Monday, June 25, 2018

"Fake News" & "Fake Theology"


I have no idea how I managed to get into the good graces of Pastor Tony Mansinho who pastors Calvary Apostolic Church in Pittsburgh, PA.  In about a five-month period, he has sent me more than 50 books that have been of excellent quality and not just fillers for a bookshelf.  He has also shared several pics of his personal library and it is composed of a wide range theological works that I am confident would be stimulating to any pastor-theologian.  One of the books that he sent me was by Abdu Murray, Saving Truth:  Finding Meaning & Clarity in a Post-TruthWorld, published by Zondervan.  I was not familiar with this author but once I started reading, the compelling nature of it did not allow it to be easily put down.  As I read, highlighted and made marginal notes, my mind began to run down the proverbial rabbit trail. 

Murray spends time developing and proving the fact that the American church has lost its ability to think critically which in turn has greatly affected her ability to discern.  Furthermore, we are not only living in a post-modern generation but a post-truth world.  “Post-truth” was the 2016 Word of the Year which was selected by Oxford Dictionaries.  It means “relating or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  Murray notes that this word actually had its origin in 1992 but by 2016 the usage of this word had ballooned 2000 percent.  He then made the connection to the last presidential election in 2016 and how that “fake news” ramped up a very emotionally charged run for the White House that resulted in what very few thought could happen.  The facts were dismissed for the sake of the personal agendas touted by politicians and their party affiliations.  Murry points out that this is the spirit of the age.  It has created a horrible atmosphere for our country that I do not recall ever having been present.    


One of the more remarkable things that Murray brought to the table was the matter of how we gather information in our world.  Instead of pursuing what is the truth, too many are pursuing what they want to be the truth.  He quoted Stephen Marche, who wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, who said that many Americans are getting news from sources that are at best lacking credibility and at worst are sinisterly dark in trying to form what people believe.  He states that comedy and satire shows like The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, are shaping the beliefs of viewers who have become so lazy with their thinking that they are selling their minds to pied pipers who are leading them to their own destruction. 

As I read, highlighted, and scribbled in the margins of this book, my mind took a turn toward theological and doctrinal trends of our day.  Here is the question that I wrote to myself at the bottom of page 17:  The greater question being; are preachers falling into that trap?  What suspect sources do I use that might obscure the real truth?  Those are sobering questions and they really need to be answered!  Murray also gave attention to all of social media platforms that have given every person with an itch to scratch a platform by which to scratch it.  He summed it up by saying that when our feelings get in the way of the facts, far too often we go with our feelings.  Curiously this matter can be very destructive to Pentecostals who believe in the active work of the Spirit (and I do believe this) and at the same time, much of what is passed off as the “work” of the Spirit in our day can be highly subjective in nature.  It is crucial that we find the objective unchanging Word of God to be the absolute centerpiece of our thinking and of ministry practice in the 21st century church.  So, if Murray observed that You Tubers could have huge followings with little regard to the truth and effect “fake news,” I wondered how much “fake theology” is floating around in our day?  That is a provoking question that made for some more written thoughts in my journal.  I will share some of those matters that came to light over the next few days. 

I wondered what could contribute to “fake theology” in my own work in the church.  One of the greatest contributors to that would be my American mind.  Very subtly but very effectively the devil (which far too many have dismissed in our world) has sown tares among the wheat in such a way that the pursuit of the American dream has somehow gotten woven into our ideas of how the kingdom of God should advance.  We have become incredibly tolerant of every little doctrinal inclination that would soften the hard truths displayed in Scripture.  When we are willing to call everything “Christian” even though it is in direct opposition to Scripture we are buying into the whole deception that is “fake theology.”  Recently, someone questioned me about the so-called “Light Doctrine” (aka Holy, Righteous, Wicked; Friends of the Bridegroom) which basically expresses an alternative to New Testament salvation for those who “haven’t heard the gospel” or for those who “are walking in all the light they know.”  There are those who would declare those people as “innocent” in their sin except for the Roman letter which Paul was quick to determine that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23).  He had previously very strongly set up the gospel parameters in Romans 3:10-19 that pretty well sums up the condition of all mankind.  I also had to consider what Jesus had said at the end of His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 when he said that those who hear and do the sayings of his would be like a man who built his house on the rock and he withstood the storm.  Those who did not hear and do his sayings were like fools who built on the sand and great was the fall of their house.  I then followed that line of reasoning with John 3 where the command was given that we must be born again.  If you keep the sayings of the Lord, you will build your house on a solid foundation but if not, the sands will wash away and people will be lost. 

Truth is unchanging but when we let the American consumer mentality of choice move into our doctrinal positions, theology becomes “fake” and will be filled with partial truths, doubt, apathy, and intellectual dishonesty.  Theology is not fake will be that which is filled with knowledge, truth, error, life, death, light and darkness.  At the core of “fake theology” are roots of idolatry which exalts itself against the truth of God’s Word.  Anytime that a church service becomes about man instead of God, emotions, feelings and personal experience muddles the whole matter of true worship.  I am concerned that preaching at large has become nothing more than glorified pep rallies to help us get through the little bumps and scrapes of our little lives.  Therefore, I have to ask myself another question:  Do the Scriptures stipulate for me what is the substance of God-honoring and Christian preaching that flows against “fake theology?”  I know the Scriptures set up that for us and over the next few days, I hope to get to the root of what causes the departure from God-exalting truth that is where “fake theology” has its genesis. 

Thanks for Reading. . .

Philip Harrelson 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Feel so challenged. Thank you

"Fake News" & "Fake Theology" Part 3

In this last post on the matter of “fake news” and its comparison to “fake theology” ( Part 1 , Part 2 ), I would like for us to conside...