Sermons

Summary: We must guard against creating a narrative as a mask of the truth of God's Word.

“If our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” [1]

An old proverb states that truth is the best advertising, propaganda and public relations tool. Fact-supported truth is a powerful narrative. Unfortunately, the truth can be hidden, ignored, obscured or inundated by error, creating what is identified as a weaponised narrative. The concept of a narrative has become increasingly popular in contemporary society. One American President popularised the idea of the narrative in political and social discussions. A native activist complained that a Catholic school boy “stole his narrative.” Of course, this hasn’t turned out quite the way the native activist thought it would.

This concept of “the narrative” has been trumpeted by talk-show hosts and politicians of various stripes during the past decade. Promoting the idea of a narrative implies manipulation of perception to ensure a particular outcome during debate between proponents of opposing views. Narratives as currently employed have a tangential relationship to truth, at the best. Increasingly, the idea of a narrative is being weaponised in contemporary society.

I suppose this movement to weaponise the narrative was inevitable since the concept has been aggressively promoted by the media in support of favoured political views. Narrative warfare embraces more than PR and propaganda campaigns. Narrative warfare employs “weaponised narratives” that are spun from “highly selective truth,” outright lies, false accusations, distorted and altered quotations, emotional appeals, sensational outrage, fear mongering, blame-shifting, intimidating threats, victim posturing, virtue signaling and fabricated imagery. These are all facets of contemporary argument.

Indeed, these disruptive and often destructive techniques have been in the human political and psychological warfare tool kit since our first parents first appeared in the Garden of Eden. Tragically, modern mass media and digital communications can quickly and pervasively spread the weaponised narrative, often without challenge. Emotional arguments tend to overwhelm logic and reason. Narrative warfare advocates argue that a powerful psychological weapon is capable of many things, including influencing national and international opinion. Worse still, weaponised narratives are employed among the faithful. The inevitable result is devastating to the Faith.

When I speak of weaponised narratives, I’m speaking of the creation and employment of a narrative that drives the activity of those who hear the narrative. Among the faithful, we witness an increasing appeal to narratives rather than the truth. The narratives sound reasonable, though they are false; they have the ring of truthiness, though they lack either evidence or logic. Ofttimes, the narratives have the ring of veracity, though they do not tell the whole story; they are partial truths. Remember, a half-truth is a total lie. That is what makes them so dangerous! The unwary are susceptible to succumbing to the error promoted by these false narratives.

The message I am bringing today is intended to challenge us to think Christianly. I want us to consider some of the narratives that are mistakenly treated as valid in the realm of the Faith. I am challenging each of us to weigh what is promoted through such narratives in light of what is revealed in the Word of God. I want God’s people to lay a foundation for solid Christian service that equips us for honourable and truthful service to the cause of Christ the Lord, the Son of God. I do want to encourage believers to think, to act with discretion, and then to serve as God would have His people serve.

NARRATIVES THAT MARGINALISE REVEALED TRUTH — “If our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way)” [ROMANS 3:5]. The Apostle has presented a solemn truth. We are unrighteous. However, our unrighteousness reveals the righteousness of God. If we recognise our condition, it means there is a standard by which we gauge our actions. If there is a standard, and we recognise that standard, we are accountable to the One who judges by that standard.

The particular point that the Apostle makes in this verse is sobering for anyone who actually grapples with the thought that we must give an accounting to the One who is qualified by His inherent righteousness to judge. It means there is a judgement. It means that we are held to a standard outside of our own condition. It means that judgement is pending for all mankind. Thus, it should not be surprising that almost all the narratives constructed for millennia revolve around an attempt to evade responsibility for our own character. The narratives constructed by mankind seek to reduce God to a caricature, dismissing the wickedness of man’s fallen character. Ultimately, all narratives attempt to avoid facing our pending, and well-justified, judgement.

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