Because It's the Right Thing To Do?

Have you ever done something simply because it seemed like the right thing to do, even though you’re heart wasn’t in it?

Examples-

  • You offered an apology even though you believe the other person is misinterpreting events or is overreacting
  • You are purposefully kind to someone you know despises you (Romans 12:20)
  • Someone apologizes to you in a very insincere manner ( like the classic “I’m sorry you are upset”) but you accept it as if you believe they are sincere
  • You are outwardly supportive of an idea excitedly proposed by your husband/wife/pastor/friend… that you think is a bad idea (but not immoral or anything like that)
  • And, of course there’s “Lovely dress”, “Nice hat”, “Have you lost weight?”, “That was a delicious casserole”, “You look much younger than 46”…

Where’s the line that divides well-intentioned but ‘insincere’ acts and words from actual deception or hypocrisy?

 

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Goodellsboy's picture

I learned years ago that as a believer, I am to provide things honest before all men and I am to speak the truth in love. I am not always required to comment, but when I do, it must be the truth. It can't be rude, mean, or hurtful, but it does have to be in love. As soon as I am outed as a person who tends to placate and hold back the truth in order to save someone's feelings from being hurt or just to "not stir things up," my credibility and integrity are in question. I don't have to speak unless God says the situation calls for it (moral issues, what is best for another person, etc.); but when I speak it must be the truth, and that truth must be communicated in a way that displays not only a love for God and submission to His will, but also a love that prefers that person and his/her good will rather than my own comfort or reputation.

My wife knows that if she asks me if she looks fat in something to not ask any question where she cannot handle an honest answer. And by the way, that particular time, it di not make her look fat, but if it did (as if she could look fat) I could talk about . . . the weather, sports, etc.

Matthew J's picture

* You offered an apology even though you believe the other person is misinterpreting events or is overreacting
I think this is an obedient practice according to I Peter 2:23. Not suggesting false apology. I have found that most of the time, there is something I could apologize for. For example, "I am sorry that I hurt you" or "I am sorry that I spoke too hastily"

* You are purposefully kind to someone you know despises you (Romans 12:20)
I think this verse does a pretty good job of explaining it-a matter of willful obedience even when it is hard

* Someone apologizes to you in a very insincere manner ( like the classic “I’m sorry you are upset”) but you accept it as if you believe they are sincere I think this can be an act of obedience based upon I Corinthians 13:7. I can choose to think good of them and to believe them. Another good verse is Romans12:16-18

* You are outwardly supportive of an idea excitedly proposed by your husband/wife/pastor/friend… that you think is a bad idea (but not immoral or anything like that) I think this can simply be an act of kindness, to show that person that their views and desires have worth and value. This could be applied from I Corinthians 9:19-22 (I know he is speaking of salvation, but I can still apply it as thinking of encouraging them for their benefit). I think the line is drawn on this one where my agreement with them may not be beneficial. For instance, my wife wants to go to Hawaii for vacation, but there is no money in the bank. It is best not to encourage something that's not going to happen. I am opposed to placating, but with wisdom and discretion finding out if their idea is valid and listening to them intently until it is proved it is not.

* And, of course there’s “Lovely dress”, “Nice hat”, “Have you lost weight?”, “That was a delicious casserole”, “You look much younger than 46”…
I don't believe this is ever right. Lying is lying. What Goodellsboy said is true, I don't have to speak. "Be slow to speak") The Bible has much to say about the flatterer and the liar and none of it is very good.

dmicah's picture

Lying is not always lying. i lied consistently when i worked vice/narcotics and went undercover. it was more acting than blatant deception for my personal gain, but i was not honest with the criminals until the cuffs were on.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think of undercover work in the same vein as the midwives in Ex. 1, and obviously their subterfuge was acceptable because God rewarded them. I also wonder about what Paul claimed in Acts 23:6, playing the Sadducees and Pharisees against each other.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I know he was a Pharisee, but he claimed that the whole fuss was about him believing in the resurrection, which was a prevarication, equivocation, or some kind of cation... but the point of saying was to distract the Pharisees and Sadducees and get them at each other's throats.

Jim's picture

Susan R wrote:
I know he was a Pharisee, but he claimed that the whole fuss was about him believing in the resurrection, which was a prevarication, equivocation, or some kind of cation... but the point of saying was to distract the Pharisees and Sadducees and get them at each other's throats.

