Home > ethics, philosophy, truth > >Does one need always tell the truth?

>Does one need always tell the truth?

>My general view has been that there is a hierarchy of absolutes, so if one is faced with doing one or other of 2 usually wrong actions he needs to decide what is the right thing to do. If we are faced with a genuine conflict of morality, we are to choose that which conforms to loving God and loving our neighbour.

That being said I cannot think of a situation where murder would ever be the eumoral choice; of course murder is not the same as killing and if killing is ever justified then the killing is unlikely to come under the definition of murder.

With lying it is more complex. I personally think that Rahab did the right thing with the spies and the authorities of Jericho. Although previously I would have classified this under graded absolutism (ie. hierarchy of absolutes as above) my more recent thoughts have been that I think it depends on whether you are voluntarily giving information or you are being forced to.

If you are trying to convince someone of what you believe, or in general share your thoughts, you are morally obligated to tell the truth. But if others demand information that you do not desire to give them the situation is not the same. If someone is forcing you into a position of sharing information I wonder if that removes any obligation to tell the truth. I am not aware biblically that one is morally required to give information to someone they do not wish to. So being vague or evasive is not necessarily morally wrong, one has to weigh up the consequences of sharing that information. And if sharing that information causes damage to others (Nazi’s looking for Jews) then love of one’s neighbour may dictate that lying is justified.

We have liberty to our opinions and what we do with them, if someone tries to remove that liberty (eg. by forcing information out of us) we are released from any moral obligation in our answers. Further, if people misunderstand what we are saying when we do not wish them party to our information we are under no obligation to correct that misbelief.

However, God is not happy if we choose to keep our mouths shut in order to allow the miscarriage of justice.

Categories: ethics, philosophy, truth
  1. BA
    2007 October 22 at 03:09

    I have to disagree with this one. I cannot believe Jesus would lie. In fact his method when forced to testify was to say nothing. These kinds of dilemmas inevitably are not about whether we would eirher lie or kill. They are about whether we will be killed in their place if we do not cooperate with the aggressor. If it came down to a lie or to be killed in someone elses place because we honour God with our truthfulness, I believe most people instinctually know what is right – the trick though is to have the guts to put your life in God’s hands. :)

  2. 2007 October 22 at 04:16

    BA, this post is on the back of my thinking about graded absolutism which I have not posted about.
    I think the concept of graded absolutism is important to get a grasp on (even if you disagree with it). This post takes that further in terms of interactions being asymmetrical. The asymmetry of relationships is very important and I should post on it sometime as I think it changes dramatically the way one reads many of the commands in the Bible.
    Here is a discussion on dilemmas on the Stand to Reason site.
    And here is an introduction to graded absolutism. For some reason the site is down so the link is via the internet archive.

  3. Starwind
    2007 October 22 at 18:20

    Appealing to “involuntary” acts is a stronger distinction than the somewhat academic “graded absolutism”, but it still is flawed, fatally IMO.
    Anytime we take it upon ourselves to decide contra God’s commands, we are essentially saying we don’t trust that God is in control. While we’ll not likely ever know this side of heaven what God’s “perfect will, plan and purpose” is in any of these moral dilemmas I am personally loathe to begin trying to second guess God.
    Where does it end?
    Could Rahab have responded, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. Search my house if you think they’re still here, but their God has already seen to their escape”? It is not misleading and places complete trust in God who brought the spies to Rahab’s house initially. Did God intend for Rahab to lie to protect the spies? Was that God’s plan? Could not God have hidden the spies from the soldiers view, or caused a distraction outside Rahab’s house to draw the soldiers away? Which action brings God more glory and teaches us to trust God – lying on His behalf or leaving outcomes in His hands?
    If your family is involuntarily (unjustly) starving, and a man (storekeeper?) has an excess but refuses to share so that your family might live, may you steal from him? Does God expect you to watch your family starve? Even die? If your theft is caught and you’re about to be killed, may you then kill in self-defense? If you are later apprehended in pursuit, may you lie to secure the food for your family. At what point did involuntary become voluntary and how was it justified?
    When Daniel was cast into the Lion’s den or Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego into the firey furnance, would they have been justified in lying about God to save their own lives? How can God work a miracle of deliverance if we pre-empt Him?
    When 1st century Christians were being fed to lions, should they have renounced their faith instead? What might God have wanted us to learn about sacrifice? Do Christians “taste death” or not?
    These are unarguably painful and difficult choices, and I personally, thankfully, have yet to be in circumstances where my faithful obedience would bring pain or death to my loved ones, and I wouldn’t want to have to put my obedience to that test.
    But how is glory brought to God by attempting to elevate our ways and thoughts to His level and then prempting His providence?

  4. Starwind
    2007 October 22 at 18:21

    I’d rather (until tested – wincing) prefer to keep all His commandments, and should the ultimate price thereby be paid by me or a loved one, I’d prefer to be able to honestly ask “Lord, I sought your deliverance, stood on your promises, trusted your word, tried to hear your voice, follow your lead and waited on you, and seemingly I failed somewhere by my earthly comprehension. What was your will? How did I fail to serve you? What would you have had me do?”
    As these are intractable dilemmas, I’d prefer to leave them in His hands, as painful an earthly choice as that may be. Trusting Him for a miracle would seem to bring Him more glory than trusting Him to tolerate (and later forgfive) my sin.
    As I’ve mentioned before, faith is more than believing in spite of the evidence, it is obeying in spite of the consequences.

  5. Starwind
    2007 October 22 at 18:22

    Bethyada, might you up the character limit on haloscan posts to 10,000. 3,000 is very limiting.

  6. 2007 October 22 at 20:07

    I would if I could work out how Starwind. I have a free account. There does not seem to be a word limit in the settings page. Perhaps I need an ungraded account.
    I agree, 3000 is way too little.

  7. Starwind
    2007 October 22 at 21:04

    In that case, don’t spend any money on my preferences. I can suffice within free limitations. Thanks for checking though. Later….

  8. Flipside
    2007 October 23 at 08:35

    All these discussions are important for us to think about, and we should definitely discover what the Bible allows for. We should not discount the fact that in NT we are promised that no temptation is unique to us and we will be given an avenue to escape it. God, being our living and interacting Father, will not leave us to rely on our theories in our time of testing but will give us the words to say via The Holy Spirit. We should remember to stay open to him at all times, but I believe it will be especially obvious to us when he speaks to rescue us from threatening situations.

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