Truth The Absolute for Society
Pastor Rick Rogers
Key Verse: John 17:17
We are living in an age of relativism. By using that term, I am referring to the lack
of absolutes that are to govern life and conduct. In relativism, right and wrong is not
determined by objective truth, but by subjective opinion and pragmatic results. Thus,
many believe that there is no absolute truth, and that in certain situations it is
acceptable to lie. This may be more of a dilemma than it appears to be. Even many
"Christians" do not believe in firm absolutes! It is therefore important to
define and maintain truth biblically, and recognize how God views lying.
I. THE ORIGIN OF TRUTH
A. God the Father, the Author of Truth, John 17:3, 1 Jn. 1:5
B. God the Son, the Incarnation of Truth, John 1:14, John 14:6
C. God the Spirit, the Revelation of Truth, John 14:17, 16:13
D. Gods Word, the Inscription of Truth, John 17:17, 1 Cor. 2:10ff
II. THE OFFENSE OF FALSEHOOD
A. The Author of Falsehood, Gen. 3:1-5, John 8:44
B. The Illustrations of Falsehood:
- Josephs brothers, Gen. 37:31-35
- Potiphars wife, Gen. 39:13-18
- Pharaoh, Exo. 9:28
- Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:4, 8
C. The Objection of Falsehood
- Pro. 6:16-19
- 1 John 2:21
- Rev. 21:8, 27; 22:15. The reason liars cannot enter heaven is not because the sin
of lying cannot be forgiven, but that this is the type of sin that keeps men from
coming to the Savior.
D. The Interpretation of Falsehood
- Every deviation from the truth is the result of sin.
- A point can be reached where a person actually believes the lies which he / she
invented. Adolph Hitler had a formula that went something like this: the bigger the
lie, and the more outlandish it is, the more likely people will believe it.
- A liar is a person who asserts something that is contrary to fact.
- A person is a liar when he passes on misinformation, no matter what his motives or
designs may be.
All falsehood, as deviation from truth, is wrong per se
Prejudices and false judgments are deviation from the truth
Any deviation from truth is sin because falsehood is contrary to the character of
- A person may display falsehood overtly in several ways:
Design of deceiving or injuring somebody
Design of benefiting somebody: Rahab hiding the two spies, telling children the
shot from the doctor wont hurt; the reality of Santa Claus, Easter bunny,
- Some points to consider: all need to be understood to be figurative or symbolic.
Parables: 2 Sam. 12:1-6, a legitimate conveyor of truth.
Fables: Judges 9:8-15. Can be used to illustrate truth. Be biblically discerning
with the use of them, 1 Tim. 1:4, 4:7.
Irony: 1 Kings 18:27.
Novels, stories, which are half true and half fiction. Fine as long as this is
Exaggeration. Can be a form of lying and should thus be avoided. It can be used as
figure of speech "He eats like a horse," "He drives like Jehu,"
- The Three Ingredients of a Lie:
There must be the communication of an untruth
It must be known to us to be an untruth
It must be with the will and intent to deceive him to whom we speak it, and to
lead him into error.1
III. THE EXAMINATION OF TRUTH:
Is it Ever Right to Depart from Strict,
A. An Affirmative Answer: "It is right to lie at times under certain
- "There are rigid moralists who maintain that no circumstances can justify
departure from strict and literal truth not even to deal with children, save
life, to restrain madmen, to prevent criminal acts, or to deter an enemy in time of
war. Most students of ethics, however, are in accord with sound human understanding
and general practice which allow for exceptions."2
- " you can tell the necessary falsehood deliberately and positively, from
principle, with a good conscience void of offense toward men, and sincere in the
sight of God."3
- "Though the scriptural ethic places a premium on the sanctity of truth, the
obligation to tell the truth has limits. One frequent example discussed in the
history of truth-telling is the principle of telling the truth to whom truth is
due (italics is the authors). Here truth is linked to justice in a way that
allows for the righteous and honorable to lie when to tell the truth involves aiding
and abetting injustice."4
B. A Negative Answer: "It is never right, under any circumstances, to deviate
from the truth."
