Back in March, which seems an age ago now, Rev Dr David Hilborn gave a seminar at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Stoneleigh titled “Fake Theology: even more dangerous than fake news?” We live in a world where extreme views can be propagated easily through social media channels. These views are sometimes supported by very dodgy theology, and Christians today need to be able to recognise these distortions of the gospel and to counter them.
Those promoting fake theology, like fake news, use four key techniques: distraction, confusion, power and lying. In Genesis 3 v1 the serpent says to Eve, “Did God say…” Start by sowing doubt. It then follows this up in v4 by claiming that God was lying: “You will not die.” How often do conspiracy theorists say, “don’t believe the authorities, they are lying to you”? In the story of Jesus’s temptations in wilderness (Matthew 4) Satan says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” That is, tell your hearer how great they are; don’t trust authority, you can make your own decisions. In contrast to this, St Paul says in Philippians 1, v9, “and this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best…”
The church has often succumbed to the blandishments of power, right back to the Emperor Constantine’s embrace of Christianity. Examples from more recent times come from the German Church’s embrace of Nazism in the 1930’s and the Dutch Reform Church’s support for apartheid in South Africa. It appears today in the Prosperity Gospel which is popular in the USA and some other countries (this equates God’s blessings to success in life).
How should we respond? Dr Hilborn suggests that if we are active in social media, we shouldn’t ignore fake theology but should respond. Not in anger but in love, gently pointing out why it is wrong. To do this we need to put in the time and effort to understand our faith and be able to articulate it.
[Bible passages quoted from the NRSV]
Chris Whitford (a view from the pew)