“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
“How Do We Know What We Know?”
Most of the time we gather information from seemingly reliable sources: books, TV newscasts, newspapers or magazines, radio news, etc. But frequently we get information that we assume are “facts” from less than trustworthy “authorities”: friends, work or school acquaintances, social media, Google, Alexa or Siri, Wikipedia, talk shows, random websites, podcasts and blogs, or even overheard conversations in stores or restaurants.
It is important to ask ourselves: how do we know what we know? Often we are not sure where the information or opinion came from yet we find ourselves repeating it to others as factual. We need to be “truth monitors”, so what are some ways we can determine if the information we receive is accurate?
Not all information sources are equal. It is necessary to create “standards of acceptability” in order to determine which ones to trust. Critical thinkers do not treat all messages as equally factual but determine what is reliable based on evidence or the trusted reliability of the source. They have learned to have more confidence in some sources than others, but how does that trust develop? In most cases it’s our previous interactions or the inherent truth that has been substantiated by additional knowledge. We develop an internal “hierarchy of believability”.
For bedrock, we can use the Bible as the “grid of Truth”. What lines up with God’s Word can be deemed believable. Some information we come across jumps out immediately as bogus since it is contrary to the Truth. But too often it isn’t that clear cut. We hear or read statements, and there is no definitive and objective way to deem them to be facts. In that case, it’s our responsibility to pursue truth, and this requires effort and intentional scouting.
Politics is a blend of facts and opinions. Facts are sometimes obscured, modified, or hidden to intentionally cast the candidate or political figure in the best light. The job description of a “spin doctor” is “a person, such as a political aide, responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view” (www.merriam-webster.com). Putting a “spin” on the facts can change the way the public interprets them.
Consider this commentary from Bible.org:
“In our postmodern society the predominant view is that truth is relative. What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me. Evidence doesn’t matter anymore. We go by our feelings. We are tired of cold, hard facts. If you are frustrated by our political system and news media where it seems that nobody pays any attention to the facts, and they just say whatever they want, welcome to postmodernism… postmodernists want experience and relationships, so now commercials consist of beautiful and or rugged looking individuals using this or that product and having a good time in exotic locations. Now sponsors pay TV and movie producers to get good shots of the jeep logo the hero is riding in or the Dell laptop that Jack Bauer is using.
It’s not that we don’t believe in scientific facts anymore. It’s that science is bankrupt in its ability to answer the meaningful questions in life. However, since naturalism marginalized religion by dividing the world into a fact/value, science/ethics, public/private dichotomy, and then said that values and ethics are only based on personal opinion, we are left with a society that is searching for meaning in life in this private, relativistic sphere.” (https://bible.org/seriespage/2-how-do-you-know-you-know)
As an example of current postmodern thinking, here is George Soros’ comment: “An Open Society is where people understand ultimate truth is not attainable... (therefore) theories are subject to testing, and the process of replacing old theories with better ones never ends.”
So, we live in a postmodern culture that refuses to accept “tried and true” foundational precepts that have determined right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and acceptable societal norms over the years. We have chosen instead to individualize truth when it comes to gun control, transgender bathrooms, open border access, crime, justice, equity, abortion, climate change, evolution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Black Lives Matter, “cancel culture”, and protests that turn violent.
In John 18:37-38 we learn about Jesus’ purpose for coming to Earth:
“‘You are a king, then,’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate.”
And in John 14:6 (NIV), Jesus explains:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
So, these scriptures make it clear – the testimony of Jesus is truth. This is why, in our struggle to determine truth, we must rely on the foundation of God’s’ Word and the wisdom and discernment given to us as believers by the Holy Spirit.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
It’s important to have meaningful conversations with teens that stimulate thinking. Try these conversation starters:
• Share this statement, “Movies, TV programs, websites – and even our friends – may not intentionally falsify information, but their information may not be trustworthy.” Have the teens think about and share some subjects that are especially liable to be controversial when it comes to reliability, such as alien sightings or “the perfect diet”.
• Ask, “How do you know what you know?” Have teens discuss how to determine the reliability of what they see, hear, or read. Ask, “Is it enough to use Google to locate information? Why or why not?” Discuss some appropriate uses of Google.
• Ask, “What are some ways we can determine if the information we receive is accurate?”
• Share this scripture from Proverbs 18:15 (The Message): “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.” Discuss the meaning of this verse and its application to our lives.
• Share and discuss:“I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.” (Colossians 2:4, NLT)
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #AChangingCulture, #CriticalThinkingAndTeens, #IAmNotDefinedByTheCulture, #HowDoWeKnowWhatWeKnow, #WhatIsTruth, #HierarchyOfBelievability
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