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Rahab and lying

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  • Rahab and lying

    I've noticed that some Christians seem to have a lot of problems with the story of Rahab, because she clearly lied yet is commended for doing so twice in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25). I've even seen the argument made that the only reason it was okay for Rahab was because she wasn't an Israelite and wasn't aware of God's prohibition of lying. I don't buy this - if Rahab was commended for doing the right thing morally, then presumably she knows enough about right or wrong to know that lying is generally wrong (which is something that should be known through general revelation). I think Rahab simply did the right thing.

    Paul Copan's book When God Goes To Starbucks has a chapter on whether it is morally permissible to lie to Nazis when they knock on your door and ask you if you are hiding any Jews in your house. (Another more modern example might be the teacher at Sandy Hook, who hid her kindergarteners in the cabinets and told the shooter that she was alone in the room. I do not think she sinned in doing so.) Copan differentiates between lying and deceiving; he says that one who is bent on doing harm to others has forfeited his right to truth by violating the rights of others. Copan also cites the example of 1 Samuel 16:1-5, where God instructs Samuel to obscure the real reason of his visit to Bethlehem.

    While I think this makes much more sense of some common sense situations, this can be dangerous. It can be easy to use this to rationalize lying or other immoral actions. Copan does point out that some actions simply can never be justified (he mentions adultery as one). While I don't have a good way of wording exactly where the line is, it's fair to say that "rarely" is a good description of when this would be allowed. A good parallel would be with killing - it is rarely acceptable to kill, though this is not a hard and fast rule that covers situations like self defense, civil executions, etc. - but that here, the exceptions are obvious and we dare not seek them out when they are not obvious.
    Last edited by KingsGambit; 01-28-2014, 03:10 PM.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    Moral hierarchy, lying to save lives with no other alternative is okay. Bad guys don't deserve the truth. Maybe they read Kant, who seemed to be very black and white about this sort of thing. Absolute morality doesn't mean everything is black and white. Case by case basis?
    If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

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    • #3
      I think if you have to choose between a -1 and a -2, it might be commendable to go with the -1, but it's still negative.
      "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
        I think if you have to choose between a -1 and a -2, it might be commendable to go with the -1, but it's still negative.
        I don't know; James calls Rahab's actions a good work.
        "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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        • #5
          You can lie to the enemy.
          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
            You can lie to the enemy.
            True true.
            Ladino, Guatemalan, Hispanic, and Latin, but foremostly, Christian.

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            • #7
              what about lying to spare someone's feelings? (white lies)

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              • #8
                Personally, I think that if a person has a reasonable expectation that you are being honest, you should not lie.

                Your enemy doesn't really have (or shouldn't have) a reasonable expectation that you are telling them the truth.
                "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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                • #9
                  This is a question that has stuck with me for a long time.

                  I think the verse you reference in 1 Samuel is a really fascinating one: God tells Samuel to go anoint a new king, Samuel asks what he should tell King Saul (reasonable), and God appears to contrive an excuse for Samuel to give the king--which was not Samuel's real reason for visiting. Not really a lie, but it was definitely deceptive. God ordered Samuel to deceive King Saul, apparently. Fascinating, no?

                  And yeah, Rahab lied to protect the spies and was commended for it. So I'd agree with you, KG, that it is morally permissible in certain (rare) cases. The case of people hiding Jews from Nazis is a perfect example. I agree, also, that this could pretty easily be used as an excuse to tell far more untruths than we ought. (As to my use of the word "ought": the commendation of Rahab appears to make the case that lying in such a situation is not simply the lesser of two evils, but I can't say this for sure. In a case like hers, would it be morally obligatory to lie for the protection of the innocents? Hard for me to say, but I lean toward "yes".)

                  I'm not sure how relevant this is, but what exactly does "bear false witness" mean? To my knowledge, the Bible never actually uses the word "lie". Is bearing false witness the very same as lying?
                  I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                    I don't know; James calls Rahab's actions a good work.
                    Righteousness is not gained through actions themselves, but when they are done out of faithful obedience to God.
                    "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                      You can lie to the enemy.
                      The ideal is not do become like your enemy in their lies, but to overcome evil with good.


                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                      Personally, I think that if a person has a reasonable expectation that you are being honest, you should not lie.

                      Your enemy doesn't really have (or shouldn't have) a reasonable expectation that you are telling them the truth.
                      Joshua 2:2 2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

                      Did the king not have a reasonable expectation for Rahab to tell the truth?
                      "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
                        I'm not sure how relevant this is, but what exactly does "bear false witness" mean? To my knowledge, the Bible never actually uses the word "lie". Is bearing false witness the very same as lying?
                        Prov 14 [5]*A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
                        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                          Prov 14 [5]*A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
                          Oh, ok. Thanks. I guess bearing false witness and lying are pretty much the same thing then?
                          I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
                            This is a question that has stuck with me for a long time.
                            I'm not sure how relevant this is, but what exactly does "bear false witness" mean? To my knowledge, the Bible never actually uses the word "lie". Is bearing false witness the very same as lying?
                            Joshua 2:4-5 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left.

                            If you're saying you witnessed events other than what you witnessed, then you are bearing false witness.
                            Last edited by Soyeong; 01-28-2014, 04:05 PM.
                            "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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                            • #15
                              Ok, I suppose that was a dumb question. I should've just left it out, methinks.
                              I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

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