The Inauthenticity of Authenticity

21 May

Authenticity is an empty word these days, and I believe its high time that we (Christians) stop using it (rather abusing it) in order to justify our disagreement/criticism of others.  Let me explain…

As a blogger, I tend to read other blogs and articles, and in doing so, occasionally come across posts which rail against the “inauthenticity of _________.”  Insert the person, group, or institution of your choosing.  On its face, there does not seem to be anything wrong with such a comment.  In fact, if we were to check the dictionary, we would find that the two definitions of authenticity which are pertinent for this topic are as follows:

1. Worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.

2. True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

With regard to definition #1, one would be inauthentic if he or she were presenting something as worthy of belief  based upon fact, that indeed, was not.  It is unworthy of belief because it is not based upon (or conforming to) fact.  However, I am of the belief that the majority of what people intend when they use the inauthentic card is in relation to definition #2.  In this case, one can only be inauthentic if he or she is being untrue to his or her own personality, spirit, or character.

Here is my point.  If you claim that a person is inauthentic in terms of definition #1, the burden of proof is upon you to present the facts that support your claim.  This can be done, but it requires work and an intellectual endeavor into either philosophy or research.  However, if you claim that a person is inauthentic in terms of definition #2, the burden of proof is upon you to show how the person is being untrue to his or her own personality, spirit, or character; something I believe is vastly more difficult to prove.

When most people use the word authentic, they are misusing it (or abusing it) to mean what they want it to mean.  Rather that being authentic to the definitions above, people throw the word out in the blogosphere to justify their rants on personal issues or against others with whom they disagree.  Dr. Carl Trueman, of Westminster Theological Seminary, explains it this way:

The working definition [that most people] seem to operate with is one in which they talk bluntly about myself, presenting my issues and extrapolating from my experience…Assuming that if you’re not sharing [their doubt] that, you are being intellectually dishonest… Authenticity seems to mean that “I’m going to say whatever I want and if you do not conform with it, you are dishonest, or inauthentic.” (1)   

What’s the point?  As Christians, I think we need to think critically about the words we use because, despite what people may say, words do have power.  We should strive to hold ourselves to a higher level of intellectual honesty and integrity. Yet, more importantly, we should consider the glory of God as we think, read, and write. The misuse of the word authentic (and inauthentic) results in slander.  When a person claims that another is inauthentic in a way that does not conform to the true meaning of the word, it defames the person’s character and presents them as someone they are not.  Yet, such slander and character defamation is in direct violation of what God has called us as Christians to pursue (Prov. 10:18, Eph. 4:31, 1 Pet. 2:1), and fails to glorify God.

So in the end, I return to the beginning.  Authentic, inauthentic, and authenticity.  These are empty words.  Let us strive to fill them again with the right meaning; to love others, and to glorify God.

 

(1) From an interview with Dr. Trueman at WTS on Christ the Center that can be found at http://reformedforum.org/podcasts/ctc229/.

 

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