[June 29, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
It is our duty to obey God’s laws, but each specific duty is not to be done on every occasion.
It is our duty to obey the ninth commandment — You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. ….You shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God (Exodus 20:16; Lev 19:11-12). But the duty of truth-telling does not have to be done on every occasion.
This is not something I’ve cooked up just to suit myself. It is the considered and sober view of the theologians who gathered at the Westminster Assembly and deliberated together (1643-47) to arrive at a common statement of doctrine. One of the documents the Assembly produced is the Westminster Larger Catechism.1 Question 99 of the Catechism, subsection 5, says:
What God forbids is at no time to be done, and what He commands is always our duty, yet each specific duty is not to be done on every occasion.
The text which the Westminster Assembly cited in support of the precept that “each specific duty is not to be done on every occasion,” is Matthew 12:7. Let us look at that verse in context.
(1) At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (3) He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: (4) how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? (6) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (7) And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (8) For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8) [Emphasis added.]
Note: Hosea 6:6 says For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice. In verse 7 above, Jesus quotes the Septuagint version of Hosea 6:6 which rendered ‘steadfast love’ (hesed) as mercy.
It is our duty to obey God’s laws, but each specific duty is not to be done on every occasion. It was the duty of Jews to not work on the Sabbath, and it was the duty of Jews to refrain from eating the temple show-bread unless they were priests, but Jesus’ teaching proves that such duties did not have to be done on every occasion. Jesus made it clear that to assuage hunger, it was not sinful to hand-pick grain on the Sabbath. Nor was it sinful for a non-priest to assuage hunger by eating the show-bread.
When can a duty be left undone?
The occasions when a duty can be left done (omitted, passed over) may be discerned by asking oneself these questions:
- Would doing that duty result in mercilessness?
- Would doing that duty result in harm or hurt to the afflicted, the oppressed, the vulnerable?
- Would doing that duty unjustly endanger or condemn the innocent?
If it would, the duty can be left undone — omitted on that occasion — because to do it would violate the over-arching principle of God’s justice, mercy and steadfast love.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 ESV)
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
God’s steadfast love means that justice, mercy and kindness must come first.
Let me say that again, so it sinks in:
God’s steadfast love means that justice, mercy and kindness must come first.
When justice, mercy and kindness override the duty to be truthful — biblical examples
First, a little note about interpreting the Bible. When we read biblical narratives — the stories of what happened to various Bible characters — we cannot automatically infer ethical rules from how the characters behaved. For example, Noah believed God and obeyed Him in building the ark, and he managed superbly under God’s guidance throughout the great flood. We may take Noah’s example as a good one in his belief, obedience and leadership. But we wouldn’t say that Noah’s becoming drunk after the flood is something we should emulate!
That being said, we can use Spirit-led discernment to infer ethical norms and precepts from the actions of many Bible characters. This is especially so when Scripture itself seems to commend (and certainly does not criticise) the character for his or her actions.
Legitimate reconnaissance and espionage
It is not wrong for a nation to have a secret intelligence service whereby it spies on its enemies in order to protect its citizens and safeguard its national integrity. Nor is it wrong for police services to use under-cover cops to surveil and rout out criminal gangs or networks of pedophiles. In fact, when trying to protect the vulnerable from evildoers, it is not only legitimate to use some of the evildoers’ covert and devious tactics, it is often the only way to gather enough information about them to stop them from further harming innocent people.2
- God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan. (Numbers 13:1-2)
- Joshua sent two spies to do reconnaissance of the Promised Land and the city of Jericho. (Joshua 2)
- When Absalom had committed treason and illegitimately taken the throne from his father, David sent Hushai to spy in Absalom’s court, instructing him to use the priests Zadok and Abiathar and their two sons to secretly relay the information back to David. (2 Sam 15:32-37) And when Hushia got to Absalom’s court, he dishonestly and obsequiously flattered Absalom in order to win his trust. (2 Sam 16:15-19)
Using camouflage and decoys to distract the enemy and protect the righteous
- Rahab hid the Israelite spies under a pile of flax. (Joshua 2:4, 6)
- Michal put a bolster in the bed to make King Saul’s soldiers think David was sleeping there, when in fact he had fled to escape Saul’s murderous rage. (1 Sam 19:12-17)
- Joshua created a false impression when he laid an ambush in the battle of Ai. (Joshua 8:1-21)
Giving a pretext to conceal the real reason for one’s actions, when, if the real reason were known, it would put one in danger
- God told Samuel to use a superficial pretext to disguise why he was really being sent to Bethlehem, which was to anoint the next king while King Saul was still alive. (1 Sam 16:1-13) To keep Samuel safe from King Saul’s potential fury, God instructed Samuel to say that he was going to Bethlehem to hold a sacrifice.