I misunderstood .... sorry

Bob T.'s picture

The term lying or liar in the NT is connected with that which is considered sin by God. There were times in the OT when God uses deception to accomplish His purposes. The deception is not sin. Rahab in Hebrews 11:31 is viewed as having done an act of faith when she deceived by words to protect the spies. Such has to do with both love and duty. Rahab had no duty to give information to evil men who wished to thwart the spies who were servants of God. She also owed a duty to show love to God's servants by protecting them. We have a greater duty to love and protect our families and others than we have a duty to give information that will enable evil. Thus lying as used in the NT has to do with acts of improperly deceiving or withholding truth for the wrong reasons. It is not wrong for Marines to wear clothing that is camouflaged to deceive the enemy rather than red suits so they can make sure the enemy sees them and is not deceived. Several theologians view such responsibilities as involving varying levels of duty and the responsibility to love others. During WWII Corrie Tenbloom had no duty of owing truth to the Nazis when they were seeking out Jews. She did have a greater duty to love the Jews and thus protect them than any duty to supply information to evil men for evil purposes.

My oldest son is a narcotics officer who must use deception in order to prevent evil. He does so on a daily basis. He also teaches a Bible study for law enforcement officers. He has no conflict. His conduct in law enforcement is righteous in nature.

Doing the right thing often involves understanding the varying levels of duty and love based upon the standards of scripture.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Rahab in Hebrews 11:31 is viewed as having done an act of faith when she deceived by words to protect the spies.
Bob, I think there are some issues with your argumentation, but most importantly, Heb 11:31 does not say it was an act of faith to deceive by words. It was an act of faith to receive the spies in peace. The deception is not addressed there.

While that might seem a small distinction, it is important to make it since our authority is what Scripture actually says.

On a broader note about your post, deciding who has the right to know something becomes quite a twisted thicket. What if a child goes out and does something wrong with friends and then lies to you about it on the basis of a duty to show God's love by protecting someone (even themselves). Or a husband that commits adultery and then lies about it in order to prevent the evil of his wife losing her temper and becoming violent and harming herself or the children or you? Or protecting his wife from certain knowledge that would adversely affect her life? Or what about the student who lies to cover up the cheating of another student so they will not fail the class and be expelled. After, all, he is practicing God's love by protecting someone and preserving the opportunity to minister to the person right?

We would argue that in these cases (and many more we could multiply), the "liar" has no authority to decide what must be told. In other words, God has established lines of authority, not man. One of the authorities God has set up is government. So is a person bound against perjury or not? Why can't a person get up and lie on the witness stand to protect someone? Why is it okay to lie to government in some cases and not in others? These are the types of issues that need to be considered. I don't have the time or interest to lay out my thoughts, beyond this, but these things are important.

Certainly these are questions of ethics and we must walk carefully, but it is not nearly so cut and dried as some think. So while there are varying levels of responsibility, we must walk carefully here.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

It seems one would eventually expect an appeal to be made regarding the prohibition against murder which is a certain kind of killing. And the observation can be forwarded that not all killing is considered sinful, rather certain kinds.

And one will further assert that though lying might include deceit of all forms clearly not all forms of deceit are considered or treated as sinful in the Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly.

With that appeal coming into view how would it impact consideration of the topic (without falling into a rationalistic basis for conclusion)?

That aside and as a general observation I personally believe it is incumbent upon us, God's children, to learn how to make such distinctions.

Bob T.'s picture

Larry,

1. Hebrews 11:31 indicates that the entire event regarding Rahab was by faith. It indicates she received or welcomed them. This included her protecting them and telling a deceptive story to the inquirers. It states she did not perish as a result of her having welcomed them. This was the end result. So the entire event from the welcoming to the not perishing by following instructions of the scarlet cord are in view. Central to this was her welcoming God's servants. the deception was part of an act of faith starting with the welcoming.

2. You cite several case scenarios regarding deception for different reasons. This is precisely the reason why the biblical concepts of various levels of duty and love need to be applied. If deception is to cover sin where a duty of confession is owed then the deception would be sin also. The person always has the ability to decide what would be told. The person gains authority from the scripture which gives guidance regarding the right or wrong of the subject matter known and the duty to withhold or reveal. Pastoral confidences from counseling or from deacons or elders meetings are an example when a person may have a duty to withhold truth known. No stated deception may be involved but their may be withholding because of no duty to reveal the knowledge to others. Each case must be considered and biblical truth regarding duty and love applied to each individual circumstance.

