September 2018

Fighting fake news

How to Fight Fake News

fight fake news

 

Misinformation is a big issue in today’s society and is so prolific and influential that we, as Christians, need to know how to fight fake news.

The words ‘fake news’ are on everybody’s lips nowadays, including those of the American President. What most people understand by this term is the manipulated or fabricated news, usually political, that we see in newspapers, TV presentations, and social media. However, the problem is deeper and more pernicious than just news reporting. The bigger problem is the proliferation and power of misinformation in general. By this, I mean fabricated or manipulated information used primarily to influence people and further a specific agenda. All of us are targets of political, business, ideological or religious campaigns that use misinformation to influence us.

What it is and how it travels

Misinformation creators present their ‘lies’ in a variety of ways. It is either fabricated content (made up), manipulated content (‘spinning’ a story), content taken out of context, or content falsely connected with other content. Whatever the formulation, the aim is always to mislead, influence and control. Simply put, it falls under the prohibition of the 9th Commandment, “You shall not give false testimony…”

In New Testament times, information travelled by foot on Roman roads at about 1.4 meters per second. Today information travels over the internet at approximately 25 million bits per second. The Roman roads made the international spread of the Gospel possible, but the internet has facilitated the almost instantaneous spread of misinformation.

The biggest disseminators of misinformation are Social Media and Google. Facebook with its over 2 billion monthly users, YouTube (1.5 billion), WhatsApp (1.5 billion), Instagram (800 million) and Twitter (330 million) are the dominant social media mega-sites and Google is the biggest and most used search engine. Oh dear, I have just given you some misinformation; Google has a search engine but it is much more than that, it has a social network (Google+), email, and so on, but in essence, it is a HUGE content provider.

Obviously, these social media, search, and content providers aim at providing true news and reliable information, but they also constitute a massive potential for the creation and lightning-fast dissemination of misinformation.

Two sociological shifts

Now, add two radical shifts in the way people in general process information in our day, and we have a problem of seismic proportions. Firstly, society, in general, has moved away from engaged critical thinking to passive gullibility. Secondly, group consensus and trendy ‘thought leaders’ have replaced tradition authority and qualified experts as sources of ‘reliable’ information. Misinformation can now travel at billions of bits per second into billions of receptive minds. Of course, I am generalising here; not all people are undiscerning and ignorant – you clearly aren’t because you are persevering with this article. 🙂

A helpful article

I had planned to write something about how people generate and spread misinformation, but I want to move on to the actual purpose of this article – how we can fight false news. However, here is an article by Dom Galeon that I found helpful It highlights a recent study by MIT that mentions, among other things, that fake news evokes the emotions of fear, disgust, and surprise and that these emotions fuel the propagation of the news to others. Clearly not something that we Christians want to experience or transmit.

So, how should we counteract misinformation?

Strategy One: Realise that as Christians, we are children of the light and not of the darkness (Ephesians 5:8-11) and that generating or spreading misinformation is displeasing to God. Isaiah wrote;

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
So, we need to repent and desist from spinning stories, gossiping electronically, and passing on unverified ‘news’ to others.

Strategy Two: Change our default position from passive gullibility to active discerning scepticism. Hardly a day goes by without me reading, seeing, or hearing news or information that is outrageously and preposterously ridiculous. The ex-president of South Africa waves a piece of paper in his hand and claims that he has fired his minister of finance because he has an intelligence report proving that the man is a treasonous villain. Now, why should anyone who has access to the background and track record of the man in question believe that… yet millions apparently did! The same ex-president is now telling university students that state capture is just a political myth! Yes, sure! The secret planet Naburu is on a near collision course with Earth that will enable enlightened aliens to visit our planet again… Oh, sorry, actually its going to collide with earth and wipe us all out. You don’t say! Bottled water blessed by the Man of God from Nigeria cures cancer provided you pay handsomely for it – and so on, day after day. We need to be asking ‘why should I believe this?’ rather than ‘who can I tell this to?’

