Thursday, February 15, 2007

When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.

In chapter 20 of the book that bears his name, Jeremiah complained to God:
O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. (20:7)

On Sunday nights our adult Bible study at Providence Church is in the format of a exposition of chapter (e.g., 2 Samuel 16 on 2/11), which is followed by a time of Q&A. In my mind, it's during Q&A that you really earn your money as a teacher. That's a time that separates the men from the boys.

This week the issue of whether or not it's okay to lie to your enemies came up, since Hushai lies to Absalom in 2 Sam 16.

The issue is this, sometimes you see God's people lying for what they perceive to be good reason and not being explicitly reprimanded or punished. For example Rahab was actually praised for her actions (Heb 11:31), though it entailed lying.

As well, there are numerous passages that state pretty clearly that on occasion God deceives His enemies. Is it ever okay to lie? Are there some instances where it becomes the lesser of two evils? Is it always forbidden?

The issue becomes complicated when we note passages where God certainly appears to intentionally decive His enemies.

My favorite passage of such intrigue is 1 Kings 22:13-23 where God ensures false prophets will tell the king to go into battle where he will be victorious, but God wants him to go into battle to smoke him. The following interchange brings this to bear:
18And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" 19And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. 21Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' 22And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.' 23Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you." (ESV)
To those who refuse to love the truth, God will bring punishment in the form of a delusion so that they believe what is false in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12:
11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (ESV)
Are we allowed to deceive our enemies? What about as a punishment or recompense for their sin/wickedness? What about in warfare? Can a Christian wear camo to conceal his position? Can a Christian playing running back deceive the linebacker into thinking he's going right, only to juke him outta his socks by going to the left?

The classic example is always where you're at the door to your home in Nazi Germany and you're asked if you're hiding Jews in your house. You are. What do you say?

Scripture says that God does not lie (1 Sam 15:29; Titus 1:2) nor even change His mind (Num 23:19). So, God is not a liar.

But ... God does deceive His enemies and God uses the sinful actions of wicked people to accomplish His purposes (cf. cross of Jesus, Acts 2:22-24), though He is in no way the author of evil.

That being said, I'm not quite ready to take the next step (though perhaps it be logical) that we are allowed to lie ... circumstances permitting.

I've heard it said that evildoers don't deserve the truth. That is true, but who does? Nobody deserves the truth, except God, who is truth (John 14:6).

Now, that doesn't mean I give full disclosure to the Nazis, but at least in theory I think I should not lie to them. I can certainly see me getting more than a bit Clintonesque on them, however.

Q: Is there any Jews here?
A: Hmm. I guess that depends of your definition of "is," now doesn't it?

Further, perhaps we have to ask, like Pilate, "What is truth?"

I know some wise and learned humans would differ with me on this, but I'm having to give God line item veto on how He does things. When push comes to shove, I may tell the Nazis that the Jews are hiding at the end of a long walk on a short pier, but my goal going in would be to do whatever I could to avoid lying.

But ... does that mean I can shoot 'em instead? Your thoughts?



At 15 February, 2007 07:45, Blogger Rev. said...

When are you going to go back to something simple, like the Emerging/Emergent slooge? ;)

Are we allowed to deceive our enemies? Hmmm. I'll be wearin' camos in the military. When I played basketball in high school, I certainly used moves to deceive our opponents as to my direction of driving/passing, etc. Never felt guilty for that. If I had lived in Germany under the Nazi regime and was hiding Jews in my home, I wouldn't tell the Nazis where they were or even that they were there. What would I say? I'd pull a Sgt. Schultz... "I know nothing!" Would that be a lie? Yes. Would I feel guilty for it? No. Why not? Because the evil doers don't deserve the truth. They will only use the truth to kill and destroy. I'd be very comfortable being put in the ranks of the Hebrew mid-wives at that point.

Would it be a lie that needs forgiveness? Perhaps. So, what do you do? Confess. "Lord, I didn't tell the truth. You know that I did it in order to preserve life. Please have mercy on me, knowing that in this situation I honestly sought to honor you by preserving life."

At 15 February, 2007 08:56, Anonymous Ron said...

I know you were phishin' for me to come throw down (as Chuck Norris would) on this topic. However, you've providentially posted this on the , the woman who risked everything to hide Anne Frank and her family.

It suddenly occurred to me that I don't really know anything about this subject at all.

At 15 February, 2007 09:16, Blogger GUNNY said...

Providential indeed.

Happy 98th Birthday, Miep!

At 15 February, 2007 09:41, Blogger GUNNY said...

P.S. Happy Birthday to Chris Farley.

Our beloved Chippendale's runner-up is not forgotten.

At 17 February, 2007 01:42, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

That's a great question! If two countries are at war, is it okay for one country's army to deceive the other?

Here's another thought: If truth is Christ, then those who do not know Christ as his disciples, faithfully walking with him, have no way to know anything truly in an ultimate sense.

Follow me here. We might understand truth in two different ways. (I think I may have read this distinction in Van Til somewhere, but its been so long):

(1) One may know truth according to finite referents (e.g. 1+1=2, Gunny is a gourmet bacon chef, etc.). This is knowing truth in a penultimate sense.

or . . .

(2) One may now truth according to the infinite referent through his self-revelation. This would be nowing truth in an ultimate sense.

If we admit the second, then lying to them when a greater principle is at stake than they may be aware of, but which we are aware of through our knowledge of the infinite referent's self-revelation, would not really be lying since they would be unable to perceive the ultimate truth as truth anyway.

In otherwords, if the person is certain to receive ultimate truth as a lie anyway (which I admit is a big IF, but think there are times when evangelistic efforts might not be appropriate [e.g. war, I'm not going to pass the Nazi a gospel tract over the barrel of his machine gun]), through his own sinful rebellion and self-deception, then how is telling him the truth, which will definitely lead to the breaking of a greater principle (e.g. murder, no two ways about murder, that sucker's ultimate every time), the right thing to do?

Does that make sense?


At 19 February, 2007 23:05, Blogger GUNNY said...

My brain is small, but I think I may have wrapped it around your thoughts.

The Nazi bit comes down to this:
(a) sin by lying to evildoers who will (presumably) use the truth to murder innocent people

(b) tell the truth whereby I am essentially helping murder occur, as an accessory to murder

I feel that either way, the terrorists have already won.

So, I'll get back on a plane and feed the economy at Christmas, but since I'm inclined to prevent murder instead of helping it, I'd probably lie.

But, in my mind I'm choosing sin either way, and this is the lesser. Just like I'd beat a guy to a pulp who was a would-be rapist, if not exterminating him in the process.

My actions toward him would fall under the category of sinful behavior, but I think it worthwhile to suffer the consequences to prevent his heinous evildoing.

In other words, I don't think we mortals have the line item veto to situationally suspend the rules for a higher goal. If we do so, I think we have to be ready to take the consequences.

When Martin Luther King broke (unjust) laws to advance the cause of civil rights, he was willing to suffer the ramifications for having done so.

What about a guy like Paul Hill who shoots an abortion doctor? We'd say, do not murder, but what if his one murder prevents 93 murders?

I can't justify what he did, but I think I can understand it.

Suppose instead of lying Rahab would have rubbed out the evildoers? Would that have still been good bull, in our eyes?

The part, Jay, about denying the evildoer the truth because he doesn't know the Truth I'll have to cogitate on further.


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