Many sincere people believe untrue things. It occurs in religion, politics, education and every aspect of society. Could you be deceived? Are you deceived?
Joel Meeker gave a sermon at the COGWA Winter Family Weekend in which he relayed the story about how a few French during WWII would draw their curtains and hunker over the radio to listen to Radio London, a French language news program. It struck me how they could not believe the “news” propaganda put out by their own media and had to listen to Radio London in order to hear the truth.
It surprises me how easy it is for dictators to use the media to spread lies and propaganda. It surprises me more that it often is met with no resistance. However, an even bigger surprise is how it even occurs in societies that supposedly uphold freedom as a valued objective.
That surprise, however, is small compared to my feelings about how it appears that some in the Church treat truth so lightly.
“Well,” most would say, “I’m not deceived.” Of course, as Meeker brought out in his sermon, the very definition of deception is that you don’t know your are deceived.
Think about how often Jesus and Paul both admonished us to not be deceived.
8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
~ Lk 21:8
In fact, Paul commanded us to not be deceived (1Co 6:9; 15:33; Gal 6:7)!
It really should be logical. We are created in the image of God, and we have the possibility of becoming literal children of God, born of spirit. We are to become like Christ (Gal 4:19; Ro 8:29). God is a God of truth (Dt 32:4). God is so pure in truth that even the shadows run from His presence:
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
~ Jas 1:17
So, it stands to reason that we ourselves are to be children of truth. We should rid ourselves of all forms of falsehood.
“But,” you may be protesting, “doesn’t the Bible say the elect cannot be deceived?” Many have taught this, in fact. Yet, in 1995 it was quite obvious that just because you lose your job for the Sabbath, just because you warm a chair every Sabbath, just because you say the right things, that does not mean you will endure to the end.
Matthew 24:4-5 & 24 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” … For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (NKJV)
I used this verse from the NKJV because I think the NIV is quite far away from a true translation of the verse. In fact every English translation of this verse is not accurate. The only words used at the end of this verse are “dunatos” possible “kai” and “ho” the “eklektos”elect or “possible and the elect”. “If possible even” is a stretch in the NKJV. “If that were possible” in the KVJ and the NIV is not even in the original at all. The stress is not on whether or not the actual elect can be deceived. Only God knows who the elect are [my emphasis here]. For the time being we have to make a commitment to follow and obey the Lord. So the Lord’s emphasis is not on the argument on whether the elect can be deceived, but on the fact that the coming deception is so severe that even the elect could be fooled.
If we put on the new self, then we will not be deceived if we remain in tune with the Holy Spirit and in His Word [my emphasis here].
~ Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Don’t Be Deceived, Ephesians 5:1-20, Study #8“
Are we really so arrogant to believe that we cannot be deceived? Did Eve believe she could not be deceived? Are we perfect? Who else but God can be completely not deceived? Are we so arrogant that we believe we cannot lose our salvation through our own bad attitude?
Truth is truth. Gravity is an objectively observed phenomenon. The earth is round. These are all physical truths. When confronted with physical truths, cultural truths or spiritual truths, we must be willing to accept them as they are. That is not as passive as it sounds, for no one’s understanding, other than God’s, is perfect.
In short, we spend our lives learning truth.
Organic chemistry doesn’t care if you believe in it. Neither does the War of 1812.
Truth is real, it’s measurable and it happened. Truth is not in the eye of the beholder.
On the other hand, there are outcomes that vary quite a bit if we believe: The results of the next sales call. Our response to medical treatment. The enjoyment of music…
If you believe that this wine tastes better than that one, it probably will. If you believe you’re going to have a great day at work, it will surely help. Placebos work.
We make two mistakes, all the time. First, we believe that some things are facts (as in true), when in fact, belief has a huge effect on what’s going to happen. In the contest between nature and nurture, nurture has far more power than we give it credit for. In countless ways, our friends and parents matter more than our genes do.
At the same time, sometimes we get carried away. We work to amplify our beliefs by willfully confusing ourselves about whether the truth is flexible. It makes belief a lot more compelling (but a lot less useful) if we start to confuse it with truth.
~ Seth Godin, “Which kind of truth?“
It is a dangerous thing spiritually to confuse our own biases with the truth. Bob Thiel confuses his dreams with reality and claims to be a non-prophet prophet (but is more than happy to boast about it when his speculations come true). James Malm confuses his own opinion of his authority to declare certain things and his own private interpretations that he displays an ungodly attitude towards anyone willing to challenge him. David Pack confuses his feelings of greatness with reality and doesn’t understand why others are not beating down the door to get into his church organization.
Still, are we faring any better?
The Tale of Two Stories
Here is a tale of two stories. Have you seen these in any emails? Which of them crosses the line? Which one(s) would you refuse to forward? Any? One? Both? Why?
Einstein and the Atheist
The following story floats around in many emails and many “Christian” websites:
A University professor at a well known institution of higher learning challenged his students with this question. “Did God create everything that exists?”
A student bravely replied, “Yes he did!”
“God created everything?” The professor asked.
“Yes sir, he certainly did,” the student replied.
