Oxford Dictionary has recently released its short list for the 2016 “word of the year”. They included words like “coulrophobia” (fear of clowns), “Brexiteer,” “adulting,” and “alt-right.” From the short list, emerged the most important new word for 2016: “post-truth”.
According to Oxford, “post-truth” means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief.” That means that how we feel at any moment takes precedence over objective facts. It might mean that appealing to various subgroups needs and desires take precedence over what actually exists. Or to put it another way, “How I feel is more important that what exists”. From my vantage point, the politics of race, and sexuality in our culture are prime examples of this principle.
One can easily read the last U.S. election into this, when a dizzying array of lies were constantly paraded before the electorate. But according to Oxford, the concept “has been developing for some time”. We as a culture have long been on a road in which truth is slowly disappearing from the rear view mirror, and political agendas take precedence.
I contrast that with a recent report in Macleans Magazine. A recent study was done in which mainline Protestant churches were examined. As many are aware, Mainline Churches include the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church, Lutherans, some Presbyterians and several others. As a basic rule, mainline churches are in serious decline, and if trends continue, will simply cease to exist in this country.
But in a surprising study, mainline Protestant churches that focus on the gospel and prayer are found to be growing. Macleans reported: “Answers in accord with traditional Christian Orthodoxy – basic articles of faith (the ancient creeds), the authority of Scripture, God’s visible working in the world today, the exclusivity of Christianity (Jesus as the door to eternal life), the importance of daily prayer – were tightly bound to growing life in individual churches.”
What is more, the study in question found that the impact of the clergy on the mainline churches was profound. Where the leadership is committed to scripture and truth, the church tends to follow and grow.
Of course the study did not focus on Evangelical Churches, but I suspect if they had, they would have found much the same. Because the term “Evangelical” has become very broad, and now is used to describe any church that wants to identify itself as such, it has become difficult to define the movement. But I strongly suspect that where churches not only claim to believe the Bible, but actively teach it, with an emphasis on Christ and his gospel, churches are in a growth mode.
And this has gotten me thinking. “Post-truth” surely describes a very powerful movement that is shaping the cultural life of the western world. But that certainly is not the last of the story. Wherever a local church focuses on truth, doctrine, the inerrancy of scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, the necessity of the gospel and that explicit faith in Christ is necessary unto salvation – – – when it does that – – it reaches people.
The truth in Christ will never be destroyed by cultural trends. Indeed, if we listen to Jesus, the matter is quite the opposite. When Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the onslaught of his church (Matthew 16:18), we can expect just the kind of results that Macleans reported. As long as Jesus is preached, “Post-truth” cannot win the day.