“What is Truth?” The timeless question that troubled Pontius Pilate has the same impact today. Photoshopped reality, “fake” news, and Facebook’s echo chamber algorithms make truth much more difficult to nail down. Most of us are familiar with what has been called “postmodernism” and the effects of rejecting the very notion of a “capital T” truth. “There’s no such thing as objective truth,” the post modern thinker would say, or “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” Despite its self defeating incoherence, postmodernism has been fairly resilient. But, as author Abdu Murray has observed1, the luster of the postmodern era has dulled. Where postmodernism failed, the post-truth mindset may succeed because it addresses the question of truth head on. Unlike postmodernism, the post-truth thinker acknowledges objective truth but subordinates it to preferences.
If the evidence, or truth, fits our preferences and opinions, all is well and good. If not, the objective evidence is considered offensive and inadmissible. For affirmation, a post-truth thinker will look to are sources that support the narrative they have chosen because it feels right to them at the time. Those who question the narrative are immediately branded “haters” and condemned as bigots. Sources valuing and promoting the narrative (anything from The Daily Show, Facebook, and pretty much whoever holds the biggest microphone) win the day.
This post-truth thinker can actually be comfortable when the facts contradict their opinions because the “narratives” are more real than the facts that surround them. Consider the abortion debate. A postmodern thinker would say, “You believe it’s a baby, I do not.” The post-truth abortion advocate will eerily acknowledge the existence and even the value of an unborn child but will prefer a “higher” narrative over that reality. They may argue for example that feminism must include abortion to accomplish the vision of a socialist state or something along those lines. An activist protesting in front of our Oakland location of Women’s Choice Network recently demonstrated that even when her accusation against our organization was proven to be false, her narrative required that the truth submit to the higher vision of a world without pro-life influences. When I asked her what sources she had to support her vision, she proudly referenced the late night comedian John Oliver.
Simply put, the post-truth thinker has no North Star, no point of reference outside of themselves. They live in a boat whose rudder has been removed by an ever changing crew who choose autonomy over freedom. What is truth? Why does this matter? How do we address a world that puts preference above evidence? And how do we tell God’s story in a post-truth culture?
Imagine that you just dumped out one of those 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles onto your desk. Where do you begin? You start with the border of course. Once the little pieces with the flat sides are all in place, you refer to the picture on the puzzle box and the job of restoring the entire puzzle is much simpler. But imagine now that someone threw away the box and there is no border to this puzzle—no boundary. How do you make the puzzle work? In a post-truth world, men and women seeking to make sense of sexuality are immersed in a borderless culture. Infinite genders, hook up encounters, redefined marriage, and open relationships distort and malign God’s intention for intimacy, covenant, and identity. In a post-truth culture, abortion becomes a right, euthanasia becomes compassionate, pornography proliferates, and sex workers are resourced and unionized while their “employers” walk free.
How important is the design and the border? According to author and demographer Mary Eberstadt, the decline of the family has actually powered and accelerated religious decline and the rise of secularism.2 But when we ask others to live inside the borders of heterosexual marriage, we actually welcome God’s protection and provision. Christianity flourishes.
Only one person offers the source of truth and the final “picture” for our puzzle pieces. Rather than constraining or limiting our freedom, the person of Jesus Christ reveals the truth about who we are and whose we are. Truth plunges the rudder into the waves and fills the sails. The Good News is that there is a Truth, a Logos, the ground of all reality. And when our world finds the wellspring of Truth in Christ alone, the border is set and the journey begins.
1 Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post Truth World by Abdu Murray. Zondervan, 2018.
2 How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt. Templeton Press, 2013.