Graybrook Institute




"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." — George Orwell

"During times of universal deceit, the truth becomes a revolutionary act." — George Orwell


myth reality

Fake News, Good News: Finding Truth in a World of Falsehood

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and righteousness cannot enter. — Isaiah 59:14

By Garry J. Moes

From the ancient days of Isaiah to Pontius Pilate's question Quid est veritas? to President Donald Trump's new war with the media over "fake news," mankind's quest to determine "What is truth?" has been a vexing enterprise.
The number of possible routes men have traveled toward discovering objective and absolute truth, surprisingly, has been relatively limited within such broad categories as philosophy (logic/ontology), empiricism/science, objective journalism, religion and revelation.
Over against these possibilities stands relativism, i.e. truth is what men say it is. Since there are as many opinions in the world as there are people to make and express them, this route to objective truth is, by definition, not a road to reality and is fraught with conflict. Conflict is settled by negotiation or violence, with superior power or cleverness determining the outcome, but never guaranteeing that real truth has been discovered.
Philosophical approaches have been likewise unsatisfactory since they too rest on humanly devised conceptions. As the authors of a paper for the Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy noted at the outset, "...the philosophical disciplines of logic and of ontology are themselves quite diverse."
"‘Logic’ and ‘ontology’ are big words in philosophy, and different philosophers have used them in different ways. Depending on what these philosophers mean by these words, and, of course, depending on the philosopher's views, sometimes there are striking claims to be found in the philosophical literature about their relationship," the paper's authors say.
Science, once touted as mankind's new hope for discovering empirical truth as an alternative to allegedly subjective religion and faith, has been found to have a nose of wax. Founded on theory and often driven by predetermined outcomes rather than subjected to unbiased scientific-method processes, it is itself laced with faith content. (See here on related subject.)
“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it,” Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist and science communicator, once boasted.
But as manipulated climate-change computer models and just plain fabricated research results, among other things, have shown in recent years, science can be made to say what men want it to say as well. Honest scientific inquiry, of course, can and has led to many marvelous discoveries of the wonders of creation, but empirical inquiries can clearly be subverted to advance agendas. And once again, trust in truth is jeopardized.
The news media have long claimed to be the detectors and guardians of the truth in the public interest. So important was this role seen that the American Founding Fathers wrote a guarantee of press freedom into the Bill of Rights, an unprecedented step in history. Again, this freedom, when coupled with moral responsibility and professional ethics, often has proven a blessing in ferreting out corruption and dangerous drives for power threatening the well-being of a self-governing people.
But it almost goes without saying that the public fiduciary role held by journalists has had a checkered history — from before the days of Yellow Journalism and Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" to today's advocacy, agenda-driven gonzo journalism, to use the term used to describe the approach by one of its early advocates, Hunter Thompson. And with the advent of social media, in which every man, woman and child has become a "reporter," "photojournalist," and commentator, there is now virtually no standard by which the consumer of information can measure truthfulness of what is reported.
"Social media has swallowed the news – threatening the funding of public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts. But the consequences go far beyond journalism," says Katherine Viner, writing for the UK Guardian, in an article entitled "How Technology Disrupted the Truth" (caution: graphic content).
The Internet has become a swirling maelstrom of truth and fiction, deceiving the unguarded and gullible or requiring honest seekers of knowledge to research far and wide to ascertain some sort of conclusion on real facts. A whole new enterprise known as "fact checking" has emerged, but the so-called fact-checkers have often been found to be just as biased as the sources checked. "Fake news" ranges from what President Trump alleges to be "made up" stories by major international news agencies to weird web sites which admittedly delight in making up authentic-sounding but wholly fictional "news." And then there are those satire news sites, including an increasingly popular religious one known as the "Babylon Bee" — all in good fun but undoubtedly contributing to cynicism among the throngs who long for real truth.
I was a correspondent for The Associated Press many years ago when there was still a fairly solid commitment to fairness, balance and objectivity within that worldwide news cooperative. When I taught journalism to international students during that time, I gave my students a working definition of news which I had gleaned from some of the textbooks I had studied during my own journalism school days. It was this:

News: A report that presents a contemporary view of reality with regard to a specific issue, event or process. It usually monitors change that is important to individuals or society and puts that change in the context of what is common or characteristic. It is shaped by a consensus about what will interest the audience and by constraints from outside and inside the (news) organization. It is the daily bargaining game with the news organization that sorts out the observed human activities of a particular time period to create a very perishable product. News is the imperfect result of hurried decisions made under pressure.

As I was teaching journalists in a Christian university, I added my own addendum to the definition of news: "News is the set of facts which have consequence in the outworking of the plan of God and in the cosmic struggle against His plan."
But by the "secular" definition above, even when every honest effort is made to find and present real facts in honest context, the result still remains as "imperfect" as any other human quest for truth outside of what then remains the only possible reliable source: divine revelation, for only it stands beyond the realm of human endeavor, which is comprehensively corrupted by sin.
It is to the church that the Truth has been revealed, and it is to the church that the responsibility for its guardianship has been given. The church is the Body of Christ, Who declared Himself alone to be "the Way, the Truth and the Life."
It is to this proposition that the church and its institutions of higher education must be centrally dedicated. As Dr. Joseph Pipa, Jr. during his inaugural address as president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1998, said, "We do not view ourselves as theological innovators, but rather as guardians and defenders of the truth delivered.”
To this end, the church's highest commitments must be to the authority of Scripture and the doctrinal standards derived from it as formulated in the historic confessions of the Reformation.
Most of all, the church in all of its manifestations and ministries must exalt Christ.
Libraries and news organizations have frequently used a statement by Jesus about the truth setting men free to give some authority to a kind of undefined truth isolated from its source. But Christ Himself supplied the context and pointed to Himself and His Word as the true source of freedom-producing truth.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." — John 8:31-36
Apart from Christ and the Gospel (Good News), truth will remain "fallen in the streets" (KJV), justice will be turned back and righteousness nowhere to be seen.

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