Radical Truth: Can You Not Lie?

Derek Ouellette —  May 5, 2011

An article in this months Christianity today magazine titled The Seven Levels of Lying, Sarah Sumner advocates a 100% “liar-less” Christianity (yes I know liar-less is not a word). There are no exceptions. Christians simply should not – ever, not even in the tiniest white way, not even for the most justifiable of reasons – lie.

Now if you are like me, you’ve already reacted in your mind. “Not even if lying will save your child’s life?” “Not even if your lively-hood is at stake?” “Not even to say things like, ‘sure it’s not an inconvenience to go to the store for you’ when in fact it is?” Sarah would say “nope, not even in those cases”.

Throughout the article she reminds us that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) whereas Jesus himself is “the Truth” (John 14:6), that God by his very nature is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2) because there is no darkness in him (1 John 1:5) but the Lord detests the act of lying (Proverbs 12:22). By these scriptural standards, it is Christlike to tell the truth and, well, anti-Christ to lie.

Contrary to God, the heart of humans is deceitful and desperately wicked, so much so that we cannot trust our selves  (Jeremiah 17:9). Don’t lie, says Sarah, not even the small ones – at least not without immediately confessing it. Why? Because according to Jeremiah 17:9 we cannot trust our own hearts: our lies will escalate until we fully resemble the father of lies rather than the Christ of truth.

She points out seven discernable layers of lying:

1. You Lie

A single lie, like a light, can ignite a bonfire.

2. You Self Protect

To protect your lie, you lie.

3. You Develop a Habit of Lying

The little lies are now okay, so you begin to do it about trivial matters.

4. You Self Deceive

You begin to believe what you tell others.

5. You Rationalize

Now it is not just that you believe your lies are not lies, you begin to justify that as having a positive good.

6. You Develop Your Technique

As Sarah explains, “You start isolating statements, ignoring what was said in other contexts”, finding loopholes.

7. You See it as Your Duty to Lie

You make it your duty (to protect family or business partners or pastoral credibility).

Is There Ever A Right Reason To Lie?

Sarah is radical, she’d say no. Take two examples of heroes of the faith who lied: Rahad and Corrie ten Boom.

The scriptures commend Rahab for having great faith (Hebrews 11:31) but not for lying. Her faith was in risking her life by hiding the spy’s on the roof, trusting that the spy’s would be faithful to their word and save her and her family. She was commended. But in the process she lied, and did not fully trust in God. Do you think that had she told the truth, God would have abandoned them (Rahab and the spy’s) or do you think he would have delivered them?

Corrie ten Boom saved numerous people during World War II by hiding them in her home and lying to the Gestapo. But, says Sarah, “when she lied, she wasn’t imitating God”. Is God only able to work and deliver when people lie? Are we trusting in God or ourselves in moments of extreme situations where we feel the only option is to lie?

Sarah takes the layers in reverse. To avoid finding yourself in numbers 7, 6 and 5 you must avoid 4, 3 and 2 and the only way to do that is to confess your lie every time you do 1, and never let it go beyond that.

What do you think about this? Is there ever a good time to lie? Does God ever honor deceit?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Brian

    Like the system T.U.L.I.P., if you can destroy one pillar then they all fall. It would be simple to destroy the first pillar of this lady’s argument. A single lie, like an automatic defibrilator, can save a life. In Corrie Ten Boom’s case, it saved many lives. Argument destroyed.

  • brad.dickey@gmail.com


    What a self serving belief, and 100% against all examples in the Bible. So, it would have been ok for Abraham to LIE that he killed his son on the mount, rather than walking up there with the full intent of killing him, and receive the benefit of God’s Grace and build his faith?

    The selfishness of the view you promote is you make it easier for those living on earth, or self, and forget that The lives that were saved, may have had a more bountiful boon in their death that would have affected 35000 lives.

    If God is God, then why not trust him and his rules. He has a plan, do you think HIS plan involved lying? I can think of two instances where God’s plan was not pretty, judas, and Pharoh. They both sorta took things in their own hands. How did that work out?

    You look at it as saving your child’s life (for example), Perhaps your child’s death, would have saved 50 others by the example set and the impact set by their death. Why is that a bad thing, anyway? Your child would be With Him in heaven. Why would you even want to protect them to live longer on earth, and farther from Him.

    Luther could be an example, he escaped and survived. It caused divisions and factions. <<<< of the flesh, not spirit<<<<< is that a good thing? (gal 5:19-21)

    What would have happened if Luther would have stood face to face with his accusers, put them on the Spot, kill me if you will! And like shadrack, meshack and tobedwego who would surely die in the furnace, HE provided, the RCC adjusted, and His valid points would have been considered more, and you'd have a repaired RCC church…

    Yeah, that sorta lie is very selfish. It takes HIS plan and gives YOU control of it.

    How is you in control, better than HIM in control?

  • Brian

    Brad, seeing as I’m a Calvinist I would maintain that God is in control. I fail to see two things. Why you are attacking me and why you’re saying what you’re saying. How is protecting lives selfish?! You can call me selfish that’s fine. Now you’re going to get called a coward. You’d let someone kill your wife and kids. Coward! Do us a favor and don’t be a police officer or a soldier. You’re doing just fine as a coward.

