‘Post-truth.’ It is an expression you will have heard from all quarters, and you probably have a pretty clear idea what it means. All the same, we think it will be helpful to explore it in more detail and to reflect on the effect it is having in influencing the times and society that we live in.
What does it mean to understand the times?
Shortly before I wrote my first book, I had a vivid dream in which I ‘heard’ David Pawson telling me to look up Titus 2:14. This is the verse in which we read that Jesus ‘gave Himself to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own: eager to do what is good.’
There is a twin focus here that has remained with me ever since the Lord first directed me to this verse: that the Lord is actively raising up believers who are passionately in love with Him and eager to serve Him – alongside the fact that there are many admixtures around that we, and the society we live in, need to be purified from.
Back in the days when the armed men of Israel gathered at Hebron to make David king, the Lord bestowed upon the tribe of Issachar a unique calling: a particular gift to understand the times and to ‘know what Israel should do.’ (1 Chron. 12:32) In our own day, we have witnessed all manner of ‘kingmakers,’ both literally and figuratively, and we have heard from many commentators and influencers who claim to understand our times, and to know how our society should direct its energies. But those of us who are eager to seek the Kingdom of God and be known as His own are called to seek His perspective on our times – and all the more so as the ‘shaking of all things’ spreads further, faster and deeper.
In this series, we are hoping to look at a number of issues with a view to discerning how Heaven sees current events on Earth, and how we should respond to them as God’s own people. This will at times involve moving beyond a purely ‘spiritual’ approach to include salient historic details, as well as various aspects of geo-politics. Our main focus, however, will be on coming close to the Father’s heart, to gain some insight into how He feels, and what He is doing as He continues His extensive preparations for the day when the Lord Jesus returns to earth in glory to save, bless, reward, judge, and begin His reign. (Jn. 14:1-3; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 9:28; Rev. 22:12; Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 11:15)
We hope you will appreciate these articles, and that they will play their own small part in shaping your outlook on the world. As usual, we will be offering a number of links and resources throughout them. While we certainly encourage you to follow them up, we don’t want them to become distractions as you read. We suggest that you read the articles straight through first, but return for a second pass in order to follow up the links that appeal to you, or which the Lord draws to your attention.
As you will see, the Lord recently gave me a striking image of a broken bridge to illustrate the ever-widening effects of the relentless declaration of untruth at all levels, whether individual, social, political, national or international. This, then, is the theme of our first article in this series, in which we will be exploring some of the ways in which truth is being challenged and distorted across many spheres and spectrums. In all that we will be considering, let’s take these verses to heart and prayer:
Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth [and faithfulness, integrity and loyalty?] . . . . In Your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let Your right hand achieve awesome deeds! (Jer. 5:3, Ps. 45:4)
Jesus: the Bridge to Truth and Life
Love truth and peace . . . For while Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, grace [the unearned, undeserved favour of God] and truth came through Jesus Christ. (Zech. 8:19; John 1:17 TLB and AMP)
Like many of us, I have been seeking the Lord earnestly during this time of heightened political and military tension, a day when truth appears to have become so rare a commodity. The other day, a picture came to mind of a large road bridge spanning a wide inlet of the sea. About the size of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the carriageway on it rose steeply, but then, on the far side of the summit, something had happened that had caused great sections of it to fall into the sea.
Distressingly, almost all the traffic on the carriageway appeared to be completely unaware of the gaping hole that lay ahead. One after the other, vehicle after vehicle drove on, seemingly oblivious to the danger, and then plunged inevitably down into the swirling water below.
People need to know how to cross this bridge into eternal life and to come to Jesus, who is the complete and finished Way, the abundant Life, and the whole Truth. There are no missing sections in the bridge He offers us to cross over by. He tells us so clearly that, if we are prepared to seek first the Kingdom of God, then everything that we need will be provided for us. He is endlessly loving and utterly faithful. Why would we allow any cause or project, good or bad, to draw us away from seeking His Kingdom above all? Why would we not want to walk with Him in close fellowship as He always intended that we should? He misses us when we allow anything or anyone else to come between us.
