“Denzel Washington Switches to Trump, Shocks Hollywood.” This headline announced the news that the famous actor was supporting Donald Trump for president, primarily because “he’s hired more employees, more people, than anyone I know in the world.” The story was fake. Not one word of it was true. But that didn’t keep it from going viral and trending on numerous news outlets.
Here are other examples of fake news in the news:
• Donald Trump won the popular vote.
• The Clinton Foundation bought $137 million worth of illegal arms and ammunition.
• An FBI agent associated with Hillary Clinton’s email leaks was found dead in a murder-suicide.
• The Pope endorsed Donald Trump.
• The Pope endorsed Bernie Sanders.
None of these stories is true. But they were so popular that they were picked up by news feeds on Google and Facebook, giving them even more credibility.
Welcome to the era of “post-truth.” The Oxford Dictionaries just declared this term to be their “word of the year.” According to their definition, “post-truth” is an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Editors noted that use of the term increased by around 2,000 percent in 2016 compared to last year. They explained this spike “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.”
These are challenging days for truth.
For decades, we’ve been told that truth is personal and subjective. The argument runs thus: Our minds interpret our senses, resulting in knowledge. But no two people sense the world or interpret their senses in precisely the same way. As a result, there can be no such thing as absolute truth. There’s only your truth and my truth. If “appeals to emotion and personal belief” persuade you, that’s your truth. Such appeals may be “post-truth” with regard to objective truth claims, but who are we to judge?
Many in our culture are convinced of this “post-truth” approach to the world. The consequences cross the spectrum of moral issues, from abortion to same-sex marriage to euthanasia. “You have no right to judge me” is the mantra of our day.
Of course, to claim that there is no absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. Such subjectivism makes moral judgments impossible: if all truth is relative, the Holocaust could be Hitler’s “truth” and 9/11 could be al-Qaeda’s “truth.”
Don’t let the “post-truth” culture deceive you: all truth is still God’s truth. Neither human nor divine nature change, making the Bible as true and authoritative today as when the Spirit first inspired its words. Our “post-truth” society may decide that the Bible is wrong on moral issues, but it’s we who are wrong. God’s word is an anvil—we don’t break its commandments; we break ourselves on them.
Where are you tempted to affirm what the Bible forbids or refuse what the Bible requires? Jesus said to his Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Do you agree with Jesus?
Publication date: November 17, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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