In 2016, Oxford Dictionary nominated post-truth as the word of year, defining it as 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’.
Two years later, there are still ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’, while Royal Commissions into some of our biggest institutions have thrown them under a cloud of suspicion. In this climate, how do we share an exclusive and universal truth claim like ‘Jesus is Lord’? How can someone come to understand the Scriptures as the true word of God when they have no coherent notion of truth?
These are the questions that Cameron and I wrestled with last week as we went to the Youthworks HOUSE conference. Together with youth and children’s ministers from all over we discussed a theology of truth and how this intersects with our ‘post-truth’ culture. Here are two starting points on how the Scriptures resource us to navigate the ‘post-truth’ landscape.
We can’t find the truth
Firstly, we can admit that our grasp of truth is limited. Whilst ‘the truth is out there’, as finite creatures we cannot know everything. Daniel Kahneman has won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his research into how humans make decisions. He has concluded that not only do we think more irrationally than rationally, but we place undue confidence in our own judgement. Of course, the Scriptures have always testified to the foolhardiness of humanity; ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Our rebellion against God has distorted our perception and made us vulnerable to deception (see Ephesians 4:17-19). When we see misinformation, lies and confusion sweeping our Facebook feed or the newspaper, we should not be surprised – the world has been post-truth since the Fall.
But the truth has come to us
Secondly, our confidence in the truth of the gospel does not come from ourselves. Rather, our confidence is in God’s sufficient revelation of himself. John writes that ‘the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). Ultimately, truth is not a concept but a person – the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God has stooped to show himself in a way that we can all understand and access.
In Kids Church, we begun the term by teaching how we can know God. We spoke about how John and the other disciples saw Jesus, heard his words, and even touched his resurrected body and then wrote it all down so we can read it (1 John 1:1-4). When we are challenged by sceptics, we can point beyond ourselves to the Scriptures, and encourage them to investigate the eyewitness accounts of his life, death and resurrection for themselves.
Leah Gorring, Children’s Minister