Douglas Groothuis

Defending the Christian Faith, September 7, 2004




part 2



IV.       Truth Decay: Understanding the Problem (D. Groothuis Truth Decay, introduction, chapter one)


A.        The importance of truth


1.         Truth:  desired and feared by mortals east of Eden


2.         Truth and integrity


3.         People of truth; truth in jeopardy


4.         Screwtape’s ploy:  remove the very category of truth from the mind


B.         The seven acids of truth decay


1.         The end of the enlightenment vision/project


2.         A unified world view is impossible today because of our cosmopolitan, media-saturated environment


3.         A unified world-view is impossible today because of the great diversity of religious viewpoints available


4.         Postmodernity does not allow for a fixed sense of personal identity


5.         Language is contingent on human beings and cannot communicate objective truth


6.         Written texts have no objective, determinative meaning or truth value (deconstruction)


7.         “Truth” is a function of power relationships, not an objective reality



V.        The Eighth Acid of Truth Decay:  Television (See D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, appendix)


A.        Understanding the nature of television and how it contributes to truth decay “The medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media)


1.         Moving image trumps or humiliates the written and spoken word (Exodus 20:1 – 4; John 1:1)


a.         Images are limited in their power to communicate truth:  second commandment (Exodus 20).  Jesus’ appearance is never described in the Gospels


b.         Power of deception through image manipulation:  my TV interview about channeling.  Malcolm Muggerridge:  “The camera always lies.”  See his Christ and the Media


c.         Prefabricated presentations:  shrink events into sound bites and memorable images that may be false or misleading


d.         Cannot watch the Bible on video.  You must learn to master the written texts.  Church librarian in Denver laments that parents check out “Christian videos” instead of books for children


2.         Discontinuity, fragmentation:  “a peek-a-boo world” (Neil Postman) (Luke 1:1 – 4)


a.         No continuity, coherence, development of ideas:  “And now this…”


b.         Leads to intellectual impatience, recklessness, distraction


c.         ADD/ADHD:  a national problem.  Medical warnings about TV and infants.  Pediatrics, Vol. 113 No. 4 (April 2004)


Conclusions:  Early television exposure is associated with attentional problem at age 7.  Efforts to limit television viewing in early childhood may be warranted…”


d.         Biblically, the primacy of a coherent, orderly view of reality (Luke 1:1 – 4)


3.         Hypervelocities:  video equivalent of caffeine (Psalm 46:10)—jump cuts, scene changes, special effects


a.         Out of sync with God-given natures:  pathology of velocity, plague of rapidity


b.         Stimulation, agitation—not edification instruction (usually).  Ken Burns programs are somewhat different, though


c.         Decrease in attention spans:  sermons, classes, conversations; but this may be challenged—through good preaching


d.         Biblical importance of pacing, stillness.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)


4.         Entertainment orientation—amusement dominates all other values (2 Timothy 3:4)


a.         The demand of all areas of life:  religion, politics, news, education; amuse means “no thought.”  “Laugh track is always running” (Jean Baudrillard, America)


b.         Amusement is not appropriate for many things; loss of gravity, sobriety, rectitude; orienting our subjective response to the objective nature of what we experience


c.         Biblically:  don’t be a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God (2 Timothy 3:4).  Get serious.


B.         Conclusion (more on this in “Christian Ethics and Modern Culture” class)


1.         Engage in television fasting


2.         Decrease drastically television watching


3.         Replace with thoughtful reading



Resources for growth and discernment


1.   Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay  (InterVarsity, 2000). The appendix addresses the nature and effects television in the context of postmodernism.


2.   Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds (Baker Books, 1994). Excellent Christian critique of anti-intellectualism in the church, which addresses television and other truth-decaying agents.


3.   Arthur Hunt, III, The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Imagery in the Postmodern World (Crossway, 2003). Christian perspective on a pervasive but often ignored problem.


4.   Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin, 1985). The best secular critique of the nature and effects of television; it is more insightful than most Christian books.


5.   Douglas and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis web page: