Minutes With Messiah banner

Fake News

by Tim O'Hearn

There are many accusations these days that something is “fake news.” Most recently it started with the 2018 U.S. presidential election, and specifically with a bogus news story about Hillary Clinton hiding hundreds of early-voting ballots in a warehouse. After the election it has become the mantra of the opposite political party to apply to any story, real or false, that the leader of the party disagrees with. He has even labeled as “fake news” actual videos of him saying something he would rather retract. The term “fake news,” though, is not new. It can be traced back to the 1890s. Prior to that time the word fake was not commonly used, so it was called “false news.” There are even “fake news” stories about the Bible.

God Is Dead

The idea that God is dead is most commonly attributed to the philosopher Friederich Nietzsche, but may have been originated by Georg Hegel. Essentially the idea is that the Age of Enlightenment had made rationalism and science to be the ultimate authorities, and so religion—specifically the Christian religion—no longerThe eternal existence of God is taken as a given. held preeminence in Europe. The idea prefigured the Communist attempts to remove religion from the culture of the Russian people. It was not that God himself had died, because rationalism would deny that He ever existed; rather it was that the belief in God was on its way out. The fear, according to Nietzsche, was that the extinction of Christianity in Europe would be accompanied by a rejection of morality. If European morality is based on centuries of Christian thought, then the death of Christianity should be accompanied by a death of Christian morality.

Since Nietzsche’s formulation of the philosophy in print, others have taken a more literal view of the phrase. If God ever existed, which is questionable in their minds, then science has literally killed Him. This is, of course, a paradox of atheism because it denies the existence of God by accepting his existence. An earlier version of this was the Deism of many of America’s Founding Fathers. That philosophy did not go so far as to say that God was dead, but simply that He stopped caring about the world after he created it.

In either case this may be considered fake news. In the latter case, believers in God (Christian, Jewish, or otherwise) know by faith that God is eternal, although atheists might compare that statement to some of what is called fake news today. In the former case, it is clearly fake news.

Rationalism, humanism, and several other -isms have had a significant influence in the past two or three centuries. They have made inroads into the faith of many people. It may even appear that scientific atheism or scientific agnosticism predominate in Western thought today. Nevertheless, faith in God has not died out. After the attacks of 9/11 there was a rebirth of Christian belief in America, even if it was short-lived. The Communists tried to wipe out religion in the Soviet Union, with limited success. Many of the common people still continued to believe, and when their Orthodox church buildings were destroyed or turned into museums, they found other places to assemble. After the fall of Soviet Communism, many of the former republics have found a rebirth of Christianity. In Ukraine, for instance, the public schools are teaching Bible and administrators say that is because it is the only source for moral teaching. (In that they prove Nietzsche’s worst fears about the decline of Christian thought.)

To those of faith, there is no greater statement than that of Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The eternal existence of God is taken as a given. Going to the other end of the Bible, God’s eternity is again manifest. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8) God is, by nature, eternal. It is impossible for God to die because He is superior to death.

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. (1 Cor 15:24-27)

God is alive. Anything else is fake news.

Paul vs Jesus

In recent years some have proclaimed the news that Paul taught a different doctrine than Jesus taught. Hence, the Christianity practiced in most places today is not what Jesus intended and is, therefore, heresy.

One web site consulted listed 24 supposed points at which Paul contradicted Jesus. A few were based on someone else’s faulty interpretations of what Paul wrote. Some are based on faulty translations of what Paul wrote, or of what Jesus said. Others claim Paul contradicted Jesus, but showed no passage in which Jesus said what they claimed he said. (Example: Paul claimed to be an apostle but Jesus [somewhere, but they don’t say where] said there would only be twelve apostles for perpetuity.) Most of this site’s examples simply take two statements out of context and compare them, like the proverbial comparison of apples to oranges.

The argument some make is that Jesus never said anything about some things Paul states as doctrine. “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality.” “Jesus never spoke about gay marriage.” (In fact, he did speak about marriage as being between a man and a woman—Mark 10:6-8) “Jesus never said women could not be preachers.” There are two fallacies to this argument. The first is that Jesus was primarily teaching Jews, who already opposed homosexual acts and women taking authority over men in the worship; he had no reason to bring up these topics to most of his audiences. The more important fallacy is that you cannot prove a negative. Just because we have no record of Jesus saying something does not mean he did not say it. After all, in Acts 20:35 there is a quotation attributed to Jesus that is not found in the gospels. Even the apostle John admitted (Jn 20:30) that not everything about Jesus was written down.

But what does the Bible say about Paul’s teaching? It says that the apostles that followed Jesus every day for three to four years agree that Paul’s teaching was not something new or heretical.

“When James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.” (Gal 2:9) Some might argue that Paul is spreading false news himself; but the apostles he mentions were still alive and John even worked in the area to which he was writing. If this were false, they could have proved it to be so—and didn’t.

But we don’t have to rely on Paul’s account of himself. We also have the testimony of Peter.

Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Pet 3:15-16)

Note that first of all he considers Paul a brother in Christ. Then he says that Paul wrote according to wisdom given to him; wisdom which Peter appears to believe had God as its source. Finally, he calls Paul’s writings “scriptures,” comparing them to other sacred writings.

Peter, Paul, and (by inference) John have only one term for the idea that Paul changed Christianity to fit his own prejudices. That term is “fake news.”

A Missing Day

This piece of fake news would be included as something funny if it weren’t that some people still believe it. The following story, in some form, has been around since the late 1800s, but the use of computers was added around the 1960s.

The story is that NASA has discovered a missing 24-hour period in the past. This was puzzling until someone who had read the Bible pointed out that Joshua 10:12-13 said that, in answer to Joshua’s prayer, the sun stood still for “about a day.” That seemed to account for all but 40 minutes of a day, when the person remembered 2 Kings 20:8-11, where Hezekiah asked the Lord to make the sun go back ten “degrees.” Ten degrees out of 360 degrees is 40 minutes. Therefore science has been able to prove the miracles of the Bible.

There are several things that show this to be false. The most telling is that the story began long before NASA You cannot prove a negative. No record that Jesus said something does not prove he didn’t.or computers. Then there is the question of why scientists would be looking backward to establish future positions of celestial bodies. But there are more telling scriptural reasons to deny the accuracy of this story.

Joshua 10 does tell the events around a battle with the Amorites, and that Joshua commanded the sun and moon to “stand still” so the Israelites could complete the destruction of the opposing army in daylight. The problem is determining how long “about a day” is. How did someone determine that “about a whole day” is 23 hours and 20 minutes? Almost every translation of the passage uses the word “about,” even though the Hebrew word means simply “whole.” When it is used to speak of a “ram without blemish” no priest would allow an “about unblemished” sacrifice. The only way the story could determine the instance in Joshua is to work backward from a faulty determination of 20 minutes in 2 Kings.

But about that. Where the King James Version uses the word degrees, the literal meaning is steps. Presumably time was told by the shadow on a certain staircase. Since we don’t know how long a “step” was, we can’t determine an accurate period of time. Even if it were a circular sundial, ten degrees could at best be an approximation.

It would be nice to believe the news that scientists proved at least two miracles of the Bible. On the other hand, where then would be faith? And where do you put your faith? In the Bible, or in fake news?