What is truth? The question that never seems to get a straight answer

What is truth? The question that never seems to get a straight answer February 12, 2018

It comes down to truth. But how do we know what that is …exactly?

Facebook is currently grappling with its newsfeed, trying to filter Fake News from Real News. At the same time they are trying to push stories that are popular within a user’s circle of friends.

Facebook is facing a philosophical, sociological, and theological reality:  You can’t have what’s popular and at the same time embrace truth. It seems we embrace the falsehoods, the lies and the exaggerated – and we aren’t afraid of telling others, hoping to gain them to our team.

In a fascinating article at Wired Magazine, the multi-billion user company is facing criticism from all sides of the spectrum that it’s playing favorites. Facebook has been called out for screening out conservative thought and at the same time helping promote Russian bought propaganda.

In response, the company is boosting certain publishers, ones whose content is “trustworthy, informative, and local.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and owner of the giant  has finally figured out that social media has played a negative role in a “world that feels anxious and divided.  Facebook has a lot of work to do, whether it’s protecting our community form abuse and hate, defending against intervening nation-states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”

Where do you source truth?

Let’s be honest, we shouldn’t go to Facebook for truth.

We see people on vacation, dining on the beach, drink in hand. For the moment that might be real, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the truth of the situation. The fight at the airport, the sunburn on the winter white skin, the swimwear that fits too snugly.

And social media isn’t a reflection of our day-to-day struggles. We tend to talk about all the good things. Few of us post what we fear – afraid of what others think, afraid of failure, afraid of the future. But that’s reality. That’s truth.

Facebook has impacted the words published on Patheos. For all I know, no one will read this (unless of course you subscribe via email on the right side of this post). For whatever reason, the algorithm has impacted the shares of articles published in this space, one of the largest venues for religious dialogue.

Is it for fear of truth?

The hunt for what’s real

Truth has always been elusive. The famous dialogue between Jesus and Pontius Pilate has Jesus claiming to “bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”

The Roman governor stated with great flourish, “What is Truth.”  In Latin this statement is simply, Quid Est veritas?

Was his question philosophical?  Was it jestful and sarcastic? Was it that of a seeker?

The text denotes that Pilate left before Jesus could answer.

He never really wanted the truth after all.

And I’m afraid that most of us are too afraid of the answer to ask the question.

We are all reaching for truth — even if we don’t know what it looks like

The Four Truths, The Cross, and the Human Condition

In Buddhism, the Four Truths center on suffering:

  1. The truth that suffering exists (Dukkha).
  2. The truth that suffering exists with a root cause (craving).
  3. The truth that suffering can be eliminated (Nirvana).
  4. The truth that there is a way to eliminate suffering known as the Noble 

But truth is more than suffering.

In Christianity truth is not so much a list of facts, rather it’s an embodiment of a person. It was Jesus after all who said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”

So we take him at his claim – that in Him is all truth.

As C.S. Lewis artfully writes, this truth claiming rabbi is a trilemma – He is either Mad , a delusional man with some persuasive skills. Or he is bad, an angel of light sent to delude us. Or that he is Lord, the truth that he claims.

That’s my faith — it lives, and dies, on Jesus. That’s why I can sort out the right from wrong in this crazy world of grey,  because of who is inside me.

Fake News, Facebook, and the Future

I hate the skepticism that this world is brewing. In my generation, it was Nixon  and Vietnam and race relations that caused us to question authority.

In this generation, it’s a swarm mentality over every little wrong. It’s the out-of-proportion responses. It’s the broad brushes that we wipe over entire people.  After all while either believe everything to be true or nothing. There is no middle ground.

In a world of lies, it’s easy to take the cynics path, to trust no one.
I want to believe in something, I really do.

But I’m not ready to trust Facebook to do a good job of sorting it out.

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