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It seems as though there hardly exists a news story these days without controversy and conflicting narratives. In the last months, I have observed normally passive people strongly assert themselves in defending their positions on a broad range of topics, and those of us who typically prefer to remain backstage and simply observe such conversations or avoid them altogether have been compelled to speak up more than usual.
For example, who of us at the start of this year would have thought that whether to wear a mask or not would be one of the most divisive issues of 2020? People are more vocal than ever because whether they clearly discern it or not, there is much more at stake than merely our conversations about such trifle things as masks. Sure, the fear of losing freedoms, our comfortable ways of life, constructs of health, and America as we have known it to be are under attack.
But there is a much deeper and pressing issue at hand. That foundational concern is that truth itself and the declaration of truth are both under attack. It is not merely that respectable “experts” disagree on what is true that has caused concern; it is also that facts and empirical data are no longer accepted by many in society as equaling truth.
For example, many in society are insisting that we ignore clear empirical and biologically based evidence that a man is a man—even if he feels like or desires to be a woman. Humanist theorists are not merely insisting that truth is relevant to the individual in these cases, but they are also pressuring society in general to embrace this new “truth” or be categorized as bigoted, problematic to society, and deceived.
While they insist that truth is relevant to individuals, their demand that individuals blindly accept their constructs of truth undermines their beliefs. In reality, truth is not determined by how a person feels, their political slant, their strong desires, or their experiences. Truth exists apart from individuals’ beliefs—though individuals must accept or reject truth.
To make matters worse, the church is being restricted from meeting together to share knowledge and information in person and worship God together. The very place where God, who is Truth, is to be proclaimed and celebrated corporately is being restricted in many states while protests, some funerals, and political gatherings are being permitted without recourse.
Similarly, books on how God has delivered individuals from sexually perverted lifestyles are being forbidden to be sold in online bookstores. At the same time, the owners and managers of the large social media platforms have taken it upon themselves to become the arbitrators of what is true and false.
With gathering in person being all but shut down, many people are being steered to communicate, obtain information, and share knowledge from the increasingly controlled social media, digital platforms, and biased mainstream news outlets. What the American people are observing is that more than merely our freedoms are under attack; there is a battle intensifying to control what is considered as truth and the dissemination of knowledge.
Attacking truth is the beginning of removing a person’s or society’s freedoms—since, after all, it is God’s truth that ultimately sets us free (John 8:32). This new development of attempting to determine and restrict what is considered truth and who can receive it is nothing short of the beginning of a digital book burning in America.
The philosophical field of study that seeks to answer where truth derives, what is truth, and how we know it is true is known as epistemology. What we are observing in our country is opposing epistemologies coming to a head. Humanists believe that humanity is the source and arbitrator of what is true, while Christians understand that God is truth and all truth—whether natural or supernatural—is His.
The growing secular cries for changing America is ultimately a call to reject God and His wisdom. At its foundation, the United States of America established the Word of God as this country’s epistemological position. After all, it is in “God we trust,” and our dependence upon Him is born out of our eyes being opened to the reality that God is the Truth and in Him is no deceit.
Yet, as our country moves farther away from God’s covenant of grace and embraces natural humanism, our epistemology will continue to shift to a postmodern perspective that illogically asserts objective truth does not exist, and that as long as data exists, it can be interpreted and manipulated according to one’s own feelings, sensory experiences, and desires.
Ironically, to embrace humanism and thus the postmodern epistemology, which suggests that truth is decided by individuals or those with the most power, is to declare everyone as possessing truth or believing that no one does. Such a position can only invite chaos and incite fighting. How vital is epistemology?
Well, whether we realize it or not, everything we do as humans depends upon how we perceive truth and how we then respond to it. For instance, in The Insanity of Madness: Defining Mental Illness, I reveal how the concepts of psychosis that are central to psychiatric disorders (such as schizophrenia and bipolar I & II) are fully dependent upon establishing what is allegedly true about human nature.
