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We Need Reason and Revelation to Reach Truth – Scotsman Article

This article is published in The Scotsman Today


David Robertson: We need reason and revelation to reach truth.

 In these post-Brexit times we have a new doctrine for the chattering classes to talk about post-truth politics.

The ‘post-truth’ idea should be taken with a pinch of salt, says David Robertson

We’ve had the politics of fear, followed by the politics of sneer, but now in these post-Brexit times we have a new doctrine for the chattering classes to talk about – “post-truth politics”. Within a matter of weeks this new self-evident truth has attained the status of a fundamentalist doctrine in a religious cult. What does it mean?

In the immediate context of Brexit it has been used to point out that in general those who voted Remain were well-educated, rational beings, guided by facts, whereas the plebs who voted Leave did so because they were either too ignorant or too stupid to comprehend THE truth. They were guided by their racist/anti-establishment feelings and no matter how often they were told the “truth” they did not listen because we are not living in an era of post-truth politics, where facts and truth don’t matter. One newspaper commented that although those on the Remain side “attempted to fight fantasy with facts, but quickly found that the currency of fact had been badly debased”. It’s an interesting, if somewhat self-serving idea.

Of course some of the politicians on the Brexit side were “economical with the truth”. Did anyone really believe that £350 million per week would be spent on the NHS if we left the EU? Or that Britain was going to experience an invasion of millions of Turks? But the problem with the post-truth politics narrative is that it doesn’t just apply to one side. It works the other way too. Remember the promise by the now ex-Prime Minister Cameron that Article 50 would be triggered the day after the election? Or the similar promise from the now ex-Chancellor Osborne that an emergency budget would immediately be needed? And it is ongoing.

Have you heard about Regrexit, where numerous “experts” told us that many of the people who voted Leave now regretted it? A theory backed up by videos of a few people saying precisely this – not difficult to find in an electorate of over 17 million. It turns out that this too was post- (or is it pre?) truth. An Ipsos Mori poll found that whilst indeed 3 per cent of Leavers regretted their votes, 4 per cent of Remainers regretted theirs. It’s strange how those so concerned with truth neglected to report or put on their social media feeds, this inconvenient truth.

And therein lies the problem. Its not just that we live in a post-truth politics, but to some degree we live in a post-truth, postmodern world, where, as the Manic Street Preachers so ironically sang: “This is my truth, tell me yours.”

Except that in the post-truth postmodern world, people don’t really want to hear other people’s truths, so they just hear their own and block, defriend or ridicule anyone who dares to disagree. There is a real concern and danger that for some people politics has become the new religion, something in which they have invested their hopes and dreams. It may be stimulating and exciting, providing a much-needed sense of wider purpose, but it is also profoundly dangerous, especially when that hope is dashed as it inevitably will be.

One can admire the tenacity, manner and politics of Jeremy Corbyn, whilst at the same time being horrified at the antics and actions of some of his more fanatical supporters. Extreme right and extreme left groups often have this quasi-religious Messianic appeal. And nationalist groups as well. When you have a predominant party within one country, in which there is no dissent, and where many people have invested their dreams and aspirations, it can quickly descend into intimidation and bullying. Just go on to one of the cybernat Facebook pages and dare to question the new political orthodoxy and see how you get on!

The problem is that this is not really about truth. It is about feeling and identity in a world where critical thinking and rational evidence have been reduced to the role of supporting actors, if they are there at all. This is a disaster for a Scotland that has for centuries been based on the Christian understanding that the heart is addressed through the mind, and not the other way round. The Scottish Enlightenment grew out of the Reformation conviction that real Christianity needed an educated populace, and that real education should be available for all, because truth matters and no one person or group has a monopoly on truth.

In a world dominated by social media, soundbite news and people looking for confirmation bias for their feelings, it is little wonder that we have entered the realm of post-truth politics. Maybe its time we engaged in some critical thinking, gained a wider perspective and returned to the reality of truth? Perhaps like Pilate we want to wash our hands and ask “What is truth?”, thinking that agnosticism is the easiest way to go. The Christian position is different.

