We're off the hook
Lying is the new normal. Or, at least, that's what we can believe since the Oxford English Dictionary announced that "post-truth" is the word of the year for 2016. In their terminology "post truth" relates to or denotes circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Used in a sentence it might be, "In this era of post-truth politics, it's easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire". That's a give-away as to how "post-truth" worked it's way into the dictionary this year. It's a product of the Brexit vote in England where loose facts and missteps led Britain to exit the European Union, and to the factual calisthenics used by both candidates in the 2016 United States Presidential election. Evidently the linguists over at Oxford finally selected "post-truth" over another political term for the champion word of the year. "Alt-right", the conservative and mostly on-line political movement was a close second in their selection process. I'm relieved they settled on "post-truth". It's an accurate descriptive of our secular, relative culture. Truth just doesn't register any more.
Well, not hardly. Most of us still believe that the truth will set us free. So, we're not a culture absolutely devoid of truth. Today, it's just that the formulas for arriving at what is truthful have been adjusted so we don't have to cross our fingers behind our backs any longer. If there are questions about what is factual or truthful, we've got it covered by several dimensions of truth that make life happen in a post-truth world like this one. They include:
|The truth according to me.
This is, of course, the most flexible version because it adjusts to what is
convenient for me at the time. The regulators for the truth according to me are
actually the coordinates of my own personally defined comfort zone. The fact
checker here is simply whether I like it or not or whether the information
resonates with my worldview. you know, my take on life. You can argue with my
opinions but not my experience, which is absolute because it is mine.
|The truth according to the media.
What is printed in the newspaper and reported on network news is accurate,
factual, and a reliable source of information, data, and opinion. Because news
and reporting agencies are strictly bi-partisan what is transmitted by them can be
trusted by their subscribers, listeners, and viewers. Regulation of the truth
according to the media is successfully managed by fact checking oversight that
verifies media bullet points, announcements, and breaking news.
|The truth according to pop culture.
Truth is circumstantial and is determined by the experiences, needs, and opinions
of pop culture at the moment. This means that truth is dynamic and not static
and therefore adjusts as culture responds to what is happening at the moment.
The intellectual elite at colleges and universities, along with the captains of
industry and the chieftains of enterprise set the boundaries of truth according to
Each of these is a layer of relativism, that is, the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. And, I do pray, you are able to detect the high tones of satire I intended in these crazy definitions. They are approximations of what I'm encountering out there everyday as we stumble through life with such flimsy philosophical and theological underpinnings. Sadly, and my explanations are weak no doubt, they are the versions of truth that so many of our fellow Americans are taking with them to the realities of life everyday.
Holding a Christian worldview, I like John MacArthur's definition of truth: Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God (from Grace to You blog, August 4, 2009). As a result, it is my understanding that God's truth is absolute, fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, and the underscoring reality of every word of Scripture. That Oxford Dictionary affirms "post-truth" as the word of the year is the regrettable reality that God's truth is no longer the standard of human life. That is sad.
Simon Peter predicted this kind of devolution at some point in human history. He wrote---
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying
the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And
many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be
blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their
condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV
That the word of the year for 2016 is "post-truth" shouldn't be all that surprising to us. We've been on the slippery slope of moral decline for many years now, and living in a world playing footsie with truth is another stop on the way down. It's why people of faith must live and proclaim the Word of Truth to a stumbling and wavering world that certainly needs it. We must be the ones, as I mentioned yesterday, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15, ESV). You know, like right now.
There's a line in the movie Something's Gotta Give (2003) that reminds me of the inviolability of truth. Jack Nicholson's character Harry is arguing with writer Erica Barry, played by Diane Keaton. The narrative goes---
Harry: I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.
Erica Barry: The truth doesn't have versions.
It's just a movie. But, it does reflect his collision we're experiencing between the truth according to me (media or culture) and genuine truth. And, there are no versions. Only one, God's version. And it is the truth.