- The story I discussed in Part 1 of this series, where God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that the Hebrews wanted to go on a three days’ journey into the wilderness to worship their God, when in fact God was going to remove the Hebrews from Pharaoh’s control altogether.
Falsehoods that were not sinful but sensible, because they followed the principles of justice and kindness
Several commenters mentioned in Part One of this series the example of Christians hiding Jews from the Nazis. If the Gestapo had knocked on the door of Corrie Ten Boom, asking “Where are the Jews?” Corrie would have sinned if she had answered truthfully, “Upstairs, hidden in the attic.” In fact, Corrie and her family rightly drilled themselves that if they got that dreaded knock, they would feign astonished innocence by saying “What Jews?” The greater good of protecting the Jews from persecution meant it was right in that instance to lie to the Gestapo.
- When Pharaoh asked the Hebrew midwives, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” they answered him with what was quite likely a falsehood; and they certainly didn’t give him the real answer to his question. If they had answered with the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they would have said something like, “We are letting the male children live because we fear God and we refuse to be party to the annihilation of our people!” But in fact, they told him, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” (Exodus 1:19)3 Whether or not that was a technical falsehood (and it’s most unlikely to have been the truth in every case — just think of breech births; or when the midwife lived next door to the pregnant woman) the fact was, the midwives were not complying with Pharaoh’s order by putting the male children to death. They protected the innocent.
And if they spoke a falsehood to Pharaoh, it was legitimate under the rules of war. Pharaoh had to all intents and purposes declared war on the Hebrews, and the midwives were right to disobey the tyrant’s orders in a way they deemed safe for them and their people. And just like the Resistance in World War 2, the safest and most effective form of non-compliance was by covert disobedience and misrepresentation.
- Rahab told the Jericho soldiers that she didn’t know where the men (the spies) had come from, and that they had left Jericho by the city gate. If Rahab’s lie was sinful, it begs two questions: Why is she honoured in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11? And why does James use her as an example of works evidencing faith? (Was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? James 2:24-25.)
- Jael gave Sisera the impression that he would be safe in her tent. (Judges 4:18)
- David told the priest Ahimelech that he was on a secret mission at the order of King Saul, when in fact David was fleeing from Saul’s murderous hatred. (1 Sam 21:2) It would seem that David didn’t want to put Ahimelech in a position where he would have to keep a dangerous secret from Saul and Saul’s soldiers. Also, David probably knew that Doeg the Edomite was listening and might betray him to Saul.
- Absalom’s servants demanded the woman at the house to tell them the whereabouts of Ahimaaz and Jonathan, two of David’s spies. The woman, who had just hidden the Ahimaaz and Jonathan in a well, gave a barefaced lie to Absalom’s servants: “They have gone over the brook of water.” (2 Sam 17:20)
- King Zedekiah instructed Zedekiah to tell a falsehood if anyone asked him to reveal the substance of their secret conversation, and Jeremiah spoke the falsehood just as the king had told him to. (Jeremiah 38) Jeremiah said “I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.” — This was a falsehood because it was what Jeremiah had said to the King on a previous occasion (chapter 37), not what they had discussed in chapter 38.
- David feigned madness before Achish the Philistine King of Gath. (1 Sam 21:10-15)
Note that the divinely inspired preface to Psalm 34 says “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech [i.e. Achish; Abimelech means king], so that he drove him out, and he went away.” — The psalm praises God for protecting and delivering David from Achish.
- The King of Syria sent his army to seize Elisha, to stop Elisha from stymieing Syria’s plans for battle by prophetically giving advance warning to the King of Israel regarding where the Syrian army were going to make camp.
