Filipino theologian Anthony Dela Fuente, aka Dr. Bong (2022), noted that Christians ought to be truth-tellers in the post-truth world. ‘Post-truth’ was the ‘word of the year 2016.’ It was defined by the Oxford dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The idea of post-truth advanced by postmodern thought; that, there is truth, but subjective—or personal, never objective.
Influential vloggers, famous celebrities, and your best friend become a more authoritative source of “truth” compared to Ph.D. holder scientists, religious ministers, and factual data based on research, surveys, and statistics. Science and religion are now second to whatever a person feels–conforming to their “gut-feeling.”
Focusing on the reality of the post-truth age, let us explore more about truth, liberation, and grace as stated in John 8:31-47. In this passage, Jesus maintained and stated several times the importance of truth and knowing the truth. He said, “Truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Indeed, Jesus was fully aware that he will liberate everyone who puts faith in him. In Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (a fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled” (Lk 4:21).
Jesus’ claim in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Yet, the Pharisees and other Jewish groups during that time were not convinced about the claim of Christ as the Son of God—who bears and is the truth—that will liberate everyone from the bondage of sin.
To this rejection, we all know that the contrast of truth is “lies/ lying” or in our day known as ‘fake news.’ In verses 43-45, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” No wonder, God included in the ten commandments, that His children must not lie (Exodus 20:16). Sadly, in this post-truth age, fake news, conspiracy theories, and disinformation are normal to hear and see on the news, social media, and other media platforms today.
Another Filipino Theologian Rei Crizaldo (2021) says that “social media morphed into a toxic wasteland flooded with fake news, causing its inhabitants to suffer both online fatigue and trauma, and seeing friendships built over a long period of time ripped apart in an instant.” The most shocking failed prophecy built on conspiracy was the recent election in the United States of America. This scandalous act mediated and disseminated digitally was pointed out by Harvard Divinity School Dean David Hempton (2021), during his final lecture for the historic Gifford Lecture at the University of Edinburgh, as an example of how digital technology can be utilized in its worst.
Journalist Peter Guest (2020), contextually noted, in the Philippines, fake news is rampant, and it even can get you killed. The democracy to self-publish on social media, content creation, blog sites, and personal sites equips humanity to not only upload credible and informative news but also counterfeit data information for trolling innocent, especially uninformed people.
Another form of social media sin is the so-called Twitter Alters. In an investigation in the Philippines, Paul John Caña (2020) differentiated Alter accounts to catfishing. Caña said, “Alters, meanwhile, generally retain much of their own personalities but choose to remain anonymous by not posting any pictures of their faces or anything that might easily identify them and their true selves.” As opposed to catfishing, which is for fraudulent and deceptive purposes, alters are to “serve one purpose—to generate, offer, or solicit sexual content and services.”
Crizaldo observes this cultural reality and proposed that the only way for Christians to battle this anti-intellectual and damaging actuality is to be like Christ—full of grace and truth. However, for Christians, it is also a dilemma to balance grace and truth. He said, “The tension between truth and grace shall remain. And it ought to. There might be easy resolutions, but I am of the view that this tension is part of the “here-but-not yet” aspect of God’s coming kingdom.” Further noted:
“When people drunk with power make us feel they are undeserving of grace and when people’s cry for justice makes us want to see blood, we turn to Jesus and let his story continue to challenge us with such ferocity that it shapes us. He left us the big picture of what it means to be a good neighbor especially for those who deserve it the least. More and more, I am getting convinced that immersing ourselves in how Jesus loved others is what will help us bridge on one hand what we can’t and won’t do as mere human beings and on the other what we have been freed to do as his disciples.”
Social media, cyberspace, and other media platforms made this post-truth more convincing. Hence, we are to be critical thinkers as Christians with a biblical worldview prepared to engage today’s culture. WE ARE TRUTH-TELLERS AND GRACE-EXEMPLIFIERS!
Lastly, the sinful nature of humanity manifests in how we use technology in the digital world. Online and offline life are intertwined and no one can distinguish the difference. A Yale theologian, Teresa Berger (2017), said that “today, daily living is no longer divided into online and offline times or practices.”
However, the downside is we let the works of the evil win in this battle. This is not just a virtual battle but a spiritual battle. In John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The tension between using technology for God or for the world is a battle we all need to fight. Fight with Christ—making sure that he is at the center of this battle. In this post-truth age, do not take part in fake news, or any other disinformation of truth. Be for truth and grace, proclaim Jesus even through digital technologies.
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, “Truth & Grace in the Digital Space,” half-meant, September 23, 2021, https://xgenesisrei.tumblr.com/post/663089318637846528/truth-grace-in-the-digital-space.
Anthony “Bong” Dela Fuente, “Truth-telling in a Post-Truth World,” Asian Theological Seminary Theological Forum (Webinar) January 26, 2022.
David Hempton, “‘Only Connect!’: Networked Christianity in the Digital Age,” University of Edinburgh’s Gifford Series, October 14, 2021, https://www.ed.ac.uk/arts-humanities-soc-sci/news-events/lectures/gifford-lectures/2020-2021/only-connect-digital-age.
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