Heidelcast 38: The Prevalence Of Prevarication

The law of God is always relevant but the ninth commandment seems particularly relevant right now. We live in a time when truth seems to be out of fashion. I can’t remember a time when there has seemed to be so little regard for truth in both public and private life. This seems to be true in politics, entertainment, in daily life, and even in the church. Prevarication seems to have become prevalent and nowhere else does it seem more evident than on the web. This is because so much of the web is unmediated, unfiltered. People are able to say virtually whatever they will, often anonymously, with no consequences. Once, where only a few elites had access to mass media, today virtually anyone, under the right circumstances, can create mass media (e.g., by creating a video or blog post that goes “viral”). Of course, since the fall, the human heart hasn’t changed.What we’re seeing about us is only a manifestation of what has always been within us.

The Christian faith, however, is a claim about what is true. It begins with claims about the truth and goodness of creation (and the Creator!) and then about the truth about the fall into sin, and finally we make truth claims about the history of and truths about redemption and the coming consummation. Our Lord Jesus himself claimed to be the truth and to speak truth and he has redeemed us from lies (and The Liar) in order that we might be a people of truth.

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  1. R. Scott said: “so little regard for truth in both public and private life.”

    Last year I posted on my blog the NEW answer to WCF Question 143 after receiving just one too many unverifiable politically charged e-mails that advised me to forward on to at least 10 others:

    Q144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

    A144: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man..unless it’s an e-mail that agrees with your political ideology, whether true or not, it’s OK to forward on to ten people.

  2. This is a fine piece of work, Dr. Clark. Sometimes the most effective things are the simplest and most basic things. I was struck again how much we poor sinners need to hear the pure, unadorned Word of God.

  3. What about Rahab’s lie and the good mention of her in Hebrews and James? I remember this in particular because one Reformed minister used this as a case for a justified lie.

    This seems to be related to lying to Nazis in order to save Jews; would lying be the right thing to do in order to save them from inquisitve Nazis?

    Without naming names, it should be pointed out even some Christian academics and ministers have contributed to the propagation of lies, both now and before the Internet.

    From what I hear, many newspapers even before the Internet were not that enthusiastic about the truth. Those editorial filters have not always been helpful.

    • Alberto,

      What about Rahab? When we’re hiding God’s spies from pagans, as those spies are preparing to capture land given by God to his people via holy war, then we can do as Rahab. Modern analogy? Difficult. Maybe hiding Jews from Nazis. Mr Murray said that he wouldn’t answer the question (“do you have any Jews in the house?”). I think I would lie to the Nazis but we should be very careful about drawing analogies with Rahab. I wouldn’t lie on the same grounds as Rahab. I would lie as an act of charity (loving neighbor as self) to both the Nazis and the Jews.

  4. Thanks for the response. I think I understand the nuance. It’s not merely a hypothetical for me, since I have been in situations which have forced me to think of this. I am fairly certain Christians in places like China and the Middle East have had to deal with more serious situations.

    As for Murray, did anyone ever point out that doesn’t really get him out of the problem, assuming loved ones are within the reach of Nazis? If I were bent on doing evil and the one doing the questioning, I would immediately see this as an implied yes and would further question and bring in the welfare of the loved ones into the conversation.

  5. Dr. Clark,
    Is the lie of necessity “to hide the Jews” called an “officious lie”? I am not sure on this issue. I admit I am drawn to Murray’s response, that is to say, none whatsoever, and I would assume that Murray would leave it to God’s providence regarding what would happen. There is also the Mennonite lie option (I assume that you have heard of that).

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