The broken bridge in the picture I saw was a treacherous affair, fatal for those on it, and heart-breaking for those watching on. My sense was that the missing sections represented truths that we in the Western world have either neglected, rejected or considered outdated – and yet which in many cases represented the Lord’s path to help us navigate our way through life into his eternal presence.
Many today are celebrating their ‘emancipation’ from the supposedly narrow-minded limitations of Christian principles and practice, whilst at the same time more or less taking it for granted that a happy outcome awaits them in Heaven. How precious it is to celebrate real freedom, that which comes through being submitted to Christ’s yoke! But that is a paradox many do not wish to explore, and a step too far for those who have learnt to be self-reliant.
So many of the assumptions that have received widespread acceptance in popular thought owe little or nothing to God’s eternal truth. Although it would be impossible to itemise and catalogue the whole range of these, in this series of articles we will be focusing attention on the notion of this being a ‘post-truth’ era, and we will be setting out to explore at least some of the ways in which its practices and suppositions have swept into many areas of our lives and culture like a river in spate – even to the point of influencing the worldview of many churches.
As we head in the direction of themes and topics that are often strongly contested and controversial, may we keep our gaze fixed firmly on the Lord Jesus, who is the forever eternal Truth, rather than on the various distortions and denials which come up – some of which we will at least be referring to in the forthcoming articles. What better way we can we do this than to ‘lose’ ourselves in Yeshua’s presence? Do savour the powerful time of extended worship with Jesus Image that we have also linked to at the end of this edition.
Why truth is so crucial and post-truthism so devious
“What is truth?” asked jesting Pilate; but would not stay for an answer. (Francis Bacon Essays: Of Truth )
The great irony of Pilate’s question in John 18:38, is that he asked it whilst in the presence of the very One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is the glorious truth that has thrilled the hearts of countless disciples but which only too many independently minded people have gone to extreme lengths to deny. American comedian Tommy Smothers once said:
There’s one word that exists in every language on the face of the Earth and in every society since man began to speak. And the word is truth. And in every language, it means exactly the same thing. Truth is . . . what you can get other people to believe.
If what Tommy says is so, and I can get you to accept as true whatever I want you to, then the master deceiver’s work in spinning his devious, deadly and almost imperceptible webs, is made ever easier. People from all walks of life, all manner of education, all arenas of influence, from all streams of Christian faith even, are subject to the subtle tricks of those who set out to get us to believe what they want us to.
There is nothing new in this, of course, but we do seem to be living in a day when more and more regard truth as being something malleable, and are therefore choosing for themselves what they reckon it to be, even to the point of rejecting any notion of an ultimate and objective reality. With the Kremlin ‘firing off’ almost as many lies and fabrications as the vast quantities of shells and rockets it has directed against its neighbour, Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has merely underlined the old truism that ‘truth is the first casualty of war.’ The very airwaves and Internet cables that sing with the wonderful news of who Jesus is, are also the means for conveying great darkness and the destruction that comes with distorted truth and outright lies on the one hand, and the ‘me-first’ demands of predators and dictators on the other.
Such things have never been the sole province of any one regime or nation, but the term ‘post-truth’ has recently become a familiar term, following the Brexit vote in the UK, and Donald Trump’s duplicitous election campaign in the USA. Declaring it their word of the year in 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries note that the term speaks of ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’
The same article also points out that the prefix ‘post’ has come to mean ‘the time after something has become irrelevant.’ But how can Truth ever be irrelevant?! Our starting point must always be this: that if God is God, then it is what He says, and what He thinks of us that is more important than what we happen to believe about Him. And that means making the effort to find out what He says, both in the absolute sense and about specific issues.
The nature of ‘post-truthism’
In a fascinating article, Vittorio Bufacchi illustrates the unsettling nature of post-truthism by offering a comparison between President Clinton lying over the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and Donald Trump tweeting (in 2012) that global warning was ‘created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’ Bufacchi writes that:
“The point about telling a lie is that the liar accepts that there is a truth, knows what the truth is, but decides to tell a different story.”
