Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Is Truth In A Post-Truth Culture?

In the gospel of John, when Christ stands alone before Pilate, it ends with Pontious Pilate asking a question that has reverberated throughout history, "What is truth?" Now we have politicians, including our newly elected President, and many in a culture asking not, "What is truth?" but more "What does it even matter?" This ideology is know as "Post-truth." It was also chosen by the Oxford Dictionary as the word of 2016. They defined "Post-truth" as, "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Feelings not facts define reality even if they are based on fantasy, mere opinions, or anxieties.

Truth does not matter in such a culture. It's as if we have become Pilate, shrugging, and asking, "What is truth?" not so much to know, but to say that we can define it ourselves however we see fit to. It means we elect a man to the highest office in the United States despite the fact that over 70% of what he says is false and, even if we find out it's false, we don't care.

So what does that mean to a follower of Christ? How do we live and approach a society that does not believe in truth as a basis for a reality we all believe in? And this is not even referring to a religious truth, but just the facts the underlie and gird our government, our society, our interactions with others, and how we approach what is right and wrong.

We have politicians, media, and organizations that shape and control facts, manipulate and distort them in order to shape opinions and prejudices. And people no longer seek out truth because truth does not shape itself to meet our wants and needs, but only look to have our own ideas and beliefs supported. We live in a society that is filled with information and it's easily and readily available, but there is often a lack of knowledge, truth and wisdom.

Pilate asked, "What is truth?"

Truth in Greek is al├ętheia and means not merely the spoken truth, but truth as reality, a divine truth revealed to man.  

Truth is not arguments. Truth is not information. Truth cannot be reshaped to fit within our own agendas and feelings. Truth cannot be shaped by us, but, as followers of Christ, we are to be confronted and shaped by it. As John 8:32 reminds us, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." How can our culture find freedom if they are willfully and blatantly ignoring even the concept of truth for a more ambiguous and dangerous narrative of "post-truth?"

We are hearing repeatedly now that "facts" or "truth" doesn't matter. Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, said in an interview with Diane Rehm on NPR, "Everybody has a way of interpreting (facts) to be the truth or not true. There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, of facts." He said that one can say whatever one chooses and does not even need facts or reality to back what one up and that people no longer care.

As Christians, this goes completely against the very theology that we proclaim. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" but how many in the Church no longer even hold to this? How many say that Jesus is a truth and not the Truth? How many are more reflective of our culture than our Christ?  If Christians are silently accepting of our leaders and people in authority flaunting their flagrant disregard for any assemblance of truth, then how are we salt and light in this world? 

Yes, Truth is uncomfortable. It is meant to be. It does not allow us to stay as we are, but confronts us in our sinfulness and calls us to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Christ. This is not easy or popular. It does not get printed on bumper-stickers.  No one running for political office would dare make such pronouncements, But we are not following leaders but a Savior. A Savior who cared not for the political machinations or in populist thought or in what would raise his numbers in a Gallup poll. He was not interested in gaining popularity or great numbers, but in raising up disciples who would go unto all the world and proclaim Truth, even at the cost of their very lives. 

To even begin to claim to be disciples of Christ, we cannot allow ourselves to be silent when those in power speak of a malleable reality. Psalm 119:160 reminds us that, "The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules last forever." God's word is Truth. His rules are eternal. We are to be sanctified in His Truth, not swayed by whatever the prevailing winds are in our culture. Yet I do not see many Christian leaders speaking up against this falsehood of "post-truth." Too many of Evangelical leaders seem to either be too busy vying for power or are choosing to remain silent because they have aligned themselves more with a political party than with the Savior they claim to follow.

Wendell Berry said, "We cannot know the whole truth, which belongs to God alone, but our task nevertheless is to seek to know what is true."But are we?

Psalm 25:5 states, "Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation . . ." 

Psalm 86:11 says. "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth . . ." 

As Jesus prayed in John, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (17:3).

Can we truly claim to follow Christ if we are not both actively seeking Truth and proclaiming it to the very culture we live in? 

"Post-truth" is not just a danger to our society, it's a danger to our theology. When  this "post-truth" is acceptable within the Church, we cannot say that we are in this world but not of it. We cannot speak of Jesus as our Lord and Savior if we are more swayed by appearances and opinions than we are the very Word of God. We are told to abide in his truth. Abide means to remain in, stay, await, endure, continue in, last, and live in. We are told to put away falsehoods and to "Speak the truth to one another." To follow Christ is to acknowledge that there is one Truth, that there is a Truth. This is not always easy or comfortable or often welcomed.

Francis Schaeffer wrote, "Today not only in philosophy, but in politics, government and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died . . ."

Are we holding to and speaking the Truth despite the "post-truth" our leaders, our culture, and even the Church is now claiming? Are we lamps burning to lead "on earth as it is in heaven?" Do we hold fast to the truths of our faith or have we abandoned them to be relevant and accepted?

This "post-truth" era we are now in is a dangerous and slippery slope for those who are to be shaped by faith and Truth and not ever-changing factualness. Ultimately, we must realize that to deny Truth, is to deny worship. So we must no longer be silent but speak the Truth in love and boldness. 

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