Holier-than-thou Monty

This is a pretty minor rant, but it was still getting beyond what was appropriate for GD (the evangelizing-in-Afghanistan thread), so here we are.

The dialogue went something like this:

dublos (OP): people…were going to a country (Afganistan in this case) with the surface reason of providing relief/support to the undertroddden poor’s physical needs and the “hidden” adjenda of trying to convert the undertrodden poor to their religion.

RT: In the case of Afghanistan, the alternatives were to either lie or be barred from the country; there was no legal way to bring the Gospel to people there while the Taliban was in power. I agree with them that in this case, lying was justified.

Monty: And exactly where in the Decalogue does it say “Thou shalt not bear false witness except when you think it’s okay?”

RT: I don’t see where Jesus said, “Go preach to all nations, except where they tell you you can’t,” either.

We each resolve such ambiguities in our own ways.

Monty: Yeah. I see that you resolve it by rationalizing away disobeying the commandment.

Well, pal, you resolve it by:

  1. Apparently rationalizing away disobedience to Jesus’ commandment to preach to all nations.
  2. Setting yourself up as the authority regarding which commandments take precedence when they appear to directly clash. And
  3. Suggesting that anyone who doesn’t resolve the conflict your way is someone who has no qualms about rationalizing away the dictates of Scripture. (Nice looking-down-your-nose tone, too. :rolleyes:)

All in all, I find that quite contemptible.

[sub]Like I said, folks, a pretty minor rant. But it was more than I could say in GD.[/sub]

It seems to me that the big problem here is that none of you have actually read the commandment you are discussing. The ten commandments don’t forbid “lying.” The actual commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

It is, therefore, perfectly permissible, at least as far as the ten commandments go, to tell lies about yourself, to bear false witness for your neighbor, etc.

Whether any particular falsehood is justified is a complex ethical question that can’t be resolved by reference to a simple rule. There is no outright prohibition on lying in Christianity. I believe there are even cases where lying is biblically endorsed.

And who is your neighbor, Truth Seeker? Unless I missed something in my Christian upbringing, everyone is your neighbor. Not just the folks you have over for barbecue or whatnot every July 4 (or June 14, or Guy Fawkes Day, or whatever you celebrate). Everyone.

The Bible calls Christians to bear the Word wherever they go, IIRC, but it also says to obey the laws of the land. I dunno what I’d do … it seems pretty conducive to long and painful death to openly witness in Afghanistan, for instance. And I don’t think (warning: opinion not necessarily endorsed by the RCC) it is exactly the smartest thing in the world to be all “Why YES, I AM spreading the word of God! How kind of you to ask!”

This is one of those WWJDs that isn’t easily discernible (again IMHO).

Yeah, wouldn’t that be denying Christ? Like Peter did?

Of course, if you were protecting the people you were witnessing too, that’s another issue. I don’t think Christ would condemn people for lying to say, the Taliban, or Hitler or something like that.

*iampunha, Truth Seeker emphasized the wrong part of the commandment. The relevant clause is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

The commandment never outlawed lying. I think that the judeo-christian god, were he/she to exist, would be smart enough not to set out such a ridiculous and destined-to-be-utterly-ignored commandment.
Instead, the commandment prohibits a person from falsely testifying before a tribunal to the detriment of another. Since any false testimony will inevitably harm someone, the commandment effectively bars all false testimony.

And yeah, RT I agree that Monty, completely out of character, was a bit of a jackass in the GD thread on that point.


It seems to be me that the part Truth Seeker emphasized was relevant, though SuaSponte makes a good point as well. It says “against your neighbor” not “to your neighbor”, so (assuming the original reflects that, and it isn’t a translation issue) it doesn’t matter if everyone is your neighbor, because the commandmant doesn’t seem to proclude lying to your neighbor, but rather lying about them.

Minor hijack, Sua. The fact that people will lie and steal anyway is not justification to say “oh, they’re ok after all…no sense telling them not to.” God’s law tells us how God wants us to conduct ourselves. His law is based on what is right and what is not, not what He thinks He can get us to do.

Also, I don’t believe the sole purpose of the law was to dictate how people should live. Another very important function that it serves is to demonstrate to us that we are, in fact, sinners; to give us an objective reference - a control, if you will - by which to judge ourselves. After all, you won’t think you need to be saved if you don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.

Sorry for the hijack.

The Bible does, in fact, call Satan the “father of lies”. But there are times (such as being interrogated about the whereabouts of a hidden Jew, or gaining entrance to a country that bars religious discussions) where what I call “war rules” apply. In these cases, you are acting against a hostile enemy, in the name of God. Wartime espionage isn’t the same as gossip. An undercover detective trying to infiltrate a gang or a soldier infiltrating enemy territory isn’t the same as telling a lie. Killing an enemy soldier in military action isn’t the same as murder.

The way I see it, they were combating an enemy, not just “telling a lie.”

I would think that Christianity does have an outright prohibition on lying:


If you say “A” you mean “A.”