3. You bring up the subject of government and perjury. There have been and will be times, when a Christian has a higher duty than that owed government. The law may state he must reveal what is known and withhold nothing. A person may decline to do so if the government is evil in its intent and in violation of its ordained basic purposes as stated in Romans 13. In such cases the Christian will then suffer the consequences of not revealing what is known. However, perhaps in some circumstances the full deception of perjury may be practiced if one deems it necessary to protect innocent life or other. This has and does occur in some nations where persecution is being practiced by the government. We owe absolute duty to God. All other earthly institutions and persons are to be given submission in a relative manner. We of course see the obvious exception at Acts 5:29. There are other exceptions. Romans 13 gives a duty to submit to a government that carries out its ordained purpose of being a terror to evil and not good and not bearing the sword (judgment) in vain (empty manner). The law made it mandatory to tell the German Gestapo the truth. Corrie Tenbloom saw a higher duty that demanded she not do so. She also saw a duty to love the Jews and therefore protect them. U.S. Federal law makes it a crime to not tell the truth to a Federal agent when questioned. However, if the person has reason to believe that the truth will be used for evil purposes, then they may feel a higher duty and not answer or even deceive. The right or wrongness of the action would rest on the righteous nature of that being protected. Also, there are times when the Christian owes no absolute duty to the church or spiritual leadership. If scriptural principles regarding morals or doctrine are violated, a higher duty is owed to God. The very essence of the Fundamentalist movement and individuals leaving cults are involved here. The point here is that all duty owed is relative, except for our duty to God.. Comparing the priorities of duties owed is often necessary to decide on what must be done to best honor God and His word.

4. Kevin Bauder wrote an article on the application of Biblical truth which spoke to some of these issues. There is first premise truth which involves the direct statements of scripture. There is second premise truth which involves the application of first premise truth. There is no transference of authority from scripture to men because men interpret and apply the scriptures to specific situations not expressly stated in scripture. The attempt is to discern the intent of scripture.

5. Many Christian writings have handled these subjects. The Puritans wrote regarding levels of duty. This was involved in the Cromwell revolution. Today Norman Geisler, Carl Henry, Walter Kaiser, John Feinberg, and others have written on this subject. It is admitted that some cases may be difficult to apply the truth of scripture to. however, this does not relieve of the duty to apply scripture where there is no direct statement of scripture on a subject.

Unfortunately, today very simplistic answers may be given regarding this subject. This has been so in many Evangelical books.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
1. Hebrews 11:31 indicates that the entire event regarding Rahab was by faith. It indicates she received or welcomed them. This included her protecting them and telling a deceptive story to the inquirers.
Bob, At the risk of being too fundamentalistic here and focusing on the actual words of the text, the text says she welcomed them. It says nothing about the deception. Your inclusion of that is something extra textual, not textual.

The rest of your post enlarges on teh concerns I already brought up. But again, we have to recognize that God ordains authority and if we misjudge the authority, we are sinning against God. So claiming to follow a higher authority or duty may in fact not be following a higher authority or duty at all.

Bob T.'s picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
1. Hebrews 11:31 indicates that the entire event regarding Rahab was by faith. It indicates she received or welcomed them. This included her protecting them and telling a deceptive story to the inquirers.
Bob, At the risk of being too fundamentalistic here and focusing on the actual words of the text, the text says she welcomed them. It says nothing about the deception. Your inclusion of that is something extra textual, not textual.

The rest of your post enlarges on teh concerns I already brought up. But again, we have to recognize that God ordains authority and if we misjudge the authority, we are sinning against God. So claiming to follow a higher authority or duty may in fact not be following a higher authority or duty at all.

Hebrews 11:31 states she did not perish by faith (final result) and "received the spies with peace" which involves the manner of her receiving them. This involves her actions of protecting them. If she would not have used deception to protect them she would not have protected them. The entire event is intended here. The event referred to at Joshua 2:2-22 begins with the statement that she hid the spies then gives the details. All of this is her welcome of the spies. It includes her deception to the King of Jericho. Are you saying that her just saying "welcome" is the act of faith and the rest is not part of the commended act of faith? It is pretty hard to explain away that all that is stated in scripture at Joshua 2 is intended to be commended as her act of faith. Such is literal, historical, and grammatical exegesis.

It is also interesting to note that God used deception in having the Israelites take Jericho.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Hebrews 11:31 ... involves her actions of protecting them.
Again, at the risk of being too fundamentalistic about the actual words of Scripture, I would argue that the text doesn't say this. You may be right (or not), but it is not something the text says in Heb 11:31. It is a particular understanding of dexomai, which reads more into it, in my view, than can be justified.

Quote:
If she would not have used deception to protect them she would not have protected them.
Really? So there was no other way in the world to protect these spies? I find that hard to believe. I think that is a tactic often used by people to justify sin, and we reject that rather easily. For my part, I would argue that a God who delivered his people from Egypt, preserved them for forty years in the wilderness, and destroyed Jericho in such a manner as he did probably was not bound to a lying prostitute to save his spies. He had other options.

Quote:
Are you saying that her just saying "welcome" is the act of faith and the rest is not part of the commended act of faith?
I don't know anyone who argues that "received" is simply saying "welcome." I wouldn't say that. I imagine her "receiving them" probably views her faith in their God. She received them because she believed in their God. And that faith is what spared her.

I struggle to say that lying is an act of faith. It seems more an act of unbelief, that "God can't protect me or those around me if I tell the truth."

