The Loss of Interest in Truth
This approach of facing issues by carefully and prayerfully studying the Word and the world is sorely needed in today’s world. We are driven by the realisation that God has spoken to us through his Word, and we humbly submit to that Word because we believe it comes from the creator of the universe. As Isaiah 66:2 puts it, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Today, many people view the Christian attitude of submission to God and his Word as a violation of a human right. They say we have the right to determine our way of life according to our desires and inclinations. Those desires and inclinations are viewed as an essential feature of our identity. And denying these is considered an assault on a person and his or her identity. Because God has been rejected or ignored, the fact that His word opposes certain desires and inclinations is irrelevant. What to us are temptations to avoid are to others desires to be embraced.
Romans 1:18–32 clearly shows that, after people gave up an attitude of submission to God, the door was opened to various deviant lifestyles. People have come to regard what the Bible calls sin as an authentic alternate lifestyle. They see the Christian approach to truth as something that subjects people to bondage to unjust rules that deny their humanness.
Of course, for us, living under the Scriptures is not bondage but the path to freedom. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). In fact, Bible lovers view the word as a delight, as the psalmists often said.
But presenting a gospel based on truth to people who see truth as bondage is a challenge.
New Attitudes in the Evangelical Community
The evangelical community has not escaped the influence of this lax approach to truth. The conscientious, sometimes laborious, pursuit of God’s truth is scoffed at in some circles. They see it as a denial of dependence on the Holy Spirit and theology is considered a hindrance to an exciting Christian life.
To us evangelicals, truth is profoundly serious, and we should be careful about the way we handle it. But recently we are seeing a carelessness in the attitude of Christians towards truth. This carelessness is seen a lot on social media where the availability and possibility of instant reactions makes us lazy to give thoughtful responses to issues. Christians are defending their convictions by doubtful means. They pass on news that they are not sure about which is later labelled fake news. If they are not sure of its authenticity, they may include a prescript saying something like, “Forwarded as received.” If we are not sure about something, why forward it?
Despite the strong condemnation of the sin of false witness in the Bible, Christians will espouse conspiracy theories, the veracity of which they are not sure. Because particular information or “news” buttresses their conviction of what is orthodoxy, such information is considered worth propagating—even without making sure that it is true. Very often, unscrupulous people create stories which are not true, knowing that they will catch on. And Christians are duped in believing these stories and forward them. The fake news phenomenon and the lightness with which people respond to it is one of the surest signs of the devaluing of truth. People seem to have the idea, “If it is wrong, well, so be it. It’s not a big deal.”
Prophecies are in vogue in some Christian circles today. Prophecies are sometimes given to buttress our convictions about political issues. Sometimes prophecies give specific predictions that fulfil people’s dreams, such as the promise of success in a venture. People claim to be blessed by them. It feels good to hear things you like to hear.
But some of these prophecies are not fulfilled. Unfulfilled prophecy has been a reality all through history. But it is alarming that today people conveniently forget about the prophecies that did not come to pass. It’s not a big deal. In the Old Testament, the death penalty was decreed for prophets whose predictions do not come to pass (Deut. 18:20-22). And why? Because prophecies claim to be God’s word, and in biblical religion God’s word is desperately important. The flippant response to unfulfilled prophecies shows that Christians have become careless about truth.
A careless attitude to both fake news and false prophecy results in a devaluing of one of the great pillars of Christianity: its foundation of truth. If our generation of Christians is careless about truth, we could give birth to a new generation that does not believe in the validity and necessity of truth. Just like anti-supernaturalism gave birth to a dark age of liberalism in the church over a century ago, carelessness with truth can give birth to a dark age of truthless Christianity.
At the Cape Town Lausanne Conference in 2010, Os Guinness said, “The Christians who are careless about truth are as wrong and as foolish and as dangerous as the worst sceptics and scoffers of our time.”
(To be continued…)