The army got intelligence that Elisha was at the city of Dothan, so they went to Dothan and would have seized Elisha, except that when Elisha saw the army he prayed that God would strike them blind — which He did.
Then Elisha misled the blinded army by telling them this lie: “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” This was a falsehood because the army had come to the city they were aiming for and had found the man that they sought (Elisha). But because they were blinded, they did not realise they had found their quarry, and they believed and followed Elisha’s misdirection. (Read the whole thrilling story here: 2 Kings 6:8-23)
1 Westminster Confession and Catechisms in Modern English (edited by Roland S Ward; Wantirna, Victoria: New Melbourne Press, 2000). The Westminster Larger Catechism included scripture proofs but I (Barb) have omitted them for ease of reading. To view all the Scripture proofs, go to this online version of the Westminster Larger Catechism, but please note, that online version is in seventeenth century English, not the modernised version by Roland Ward which I have quoted in this post. [June 29, 2022: The linked version of the Westminster Larger Catechism is not in seventeenth century English. Editors.]
2 A good example of this was a police sting that netted one of the world’s largest paedophile rings [Internet Archive link]. [A transcript is available. Editors.] The Australian head of an online paedophile ring was caught by a police operation that ventured on to the dark web and covertly infiltrated a global crime network involved in the abuse of hundreds, possibly thousands, of children around the world.
3 Commenting on the Hebrew midwives in his Harmony of the Law, vol. 1, John Calvin says (trigger warning):
….though these women were too pusillanimous and timid in their answers, yet because they had acted in reality with heartiness and courage, God endured in them the sin which he would have deservedly condemned. This doctrine gives us alacrity in our desire to do rightly, since God so graciously pardons our infirmities; and, at the same time, it warns us most carefully to be on our guard, lest, when we are desirous of doing well, some sin should creep in to obscure, and thus to contaminate our good work; since it not unfrequently happens that those whose aim is right, halt or stumble or wander in the way to it. In fine, whosoever honestly examines himself, will find some defect even in his best endeavours.
Calvin described the Hebrew midwives as “too pusillanimous and timid in their answers” (pusillanimous means showing a lack of courage or determination; timidity). But then he said they acted with heartiness and courage!
Calvin’s double-speak is typical of legalists who criticise but then praise; the criticism undermines the praise, the praise sounds patronising, and if recipient has a tender conscience she is thrust into uncertainty and self-doubt. Calvin’s criticism of the midwives recalls to mind his cold and critical response to the French noblewoman who had asked Calvin’s church in Geneva to give her a safe haven from her extremely abusive husband. See appendix 11 (pp 144-151) in my book Not Under Bondage.
[June 29, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to June 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 29, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 29, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Posts in this series
Part 1: Is it always sinful to tell an untruth?
Part 2: Is this post.
Part 3: Contriving a test to probe whether a hardened heart has repented
Part 4: Did Abraham order Sarah to be dishonest?
Part 5: Joseph tested his brothers by falsely accusing them
Part 6: The second test Joseph gave his brothers
I have ideas for more posts in this series. Lord willing, I will have the time write them.
26 thoughts on “When is it okay to not tell the truth? — (Is it always sinful to tell an untruth?, Part 2)”
Lying to family and friends .. Hiring a Christian lawyer and falsifying facts in a court of law to cover a covert narcissistic personality disorder is ok?
Not to mention the abuser…
Hiding in a legalistic church to get the backing from the spiritual high power leadership to manipulate the victim to cry. .. I give up and bow down so I may have a relationship back with my highly deceived family once again.
This is what I have been dealing with.
I know this is light weight stuff compared to the Bible history you mention above.
Lying to protect the innocent is a high calling. I get it! God protects His people. Thank you God
When is it time to uncover the lies the abuser covers up? Isolation is a killer.
The high price of close family renewal is at stake here.
Do I keep status quo
Or go for the truth at the expense of reconciliation?
This may be a conversation not fit for a public forum.
Any godly counsel would be appreciated.
I am ready to expose the truth!