Quote:
It is pretty hard to explain away that all that is stated in scripture at Joshua 2 is intended to be commended as her act of faith. Such is literal, historical, and grammatical exegesis.
Well, it may be literal grammatical historical exegesis of Joshua 2, but you did not appeal to Joshua 2. You appealed to Heb 11:31, and literal grammatical historical exegesis of Heb 11:31 is quite a bit more narrow than Joshua 2, which can be seen simply by comparing them.

Quote:
It is also interesting to note that God used deception in having the Israelites take Jericho.
Not sure what you have mind here, so I hesitate to comment on this.

But on the general principle, God used adultery in bringing Jesus into the world too and praised the adulterer as a man after God's own heart. But I hardly think adultery is an act of faith. I am sure you agree. But the point is that God's use of something is not approval of it. Those are two different questions.

James Bliss's picture

This discussion leads to the issue I have with Christians and their use of a concept I call 'shades of gray'. As soon as a violation of one of God's prohibitions becomes justified, in even the smallest of manners, this opens the door for Christians (and other) to start defining and justifying their actions regardless of their violation of one of God's prohibitions.

Not to get into the details of any of the verses which have been mentioned, but there is a huge difference between God having someone use deception (different than a lie) or lie and me justifying a lie.

Some of the examples which have been mentioned are:
Wife asks if she looks good in a dress / or looks fat.
My answer - you look beautiful no matter what you wear and if you like it then it is fine with me. This is the absolute truth.

Marines wearing camouflage - this is not a lie, nor a deception. It is just a tool in their job just like a gun, etc. There is no mandate as to what clothes one must wear at any point in time, in peace or in war.

Police lies - this is wrong, regardless of the end result. This gets into the 'end justifies the means' argument. I have seen too many police officers lie on the stand to prove their case far too often. They definitely get into some awkward situations in working undercover if they are asked whether they are a police officer or not. But this gets into a much larger discussion regarding how the legal system as a whole works which I definitely do not want to open up here since it would take several books to discuss.

If someone asks me a question, there are many responses available to me and, in fact, I do not have to make any response at all. But, if I respond, the content of my response should not be a lie.

We should not lie since that is an absolute prohibition of God. Once we start justifying any lies then it grows into problems which, as stated previously, I call 'shades of gray'.

Just my 2 cents.

RPittman's picture

Bob T. wrote:
The term lying or liar in the NT is connected with that which is considered sin by God. There were times in the OT when God uses deception to accomplish His purposes. The deception is not sin. Rahab in Hebrews 11:31 is viewed as having done an act of faith when she deceived by words to protect the spies. Such has to do with both love and duty. Rahab had no duty to give information to evil men who wished to thwart the spies who were servants of God. She also owed a duty to show love to God's servants by protecting them. We have a greater duty to love and protect our families and others than we have a duty to give information that will enable evil. Thus lying as used in the NT has to do with acts of improperly deceiving or withholding truth for the wrong reasons. It is not wrong for Marines to wear clothing that is camouflaged to deceive the enemy rather than red suits so they can make sure the enemy sees them and is not deceived. Several theologians view such responsibilities as involving varying levels of duty and the responsibility to love others. During WWII Corrie Tenbloom had no duty of owing truth to the Nazis when they were seeking out Jews. She did have a greater duty to love the Jews and thus protect them than any duty to supply information to evil men for evil purposes.

My oldest son is a narcotics officer who must use deception in order to prevent evil. He does so on a daily basis. He also teaches a Bible study for law enforcement officers. He has no conflict. His conduct in law enforcement is righteous in nature.

Doing the right thing often involves understanding the varying levels of duty and love based upon the standards of scripture.

In limited time and space, you have covered some important points well. However, there are those, especially followers of Bill Gothard, who would say that lying is always sin even in Rahab's situation. I have heard them argue their point in the following scenario: If the KGB came to your door and asked if your son or daughter was at home, you would be obligated to tell them. They reason it is obedience to the powers and the obligation to tell the truth regardless of the results.

Jay's picture

Susan R wrote:
I know he was a Pharisee, but he claimed that the whole fuss was about him believing in the resurrection, which was a prevarication, equivocation, or some kind of cation... but the point of saying was to distract the Pharisees and Sadducees and get them at each other's throats.

I'm not sure it was deception or subterfuge...Paul was on trial for the hope of the resurrection of Christ. And there's not any indication that Paul expected them to react as violently as they did.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Jay C wrote:
Susan R wrote:
I know he was a Pharisee, but he claimed that the whole fuss was about him believing in the resurrection, which was a prevarication, equivocation, or some kind of cation... but the point of saying was to distract the Pharisees and Sadducees and get them at each other's throats.

