Truth, Doubt, and Lies
In the here and now, we face some serious challenges when discerning truth from untruth (also known as lies). Moreover, there is a great deal of doubt relating to authority, experts and governments—sometimes with good reason and other times with dubious reason. Social media news and opinion is a powerful influence. Misinformation (simply inadequately informed statements) and disinformation (deliberately misleading statements) are both prevalent! Is this new? No! In Isaiah 59:14-15 we read, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”
There are serious family-splitting divisions among committed Christians because of polar-opposite beliefs pertaining to events in our current experience. Christian organizations are at variance with each other. How can that be? I have a friend who said to me, “I don’t know what is true anymore.” Jesus cautions us in Luke 21:8, Matthew 24:11, and Matthew 24:24. “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near’. Do not follow them. Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Take note that Jesus is saying that there will be deceivers amongst Christians (“come in my name”)! Not a comfortable thought but there it is.
We experience a tremendous fight for our minds, our hearts, our votes and our wallets: news media, politicians, advertising, lobby groups, secular education, conspiracy theories etc. Troll farms on the internet have been identified as targeting Christians as well as other groups reaching up to 170 million people in the US monthly. These trolls post plagiarized Christian content harvested from many sources and then embed disinformation or agenda items to achieve their aim of influencing Christians. Here is a link to give further insight in this “Trojan Horse” type of effort: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/09/16/1035851/facebook-troll-farms-report-us-2020-election/
The most dangerous lie is simply half the truth. Presenting only half the truth or blending the truth with a lie can capture the recipient of the information with the hook of truth, line and sinker of a lie! In the court of law, the one testifying must swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!” And in Proverbs 18:17 we read, “The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him.” We would all like to think that we believe only the truth. The problem is that what we end up believing may not necessarily be the truth, or only part of the truth or perhaps some truth and some untruth. James and John thought that right thing to do might be to call down the fire of judgment on the village that did not receive Jesus, who then, had to rebuke them. Many early Christians, including Peter, did not understand that God’s grace in Christ was to extend liberally to all people, including the Gentiles. “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
There is abundant biblical warning that we must be careful about not only how/what we think but also how we feel about things. When the apostle Paul presented the Gospel to the people in Berea, we read in Acts 17:11 “The Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Imagine! —making sure the apostle was telling them the truth! The Bereans had open hearts but they wanted to verify the message spoken to see if it was in accordance with the written word of God. Well, what about doubt? Perhaps it is best to look on doubt as a tool and just as any tool, it can be used for good or for bad. Doubt can be used to undermine truth—that’s bad. Doubt can examine truth—that’s good for it will strengthen truth. Doubt in its healthy skeptical mode can also expose lies—that’s good. Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” This short phrase means that we distinguish Christ from every other claim to truth. It means that we see him as totally unique from any other person historically or in the present. And to know him as Lord, is to discern him as having authority over the kingdom of God along with all its laws and norms.
Jesus clearly demonstrated for us what the kingdom of God is and what it is not. Same with Paul in his epistles and also other emissaries of the Gospel. How do we dispose ourselves in all of this? Here’s how: 1. When faced with challenging decisions or processing dramatic claims on us, we need first of all to pray. 2. We also need to search the written word of God (the Bible) which reliable shows us God’s truth. 3. We need to embrace the living Word of God (Jesus Christ) 4. We need to meditate on what the kingdom of God is and what it is not lest we become like James and John in their passion to promote the cause of Christ by calling for fire from heaven. 5. Be careful of what you accept at face value…even when it appears like a Christian source. This is not to undermine the Gospel in any way but rather to understand that as we are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that even our archenemy, Satan, can masquerade as an angel of light. Be willing to hear opinions that are contrary to your own and weigh them in the balance!
These days, strange things are happening with regard to truth even within our Christian community. We need to understand the triangle of truth, lies and doubt and to learn how to use doubt wisely as a tool to shine the truth and to trash lies! Biblical literacy, staying close to the heart and mind of Christ and in real time listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit will keep us on the right track in the complexity of our modern world and the trends that we are now seeing. Only then can we be the “salt and light” that we are called to be.