Into the light
I gather that it is your abuser who has been lying to family and friends; and hiding in a legalistic church to get the backing from the spiritual high power leadership to manipulate you to cry; and hiring a Christian lawyer and falsifying facts in a court of law to cover a covert narcissistic personality disorder.
None of those lies are okay, especially the ones that are being done as part of a legal process! In a court of law, or when we sign our name to legal documents, we do so swearing that we are telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Your abuser has directly violated the ninth commandment there: he has borne false witness against you.
And I understand your bowing down so you may have a relationship back with your highly deceived family once again. Those kinds of situations are the stuff of DA are they not — every choice is bad so whichever way one chooses to act, it has a hard cost.
I don’t think anyone can answer those questions for you! All I ever suggest to survivors under such dilemmas like that is to give careful thought to questions like this:
If you do x, what will be the likely consequences? Are you willing to live with those consequences? How will you feel about yourself in say ten years time if you have made that choice?
And if you do y, what will be the likely consequences? Are you willing to live with those consequences? How will you feel about yourself in say ten years time if you have made that choice?
Are there any options other than x or y? Options that perhaps are halfway paths between the Scylla and Charibidis you are facing? Could you step out and carve such a third path? Could you insist to your family that that is the only path you are willing to walk?
And then, if you can, make the decision which you think you can best live with, in the light of your conscience.
And there is often nothing wrong with waiting and seeing and continuing to assess and think things through; there may be no pressure to make a final and full decision right now. And – you are free to take one path now, and change your mind later, if in new light you think that is the best way to maintain your integrity and to follow God.
Did I mention I am not dealing with just an abuser here.
The man has a demon. Maybe more than one.
The legal process is over for now.
It’s just a legal separation.
The court did find him in contempt for trying to defy a court order.
I got a small amount from the abuser.
I have paperwork to prove this.
Would it be feasible to send to my daughter?
I have already expressed this to the church he hid in. This was over six months ago.
No response back.
I wonder why?
It would destroy their image.
Just my thinking.
One step at a time.
Thank you for your input!
The sad reality is…
This mans soul is in jeopardy.
and yes, I think you did mention before that you witnessed the demon / demons in him. Quite a few of our readers here have had similar experiences. You might like to check out our tag Demonic Influence.
sorry, I can’t answer that.
These past two posts on ‘telling untruths’ is a welcome resource. Thank you.
I’m not sure about this aspect of the Westminster Larger Catechism; I do not believe that we are “duty-bound” to obey God’s Law, or at least that’s not how I understand Scripture, especially most if not all of the book of Galatians. My concern is with the words “duty-bound” only and not with the intent or desire to obey and please Him.
I believe God gives blood-bought Christians a new heart desirous to obey God, but does not require law-keeping as “duty.” My concern is that if we as Spirit-filled Christians start attempting on our own, being “duty-bound” to keep it, then we can easily fall into a works-based theology. I think we who live under conviction of the Spirit of God desire to not sin and to obey Jesus, who kept the Law that we are unable to, but it is not our “duty” per se.
He gave us a new commandment to love one another, and He also emphasized the most important law as loving the Father with all our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. On these hang all the law and commandments (all 613, if I’m not mistaken), but I do not see Jesus telling us that we are duty-bound to obey God’s laws.
Otherwise, He would not have needed to keep them all Himself and then sacrifice Himself for us. As John Owen wrote “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it,” and if we as creatures of flesh are “duty-bound” to keep any of it, we fail.
Thank you for this series, Barb. It’s of tremendous help to me and my daughter as we desire to please God in our faith that He will complete the good work He has begun in us. To that end, we are enjoying this series by learning more about when and how it’s righteous to not necessarily speak or represent truth out of interest in upholding righteousness and not allowing evil to have its way. May God bless the work of your hands and heart.
Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. (John 14:15). In an interesting verse reversal John 15:14 says we are His friends if we do what He commands. You are so right that God does give us a new heart that desire to obey Him. I also agree that the word “duty” may seem unfitting considering our freedom in Christ as expressed in Galatians. I think it comes down to a matter of being “duty bound” as a show of our transformation and salvation- not a requirement to attain, ensure or preserve it. It is my understanding of scripture that Jesus abolished the ceremonial and civil law, but not the moral law which was in effect from the OT.