I'm not sure it was deception or subterfuge...Paul was on trial for the hope of the resurrection of Christ. And there's not any indication that Paul expected them to react as violently as they did.

Paul was arrested because the Jews saw him in the temple and thought he'd brought a Greek into the temple. When Paul is allowed to speak to the people, they listen until he says the word "Gentile" and then they come unglued.

Quote:
Act 22:21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
Act 22:22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

Paul also addresses this accusation in Acts 24:11-13.

Quote:
Act 24:11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
Act 24:12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
Act 24:13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

The Jews' accusations during this particular incident had nothing to do with Paul believing in the resurrection. Sure- they were looking for opportunities- any opportunity- to put Paul in jail and even to death, but it is clear that Paul takes a look around and says the one thing he knows will pit the two groups against each other.

We can't deny that there is some sticky stuff going on- there are times in Scripture when, as Bob T describes, the bare truth is either misrepresented or withheld in order to protect someone from another's evil intent, and the person is not condemned for it- the midwives were clearly rewarded by God for protecting the Israelite babies and disobeying a direct order from their gov't- and this involved an element of deception or at the very least disingenuousness on their part.

What does this mean for us practically? I'd say most of the time we can answer with subtlety.

Q: "How do you like my dress?"
A: "That's a great color on you" or even "Wow- where did you get it?"

IOW, we are not really bound to answer someone's question with our honest opinion.

But even withholding information can result in a sticky situation. Example: you know some things that an adult-child-living-at-home is doing that the parents would not approve of (not illegal) - after you have approached the young person and counseled them to go to their parents with the truth- if they don't come clean, would you go to the parents and tell them what you know? Which leads to the question- Are we really supposed to go around telling every 'truth' we are aware of? I don't think so- we have to exercise discernment as to when it is appropriate and beneficial to disclose certain facts. Or I'd be one busy chick ratting people out to their spouse or parents or pastor.

As for undercover cops, there's a prophet here who goes to Ahab in an elaborate disguise-

Quote:

1Ki 20:35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.
1Ki 20:36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.
1Ki 20:37 Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.
1Ki 20:38 So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face.

There's gotta be a line in there somewhere, I just don't know exactly where it is yet. I think Bob T has come the closest to making sense of the boundaries on this, but I very much appreciate everyone's input.

Bob T.'s picture

To: RPittman,

thank you for your post and reminder of the old Gothardites. Is he still around? He was filling arenas in the early 1970s and some were very enthusiastic about the secret new truth they obtained. Then Gothard encountered some real problems. His brother, who was involved in Gothard's ministry, was accused of immorality involving some female staff members. Gothard at first sought to cover it up but then admitted it and dismissed his brother. Then it was discovered that Gothard himself had been involved in immoral acts with one of his staff. He denied it. However, Earl Radmacher, then President of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and some other Christian leaders got involved and investigated. They reported that there was evidence that Gothard himself was involved in immorality over a period of time. This was reported at a meeting of Pastors at a retreat. Earl Radmacher gave the report with particulars. Gothard has never admitted to this. This was just before many of his staff resigned. I give this information as it came from very credible sources and was verified. It also is important for Gothard espoused some very bizaar principles that some Fundamentalists followed. I don't know if anyone today still listens to that nonsense. They need to know Gothard disqualified himself from teaching and leadership years ago.

I heard a sermon from a Pastor who was a Gothard follower in which he told a story of a Christian woman ordered to go into prostitution by her non Christian man and was obedient and went out to do so but was prevented by circumstances from getting a date and then her husband had a change of heart. The principle was that she obeyed her husband as scripture required her but God intervened. The problem is that 1Peter 3:1-3 indicates the woman is to win her husband not only through obedience but as he observes her "chaste" conduct. No room for obeying immoral commands there. Gothard was a false teacher form the start. I went to one of his seminars in 1971 and immediately saw his errors and creation of a cultic following.

To others:

The problem of lying and deceit is clear in scripture. It is a lie when it is sin. Deception and withholding truth for righteous reasons is not sinful and is therefore not lying as the term is applied in scripture.

At Hebrews 11 mentioned Rahab being commended for her actions of faith. This is characterized as "receiving the spies in peace" and the result of escaping the judgment. The historical content of this passage is the historical incident itself at Joshua 6. There she deceives her king and protects the spies and then sends them on a different way so as to not be caught. Rahab's faith is also commended at James 2:25 because she sent the spies "another way." This was part of her disobedience to her government and her deception. The entire historical recounting in Joshua is in view. Her act of disobedience to government and deception are all part of this.

At Hebrews 11:23 Moses Parents are commended for their act of faith in disobeying the government and protecting Moses. The midwives were involved here when they deceived Pharaoh by misstating the Birthing habits of the Hebrew women at Exodus 1:19.

