The term ‘fake news’ is more prevalent in our culture than ever before. Fake news itself has been around as long as real news has, but ease of access and ease of spread makes it more formidable in our society than at any point before. Within the Christian worldview there is such thing as objective truth, or truth that exists unaffected by external opinions or experiences. Objective truth corresponds to the way things actually are.
The Good News and Fake News
Why is objective truth so key to the Christian worldview? Because either Jesus Christ is the Saviour, or He isn’t. The gospel cannot both be true and untrue. If the Good News is fake news, it’s bad news – it’s actually not news at all. Even the apostle Paul once wrote that “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In other words, if Christ isn’t who He claimed to be – if it is just fake news, we are pitiful
Furthermore, we actually have a claim to truth. Objective truth must come from an objective source, and that source is God Himself. Jesus Himself claims that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and that He Himself is truth (John 14:6). The world seeks for truth but lacks truth’s foundation. There is no unchanging, unbiased, perfect standard to which they can point. The Christian, on the other hand, can point to the God who is there as the source of the way things actually are – the objective source of truth.
If we have such a strong foundation for truth, we should also be known as people who hold truth in high regard. Instead, we too often are sucked into the fake news vortex through confirmation bias. It manifests in a couple of ways: (a) labeling things as “fake news,” and (b) sharing fake news.
Labelling things as “fake news”
There is no question that media bias exists, and that even major media outlets have published untrue things. Some outlets are more egregious than others. Nevertheless, major outlets still share true things, and we shouldn’t label them “fake” simply because we disagree. When a story or headline confronts our own biases, we should do our due diligence to determine whether or not the story is true rather than dismiss it at the outset.
Romans 1 tells us that those who are afraid of the implications of the truth of the gospel “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Obviously, this is in relation to the truth of God and the gospel rather than a news headline, but we can be guilty of a similar thing when we disregard or suppress truth simply because we fear what the truth implies. As Christians, the truth is on our side, so we need not fear the truth. After all, God is truth. We should be known as people who fearlessly follow the truth no matter where it leads. We Christians are not defined by a particular political ideology or backed into a corner with a specific narrative. Instead, we are free to rise above the partisan fray and be truth-tellers and truth-seekers. Preemptively labeling things as “fake news” because it doesn’t comport with the party line is inconsistent with the Christian worldview.
Sharing Fake News
On the other hand, certain news really is fake, and we should do our best to avoid spreading it. Often, we are susceptible to headlines which confirm our own biases. If a news story or viral meme contains information which coincides with our own narrative or assumptions, we are less prone to scrutinize. In the same way that we should examine the truthfulness of news which confronts our bias, we must also be vigilant to examine the truthfulness of news which confirms our bias.
A good rule of thumb is this: if you aren’t sure that something is true, wait to share until you are. If you find that it is difficult to ascertain the truth, whether because of distrust of the media or a difficulty in conducting research, it would be better to share nothing than share a lie. We as Christians should be known as truth-seekers and truth-tellers.
If God is truth and the God of truth, then fake news is contrary to God’s will and His character. Again, as Christians, we do not belong to a political party, ideology, or narrative. We belong to truth – the truth of His Word and the reality of how things actually are. Often times, the truth of His Word corresponds to the agenda of a particular party or ideology, or at the very least corresponds with a particular position on an issue. Nevertheless, we are not boxed into a camp. Sharing lies (knowingly or unknowingly) because they advance a narrative is counter to the Christian worldview. We should not betray our Christian worldview for the sake of a political one.
The Good News is True News
So why does it all matter? Why write an article addressing the issue of fake news? Because we need to be people who hold the truth in high regard for the sake of the gospel. If we as Christians are so irresponsible with the truth, what does that say about the objective truth of the gospel we share? In other words, if we demonstrate a reckless relationship with the truth, mislabeling the truth as fake and sharing the fake as truth, why should people trust us when we insist on the truth of God’s Word? The gospel (or ‘Good News’) is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born into the world, died to pay for the sins of mankind, and rose from the dead to conquer death. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s true.
If we aren’t stewards of the truth – if we aren’t trustworthy in the things we say and share – why would someone believe you when you share the Good News? We should be trusted as truth-tellers and truth-seekers, and Lord willing, that will be one less stumbling block to the gospel. May even our Facebook and Twitter feeds be to the glory of God – an oasis of truth in an increasingly truthless world.
If we as Christians are so irresponsible with the truth, what does that say about the objective truth of the gospel as we share it?