How easy is it to find the real truth? If it’s easy, it may not be true…
Early this morning, my pastor sent me an email with a link to this article. It reveals a flawed trait of our technologically-minded culture, a trait that leads us away from a real and methodical search for genuine facts. The real truth is often hidden, and purposely so. What so often emerges as real truth in our culture can sadly be a whitewashed compilation of editorialized opinions devoid of the collaboration of actual facts. They can be written with a narrative built to drive a specific thought process that leads us away from reality and into a world of fantasy. When evaluated with just a “touch” of common sense, much of this fact-free jargon can easily be identified as false, as it is often presented without the foundation of genuine reason.
Those who promote falsehoods as truth expect the masses to devour their lies “intuition-free,” and the masses do not disappoint. Vincent D’Onofrio said, “The search for truth is not for the faint-hearted,” and he was right. Real truth is often ugly, and it may not reflect the sterling veneer of political correctness which seems to be a requirement for validity in the present culture. Real truth may not allow room for the plush comforts that can so often only be found when one enjoys the warmth of being wrapped in ideological ignorance. And real truth screams real facts, facts that may be hard to uncover, but facts that need to be uncovered…simply because they exist to expose reality.
What are we ingesting as truth? Whose facts do we take at face value and believe? There can be a lack of open sourcing in our search, whether it’s because we’re lazy or we’ve surrendered our intellect to a search engine. I think it’s becoming more common that where our search begins is often where it ends…Google. Beware.
Take a moment and read the article below...
The Google Minded
Few would be surprised to learn that Google handles 90% of all internet searches. What would be news to many is that – according to journalist Jack Nicas – the internet giant is increasingly “presenting itself as the authority on truth by promoting a single search result as the answer.”
And those results are often wrong.
For example, to the question “Does money buy happiness?” Google recently highlighted a result that stated: “There is enough scientific research to prove it.”
To “Who are the worst CEOs of all time?” Google answered with the names and photos of 11 chief executives, including Gordon Bethune of Continental Airlines and Robert Nardelli of Home Depot.
To “Should abortion be legal?” Google cited a South African news site saying, “It is not the place of government to legislate against women’s choices.”
These are “promoted answers” or “featured snippets” outlined in boxes above other results and presented in larger type, often with images.
And they are believed, by many, to be the definitive answer. Surveys show people “consider search engines their most-trusted source of information, over traditional media or social media.” This is why Google’s featured answers “are feeding a raging global debate about the ability of Silicon Valley companies to influence society... the power of their products and their vulnerability to bias or manipulation.”
This is larger than the criticism directed at Facebook over the spread of “fake news” during the 2016 presidential election. It’s about a new day when the dominant source of information is not simply divorced from truth, but the recipients are divorced from wisdom. And this is the curse of our day: almost unlimited access to information and virtually no wisdom by which to parse it.
When a Google spokesperson said the company’s goal isn’t to do the thinking for users but “to help you find relevant information quickly and easily… [and to] encourage users to understand the full context by clicking through to the source,” I couldn’t help but think back on a similar statement by film director Oliver Stone.
In a speech given at American University, responding to the distortions and factual errors pointed out in his film JFK (presented as a faux-documentary on the Kennedy assassination), Stone said that films shouldn’t be the end-all for what is true and that people “have a responsibility to read a book.”
He went on to say, “[No one is] going to sit through a three-hour movie and say, ‘That’s that.’”
He’s wrong. That is exactly what people do.
Or, as University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci who studies technology’s effect on society said,
“This is how people learn about the world.”
Yes, it is.
So when the featured answer to the query, “Why are Komodo dragons endangered?” is volcanoes, fire and tourism, there is a problem. Particularly when you find the source was a Canadian elementary school student’s report that was posted online, and that Komodo dragons aren’t endangered at all.
But people who actually know this, or bother to find out,
James Emery White
Jack Nicas, “Google Has Already Picked an Answer for You—Too Bad It’s Often Wrong,” The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2017, read online.
See also James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).
About the Author...
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.
