The ninth commandment requires that I must love the truth, the whole truth and speak it honestly. I must not give false testimony, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, and avoid deceit. The purpose of this commandment is to regulate our minds and lives so that we reflect God’s image, by honoring God and promoting our neighbour’s wellbeing.
A good understanding of relevant current events is very important so that we can remain faithful to our Saviour in everyday life. To remain informed about current affairs we use the (electronic and printed) media, often on a daily basis. However, most voices in the media have little or no respect for the ninth commandment. Indeed, false testimony, gossip, selective truth and deceit are often promoted, wittingly or unwittingly.
This leaves us with a challenge: how can we be properly informed if the sources of our information are polluted?
Thanks to advances in technology we have access to more information than ever before. The internet and social media are very accessible and popular, making it possible for almost anyone with some technical know-how to have their say on many subjects under the sun. In his book “The death of Expertise” Tom Nichols writes “Today everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.” (1)
Nichols writes that we live in a post-fact age. It is characterized by disdain for serious journalism, expert professional knowledge, carefully researched material and well-presented facts. Instead, much of the “news” offered by the media are opinions, feelings, political agendas and entertainment. News outlets use customer satisfaction models and fickle fads to determine what “news” they will stream, rather than what is important. The information that comes through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, tabloid newspapers and popular magazines, overwhelm us with information, but often without proper checks and filters to preserve or promote truth. Furthermore there is no longer an agreed big picture view of events which give context to smaller ones. In our post-modern age universal truths are scorned, and this is so very evident in today’s public discourse. Professional journalists are replaced with rock and movie stars who spout forth their views, with conviction, about any aspect of life.
This has opened the floodgates for the dissemination of lots of useless, misleading information and false news. Consequently shallow and fragmented knowledge is common, and ignorance and confusion about current affairs abound. It has resulted in discontent and even rebellion against many things in Western society that were highly valued only a few generations ago.
However it is vital that truth be upheld. Proverbs 8 tells us that those who seek right understanding and wisdom find life. But those who hate them love death (Proverbs 8:35 and 36). In this age of confusion it is therefore helpful to adopt some strategies to help us seek right knowledge and understanding. Three are mentioned below. More is mentioned in other articles dealing with the same subject on this website.
The first is by constant prayer for spiritual knowledge and discernment. The second is regular and structured Bible study which will give the serious student ability to understand and view events around us through the lens of God’s Word. This leads to wise and spiritual discernment. It is the key to hope and peace of heart.
The third is to study good quality books about current affairs. Reading just a small number of such books in one year will provide much better insight than spending hours listening to or reading the media’s often paltry offerings. Why read books on current affairs? Because authors spend a lot of time (sometimes several years) researching, thinking and writing about a topic. For the author a book provides space for in depth analysis and gives the reader time to digest what is written (2). By contrast much of what is offered in the media is shallow and fragmented.
“The Strange Death of Europe” (3) by Douglas Murray is an example of a good read about current affairs and is recommended. This book provides an in-depth account and analysis of what has been happening in Europe over the last few decades. Murray claims, backed up by credible evidence, that Europe is bent on committing suicide. It is experiencing monumental changes that are destroying its foundations and social fabric. But there is no agreement or ability how to deal with them.
Murray gives a very good description and analysis of profound matters such as declining birth rates among Europeans, mass immigration (including the replacement of large parts of the European populations by other people), multi-culturalism, self-distrust and self-criticism, the impact of Islam, social unrest, protests and violence. Public debate is tightly controlled by political correctness and fear. Censorship muzzles anyone who wants to call a spade a spade, call out evil for what it is, or promote common sense. Politicians and the media lead the way. All this comes at a time when Europe has lost its traditional culture and values, and the energy to reclaim them, let alone stand up for them.
Murray cites examples of cases where fear of ‘racism’ charges even prevented authorities from laying charges against serious crime. He refers to child abuse and gang rapes as being “the preserve of immigrants.” Often the media and even government enforcement agencies did not report such crime for fear of accusations of ‘racism’. “When these gang rape cases came to court they did so in spite of local police, councilors and care-workers, many of whom were discovered to have failed to report such crimes involving immigrant gangs for fear of accusations of ‘racism’. The media followed suit, filling their reports with euphemisms as though trying to avoid helping the public to draw any conclusions” (page 29).
