Saturday, November 26, 2016

A "Post-truth" World

More than seventy years ago Screwtape advised Wormwood that it was foolish to attack Christianity using logic.

“It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the enemy’s clutches. That might have been true if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. … Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. … Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the church.” (C.S Lewis. The Screwtape Letters, pp. 7-8)

Jargon is even more influential today than it was in was in the early 1940s, when Screwtape’s letters were first published. Oxford Dictionaries have declared “post-truth” the word of the year. People no longer care what is true. With many people, emotions trump facts. It does not matter what is true; all that matters is how we feel about it.

We live in a post-Christian era mainly because we live in a post-truth era. The newspapers devote more space to how people feel about matters than they devote to the facts of the matters. Many schools spend little time teaching facts and devote their time to inflaming passions.

It is tempting to say that the church will have to change its approach; that we will have to shift away from our focus on facts. But we dare not do so. The Bible created the focus on facts because it so strongly urged the truth claim that Jesus died for our sins, that he was buried, that he arose the third day. If those claims are fact, then Christianity is true, it matters, and we must respond. If those claims are not true, then Christians are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:3-4, 17-19).

Yes, it is appropriate to respond to the facts emotionally as well as intellectually. But the claims of Christ are truth claims, not emotional claims. We either stick with the facts or we have denied our Lord.