Pastoral Perspectives

How can I be S.U.R.E that the Gospel is not fake news?

Recently, governments around the world including Singapore have been giving a lot of attention to combatting the scourge of online fake news. This is not surprising considering the potential impact that unsubstantiated claims and deliberate falsehoods can have on the well-being of an individual as well as on a country’s economy and social stability, etc.  Furthermore, in a multi-cultural society like Singapore where we also have high internet connectivity, it is believed that our country can be an easy target of disinformation campaigns that seeks to sow discord among different groups and undermine the people’s confidence in public institutions.

In view of the above concerns, the National Library Board (NLB) is stepping up efforts to arm the public with critical thinking skills. Earlier in 2013, NLB had already launched a nation-wide campaign called the SURE campaign to help the average Singaporean understand the importance of information searching and discernment (known as Information Literacy – IL).

Using the following acrostic, they distilled the key concepts into 4 simple ways:

Source: Look as its origins. Is it trustworthy?

Understand: Know what you’re reading. Are they facts or opinions? Search for clarity.

Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.

Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.

Since today is Easter Sunday and we have just observed Good Friday, I thought it would be an interesting exercise if one were to apply these same principles to the core truth claims of Christianity. What do you think? Will the “news” about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that happened some 2000 years ago stand up to scrutiny? Indeed, if someone was to ask you how can you be sure that this is true, how would you answer him? On what basis would you explain to this person that Jesus’ death and resurrection is not some religious myth and that Christians are not sincerely mistaken, succumbing to our confirmation bias or worse, trying to deceive everyone else?

For this perspective, I will refrain from giving us the answers because I want to encourage us as followers of Jesus Christ to take personal responsibility for our spiritual growth and to continue growing in our knowledge of God and understanding of the Christian message. Indeed, I believe it can be a fruitful experience for us when we do our research and learn to sieve through the available resources, whether online or printed materials for ourselves. Even though there will be times when we come across questionable content, the way to maturity is to not to remain in a silo. After all, even if we are not exposed to certain materials, we may still have to deal with them since our non-Christian friends may be persuaded otherwise such as those who assumed that the claims within the fictional book The Da Vinci Code were historically verifiable.

Admittedly, we do not have all the time in the world and it is possibly counter-productive to plough every website or book written on a subject matter. Over time, one will discover he is more likely to turn to a handful of trusted and faithful teachers of God’s Word to guide us in matters of Christian doctrine and practice. This is also one of the reason why in our church’s Resource Library, you will not find some of the best-selling titles on our shelves. We should not be surprised that popularity does not always equate with sound teaching (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

More importantly, the church has a sacred responsibility to equip every believer with the necessary skills to identify false claims or teachings so that the individual can arrive at a well thought-through conclusion and be built up in his personal conviction rather than be swayed by “every wind of teaching”  (Ephesian 4:14). Furthermore, you can have the assurance that the pastors, elders and DG leaders in True Way are available and will be more than glad to interact with you and address the doubts and questions that may arise out of your research.

It is evident from the attention given to combatting fake news that truth does matter, whether we are Christians or not. For us as Christians, God’s truth is more than just information. Ultimately, it is revelation that will lead to the transformation of the one who humbly receives it with understanding, believes it and lives it out by faith. This would mean that Christians should all the more learn to be discerning and not be enticed by clickbaits and rely on sensational claims to substantiate our faith. We must also avoid forwarding images or passing information indiscriminately to others without first verifying its authenticity.

If we desire people to trust us and to give consideration to what we share about the Gospel, we must learn to be gracious and measured in our conversation (Colossians 4:5-6), especially when we are voicing our opinions or explaining our religious convictions. Regardless of how strongly we may feel about a subject matter, we can always grow to become a better listener and be respectful towards others who differ from us.

In addition, we need to be mindful that our answers to the questions of others must not be simplistic, reduced to pithy phrases or standard Gospel presentations. Neither should it be relativistic, merely confined to our personal testimonies of God’s goodness. Whether we are Christians or not, we need to understand that truth remains the truth even if someone has no experience of it yet or if a listener rejects it despite the evidence. Indeed, when it comes to the Gospel, we have good reasons to be S.U.R.E that is not fake news. With that in mind, let us press on in our evangelism and pray that many more will open their hearts to the Good News!

Rev Edwin Wong

April 1, 2018