A man in Pennsylvania has admitted to buying fake Secret Service identification cards to impress women on a dating site. What does he really do for a living? He owns a company that scoops up pet poop. Here we find another example of “post-truth,” defining truth by personal belief rather than objective facts.
Unfortunately, I unknowingly engaged in “post-truth” this week.
Last Tuesday I included in my Daily Article a quote from C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters warning us against becoming “completely fixated on politics.” The quote was sent to me by a well-intentioned reader. It said exactly what I wanted to say that day. It had the imprimatur of Lewis, my intellectual hero. While I didn’t recognize the statement, it felt like something Lewis would say and was in keeping with his Screwtape voice.
There was just one problem: Lewis never wrote the words I attributed to him.
Several readers graciously alerted me to this fact. I am grateful to them and have resolved to check all quotes carefully in the future, no matter how close I am to my writing deadline. I wanted to notify you lest you use the spurious quote as I did.
Clearly, Christians are not immune from “post-truth.” If we find a statement that comes from someone we trust, says what we want to say, and has the imprimatur of a credible source, we can cite it as true without checking to see if it is.
This is a larger problem than you might think.
Preachers are tempted to exaggerate or tell fictional stories as factual to make their point. Business leaders are tempted to idealize their accomplishments to advance their business. Political leaders are tempted to say what it takes to get elected. I’m tempted right now to write what might impress you.
Such temptations are especially subtle when they appeal to our higher motives. Preachers want to help people follow Jesus; business leaders want their business to make money so it can make a difference; political leaders want to get elected so they can serve; I want to write what helps my readers. “No margin, no mission” is true, but it can also be used to justify unjustified behavior.
Consider a biblical antidote to our “post-truth” culture. The Berean church is my favorite congregation in the New Testament because, when the Apostle Paul preached to them, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
I encouraged every church I pastored to be Berean, measuring everything I said by what God’s word says. I hope you’ll do the same with everything I write. I also encourage you to be Berean at your church and in the marketplace, with your Christian friends and in the secular culture. Jesus taught us that a house built on the rock of his word will withstand every storm, but the same house built on the shifting sand of “post-truth” will fall (Matthew 7:24–27).
Will you be Berean today?
Publication date: November 18, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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