While the title of this post might sound quite catchy, I’m not sure I necessarily believe in it. Before I ruffle too many feathers, let me here affirm that I am convinced that Jesus is the truth. What I doubt, however, is the accuracy of the second part of my title; that our society really is one that is “post-truth.”
C. S. Lewis puts it nicely in the first chapter of Mere Christianity when he observes that in common remarks like, “That’s my seat, I was there first” a man not only expresses displeasure in another person’s behaviour, but is also “appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about.”
We are actually much fonder of truth than we realise.
You see, in practice, if not theoretically, we all have a sense of what is universally right and proper, of what is good and what is true. For all the rhetoric of not trusting the experts or not needing any validation except our own, the way we actually live — the way we speak and the way we act — suggests that we are actually much fonder of truth than we realise.
Indeed, in this cultural moment our society craves truth, perhaps now more than ever.
Society has not given up on truth, even if it seeks truth elsewhere.
In our present climate of long, unprecedented social, economic and political instability, there is a lack of trust and confidence in the structures that formerly held us up. And the current challenges the church in the UK faces, with some traditional teachings being brought into question, shouldn’t purely leave us disheartened. Positively speaking, they show us that society has not given up on truth, even if it seeks truth elsewhere. The church has not been left to play on its own in the corner, but is being beckoned by the self-proclaimed adults to stand up and sit at the grown-up table. You may not like this image — I certainly don’t — but I hope it serves to illustrate that our society is not really “post-truth.” This is encouraging. There might be greater competition for the truth, and many more interpretations of it, but we as human beings are not done with the truth; it’s not in our nature.
How do we go about witnessing to the truth of Jesus in a society like ours; one that has many other claimants bidding for what is true?
When we share Jesus, it is meant to look more like introducing Him as a dear and trusted friend than canvassing for a leader we don’t really know.
- We must work hard to make sure that we ourselves have grasped hold of the truth, or rather, grasped hold of Jesus who is Truth. Before it is intellectual, the Christian faith is relational. We are sharing with the world, first and foremost, the goodness of a person, not the precision of a paragraph of the catechism. So, unless we are in daily communion with Jesus, in real relationship with Him, our witness will be baseless. When we share Jesus, it is meant to look more like introducing Him as a dear and trusted friend than canvassing for a leader we don’t really know.
- If faith is relational, then we are sharing the way in which Jesus has affected us, the ways in which our relationship with him has changed and transformed us. The idea here is simple: show, don’t tell. In a time like ours, where claims to the truth are thrown around left, right, and centre, words alone will not suffice. We will be compelling only when we present the truth with our very lives, when we embody that which we tell, when the message and the messenger are one. The way we live, particularly the way we love, speaks of the God we claim to know (see 1 John). We may live in an age that is sceptical of our claims to the truth, but we must be careful not to add insult to injury by our own hypocrisy.
- Following this, we should recognise the power of stories and be proud of our testimonies. If faith is relational and transformational, then it is also emotive. Though, of course, there is factual content to our faith — the kind of things people might try to write down in formal propositions — it is vital that we communicate that faith in ways that are personal and emotionally engaging. The way we tell it might be as important as how we tell it. Why? Not because we’re trying to manipulate or deceive, but because it’s real, it’s living. Like Philip to Nathanael, we say, “Come and see!” (John 1:46).
People seek truth more than we realise, and we can show them what the truth looks like. Let’s start conversations with our friends and neighbours, and if we let them, if we listen, they will soon share with us their longings for something more, for some kind of stability, for a sturdy ship to climb aboard and weather the storms of life. They themselves might not realise that they need Him, but through our witness we can introduce our friends to the man inside that boat, Jesus. The One who not only rides the tumultuous waves with us, but calms them by a single word. The One with whom we have loving communion, and who changes our lives.