We are also supposed to live the life of servanthood to God, which means we do what our Master asks of us, so in this regard we are also duty bound. The life we live in the body we live for Christ. We are bound to Him. Maybe we’re thinking the same thing. ? 🙂
Indeed. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. And His commandment that He gave was that we love one another. That’s not a list of do’s and don’t’s, but a condition of the heart, which God alone can change.
Someone once also told me an interesting way to understand that statement of Jesus’…. when He said “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Essentially, when one really does love Jesus the commandments are kept. In other words, it’s not a “You must do this if you love me statement,” but instead a “because of your love for me those commandments will be kept by you – not as a must-do but just inherently so.” Kind of like…. If you love your child, you will feed him or her. You don’t do it because it’s a must-do-this kind of thing. You just do it out of love and it’s hardly even given a thought. It’s just done out of love. That kind of thing.
I see the verse from John that you cited exactly the same way. We will be seen to be His friends by our love for Him, expressed in doing what He Himself prepared in advance for us to do. It’s not an imperative “do this” so much as it is “out of your being my friend these works will spring forth from you as living water.”
I think you’re right in stating that we’re really thinking the same thing and stating it different ways. I’m just not inclined to state it as a “duty” because that might easily be construed as a “must do,” whereas I think the focus (for ease of understanding) would be placed on the “being” part rather than the “doing” part. I’ve heard this expressed also as the indicative-imperative – the “being” and then the “doing.” I think in our flesh it’s very easy to get caught up in the “doing” part without focusing on the “being” part, which easily then becomes a works-based theology as opposed to a Christ-changed-heart focus theology.
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
SR, I’ve been pondering your comment here, and following what you and Valerie have exchanged.
It might help if I give more of the context of Qn 99.5 of that Catechism. [The Westminster Larger Catechism [Internet Archive link]] The catechism clearly teaches salvation by grace alone — most esp in Qns 69-81, but more generally it’s in many more of the first 90 questions of the catechism.
Questions 91-196 of the catechism cover The duty of the redeemed: The Moral Law, God’s Command in the Gospel, The Means of Grace (the Word and the Sacraments), and Prayer including an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer.
Question 99, which is the one I quoted a bit from in this post, is:
and then it puts forth seven precepts for rightly understanding the ten commandments, of which I quoted the fifth precept in my post.
So, in context, the Catechism is not saying that we can be saved by obeying the ten commandments, or by conforming ourselves to the duties they express. It is simply telling us how to understand the ten commandments in the light of the whole counsel of God — and God’s counsel most certainly teaches salvation by grace alone.
On musing more about your point, though, it has occurred to me that the Westminster Assembly’s use of the word ‘duty’ might indeed bespeak a (perhaps subtle?) tendency to err towards legalism. As Jeff points out often on this blog, there are two broad classes of error when it comes to false doctrine and false practice: (1) legalism, and (2) libertinism. We are all constantly at risk of erring into either legalism or libertinism. And paradoxically we can err both ways at the same time! (just to make it more complicated!)
It has been observed by some of us that Presbyterian churches have a tendency to err into legalism. Now, Presbyterianism has many of its roots in the Westminster Assembly, and most Presbyterian churches have the Westminster Confession as their subsidiary statement of faith. Maybe (I’m only speculating) the Westminster Assembly documents do have a shade of legalism in their emphasis and wording, and maybe that word “duty” which you picked up on is one example of that shading. If that is so, it would fit with the tendency to legalism which we observe in many Presbyterian churches (not all) in the accounts we hear from victims of abuse at this blog.
But please don’t take this as more than my musings. I am by no means an expert on the Westminster Assembly documents; but I have found them very helpful quite a lot of the time. Not that I consult them only. I also find the London Confession (Reformed Baptist Confession) very helpful. (extra note: the Reformed Baptists, to my knowledge, did not produce any catechisms.)
Thank you, Barbara. I appreciate your clarification here. I had hoped that my comment wasn’t perceived in any way other than my own musing or understanding as well, so I’m glad to hear from you. I appreciate your comments regarding the catechism. I confess I’m not well-read or -studied on catechisms and confessions.