By definition, psychosis represents someone who is judged to be deceived by their delusions (“false fixed beliefs”) and/or their hallucinations (“false sensory perceptions”). Without truth, there cannot be an accurate judgment of whether a person is deceived or not. Whether it is politics, education, parenting, health, religion, relationships, science, or any other human domain, our acceptance of truth determines the course of our lives.
Truth is vital to the human soul, and as Proverbs makes clear (e.g., Proverbs 2), God’s truth/wisdom is of the highest value to humanity. In fact, if parents and children do not share the same epistemology, discipleship cannot occur as God intends. The same is true with the covenant of marriage and all relationships. Simply stated, if two (or more) are to walk together, they must first agree (Amos 3:3).
The reason so many people are stirred in their hearts and passionately engaged in conversations on social media these last few weeks is not merely because social gatherings are few and far between. Rather, we are discerning that the powers that be are attempting to control the dissemination of truth and radically alter America’s historic epistemology. Undoubtedly, such a change in how we handle truth will ultimately determine the future of our country.
While it is disheartening that there is a battle for truth, we should not be surprised that truth is under attack. In Genesis 3, we discover that Satan challenged Eve’s epistemology from the beginning, when he asked her, “Did God really say?” (verse 1). Eve chose to dismiss God’s truth and to follow her feelings, desires, and sensory experiences (verse 6), and now all humanity is born into a deep-seated struggle with deceit and the burden of discovering what is true.
When Adam and Eve’s epistemology shifted from God’s wisdom to human wisdom, the world began to fall apart, and truth became hidden from mankind. Thereafter, the default epistemology of all humanity became that of Adam and Eve—turning inward to trust in our feelings, our desires, and our experiences over trusting in God’s wisdom. Because truth is hidden, humanity is vexed with the need to discover truth both in the physical world and the spiritual realm. God desires our souls to be transformed from deceived and deceitful into being filled with eternal truth (Psalm 51:5-6).
The field of “science” itself is a case in point of how this burden not only affects the spiritual realm but also our understanding and approach to the natural world. All truth is hidden from the natural man—especially spiritual truth. If this were not so, we would have no need to be educated and pursue learning truth. All of us—whether Christian or not—are on a journey to discover what is truth, where it derives, and how we know that it is true.
Along this line of thinking, we are not on this journey alone. Part of human nature is to convince others of personal values in hope that they will convert to passionately holding to the same perspective. Whether sports, politics, spiritual faith, clothing, foods, etc., we all treasure and promote a worldview/phenomenology that we want others to consider. But we have another problem with regards to truth: we cannot change the faith of other people.
We can certainly manipulate and forcibly impose truths upon them, but only truth itself can convert the hearer. Unfortunately, truth has far too often been utilized as a weapon rather than a healing balm. If we want people to share our epistemology, we must allow truth to cause the change of heart and direction of individuals and our country.
As we engage in conversations and establish or foster relationships, we must keep in mind that our epistemologies ultimately determine whether we walk together or part ways with others. As Christians, we must humbly seek to display the beauty and healing nature of God’s truth that causes repentance, rather than to prove our point. Truth is under attack in America, and it has been since the fall of the first man Adam.
Dr. Daniel R. Berger II is the founder and director of Alethia International Ministries (AIM), where he continues to write and to speak around the country in various churches, organizations, medical communities, and at various counseling and teacher’s conferences. He is also an experienced pastor, counselor, school administrator, and the author of ten books on Biblical counseling, practical theology, education, and the history and philosophy of the current mental health construct. Daniel earned his B.S. in counseling, an M.S. in counseling/ psychology, an M.A. in pastoral studies, and a doctorate in pastoral theology. Daniel is also an adjunct professor at several Universities and seminaries-including serving as the director of a post-grad degree at SEBI (Brasilia, Brazil) in Biblical Counseling, which is specifically focused on understanding the various aspects of the construct of mental illness from a biblical worldview.