Strategy Three: Fact-check before passing on information. I get many WhatsApp messages, emails, or Facebook posts that I recognise as misinformation that I have seen several times in the past. The all-time record repeater must be the scare report circulating for the last 18 years that someone is making a movie about a homosexual Jesus. Snopes.com is a good fact-checking site and it is so easy to type into its search facility some key words or even a cut and paste from the post you have received. Yes, there is good and useful stuff on the internet as well.

Strategy Four: Commit to being a proactive conveyer of truth. Jesus is the way, truth and life. He is the source of truth and the Bible is the repository of truth. Instead of passing on misinformation that brings fear, indignation, and a sense of hopelessness, we can and should pass on messages of hope, life, and TRUTH.

This then is how we can fight false news.

 

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TruthTalks: Prophecy

 

I recently presented an overview of the ‘gift’ of prophecy and I am sharing it here on Truth is The Word.

Part One is just under an hour long and covers seven common questions:
  1. What is prophecy?
  2. What forms does it take?
  3. How is it different to Old Testament prophecy?
  4. Why is it important to us?
  5. How are we to prophesy?
  6. How do we test prophecy?
  7. How should we respond to genuine prophecy?

The key scriptures I reference are 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, 29-33  1 Corinthians 13:9-12  Acts 11:28  21:10-11

In Part Two, I give just over half an hour to taking questions from the audience, but if you would like to listen to this you will need to click HERE. Below you will find the audio of the teaching itself.

Have a listen, and if you have any questions you don’t feel I addressed, please feel free to post to my Facebook Page or email me at truthisthewordsite@gmail.com.

Thank you for listening, here is the audio:

God Bests the gods of Egypt

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The plagues of Exodus are a ten-part strategy whereby God bests the gods of Egypt. Why? So that Pharaoh would realise that that the God of Israel was infinitely superior to his demon-gods and would, therefore, let His people go.

Just before releasing the tenth and final plague on Egypt, God told Moses that He would “bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12). Now we know that there is no true God except the God of the Bible (1 Corinthians 8:4-6), so the ‘gods’ of Egypt were demonic entities infesting the nation and controlling Pharaoh and his leaders (1 Corinthians 10:18-20).

Most of those reading this article will be very familiar with the biblical account of the plagues (Exodus chapters 7 to 11), but what many may have missed is the careful sequencing that God orchestrated. Firstly, He escalated the plagues from least harmful to the people of Egypt to the most destructive. After each plague, God instructed Moses to ask Pharaoh to “Let my people go” and to tell him that worse was to come if he did not comply. God’s intention was to persuade Pharaoh with minimum hardship, to yield to Him and release the Israelites from slavery. Secondly, the first two plagues were relatively so minor that even the demon-gods of Egypt could duplicate them through their magicians. So, God started with non-lethal warnings in the hope that these would suffice. Thirdly, it was only after the sixth plague that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Up to that point, Pharaoh refused to acknowledge God and to obey Him, and only after God had given him chance after chance did He finally determine that the suborn, evil man would no longer have any say over what would now transpire. So, God gave Pharaoh every opportunity to relent before finally executing judgement.

The God revealed in and by the Lord Jesus Christ has forever been gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (Psalm 145:8-9). The way He progressively executed judgement on Egypt confirm this (Exodus 9:13-19).
Another aspect of the story of Exodus 7 to 11 is that Almighty God aimed each of the 10 plagues at a major god of Egypt in order to convince Pharaoh that He was superior to all so-called gods and that submission to His will was, therefore, the wisest response possible.

The Egyptians worshipped over 80 gods and those associated with the Nile River were of great significance to them. The Nile was the source of life for an otherwise desert nation. Hapi, Khnum, and Tauret all claimed to control the Nile, but the river itself represented the blood-stream of the great ‘god’ Osiris, lord of the underworld. So, in the first plague, Almighty God turned the waters of the Nile to blood, demonstrating His superiority over Osiris.

One of the goddesses of Egypt was Heqet, the demon who influenced fertility and reproduction. She was depicted with the head of a frog and so God dealt with her next by sending as a second plague, a plague of frogs to enter the houses of the Egyptians and crawl all over their matrimonial beds… how very apt.

