For a number of years now I’ve loved the Karl Barth quote about how we as Christians are called to hold the “Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” I think it holds a number of ideas pertinent to living as the people of God in 2017.
We believe that the scriptures reveal truths about who God is, but also about how he calls us to live as his peculiar and redeemed people.
In order to live as God’s people though, as this quote suggests, we need to know the truths about the world. “What is going on in the world?” is a necessary question to ask before responding as God’s people, or we are simply meeting needs that might not exist, missing ones which do, teaching and preaching in ways that people don’t resonate with or understand, and becoming isolated from the cultures in which we find ourselves in and the communities we come from. To do this, we need to be informed about the world, and a key source of this information is the news.
Hence, we must “hold the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other” (or our phone with a news app).
More and more, though, what is true or factual is being replaced by what is false or misleading. And simply holding both in our hands makes it very hard to determine what is going on in the world, let alone how we should respond. The Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, through to the American Presidential race, was run on misleading statements, lies, and half-truths. Politicians would make false statements that couldn’t be backed up, the news would roll with it, but when fact checks were published the next day, the untruths had already seeped into the consciousness of much of the public.
Now we have an American presidency that flat out denies evidence, and leans on their own construction of truth: alternative facts.
Combine this with social media algorithms in which things we don’t want to see get filtered out, and attention spans so short many people share articles without reading past the headline, and you have a recipe for bubbles of belief based off of emotion rather than truth.
This was all so significant, that the Oxford Dictionary came out with the word Post-Truth as the word of 2016. Post Truth is essentially the proliferation of ideas founded on emotions rather than facts.
Which begs the question – how do we as God’s people ensure that as we read the truths of Scripture about God, how to respond to him, and to this world, do so faithfully when knowing what is happening in the world requires such immense levels of care?
We believe that more than ever we must be responsible consumers of information, slow to reach conclusions, and quick to fact check, check for bias, and scrutinise sources. We cannot believe everything we read on the internet. The imperative to keep educated, informed, and aware is stronger than even 2 years ago. We as young adults, committed to the God with us, need to choose to focus on being Christ’s body with the world or we will be not of the world, and not in it.
As we seek to discover how we might respond as the Grace Collective, as Christians, as adults, please feel free to join us at Selwyn Library on the 8th of March at 7:30pm (6 St Stephens Ave, Parnell).
Jeremy is our Grace Collective coordinator (ie. the bawse). As well as GC stuff, Jeremy studies Theology and Carey Bible College and is a volunteer youth leader. On any given day he can be found riding his bike, drinking coffee with mates or procrastinating assignments.