- "No claim is more basic or ultimate than that of truth. We cannot regard any
other sanction as higher on the altar of which truth may be sacrificed Is life
itself more sacred than truth? God is love. But God is truth also. Love and truth do
not conflict in Him and His truth is never curtailed or prejudiced in maintaining and
promoting the interests of His love."5
- "Sometimes the distinction is made between partial truth and untruth. Using
the case of Samuels question to Yahweh about "How can I go? Saul will hear
about it [that I have come to anoint David] and kill me" (1 Sam.
16:2). The Lords
answer was, "Take an heifer with you and say, I have come to sacrifice to the
Lord." (1 Sam. 16:2). Apparently Saul had forfeited his right to know all
truth: nevertheless, Samuel had no right to speak an untruth. Lying is always wrong,
whether it is the midwives lie (Exod. 1:17) or anyone elses lie. Scripture
repeatedly warns against all falsehoods and commends truth-telling (Pss. 27:12;
35:11; Prov. 6:19; 14:15). Even failure to come forward as a witness is severely
condemned in Leviticus 5:1."6
- "Truthfulness may never be sacrificed for anything else. It cannot be
sacrificed for love because love and truth do not conflict. They do not conflict in
the nature of God. Love and truth are not antithetical in the actions of Christ. It
cannot be sacrificed for life because God is the sovereign over life and no person
can die one moment before God permits him to leave this world."7
IV. THE ENIGMA CONCERNING TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD
A. Some Biblical Challenges
- An example of untruth: Rahab hiding the spies, Josh. 2 - She was spared because she
feared God, not because of her lies about the spies An example of a half
truth: Midwives and Pharoah, Exo. 1
- It is not clearly stated that they lied! Most believe they did, but the truth could
have been fabricated. "Ole whats her name is about to deliver want some
more coffee?!" Again it was their fear of God for which they were blessed.
- An example of concealment: 1 Sam. 16. Samuel was told by God to do one thing and
say another. Samuel did what he said he came to do, 1 Sam. 16:4-5 Under some
circumstances, it may be permissible to withhold part of the truth. Concealment is
not the same as deception or lying, see II. D. 7 above.
- An example of strategy for war: Josh. 8. There was concealment by the army, a
feigned retreat, and a trap.
There was no action on Israels part contrary to fact or intent Truth does not demand
that the other person understands everyting perfectly that we are saying or doing
Consider: Concerning some of the biblical materials, John Murray (see III. B. 1)
states "We would require far more than Scripture provides to be able to take the
position that under certain exigencies (necessities) we may speak untruth with our
neighbor. In other words, the evidence is not available whereby we may justify deviation
from the sustained requirement of the biblical witness that we put away falsehood and
B. Some Practical Challenges
- What about estimates? ("What time is it?" You say "Quarter after
4" when it is really 4:16).
- What about figures of speech? (your child asks, "Does the sun rise in the east
or the west?" You answer "east" but it doesnt!)
- What about approximations? ("How big was the fish?" "5 lbs."
when it was really 5 lbs. 2 oz.
- What about life and death issues? If you had been living during the Holocaust, and
were hiding Jewish families in your basement, how would you have answered the Nazis
if asked? What would you choose lying to the wicked, or allowing innocent victims
to be slaughtered by the wicked? Is it more important to love the truth or love
your neighbor? Are they incompatible? Is Gods truth contradictory?
- What if our nation would pass a law demanding the life of your child, and they came
to your door and asked where your child was?
Conclusion: John Frame made the following comment. "It is never right to
disobey a command of God, and it is never sinful to do right."9 There are
solutions. Seek them biblically!
Ezekiel Hopkins, quoted in Walter C. Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics, Academie,
1983, p. 224.
Eavey, quoted by Dr. Manfred Kober, Truth: Honesty the Best Policy or Only Policy?
FBBC, p. 4
Smyth, quoted by Dr. Manfred Kober, ibid., p. 4
C. Sproul, The Biblical View of Submission to Constituted Authority in The
Christian and American Law, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 128.
Murray, Principles of Conduct, Eerdmans, 1957, p. 272.
Kaiser, p. 95.
Kober, p. 4.
Murray, ibid., p. 146.
M. Frame, Medical Ethics, P & R, 1988, p. 9.