The professor answered, “If God created everything; then God created evil. And, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then we can assume God is evil.”
The student became quiet and did not answer the professor’s hypothetical definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, “May I ask you a question, professor?”
“Of course”, replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?”
“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?”
The other students snickered at the young man’s question.
The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 F) is the total absence of heat; and all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”
The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”
The professor responded, “Of course it does.”
The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color.
You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”
Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”
Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course, as I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man’s Inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.
To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
The professor sat down.
The young man’s name – Albert Einstein
Which Should You Forward On?
There are some similarities and some differences between these stories. Both are meant to be amusing, both involve an arrogant person in charge being taken down a peg, both provide interesting arguments (not necessarily logical, but interesting) and naturally both speak to a similar audience.
Are jokes bad? No, having a sense of humor is part of being a sane human being. In fact, losing one’s sense of humor can be dangerous. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who can read the biblical account of Balaam and the donkey and not realize God Himself has a sense of humor.
Are stories bad? It would depend upon their content, right? Jesus told many stories, which we give the religious term “parables”, but they may or may not have been based upon real events. They were given to reveal a truth, not necessarily to be presented as “based upon a true story”. In fact, there is no indication that His audience would have expected them to be true accounts rather than caricatures intended to illustrate a moral point.
However, if I give you a story about a famous person, even name them, and it is not true, then I am by definition spreading a lie.
Does it make sense that children of truth would spread lies just so they can feel good and have a laugh?
Who Won the Popular Vote?
You hear often by determined pundits that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. The implication is that Donald Trump does not have a mandate. This reasoning totally ignores the fact that there is a majority in the House, the Senate and even among governors belonging to the Republican party. Not only should that show a mandate, but the Democrats ignore the message being sent to their own peril.
So, I suppose that it was only a matter of time before “A new poll shows 52% of Republicans actually think Trump won the popular vote“, according to the Washington Post.
Wait, say what?
I actually had someone argue that Trump won the popular vote because states like California don’t count their absentee ballots unless the race is close and the absentee ballots might make a difference. Since a large majority of those absentee ballots would be military, goes the argument, Trump actually won the vote in that state as well.
There’s only one problem: It is not true. Spreading the lie makes the one spreading it a liar.
First of all, the argument makes no sense. Local initiatives can be made or broken based upon absentee ballots. If for no other reason, local initiatives require all ballots to be counted.
Second of all, they are legally obligated to count all ballots.
This has been nicely debunked in numerous places, including Snopes article “Final Vote Count 2016“.
Telling this individual this only started a lot of arguments about voter fraud, blah, blah, blah, and anything but the point that what he said simply was not true. Finally, he decided he did not want to talk “politics” with me.
It’s not about politics. It is about telling the truth in all things.
The Muslim President
My favorite political fantasy that seems to be ingrained within some in the Church, however, is that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, and the evidence is very weak at best, then he is a very poor Muslim at best. At worst, he would be an outright hypocrite.
Facts are stubborn things. Here are some facts:
- First and foremost, he supports gay marriage. He even had obviously prepared beforehand to turn the White House into the colors of the rainbow flag the minute the Supreme Court ruled on the issue. What good Muslim supports homosexuality of any kind? They, and not just ISIS, often execute gays at will.
- He celebrated a Hindu holiday in the White House with some guests early on in his presidency. That would get you stoned under Sharia law.
- He attended a “Christian” church before becoming president. Under Islam, that would be seen as turning one’s back on Islam, which could also get you killed under Sharia law. Once a Muslim, always a Muslim is one of the core tenants of Islam. Professing to be a Christian after the fact often gets you killed sooner than being born a Jew in the Middle East.
- Speaking of which, he does claim to be a Christian. Even if he were lying, that statement alone could get you killed in the Middle East.
In short, he is either not a Muslim or a heretic.
That does not mean he isn’t ideological, however. In fact, most neo-liberals are rabidly ideological and illogical. Neo-liberalism is nothing short of a mental illness because it so completely denies reality. Want to see a liberal lie? Just see if their mouth is moving.
The simple answer is that Obama is a neo-liberal. The simplest answer is often the true one, whereas the more complex answers require flights of extreme fancy. Neo-liberals are predisposed to hate anything of a Judeo-Christian background. The recent backlash against Obama’s lack of support for Israel is very illustrative of this.
As hard as I am on neo-liberals, the above indicts neo-conservatives even more. They are buying into a lie, and a lie based in bias at that. Worse, it is outright hypocrisy. The same people who chaffed under the undeserving attacks towards George W Bush when he was president are now the ones throwing out unfounded accusations that are just as bad, if not worse.
The Scout Vs the Soldier
Why the reaction? Why do people ignore these facts? Well, the WP article goes ahead and states:
These results align with something social scientists have long recognized: We choose facts to be consistent with our prior beliefs. …
How is this different from refusing to acknowledge that Christmas is a pagan holiday that does not please God? I suspect the difference between one lie and another is not as great as any of us might imagine.
