Just last week, when President Trump was inaugurated, we saw this play out in an almost comical way. Trump’s inauguration crowd was smaller than the crowd that had attended the swearing in of President Obama eight years prior. There was no shame in this. The earlier inauguration had been the historic swearing in of the first black president.
However, Trump, from his vantage point on the dais thought that the crowd was “huge.” (Even though he had not been on the stage in 2009 for comparison.) He sent his spokesman out to claim that his crowd had been the largest crowd ever. Period. Even though the data—the facts—all claimed otherwise. Photos, metro transit numbers, television viewership, was all down from previous years.
In spite of this, Trump supporters polled have claimed that pictures of Trump's crowd show more people than Obama’s. They reject what their eyes tell them to embrace an idea they wish were true.
Something that can complicate this whole post-truth reality we are wrestling with is that not all reality is so simply proven with facts. Sometimes—in cases not so clear-cut as photographs of crowd size—facts must be interpreted.
Do the facts of the fossil record support the theory that natural selection--a process whereby species are preserved--explain the origin of all species through a process of macroevolution? No. Not yet in any case.
Does the data show that global climate is warming? Increasingly this is becoming undeniable. Are we at fault or is it a part of a natural cycle influenced by other factors? That debate rages as people embrace their own selections of data.
And what about faith?
By the very nature of the concept of divinity, we cannot “prove” the existence of a creator who transcends our reality. Therefore, some people think the concepts embraced by religions lie fully in the realm of post-truth. They believe that you can only believe such ideas as opinions; that they lie outside the realm of facts.
That is not entirely true, however. Even if we cannot demonstrate the existence of God or a supernatural dimension to life through science, there are other facts to take into account. What are the claims of a religious belief? Do they maintain an internal consistency? Are they based on real facts? Do they effect real world changes that line up with what they claim to want?
This is the sort of thing 1 John was written to demonstrate. John is writing about truth, about things that he knew and experienced, about things his readers can trust. In 5:13, he states plainly, “I have written to you… in order that you may know…”
Look at the argument he so deftly handles in the first sentence:
“What was from the beginning,”
This can both refer to the eternal nature of the truth of Jesus Christ that he will be writing about—as he had already done in his Gospel—or to the fact that the truth he was about to reinforce was the same truth that had been accepted from the start of Christianity; all the way back to Jesus’ teaching.
“what we have heard,”
“what we have seen with our eyes,”
“what we beheld,”
“and our hands handled,”
This is a barrage of facts. John is reminding us that his truth is something he experienced. He heard Jesus teach. He saw the miracles performed. He observed Jesus and sat at his feet learning his truth. He touched the man who had proven himself to be God by defeating death.
“concerning the Word of Life—”
The content of John’s message is all about real life. Life that transcends the death and contamination and evil that we contend with in this fallen world.
“and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—”
Once again, we are assured of the reliability of the testimony given here. John experienced and lived with a taste of real life--eternal, transcending life--in the person of Jesus Christ. A man who was at the same time the Son of God, God himself.
“what we have seen and heard…”
Again, this is not hearsay.
“…we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
John ends this sentence by explaining his motivation for sharing the truth. This is not an exercise in knowing something. This is not an information dump nor an attempt to set people right on their understanding of the world. The goal of sharing the Truth is that people may have a relationship. A restored relationship with their Creator who loves them and wants them to experience Life—life as it was meant to be. A relationship with Jesus, the Son of God who is God but became a man as well, a real man living the life as the Creator intended it to be lived. And that they might have a real relationship with the people of God living in community as God intends.