Now, that title might seem a little cute. Of course, Christians are capable of lying, that is, they have the ability to lie. However, this is what I am getting at: is lying permitted by Christian ethics?
Let me back up a couple steps. The other day I pressed the “scan” button on my car radio, and I came across the local Roman Catholic radio show, “Ask Your Father,” where I suppose the priest was answering questions. One of those questions had to do with ethics, you know, standards of morality. And to paraphrase, he told the caller that there is no objective standard for ethics except the church (that deserves its own response) but he also said that Christians are never permitted to tell a lie, in any circumstance, ever. That last part might be a full quote.
This made me think, and me thinks he wrong. There is a simple way to show the hosts error. For example, how can a Christian ever play a competitive sport? The Christian is playing basketball and goes for the layup, but afterwards asks for forgiveness because he faked left and actually went right. What would this “father” say in response to that? Faking left, and going right is lying, so the Christian basketball player must repent (say some hail Marys, I suppose) and ask for forgiveness.
I don’t think so.
That may be a minor example, but it simply shows that this “father’s” absolute statement is, frankly, silly.
On another level, I would argue that Christians, the Bride of Christ, is permitted to lie, and sometimes encouraged and praised for it. Gasp.
For example, the Hebrew midwives hid children from Pharaoh and the Egyptian Gestapo whom wanted to murder the boy babies. According to our radio host above, these covenant members were sinning by not giving up the baby boys unto death at the hands of Pharaoh. God’s response to the midwives lying and deceiving, is praise and blessing (Exodus 1:15-22). What about Rahab hiding the Hebrew spies? She lied, and she is praised for it as a heroine of the faith (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11:31). Let’s not forget mighty Jael who deceived Sisera to enter her tent for a bit of rest and hiding from Israel’s soldiers. When he nodded off to sleep she drove a tent peg through his skull into the dirt and she is praised in wonderful song for her deception (Judges 4:17-24; 5:24-27). Well, there goes the claims from “Ask Your Father.”
Back to my statement above about the Bride of Christ being permitted to lie. What’s up with that? Well, a bit of biblical theology is necessary to answer this question and to show why our radio host above doesn’t know the Bible very well.
In the beginning there was Adam and the his bride, Eve. The Serpent entered the Garden where this couple dwelt and waged war. Adam was supposed to wage war with his fists and feet obeying God to guard the Garden, but instead he stood to the side as the Devil waged war with his lying words against the woman. Rather than wrestle the dragon to the ground and stomp on its neck, Adam let the Devil speak to his wife. When the Dragon wages war against the Bride, one of his main modes of warfare is through sowing seeds of lies.
What should be the Bride’s response? Well, before we get to the Bride’s response, perhaps we should examine the Husband’s warfare. Where Adam failed, the Second Adam succeeded. Jesus, the Husband, crushed the Devil under His feet on Golgotha (John 12:31-33). Jesus is the Husband who defied the Dragon in the Garden and bled for the sake of His Bride, the church. He wrestled the Devil to the ground and stomped on his neck (Romans 16:20).
So, what is the Bride’s response to the warfare of the Dragon? She battles the Devil with his own tactics. “Put to death the boys of the church,” says the Dragon through Pharaoh, and the midwives say, “These Hebrew women give birth to fast. Can’t do it.” The Jericho police say, “Rahab, where are those Hebrew spies? We must kill them before they get back to their people,” and Rahab says, “I dunno. What spies? Spies? Here? Really? Noooo.” And Jael takes into her tent the enemy of Israel, Sisera, and she says, “Come on in for a little rest. I will hide you from the Israelites.” And when Sisera nods off he gets his brains splattered with a workmen’s mallet.
The women, symbolic of the church, battle the Serpent by deception, holy deception. And what’s more, they are praised for it by the inspired Word of God.
If the Nazis knock on your door and say, “Any Jews here?” and you just ushered three Jewish families into the hidden cellar under the rug before opening the door, what should a Christian say? The “father” on the radio show set an absolute: Christians cannot lie under any circumstance. His advice (dogma) would get those three Jewish families and yours put to death. What does the Bible show us? What does the Bride do in response to the Dragon?
“Nope, no Jews here, sir.”