Fifty years ago in 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Or did he? Despite unimpeachable evidence he made that giant leap, some deny it.
The numbers believing in a flat earth are surging and I had the chance to talk to one of them recently. It is hard to know where to begin in debate when everything has been de-constructed. Perhaps it is better not to engage in conversation at all with provocative stupidity, but around us, the evidence-deniers are growing in number and some of the issues are far from laughable.
Governments across the world increasingly resort to disinformation in order to confuse and deter their critics. Lying has evolved. Not only do some influential political leaders lie – nothing new there – but they know you know they know they are lying and they don’t care. The smirk, in some cases, says it all. Reality has been de-constructed and is being re-constituted in ways that defend vested interests, corruption and violence. The lie itself has become prosaic, unexceptional and, crucially, unimportant.
This is accelerated by the internet, which pumps out utterly confusing and unattributable data. This is not just the product of a legitimate ferment of ideas but an insidious attempt to demoralise people and set one against another. The post-modernists who delighted in radical subjectivity may only have had an inking of where this would lead. The progress obtained by following evidence to belief or policy and then to action has stalled around us. And perhaps within us.
In the Christian faith, experience and feelings are indispensable. The scriptures and history are full of their impact. And in response to a shift from enlightenment to post-modern thinking, Christians are especially encouraged to share their personal story in evangelism because each one has validity. But we need awareness over where the new environment is taking us.
The personal stories we share of faith do not make the Gospel subjective, because it is public truth first. Private stories go so far and in today’s climate run up against an allegation that they are no truer than someone else’s, which may entirely contradict them.
A relationship with God is rooted in faith, not certainty. If there was certainty about God in this world, human freedom over whether to respond to him would be largely removed. The faith God calls us to is not one of mindlessness or irrationality. There is an evidence trail in creation and in God’s dealings with the ancient nation of Israel that culminates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. Countless people have come to faith by inspecting this trail and seeing how it adds up.
What does the new climate of evidence-denying and aversion to truth mean for our evangelism? We need to connect our personal faith to public evidence, otherwise it will sink in the subjective quick sands around us. The parable of the sower shows it is essential for faith to put down roots. We should learn all we can about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the foundations of prayer, Bible reading and fellowship are vital. Yet we skip too much of this and permit others to believe they can also. This may be seen in the numbers who drift in and then out of our churches over the years.
The Gospel is operating in a new environment now which is disinterested in evidence gathering and losing a sense of objective truth that applies to all. This is a cause for concern – not just for the Church, but for all who care about a progressive common life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is endlessly creative in finding ways of touching people with the goodness of God and the claims of Christ.
The question, however, remains: how far is truth going to be dismantled in this new terrain, with all the consequences, before there is a turning back to its shared properties and, ultimately, its origins in Jesus?
Obama's Covert Wars
The use of drones is going to change warfare out of all recognition in the next decades.
Through A Glass Starkly
Images of traumatic incidents caught on mobile phone can be put to remarkable effect.
What Are British Values?
Is there a British identity and if so, what has shaped the values and institutions that form it?