TRUTH HAS BEEN ABUSED…
Formula of Concord, Part II, Solid Declaration:
10 For that reason necessity requires that such controverted articles be explained on the basis of God’s Word and of approved writings in such a way that anybody with Christian intelligence can see which opinion in the controverted issues agrees with the Word of God and the Christian Augsburg Confession, and so that well-meaning Christians who are really concerned about the truth may know how to guard and protect themselves against the errors and corruptions that have invaded our midst.
The Summary Formulation, Basis, Rule, and Norm, Indicating How All Doctrines Should Be Judged in Conformity with the Word of God and Errors are to Be Explained and Decided in a Christian Way
1. We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.
2. Since in ancient times the true Christian doctrine as it was correctly and soundly understood was drawn together out of God’s Word in brief articles or chapters against the aberrations of heretics, we further pledge allegiance to the three general Creeds, the Apostles’; the Nicene, and the Athanasian, as the glorious confessions of the faith—succinct, Christian, and based upon the Word of God—in which all those heresies which at that time had arisen within the Christian church are clearly and solidly refuted.
3. By a special grace our merciful God has in these last days brought to light the truth of his Word amid the abominable darkness of the papacy through the faithful ministry of that illustrious man of God, Dr. Luther.
Book of Concord: Preface:
6 Mindful of the office which God has committed to us and which we bear, we have not ceased to apply our diligence to the end that the false and misleading doctrines which have been introduced into our lands and territories and which are insinuating themselves increasingly into them might be checked and that our subjects might be preserved from straying from the right course of divine truth which they had once acknowledged and confessed.
I have read quite a few articles lately sharing opinions about how it is that Donald Trump became the President of the United States. Several of those articles claim to take us back to the beginning. They don’t. To go back to the beginning, we need to begin with Truth. I have sort of been studying, in the sense of trying to understand and come to grips with, the implications of Postmodernism since it first smacked me in the face on the campus of a Lutheran University in the Sociology Department in 1975. I began reading the works of C. S. Lewis at almost exactly that same time. In C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, he began from the trend he was seeing already in WWII 40s. He began by addressing the concept, the philosophy, of relative truth. He began his lectures (which became the book) by addressing the fallacy that there is no such thing as objective truth. (Anyone with philosophical training recognizes immediately that the statement that there is no such thing as objective truth, is itself a truth statement claiming objectivity. It is self-refuting. Yet the snow ball got ever bigger as it rolled down hill.) Later, in The Abolition of Man, he took it further, taking on the concept directly as it spread across academia in England. Lewis predicted the end of culture as we know it if the trend went unchecked. Finally, in his Epilogue to The Screwtape Letters, “Screwtape Offers a Toast”, he applied this trend to politics (false understandings of democracy) and education, through the lecture of a Lieutenant in the Infernal Organization of Hell. For those who want the end at the beginning: Truth Matters.
The progression goes something like this. What I believe is true, is true, because I believe it. If you do not believe it, then it is true for me, but not true to you. What you believe is true, is true for you. Most of you already see how we got to where we are. Younger generations are beginning to see: If everything is equally true, then everything is equally meaningless. What C. S. Lewis predicted in Abolition, is that truth, so defined, cannot stand against propaganda, rhetoric, manipulation. The better the manipulation, the better the control.
Five Iron Frenzy wrote at the turn of the Century: “truth has been abused.” Switchfoot wrote well before the Facebook craze of “fake news”, “We’re Selling the News.” The bridge of Switchfoot’s powerful song is particularly enlightening: When nothing is sacred, there’s nothing to lose. When nothing is sacred, all is consumed. We’re still on the air, it must be the truth. We’re selling the news.
The sad irony is that the postmodern mindset was promoted by what is generally understood to be liberalism. (It goes by many different names now.) It was open and tolerant. It never judged between true and false, right and wrong. UnChristian found that the new favorite Bible verse among young adults was Jesus’ statement, “Judge not.” (Totally taken out of context, of course.) Even George Lucas pointed the way in “Return of the Jedi”. “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.” But what C. S. Lewis warned was that no one could predict who would be the best at manipulation; who would be the best at rhetoric. But someone would be. Eviscerated truth, thus weakened, could not stand.
Can you see how pointless “fact-checking” is in such a system, such a culture? It’s true because I believe it. And if social media is actually flooded with “fake news”, who is equipped so sift? The issue is Truth.
C. S. Lewis, in his conclusion, saw hope in the possibility of a redeemed Science that would reach the mature conclusion, “Because something can be done, does not mean that it ought to be done.” But that assumes that “ought” and “ought not” have meaning. Perhaps our hope is in young adults who have recognized that if everything is equally true, then everything is equally meaningless? I want to give credit to Dale Beran for his article, 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump. He takes us back to the beginning of 4chan and the young adult males who began it. They responded in desperate nihilism, or anarchy. My point in this post is that it goes WAY back before that. But what if instead, young adults began to question whether there is in fact something that is “really true” and thus, “really false” as well. What if the search for that which is objectively and universally true became a “thing”?
I close with two Bible references. For St. John, Truth began as a Person. Jesus is referred to as such in his Gospel account. But over time, as false teachings entered The Church, truth came to be understood also as true teaching, true doctrine. In St. John’s first letter he used the words truth or true eleven times! His second and third letters are quite short - only one chapter each. Yet in these two chapters he mentioned truth six times and true teaching two more!
John 17: 17-19: (Jesus prayed) 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.