Diocesan Lent Day - “Fake News” Theology
“Fake News” Theology:
How and Why We Use Biblical Authority to Dodge God’s Authority
We are pleased to announce Kenton Sparks as our keynote speaker. Kent is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eastern University. Dr Sparks is the author of a number of books, including 'God's Words in Human Words' and 'Sacred Word, Broken Word' - a book looking at the darker texts of Scripture.
Our country is deeply divided these days. On one side are those who understand and believe “the facts,” and on the other are those who gullibly embrace the phony “alternative facts.” It is obvious, however, that in this case “the truth” lies in the eye of the beholder. No matter what side we stand on, all of us believe that our side stands for the facts and that the other side doesn’t. We understand; They are clueless.
I’m quite sure that this open conflict, often dubbed the “culture war,” will not be resolved today. Perhaps it should not be resolved but must be won by one side or the other, or by some still-to-emerge perspective that’s better than either (or any) of the current alternatives. But in spite of our profound divisions, I suspect that we can begin our discussion on a point of profound agreement. Namely, I suspect that all of us believe a lot of people have been fooled by fake news, and that this phony news has been and shall continue to be damaging and dangerous for our society. For we have seen, perhaps more clearly than ever before, that millions of people can be fooled into receiving what is false as what is true, and that this exchange of the truth for a lie--no matter which side we are on--can and will have serious consequences for us and our children.
My primary theme for the day is certainly not political, though it may have some bearing on how we think about and evaluate political questions. Rather, my task is to draw out and examine what I believe is a very common but mistaken pattern within Christian theology. Namely, I believe that Christians often construct systems of biblical authority in order to circumvent and evade the authority of God in the Church and in our personal lives. I will suggest that this approach to the Bible, in which we essentially quote the Bible against God, is based on “fake news” about what the Bible is and how it should be read. This “fake news” theology opens up Christians to manipulations and errors because it subtly replaces the voice of God with our own fallen, human voices.