Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Is anything absolutely true?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by the careful wording of one of the TV news readers. She said something to the effect of, ‘According to the Japanese government, there is very slight elevation of radiation levels around the damaged reactors, not enough to impact human life.’ Then later in the newscast, she said virtually the same thing, but added, ‘However, the American government hasn’t, so far, been able to get its own people close enough to take measurements.'

In other words, don’t trust what you are hearing.

During what came to be called "Arab Spring" the news reported about an uprising in Libya. It detailed the efforts of the common people to rise up and throw off their oppressive government, and the fiendish attacks on these unarmed people by the army, by military planes, and by armed Gadafi supporters.
Of course, Gadafi came back stating that the people of Libya were ‘his children,’ that they all loved him, and that the ones causing all the problems were a small bunch of rebels, being instigated by some outside group. At one turn he blamed the United States as the instigators, in the next breath he blamed al Queda.
Okay. So, I was kicking this around with a friend, and we came to an interesting conclusion: While Jesus foretold a major effort to spread the Good News (Matthew 24:14), it appears that campaign would have a 'sell-by' date. The human race is rapidly approaching the point where it will be impossible for anyone to be absolutely sure about – anything. Ever again.

Either the “truth” about radioactivity in Japan is being concealed by Tokyo Electric and/or the Japanese government; or, the “truth” about Japanese radiation is being overblown to make a better story in the media; or some instigators are trying to make Tokyo Electric or the Japanese government look bad; or, it's far worse than we are being told but it's being covered up to prevent panic; Which is the truth? Take your pick.

The “truth” about Libya, as well as Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Jordan, etc, is either that, with the help of the internet and cell phones, the common people are finally realizing that they have been cruelly exploited by greedy dictators for decades and they’ve had enough. Or, the truth is that some outside influence is plotting to overthrow the duly constituted governments of several middle eastern countries by orchestrating small demonstrations and playing the media like a cheap fiddle to maximize coverage. Or, something else…
Let's go back to that prophecy about spreading the Good News to all nations. We have lived through, are living in, a unique time in human history, a narrow window of opportunity. Prior to the 1900s, many Christian organizations (such as the Bible societies that began to proliferate in the 1800s) felt obligated to try to carry out the command in the Bible at Matthew 28:19, 20: ‘Go and make disciples out of people of all the nations…’ 
The task was only just within the realm of possibility because of Gutenberg's invention of a practical printing press a couple hundred years earlier, and the almost inconceivable coincidence of affordable paper coming along just prior to that. The Bible societies also had to contend with the limitations of printing, shipping, and communication. They also had to fight the virtual stranglehold The Church had on people's thinking. 
Those limitations almost completely disappeared early in the twentieth century.
Within the next decade a new limitation will have waded onto the scene. Libraries are downsizing and disappearing. Books are being reduced from tangible paper and ink to a bunch of electronic blips in a computer somewhere. And a.i. is being used to write stories, including "news" stories, that are complete fiction. Who’s to say what is real and accurate, and what has been manipulated? 10 years from now, if I try to tell someone the 'Good News of the kingdom', will they be able to be confident that I'm telling them the truth?
The scripture I quoted earlier I found at a website of parallel bible versions. You might find it a handy tool. I use it because it is easier and more mistake-proof to copy/paste from the website than to physically take down a Bible and type in exactly what it says. I’m willing to use that tool only because I know, from my years of studying an old-fashioned paper-and-ink Bible, that the website is at least transmitting the gist of the correct message. But how is a user who is unfamiliar with the Bible supposed to know whether what is written on that website is accurate, or even useful?

The old saw that ‘seeing is believing’ is no longer true, either. Youtube allows everyone - from here in Arizona to the other side of the world in Libya - to become a news 'reporter'. But there are literally millions of examples of phony film clips on Youtube, from a motorcycle ripping away a tablecloth without moving the 12 place settings on it, to cell phones popping popcorn

Pontius Pilate famously, sarcastically, asked Jesus, “What is truth?” While absolute truth was, in fact, available to him had his question been sincere, we are rapidly reaching the point where no one will be able to definitively, categorically, answer that question.

And the uncertainty could kill you.

Your polite comments are welcome. 

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com. You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

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