  • http://FireSpeaks.blogspot.com FireSpeaks

    I perceive Brain there is a level of piety in the way you write. You do maintain that God is in control with your lips. However your argument is for you being in control.

    It is not selfish to lie to save a life, however it is disobedient to lie to save a life. and your disobedience you sin against God.

    Second your statement shows you care more about what man thinks of you than God. Did you really reply “Now you’re going to get called a coward. You’d let someone kill your wife and kids. Coward!”? It takes a coward to hurt someone because you fear they will hurt you. It take a real man to defend God’s word even unto death. (Luke 6:27-28)

    Have you ever actually read any part of the bible? In your piety it is one thing to stub your nose at another person, but when you think that you can justify you disobedience to God law, you are stubbing your nose at God.Mr big deal Calvinist!

    Let me help you out on some basic bible stuff.
    1.)Salvation is not to the Calvinist, nor the reformer, not exclusive of the Jew or the gentile. But salvation is given to everyone who put his faith in Jesus Christ.

    2.)Faith without action are dead.
    3.) If we have faith in Jesus Christ our actions will be seen as obedience to the law. (Jesus never tells us to break the law)

  • Brian

    Firespeaks, since you didn’t address Brad’s attacks against me I could safely presume you’re Brad right? Correct me if I’m wrong. This is the only time. All the other things you say I’m *wrong* about are just plain silly. It is our responsibility to protect all people, let alone our loved ones. The Bible says if we don’t provide for our loved ones then we are worse than an infidel. As for your *rebuttals* against Calvinism I don’t see the point. What was it?
    Yes, I’ve read the Bible. Hence what I told you above. You must have missed that part when you busy trying to come up with names to call me. :)

  • http://armynow.blogspot.com Neil Gussman

    The trouble with a radical commitment to truth telling is it requires a life just as separated from the world as the level of truth one seeks. Can anyone sell cars, speak to the media, argue in court or wait tables without ‘polite fictions.’
    We live in a sinful world. Machiavelli clearly defined what works in this world. Corrie ten Boom and Rahab were ready to die if they were caught in a lie. A writer for a magazine is not in that postion when she expresses her opinion about their lying.
    I am a soldier. I was in Iraq in a Aviation battalion headquarters. The first thing I heard when I arrived is “nothing you hear in this building will be repeated–ever.” When asked about a matter I knew about because of where I sat, I lied–or at least pretended to know nothing. If I had done otherwise, I would have betrayed my leaders.

  • Wayne

    Hi Derek,

    Thanks for the post. Here are a few of my own thoughts.

    I don’t find it very convincing to contrast Rahab’s faith with her lie. By hiding the spies in the first place, she participates in the deception which began with Joshua sending spies into Canaan in the first place. What this narrative illustrates is that Rahab’s faith made her an active participant in the war against Canaan by Israel.

    This is similar to the deception of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 before Pharaoh. The theological theme is that God’s kingdom advanced against Satan in part by an occasional ironic twist of the serpent’s first deception of Eve. Of course we see this most fully when Satan was completely duped by the cross. What appeared at first to be his victory, was in the end his sure defeat.

    The Bible provides numerous episodes of either falsehoods or incomplete truths used in perilous times. One thinks of God telling Samuel to offer a false excuse for coming to Bethlehem to anoint the son of Jesse as a new king. One thinks of Paul dividing the Pharisees and Sadducees against one another with a half-truth.

    Certainly we are to put away all falsehood as Paul tells us in Ephesians, but this is not done through a simple wooden application of a single principle.

    In my estimation, Ms. Sumners has a lot more homework to do.

    Wayne Larson, Pastor
    Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA)
    Des Moines, IA

  • http://armynow.blogspot.com Neil Gussman

    Amen Pastor Larsen

  • jeff

    Isaiah 41 bring forth your Idols did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. Spalms 115 and Spalms 135 their Idols are FALSE they can’t speak, hear, nor smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their Idol down like a scarecrow it can’t move, speak they must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.
    John 10 Jesus Christ says his sheep HEAR HIS VOICE and if another person TRIES TO PREACH to them they WILL FLEE from him. Jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their OWN AUTHORITY what will you do when your judged my word is not INSIDE them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes BACK in TIME.
    Mathew 16 Jesus Christ claims to be the son of man. 1 cor 2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 14 says the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 states lying prophets of ISRAEL say GOD says GOD says but my word is not inside them. They wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. All of this is EASILY verifiable.
    Mathew 10 says you should hear an internal voice that defends you and tells you what to say when taken to court preached to by the holy ghost. Mathew 12 Jesus states he is preaching by the holy ghost. John 14 states holy ghost comes in future and is from someone else. Now refer back to John 10 about hearing from someone else and fleeing. John 5 states son of mans voice goes back in time. Mathew 16 Jesus claims to be the son of man.
    1 cor 2 holy ghost is familiar with the story about a man on cross from READING about it. Isaiah 65 written in front of me is listed here and also what is not written is hidden from my eyes therefore not familiar with it found in the same chapter. john 7 Jesus says if you knew scripture you’d know if its his word or GODS words. john 12 Jesus admits the voice heard is NOT his. John 10 people point out that Jesus tries to make himself appear to be GOD.