“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth (John 18:38a)?’”
Andrew Finch opened the door and was surrounded by a SWAT unit demanding that he surrender. One officer, believing Finch was reaching for a weapon opened fire and fatally shot him. (1) He leaves behind a wife and two children. It was later determined that Finch was unarmed and that the call to SWAT was actually a prank initiated by an online gamer, Tyler Barriss, who was upset that he had lost a $1.50 bet. Blaming the loss on a teammate, he threatened to call SWAT on his associate. His fellow gamer invited him to try and provided Barriss a false address, the home of Finch. One gamer lied and said Finch’s address was his own, Barriss lied and told authorities a violent domestic dispute was transpiring at that location. Mr. Finch was killed in the confusion.
A similar incident occurred in India, in which a false story perpetuated on social media about kidnappings were circulating. The result was the mob lynching of seven innocent people.1 A former Facebook Executive cites this case for the “tremendous guilt” he feels about social media serving as tools to rip apart society. (2) He believes that social media led to the end of civil discourse, cooperation and a proliferation of misinformation and mistruth. But social media does not do this directly, it serves merely as a tool of communication, a mirror held up reflecting the spirit of our age. Such incidents are the fruits of a modern society that has forcefully peddled the concept that there is no absolute truth and any “truth” is relative. You have your truth and I have mine, and we agree to tolerate our differing views, mutually agreeing that no one’s else’s truth is binding. Members adhering to certain ideas wall themselves off and dangerously dwell in echo chambers where only “their truth” is repeated.
Such technology is new, but societies poisoned by lies and violence is as old as civilization. Even before death entered the world, truth was the first casualty (Genesis 3:4). King Ahab had access to a true prophet of God, Micaiah, but preferred a social network of yes men who told him only what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 22:6-14). His refusal to hear the truth resulted in his death. At least King Rehoboam allowed a hearing of counselors outside his peer group, but in the end, he followed the direction of his echo chamber and it led to an enormous division of the Jewish nation and their society (1 Kings 12:6-8, 16-19).
The New Testament cautions those who do not love the truth but prefer sweet lies. Paul wrote that the time would come when even some believers would not hold onto the truth but would seek out those who told them what they wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Those failing to love the truth perish (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The reason for their ruin is that they preferred unrighteousness living over the cold hard truth that should have governed their lives (v.12). For those that suppress the truth God’s wrath looms above them (Romans 1:18).
Tyler Barriss expresses no remorse or responsibility for the death of Andrew Finch. He said on YouTube, “It’s my personal belief that I didn’t cause someone to die.” Further he says, “You could point the finger at the guy who made the call. You could point the finger at the person who gave the address.” It wasn’t his lie that killed, it was another’s lie. “When truth dies all of its subspecies, such as ethics, perish with it. If truth can’t be known, then the concept of moral truth becomes incoherent.” (3)
Jesus’ declaration to be; “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” is exclusive and absolute. Our society rejects this and crushes those hold to this as judgmental, intolerant, and hateful. Dissident, and Russian political prisoner, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the state.”(4) May it be that church, the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), remains that light that transforms and saves souls in our age.
“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding (Proverbs 23:23).”
- Relativism, Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998, p.20