God Himself used deception in two incidents at 1Kings 22:22 and Ezekiel 14:9. He will also use deception in the future during the Tribulation period according to 2 Thess. 2:11. In the incidents God was and will be righteous as the deception is part of His justice in carrying out his righteous purpose.

This thread began with the right and wrong nature of flattery and other trivial statements that may not be true. Of course those are deceptions of an unrighteous nature and simple lies. Some cite examples of deception to cover sin. Of course such deception is always sin. However, where disobedience or deception is brought upon the Christian by the evil intents and purposes of men than a greater duty of love toward others and a need to protect or enable righteous purposes would mean disobeying the ones owed a lesser duty to obey the duty of a greater priority. This is not relative ethics as the principles of what is righteous and unrighteous conduct are fixed in scripture. We need to apply them to each circumstance. A lie is always wrong. All deceptions are not lies within the biblical sense. Some may disagree. However, this viewpoint is not new and many do hold to this view.

Areas that especially gain my attention are Christian ethics. Christian Biblical Counseling, and Christian Epistemology regarding our truth authority which involves refutation of the KJVO errors. From my view, more than some Fundamentalists think wrongly in these areas.

In Christian ethics the more Fundamentalist churches appear to take a less thoughtful, more simplistic approach which often leads to errors in thinking and even action.

Larry's picture

Moderator

1. Bob, at the risk of beating a dead horse here, do you have any exegetical commentaries that agree with you? I have just looked through the 8-10 that I have (among which are Hughes, NIGTC, NICNT, Kent, Westcott) and the only one that deals with Rahab's lie (that I saw in my quick skimming) was R. Kent Hughes' homiletical commentary and he actually appeals to Joshua for his discussion. The exegetical commentaries don't even address it, perhaps because as I argue, it isn't a matter of exegesis of the text itself. (And Hughes agrees with me, I think.)

So regardless of the ethics of Rahab's deception, Heb 11:31 does not really seem to address that, at least clearly. It is something brought in from outside the text. The point of Heb 11:31 is completely separate from her lying. It is about her faith that caused her to receive enemies of her city and believe in their God. I think you are asserting by fiat and without exegetical support that the comment about Rahab in Heb 11:31 includes the deception. There is no exegetical reason to think such, at least that I can see and that you have offered, and no one else seems to offer any.

The reason I return to this is because fundamentalists are often judged for their loose handling of Scripture and for reading their views into the text (and make no mistake ... evangelicals do it too). But I think we have a case here of you making a point, which may be a good point, but which is not found in the text you appeal to. I think it is a rather loose and unjustified handling of Scripture. Rahab's inclusion in Heb 11 is not because of her deception but because she was a Gentile, woman, prostitute. So my encouragement to us all is a reminder to say from a text only what that text says. If you want to say what another text says, then appeal to another text.

2. As an aside, I wonder how a lie comports with faith anyway. By lying, one is saying that the truth cannot bring the result we desire. I think there are some implications there that we need to think carefully through.

3. What would have happened if Rahab had told the soldiers that the men were there? It is easy to say that they would have been killed, but perhaps we say that too quickly. Take another for instance: What about someone crossing a border? Does a country have a right to protect its borders? Is someone justified in lying to cross a border in order to carry out what he believes by faith is the will of God? I think we would agree that no, he is not justified, and the authorities have a legitimate interest in him telling the truth. So why is Rahab different? Why is it justified for her to lie to carry what she believed by faith? Do the authorities of Jericho have a lesser duty or authority than the authorities of the USA or any other country? Do they have a legitimate right to know what foreign invaders are doing in their city? Why was Rahab permitted to decide what authorities she was willing to obey? How would you feel if a someone lied to INS or DHS to smuggle someone into this country? Would that be justified? I don't think so.

Again, this is probably more thought than many are willing to give to it, to be sure. But I think it is necessary.

4. With respect to authorities, you are correct that there are greater authorities and lesser authorities, or greater and lesser duties. My point is that we need to be careful about ceding the judgment of that to people who may not be qualified to judge.

5. The distinction between deception and lying is a fine one to be sure, in the realm of morals. Bringing army camouflage and basketball head feints into it really confusing things because they are not the same type of thing going on.

6. I agree that there is a lack of thought on this, and I certainly need to deepen my own thinking. But I think we need to be cautious with the ethics here.

Bob T.'s picture

Larry,

Regarding Rahab as stated in Hebrews 11:31: John Owen in his multi volume commentary on Hebrews states: "7. She showed, testified, manifested her faith by her works. She "received the spies with peace." In these few words doth the apostle comprise the whole story of her receiving of them, her studious concealing of them, the intelligence she gave them, the prudence she used, the pains she took, and the the danger she underwent in the safe conveyance of them to their army: all of which are at large recorded, Josh ii as an eminent fruit of that faith and demonstration of that faith whereby she was justified."
AN EXPOSITION OF HEBREWS, John Owen, 7 volumes in 4, vol. 4, p. 181, , The National Foundation for Christian Education, Delaware, 1960 reprint of the of the Goold Edition published in 1855, Treatise originally completed 1671.

