By Tyson Thorne

February 8, 2018
 

FakeNews2018 Large

We've all heard the term. It's been used by athletes, lawyers and quite frequntly by the President of the United States. One way of defining "Fake News" is any news story or rumor that appears damaging to an agency, entity or person. Another way to define it is, as Pope Francis recently did, as "evil" and "a lie." He even went so far as to compare fake news to "serpent tactics", referencing the biblical snake in the Garden of Eden that first deceived mankind. It is a fitting comparison, though the devil might prefer to call them "alternative facts".

While the use of the term "fake news" may be new, there is nothing new about the failure of the news media to report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In high school I tried an experiment. Having trained in journalism and working a couple years on the student newspaper I took a subscription to the Denver Post. I began reading the articles looking for the answers to the journalists primary questions (who, what, when, where and how). What I found was less solid news reporting and more spin. I'm sure the same could be said long before the 1980's, however.

But I'm not writing this column to lament the poor standards of the news media, there are many opportunities to here such criticism from other outlets. I wish to comment on the fact that "fake news" is in fact a means of diminishing the truth. In point of fact, telling the truth should be everyone's priority, not just the media. As Solomon once wrote, "The Lord abhors differing weights, and dishonest scales are wicked" (Proverbs 20.23).

I decided on the using the Proverb above in our discussion, rather than one on lying, because honesty is more than telling the truth. Honesty involves properly reporting the hours you work on your time card, not cheating on a test, telling the waitress that she forgot a charge on your bill, and more. In other words, honesty is a lifestyle. I'll grant you that sometimes a small dishonesty goes a long way toward keeping the peace, but even small cheats or white lies are an offense to our righteous God. Even an unspoken truth that leads one to believe something other than the truth is immoral. Honesty isn't about being "mostly good", it's about being righteous, like God.

In theological terms, it's called "rectoral righteousness". This is the aspect of God's character that requires righteousness in all the creatures of his creation. Louis Berkhof in his book "Manual of Christian Doctrine" defines it this way:

The rectitude which God manifests as the Ruler of both the good and the evil. In virtue of this He institutes a moral government in the world, and imposes a just law upon man, with promises of reward for the obedient and threats of punishment for the disobedient.

Thankfully the blood of Jesus covers our sin and saves us from eternal damnation, but that doesn't mean there is no penalty at all for dishonesty. As God's children, he has the right to parent us, and sometimes that means discipline. How much better is it to maintain self-discipline than to be disciplined by the Almighty? I don't think you need me to answer that for you. Not when the Bible can do a much better job. Deuteronomy 32.36 says, "The Lord will judge his people" and Hebrews 10.31, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

 

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