Each year, Oxford University Press, the organization that oversees work on the renowned Oxford Dictionary, introduces a word of the year. The word is meant to reflect the state of the world in the passing year. For 2016, the chosen word was “post-truth”. This is how they define it:
“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Post-truth does not point to something which comes after the truth, such as a conclusion based on the truth. Instead it represents something that is feeling-driven, rather than fact-driven. See this article for a good explanation.
The panel tasked with choosing the word of year concluded by saying,
The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’. This nuance seems to have originated in the mid-20th century, in formations such as post-national (1945) and post-racial (1971).
Think about that for a second. A panel of literary experts has concluded that the most appropriate word for the past year is one in which truth has become “unimportant or irrelevant.” Sad as it may be, I agree that this meaning of “post-truth” accurately reflects the state of the world in 2016, particularly in America. People are growing less and less concerned with what is actually right and more enamored with their own personal desires and quests for individual liberty. With the emergence of believe systems like post-truth, we will only continue to see a growing influence on objective-based, truth-claiming beliefs like the Christian faith. Many people have the mistaken perception that Christianity is all about blind faith, but it’s actually rooted in historical fact and objective, outside of the person thinking. Nothing encapsulates this more than the simple teaching of salvation in Jesus. This most-important teaching of Christianity is all about what Christ has objectively done outside of the individual to secure salvation. It is not about feeling; rather it supersedes that.
I believe we’re already starting to see a post-truth effect in our culture when it comes to commitment. Commitment issues are growing in the most important parts of life in our society. Take marriage for example. Rising rates of cohabitation (living as husband and wife before marriage) in the last 20 years reveals a lack of commitment. A Pew Research study from 2011 also shows that Millennials, the demographic most influential in establishing post-truth philosophy, place a greater emphasis on love rather than commitment in marriage. Love is typically viewed as an emotion. Commitment is an established decision. The difference between the two is the same as the difference between feeling and truth.
We’re also seeing this in churches, which isn’t much of a surprise considering that God uses marriage to describe His relationship with believers (see Ephesians 5 and Matthew 9 and 25). Both marriage and faith are built on commitment. Feelings certainly play a role in both, there’s no denying that, but neither were ever meant to be about feelings alone, or apart from truth. However, religion in America is following the same trend as marriage. Both are increasingly becoming more about a feeling-based positions rather than objective truth. This represents the “post-truth” mentality. It also presents a serious problem, not just because marriage and family structures are eroding, but because feeling-driven belief is really a product of humanism. Humanism is an utterly ungodly philosophy which places all confidence and hope in mankind. It reigns when peoples’ opinions and personal choices outweigh the divine will of God and it ends in idolatry.
It’s necessary for us to recall how important commitment and truth are to true faith in God. Psalm 37:5 states, “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”
Most importantly, let us remember that to forsake the pursuit of objective truth, is to forsake Christ. It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14:6).” The Bible also records that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).” It‘s frustrating and sad to see the decay of marriage, commitment, and truth in our society. But, the struggle is not over yet. These set-backs are signs of the world we live in, but there is more that can be done. We are wrestling against a problem that strikes to the very heart of our faith. But, that which is threatened is also the very solution and hope to the problem. The key is to continue believing, defending, and confessing Jesus Christ in our lives.
Let our prayer of commitment to the Lord be the same as the Spirit-inspired words of Proverbs 3:
Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:3-7)