I recently saw an interesting TED presentation about “Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong” by Julia Galef. She tells the tale of Alfred Dreyfus, who was convicted of spying in spite of very weak evidence. It shows how bias worked against him and the lack of evidence only strengthened the French officers’ convictions of his wrongdoing:
Scouts want “to know above all what is really there as accurately as possible.” This is the same thing as saying they are looking for truth. What is particularly interesting about the story is how Colonel Picquart overcame his bias against Jews and stuck up for Dreyfus once he became convicted of his innocence.
I question how many in the Church could overcome such a bias to come to the right conclusion and do the right thing, given what I’ve seen over the years.
I do feel obligated to point out that we are to stick to the truth. However, how do we know what is true? Will we ever have a total grasp of the truth in this lifetime? We were supposed to prove the important things in Scripture before we were baptized, and those are the things that are important enough to hang onto. Those are the things to soldier over. However, we had to be a scout to ferret out the truth in the first place, and we should have proved it beyond a doubt before committing our life to it.
It is when people get caught up in emotional falsehoods that they get swept away. Again, what of the story about Einstein? Wasn’t it written that way to bring up an emotional response more so than a rational one? Isn’t much of the reaction against both Obama and Trump emotional, just on different sides?
God Himself challenges us to “reason together” (Isa 1:18). He is truth, so how can He be afraid of it?
There’s an Echo in Here
The New Republic posted a hollow piece about “The Myth of the Liberal ‘Echo Chamber’ on Campus“. It is a denial of the obvious fact that liberal views have been foisted upon our young people since at least the sixties.
The news media creates its own echo chamber as well. The shock, dismay and outright anger that the liberal press expressed election night is one for the record books. They did everything short of calling half of America stupid hayseeds.
It doesn’t stop there. Facebook and social media have become echo chambers, serving us up what we want to read and not necessarily what we should be reading. We de-friend or hide posts from “that person” who has the temerity to spout his or her opinion. People post an unpopular opinion on Twitter, and it doesn’t take long for them to get shut down and in some cases even lose their job. Yeah, so much for that liberal tolerance. Want to still argue there’s no liberal echo chamber?
In fact, Barack Obama’s presidency has been eight long years of an echo chamber. The Washington Post recently wrote in “The self-referential presidency of Barack Obama“:
Then a U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois, Obama wove his personal ancestry and biography — black and white, Kenya and Kansas, Hawaii and Harvard — into the American story of opportunity, multiplicity and solidarity. Not red vs. blue, but united. Out of many, one. David Axelrod calls the address a love letter to America. “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible,” Obama declared, his most poignant line of the night.
Two words in that sentence would matter most. Throughout Obama’s time in the White House, his touchstone would not be that singular country on Earth, whose politics he was never able to bind together. Rather, it would be the man himself. My story. This was a presidency preoccupied with Obama’s exceptionalism as much as with America’s.
And, no, Republicans hardly get off the hook here. Fox News is largely just an echo chamber on the opposite side (supposedly) in order to “balance” it all out. Of course, this just exacerbates the problem and polarizes people instead. Even worse, so-called “think tanks” are echo chambers in themselves, and Fox News just amplifies the reverberation to the point that it isn’t understandable any longer.
Echoes in the Church
Echo chambers in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad when they amplify the important and true things. Schools are full of repetition of certain ideas and facts. That is their function. As long as they are true things, there is no problem.
Same with the church organizations. It is important to state and reinforce the things that are true. Repetition is important. That is why we have ritual. That is why we have holy days.
However, when the thoughts and ideas in the echo chamber are false, then they become a detriment to the degree and intensity of the falsehood. That is why we don’t attend Sunday-keeping churches. We know them to be false.
So, why attend with those who having glaring dictatorial tendencies? Pack, Flurry, Thiel, Malm and Weinland all want you to follow them because they say so. They create echo chambers where their followers echo back to them without critical thought. At best, they make claims that can’t be verified. At worst, they make all sorts of predictions that don’t come true.
Malm has set date after date, all the while not making an actual prediction but rather “speculation”, of course. In this, he is absolutely no different from the non-prophet prophet Thiel, who claims to be a prophet but offers only speculation (and lots of self-patting on the back when something even resembles coming true). At least Pack and Weinland had the decency to make complete fools of themselves.
So, why would children of truth want to associate with such liars? Seriously, are their followers any better off than the local Catholics? Salvation won’t come because of the efforts of these clowns, although it might happen in spite of it.
I make no bones about it. They are the synagogue of Satan (Rev 2:9; 3:9). They are liars and are the children of the great liar (Jn 8:44). They have created their idols of men, and thus they have their reward.
I fear, though, that the love of the truth grows lukewarm overall, in and out of the Church. This is frightening, because the love of the truth is required for salvation!
10 He will enable him to deceive, in all kinds of wicked ways, those who are headed for destruction because they would not receive the love of the truth that could have saved them.
~ 2Th 2:10 (CJB)
In the end, we really should develop the “scout mindset” that Galef speaks about. In reality, we share even more with scouts than that. Scouts go out first to get the lay of the land, to gather intelligence and to be first in enemy land. We are the first in the enemy land. We gather intelligence and report it back to headquarters.
We are scouts for the World Tomorrow, and we need to remember that.