Post Truth

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Contemporary man postulates not the emptiness of truth, but the danger of truth (Chantal Delsol)

Unless we are defending the faith at the point where it is being attacked in our generation, we are not defending the faith (Martin Luther)

 

The title of this essay is the new “word of the year” as chosen by The Oxford Dictionary. It is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. This is a perfect representation of where our society has traveled in its post modern maturity. The generation known as The Nones are known for their lack of belief in any objective truth, much less biblical truth. They see danger in anyone who believes they hold truth or truths that devalue, or are intolerant of, or invalidate all beliefs. (We will discuss the contrasting views of the new versus the old definitions of tolerance in a later essay). How or what you feel become the measurement of truth.

Joseph Buttom, in First Things Magazine writes,

The pre-moderns said that without God, there would be no knowledge, and the post-moderns say we have no God and have no knowledge.

Are we to understand that we have “progressed” from post-modernity to post-truth? Have the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault finally taken hold of our entire culture and vocabulary and the way we define who we are? Hardly, but they do add to the need for a biblically orthodox apologetic that has and can answer the biblically antithetical viewpoint being argued.

Gresham Machen, in his seminal work of the early 1900’s, Christianity and Liberalism, argues

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture.

In other words, arguing for the biblical view in our culture is the primary commitment we need to make as believers.

This battle is not new, nor is it a threat to a biblical point of view. The Enlightenment was seen as a threat, the Scientific Revolution was seen as a threat, and even the Industrial Revolution was seen as a threat. When we began the Twentieth Century relativism, modern philosophies, and atheism were not the only threats to orthodox christianity. Liberal theology and theologians were also complicit of the “threat” to biblical orthodoxy. Barth and those of similar ilk, along with the modern philosophers, sought to remove the supernatural from the Bible.

More recently, we have seen the focus shift to attacks on objective truth. Foundations have been destroyed through a philosophical deconstruction of truth and knowledge. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, in his book, Intimations of Postmodernity, states,

The postmodern mind seems to condemn everything, propose nothing. Demolition is the only job the postmodern mind seems to be good at. Deconstruction is the only construction it recognizes.

By deconstructing the idea of objective truth, what we feel and believe become more important than foundational truths of any kind, much less biblical truth.

The proponents of “post truth” do not want objective truth to be an option for society, but they propose “nothing” by arguing feelings and emotions are more important.

In the Bible, the primary word for truth conveys that one can actually know truth. It is not something just to rely on or trust. Modern man, in seeking to devalue truth as a concept, also argues against holding real knowledge. Gone is the idea proposed by Descartes, I think therefore I am. Without a foundation of knowledge man cannot comprehend his own reality.

In postmodernism you either assume there is no truth, or that you cannot know it. For the proponent of post truth, not only is there no truth, and therefore no absolute(s), we also have no real ability to know. How then do we reach out to a culture that revels in relativism and obstinance? As Carl Trueman writes,

The church is a culture and the West is now an anti-culture…to engage a culture there must first be a culture to engage.

Here, over a century later Truman says the culture Machen speaks of no longer exists. And yet, our task remains the same.

The church must apply its understanding of biblical orthodoxy to its apologetic. Christians need an understanding of modernity, postmodernity, culture, and philosophical and theological ideas within the evangelical church that have weakened our biblical foundations.