I know I'm running behind schedule with these posts on The Next Story, but this time the delay was Blogger's fault. Anyway, this chapter deals with authority and truth - specifically how the technologies that exist are reshaping the way we define truth and downplaying the importance of authority.
Truth according to Wikipedia
Wikipedia is huge, with over 15 million articles (3 million of them in English) to say that there is a wide variety of information available - for free - is the understatement of the year. One of the amazing things about Wikipedia is the fact that anyone can update an article. If my son knew about it he'd likely be on there reading everything that has to do with Star Wars and could probably fix a few errors he might find. This is great news in that an article can quickly be fixed if something false is found in it; no need to wait until the next edition like magazines, newspapers, or an encyclopedia.
The downside? Not everything that gets published is actually true. Politicians, religious leaders, and corporations have been found to edit articles to remove controversial things that would cast shadows on them. Additionally, Tim raises the concern that things like Wikipedia is subtly training us to think that truth comes from consensus rather than being objective. As Christians, we know that this is not true, we know that all truth comes from God and that truth does not waver. Tim encourages the reader to speak truth because we are to be like Him.
Because God is holy, we too, are to be holy. Because God is love, so we are to be loving, to express love in every way we can. And if God is true, then, of course, we must love truth, emphasize the truth, and always be seeking truth. All we say is to be marked by integrity as an expression of the integrity of God.(pg 161)
Tim goes on to note that Wikipedia comes up as the first or second result in search engines for words like knowledge, authority, affair, truth, history, power, Jesus, God, justification, baptism, and Christianity. "This shows that Wikipedia is now the first answer to many of our most important questions - questions about truth, authority, knowledge, wisdom, power, God, and salvation" (162).
The problem with relying upon Wikipedia for these answers is also the reason why Wikipedia is so remarkable. Anyone can edit the articles, a PHD candidate has no more clout than a 10 year old kid. Furthermore, you're relying upon people. Fallen, sinful people. Wikipedia and other wikis like it function under the assumption that we're all basically good and want good to prevail. As Christians we know that we're given to sin - we're so thoroughly entrenched in our sinfulness that even what seems like a good thing can be done with a wrong heart and we're likely to be blind to it.
When we have a model that ignores human nature and combine it with too little oversign, we will inevitably run into problems related to the misuse of authority.(pg 165)
Truth according to Google
After dealing with how technologies like Wikipedia seek to democratize truth he moves on to dealing with how search engines seek to determine truth by relevance. Google is helpful in that takes what I'm looking for and pulls up the pages most often the most relevant to that query. I'll be the first to admit - I'm a Googler. I Google a ton of stuff, I love Google, it has made my life a lot more easy - but who knows if there's a nugget of gold buried on page 6 of my search results that just doesn't have the page rank to get it better placing?
In many ways I rely on Google, I trust Google to bring me the very best. And so we set ourselves up to think that all things we need to know, or want to know, should come so quickly, so easily, and so nicely sorted out. Are there ways in which I've transfered this way of thinking to the rest of my life? Do I tend to accept the easy, readily available answer - the one I don't have to fight for - as the best answer to life's issues? How has the effected the way I read my Bible? How has this effected the way I pray? If God's knowledge has more depth to it than the ocean, why do I often feel like I've settled wading in a kiddie pool?
How has this effected the way I view His steadfastness, His love? With my mouth I would tell you that His love is unending, that He never leaves us, that He is faithful to the end. But is my heart's cry these truths, or do I see the trials in my life (or my family's lives) and refuse to look past page one of the search results? Do I have a shallow view of suffering; how has my expectation for answers to life's questions to be neatly printed on my screen in order of relevance shaped how I walk through the uneasy times, through the times when I ought to be diving in and going deep? Am I looking for truth, for comfort, for depth? Or do I simply look for a quick verse, taken out of context, but tagged on the internet as applicable to my current life situation, to slap on as a spiritual band-aid?
Futhermore, because just about anyone can, and does, have a website or blog - we ought to be discerning when reading or watching their content. Though something may appear spiritual, Christian even, is their use of Scripture appropriate and true? Are there subtle lies that we're believing simply because the website was easy to find on our search engine of choice? But submitting ourselves to and ingesting these untruths - how long will it take, how costly will it be in our lives for us to unlearn them? Will we even want to unlearn them? Are we willing to weigh the information and claims against the Bible and trusted authorities in our lives, or do we simply want the quick, easy (and possibly misleading) answer?
Toward the end of the chapter Tim discusses a film called Loose Change, in which clips and quotes dealing with September 11th were taken out of context and manipulated in order to put forth the idea that the Towers fell not because of terrorist attacks, but because of the Bush administration planting explosives in the building. There of course was a commission into the claims - it took 2 years and 15 million dollars to research, talk to experts, and then publish. There was no evidence to support the claims, but the film is still being watched, still being ingested, still being spouted off as truth. Why? Because it's on the internet and easy to find.
Other interesting quotes
Consensus opinion and Scripture are often opposed to one another. (pg 167)
My Previous Posts on The Next Story
Chapter 6 - Rabbit Trail