Monday, March 6, 2006


We know that fresh and salt water does not come at once from the same tap. Fig trees don't bear olives. These are simple truths, very simple, and self-evident. But I recently had an extended correspondence about lying, my position being that to lie to evil-doers in order to save innocent lives is no sin at all, and the other fellow saying that he'd lie too, but it would be a sin that required repentance. All that's been gone over, and I won't repeat it.

Under the Law, there is unwitting sin, for which there was provided a remedy through sacrifice. So was Job engaged on the morn of the four messengers. Today, Christians are forgiven sin at, as it were, several levels (Creator and penitent). From the human perspective guilt is forgiven not just through confession, but repentance also. To repent means to resolve to never repeat that sin. If so, then to repent a lie to save lives is an absurd situation. Of course you would do it again. So it is an unrepentable sin. If unrepentable, then unforgivable. But there is only one unforgivable sin, and it's not lying to Nazis.

What then of piety? What of the urge to be perfect? Jesus most certainly would not have lied to Nazis - well, Romans. He had, and used, the power to do something grander about the problem - they all fell backward when he spoke that truth Pilate could not recognize. But as for any other human being - what would a saint do? The Bible reports many questionable actions - Ehud comes to mind (Jdg 3:15-30) - for which no condemnation is recorded. Why the reticence? Is it that such actions are so clearly wrong? But often, of the kings of Israel, the only thing we really know is that they did wickedness and were bad. This we are told. Why not be specific? It wasn't that they killed, but that they were murderers. It wasn't that they told a lie, but were liars. Not that they erred, but were unrepentant.

Actions in their broadest classification are not good or bad. Only subcatagories take on moral value. To kill is necessary, sometimes, and what is necessary is not evil. Evil is gratuitous. Murder is evil. To speak - no, to speak inaccurately - no, to speak untruth - no, to speak with deliberate deception ... is this a sin? When we look at how the Bible treats untrue statements, a clear picture doesn't present itself. Only when we hear about "liars," about "slanderers," about "false witnesses" - those of habitual bad character - do we find moral outrage, the condemnation that we might associate, carelessly, with all "lies."

Piety is a good goal. So is saving innocent life. Are they mutually exclusive? In "That which I most feared..." I make the point in passing that Job sinned in making his integrity an idol. Integrity means to be whole, unbroken - a good thing ... not wavering, not inconstant, not one way here and another way there. But to be saved, to be humble before the Lord, is to be broken. Does this mean the saved have no integrity? Of course not. It means there is an integrity beyond that of right-seeming conduct. I personally have never taken a drink of alcohol in my life. Never. Guess I'm perfect in that, then. Bully for me. But it counts for nothing. You have never told a lie? Good for you. Now what good have you done? I'm sounding like James, here. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." The Pharisees got the Law right, but were strangely lacking in righteousness, that union of right action and right motive.

We are saved by grace through faith unto good works. A three-part formula. Faith is the tool, the rope that pulls us out of the pit. Grace is the guy doing the pulling. Good work is the job we get to, once we're out. Some jobs are messy, and we get dirty doing them. But I am not unclean because dirt is on my body, not unclean because of the job I do. It is my heart, my motives, that make me clean or unclean. And the words that I speak arise from my motives. This is not an "ends justify the means" argument - in such a case, the means are wrong. I maintain that the saving lie is not wrong in the first place. However pious you would be, the world is full of evil, which must be fought. What weapon is forbidden to me, in this?

Is Satan the father of lies? Yet, does Satan cast out Satan? Not so simple, is it. Again, "when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer" - Ehud, who delivered Israel by assassinating Eglon, king of Moab. "I have a message from God, for thee," said Ehud to the fat king. And he plunged his hand-crafted blade so far into Eglon's belly that it was lost in the folds of blubber. That's some message, from the Lord. That's some deliverer, raised up. Again, what said God's prophet Micaiah to wicked King Ahab? The "LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee." (1K 22:23; read the chapter - it's repeated in 2Ch 18.) Is deceit, then, a weapon forbidden to the Lord? No, not so simple. Not self-evident.

I may be wrong, here. I would be so convinced, by evidence. Thus far it's not been provided. Slipshod reasoning, slapdash prooftexts, enthusiastic pronouncements of convictions, misquotes of the Ninth Commandment, will not convince me. So this is an open invitation to anyone who cares to comment, to provide chapter and verse. Et - qui tacet, consentit. Not interested in dogma, in Sunday School paraphrases, in breathless and ecstatic utterances. If you have a Word to share, make sure it's from the Bible. That's a blade I can work with.


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