Truth and Lies
[ Read Part 1 ]
When it comes to falsehood, the usual rationale or justification for listening to questionable sources goes something like this …
Just eat the meat and spit out the bones.
It’s okay because the good stuff outweighs the bad.
I don’t know if it’s true, I just know it helped me.
All truth is God’s truth.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
All I know is I felt it, I experienced it, so it must be true – and it can’t be bad.
It works. Therefore, it must be true.
Or, as one pastor told me regarding his leadership’s teaching of a popular bestseller: “Sure, this book may not be ‘theologically precise,’ but it could be helpful.” Years later, this same church admitted their error in allowing the book to be taught. Sadly, their mea culpa came too late. The damage had already been done, and more than one family was directly and indirectly harmed by the application of falsehoods in this particular book.
Likewise, I have heard many people espouse the notion that, “All truth is God’s truth,” or, “You find out what is true by finding what works” – but these statements are never made in the context of someone teaching straight out of the Bible. Why do you suppose that is?
Questions & Standards
So what questions do you ask when you encounter a new teaching, book, assertion or truth?
Did you know that the questions we ask reveal our standard? In other words, our questions show what we use to determine the acceptability for the new material or teaching. The questions asked by many, including believers, are often:
Does it help?
Does it work?
How does it make me feel?
How many copies has it sold?
How popular or accepted by others is it?
How much good is in it?
What if, instead, we asked this simple (yet challenging) three-word question:
Is it Biblical?
We could even settle for: “Is it true – or not?”
It is when we ask the wrong questions, that we will almost assuredly be misled. If the standard we use when trying to determine truth or falsehood is in error, what are the chances we will be led into error?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard some variation of the following: “Well, there’s some truth in it; so it can’t be that bad.”
The assertion here is that the “some truth” somehow makes the book acceptable to use; when, in all likelihood, it should be firmly refuted and condemned, based not only on the falsehood it contains, but because of the even more insidious danger of truth mixed with error. As Dr. Ironside warned:
Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.
—Dr. Harry Ironside
In some ways it’s easy to understand why we fall for the “some-truth-fallacy” (and no book except the Bible is without error). But if our faulty constructs are thought through, let alone examined in the light of Scripture, we will see the potential damage this thinking and these standards inevitably bring.
Beware The Little Error
God Himself warns us multiple times in His Word of the danger and deception that comes from just a “little” lie or a “small” amount of error or folly:
A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. —Galatians 5:9
As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. —Ecclesiastes 10:1
Yet there are many who will vigorously fight for and even defend error based on the partial good or fraction of truth it contains, rather than seeing the danger for what it is.
Beware the little error.
Ignore it to your own peril.
Note the very real benefits (the “some good”) of Satan’s deception, in what was perhaps the greatest lie ever told and believed (at least in terms of consequences):
When the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. —Genesis 3:6
Notice also how Satan–who is described as exceedingly “subtle” and “crafty” (i.e., good at mixing truth in with small, hard-to-detect errors in order to get others to believe his lies)–said something that was simultaneously true and false:
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” —Genesis 3:4-5
Satan told the truth. They did not die. At least not right away. However, Adam and Eve did die spiritually. And later they died physically –not to mention were responsible for bringing death to all mankind. In the end, this truth-lie-mixture resulted in death, and death of a far greater magnitude than they could have conceived of.
What Satan said was true: God did know what would happen. And what Satan said would happen did truly happen. But Satan’s intent was to impugn and cast doubt on God’s Word and character (“Did God really say … “ see Gen 3:1). It was also true that the man and woman’s eyes were opened; and they did, in fact, know good and evil (notice the “good” aspect of this deadliest of lies). But the lie was sold as a good thing –that they could be like God. And that they needed more than what God had sufficiently blessed them with (more on “needs” later).
Notice how all of this “good” and the introduction of a new need (i.e., new and better “knowledge,” according to the Deceiver) was both a subtle and direct attack on the sufficiency of God and His Word.
Did Adam and Eve need anything? No. But Satan convinced Eve that she did. This extremely efficient scheme of deceiving through “embellished needs” is exactly what dominates the most powerful lies today. Arguably, the most popular and destructive lies involve a non-need that is made into a “need.” And those “needs” then undermine the sufficiency and truth about God and His Word – and our sufficiency in Him.
The lies from the Garden, perpetuated by the original tactics, continue to this very day (2 Cor 2:11). Especially the need-that-is-not-a-need.
Principles To Dwell On & Remember
- Most effective lies contain some truth and some good.
- Many people tend to discount the danger in lies–and the lie itself–if they see some truth or some good.
- Many of the most powerful lies present a false need, which usually has some truth or good in it. But its importance is inflated into something that becomes too important, even “needed” (for happiness, fulfillment, etc.).
Why It Matters
So, why does this matter? My hope in sharing these things is not merely to expose lies, or to get us to move from falsehood to truth (although that is, of course, an incredible blessing). Rather than just pointing out untruth, we need to learn how to better discern what aspects of “truth,” “good,” or “benefit” are found in the lies we encounter, and how these are often used to manipulate and deceive us. We must practice discerning what the “hook,” the allure, the subtle errors combined with “some truth” or “some good” are – so that we will save both ourselves and our hearers (1 Tim 4:16).
Again, our goal is not merely to detect falsehoods. Or even simply to grow in discernment (although both are huge in and of themselves). No, our primary goal is to accurately know and love God—according to the truth—so that we can glorify God and bless others according to the truth. How well can we love apart from the truth? Not to mention if we attempt to love while believing in and teaching error?
In many ways, the solution to our problems can be found in both grace and truth (Jn 1:14, 17). This does not mean merely a “balance” between the two; instead, we seek all of grace and all of truth. Jesus came full of grace and truth. We want to know and love Him, and others, according to this same grace and truth.
But, we are prevented from loving God and others to the degree that we are living according to lies. Therefore, we must be motivated by a love for God and a “love for the truth” (2 Thess 2:10). This motivation is necessary for us to know the truth, to love according to the truth, to grow in grace and truth, and, finally, to be greatly blessed as we become more like Jesus.
One way we can grow tremendously in our lives and in our love for the truth is by learning from, and even wrestling over, common lies most of us have struggled with to some degree or another.
We’ll take an in-depth look at some of these lies in Part 3 of this series.
[ Read Part 1 ]