We recognize that we need both reason and revelation in order to reach the truth. “The truth is out there” and is not seen just in series of propositions, but in a person, Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, the Logos, the reason for our being, the one who promised to lead his followers into all truth. Knowing this truth does not mean that we have a pre-set handed down manual of political answers for all our problems, but it does gives us a relational basis for working things out in humility and love. Know the truth and the truth will make you free! • D

David Robertson is director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity
Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/david-robertson-we-need-reason-and-revelation-to-reach-truth-1-4193444


  1. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth …” ― C.S. Lewis … Seeking the Truth seems often not comfortable enough … Thanks for this today!

  2. ‘ they did not listen because we are not living in an era of post-truth politics, where facts and truth don’t matter. ‘
    or should that read, ‘they did not listen because we are now living in an era of post-truth politics, where facts and truth don’t matter’?

    I’m having enough trouble coping with the now without having the opprobrium of the not superadded.


  3. Yes,

    I can recall colleagues being greatly exicited the first time Obama was elected. The world would now be changed for the better. As you say, a saviour of humanity, let alone the USA, heralding a new world order. O, Yes we can.

  4. The problem is that this is not really about truth. It is about feeling and identity in a world where critical thinking and rational evidence have been reduced to the role of supporting actors, if they are there at all .

    Interesting choice of words, David, and yet while you chastise others for this lack you believe that a man came back from the dead and is the creator of the universe.
    Tell me, how much critical thought do you truly apply to this rationale?

    1. A great deal! It is perfectly rational to believe that an almighty God who created the universe could raise someone from the dead. The trouble is with those who presuppose that such a thing cannot happen because they believe there is no Almighty God – and so they go round in circles because they cannot move outwith the circularity of their own thinking.

      1. Oh, I am prepared to believe in anything, all I require is verified evidence, something you have failed to provide.
        One would think that with all the miracles Jesus of Nazareth is claimed to have performed John 21: 25, one could reasonably expect that there would be some recorded evidence outside of the bible, not so?.
        Alas, there is not a single account. Not one.
        So if you do apply ”a great deal” of critical thought to you ‘faith,as you emphatically state then please explain why, if all the books that could have been filled with the exploits of the character Jesus of Nazareth, there is not a single mention of anything he did ?
        Do you think you could do this, please?
        I am very interested in to read your response to this.

      2. You do realise that there were no books at all then? AS for verified evidence that is a circular argument because the only evidence you would accept is that which you accept and which fits your presuppositions. You will note that in all your posts you make assertions without evidence. Anyway I’m tired and have better things to do with my time. Its like arguing with a conspiracy theorist – it doesn’t matter what is said – its all part of the conspiracy. There is no evidence you would accept! I’m done….its been nice talking…take care..

      3. As you have disregarded every scientist I have mentioned and disregard every archaeologist and scholar what evidence pertaining to the subjects under discussion would you like to see?
        Please be specific and I will try my utmost to oblige?
        Can’t be fairer than this, surely?

      4. I can’t seem to log on. You obviously know this man’s background can you please highlight the evidence he has that refutes the consensus archaeological view that the Exodus is fiction. Thanks.

      5. Try again…I don’t seem to have any problem…am heading out…or contact him through the links…if you want to know find out….stop asking me to provide everything for you – do your own thinking!

      6. I have just found a YouTube debate with this bloke.
        For the gods’ sake, David, he is a damn creationist who believes in a global flood and does <not accept evolution.
        Do you actually research the people you reference?
        I am sorry, you have just frittered away whatever credibility you had.
        You are correct, this is tiring, painfully so and you are done.

      7. Thank you – thats what I figured. You have no interest in listening to anyone, no matter what the evidence if they don’t accept your position. Jonathan is a PhD scientist and I suspect his qualifications are considerably more than yours. I prefer to listen to the evidence before judging the person. Clearly that is not your modus operandi!

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