In other words, a post-truth statement is different to a straightforward denial of known truth, or the attempt to lead people away from it. Post-truth proclamations undermine the whole foundation of truth in a particular situation. For example, in his comments about China, as about a myriad of other topics, including the assertion that the 2020 election was stolen, Donald Trump, with his considerable powers of rhetoric and persuasion, made countless utterly unfounded claims that appealed to his supporters’ emotions and sense of tribal injustice, rather than to their concern for hard-nosed fact.
“Advocates of Post-Truth (Post-truthers), Vittorio continues, “are devious: they are in the business of subverting truth . . . [they] feel threatened by truth, and therefore want to undermine or emasculate truth . . . Post-truthers . . . aim to delegitimize truth, since this is the best way to disarm the threat that truth poses to them.”
Liars do at least know that truth exists, however far they choose to depart from it. But ‘post-truthism’ has no concept of absolute truth; rather, each person becomes the arbiter of their own truth. Given the huge opportunities for influence afforded by social media, coupled with the ‘echo chambers’ it creates, there is much to be deeply concerned about. Parents and educators are warned to watch out for signs that their children and young people are being led astray by certain groups and influencers, but for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, it is not only the young who are being misled. Polarised and polarising opinions are on the rise, and people are choosing their own values and versions of truth – and very often denouncing all others in the process.
Nevertheless, while the distinction between lying and post-truth is a helpful one – not least because it demonstrates how astonishingly slippery and unstable have become the foundations and ways of so much we had once taken for granted – it remains the case that whenever we deliberately deny or undermine truth, we are bearing false witness – in other words lying.
The serpent’s distorted storyline
When the crafty and cunning serpent set out on his mission to beguile Adam and Eve with his carefully thought-out insinuations, his aim was simple: to get them to disobey God, and thereby to suffer the consequences God had clearly told them would follow. By one means and another he sought to convince them that God didn’t mean what He had said in quite the narrow, fearful way that they had interpreted it. And that, he insinuated, was because He hadn’t told them the full truth, and nor had He given them all that they needed.
In other words, since God didn’t really have their best interests at heart, Adam and Eve would do much better to take matters into their own hands, and to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In that way, satan implied, they would understand the things that really matter. (See Gen. 2 and 3.)
Just think how he has dripped such poisonous thoughts into countless people’s ears ever since. Take Absalom, for instance, who little by little opened his heart to the whispered suggestions of the serpent, so that he came to hate his father and to dream up ways by which he could gain people’s allegiance and make the kingdom as his own. (2 Sam. 15:1-6) Instead of a throne, however, he found himself caught by his own hair, and murdered by his father’s general. (2 Sam. 18:9-15) No wonder Jesus described the satan as the ‘father of lies,’ and nothing less than a murderer. (Jn. 8:44)
The devil knows the truth but refuses to uphold it. (Jas. 2:19) His heart is eaten up with envy and ambition, and his rebellion and self-delusion utterly consume him. He fears truth, because it proclaims his awful ultimate fate. In his desperate thrashings he sets out to plough trails of destruction and plant seeds of unbelief – for what is unbelief but the refusal to trust God, as we hinted at in this track from Reawakenings Dark clouds and dragon tails.
By inclining our generation to make self-centred emotions and desires our focus, the satan has led us into believing that all truth is relative and personal, and that what God declared to be true millennia ago is irrelevant for the modern age. Christian believers find themselves increasingly marginalised as the Western world moves beyond the need of ancient truths, and feels free to make its own realities in this ’post-truth’ era. Blessed are those who are not offended at Jesus but live openly and courageously for Him! (Matt. 11:6)
‘For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ (Pr. 23:7 KJV)
The primary battle ground lies in the deep recesses of people’s minds, because it is here that we effectively become what we think and suppose. Many people seem now to have reached the place that Paul so succinctly describes, whereby they exchange the truth about God for a lie, and fall for worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator. (Rom. 1:25)
It was always God’s intention that parents should teach and pass on the knowledge of His ways to their children, and it is a great blessing when we can draw from a deep well of faith in our families and culture. We love to draw spring water from the Malvern Hills, finding it infinitely more refreshing to drink than regular tap water! Sometimes, though, the source becomes contaminated, at which point the Water Board put up warning notices telling users to boil the water in order to make it safe to drink. The same is true in our culture – few of us have absorbed nothing but pure water, and many have had no such spiritual well to draw on at all.
