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  • Is Deception a sin

    Got a question recently from a seminary student. Figured I'd post it and see what someone else has to say.

    In 1 Sam. 16:1-6 God commands Samuel to go anoint David as King. Samuel says Saul will kill him so God tells Samuel to act like he is come for a sacrifice so that his action of anointing David will go undetected.

    God commands Samuel to Deceive Saul and the People.

    Is it a sin to intentionally act in such a way as to lead someone to the wrong conclusion (deception)?

    If deception is a sin how can God command Samuel to act in a way that would deceive others?

    Whether or not deception is a sin Is God (or his servants) then "deceptive" and does this deception of men continue today?

  • #2
    I believe this is one of those situations where God looks at the heart of the person.
    For example, Rehab deceived the soldiers looking for the Israeli spies, and God blessed her because she obeyed the Lord.
    Another example where someone did not deceive, even to save lives was Corrie Ten Boom's sister Betsy. When the Nazi's came looking for Jews believe they were hiding them, Betsy refused to lie, and told them they were, but God still protected the Jews because the Nazi soldiers thought she was crazy and didn't believe her.
    Here lies the tremendous mystery - that God should be all-powerful, yet refuse to coerce. He summons us to cooperation. We are honoured in being given the opportunity to participate in his good deeds. Remember how He asked for help in performing his miracles : Fill the waterpots, stretch out your hand, distribute the loaves.
    Elisabeth Elliot

    De reir a cheile a thogtar na caisleain!

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    • #3
      Hi David!

      I don't think Samuel was told to 'act like' he is come for a sacrifice. He went to give a sacrifice. During that time God would point out who to Anoint.

      We would call it 'killing two birds with one stone'

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't think lying is always a sin. It depends what the other person is going to do with the information you give them.

        We use this example all the time, but since it works, I'll use it again.

        In the case where a German officer comes to the door to ask, "Are there any Jews living here?" The obvious answer is "no", whether Jews are living in the house or not.

        On the surface, the German officer's question appears to be a request for information, a query of the facts. "Is it a fact that Jews live here." But hidden under the surface is the real question, "Would you like to participate in the extermination of the Jews with me?" Putting it that way, the answer is again obvious. No, I would not like to participate in killing the Jews with you.

        So then, what appears to be a lie is really the truth, given that the German officer wasn't really asking for factual information. If the German officer had asked, "What is the capitol of France?" The obvious answer is Paris, and I would say "Paris" because this fact alone has no hidden meaning or deeper significance to him or me.

        A similar situation existed with Rahab. The surface question is, "Are there spies in your house?" The factual answer is, "Yes." But the hidden question is, "Would you like to help us kill some spies?" And her answer was "no, I wouldn't." She was not factual as it concerned the surface question, but she was truthful about the hidden question.

        Given that human beings communicate on different levels at the same time, the question of deception is tricky and requires wisdom. If someone wants to say, "Rahab lied, and it was a sin, and she deserved to be punished", all I can say is that I understand this view and wouldn't blame anyone for holding it. But I think God is showing me that, at times, life is complex and deserves examination and thoughtful reactions to it.

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        • #5
          But then is God Deceptive

          Thanks for the replies. The question isn't really whether or not Men are deceptive but whtether or not God is. I undestand your point on the Jews and on Rahab.

          The example given goes back to the root difference between a lie and a deception. You can be perfectly truthful in every word and still be intent on decieving. Samual was truthful but yet the intent of his truth was to decieve the people and Saul into thinking he had no other reason for comeing to town then to sacrifice.

          Rahab chose to Decieve. God didn't tell her to do it she chose to do it. Samuel was given specific instructions by God how to deceive Saul. Whether by killing 2 birds with one stone or not in the end the action was done with the specific intent of missleading others or decieving them.

          If God gave instructions to Samuel how he could misslead Saul and cover up his actions does God do the same thing today?
          Is God Deceptive?

          This was asked in my apologetics class. I had to formulate a response on the spot. As to whether Deception is a sin and thus by implication God sinned the answer is fairly simple by just analysing the definition of what sin is. Sin is anything contradictory to the Will, purpose and design of God. No action by God can be contrary to his will or Purpose and thus God can not sin. God's instructions for samuel to deceive Saul could not be sin. However the more basic question of whether God is deceptive and still deceiving people today is a much more complex issue I was hoping maybe someone would take on.

          The idea that God would decieve men by supplying or withholding information is contrary to our objective morality. Mostly based around the idea that we don't want to be deceived and to admit that God decieves is to admit that we our selves might be deceived by God. We perceive that we have a right to knowledge and to know what is actually going on. However no such right exists.
          In short is God Deceptive? Yes.
          Does that deception of men continue today? Yes

          "Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."

          By to much or to little information Israel has been blinded and mislead to or to say it another way decieved.

          If anyone else wants to take a wack at it I'd be interested in hearing your answers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by DavidStrickland View Post
            Thanks for the replies. The question isn't really whether or not Men are deceptive but whtether or not God is. I undestand your point on the Jews and on Rahab.

            The example given goes back to the root difference between a lie and a deception. You can be perfectly truthful in every word and still be intent on decieving. Samual was truthful but yet the intent of his truth was to decieve the people and Saul into thinking he had no other reason for comeing to town then to sacrifice.

            Rahab chose to Decieve. God didn't tell her to do it she chose to do it. Samuel was given specific instructions by God how to deceive Saul. Whether by killing 2 birds with one stone or not in the end the action was done with the specific intent of missleading others or decieving them.

            If God gave instructions to Samuel how he could misslead Saul and cover up his actions does God do the same thing today?
            Is God Deceptive?

            This was asked in my apologetics class. I had to formulate a response on the spot. As to whether Deception is a sin and thus by implication God sinned the answer is fairly simple by just analysing the definition of what sin is. Sin is anything contradictory to the Will, purpose and design of God. No action by God can be contrary to his will or Purpose and thus God can not sin. God's instructions for samuel to deceive Saul could not be sin. However the more basic question of whether God is deceptive and still deceiving people today is a much more complex issue I was hoping maybe someone would take on.

            The idea that God would decieve men by supplying or withholding information is contrary to our objective morality. Mostly based around the idea that we don't want to be deceived and to admit that God decieves is to admit that we our selves might be deceived by God. We perceive that we have a right to knowledge and to know what is actually going on. However no such right exists.
            In short is God Deceptive? Yes.
            Does that deception of men continue today? Yes

            "Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."

            By to much or to little information Israel has been blinded and mislead to or to say it another way decieved.

            If anyone else wants to take a wack at it I'd be interested in hearing your answers.
            If doing something in such a way that it will not arouse suspicion is a deception then all our lives must be seen as full of deception. We are doing it all the time in one way or another. Life could not be lived if at all times we let everyone know exactly what was the truth behind all our movements. There would be no surprises. And we would become unbearably boring and cause endless trouble. Deception only becomes wrong where there is the intention to cause harm by it.

            God's aim was not so much to deliberately deceive Saul as such, in such a way as to cause him harm. It was to thwart Saul's spies and prevent Saul from doing anything foolish as a result of his mad suspicions. Like Herod the Great and Henry VIII Saul was constantly on the alert for any suspicion of plotting against him. Everybody had to deceive Saul for his own sake. Otherwise there would have been mass executions, and no courtier would have been left alive. He even tried to kill his own son because of his suspicions. It was better for Saul that things were kept back from him.

            I had a friend who was mentally ill like Saul. She was determind to get hold of all her tablets and take them. Not because she wanted to kill herself but simply because her 'madness' impelled her to take the tablets. So I replaced the tablets with harmless ones. She took them. Had I sinfully deceived her? I would have been sinful not to do what I did. And I would have been even more sinful if I had said, 'look here are your tablets. You have not actually taken them'. (In fact I might have been arrested for causing her to harm herself).

            Strictly speaking Samuel's going to Bethlehem should not have been something that Saul took any notice about. Samuel regularly went to Bethlehem to offer sacrifices. It was part of his prophetic responsibility. Thus God was telling him to carry on with his usual practise, but at the same time to do something else which if known to Saul would have resulted in widespread untimely deaths. Thus he was to do it secretly.

            How often have you heard of someone saying, 'it would be better for you not to know about that'? That was true in this case. It was far better for everyone, including Saul himself, for what Samuel was doing to be unknown (after all no one could prevent what God was going to do). And it was in fact none of Saul's business. It was God's business. And it was simply in order to prepare David for the fact that God had a special purpose for his life.

            Suppose God had broadcast the fact that David was to be king over Israel and Saul had heard of it. He would have sent his soldiers to kill David. And what would have happened to them. Fire from Heaven as with Elijah? And if he came himself? Struck down in a mad frenzy as he would be later when he sought out David? Or even death for him as well? Or a stroke?

            Saul was certainly not going to prevent God doing what He wanted. It was morally better for Saul not to know, and indeed better for the whole of Israel. And it was not a deliberate act of deception to Saul's face with a view to causing him harm. After all God could have done it in any way He wanted. It was only to Saul's evil side that what Samuel did would have been important.

            So I cannot see that to do something in such a way as not to draw attention to it was in such circumstances in any way sinful or wrong. What would have been wrong was to goad Saul into action that would only harm himself.

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            • #7
              I would agree with most of your point with the exception when you say that God didn't want to do Saul Harm. That would be relative. The anointing of another King while the existing king still lived would be treason in any kingdom in the world. It would undermine the authority of the existing king and plant the seeds of a civil war (which is exactly what happened in the case in question). Thus Samuel's statement in vs. 2 "How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. "


              Thanks for the input

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DavidStrickland View Post
                I would agree with most of your point with the exception when you say that God didn't want to do Saul Harm. That would be relative. The anointing of another King while the existing king still lived would be treason in any kingdom in the world. It would undermine the authority of the existing king and plant the seeds of a civil war (which is exactly what happened in the case in question). Thus Samuel's statement in vs. 2 "How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. "


                Thanks for the input
                But this was not a public anointing of a king. This was a private matter and not intended to be known. Furthermore it was so private that it does not appear that its significance was known even to David. He certainly never cites it. He only knew that Samuel had anointed him for some reason, possibly as a servant of God. He saw Saul as YHWH's anointed. All Jesse was told was that David had been 'chosen by God'. And it was not God's intention that David should succeed until after Saul's death.

