Pastor Scott Summers
Student & Young Adult Pastor
Is it ever ok for a Christian to lie? This is a question that came up this semester in my Contemporary Moral Issues class, and honestly (pun intended), i’m not sure where I land on it. This may seem like a simple question, but it’s one that very respected seminary professors don’t agree on. For sake of brevity, let’s say that lying in general is a sin, but there are those who think that there are no exceptions to this rule, and others that feel there are. I’ll explain these sides and you can see where you lean.
First, there is the side of no exceptions. Dr. Wayne Grudem, a renowned author, professor, and as Pastor Blake describes, “one of the most sanctified individuals he’s ever met,” falls in this camp. I was told that he was presented with the following hypothetical situation: Someone breaks into your home, your wife and kids are hiding, but you confront the intruder who asks, “Where are your wife and kids?” Dr. Grudem said that he would either tell the truth, or simply not answer in order to avoid sinning. He believes that telling the truth or remaining quiet is the moral thing to do, and that God would either let something terrible happen or hopefully miraculously intervene. An instance of miraculous intervention is the story told by Corrie Ten Boom (a woman whose family helped hide Jews during the Holocaust). The story goes that her family hid people under the floor of their home, in a compartment just below the kitchen table. When the Nazi’s came into their home and asked where the Jews were hiding, her sister stated, “they’re under the table.” Everyone started chuckling and feeling embarrassed, the Nazi soldiers left the home.
The other side of the camp obviously believes that lying is not ideal, but may
be necessary in extreme circumstances (the hypothetical intruder scenario for
instance). Dr. Steven Tracy, also a renowned author, professor and strong believer,
believes that due to the fall of mankind, we live in an imperfect world where we’re
forced to choose between competing morals. He cites Joshua 2, where Rahab lied to
protect the Israelite spies that she hid beneath the flax stalks on her roof. The result
was that God honored her decision, as Rahab and her entire family were saved from
certain death, and she even became part of the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). The
morality of protecting God’s people appears to be greater than the morality of truth
in that case. Dr. Tracy obviously doesn’t condone lying, but believes that it must be
weighed against a competing morality in rare and extreme circumstances.
Maybe you can see why i’m not ready to fully throw my support on either side. Saying that there are no exceptions seems to take reality out of the picture, as if actually faced with a life or death situation i’m likely going to lie. Saying that there are exceptions may seem like you don’t trust God enough to handle the outcome if you tell the truth. Personally, I lean towards Dr. Tracy’s response, as I believe the morality of protecting life does trump telling the truth, although this is the only exception that I find valid, as anything less could be a slippery slope to justifying lying for any reason, which is essentially moral relativism and is NOT (all caps, bold, underline, follow-up parenthetical statement…you get the idea) Biblical. If you disagree with me I still don’t fault you, as erring on the side of faith is certainly an excellent choice as well.
You’re welcome for the next dinner table conversation starter; don’t let the
debate get too heated (after all, you don’t want to sin fighting over who’s morally