The Hebrew word translated ‘thinks’ in Proverbs 23:7 can also mean to ‘keep track,’ and it embraces the sense of ‘gatekeeper.’ This is a very helpful image for us to consider. In our own hearts, are we harbouring unbelief, or wrong beliefs, that we have ‘imbibed with our mother’s milk?’ All of us would benefit from taking time to pause and ponder – perhaps in some depth – whether the values we took on from our family and culture really are true and godly ones, or whether we have opened the door to values and beliefs that are not established on God’s truth, but rather contaminated by the great tangle of confused motives and strivings that Paul alludes to when he warns of people being only too willing to receive only such things as suits their itching ears.
How can we not grieve deeply when we see extreme beliefs and values spreading into mainstream thinking, and outrageous lies being held-up as rallying banners? “Woe to the world for the causes of sin,” says Jesus. “These stumbling blocks must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!” (Matt. 18:7) Whether the ultra right-wing leaders in America and Brazil, or the patent falsehoods that Russia’s authoritarian dictator has spent so long proclaiming about Ukraine, those who proclaim lies – and act with cruelty because they have come to believe them – are at enormous risk of being swallowed up by the Liar – for as a man sows so also shall he reap.
There is a cult-like spirit at work here, and even though in some cases the veil is lifting and the lies are being seen for what they are, it would be naïve to expect them to simply disappear overnight. It took many years for people to recognise that violent ‘video nasties’ really did affect the minds of young people, or for the tobacco industry to recognise that smoking was harmful to health – despite the considerable body of evidence sat in their desk drawers detailing the facts.
In our own time – and let’s reiterate the point that we are talking about understanding our times – great forward strides have been taken in many of the (relatively) liberal Western democracies toward embracing a belief in equality, of the sort that Paul talks about in Galatians 3:28. When pendulums swing, however, they often swing too far, and in the course of trying to set many ancient wrongs right, we have gone beyond the truth that Jesus actually declared, to the point where multitudes assume – and even proclaim – that ‘all faiths and all gods are equal.’
And this is not a belief, an equation if you like, that the Lord can in any way endorse. Jesus fulfilled an entirely unique work of salvation and such syncretistic assumptions are actually a profound insult and offence to Him – for all that they have gained credence not only in popular thinking, but also, most unfortunately, in large sections of the Church itself.
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in Heaven or on Earth (as there are many so-called gods and lords), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8:5-6 NIV)
Paul longs that we learn how to spot the devil’s schemes, so that we are not outwitted by them, and can steer clear of those things which dull our spiritual clarity and which can eventually lead us into being persuaded – by ourselves or others – that inconvenient truths can be ignored, as though there is no absolute distinction between what is good and what is not. (2 Cor. 2:10-11) It feels as though we could be entering an age of strong delusions, and while many have understood that these will come, they have perhaps assumed them to be to do with false messiahs. But what if they actually extend beyond the sphere of faith? God wants to disciple and to ‘father’ us so that we may grow in the discernment that enables us to distinguish between good and evil. (Heb. 5:14) The stakes could not be higher.
Lord, it is so grievous to witness deception on so grand a scale today that leads to You being side-lined and even denied, while ‘evil men and imposters continue to go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.’ The ancient serpent is doing all he can to till and prepare the ground to prepare it for people to receive his strong delusions and ‘big lies.’ Work by Your Spirit to spare many from falling for such Christ-denying agendas, no matter how attractively packaged. Show them people and resources that bear faithful witness to the truth of who You are.
‘Do not be conformed to this world,’ pleads Paul. ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Rom. 12:2 ESV) When it comes to issuing his directives, he is often very direct – to the point of being blunt.