The Pulpit commentary, R.C. H. Lenski, Leon Morris in the Expositors Bible Commentary, Donald Guthrie in the Tyndale NT Commentaries all mention the Rahab text without any statements excluding Rahab's deception from the work of faith. The Pulpit commentary mentions that some have no problem with the deception. It is handled by books on ethics. The "New Dictionary of Ethics and Pastoral Theology" lists Luther and Bonhoffer as those indicating that falsehood is permissible under some circumstances while Augustine and Wesley do not. The article on "Truth" lists several instances in biblical history where deceit is not condemned, besides Rahab, the Hebrew midwives, Jael and Sisera (Judges 4:18-21) Samuel at Bethlehem 1SA 16:2, Elisha at Dothan 2Kings 6:19, Jesus at Luke 24:28. In the "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties" by Gleason Archer, he notes "there were very unusual extenuating factors involved in her deception." I believe I referred to some books on ethics in a prior post. I am not a scholar but I can say that there are scholars who agree with John Owen's inclusive view and acceptance of the entire account of Rahab as being viewed as an act of faith

It would appear to be exegetically and hermeneutically sound to accept the statements at Hebrews 11 and James 2 as being inclusive of the entire incident as recorded at Joshua 1. This appears to be what John Owen did accept. :bigsmile:

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
all mention the Rahab text without any statements excluding Rahab's deception from the work of faith
Interesting means of argumentation. They also fail to exclude her prostitution from the work of faith. Should we also include that? What's the limit here exegetically? If one can include things that aren't mentioned in the text (whether of the Bible or anything else), then what can we exclude?

Obviously prostitution is sin, but generally, lying is also considered sin, even when done with good intent. So again, working within the limits of the text itself (Heb 11:31), it would seem we should confine ourselves to what the text actually says.

Here again, you are making my point about fundamentalists pretty easily: You are appealing to what the text does not say, and on top of that, are saying that because the commentaries don't say it isn't there, it must be. That is not exegesis, is it? It's not a good handling of Scripture. It's how fundamentalists shoehorned all manner of junk into biblical Christianity. They say, "Well the Bible says this and so we include this and that and the other thing there." When it is objected that the text doesn't say that, the fundamentalist continues undeterred because the text really isn't the authority sometimes.

I have the condensed version of Owen, and I think that part was edited out of it because I don't recall it. I actually expected Owens to include it and I was surprised it wasn't. I realize it is also handled by books on ethics (which is where it belongs, or a commentary on Joshua). But I specifically asked about exegetical commentaries because I was curious as to whether those who specialize in exegesis of the particular text at issue would include it. Aside from Owen, it doesn't appear that you are familiar with any exegetical commentaries who address the deception. That's certainly fine. I don't have a lot of resources on this, so I was just curious if you were familiar with anyone who included it. There may be some who do that you and I don't have immediate access to.

I know there are a lot of scholars and ethicists who address this topic, and I am certainly interested in what they have to say. As I say, my own understanding needs some clarification and development on this issue to be sure.

But my point here was simply about the exegesis of Hebrews 11:31. IMO, "they don't exclude it so it must be in there" is not a good exegetical method.

Thanks Bob.

Jay's picture

Susan, I agree with you, I think. My only point was that in that specific part of the chapter, it's fairly clear that Paul is addressing only the Sanhedrin at that point in Acts:

Acts 23 wrote:
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”

6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.


Note that there's no mention of women, although I'd have to check the greek and ensure that "anthropos" (for "Brothers") is not the term used in v. 3; as you are well aware, there were no Jewish women on the council.

Is that clearer, or am I still misunderstanding what you wrote?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

BJWester's picture

Susan R wrote:

  • You are outwardly supportive of an idea excitedly proposed by your husband/wife/pastor/friend... that you think is a bad idea (but not immoral or anything like that)
  • I've been a deacon in two different small churches, where there is one Pastor. So while the Pastor is the spiritual shepherd of the church, he will consult with the deacons for advice. Sometimes the end decision is one I don't agree with (as you said, not an immoral decision, but the how-things-are-run-type). I don't pull out the pom-poms to fake it. But I submit to the leadership and work to find where I best fit in.

    Sometimes I need to pray for help to have the right attitude about it. Sometimes its just a petty thing and I just need to drop it. And sometimes God brings them around to my line of thinking (or both of us to something completely different).

    Brandon's picture

    I know this conversation is fairly old, but this is a topic that I have thought about a lot and asked a lot of people about, so I don't mind bringing it up again.

