Upholding Truth in a Post-Truth World
The fruit of the movement of cultural relativism is becoming manifest: many have heralded a new “post-truth” world. “Truth” is becoming whatever a person would like for it to be. People listen to sources which tell them the things they want to hear; they readily accept whatever agrees with their preconceived worldview and cast aspersions on everything which goes against it. Two people may read the same report or see the same event and come to very radically different conclusions about what it is and what it represents.
Yet is this something really new? As long as there have been people there have been different interpretations of reality. People have always understood things in ways that made sense to them, and only after great pain or struggle might perhaps change their minds about certain things. There have always been forces at work to deceive people into believing lies, distortions, and half-truths. Nothing satisfies these forces more than to see good hearted people at each other’s throats.
If we profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must maintain a strong confidence in the truth which has been made known in Him. He is the truth (John 14:6); through Him we can know the truth and be set free (John 8:32). We ought to strive to proclaim the truth of God in Christ to all people (Matthew 28:18-20); we can only truly proclaim the truth if we are in fact living according to the truth (1 John 2:3-6).
Truth ought to be very precious to the Christian. Christians have been exhorted to tell the truth to each other, having put away falsehood, because of our close connection with each other (Ephesians 4:23). We must uphold the truth and not wander into myths (2 Timothy 2:1-4). We are to love each other, and in fact all men, for God has loved us (Matthew 5:38-48, 1 John 4:7-21) ; and we know that love does not rejoice with unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Christians, therefore, must be known as those who uphold the truth of God in Christ, who embody the message of truth in the Gospel, men and women who speak truth and are trustworthy (cf. Galatians 5:19-21); otherwise we do not really represent Jesus who is the truth. We will be known by our fruits: if we manifest the fruit of the Spirit, many will see it and rejoice; if we manifest the works of the flesh, the Gentiles are given reason to blaspheme (cf. Matthew 5:13-16, 7:16-20, Romans 2:24). The truth of God in Christ must be in our minds, on our lips, and in our deeds.
There are times in which we will fail. We have all sinned; we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There are times when we will be wrong in our thoughts, feelings, and/or actions; we must humbly repent and confess to the wrong (1 John 1:9). Even as we uphold the truth of God in Christ we do well to be humble and recognize that our understanding of that truth is limited and fallible. We still have room to grow in the grace and knowledge of God in Christ (2 Peter 3:18). This need not demand collapse into relativism: the truth exists, and by it we shall all be judged by God, and we will all stand in need of His grace in that hour (Romans 14:10-12, James 4:12). The truth demands that we own up to our own limitations and failings; such humility is generally respected.
Truth is uncomfortable. The Word of God convicts us of sin and pierces our innermost being (Hebrews 4:12). The Scriptures bear witness constantly how people proved more willing to condemn the messenger of truth than to repent and uphold truth. Jesus is the truth: Jesus suffered and died, and Jesus calls His disciples to pick up their crosses and follow after Him (Matthew 16:24). We will look into the mirror of truth and not like what we see; will we prove willing to change to conform to the truth or believe in a lie motivated by fear and apprehension (cf. James 1:22-25)?
The greatest truth is found in God in Christ, and yet there are plenty of other matters in the world which feature discussions about truth. Christians do well to strive for integrity and excellence even in these lesser matters; if people in the world feel as if they cannot trust the Christian to speak truth about lesser and worldly matters, how can we expect them to trust the Christian to speak truth about the greater and more excellent things?
Christians therefore must uphold truth in a “post-truth” world. We must proclaim the truth of God in Christ in our thoughts, words, and actions; we must stand firm against every attack against, delusion, distraction, and distortion of that truth. We must expect the forces of evil to conspire to tempt us to leave the truth and to hinder our witness of the truth; we must put our trust in God for strength to overcome them (Ephesians 6:10-18). In our dealings we must prove willing to speak the truth on matters trivial or profound. We must find it worthwhile to verify whatever we say or share to the best of our ability. We must prove willing to critically evaluate claims and not merely accept whatever would reinforce our preconceived notions and dismiss whatever might challenge them. We do well to give others a hearing, to give the benefit of the doubt, yet not prove naïve, ever remaining “wise as serpents but harmless as doves” in our conversation and behavior (Matthew 10:16). We must live so as to be ready at any moment to give an account to God who judges the living and the dead; we have the assurance that the truth, and only the truth, will endure and remain (1 Peter 1:22-25). May we uphold the truth in a “post-truth” world, trust in Jesus who is the truth, and obtain life in Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry