Biblical Ethics Exercise #1: Obfuscation in Sharing the Gospel

A Case Study

Over the next series of articles we will be exploring the realm of Biblical Ethics by considering example case studies and the arguments in support of and opposed to differing sides of ethical questions. In this installment:

Is it right to lie if it means furthering the Gospel?”

To set the stage for this particular example, a possible scenario could be a situation similar to what existed in Eastern Bloc nations during the Cold War and still in some nations today: the need to smuggle Bibles or to provide false information in order for preaching to successfully take place in hostile nations.

Arguments for:

The greater good is served by reaching souls who would not possibly be reached by any other means. For a nation state or any government to enact a law which curtailed Christians in their ability to worship, to study the Word of God, or even to outlaw the possession and publishing of the Bible altogether is in opposition to the will of God. Although the Christian is commanded to follow the laws of the land, such a law contradicts Biblical law and is not lonely invalid, but should be actively opposed.

The use of deception for the aid of God’s people and the furthering of God’s purposes can be found in the Bible. A common argument for such a practice is found in Rahab’s deception of the people of Jericho in order to save the spies hidden in her house (Josh. 2).

Arguments against:

The key distinction to be considered is what is meant by “deception” or “obfuscation”. Nations that forbid the entrance of preachers into their borders may allow an aid worker or “English teacher”. Corruption is also the norm of many governments around the world. To smuggle in Bibles as “books” might be innocuous. The key problem begins when confronted directly, and one is required to specifically lie (e.g. sin) in order to further their mission.

To withhold information or not announce to the world every possible fact is not in itself a lie. To state a specific falsehood is. The example of Rahab is true as far as her ability to help God’s people, and for that help she is even commended (Heb. 11:31). However, did her actions require her to lie, or was there a more ethical alternative? The same can apply to the furthering of the Gospel. Can we be successful by committing sin in the process of confronting it?

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