    First off, I appreciate both Bob and Larry's thoughts though I more closely agree with Bob (so my biases are clear from the outset).

    Biblically speaking, both the Hebrews references could be argued either way I think (I'm thinking of Rahab and the Egyptian midwives). I also like the example of Paul. While I feel Hebrews does legitimize the deception in those passages, I can also see where others would disagree. In fact, I had professors in bible college who held both views.

    We have to be careful using situations to demonstrate our points because sometimes they can be misconstrued to seem to point to one conclusion or another. With that said I do think it can be useful and I'd like to make a point using a situation.

    Larry said:

    Quote:
    2. As an aside, I wonder how a lie comports with faith anyway. By lying, one is saying that the truth cannot bring the result we desire. I think there are some implications there that we need to think carefully through.
    3. What would have happened if Rahab had told the soldiers that the men were there? It is easy to say that they would have been killed, but perhaps we say that too quickly.

    The point being made (it seems) is that we should just always tell the truth and let God be God. He can supernaturally intercede if he wants to.

    Now consider this: Someone is pointing a gun at my wife and I have my own gun pointed at him. Should I shoot the guy threatening my wife? Following Larry's reasoning, I should not shoot him because that would not be an act of faith. It would be taking things into my own hands. God can intercede if he wants. The guy could miss, the bullet could misfire, my wife might not be seriously wounded, the cops might show up in the nick of time, an earthquake might happen... I could go on and on. There are hundreds of things that God might use to keep my wife safe, but I don't wait for those things. Instead, I shoot.

    The odds are, my wife was in danger and I am responsible to protect her. We are similarly responsible to protect the lives of all humans. Is lying worse that killing someone (I realize it is not murder, but I am still ending a life)? If the Nazis show up asking me where I'm hiding the Jews, would it be better to lie about the Jews being there at all or to shoot the Nazis to keep the Jews safe?

    I'm not saying that this thought solves all of the issues, but I do think that we can't use the "God is sovereign, just have faith" argument to claim that lying can never be an act of faith.

    Larry's picture

    Moderator

    Quote:
    Now consider this: Someone is pointing a gun at my wife and I have my own gun pointed at him. Should I shoot the guy threatening my wife? Following Larry's reasoning, I should not shoot him because that would not be an act of faith. It would be taking things into my own hands. God can intercede if he wants.
    Just to be clear on my end, that's not following my reasoning. Defending your wife and lying are two different types of things in my reasoning.

    skjnoble's picture

    Hi Larry, Can I ambush your scenario a bit? I really like it, but can I twist it to a lying scenario where lying becomes the main focus? What if in the scenario someone comes into your home and you grab your gun and conceal it? The gunman points the gun at your wife and tells you to get rid of any weapons. You tell him you don't have any. The gun is hidden in your boot/pocket, etc.? Would lying and telling him you don't have a gun, but you really do, fall under righteous lying (one side) or an act of faithlessness (one side)?

    Thanks, Larry. Sorry for twisting your scenario for my own nefarious gain. Smile

    Kim Noble

    (PS__The "you" is general and not directed at Larry.)

    Susan R's picture

    EditorModerator

    I think we have to figure out how to distinguish between lying and deception in the same way that we differentiate killing and murder. Not easy, and everyone is going to have a different view or a line they won't cross. But I do believe there is in the Christian life room for guile and craftiness that is not inherently sinful... along the lines of being 'wise as a serpent' and 'harmless as a dove'.

    One of the reasons I ponder this topic on occasion is that I think in our modern culture we have a weird idealization of honesty a la Oprah, with a huge market for tell-all memoirs and scandalistic journalism that all claim to be about no-holds-barred honesty and truth telling- when sometimes 'honesty' is really an excuse to be critical and even cruel. Honesty doesn't require me to speak every thought that comes to mind, to answer every single question asked, or to include every detail, especially if it isn't a crucial detail or the particulars come under the heading of "None o' yer bizness". IMO, the virtue that is most often abused is honesty, whereby someone reveals information or voices a criticism and to excuse their own brutish behavior says "I'm just being honest."

    The initial question was asking if doing/saying something without actually 'believing' in it was the same as lying... basically a question of at what point does insincerity become a lie.

    Brandon's picture

    My point is that no one would think I had violated scripture if I had to kill to save someone's life (cops do this all the time), but as soon as we cross over into lying to save someone's life, no one is willing to morally accept that.

    I have a moral obligation to protect lives, I also have a moral obligation to tell the truth. When those two things conflict, what should I do?

    If someone comes threatening someone else's life (like the Nazis looking for hidden Jews), they have forfeited their right to be told the truth regarding that matter. Just like if someone is threatening my wife's life, they have forfeited their right to be safe around me.

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