What do we do with truth in a post-truth world?
This is a great question that warrants a detailed response. I will do my best to cover the major points though there is much more that could be discussed.
Unlike postmodernism (rejects absolute notions of truth, meaning, morality, reality etc.) post truth elevates feelings and preferences over truth. The Oxford dictionary defines post truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The prefix “post” in post truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.’ A post truth society is not one that denies the existence of objective truth, rather it is one in which truth no longer matters. In a post truth culture feelings and preferences trump facts.
Samuel Spitale in a recent article titled “Post-Truth Nation” wrote “The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.”
Now as Christians how do we engage a post truth culture?
1. Rebuild trust
People are very skeptical about truth claims. It is very important that we give adequate reasons as to why we believe what we believe and also live out what we proclaim. Sadly, Christians have a credibility issue. Many a times, people see the big divide between our words and actions. It is very important that others come to see us as a trustworthy people. We ought to embody the gospel as Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching,” and again, “…As for me, I desire this privilege from the Lord, that never may I have any privilege from man, except to do reverence to all, and to convert the world by obedience to the Holy Rule rather by example than by word.”
2. Show the consequences of a post truth world
When we say that we live in a post truth world, what we mean by it is that we are free to do what we feel especially with regard to moral issues/choices. What feels right is right, what feels true is true. The problem is what feels true/right to you may not necessarily feel true/right to me. In cases where there is a clash between preferences, how do we resolve the resulting conflict? In a post truth society feelings take precedence over reason and personal autonomy over objective moral duties and responsibilities. With truth thrown out the window, the one who wields more power and influence will ultimately end up getting his way. Should feelings primarily drive our choices/behavior? Following a serious medical diagnosis would we decide which course of treatment to take based on our feelings and preferences, or by reason? Think about major media outlets that feed us information on a daily basis. We tune into the news because we care to know the truth with what is happening in the world around us, and we are enraged when we find out the narrative is false. If feelings should dictate behavior, then on the basis of feelings/preferences a business conglomerate might as well fudge numbers, the scientific community might as well mislead the public, and media outlets might as well give a false narrative – all in order to protect their interests.
3. Present the truth of Christ with clarity and conviction
It is important to show people that Christ alone can satisfy their deepest longings. Christ is unique in His love. It is fascinating that God showed His love for us on the cross. The cross is a fact of history – God the Son entered our space time world and died our death on the cross. On the cross of Christ we see God’s love for us, and we can know His love for us in the here and the now as the Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5).C.S Lewis wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Christianity needs serious consideration since, if true, it has eternal significance.