Augmented Reality in the Bible
“And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.”
“Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?Mark 8:24, 18
Continuing our discussion on augmented reality (AR), let’s look at a literary definition. To augment something is to increase; to enlarge in size or extent; to swell; to make bigger according to the Webster’s Dictionary. In music, an ‘augmented 5th’ raises the upper note in a triad by a half-step, making a chord unresolved, or discordant. I think these two definitions encompass perfectly the intent and the outcome of AR technology. While it attempts to enlarge life, it creates disharmony.
What Does The Bible Have To Say?
- Is this technology good for me?
- Does it exalt the Lord Jesus Christ?
- What consequences come from using it?
- How do I answer a fast-moving generation who see no issue with it?
Mark 8:22-26 gives insight to why AR as an up-and-coming societal norm is detrimental to the health of the soul and spirit.
“And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.
And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught.
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”Mark 8:22-26
Christ could have cured him in one act, yet he used a stage in the middle. The main issue is, if this man’s visual ‘enhancement’ were desirable, why did Christ heal him completely afterward?
I. Any Augmentation of Perception is Due to the Curse
Spitting is the sign of a curse. It is a shameful act meant to emphasize lack of trust. Culturally, it shows a broken covenant. In Ruth 4, Ruth’s betrothal to the near kinsman is broken by Boaz according to the law in Deuteronomy 25:9 “Then shall come… unto him in presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face…”
It is also a vile insult. This blind man had only asked for healing, instead he gets spit on! The shame of being spit at cuts deep. When the Lord judged Miriam with leprosy for disrespecting the leadership of Moses, He said, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?” (Numbers 12:14a)
Under the curse, men want to be able to see on their own. In desperation to show self-worth, we try to make things happen before God makes them happen. The word of God reminds men of their sin, and they go away half-healed looking for remedies in fantasy. This blind man could have walked away from Christ and claimed he had “dreams” or “visions” or “ESP.” But while he may have thought he could see more, he was actually still blind.
An Old Preacher said that Christ was probably trying to see if this fellow meant business or not. As the saliva rolled down his cheek, he began to see men as trees walking around. Of course he wasn’t completely healed. The spitting hadn’t caused an illusion, it had uncovered it. The question was, would he be satisfied with what he saw?
He recognized motion, but he was seeing a form that wasn’t there. Now, I’ve looked through an out-of-focus lens before, and when I couldn’t see features of people, I could still tell a tree from a person. I don’t believe he was seeing a dull image, but an ultra-high-definition 3D render that looked too good to be true. The masks of sin blindness are never cheap animations. They, as these trees, looked life-like.
Devices and media augment the imagination of a half-blind man. The curse stares at us around every corner of life. Flower beds wilt from lack of water. A dead squirrel rots in the middle of the road. The ambulance sirens blare in the middle of the night. Why, even the traffic lights glare RED to signal a warning to stop. How can a conscious man deal with the reality of a devolving world? He must have a filter over his eyes causing him to see the trees without the forest.
II. Augmented Perception Cannot Override Truth
This man knew he was still blind, despite what he was seeing. Rather than convince himself that he was seeing better than he ever had- he recognized that this fantastic state of mind was partial blindness, curated because of a curse.
The Bible mentions this peculiar amaurosis in Romans 11:25, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
The discerning student of the Bible understands that all men without Christ are spiritually blind, no matter what they claim to see. In Israel’s case, please understand the damnation isn’t lessened by ‘partial sight’. Historically, Israel’s ‘augmented reality’ has only led them from one holocaust to another in the two millennia since Christ’s first coming. As they say, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Horses can develop a condition called “moon blindness,” so called because the stages of digression of the eyes are related to the phases of the moon. Waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, full moon. This disease of the equine eye is like spiritual occlusion: while each phase suggests ‘more light,’ the vision fades gradually.
So the sinful modern man is confused. His mind recalls images of fairy-tale times, the nostalgia of the way he wished things were. He wants the world to be as fantastic place as he imagines it to be. But it is still the same old world- the fantasy he sees is the myopia of the curse to tranquilize his conscience. You don’t need Oculus Rift to project that.
III. Augmented Perception Pales at the Look of Faith
This first touch of God was as necessary as the second touch. Before a man can rejoice in a cure, he must own his curse. This man was allowed an augmented reality not to live the rest of his life in, but to contrast that dull picture with the brilliance of new life in Christ.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith;”Hebrews 12:2a
Christ has to finish his faith; he has to make him look up. He tries first to look up on his own but sees nothing as it really is. If Christ doesn’t give you faith to see beyond the physical, you’ll stay blind AND distracted as you make-believe. Walking trees will be the tamest terror you conjure. The devil has enough imagination to keep you spellbound right into Hell.
When Christ began His work on Earth, he read Isaiah 61:1-2 in a synagogue. He, being the author, added words to define a ministry that He saw was missing from the list. Compare Isaiah 61:1-2 with Luke 4:18-19, and see what the Lord Jesus Christ personally authored to the Book: “to preach…recovering of sight to the blind,…” Christ did not come to add to your already augmented life. He came to take it away, and make you see clearly.
Men are caught in snare of blindness that has them seeing every side of the issue but the truth. Not since the Flood has man known so much, and yet so little at the same time. We are enamoured with possibilities, yet ignorant of the reality that is Jesus Christ. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” (John 1:10)
This man had his goggles removed and his screen turned off. He had seen some far-out sights in his blindness, but now he beheld a marvel with his own uncensored eyesight. He saw God, manifest in the flesh. The God who declared the curse, declared the cure. The God who asked him if he saw aught also made him look up, and “he was restored, and saw every man clearly.”
He progressed from blind to bewitched to beholding. Augmented reality is not the final step in humanity’s search for purpose and information. Acknowledging your spiritual blindness is the first step to REALLY seeing the eternal, spiritual world. “Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)