Virtual Reality – The Great Escape?

What is reality anyway – something our own mental computer generates? We note the distinction between ‘real’ reality and computer-generated or simulated ‘virtual reality’ and accept that drama, film and fictional literature have all been potent ways of stirring the imagination in which another reality was re-created, either on stage, screen, or in the mind. Often this gave an enjoyable escape from the immediate stress of the present. Such media are well-established forms of entertainment, but so much for the older ways. Now the new electronically-simulated reality is here and growing rapidly. Are you falling for the new ‘great escape’?


All forms of entertainment are big business, but now with enhanced developments in smart-phone technology and head-sets, various lower-cost virtual meditation product offerings are already on the market. These will bring the medium to an ever-increasing audience. Already, young people and children have serious addictions to computer games and other forms of absorbing leisure. Even people with mild, obsessive-compulsive personality traits are finding themselves gripped by fascinations that will not let them go. They simply cannot tear themselves away from that which holds them. There are potent psychological forces at work here controlling minds, both young and old.

‘So what’ say many, ‘Keeps them out of other forms of mischief, and anyway, it’s great entertainment?’ Besides, this is business and there are very large potential profits to be made. And who is there to act as a social conscience, who will tell the kids, or adults, for that matter, that their fascination with virtual reality is going to impair their capacity for forming healthy, positive relationships with people and an ability to cope with complex difficulties in the real world?


One of the serious issues is escapism, the sense that virtual reality gives people freedom to explore new worlds or experiences in which they feel free to suspend their normal social or ethical responsibilities. This sense of new created realities and the vast possibilities for exploration has a huge appeal, for in a very real sense, we were made to explore. The big question is ‘What?’ So my big concern with virtual reality is that the door is being thrown open ever wider for minds to enter entirely new regions that appeal to our fallen independence from God.

One of the immense problems that our first parents, Adam and Eve faced, when they revolted against the perfect rule of Almighty God, was that their independence was one they created themselves, but at the same time introduced a reality without chart or compass. Now they were like gods, who existed for their own self-created goals and for whatever purpose they dreamt. But it was also an abnormal reality and rather than entering true freedom, they now lived under the holy displeasure of God, and in a real sense were trapped under the judgement of God and with no escape from him, the utterly final source of all reality, to whom they would one day give an account.


The first pair also discovered they were condemned to grief, sorrow, decay and death. Often these new realities involved new ‘wisdoms’ that exalt human creativity and innovation, in a futile attempt to bring humanity to the realm of self-deification. Alas, what they thought was freedom became bondage to their own corrupted fantasies that they had so desperately hoped would deliver a great escape.

One of the biggest challenges for contemporary thinkers is to see that historic biblical Christianity touches real reality at its deepest and profoundest levels. It does this because it has a coherent set of answers for the basis of knowledge, for love, for personal being, for truth and meaning, for guilt and forgiveness that are all beyond the determinism of genetics and electro-chemistry. It also has an answer for life and death, for a meaningful origin in a supernatural, personal Creator of all things, for a purposeful origin of humanity, for broken personalities and a broken world.


Wonderfully a final answer is graciously given in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who in his death willingly took the terrible liabilities of obstinate rebels upon himself and died to bear the penalty of sin and to deliver the captives.

For many people the challenge of this ‘real’ reality of true moral guilt, a sentence passed by the living God, comes as something of a shock, from which they would rather find relief in self-made escapes into virtual realities of alcohol, drugs, irrational thinking and sex perversions, the occult, computerised simulated reality, and trans-humanism. Alas all such pseudo-escapes are doomed to wretched futility in which those who become controlled by them pay a heavy price in mood and anxiety disorders, self-absorption and various mental health difficulties.

Indeed, only in Christ is there full and final freedom to be found – a free forgiveness of all guilt, gained by Christ at great cost, freedom from bondage to a corrupted, fallen human nature, and freedom from evil powers, resulting in freedom to do the will of God, which is perfect freedom!


One way of escape is freely accessible – for Jesus said ‘I am the door. If anyone enters by me he will be saved’ (John 10:9). But we must come to him for, ‘there is salvation in no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This leaves us facing a question: ‘how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3).

Time to leave the virtual realities and the pseudo-escapes; time to turn and trust in the ever-living Saviour; time to accept and avail of his ‘great salvation’!

Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.


If you thought New Atheism was the final answer, do take a read of my NEW TITLE, mentioned below.

My goal is to show that biblical Christianity appeals to serious reason and careful thinking. It was never a leap into the dark unknown, but is both intellectually defensible and internally consistent – final revealed truth that is powerfully relevant today.

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