When People Stop Believing in Truth: A response to “The Trends Shaping a Post-Truth Era.”
In an article published this week, “The Trends Shaping a Post-Truth Era,” Barna described America’s views of “truth” and those responsible for communicating it. The article also gave a startling description of how people interpret the truth they hear.
One of the more disconcerting statistics involved the question, “Who are you most likely to see as a credible news source?” Thirty-two percent of the population chose the answer, “Nobody, I trust my own instincts.” What an incredulous finding: one-in-three Americans trust themselves above all other sources as the most credible source of information!
The above statistic is not so surprising when seen in the light of how Americans view truth. Currently, forty-four percent of the population believes truth is “relative.” Only thirty-two percent esteem truth as “absolute.” If truth is relative, why not look at the world and interpret it as is most convenient for you? Why look to a Heavenly Father when you have all the answers?
For many Christians who see the Gospel as an esoteric truth, only relating to their holy huddles, these statistics may not be so startling. After all, if you are a Christian who is not concerned with the lost world, the reprobate’s view of truth doesn’t matter to you. However, if you cling to the fact that Jesus’ atonement made way for everyone to know the glorious Savior, this information mandates you to reconsider your strategies of sharing the absolute truth of Jesus and His redemptive plan for people.
The above information from Barna leads me to ask three questions that we as the church-on-mission need to answer to reach Americans in their current, “post-truth” context.
- “What can we learn from the Bible regarding a ‘post-truth’ society?”
- “What tactics does God use to turn truth-less people into followers of Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6)?”
- “What must we do to join Jesus in His mission to reach “post-truth” people?”
“What can we learn from the Bible regarding a ‘post-truth’ society?”
Following the death of Samson, Judges 17-18 records an obscure narrative about a mother and son who are supposed to be living in covenant with Yahweh. A woman loses a substantial sum of silver, believing it to be stolen, and places a curse on the stolen silver. Micah, afraid of the curse, returns the silver he took from his mother. Micah’s mother is so relieved to repossess her silver that she consecrates it to the Lord. One would think she is performing a noble act of worship, and most likely, beseeching God to restore her son in godliness. On the contrary, Micah’s mother consecrates the silver to the Lord to make it into an idol bearing the image of her rotten son! The mother ignores the sin of Micah and makes a god from his image – doing all of this in the Name of Yahweh. She is a confused member of the “post-truth” society!
Micah, the thief, takes his new idol and finds a young Levite to be his own private priest. Micah says, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me because a Levite has become my priest” (Ju. 17:13). Micah joins his mother in the drifting world of personal relativism.
Later in the narrative, raiders from the tribe of Dan discover Micah’s wealth, kill him, steal his idol, and enlist his priest to serve them (Ju. 18). Religion is their tool for personal gain as no absolute truth guides the way. The Danites join Micah and his mother by rejecting the truth. Like a stampeding herd, they wreak destruction wherever their appetites roam.
Following the Danite story, the narrative of Judges continues its down-ward spiral, causing the reader to grieve as the morally confused people of God destroy one another after generations of snubbing His truth. With many details of gross sin and carnage, the book concludes with this statement, “In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (Ju. 21:25).
This is the biblical portrait of people who cut the anchors of truth. They are genuinely “post-truth” people. Truth-less folks don’t merely drift innocently on the peaceful swells of La-La Land with a joint in one hand and an iPhone in the other. Like Israel during the judges, the adrift and confused destroy one another at the altar of self-elevation and preservation.
The “post-truth” society is not new. The ancient narrative of Judges provides us with timely insight into our contemporary American culture. The deception currently entangling our nation is real, and so are the consequences we experience – just like Micah, his mother, and the people of Dan.
“What tactics does God use to turn truth-less people into followers of Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6)?”
The hope for Israel was their Savior, Yahweh. He desired to be their king, but they rejected Him (1 Sam. 8:7). In His unmerited grace, God gave the Israelites moral leadership and national direction in Samuel. Later, at God’s command, Samuel anointed Saul and then David to be Israel’s kings. It is fitting that in our Bibles, the Judges fiasco is followed immediately by the tender story of Ruth’s family who brought David, and later the Messiah Jesus, into the world.
The hope for people today is still our Savior, Yahweh, and His Son, the King of Kings. Jesus’ death and resurrection is all the hope our world will ever need. Jesus entrusted His message of hope to a few ministry leaders He personally selected and trained. God still calls servants like the disciples, Samuel, and David to lead His people in accomplishing His redemptive purposes in humans (Eph. 4:11-13). From the biblical world to this moment, God has chosen leaders to equip, mobilize, and lead the church to disseminate the hope of Christ to truth-less people (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-13).
To summarize, the hope for our world is Jesus. He brings His hope to people through the church as they are equipped and sent by ministry leaders.
“What must we do to join Jesus in His mission to reach “post-truth” people?”
In the reflection of the above question and preceding discussion, I challenge myself and the church with five conclusions regarding God’s redemptive work through leaders and the church in our contemporary context.
- We need many more Christian men and women to obey God’s call on their lives as leaders fully. Many young people want to serve Christ, but very few embrace leadership roles. Leadership is patently a calling, but trends show that young men are shying away from the responsibility to plant and pastor the local church. A shortage of pastors may be a daunting problem for the church soon. Simply put, we need more people answering God’s call to plant and lead more churches.
- We need young leaders to prepare and work hard to become competent stewards of the truth. People no longer seek out pastors to share the truth with them. Only 14% of Americans say they see a pastor that they know personally as a “most likely credible source of news.” The days are over when we could influence the masses simply because we had the title, “Pastor.” We must earn our platform person-by-person, in part, by being prepared and competent in the calling for which God called us. God uses many methods to prepare leaders and refine them in their service. A commitment to prepare and grow is non-negotiable for leaders earning the trust of others. This is especially true in a culture that is skeptical towards all who proclaim an absolute, exclusive truth.
- We need leaders to leverage all the gifts, wisdom, skills, and traits God bestows on them to equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to sow the Gospel among “post-truth” people. The intentional multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches must become the norm. To be blunt, we need brilliant leaders who can partner with God to create and send an exponentially expanding army into the harvest fields (Luke 10:2).
- We must pray for and invest heavily in our current and upcoming Christian leaders. I believe in leaders. I pray for leaders. I train leaders. I give to leaders. I give to agencies and seminaries that prepare and send leaders. Let’s be strategic in all of these things, but for the sake of the Gospel, let’s invest in leaders!
- We must seek God’s wisdom as we lead and depend on His power to make Himself known through the church. What is the strategy for reaching truth-less people with absolute, exclusive truth? For the ancient people of God it was His love and power among and through them that was a witness to the nations (e.g. Ex. 1-14; Ju. 16; 1 Sam. 17; Jonah 1-4; Matt. 2:1-12; Mark 1:21-28; Luke 24:1-53; The Acts of the Apostles). We need leaders to access God’s power and unashamedly let that power flow through us and into the churches we lead as we love the post-truth world together.
History has always been and will still be about Jesus. He is writing the story… Let’s trust Him and lead.
https://www.barna.com/research/truth-post-truth-society/?utm_source=Barna+Update+List&utm_campaign=e7c3e5d3e4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_28&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8560a0e52e-e7c3e5d3e4-180591913&mc_cid=e7c3e5d3e4&mc_eid=f1fb7c32e4. Accessed 1-10-18. All subsequent references to Barna.com are in this article.
 Jeff Iorg, Is God Calling Me? Nashville, B&H, 2008, 102-103.
 I am a big fan of the “Hero-maker” initiative espoused by Exponential. See exponential.org.