31 Jan 2017

Holding fast to the truth in a world of fake news

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‘What is truth?’ John 18:38

Pilate’s question seems more contemporary than ever. We are not sure how he said it — or what he meant — but we do know he was staring truth in the face and did not wait for an answer.

Fake news

The concept of truth has been under assault for a while now, but it feels like the pressure is inceasing. Despite the advent of numerous fact-checking agencies, the concept of truth is up for grabs more than ever.  And so, Pilate’s question continues to reverberate through our world of 'fake news' and 'alternative facts'.

The implications for the Christian faith are disturbing ... after all, the Gospel is a claim to historical truth and theological truth. It's a truth that says God has acted in human history through his prophets and ultimately, his son Jesus. But if one can't rely on truth, where does that leave the claims of the Gospel?

Real news

The Gospel is more than just a great story that expresses "truth" about the human condition, like a novel. It is also factually true in the sense that events recorded in the bible actually happened in the ‘warp and woof’ of history; they weren’t concocted or imagined.

This all sounds very elementary perhaps, but it's something we have to constantly remind ourselves of as followers of Jesus. If this historical truth can be undermined, then Christian faith will start to crumble. It is a reflex of Paul’s argument concerning the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 – if these things didn't happen, then we are to be pitied. If the truth we believe isn't actually true, then we have boarded the wrong train … a beautiful train perhaps but ultimately heading nowhere.

Defending the truth

As we begin the year and consider our commitment to youth and children, we ought to resolve again to defend the reality of truth, because truth really matters – and the next generation needs to know there's some truths they can rely on. Here's a few ways we can start doing that today:

  • We can simply remind ourselves that we are not reading a great novel but historical accounts based on eyewitness testimony.
  • We can use archeological and historical research to ground the biblical narratives.
  • In my own teaching, I note the shock that is sometimes registered when I say that Jesus rose from the dead on April 5, AD 33. Yes, there is a debate here between dates in 30 or 33, but by throwing historical tidbits into our teaching, we can help our young people understand that these things ‘really happened’.

We need to help our young people not only know the truths of the Gospel but also to help them to see why they can be sure these things are true.

We need to help them understand that the Good News is not fake news.

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