I think a correct response would to be as the apostles did in Acts:
They just did the works and preached. When they were arrested and told they had to stop they could have said “Yes, sirs. We will stop” and the gone out an done more works and preached more, but that would have been lying. Instead they said they would obey God rather than men and did not falsely promise anything.

Would some Christians suffer for refusing to obey the governmental order? Probably, so did the early church.


Thanks, Sua but I did not emphasize the “wrong” portion of the commandment. You merely raise a different, though valid, point. Lying to the government of Afghanistan about yourself is not bearing false witness “against your neighbor,” even if you do it under oath. Iampunha’s charitable impulses aside, there is at least one person who is not your neighbor: you.

In any event, as I said, Christianity simply does not codemn all lying. You simply cannot reduce the biblical commandment to “Don’t ever tell lies.”

My point is Monty & RT are getting into a self-righteous snit, which is fine except that they both look pretty silly since neither of them actually recall what the commandment they’re fighting about really says.

Maybe the bloody things really ought to be posted in schools after all . . .

You line up your 10 Commandments and I’ll get my Hammurabi’s code;)

Of course, there’s the question of Rahab: In Joshua, chapter 2, she lies (and in fact arguably acts as a traitor to her homeland); she is not only spared death at the hands of the Israelites in Joshua 6:17, but her actions are cited in the New Testament as an example of saving faith(Hebrews 11:31). Although some Christian commentators argue that her actions were sinful, but she was just forgiven or something, I don’t think there’s any word of condemnation of her or her actions in either testament. (Don’t be thrown off by references to “Rahab” as a symbol or synonym of Egypt, which is quite different from Rahab the prostitute of Jericho.)

A similar case could be made about the lying midwives in Exodus, chapter 1.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time the Bible contradicts itself.

Not lying is accepted as part of Christianity, and ignoring it because it is inconvenient is indeed “rationalizing”. I can see no basis to your taking offense beyond you not liking Monty’s position.

Just my personal take, but I’d think the answer to WWJD in this case would be to evangelize even though it’s against the law, tell the truth when asked, accept the punishment when caught, then come right back and do it again.

The punishment might be death, but then, what did Jesus do?

Psalm 5:6
You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors…

Psalm 5:9
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.

Psalm 32:2
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Only a few of the about 50 gazillion hits for “deceit” from the Bible Gateway.

Clearly, the Bible’s “agin” it.

Thank you, The Ryan.

Joe_Cool: Regarding the bit about telling a lie when interrogated, there is another option–say nothing. But then, that might cost the person being interrogated his own life.

Except all sin is equal in the eyes of God, blah blah blah second verse same as the first…

Ah, the joys of evangelical Christian ethics! The person who says “Anne who? I don’t know anybody by that name” when asked about the Jewish girl he’s hiding in his attic; and the person who orders the torture and murder of millions of innocent people, are both “equally sinners”.

I thought this thread was going to be about some new kind of stripping, somehow different from a Full Monty. I want my damned money back.

I’m not going to deal here with the issue of whether Christians are commanded not to lie, or what exceptions there might be. In this thread, I’m willing to assume arguendo that Monty has interpreted the Ninth Commandment correctly.

Inconvenient? I would think going halfway around the world to smuggle the Gospel message into Afghanistan would qualify as being willing to inconvenience oneself for the Gospel.

Spreading the Gospel message to “all nations” is also accepted as part of Christianity. The question is, how do you deal with the implicit tension between the two commandments in the aforementioned situation?

The point wasn’t that I disagreed with Monty. I feel he chose one way to deal with the tension between the two commandments, and I chose another, so we disagree. No huhu.

My problem with him was, and is, his characterization of my choice, in the absence of any backing for it.

I claimed that, in the described situation, Commandment A and Commandment B are at loggerheads. I felt I could justify choosing Commandment B over Commandment A in that situation, but I didn’t claim it was wrong for some to come to the other conclusion.

Monty, OTOH, posted as if Commandment B didn’t exist, and on that basis, made insinuations about the character of those who would “rationalize away” Commandment A.

Monty, it’s quite simple: AFAIAC, you’re welcome to make such insinuations, but you’re supposed to get there by dealing with the issues that are on the table. If you had argued that the two commandments were not contradicting one another, or if you had backed up a claim that Commandment A always took precedence over Commandment B, then at least you would have made a case for your holier-than-thou attitude. It would have been just as smelly an attitude, but at least you would have had some justifcation for being obnoxious.

Instead, you’re just coming in, going, “I’m right and you’re immoral, I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I can’t hear ya, la la la la la.”

I can get that from a Baptist kindergartener, thanks.

That’s the biggest crock I’ve seen yet, RT. Face it: You described a situation where someone was telling a lie for their own reasons. The commandment doesn’t say “don’t tell a lie unless you think you’ve a damn good reason for it.”

Sometimes the kindergartner is correct. I also indicated an alternate way of dealing with a situation where some people think it’s okay to lie: say nothing.

Now, explain to me hwo being ashamed of the Gospel message is advancing it.