I am in complete agreement with you that we all can easily go one way or another (and sometimes both) toward legalism or antinomianism (anti-law). I think in the flesh we Christians easily lean toward works in our desire to contribute SOMETHING toward either our salvation or sanctification. In Scripture I see nothing that states we give anything toward either (quite the opposite, in fact), and so it was when I read the word “duty” that my mind jumped to “obligation,” which could lead toward something we are bound “to do,” and that’s just not what I see in Scripture.
I’m glad that my thoughts (even if they differ from some of those in the post) are received in the spirit in which they are intended. I enjoy the pursuit of truth here at this site, and I love when iron sharpens iron in genuine Christian love and respect. Thanks for that! It’s sometimes hard to communicate well on a black-and-white flat medium long-distance.
Excellent again Barbara! Very apt examples from scripture that show us how we need to practice discernment. I don’t recall what book it was in but many years ago I read some “wisdom” from an author who said if there were a situation in which someone wanting to harm your family members was at the door that it was a sin to lie and say they were not home. He/she (I don’t recall) went on to say that we needed to trust in God that He would intervene or something to that effect but that absolutely we must tell the truth in all cases at all times. Period. This thinking was another lock on the cell door of my marriage. I think it was the same book but the author claimed that Rahab was not blessed because she lied but because she feared God.
When my better judgment told me not to tell my husband something I knew he would used against me, that author’s words laid guilt on me to tell the truth anyway and just hope that somehow God would carry me through the consequences of doing so. When your confidence is low and you are being repeatedly told you can’t trust your judgment it is the perfect storm to be vulnerable to every wind of teaching. 😦
I am having an issue between two family member and the issue of discernment is at the heart of the matter. The theme that comes to mind throughout the post is asking the question “What is the greater good?”. I sensed God placed that question on my heart years ago which was the beginning of a mind shift for me. It is too easy for me to take the easy road and not consider long term consequences when having to deal with people. When we are faced with the decision to have to deceive or withhold information, though, the greater good or consequences of our decision is a question we must ask.
That ‘wisdom’ you read in that book! Good grief! It is a stark example of the Pharisaic wooden attitude to ethics.
And do you see how it bespeaks a superstitious approach to faith? It implies: “If we just believe and pray, trusting 100%, then God will miraculously avert harm from hitting us. And if we don’t do that, we lack faith and we can’t be the real deal as Christians. . . ”
This is the kind of stuff you find in Word-Of-Faith theology. It’s more pagan than Christian. It’s too forumulaic.
Indeed. And that wisdom reminds me of the devil’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness. He said (in essence) Throw yourself down on the rocks for it is written that angels will bear you up lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. And Jesus replied (in essence) It is written Thou shall not put the Lord thy God to the test.” What the “wisdom” (so-called) of the book Valerie read sounds like it was doing was testing God. That same “wisdom” completely disregards true wisdom and all the warnings in Scripture to be wise as serpents, to not ally with evil (even by being complicit in allowing it to have its way), and so on.
A missionary friend of mine told me of an ethical dilemma they faced at their mission station. The area where she was working had two sources of medical supplies; official gov’t channels or the black market. There was no point in trying to bring the meds in from home because they just got captured by either the gov’t or by rebels. They needed antibiotics to save lives. People were dying from an easily cured illness because they could not acquire the needed medicine.
If you bought from the gov’t sources you might pay for example, 250 dollars for one vial of antibiotics that would quickly be used up. If you bought it off the black market, you could get ten vials of the same drug for the same amount. They prayed about it and concluded that even though they did not like having to purchase stuff from the black market, it was the right thing to do in that situation because lives were at stake.
My real frustration with the whole Christian world and the church is the lack of insightful teaching that actually deals with reality. I had a Mennonite guy tell me once that self-defense was always wrong for Christians and we give up our rights at the cross. I said to him “So God doesn’t want me to defend myself if a guy grabs me on the way home and tries to rape me”? He looked visibly uncomfortable with my question I suppose because in one way it pointed out the extreme implications of his unqualified statements.
