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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Is it ever okay to lie?

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Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2732

 Re: As a matter of fact...

I think this interesting discussion on lying would be incomplete without at least a mention of Dietrich Bonhoeffers' essays on “Truth” in Ethics. First off, I think he would agree with Robert’s statement.

Quote: seems to me that the lying [John] is referring to has to do with the Kingdom as opposed to simple everyday life. a person who says that they know God and do not keep His commandments or a person who does not believe on Christ, etc. The lies seemed to be directly connected to Kingdom issues. Lying against the Truth or making a pretense to misrepresent the Truth.

“…the lie is primarily the denial of God as He has evidenced Himself to the world. ‘Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?’(I John 2:22).”

Bonhoeffer believed that the formal description of the lie as a "discrepancy" between thought and speech is inadequate. Truth is more than a "matter of fact". There is a way of speaking factually that avoids truth. Who hasn’t cocked their heads like a puppy dog, upon sniffing a politicians “truth” that contains the scent of deliberate ambiguity or omits something essential?

What really interests me about Bonhoeffer is his view that not all people have the right to hear truth. “After all, “truthfulness” does not mean uncovering everything that exists. God himself made clothes for men; and that means that n statu corruptionis many things in human life ought to remain covered, and that evil, even though it cannot be eradicated, ought at least to be concealed. Exposure is cynical, and although the cynic prides himself on his exceptional honesty, or claims to want truth at all costs, he misses the crucial fact that since the fall there must be reticence and secrecy.”

Bonhoeffer gives the example of a child who is asked in front of the class by a teacher if his father often comes home drunk. In fact, the student’s father does often come home drunk, but in answer to the teacher the child denies that the teacher’s description is true. According to Bonhoeffer, the child rightly lies in answer to a question that should have never been asked in a classroom. Bonhoeffer explains “…the family has its own secret and must preserve it,” which the teacher has failed to respect. The blame for the lie falls back entirely upon the teacher.”

At this point I might be tempted to think that Bonhoeffer was a relativist. Such a conclusion would have to overlook his decision to leave America, where he could have been a celebrated scholar, to return to Germany to face inevitable incrimination for his convictions.

Bonhoeffers choice to return was based on a premise that only those Christians who fight for truth have a right to preach the Gospel. He saw early 20th century American Anglo-Saxon Christianity as the product of fleeing the struggle for truth, abandoning the confessional struggles of Europe. Subsequent generations of “Protestantism without Reformation” born free of the battles for which their forebears fought no longer thought it necessary to fight about anything.

Obviously this was an opinion from someone who was decrying the future enslavement of Europe as as the world's largest democracy looked on. However, it does create an interesting “what if” question. What if those Christian colonialists had not fled their heritage in search of their hermitage? What would the church look like today? What would our 21st century Gospel sound like if our 17th century forefathers felt called to fight instead of flight for truth’s sake?

“Precisely because of our attitude to the state, the conversation here must be completely honest, for the sake of Jesus Christ and the ecumenical cause. We must make it clear—fearful as it is—that the time is very near when we shall have to decide between National Socialism and Christianity. It may be fearfully hard and difficult for us all, but we must get right to the root of things, with open Christian speaking and no diplomacy. And in prayer together we will find the way. …all evasion is useless. …Only complete truth and truthfulness will help us now. I know that many of my German friends think otherwise. But I ask you urgently to appreciate my views.”


Mike Compton

 2005/6/13 1:01Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

 Re: protecting the interests of the evil ones, or God's people.

...As the excited soldiers bring your beloved wife passed you, you look her in the eye and say, "I'm sorry about that Honey. I was thinking of me, not you. I didn't want to transgress my conscience."

This comment hits the nail on the head. We must ask, is our desire to avoid a lie for the sake of our own self-righteousness, or for the sake of those whom we have been called to protect.

Love ALWAYS PROTECTS.1 Cor. 13 What if someone's desire to keep their conscience clean put your life at risk. Would you comend them?

I see no difference between misleading information and a lie. It is the motive that is the issue.

Is our lie merely a self-protective measure, the product of weak faith?
From what I can see, Rahab's deception was the direct result of her FAITH in God. She placed her loyalty in God and that's why she protected God's people at a cost to her own life. Her lie put her at great risk - being condemned by her very own people. SHE LAYED DOWN HER LIFE FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. By lying, she also exposed her own people to God's judgment. She did not wish to stand in the way of God's judgment on sin. She BELIEVE GOD and his ways.

I suspect that her moral conscience was higher than mine - I can't tell, because I have not been put in such a place, (that I know of).

She definitely forsook all - including her heritage and security in order to follow God. and God rewarded her for it. Her lie was not the product of a weakness, but of a great strength - FAITH.

I ask, is it ever LOVE to protect the interests of the evil ones even if by our passivity, even if by avoiding a lie.
It may boil down to this: Whose side are we on - God and his principles, or the evil one (even if it is out of fear). It is sometimes a hard and costly test. Prior to the war, if the German Christians had understood this principle, history would have been very different.

My grandfather was a leader in the undergound in Holland, and he saved the lives of many. Of course, he gave misleading information, (ex: gave his twelve children fictitious names, and different "parents" in order to protect them) and of course he had to do the Rahab thing many times. But his faith was strong, and he saw many miracles, which are now documented.

Perhaps the real issue is one's FAITH and obedience to God and not merely one's WORKS (WORDS)

Another thought burns on my mind - and that has to do with hypocrisy - which is described in the bible as a LIVING A LIE - in other words, not being honest about our true innner self. So in our own zeal to refrain from telling a lie we must also be open to the the possibilty that we may unconsciously be telling ourselves lies about our own righteousness.


 2005/6/13 9:27Profile


Nice extorting.

I think i just bit my tounge.

"The fruit of the Spirit, love,patience...peace...etc..etc'

"Against these things there is NO law'

Hmm, hmm....

I just bit my tounge again. (I can't think of ANYTHING against what you all have spoken, from Biblical principles).

hmm :-?

 2005/6/14 22:17

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