In all matters of religion, business, science, politics, history, and even current events around the world, are we really being told the truth? Here are 5 keys to help ensure that you are not being inadvertently misinformed or purposely deceived. ◊
Even if one is only half-way paying attention to matters outside their home, school, workplace, even church, or social circles, the opportunity for the receiving and dissemination of misinformation is clear, or at least should be acknowledged as possible. And this applies to all matters – religion, business, science, politics, history, and current events.
The fundamental question that should be asked is actually a variation of the one that Pilate asked Jesus under trial: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
In truth, we should always be wondering and asking “What is the truth?” “Who do I believe?” “Who is correct?” “Who is being honest?” “Who is actually lying to me?” Failure to exercise even a base-level of skepticism and discernment can lead to the pollution of any portion or all that is right, good, honest and true.
All Information is Not Equal
Unfortunately, in this age of proliferation of data and its readily available access and ease of distribution through various media channels (internet, television, radio, publications), we are all being bombarded with information that may very well be market-oriented, biased, agenda-driven, prejudiced, manipulative, heartfelt, ideological, sincere, malicious, distorted, innocent, trivial, harmless, misleading, loving, hateful, accurate, outright incorrect, wrong or even evil.
We all know this, of course, at least in theory. We want to be smart about what information we take in and believe, but it’s tricky.
We are all actually susceptible to falling for false information every day. Much of this opportunity for misinformation dissemination is caused by the apparent credibility or stature of the person, group, title, or source of that information. For example, a college professor, or even a high school teacher, has a tremendous platform and therefore opportunity, to transfer information that may very well be inaccurate or prejudiced. Students hold the teacher and title in high regard and so the information conveyed has some supposed weight of credibility.
The same goes for an author, or pastor, or CEO, or political figure in local government or state or national leadership. Or a scientist, or an esteemed reporter, or newspaper/journal publication, or television personality or even network.
Yes, it’s quite actually a muddled maze of confusion. Is there a helpful way to wade through the noise on a path toward truth?
5 Keys to Informational Discernment
Yes, there is. Here are key questions to ask yourself when confronted with information on any matter of import. I call them the 5 Keys to Informational Discernment.
- Who’s Telling Me? – In other words, who or what is the source of this information you’re receiving? Is it the news anchor on a cable news show or major network or talk radio show? Is it a journalist or contributor writing for a local or large regional newspaper or media website? Is it some person who wrote a book published by a major publishing house? Is it a senior academic, a senator, a senior pastor? I’ve learned to accept the fact that any person, regardless of title or stature, may be very, very wrong on many, many things. They may be well-intentioned and sincere, but very incorrect. I’ve learned to be very picky about the source of information.
- What is Their Motive? – Every person, business, and institution has a motivation of some sort. It’s worth thinking through the particular motivation or driver behind the story, report, or information you are hearing, watching, or reading. This is not to say that most inputs derive from dubious motives; but rather to suggest one not accept all things at face value. There’s always an angle or point of view or perspective, or incentive. Understand the “why” behind the message.
- What is Their Bias? – Assume there is always a bias. There is always a leaning toward a particular point of view. Whether it is Left or Right, liberal or conservative, Christian or non-Christian, orthodox or otherwise, pro-choice or pro-life, creationist or evolutionist, Bible-believing or otherwise, socialist or capitalist, spiritual or secular, FoxNews or CNN, Babyboomer, Gen X, or Millennial, the bias informs the point of view. Good to know. We are all taking in biased information through our own biased filters. Information that is good, right, bad, inaccurate, or wrong can come from either or even both sides of the spectrum. Knowing the informational slant upfront is a key to any wise assessment of information flow or data.
- What is Their Worldview? – Pilate’s “What is truth?” question was really prompted by the provocative statement by Jesus: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Of course, Jesus was referring to His imminent death for all of mankind. A person’s worldview reflects their answers to big questions about life: 1) Who or what is God? 2) Who am I in context? 3) What is right and wrong? 4) What happens when I die? 5) What is truth? Knowing if one has a Christian/Biblical worldview or a non-Christian worldview provides me with insight about their interpretation and perspective on any given matter. It’s not judgment; it’s wise discernment and helpful understanding of their point of view.
- Am I Informed? – After assessing the source, motive, bias, and worldview of any entity presenting or delivering information, one should conduct their own homework on the matter. To merely believe what one’s favorite news source, publication, website, commentary, pastor, teacher, or trainer says without further research is to potentially fall victim to misinformation or deceit. I always like to read multiple perspectives of both sides on controversial topics. Healthy debate and even internal struggling with informed pros and cons of differing sides leads to a wiser and more knowledgeable perspective.
In summary, there is ample opportunity to be confused and led astray by the proliferation of information that overwhelms us every day. Practice these Keys to Informational Discernment and do not be deceived by this world. As Jesus warned his disciples about the varied voices that would surround them: “See to it that no one misleads you.” (Matthew 24:4)
How do YOU filter and discern Truth?
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11