Wars are ugly, but they are often necessary. The purposed action of violence against opposing forces and ideals weave a common thread throughout our history, from Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam, leading the first recorded conflict in Scripture (Genesis 14) to the continuing war against terror today, war has always been. We can be confident that, on this earth, war will always be. And, out of necessity, war requires a great sacrifice; however, that sacrifice seldom comes from those who so adamantly oppose such conflict; the sacrifice is firmly planted on the shoulders of those who, through extraordinary bravery, step boldly into the path of harm to perform the bidding of others, so often for the well-being and freedom of a nation that may remain ignorant of the true cost.
English philosopher, John Stuart Mill, wrote in 1862:
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminate their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.” – John Stuart Mill
As an American, I can look out upon the vast expanse of a great nation that has remained free, not because of those who stand in opposition to war, but because of those who chose to do what was necessary for the sake of a people, a nation, and a freedom that has too often required the blood of the brave. I am certainly not advocating that war is good, but it has often been required. And, where it has been required, the American solider has stepped forward, leaving being their families, to serve in defense of a cause that they identified to be greater than themselves.
Politicians and tyrannical ideologies are the true instigators of most conflict; consequently, it is not their blood that will carry them through to victory; it is the blood of the solider. I believe that most soldiers engage in warfare with a profound hesitancy to carry out the brutal acts of violence they have been trained to perform, but they carry on all the same. We are graced to be in the presence of men and women who are willing to engage their very life in the defense of our own, and the memories of those who have died performing this service for us should stand out as a stark reminder that our freedom is not free; it never has been, and it never will be.
On this Veterans Day, let me express my eternal gratitude to those who choose to live a life in the service and defense of the United States of America. Politicians have not made us great, nor have they made us free. That honor lies solely with the American solider. No medal, pinned to their chest, is worthy to denote their sacrifice. No monument to the fallen adequately portraits the true cost paid by those whose names are inscribed. Americans owe a debt to the U.S. solider that we cannot repay. Thankfully, soldiers continue to serve, not because of the monetary rewards or the medals and ribbons awarded, but because they are driven to defend the distinct call to freedom contained within our founding documents…a call that is constantly challenged, often from within the borders of the very nation they are impassioned to defend.
Let us take time to remember the American solider, their families, and those who have died in defense of our great nation, fighting wars they did not start, defending the honor of a nation that may not always be appreciative, and preserving a freedom that has proven to endure only at the great cost of the few who have had the courage and integrity to defend it. With immense gratitude, I salute our veterans. I thank God for you. We should all thank God for you.
When I’m watching the Georgia Bulldogs (or, for the UGA purist, “Bulldawgs”), I am focused. I’m intently watching the clock, the play, considering the down and the amount of yards needed, thinking ahead to the possibilities, etc… Sadly, my sterling armchair coaching (and, it is sterling!) is never even heard, but I’m focused-in either way. Football holds my attention; it excites me, and it reallocates my focus and defines my mental energies.
Does our walk with Christ profit from the same intense focus that we give other things in life…like football…or does it operate on a frequent deficit of our attention?
Sadly, I’m fairly certain that if we all answered honestly, we would have to admit that our walk with Christ doesn’t always ramp-up as high as it should on our list of priorities. There’s too many “other” things pressing on our attention. Our pride, our priorities, our preferences, and our problems…just to name a few. I’m also fairly certainly that we could probably all admit to a relationship-straining lack of focus in our walk with God…at least from time to time. Satan is distracting; he’s really good at it, and, honestly, we often swallow the bait.
We humans are quite easily distracted, and, invariably, our prioritization is often circumstantial. Something can often only be important at the moment we need it, and when we need it, it is of utmost importance. When it’s needed no longer, it can apathetically and unapologetically be taken for granted, or completely disregarded altogether. Am I wrong? The air in our tires isn’t even a thought in the mind of most drivers…until it’s not there; however, when we’re stranded on the roadside, waiting 2 hours for AAA to come rescue us, it becomes a definite priority. (FYI...my timeframe of 2 hours is an example of "grace." It can longer...)
