“The Universe is a Simulation”

This statement has been an intellectual/philosophical pursuit for many. Descartes entertained those thoughts, complete with the question of, “do even I exist?” He concluded with “I think, therefore I am.”

Descartes had said that, truly, who knows if anything around him exists according to his understanding? Could it all be an elaborate deception of some evil genius? Well, his surroundings might be. But at the very least, an “evil genius” running the simulation could not “simulate”–or falsely make him think–that he thinks.

In summary, Descartes was convinced that he exists, even if the existence/reality of anything else cannot ever be ascertained for certain.

Descartes is just one example of many who have gone down this pathway of thinking (solipsism). But I think there is something absolutely huge to be gained as a mental exercise in our walk with Christ–at least, it does to me. Please allow me to explain.

Let’s say, for a moment, that NOTHING around you actually exists. It’s just a simulation. Now of course, if it’s a simulation, there must be someone running it. And as Christians, we acknowledge the creator of the universe, so in this exercise, God is the creator of the simulator. We can acknowledge two things, then: like Descartes, we can be certain of our own existence (our consciousness), and we can be certain of God’s existence as the one who runs the simulator built specifically around you, the individual.

(please note, as per the mental exercise, I am speaking as if “you” are the only consciousness)

Since it’s a simulation, nothing else actually exists. It’s all meaningless–all the sights and structures, people, places and things are not at all real. Nothing that happens to them actually matters. The only thing that matters–as these are the only things certain to exist–are your consciousness and the consciousness of the one running the simulation. At some point the simulation ends, and you meet the creator of the simulator who has been studying you for evaluation. The one who runs the simulation, of course, also cares nothing about what happens around you so much as the way you respond to everything around you.

When you realize that nothing else exists, you don’t care what happens to it, or even yourself in terms of your current form of existence in it. You do realize, however, that you have a game to play within it, as it were. The rules are set SPECIFICALLY for you in the simulation. You don’t care about what happens in the simulation per se–since everything in it will disappear in the end–but you care immensely that you respond accordingly to everything that the designer has thrown at you.

Here’s the point: it’s so easy to get distressed about outward results, and the world is very good at trying to get us to stress about outward results. Jesus told us that hating our neighbor is the same as murdering him (Matthew 5:22); whether the person hated actually dies or not, the one who hates is guilty of the sin of murder. On the other hand, Jesus did a perfect job of loving those around him and yet even he did not turn up results in the people around him (Matthew 11:20-23); and consider how many came after him and apparently won more souls than even Jesus did when he walked the Earth–now of course that’s mistaken sentiment, but hopefully therein the point is made: we are not judged before God based on the reactions of our environment, for anything, ever. Many people think and speak in terms of outward results directly indicating one’s character: whether he/she marries the right person (or manages to get married, period) and whether his/her marriage is good, the condition of one’s living and financial situation, one’s popularity, one’s success at working in the elements, and so on. Lazarus the beggar–a decidedly “unsuccessful” person who died from his poverty–was raised up to heaven. (Luke 16:19-31) When Jesus met fishermen in Luke 5:5-8, they spent all day long trying to catch fish and failed, and at a certain point Jesus told them simply to do the exact thing they did all day, only from the other side of the boat, and then they achieved success in catching an abundance of fish; there was no lack of effort either way, and of course there was no reason why the fishermen should have thought that casting the net on the other side of the boat would make a difference, except by faith in the word from Jesus, but a whole host of different results occurred nonetheless.

Why do some people judge others and themselves based on the conditions of the simulation versus the heart? Of course, “man looks on the outside, while God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) We have NO hope but to ascertain another person by outside indicators. When someone (say) dies by being hit by a car, we look at outward evidence to see if it was intentional murder, a legitimate accident, or even if the victim was deliberately committing suicide–the heart makes the difference as to the judgment of the person, not the outward result. We can never truly know another’s heart–that is just our limitation; from our point of view, it’s like a simulation.

The upshot to this is that we’re all on equal footing in that sense: God created my simulation for me, and your simulation for you. No two people’s simulation are exactly alike, but each is fine-tuned for the person. One person’s trials may look entirely different from another, and yet we are told “no temptation has befallen you except that which is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Our simulation is unique, and yet our tests, inasmuch as they test us individually, are completely fair, as a period of evaluation.

One sure-fire way of failing the simulation, however, is to evaluate ourselves by the condition of the simulated environment–when we realize that God has total control of the simulation, it should be obvious how foolish this is, just as we are told not to love the simulation (1 John 2:15), and as everything we store up in the simulation will be gone (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Judging by material success goes against countless Scriptures, and so is boasting about riches (Psalm 49), yet sloth is condemned (2 Thessalonians 3:10). What if you teach Scripture truthfully and actually win souls, yet you’re a hypocrite? (Matthew 7:22-23). What if you do a perfectly fine job fulfilling your duties in a marriage, yet the other never responds positively (1 Corinthians 7:16)?

Well, what do the results matter for the time being, for better OR for worse? It’s just a simulation! What counts is the way we respond to everything in it, and to the way God speaks to us within it.

Perhaps this was a long-winded way of going about something obvious–let me know. But it’s one way I think of things to combat the angst of the conditions of the world and the “results” I obtain while in it, versus thinking ONLY in terms of what I do within it while the one who has written my situations for me evaluates me.