To release the third plague, God instructed Moses to, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” (Exodus 8:16). God aimed this plague at Geb, the bisexual demon-god of the earth and soil and demonstrated His superiority by turning the dust of the ground into pesky gnats. Pharaoh’s magicians could not reproduce this miraculous feat and so had to admit that “this is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

The fourth plague presents a particular translation problem because the Hebrew text speaks of swarms but does not mention flies. Young’s Literal Translation inserts the word ‘beetle’ instead of ‘flies’ and this is most probably the correct understanding. The ancient Egyptians detested flies but they revered the Scarab beetle as a representation of Khepri, the god of resurrection and rebirth.

Up until this point God had not allowed anything to be killed, but now Pharaoh became even more recalcitrant and so The Almighty had to increase the severity of the pestilences. The fifth plague was upon the Egyptian’s livestock but it did not affect any of the Israelites animals. The Egyptians represented several of their deities as domestic animals (Hathor, Knum, etc.), but the most famous of all was Apis the strong bull-god of war. It is likely that the Golden Calf worshipped by the disobedient children of God at Mount Sinai was a depiction of Apis. It was fitting, therefore, that God aimed the first real act of judgement at this Bull-deity.

Then came the first plague to strike human beings. This sixth plague was festering boils that broke out on the Egyptians, but not upon the Israelites. I love the little detail added that ‘the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians’ (Exodus 9:11). Magic was used, among other things, to heal and so Egypt’s magicians were medical practitioners. Two of the most important gods connected to this ancient art were Serapis, the god of healing, and Imhotep, the god of medicine.

After this plague, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and so the seventh plague was a judgement and not just a warning. God said to the king of Egypt; “this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14-15). And with that, He unleashed a hailstorm of biblical proportions!  Horus and Nut were the sky god and goddess targeted here.

Next came the eigth plague of locusts, aimed at Nepri the god of grain and Seth the god of crops. Exodus 10:14-15 describes the devastation as follows; ‘they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail — everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt’.

The ninth plague was total darkness for three days. This does not sound so bad until we realise that God was striking the religious heart of Egypt. Ra was the great sun god of Heliopolis. The pyramids of Giza were associated with Ra as the supreme lord and creator god who ruled over the land of the living and the dead. Almighty God gave the chief of all the gods of Egypt a kick where the ‘sun don’t shine’.

The final tenth plague was a devastating judgment upon Pharaoh himself.  As supreme ruler of the people, they considered pharaoh a god in human form, the intermediary between the gods and the people, and the High Priest of the religions of the land. In this sense, he was an anti-Christ, one who stood in the place of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. His firstborn son was the automatic successor to the throne of Egypt and so the death of all the first-born in the land was a devastating blow to both Pharaoh and his people.

Now, one last thing we need to consider. The good, gracious, loving and longsuffering God of all that was, is, and is to be also aimed this decisive judgment at himself some 1,500 years later. On a cross just outside of Jerusalem, the Son of God died to take upon Himself the judgement of the sin of humanity. He was prepared to apply the same final devastation upon Himself as He had applied to Pharaoh.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son’ (John 3:16-18).

 

 

TruthTalks: The Bloodthirsty Warrior God of the Bible

TruthTalks Warrior God Top image

We just cannot avoid the fact that parts of the Old Testament depict God as a bloodthirsty warrior.

As a continuation of last weeks post on the God of the Old Testament, Dr. Christopher Peppler goes into more detail in this audio file. In the Q & A session, we mostly discuss this statement:

“When we encounter these incidents [the seemingly extremely harsh incidents] in scriptures, we can respond in one of three ways.

  • We can reason that God must have had a good reason for acting no better than a pagan deity of the nations surrounding Israel;
  • OR that we must just accept these portrayals of God because they are in the infallible scriptures and must, therefore, be true depictions of aspects of God’s nature;
  • OR that something else is going on here that we need to understand.”
What else IS going on? Listen to the TruthTalk by clicking the play button below.

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.