I was in a lecture today and a minister who was conducting our Q and A session mentioned a quote that I’d never heard before. G. K. Chesterton said this “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” When I heard that quote I thought “That hits the nail on the head”. I think that this quote is a succinct description of the post-truth world we live in, but it also has some implications for the church.
Previously if something was true, that was it, it was true. No discussion or questions asked. If something could be verified and argued convincingly with evidence, then it was true. That isn’t really the case anymore. The phrase that you’ve probably heard tons of time is “that might be true for you, but it’s not for me” or “that’s your truth”. When you think about it denying that there is such a thing as truth is absolute nonsense.
The reason I was stuck by the Chesterton quote was that I see it all around us today. The UK can often be described as a post-Christian country. People are beyond Christianity, they think that know what it is and what Christians believe and they have cast it off in their minds as nonsense. At least, some have. But you’ll find if you dig around a little bit that very few people actually know what Christianity is about and they haven’t actually asked questions, they have come to conclusions based on preconceived ideas. Never a good thing to do.
People can reject Christianity without giving the evidence a thought, but will happily subscribe to a form of mysticism that has no evidence. Or people follow their feelings rather than their God-given common sense and mind. Our world is rapidly descending into an abyss that it will hardly recover from. An abyss where truth is a myth, where evidence is not required for facts and where the nonsensical becomes common believe and practice. We need to recover truth.
But this isn’t only an out-there issue, there are elements of this in the church as well.
Let’s just think about one aspect of this. How many of you have sat in a Bible study and heard the sentence beginning with “to me this passage means…”? Or how about those who are so entrenched in their views that nothing, not even sound and solid arguments based on Scripture, can convince them otherwise?
If we’re not careful the post-truth trend that is ravaging the world will also creep into our churches. It can start subtly with our quiet times, the way we interpret and apply passages of the Bible. It can progress to the importance that we place on our feelings about doctrines, Bible passages and so on. It can end in a pulpit that is void of the Word of God and full of the opinions of man.
Over the years I have heard a lot of people say that they don’t believe a certain doctrine because they don’t like it and therefore it can’t be true. That is putting ones own thoughts above the Bible, seeing ones own emotions as more important that the authoritative Word of God. This is a serious thing to consider because if we start with small hermeneutical mistakes we could progress unchecked into areas that are dangerous.
A Christian is called to know the truth and to live by it. The Church is to be a community shaped by the truth of Scripture and not the so called ‘truth’ of the time we live in. There is no such thing as ‘your truth’ or ‘my truth’. Truth is not relative. Christians should be at the forefront of the movement that points people to see the importance of knowing and standing firm in truth. Because only then will people see the truth; that Jesus is the son of God who came into the world to save sinners like you and me. Stand firm in and guard the truth.