Servants of Truth in the Service of God and Man


Presented at the European Leadership Forum, May 20-25, 2006. Previously unpublished.


Journalism broadly conceived is stewardship of truth as a public good. It’s task is to know the truths that matter for people generally and to communicate them in a form and manner that makes them accessible to people who need to know. “Media” is broader in scope than journalism and has other responsibilities, but it too should serve the truth and its availability: “truth” in a broader sense than “news,” hence not tied to events or “what happened,” but dealing with values and meanings as well. Thus, TV, Cinema, stage, music, literary works, etc. all “communicate.” But they are to help us in characteristic ways to “see reality,” including what is false and evil. In all areas of “communication,” propaganda, manipulation, lies, half-truths and distortions are out of place unless they, somehow, serve the further purpose of seeing how things really are and knowing the truth about things that really matter. We shall here use “communicator” to cover those at work in journalism as well as the larger field of media.”

Now it needs to be recognized that the communicator is from the start faced with a world set against truth, except so far as it may serve what people want. The world is presided over by a liar and the father of lies. Thus, the world lies in darkness because of the massive will to hide truth to get what is wanted. Isaiah speaks of people who make a refuge or covenant of lies and live in it. (28:15 & 17) This at once confers a high and honorable calling upon the communicator and makes his or her work extremely difficult and dangerous.

That means that the true communicator stands on God’s side of things, for God is a God of truth, and Jesus put his whole work in terms of truth. (John 17:17-19, 18:37)

Today the institutions of our culture ridicule truth and treat reality as a human construction. In the place of knowledge they put “research,” and in the place of truth they put “information.” Reports of truth and reality are automatically downgraded to “interpretations.” There are no “facts,” much less “eternal verities.” The communicator is caught up in a battle for attention and rewards and is apt to go for what entertains or excites rather than what is true and good for people to know. Downgrading of truth and reality encourages this.

So the Christian communicator today has to be clear about what truth and reality are. They may not need to go to the depths of philosophy, and if they did it might not help. But they need to be clear in their own minds what reality is and why truth is valuable. They need to be sure that reality and truth, as distinct from appearance and opinion, do not depend on human experience, and that getting them wrong can have disastrous consequences. (The Crusades, National Socialism, Communism, etc. etc. etc.)

Something is real if it actually has properties, whether we envision it under those properties or not. (If there is something that actually has the properties thought of in the Loch Ness Monster or the Holocaust, then the Loch Ness Monster and the Holocaust are real, or were real, regardless of what anyone believes.) If what we represent or believe is as we represent it or believe it to be, then our representation or belief is true, again, regardless of what anyone believes or thinks. I suggest that you try to think about truth and reality in this way. It then becomes immediately obvious why truth is so valuable. It enables us to act in harmony with reality. That is why “without knowledge people perish” (Hosea 4:6) and why, on the other hand, the truth, when rightly appropriated, “shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

Now there are four major questions of life which human beings desperately need truth on. Every religion and every great teacher answers them in their own way:

  1. What is reality? What do I have to deal with and what can I count on?
  2. Who is well-off? Who is blessed?
  3. Who is a really good person?
  4. How does one become a really good person?

Just think of “great teachers” from Plato to Marx, and you will see how they answer these questions. These are the main questions of life, and of course there are many important sub-questions.

    Jesus answers these questions:

    1. Reality is God and his kingdom.
    2. Anyone living in the kingdom of God is blessed.
    3. The really good person is one permeated by agape, the God-kind of love.
    4. One can become a really good person by placing their confidence in Jesus and becoming his disciple or apprentice in kingdom living.

    As a steward of truth for the public good, the communicator must fairly and clearly present the various human responses to these major questions alongside the answers of Jesus. Of course this will rarely be done directly, but the contrasts will always be in the background of what one does as a communicator, both in terms of what is selected for communication and how it is presented. Judgments of what is important for people to know constantly direct the media, as well as judgments about what will get people to look. Of course the Christian Communicator must come to terms with such judgments in practical ways. But they are, after all, stewards of truth, and they can evaluate their work and that of others in those terms. And they must assume that they are servants of a living God who can act with them to help them fulfill the responsibilities of communicators.

    Of course personal character (or at least the appearance thereof) is of vital importance for successful communication. Consider the importance of this for columnists, anchor men and women, etc. (Remember Dan Quayle?) Quintilian , the great Roman thinker and teacher, describes successful rhetoric as “The good man speaking well.” Over the long haul as a communicator, the combination of solid moral character and technical ability is what we must rely on on our side. As Christians we have the additional support that we are called to our work by God and upheld in our efforts by him acting with us to accomplish the good our calling serves.

    This can make us brave to look into what really matters in our world. That is very dangerous, for “men love darkness rather than light.” (John 3:19) Again and again Journalism fails it calling by simply taking what is handed out by those who would control events to their own ends. One reason Jesus was killed was because he brought men’s deeds to light. We are to follow in his steps. “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth). (Eph. 5:8-9)

    Indeed, it is only the Christian who has the resources to fulfill the high calling of the communicator and to challenge other communicators to rise to the highest standards in their profession.

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