation today, see If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Tom Morris.