~by Randy Bushey
“In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked (John 18:37,38).
Post-truth (adjective): discarding objective facts in favour of that which is sensual, appeals to the emotion, or aligns more closely with what a person prefers.
Need more evidence that we are in a post-truth culture?
My initial reaction was to assume it was an intentional deception – of the kind permitted on April Fool’s Day.
Sadly, it is not.
However, Emile Ratelband thought it was a legitimate request. He sought legal permission to amend his birth certificate, instantly making him decades younger then his chronological age of 69. In part, his desired rebranding would reverse the calendar by 20 years – in part to make his profile more attractive on an internet dating site.1.
His audacious effort says something about our cultural understanding of truth.
Isn’t the measuring of the passing of time – accurately recorded – indisputable?
But, what if a person’s “felt” age is different from their chronological age. Is biological age immutable? Shouldn’t any of us be able to press rewind and change how old we are according to what we feel? Ratelband declares he is simply the first of “thousands of people who want to change their age.”2.
It may seem outlandish, but a Finnish bioethicist at the University of Oslo agrees. If someone feels younger – and maybe appears to be younger – they should be able to legally alter their birth certificate.
Perhaps the most common objection against age change is that changing age is denying of facts. Age change cannot be permissible because age is a fact, which cannot be changed. Therefore, changing age is impossible.
…But I raise a question of whether it is ethical that legal age is always forced to match chronological age. I propose that sometimes, legal age should be allowed to match one’s emotional and biological age instead.3.
Did you catch that? This is not only an issue of objective truth, but also of ethics?
How on earth is the accurate recording of someone’s age a violation of their rights or a breach of societal moral duties and obligations?
Fortunately, the Dutch court hearing Ratelband’s case ruled with reason and objectivity. He was permitted to think and act younger if he so chose; but he could not expect the government to support his more youthful impulses by amending his legal documents to deny absolute truth regarding the number of years since his birth.
But one can’t help wonder, where will post-truth thinking take us next?
If I disagree with my bank statement, am I free to spend as if I have a greater balance than the bank calculates?
If my physician’s diagnosis is at odds with what I was hoping, can I reject treatment options and expect my body will follow the decision of my mind?
If my team produces disappointing results in the playoffs (does anybody else hear that ominous rustling of Leafs?), can I simply ignore the score and project to my buddies that the result is more in keeping with what I had hoped?
After all, you can have your truth; but, I have mine.
But that disquieting question is always getting in the way: does it work in the real world? Is it even coherent?
Where are we going with the denial of objective truth when it comes to age, gender, and matters of human dignity?
We sometime hear in our post-truth world, “there’s no such thing as absolute truth”.
Hmm. Is that statement absolutely true? How can it be if absolute truth doesn’t exist?
But we all know it does.
Try questioning a formal statement-of-fact after a crime or accident, or in a case of civil justice. I know from experience that in those situations, truth is passionately defended.
Half a century ago, Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer coined the term true truth.
He saw the emerging of the post-truth culture. Yet he – and others – have warned that truth is not the position of the majority of so-called experts; or the results of opinion polls; not what everyone else is accepting; or, even how things appear to be.
Truth is never simply a projection of how I feel, or what I want things to be.
Truth always aligns with reality.
The essence of truth is exclusive. It is not both/and, but either/or.
Truth determines that right is always right; wrong is always wrong.
Truth is unchanging, immutable, incontrovertible, unassailable. Truth is the way things really are.
British social observer and biblical apologist Os Guiness: “In the biblical view, truth is that which is ultimately, finally, and absolutely real or “the way it is”, and is utterly trustworthy and dependable, being grounded and anchored in God’s own reality and truthfulness…Belief in something doesn’t make it true; only truth makes a belief true. ”
Takeaway: the entire western world is being overwhelmed by a tidal-wave of spiritual attack on truth.
When exhorting believers on protecting themselves against spiritual attack, Paul intentionally described the armour beginning with: Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist (Ephesians 6:14).
The Lord Jesus, the Personification of truth, promised that if His hearers obeyed His teaching, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
How are we to know truth? Not by pursuing truth, but by obediently pursuing Christ.