Our relationship with God, through Christ, should hold the highest place on our personalized list of priorities. God’s call to repentance from our “old way” of life, our changing of mind and direction involving sin, and our relentless pursuit of God in our “new self” should become much more than “just important”…it should become the imperative. And, it is where we should reallocate the wealth of our focus.
1 Chronicles 22:19 says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.”
Isaiah 55:6 tells us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”
Matthew 6:33 instructs, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The call to seek God is clear, and it’s a call for the reallocation of our focus from the temporal and evil things of this world to the righteous and holy things of God. Remember the words of Colossians…
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” – Colossians 3:5-6 (NIV)
Yet, we often do the exact opposite...
It is because of the alluring qualities of these things mentioned in Colossians that our sin nature rebels against God’s instruction…pulling our eyes off of the majesty and glory of God, and dragging us deep into the gutter of sin…but, so often, it doesn’t drag us off kicking and screaming. To often, we go willingly…unapologetically surrendering, and becoming subservient to the sinful things of this world…inattentive to the God of the universe…pulled away from repentance by our attraction to a world of lesser things.
Sin is seductive and sexy (can I say sexy in a Christian blog?), and it’s something we find easy to focus our energies on, because it offers to us an immediate return upon our time and energy investment. Sinning directly lines up with the humanistic worldview of culture…the embrace of satisfying our own will and desires at our discretion. And, in the moment, sinning becomes the real God, because it is, “in the moment” of that sin, where we have removed God as the head of our life and replaced him with a circumstantial and temporal lordship. Our focus has be redirected; it’s be reallocated, and it’s now working against God’s will to subvert the lordship of Christ in the life of His child, the child Christ died to save.
Satan is a liar, a competent and very reliable enemy. We can always trust him to become the adversary in any given situation. Remember his little tree-side chat with Eve in Genesis…a chat that is still boldly resonating after-shocks into our world to this very day…
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)
What Satan was really saying is this…
“Eve, look at me. Take your focus off of God, because He’s lied to you. Look over here at this wonderful opportunity to become like God. This is a great time for you to become more enlightened. It will involve a little rebellion against God, but such is life. He'll forgive you. Focus your mind on what this “sin” can do in your life in this pivotal moment…the immediate enjoyment and knowledge that it will bring into your world. Don’t look at God, look at me…look at the immediate personal prosperity that is at your fingertips. Don't miss this opportunity, because it may never come again! Reallocate your thoughts here, and don’t worry about God.”
All the while, Jesus is screaming to us from His place on a sideline of our choosing…”Stop, and look at the glories I have promised you. Trust in me and not in the sin nature that only offers temporary satisfaction leading to destruction. Look upon my sacrifice, and find true peace…a peace grounded in an intensely focused relationship with the One who took your place on the cross of your sin.”
Yet our focus is often consumed with the temporal things of this earth, the debilitating offerings of sin, and the exchange of the eternal glories of God for the earthly guarantee of fleeting satisfaction. How can we be so naive?
This is the final installment of my blogs on repentance. I could certainly do more, but I feel that the real message to be learned is that our repentance requires focus. It’s a focus on God, a fixation with the true cost of our salvation and the worth of the blood of Jesus in our life. In a world of sinful temptation and deception, is our faith and relationship with God strong enough to sustain itself when the “serpent” tries to convince us that God’s commands are not as important as His Word tells us they are? Are we willing to substitute some temporary satisfaction in the place of God's best for His child? Are we willing to purposely cause a chasm in our relationship with God?
The path to a real, relevant, and growing relationship with God means a constant walk down the road of repentance. It's a road of daily self-evaluation. That road requires our attention, our focus, and the moment-by-moment sacrifice of our sin nature. Give it up! Sin is a road to nowhere. Although sin may bring about a temporary satisfaction, the end result is always destruction. Real repentance always leads to an increase in our walk with a God who never disappoints.
2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Let our lives be lived with a repentant heart, so that we my find the wealth of intimacy and power found only in real relationship with Christ, the Son of God, who died for our right to be heirs of an eternal glory with Almighty God!
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!