Editor’s Word: Living in ‘Post-Truth’ Times

Barna Research recently reported that in our “post-truth” climate, reality is relative and “even the facts are open to interpretation.” Barna went on to report that “one third of Americans say they trust nobody, only their own instincts, when consuming news.”

It seems that postmodernism has given birth to post-truth. Barna asked this question in its survey: “Is moral truth absolute?” The answer: “Twenty-one percent never thought about it; thirty-five percent said absolute; forty-four percent said relative.”

American philosopher Daniel Dennett called postmodernism an evil school of thought. He said that postmodernists “are responsible for the intellectual fact that made it respectable to be cynical about truth and facts.”

Modernism had its greatest influence following World War I. The emphasis was on rejecting conventional style in literature and departing from classical and traditional forms. Science grew to be the answer for mysteries, not Scripture. After World War II, postmodernism, a reaction against modernism, began to grow and develop. It was a way of thinking and writing that is unscientific, irrational and, typically, illogical. The idea in postmodernism is that ultimate truth cannot really exist. Postmodernism is a pasting together of many different ideas and concepts that often conflict with and contradict each other.

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries International Word of the Year was “post-truth.” The word itself can be traced back to at least 1992, but it flashed onto the world stage in 2016 when its usage increased by 2,000 percent from 2015. In a nutshell, a post-truth culture states that all claims to truth are relative to the particular person making them. That means one person’s “truth” is as good as that of someone else who may have the opposite position. The idea of objective, verifiable reality and actuality is gone.

The evidences of a post-truth society are things like fake news, alternative facts, subjective interpretations, disinformation and misinformation. The concept of truth becomes increasingly irrelevant or virtually meaningless. The conclusion is that a person has a right to believe whatever he or she wants to believe without evidence or conformity to truth. In that type of atmosphere, lying is normalized, moral absolutes don’t exist, and God becomes a subjective idea rather than the Holy God revealed in Scripture.

How can we live in a post-truth climate? As believers, our trust is in the God who is real and whose Word is objectively and positively true. We obey His teachings, and we guard our hearts against becoming like the post-truth culture around us. This is a time in which we must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. To have an impact on people who are living out the post-truth narrative, we need courage and grace. We cannot be like them in order to win them. Rather, we must be genuinely different from them, but care enough to live and speak the truth before them. We do not need to judge or condemn them — they are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the one true Savior. We can connect the lost to a biblical understanding of Jesus and His truth without being offended by their questions.

A post-truth system has always, in different lands and in various ways, existed. It has never been this comprehensive and widespread before. If we know the truth, as Christ said, it will set us free — and enable us to do the right thing. He said His Word is truth. He said He is the Truth.

Living in post-truth times is a challenge, but it is also the time in which we live. Our calling to be witnesses of Christ and His gospel has not changed. God has the power to save anybody out of any environment. He has chosen to use His people as His tools in this gathering process. We must, therefore, be those who speak the truth in love.

In May 2017, Pew Research noted that Americans have “low trust” in social media but trust family and friends for information more than anything else. People we know will likely listen to the message of Scripture we give them. God may use that as a means of grace to save people in this post-truth culture.

Knowing, living and sharing the truth, person to person, in a post-truth era can be a blessing beyond our expectations. Don’t give up on truth, because it comes from God, and He never changes!