A recent Rand Corporation report indicates we are experiencing a “truth decay” in our country, and the problem is systemic. There is so much “fake news” circulated on cable TV and on social media, we confuse fact and fiction, and lose our trust in those who are pledged to help us lead better lives. It only makes sense that a focus on telling the truth is the most effective way for a society to function, and, for this reason, a decay in truth is imposing a grave threat to America. We must combat this threat; but how are we to do it?
As always, we can most effectively address a cure by thoroughly understanding the disease and what is causing it. Pardon another dental reference, but the “root” of the cause of “truth decay” is a loss of virtue. Truth decay is only a symptom of a greater threat to our society, the decline in morality. Relativism (the belief that all truth is relative to our needs and experiences) has, over the decades, insidiously influenced our beliefs about right and wrong. We are told such moral beliefs change with the times we live in. Proponents of relativism would say we have “progressed” away from a belief in the absolute concept of morality laid out in the Ten Commandments. Truth decay then is a predictable consequence as we ignore the commandment to not “bear false witness against another.” As the Rand Report indicates, truth decay has reached epidemic proportions in our society today.
I have presented what we Christians think causes truth decay. What do unbelievers say is the cause? From the comments I’ve received in addressing this subject in the social media, and from what I’ve read, unbelievers don’t comment on the cause; they acknowledge the disease and claim that it is the social media, and cable news programs that promote it. They blame the disease on the lack of education in civics in our schools and at home. In not addressing the cause of the disease, as I have, they ignore the probability that there’s something else going on here; that truth decay might actually be the predictable collateral damage of an inadequate code of morality. Of course, if they were to acknowledge that cause, they can only respond by maintaining that their atheistic philosophies are just as effective as the Christian code of morality in determining an effective moral code. But, that dog won’t hunt because, for the past three quarters of a century or so, from the time relativism began to rear its ugly head, our moral code has been compromised and, in the words of songwriter Paul Simon, we have been “slip sliddin’ away” into the abyss of uncertainty and confusion. This “truth decay” is only the latest recognized indication that something isn’t working in our society in this day and age.
So then, why doesn’t a moral code based on philosophy work? Theologian John Calvin had a reason for why a godless, relativistic moral code based on philosophy comes up short. He said, “they (the philosophers), while doing their best to encourage us to be virtuous, have nothing to say except that we should live ‘according to nature.'” In ignoring God and telling us to live according to nature, philosophers ignore the reality that our nature is sinful; even unbelievers recognize that there is something very wrong with our world. Our sin motivates us to be lead us astray from the pursuit of a good and truthful life. Calvin goes on to say that “Scripture draws its encouragement from the true fountain. It teaches us to contemplate our lives in relation to God, our Author, to whom we are bound.” So, the question still remains; how are we going to fix the problem of “truth decay?”
Education is critical. It only makes sense to recognize how important a role education in civics plays in trying to stem the tide of “truth decay.” But that’s just treating the symptom. We must also educate people on morality. What institution do you suppose is best equipped to do that? Not our schools; Christianity has been ostracized from our public schools. The answer of course is our churches, and even unbelievers recognize that it only makes sense to rely on an institution that teaches God is truth and to obey his absolute moral law to combat the threat of “truth decay” and, for that matter, any other moral threat to our society.
Ironically, these same people who have expressed fear of Christianity’s influence in our government and in our society and have supported laws in reducing its influence, are now the ones who are advocating reliance on our churches to help out in preventing the spread of “truth decay.” Yes, it’s an irony, but, of course, it is the right approach, and we Christians should try harder in our churches and in our witness to emphasize what Jesus believed about the importance of truth. Many times he would begin a sentence, “verily, verily, I say unto you;” that means, truthfully, truthfully, I tell you this.
Only by introducing people to Jesus Christ, and exposing them to the gospel truth, can we effectively educate people on virtue and successfully combat the threat of “truth decay.”