Back in 2012, 26 people were shot and killed in a horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The incident was the deadliest school shooting in the history of America. Shortly thereafter, Alex Jones, a far-right wing conspiracy theorist and the host of the infamous “InfoWars” website and internet radio show, started to promote an idea that the entire incident was a fabricated “false flag” incident by gun control advocates. He said the entire incident was a complete hoax, staged with actors, and that this was just all a giant attempt to take away our guns.
Naturally, this upset a lot of people, including the families of those who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting. The families sued Alex Jones for defamation, and he was found guilty. And this past week, a jury said Alex Jones should have to pay $45.2 million dollars in punitive penalties as a result of the emotional distress he inflicted on the families of the victims. Jones is estimated to be worth well over $100 million dollars.
Alex Jones has a history of promoting popular conspiracy theories in our culture. And to the best of my knowledge, he’s one of the first to actually have to pay the price for doing so. What many conspiracy theorists don’t realize, is that many of the theories they espouse and promote on a daily basis are things that can actually be considered defamation and libel in a court of law. Bearing false witness isn’t just a crime in the Old Testament, it’s something you can also be held accountable for in the United States of America.
Unfortunately, you and your garden variety crazy uncle on Facebook and Twitter will never have to pay for promoting conspiracy theories, because Alex Jones is rich, and you and your crazy uncle probably are not. But the crime is just as real, and the ethical violation is just as bad. Just because you get away with it doesn’t mean you are free to run your mouth about every bad idea that enters your head. Our nation may not hold you accountable due to it not being worth their time, but you can be sure that one day, the judge of all the Earth will do so. The BIble says that we will have to “give an account” for every idle word spoken in judgment one day. So be careful about what you say.
For ultimately, I believe the Lord is very concerned about things that center around truth. And whether that truth is raw hard data, or things of a more philosophical nature, I think that God takes truth very seriously. He’s the One that calls Himself “the Truth” after all.
Truth is about the reality of the world as it is. 2 + 2 is 4. It’s what actually “is” that should concern us the most. Things are not always as they appear to be, and a first super casual glance can often be wrong. So we need to come to the world with a sense of curiosity and exploration, a sense of curiosity. And in the same way, we must be careful about saying something to others that simply isn’t true.
While there certainly should be room to openly theorize about things, and to think out loud in the presence of others about an untested hypothesis, we must be careful about letting our openly spoken theories become fact. Otherwise, we’ll get trapped in this realm of circular logic where the idea we propose sounds good enough to us, and because it sounds good enough to us, it’s treated as fact and truth.
To avoid this trap, we must be LOVERS of truth. For when things that aren’t true, but pretend to be true, ultimately attempts to create an alternative world, and is a usurping of God as the creator of all things. And when God created the world He called it good and blessed it. The peddling of falsehood and lies is ultimately an assault on creation itself and God as creator. There is nothing blessed about that.
It’s no wonder JEsus called the Devil the father of all lies, and warned us about such. For the devil is always trying to take the place of God in creation, and to create another world.
It is no wonder then, when in one of the passages in the BIble that the apostle Paul talked about the anti-Christ, Paul connects the coming of the anti-Christ as being grounded in a world that simply does not love truth. And in God’s judgment against such, God simply gives people over to the falsehoods of the world they’ve created.
2 Thes 2:8-12 (NASB): Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
Why is that we don’t love the truth though? In part, I believe we are lazy, and we are afraid. Truth usually isn’t easy to come by. It starts with digging for hard facts and then thinking seriously about those facts and even thinking about how you think about those facts.
We prefer to confirm the things we usually already want to believe. Which is why we often turn time and time again to the same sources. And maybe it’s because those sources prove to be reliable. But if we aren’t careful we’ll come to rely on those sources simply because we’ve grown comfortable relying on those sources instead of always digging.
Dr. Tatum at Lee University insisted that the most important class he taught out of all his Bible and theology classes was his class on hermeneutics. Most people thought it to be the most boring and unimportant class.
For those who don’t know, hermeneutics is all about the method of interpretation you use to understand what you are reading in the Bible. Most people just read the Bible and say “we’ll, there it is, that’s what it says.” But they think nothing of the historical context those ancient words were written in, the audience and their presuppositions, the type of genre and literary style an author employed, the way they cited other sources both inside and outside the Bible, and grammatical concerns. They read the Bible as if it were written to middle class soccer moms in the middle of a divorce in the 21st century.
And of course, because of the sense in which the Scriptures transcends time and location, they were, but in another very real sense they were not. Attempting to understand, “what the Bible says” requires some serious homework. But, it’s a necessary quest if we are going to sincerely attempt to understand what it has to say.
The quest for truth is just as much in the process as it is the actual outcome. 2 + 2 is 4.
The love of the truth begins with an inquisitive mind. I think this must be differentiated from a skeptical mind. An inquisitive mind wants to learn, is always open to the truth, and happily embraces the truth where found, but remains open to new information and reassessing what they know when presented with new evidence. I believe this is different than the skeptic who is forever nervous about making any claim to the truth.
The truth is something we must ultimately wrestle with. And wrestling isn’t easy. For if truth is grounded in the world God created, and the world as it in fact is, then wrestling for truth is some sense a way we wrestle with God. And wrestling with God is a mighty act, that, like Jacob in the Bible, might cause our inward parts to become dislocated, and cause us to become undone.
Beware of people claiming special revelations of truth. While there’s certainly a place for such things, many of those I’ve known claiming such things for themselves were looking for shortcuts to the truth. It’s one thing for the lightbulb to turn after having done the real work of discovering truth, and to have an epiphany moment in which everything just comes together.
But it’s another to embrace random ideas as the truth that just pop in your head while taking a shower after having just skimmed the surface of something. I’ve discovered that most people call revelation these days is just them trusting the random feelings of their gut that they get while shaving in the shower. Our gut, while it knows a thing or two, is also full of fear, ignorance, biases, doubts, lusts, greed, and all sorts of other things that get in the way of us truly knowing things.
Real truth is discovered by careful examination and wrestling. And there is no shortcut to it. But we like the short cuts. We like the revelations of fortune tellers and prophets because they keep us from wrestling with truth and with God. And real truth can scare us, for it ultimately forces us to confront a reality of a world we might not like.
Truth can wreck us. Which is why we engage in so much deflection and slight of hand, and ultimately lie. Because like the people from hell who visit heaven in C. S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce,” the reality of heaven is just too painfully real for the people who live in hell to deal with. In his book, people from hell cannot even step on one blade of grass in heaven without being in a great deal of pain. It’s the equivalent of stepping on a sharp knife, that just pierces right through them.
So, instead of being the shadowy creatures from C.S. Lewis’s vision of hell, we need to become people who love truth. And we must refuse, to the best of our ability, to listen to and propagate the ideas of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. We must become lovers of the truth.
For the truth will ultimately win the day and force us to give an account. And ultimately in his day of reckoning in court, Alex Jones was ultimately forced to confess the truth, and he finally denounced his lies. Of which the Bible also says, that all things hidden will one day be exposed, and ultimately one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.