I mean, Jesus once extricated Himself from folks who wanted to toss him off a cliff. And on another occasion he trashed the temple, overturning tables and cracking fannies with a whip. Paul confronted a Roman solider about illegally scourging him, using his citizenship rights to protect himself from a beating. Jesus told two of the disciples that it was okay to have a sword for self-defense. King David pretended to be nuts before Abimelech. Rahab lied to protect Israelites spies because she feared God and knew who they represented.
Hardly pacifist behaviour to be applied in each and every situation but right to do when warranted. A Christian author whose name escapes me once spoke of a situation where someone witnesses an angry man beating a tiny tot to death. He asked “Would you wait until the officially recognized protector shows up in his squad car, or would you intervene to save the little one? What’s the point of defending widows and preserving the lives of orphans if all we are doing is keeping them alive so a greater evil can befall them?”
I love the examples you gave, Kind of Anonymous — the examples from real life, and the examples from the Bible.
You may recall James who wrote the post Logic and Authority in the Church. He has some very good thoughts about self-defence and why Jesus instructed to the disciples to carry swords. I have asked him to write a post about this. Let us hope he is able to do so. 🙂
Alright already! I’m working on it – again. 🙂
My comment doesn’t relate specifically to this article. Rather I would like to see a review of the movie War Room that is sweeping the Christian audience. I’m afraid it could keep women in abusive relationships thinking in time if they back off and pray earnestly enough he will repent and change . . almost overnight Only in the movies!
Yet the movie has a kernel of truth in that the wife gives up arguing and trying g to make him change as if she had the power to do that.
She comes to the realization that is NOT her job but God’s. And that is about the only message I got pout of this movie.
Did I miss something?
Yes Susan, I know we need to have a review up of that movie soon. Anyone want to send us their review as a possible guest post? If so, email it as a Word doc to myself, Jeff and TWBTC.
There is a recent post (9 / 11) at I Will Stand FB page regarding this encouraging people to post comments about the movie. I haven’t seen the movie and don’t intend to. I have since been reading further into concerns regarding the people involved in the film as well as the film itself. If the movie presents a distorted view of prayer and scripture I don’t think we’re going to hear much about that unfortunately. Just my opinion.
Following. I still have not been able to receive new posts from ACFJ. WordPress is kind enough to send other blogs, but not this one.
Brenda, can you pls let TWBTC know when that started to happen? It might have something to do with us having recently disabled hovercards on the blog.
Thanks so much for this article. For years I struggled with issues like this– was it wrong to lie and protect my children and myself? Was it right to submit to a man who clearly had malicious motives towards me (even though he wasn’t asking me to sin)? Finally years after I escaped abuse, an ethics course in seminary helped me sort it all out. The professor showed many of the examples you gave, and basically said there are 3 parts to morality. Besides the Action, we have to look at the Motive and the desired Outcome. If the motive is sinful, it’s wrong– even if the action is right. If the outcome hurts people, it is wrong even if it is following the letter of the law. Jesus said the whole law was summed up in loving God and others, so when our obedience to rules fails to do either, we are missing God’s intent. Those of us who tend to stay in abusive situations tend to be legalists. I preached LAW to myself for years, and sure enough the letter of the law kills. Thank God his Spirit gives life, and he redeemed me from the bondage of legalism and abuse. I so appreciate your blog, and grateful that you are teaching truth that will help set those in bondage free!
So was Calvin abusive?
Hi, New Life, you asked:
Personally, I am not able to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to answer that question. Nor am I able to answer the question in a simple sentence.
In the post I laid out some evidence of Calvin using double-speak and I noted that double-speak is typical of legalists. I also pointed to Calvin’s cold and critical response to the French noblewoman who had asked Calvin’s church in Geneva to give her a safe haven from her extremely abusive husband. Those are two instances of Calvin’s behaviour. But I can’t draw the conclusion that Calvin was abusive from only two instances.
You may have read my definition of abuse but I’ll give it again here, as food for thought.
Whether or not John Calvin in his overall pattern of conduct displayed enough of the above characteristics to be called ‘an abuser’ by my definition, I am not able to say. I have not studied his life enough.
Thanks for your thorough reply, Barbara, I appreciate your thoughts.