Your editorial on Jean Taffin’s little book [The Marks of God’s Children, Baker, 2003] in the August 2003 Standard Bearer was a blessing. Especially I was heartened to find another who so well described my feelings about excess introspection combined with a deficit of trust, joy, assurance, and praise. I have put the editorial in my assurance file. It should also guide me away from some “Reformed” preachers and groups.
Please allow me to make a few remarks on the matter of lying, addressed in SB of April 15, 2003, p. 322, and SB of July 2003, p. 415.
We should be weary of applying our Western, static notion of truth and falsehood to God’s Word. We always expect the word “truth” to be used as a predicative attribute or adjective as in “this is the truth.” However, the Bible uses expressions such as ” to walk in the truth” (I Kings 2:4; I Kings 3:6; Ps. 26:3; II John 4; III John 3, III John 4), “to obey the truth” (Gal. 3:1; Gal. 5:7; I Peter 1:22), and “to do (work, perform) the truth” (II Chron. 31:20, Micah 7:20, John 3:21, Rom. 2:8, I John 1:6). This indicates that the truth is not an abstract entity that can be easily judged externally but that it pertains to a lifestyle that is desirous to have a good conscience toward God, accompanied with actual deeds, yielding completely to Him, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
That some instances of lying in the Bible seem to be condoned cannot be satisfactorily explained because personal motives would have been pure or that there were compelling circumstances, but it can be explained because there was a conflict between a lower command and a higher command, between an earthly treasure and a spiritual treasure. Jacob’s priority was to have the covenantal blessing of Isaac, whereas Esau despised his birthright. Mary’s priority was to sit at Jesus’ feet, whereas Martha could not set the household needs aside (Luke 10). Jesus deals with this priority theme in the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16). For the midwives there was a conflict between the command of lower pharaoh to kill and the command of almighty God not to kill. For Rahab there was a choice between perishing with the Canaanites and finding protection with the people of God. The key to understand the condoning of the lying is found in the fact that they feared God more than men. Concerning the midwives it says emphatically in Exodus 1:17 and inExodus 1:21 that they feared God. In Joshua 2:9-11, trembling Rahab expresses her fear because of the terror and the mighty acts of God.
When there is a conflict between obeying God and obeying men, Christians should have no problem making a choice (Acts 5:29). It is my conviction that those who lied against the Nazis in WW II did so because they feared God, who commands not to kill, more than Hitler, whose intent was to annihilate the Jews. Let us, who live sixty years away from WW II, stand in awe of the heroic deeds of faith whereby these “liars” risked, and many times paid with, their lives.
Nevertheless, the point of your article is well made. We are prone to lie because of selfish, earthly reasons. Then our heart will condemn us (I John 3:20, 21). We must certainly be critical of our own motives and see whether they are genuinely rooted in the fear of God. But I am sure that betrayal of a Jew would have gnawed more at the conscience than speaking a lie to a Nazi.
May God continue to bless your beautiful magazine!
J. L. Reckman