IS GOD A LIAR?
T. PIERCE BROWN
I just finished reading an article by Julia Wharton which approved of lying, reprinted in “The Reformer” by Buff Scott, excerpted from “Verdict” giving as one of the reasons she approved of lying is that God not only approved of it, but did it Himself! It was shocking to read this blasphemy, but to read it in the paper of one who claims to have been a preacher of the gospel was more so.
The article appears to me exceptionally dangerous, for although you might assume that statements so blatantly blasphemous as that would receive little hearing from those who profess Christianity, they are made in such a fashion that they have great appeal to many. It is a form of “situation ethics” which has an appeal to a great number who consider themselves Christians.
My purpose is not merely to review her article, but to point out what I consider some dangerous, deceitful and devilish assumptions that many of us make, whether or not we approve of lying. In recent years I have seen many such assumptions made by those who are preachers, connected in some fashion with the Lord’s church.
The basic thing wrong with the philosophy of the article is that it makes man his own god, which is what the devil has been trying to do since Adam’s day. Man’s judgment, feeling and opinion become the standard of right and wrong. She admits that God’s law will not allow for that, for she says, “Law is notoriously inflexible.” What that really means in practice is that any time one thinks God’s law is too rigid to suit him, or works a hardship on you or some other person, disregard it. It will ease your conscience, if you still have one, if you can make yourself believe that in so doing you are trustingly relying on his grace and demonstrating a loving, Christlike spirit!
From the Bible perspective, we discover that lying should be defined as a “non-factual statement with intent to deceive.” Not every non-factual statement is a lie. A parable, for example, could have non-factual statements. A novel should not be called a lie just because it is not historical.
Furthermore, contrary to what many preachers of the gospel have loosely and improperly said (and that article by Wharton affirms), men do not lie by saying nothing. She says, “A lie is no less a lie because it is silent.” Staying silent may be wrong, cowardly, or sinful, not because it is a lie, but because one withholds information that rightly belongs to another. Neither silence (Matthew 26:62), nor even a part of the whole truth (1 Samuel 16:2) is a lie. Notice carefully: A statement that is partially true and partially false is a lie. But a statement that is only a part of the truth is the truth. For example, if I am going to the drug store and the grocery store, and I say to you, “I am ONLY going to the drug store,” I lie. But if I only say, “I am going to the grocery store,” (which is only part of the truth) and do not tell you I am going to the drug store, I do not thereby lie. God does not require that one tell ALL the truth to anyone who ask questions about anything! In fact, you seldom if ever, tell the WHOLE TRUTH about anything, in spite of what may be sworn in a court of law!
But she says that God plainly shows that He approved of Rahab and others lying! (Josh. 2:2-6). Does not James2:25say, “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” She was honored of God for RECEIVING the messengers and SENDING THEM OUT another way. But it neither states nor implies that she was approved or honored for lying. One could as readily show that she was approved for being a harlot! In fact, Joseph Fletcher, and other leading “situation ethics” advocates DO teach with equal force, and by the same logic, that murder, lying, adultery and ANYTHING ELSE is to be approved, if done with a good, loving motive!
She assumes that the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh in Exodus 1:19 when they said that the Hebrew women are vigorous and gave birth before the midwives arrive, and then assumes that God approved of their lie because they lied and He blessed them. You could not prove that they lied, if your life depended on it. What indication is there in or out of the Bible that they did not often give birth before the midwives arrived? Nor does the fact that God blessedIsraelor that He blesses US exceedingly abundantly above that which we can ask or think prove that ANY sin they did or we do is approved.
Then she tries to justify “social lies,” as many of us do. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:4, “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this.” There is NO case I can think of where a person is required by rules of etiquette to lie by saying, “I had a nice time,” when they did not have a nice time. Both God’s law and social graces would be served by saying, “I appreciate your thoughtfulness in inviting me,” if you did (and you should, even if other circumstances ruined your evening). Nothing in God’s law or ethical principles forces you to say, “I think your party was rotten and I wish I had never come.” Silence on that point, contrary to her assumption, is NOT a lie.
You CAN teach your children good manners without teaching them to lie. One does not have to say, “I like this gift” if he does not. If a friend bakes a pie for you, and you say, “It was wonderful!” when you almost choked on it, it would be appropriate for you to be forced to eat one in her presence every day for a month! You can always say something like, “Thank you so much for your courtesy and concern for going to all that trouble for me.” If YOU have gone to much trouble for someone, no law or logic would require you to say, “No trouble at all” as she seems to think good manners require. Far better it would be to say, if it is the truth, “For you I am happy to go to whatever trouble it may have been. Trouble and burdens do not seem so important when they are for a friend like you.”
She rightly states, “Neither the Ten Commandments nor any other code can provide guidelines broad enough to cover the justified lie.” There ARE no guidelines for “the justified lie” except one’s own deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9) when one assumes he is wiser than God and good enough to determine when it is appropriate to break God’s law!
The blasphemous charge that God graciously lied when He “called things that are not as though they were” and “who justified the wicked” (Rom.4:17, 5) is used to justify our lying! The American Standard translation helps clarify Romans4:17when it says, “He calls into being that which does not exist.” A simple illustration may help. If God speaks to a dead man and says, “You are alive!” the dead man then IS alive! God did not lie in making the dead man alive. The implication that God justifies the wicked in their wickedness and CALLS them righteous when they are NOT at least approaches blasphemy! God CANNOT lie! (Heb. 6:18).
He takes the wicked person and calls him righteous because he now IS RIGHTEOUS, for his sins have been removed in the blood of Christ. God does not LIE and PRETEND that he never sinned, or that he has a righteous standing because of the works of righteousness which he did (Titus 3:5), but RECKONS him righteous, and calls him such, and justifies the wicked when he TURNED from his wickedness of lying and other sins which will condemn him to hell (Rev. 21:8) and ACCEPTED the mercy offered in Jesus!
The blasphemy is compounded when she states, ” — Jesus, who is the TRUTH, willingly laid down his true identity as King and creator to ASSUME (Emp. mine. TPB) the identity of sinner and criminal for our sakes.” She apparently means that Jesus, the TRUTH, ceased to be the TRUTH and became THE LIE, pretending to be a sinner and criminal when he was not, because He loved us. Therefore, if we develop that kind of love, we need no longer have any regard for TRUTH, but may (and should) both tell and live a lie, if we do it in love!
She says that when God declared us to be righteous, it was “not based on factual reality” (in other words, HE LIED!), so we should declare liars righteous and not “lay a greater burden of fear and guilt on them concerning others by reminding them of their errors!” Her argument is: God is gracious to us, lying about our righteousness by calling us righteous when we are not, and justifying our wickedness (Rom.5:4), so our conscience should “rest if we are gracious to others as God is to us, even if we have to lie to do it.” If that is not blatant blasphemy, I would scarcely know how to define it!
No law of God or ethical principle requires us, in order to be truthful, to point our every presumed fault, blemish or error in all others! Only that if we DO SPEAK, we must speak the truth and not a “pious” (or any other kind) of lie!
These are some of the false and ungodly conclusions that one can come to when he tries to get around God’s word and substitutes his own feelings and reasonings. That a man who claims to be a preacher of the gospel approves and prints an article that concludes that since God lied by calling the wicked righteous, and since Christ lied by pretending to be a sinner, we have the RIGHT AND OBLIGATION TO LIE, provided we think it the loving thing to do, is almost beyond imagination!