Who do we believe? The challenge is that in all manners of faith and life we are surrounded by falsehoods, distortions, and even wrongdoing that can leave us confused and off base. It raises a question that only Jesus can answer. ◊
We believe in people and things. We believe in ideas and dreams. We believe in God or some higher power.
We believe in what we read, in what we’re taught, or shown, or told. We believe in what others who we respect and admire believe.
And we always believe that what we believe in is true. Who would believe otherwise? Why would anyone believe in what they knew to be false and wrong?
Or knew to be a lie?
Your Truth in a Dark World
The problem is that we absolutely do live in a dark world. A world of sin and deception, and cheating, and selfishness. Even evil. The Bible tells us as much. And that we all are guilty and not one is without sin. And even people, like any of us, who knowingly sin and deceive and cheat and self-serve, can do so without intentions of malice but out of some justification that what we do is worth the cost or risk.
Or we simply believe that the cause is worth the deception.
But there really is truth. And whether it’s hidden, covered up, or lied about, to deceive one person or many, truth is real and cannot be negated.
It is what it is.
And we can perpetuate truth or non-truth, or lies. But we know it either way. The challenge is if we’re on the other end of deceit or distortion or wrongdoing and are honestly confused or uncertain about what is going on.
That raises the question that only Jesus can answer.
The Truth Question: What is Truth?
This fundamental question is actually literally the one that Pilate asked Jesus under trial: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
Pilate, the Roman governor over Judah, was seeking answers in a political environment of devious motives of religious leaders and enemies of Jesus. In truth, in any environment, we ourselves 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.
Looking for Truth in Wrong Places
As information is readily available through various channels of flow, we are all being bombarded with perspectives and data that may very well be biased, agenda-driven, prejudiced, manipulative, heartfelt, ideological, sincere, malicious, distorted, innocent, trivial, harmless, misleading, loving, hateful, accurate, outright incorrect or blatantly wrong.
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 high school teacher, or a favored newscaster/reporter, author, blogger, pastor, CEO, political figure, state official, or even network, each have a tremendous platform and therefore opportunity to transfer information that may very well be inaccurate or prejudiced or purposely distorted. Sincere and naive audiences hold the messenger and title in high regard and so the information conveyed has some supposed weight of credibility.
With the crisscross of varied intent out there, it is 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 Discerning Truth
Yes. In matters of religion and life, there are 5 important 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 Says So? Who or what is the source of this information that I’m receiving? 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 that 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, podcast or network, Baby boomer, Gen X, or Millennial, the bias informs the point of view. 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? and 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 and investigation of the matter. To merely believe what one’s favorite news source, publication, website, commentary, pastor, or teacher says without further research is to potentially fall victim to misinformation or deceit. I read multiple perspectives on both sides of controversial topics. Healthy debate and even internal struggle with informed pros and cons of differing sides leads to a wiser and more knowledgeable perspective.
Truth be told, I have a Biblical worldview and therefore Jesus and the Bible inform my faith and view of ultimate Truth and all manner of sin, lies, and deceit in my own life and in all that is around me in a dark and lost world in need of a Savior.
We are all actually like Pilate, confronted with mixed sources of information that can confuse and confound us. In hindsight, Pilate backed the wrong side. Proactively consider these 5 Keys to Discerning Truth so as not to be deceived by an imperfect world. And just 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 well do you filter and discern real 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
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Thank you, Perfect timing… God always has perfect timing. I shared this column on twitter bc it is such an important topic and I love your discussion on it. Have a nice weekend, sir.
Thank you. You too!