Murray has gone to considerable lengths to uncover what he thinks are some of the causes of Europe’s malaise. One of these is the ‘retreat’ of the Christian religion. He writes that in the past Europe had great resources, energy, and commitment to purpose. As a result it was world leader in many fields. “For centuries in Europe one of the great – if not the greatest – sources of such energy came from the spirit of the continent’s religion” (page 209). The Christian faith was the foundation of Europe’s institutions, laws, government, liberties and its positive influence around the world. But now the faith has been overtaken by secularism and the insistence that a society can be built without God. “In its wake there arose a desire to demonstrate that in the twenty-first century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions which could exist even without the source [the Christian religion – JB] that had arguably given them life” (page 6).
Murray is not a Christian but believes that Christianity is an important influence on British and European culture. He asks why religion has ‘retreated’. He says that in the 19th century Europe’s faith “received two seismic blows from which it never recovered, leaving a gap that has never been filled.” The first was the effects of Bible criticism that swept through German universities and is still felt now. The core of this criticism meant the Bible was no longer considered to be God’s Word that was perfectly true and trustworthy. The other blow to the Christian faith was the impact of Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection” which propagates the theory of evolution. Darwin’s book, says Murray, is “the first wholesale explanation for the world we inhabit that had no need for God” (page 211).
A second cause of Europe’s malaise identified by Murray is the position and purpose of the nation state, that is, the sovereignty of Europe’s individual nations. For centuries the nation state had been regarded as the best guarantor for good order and protection for people and their heritage. But national sovereignty has been sacrificed in favour of the European Union (EU) which is said to be a much better arrangement to solve the great problems of the twenty-first century. (I remember several Reformed voices in the Dutch parliament in the 1960/70s warning against the EU, claiming it would lead to ruin. The current turmoil in Europe, and Brexit are examples that they were right.)
According to Murray, the bottom line of Europe’s problems is the rejection of its rich heritage. As a result Europe has not only become weak, it seems bent on suicide. Now, as it is hit with major problems and challenges, it has neither ability nor willingness to defend itself. People are lamely standing by watching wholesale upheavals to society, especially the changes caused by reduced birth rates, mass immigration and multiculturalism. The very negative impacts of large Muslim communities in large cities burden many people; crime rates are frightening, but few are doing anything positive about it. Political leaders dare not take the action needed to bring back social stability based on European values. Murray concludes that if this situation persists, damaging upheavals will continue, with outcomes unknown.
The book should be read with discretion. It does not penetrate sufficiently into the root of Europe’s problems. The root problem is unfaithfulness to God’s holy Word. For many centuries Europe had the Gospel. But rejection of the Gospel inevitably results in God’s wrath. Paul’s words are very applicable to the situation:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it to them.” Romans 1:18-19
Furthermore it is disappointing that Murray does not call for repentance, a new Reformation. Therefore he cannot and does not offer credible solutions, true hope and comfort. He closes the book with these words: “Prisoners of the past and of the present, for Europeans there seem finally to be no decent answers to the future. Which is how the fatal blow will finally land” (page 320). Murray ends on this pessimistic note because he does not turn to the wisdom of Proverbs 8. He fails to do full justice to the ninth commandment that requires us to love and promote the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for God’s honor and the wellbeing of the neighbor. The truth revealed by Jesus Christ (John 8:32) is what that makes us free and provides true comfort.
Despite its shortcomings, the book is well worth reading. It offers a cohesive picture of Europe’s current malaise, calling a spade a spade. It provides information and insight that many news outlets or opinion blogs don’t want or dare to give. It is also a useful aid to help understand the situation in other western countries. The forces at work in Europe are also driving events in most western countries.
- Nichols, T. “The death of Expertise. The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters”. Oxford University Press. 2017. Dustjacket.
- Neil Postman in his books “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and “Building a Bridge to the 18th Century” provide a magnificent analysis of the value of the written word over other communication.
- Murray, D. “The Strange Death of Europe. Immigration, Identity and Islam”. Bloomsbury Continuum, London UK. 2017.