Run away from the evil things that [. . .] people long for. Try hard to do what is right. Have faith, love and peace. Do these things together with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart . . . Have nothing to do with the acts of darkness. They don’t produce anything good. Show what they are really like . . . They will act as if they were serving God. But what they do will show that they have turned their backs on God’s power. Have nothing to do with these people. (2 Tim.2:22, Eph. 5:11, 2 Tim. 3:5 NIRV; cf Rom. 13:13)
Cause many hearts to kindle in our generation, so that You may enjoy a people for Your own possession. Be glorified in the hearts of Your people from day to day we pray. (2 Tim. 3:13 and 2 Thess. 2:11)
The day will come when we must give an account
Where satanic forces are unable to prevent a person from taking on board at least a modicum of religious thinking, will that satisfy the Lord? What will be the outcome for these souls when they stand before Him, believing that their names are forever registered in Heaven because they ‘prayed the prayer of salvation’ at some stage, although they made little or no effort to practise their discipleship?
None can know for certain where the cut-off point applies in individual cases, and theologians argue over whether it is possible to lose one’s salvation or whether it is actually a matter of ‘once saved, always saved.’ What is crystal-clear in Scripture is that our deeds will be tested by the fire of His truth, and every one of us must give an account to the Lord for what we have done with what He has given us – and even for every careless word that we have uttered. (Matt. 12:36; Heb. 4:13; 1 Cor. 3:13-15, cf Dan. 12:2)
In one of the final statements in the Bible – the living Word of God which will never pass away – it is made clear to John that those who practise lying will have no part or place in His heavenly city. (Rev. 21:27) When men and women choose lies over truth, the Bible makes it painfully clear that their souls are in danger of being lost forever. Those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, will face wrath and anger, and those who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness, will be condemned. (Rom. 2:8, 2 Thess. 2:12)
May we never make the mistake of putting our faith in some act of allegiance we may at one time or another have expressed, never be of those who are cut off because of our unbelief! (Rom. 11:19-21) Cornerstone. He has ‘swept away our offences like a cloud, and our sins like the morning mist,’ and equipped us to return to live with, in and for the One who has redeemed us. (Is. 44:22, cf Ezek. 18:22) It is enough to put our faith in some act of allegiance we may at one time or another have expressed, especially in the light of the warning that it is the one who stands firm to the end who will be saved. (Matt. 24:13)
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col. 2:13-15).
That is true cancel culture!
Pray for people on the broken bridge
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, we see so many plunging into eternal death because they have not known the Truth. It breaks our hearts – and how much more so Yours, then – that the road by which so many travel falls short of the reality of Your Kingdom absolutes. Let truth break in on people’s hearts and understanding, pierce their loneliness, dispel prejudices and empower a new generation to be filled with Your Holy Spirit and to live for You.
And Lord Jesus, make us so familiar with Your truth that we are able to spot lies quickly. Help us to resist the pressure to repeat and embrace them, whether they concern Your nature, or are politically dangerous fallacies. Keep us aligned to Your will, and living in the good of the eternal life You have given us. May we truly know and love You, and live and move in the dimensions in which You Yourself operate, so that by our light, we may show people the way to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Many years ago, the Navigators came up with a model to explain the path to salvation which they called ‘The Bridge to Life.’ Insofar as any brief diagram can convey so wonderful a truth, this proved an effective illustration when we used it in Spain to explain to British holidaymakers how Jesus became the Bridge between a holy God and a people separated from Him by their sins. Because it a great tool for showing others how to cross over from living for self to being born again, may I recommend memorising the verses used in this Bridge to Tool, and be ready to point people to them?
Bacon also noted in this brief essay that “it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt. But howsoever these things are thus in men’s depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature.
Bacon went on to say that, “Winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious . . . No pleasure comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth (where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors and wanderings and mists and tempests in the vale below; but insisted that this prospect be with pity, [and prayer we would add] and not with swelling or pride. Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, for a man’s mind to move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.”
Let truth break in on peoples understanding, pierce their loneliness, dispel prejudices and empower a new generation to live for You, Lord, just as You did for the person who wrote this testimony: I was born a Muslim in Iraq. I was worried and depressed, sitting and looking at the Tigris River in my city. Jesus’ face appeared to me in the water and told me. “Son, you’re not alone” And now I’m a Christian, and I pray every day at the edge of the river. Thank you Jesus for this grace. I’m not alone right now. Jesus is with me. In response to hearing this song.