Our Eyes Are a Parable About Faith

Back in anatomy class we learned that, because of the shape of the lenses in our eyes, whenever we look at something, the image we see is turned upside-down before that image hits our retina. This image is then translated into neural impulses and transmitted along millions of optic nerve fibers to our brains.

This means that our brains receive a picture of the world flipped on its head. But being so brilliantly designed, our brains figure out very early and very quickly that the upside-down images are not the way things really are and learn the ability to interpret them as right-side up.

This is a fascinating phenomenon that I believe contains a parable.

We Don’t Believe What We See

Why this strange optical design?

Darwinian materialists’ explanations, besides being on the extreme and incredible end of improbable, are narrow and hollow. They see the eye as the collaborative creation of blind chaos and unconscious natural selection. And they believe the primary evolutionary purpose of the eye is to secure us calories and copulation so our mindless genes’ can survive. The eye is a result of zero imagination plus inconceivable mathematical improbabilities plus ultimate meaninglessness. This is a seriously inadequate explanatory formula for the wondrous beauty of the eye in the eye’s beholder.

No, God created the eye (Proverbs 20:12). And this opens for us a wide world of eye-wonder. He could have myriad purposes, beyond pragmatic ones, for designing our lenses to invert the image.

And I believe one purpose is to humble our skeptically proud tendency to assert that seeing is believing. Our discovery of the way the eye works shows that this seemingly common sense assertion is built on faulty assumptions about this common sensory organ.

The truth is, our own brains don’t actually believe exactly what our eyes report seeing. Our eyes see things topsy-turvy from the way they really are. So our brains are forced to draw from other ways of discerning reality and then make the necessary corrections to the images the eyes send them.

In other words, there is a sense in which we all walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our brains have learned that reality is actually the flip-side of the way they initially see it, so they must trust other sources of revelation to get the true sense of what’s real.

Without Faith It Is Impossible to See Right

And this provides a parable for how faith helps us see.

Frequently, what we think we see is an inverse or distorted form of the way things actually are. Wisdom is recognizing the truth of this phenomenon and faith is putting our trust in revelation beyond our perceptions in order to make the necessary adjustments and see things right-side up. Faith is a way of seeing accurately.

That’s of course only true if the revelation we trust is true. And the truth we are designed to trust is our Creator’s revealed word. Our Creator has made himself known in the person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16). He is the very embodiment of the truth that enlightens everyone (John 14:6, John 1:9). Whoever believes his word walks in the light and sees right (John 12:46, 1 John 1:7).

How Jesus Turns Our World Right-Side Up

And this has always been the case. Christ created humans to be creatures who walk by faith. Walking by faith is not a result of the fall (although our post-fall difficulty of walking by faith is a sad result). Trusting Christ’s word was always meant to be our primary source of reality-revelation, and our senses were always meant to be complementary and secondary.

When Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent’s deception in the garden, they transferred their reality-revelation trust from God’s word to the serpent’s word. And when that happened, it tragically altered what they saw. They “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). They suddenly saw the tree’s promise from an inverse perspective. The serpent had turned God’s promise on its head.

When Adam and Eve ceased to draw from God’s revealed word to help them discern what was real, they ceased seeing right-side up and got everything wrong. And every time we sin, the same cursed inversion occurs.

Therefore, our Creator became a man to bear the curse his justice demanded and restore our ability to see right. That means he gives us the grace-gift of faith in his revelation of reality so that once again we will let his word govern our perceptions in order to see right-side up, even while living in a world that sees upside-down. And every time we repent the same blessed restoration occurs.

So hear the parable of the eye: We cannot believe merely what we see. Our perceptions are not our primary source of truth; they were never designed to be. They require the help of another source in order for us to accurately understand what’s truly real.

Always let God’s promises inform and instruct your perceptions (Proverbs 3:5). If you do, you will know peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). But whenever your trust transfers from God’s promises to your perceptions, you will find yourself losing your grip on reality and trying to pursue an illusive peace in your understanding. Such a peace is a mirage.