"For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God. Who formed the earth and made it; he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited. 'I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”
Last week I asked some critically important questions: How do we address the growing discontent and division in our nation? How do we stem the tide of moral confusion and chaos? What action steps can we take to rebuild and strengthen our national culture?
Here are four things that need to happen:
- Rediscovery of Truth.
- Reformation of the Christian community.
- Redirection of the human spirit.
- Recommitment to the structures of freedom
Let’s look at #1: Rediscovery of Truth.
Our nation needs to return to a foundation of timeless Truth. We desperately need a foundation of Truth that is grounded in respect for the Creator and the standards he has inscribed on the universe and on human hearts. In our radically pluralistic and relativistic society, it seems a nearly impossible task to redirect the culture back to the core principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but that is precisely what must happen. Without such a rediscovery of and recommitment to Truth, there is little hope for a revival or restoration of any significance.
At the heart of the issue is whether or not objective truth exists. Objective truth means reality that exists independent of someone's belief, opinion, feeling, or perception. When something is objectively true (like the existence of gravity), it’s true for everyone regardless of whether people acknowledge it or not. Objectivity understands that the real world exists, even though we may experience it differently or see different aspects of it or even have different beliefs about it. Those who believe in objective truth recognize that we have a common base from which to discuss what is true and what isn’t, because we all live in a real world where truth can be observed, discovered, evaluated, and known.
Philosophical relativism denies there is an objective reality. The most powerful expression of relativism today is postmodernism, or what is simply being called the “post-truth society.” The claim is that a group’s or individual’s reality is their perception or interpretation of the external world, and is not the objective world itself. Relativists claim we do not discover truth; rather, we “create truth” in the way we interpret and talk about the world as we experience it.
Needless to say, according to post-truth worldview, there is no such thing as an objectively existing God, and thus no moral absolutes; no objective ethical or moral standards by which people or societies should live. In fact, because relativism rejects Truth, it has no objective reference point for anything.
Instead, the reference point becomes subjective feelings and perceptions. The consequences of this philosophy are catastrophic. Untethered from Truth, radical relativism asserts that mankind is alone in a godless, meaningless universe and must create his own truth and meaning. It opens wide the door for self-indulgence and reckless living. It creates an "anything goes" attitude and lifestyle.
The political and social consequences are just as devastating. When truth is rejected, all that remains is power, which is the condition that currently plagues our nation. Self-interest and partisanship reign supreme. Politicians -- and their supporters in the media, academia, and the arts -- will say and do almost anything to gain power. The central strategy is to create a compelling narrative that appeals to a particular voter base, while at the same time vilifying opponents.
Truth becomes virtually irrelevant. It’s all about the narrative.
This is precisely the problem, and it is why we must rediscover truth and apply it to the issues, challenges, and decisions we face as a nation. Truth is there. Timeless principles are available. The challenge is that truth is not always comfortable or convenient, and it can be very unpopular. It doesn’t always generate votes or clicks or follows.
But ignoring Truth will only makes things worse. There are uncomfortable political and social truths that Republicans ignore, and there are uncomfortable political and social truths that Democrats ignore. What we desperately need are wise and courageous leaders who will step up, reject popular narrative, cut through the self-interest and partisanship, and speak truth.
I fully understand the political difficulty. Leaders who reject the popular narrative (from either side) and who seek to speak truth will find it almost impossible to get elected. The American people are dominated by self-interest, and don’t seem to want truth. As a nation we have drifted into the condition that Paul warned about:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4.3-4)
But we serve a great and mighty God, and we must diligently pray and ask for revival. We must intercede in prayer, seek his wisdom, and do the work required in our time and place in history. We must be agents and ambassadors of truth.
"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor 4.2-3)
God is real, and he is the author of Truth. He has revealed himself in the person and work of Jesus, and he offers reconciliation and redemption through Christ's death and resurrection. He invites us to believe and follow him, and he calls us to be warriors of truth in the midst of a confused and broken world.
"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." (John 17.17-19)
And this is key: We must be agents of the full spectrum of Truth, which includes the physical truths of the natural world. If the church’s definition of truth is limited only to biblical doctrine, we will have not have the wisdom or credibility to be effective agents of change in a post-truth world. Christians must demonstrate respect for and commit to the diligent study of the truths of the created world. Otherwise, the world will continue to seek answers in secular ideas and institutions.
The Christian community must do the work to earn the reputation as people who fully embrace all of reality. As a community, we must do the work to earn the reputation as people who are wise about how the world works and how we work in it. The Lord calls us to be people of truth and love, and the world needs us now more than ever.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14.34)