It seems we are the same way in other areas of our life. Society’s glitter draws crowds. Charismatic religious teachers unintentionally or intentionally cause misdirection. Rather than a focus on Christ, there is a focus on sports, a promotion of a culture or a clawing for money. While a magician’s misdirection can be controlled, the simple person is illiterate to life’s parasites. We can’t risk being simple, not for a follow of Christ, we need to understand truth and why it’s true.
There are three main ways people come to believe something is true:
1) because it feels good: like it feels right, one just thinks it’s right or one just believes it’s right
2) because one was taught it: for example it’s a tradition or someone told them it was true
3) or one has personally researched the topic and has proved it out with adequate evidence
Interestingly, most would probably agree that the third way is the only reliable option. However, in reality, I think most use the first two methods.
But I have Faith
Every year, the holiday before New Years, one finds children from around the world with great faith in the existence of one “Santa Claus”. So much excitement, so much belief, so much faith! But alas, it’s a disappointment to all that Santa’s North Pole shanty (or maybe illustrious spread) is all but a figment of one’s imagination. Every movie, every mall copycat, every image is just make-believe. The same goes with tooth-fairies, unicorns and gnomes. I could think that fish blow trumpets, elephants fly and that mermaids swim beneath the ocean tides, but that does not make these thoughts true. The belief may feel good, but just because it feels good, does not make it true.
But This Is What I Was Always Taught
The “Elf on the shelf” may be a money-making machine for the manufacture and an amazing dream for deceptive parents to keep the “kids in line”. Toddler and company may think it’s true because of being taught it’s true. Uncle Bill, Aunt Sandra and Grandpa may affirm the existence of the infamous spaghetti monster, but that doesn’t make it true or not. A logical fallacy is exposed here, to say something is true just because someone “who I respect” says it’s true. Just because you read something or someone tells you something does not necessarily make it true. One may be trying to be truthful, but they may have assumptions wrong, not sufficient knowledge and no justified reasons for that claim.
Nor is it good or bad, right or wrong to have a weekly practice of slurping soup for supper every Sunday (no, I don’t do that, if you were wondering). Nor is waving candles, juggling candies or shooting cameras good or bad in themselves. One just addressed me that when he goes to one group of Christians, he is told that some belief or action is “Christian” or “not Christian”, but then another group says the opposite. However, when one looks at the Scriptures, nowhere on its pages fair can one find the topic of concern (or anything close to it) even addressed. Groups teach things, those things become standard thought and practice and then those things become conflated with Scripture and assumed to be good or evil. However, another logical fallacy is exposed to the light here, an argument from tradition. Just because we have “always” done something (or not), does not make it right or wrong.
If It’s True, It’s True
What makes something true is if it’s really true. If a truth claim matches reality and we have good reason for something to be true. This is called the correspondence theory of truth. My beliefs, my faith, my feelings need to be grounded upon truth, upon reality. For example, conspiracy theories are seductive because they are novel, exciting, “hidden knowledge” and affirm our desires for skepticism in others. While many may have truth surrounding them, many are just the figment of one’s imagination. Sadly, Christians are some of the first to fall for them when we should the most discerning people.
The same goes with right and wrong. What makes something wrong is if it’s wrong and what makes something right is if it’s right, and the reasons to support that position. Anyone can say anything, any writer can write anything. That’s why we need to be a discriminator between facts and opinions of others. Question assumptions, question assumptions, question assumptions. Not just others, but yours as well. Know the biases and understand why one in trying to “sell you” a bill of goods.
Tools of the Trade
To be able to understand what is going on behind the scenes, one needs observation skills that can peer through the trick’s deception, which include knowledge and thinking skills. For the most important things in life, we can’t just sit back. We have to be discerning and observant concerning devious ideas. Here are some ideas to help in discernment and source credibility.
Deliberate: as you research a topic, you need to be deliberate and devoted to find the correct answers. You need to be passionate about the topic so you can step out of your way to research the topic. This calls for discipline and dedication. One can’t be lazy and expect truth to come one’s way.
Dubious: a healthy dose of skepticism is always needed. Do you accept a teaching or claim blindly without even examining it? Just because it seemed to be birthed out of a “Christian culture” does not say there is Scriptural evidence for it. Yes, you need to think one is innocent until proven guilty. However, in the world of ideas, no idea has that right, nor are all ideas the same. I would rather fall on the side of skepticism on an idea until I am sure it really is true.
Detailed: as you search, research multiple sources, assess the trustworthiness of the sources (next section). Reading the other side of the story helps keep you accountable to the truth, another can pin point out the areas that one misses when making a case. They also help you assess the trustworthiness of the source you are using.
The ABC’s of Source Credibility
A. Author: Who wrote the source? Is he or she credible and a qualified authority?
B. Biases: Everyone has biases. Does your source, however, show both sides and give justified reasons why the other side fails? Is someone trying to hawk a product, or is there a conflict of interest? Does your source allow questioning and skepticism, willing to answer your concerns?
C. Current source: If your topic is time sensitive, is your source dated or is it timely?
D. Disinformation: Does the sources have disinformation, misinformation and propaganda?
E. Errors: Is the source accurate or could the source be a satire or a spoof?
F. Fidelity: Integrity and reliability is an overall all sense you will need to cultivate as you research. Is there a sense of stability of information or is there a lot of extreme rhetoric and bombastic language and claims?
G. Genuine: Cited sources are good. However, are the sources authentic? Are primary sources being used?
When it comes to truth in Christianity, we need to focus on the Bible, not adding or subtracting from its commands. Christ’s arch enemies were not the Romans, rather the Pharisees and Sadducees who did just that, add and subtract to the scriptures.
What the Bible presents for us is Objective. However, there are many areas that are Subjective. Torturing babies for the fun if it is objectively wrong for all people and for all times. However, clothing style (within the Scriptural specifications) are subjective. We can decide for ourselves what we like and what our culture at large does. When we add to Scriptural specifications, we become the Pharisees, conflating God’s Word with our thoughts. When we ignore Scripture for our social customs and emotional feelings, we are a Sadducee who denies the Spirit’s inspiration for our own disbelief.
It comes easy to judge another spiritually on issues that have no biblical justification or even biblically based precepts. Biblical principle rather than personal opinion, biblical command rather than social customs, and reasonable arguments rather than emotional charges should become our norm.
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Truth seekers unite! Look at the evidence, does the evidence make sense, if not, why not? Evaluation of the credibility of the source of the ideas is essential. What biases shine through (everyone has them)? Lastly, hear the other side (Proverbs 18:17). Serious research of valid sources should replace wild speculation and questionable resources. We should not accept the things we cannot prove but rather accept the things that we have evidence for.
For the next post I want to carry on with the discussion of deception prevention. Some in queue for the future include using wisdom and a conclusion that brings all the posts in this series together. You will want to keep an eye open for the next post. The best way is to click here, because you can get them straight to your in-box. You don’t want to miss out! (Click here.)
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Do these ideas and points help you as you search for the truth of a matter? What are your thoughts? Are you planning on changing your ways of research after reading this? Do you disagree with any of the above points? If so what and why?