                I cannot see how Saul's authority was undermined, or how the seeds of civil war were planted. No one knew of it apart from Samuel, and just possibly Jesse, and neither of them made any moves against Saul. (It was Saul who made moves against Samuel).

                With regard to Samuel Saul's authority was already undermined, while any seeds of civil war resulted from Saul's behaviour, not from this ultra secret anointing the purpose of which was to cause David to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that he could help to deliver Israel and eventually become king after Saul's death.

                It certainly did not make David disloyal. He was loyal to the point of foolhardiness. Far from having the idea that he would replace Saul he supported Saul to the hilt. It was actually Saul who in his suspicious mind decided that David was set to succeed him.

                Best wishes

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                • #9
                  The actions of that day eventually brought an end to what was supposed to be the first Israelite dynasty. Reguardless what was known at the time the annointing occurred. In the end David took the throne from Saul's descendents based on the authority given him that day to do it. That would seem to be at least some measure of intentional temporal harm to someone resulting from the deception.

                  But all this really begs the question.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DavidStrickland View Post
                    The actions of that day eventually brought an end to what was supposed to be the first Israelite dynasty. Reguardless what was known at the time the annointing occurred. In the end David took the throne from Saul's descendents based on the authority given him that day to do it. That would seem to be at least some measure of intentional temporal harm to someone resulting from the deception.

                    But all this really begs the question.
                    I don't think you should discount or remove intent from the equation. To illustrate this, let's reverse it. Suppose a man told the truth, but his intent was evil? If we remove intent, then we are logically required to say that the man was doing good, since he told the truth.

                    We have such an example in scripture: Judas' betrayal of Jesus. In this case, Judas told the truth with regard to the location of Jesus. If we are going to say that any occasion of deception is sin, and any occasion of telling the truth is righteous, then we must, according to our formula, declare Judas to be righteous, which is absurd.

                    Likewise, given that formula, we are forced to say that gossip is righteous, since gossips tell the truth about people.

                    We must be careful when we seek to find God's objective morality. While the Christian is right to argue against situational ethics, we are not obligated to thoughtlessly adopt a rule based ethic, which does not also rely on judgment, experience, and wisdom. Ethical rules have reasons behind them, but unless we are willing to learn the reasons and apply them wisely, our rules will get us into trouble.

                    I heard the following example from David Crabtree.

                    He told his kids not to swing the baseball bat in the house. This is a rule of ethics, the obedience of which is required to live in David's house. The reason behind his rule concerned the preservation of property. Swinging the baseball bat in the house has the potential to result in the breakage of TV's, Vases, and Windows. Protection of personal property is a worthy and good goal. And the baseball-bat-rule is one among many rules of ethics designed to protect property.

                    Now, suppose the house is on fire and the doors are blocked. What if the only way out of the house is for the kids to break a window with the baseball bat? Would David want his kids to obey his rule to not swing the baseball bat, or would he want them to use the bat to escape the house? Obviously, David would want his kids to suspend the ethical in order to save their life. To preserve life is also a worthy and good goal, and many would say that to preserve life is better than the preservation of property.

                    Though we might agree that morality is objective, various moral principles have relative weight. The preservation of children is much more important that the preservation of property, though each is a worthy goal. And so wisdom demands that David's children put their lives ahead of his windows. To be truly moral, might require that his children suspend the ethical in favor of morality.

                    So, I think we should approach the account of Samuel with caution as we attempt to work out questions of ethics and morality.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I can't quite say that deception is a sin.

                      Deception is the attempt to make things appear to be other than as they are.

                      I am not aware that anything in the human or Christian conditions requires us to say, show, or declare everything that we know, even if there is a significant likelihood that a person with preconceived notions reaches a wrong conclusion as the result of our less than complete disclosure.

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                      • #12
                        In my own experience with my mother, who had dementia, we had to lie/deceive her a few times, for the sake of her health. I went to visit her one day, and she was yelling and sreaming about where my father was. She wanted to know when he was coming to see her or if he was at the bar he used to hang out at. In her dementia, she had forgotten that he had died years earlier. She was already having a fit, so I didn't see the need to remind her of it. I just told her he would be there later. Did I feel bad about lying? Yes, in a way, but at that moment I think the truth would have been more painful for her.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lyndie View Post
                          In my own experience with my mother, who had dementia, we had to lie/deceive her a few times, for the sake of her health. I went to visit her one day, and she was yelling and sreaming about where my father was. She wanted to know when he was coming to see her or if he was at the bar he used to hang out at. In her dementia, she had forgotten that he had died years earlier. She was already having a fit, so I didn't see the need to remind her of it. I just told her he would be there later. Did I feel bad about lying? Yes, in a way, but at that moment I think the truth would have been more painful for her.
                          What you describe here has gone from mere deception to outright lying. Liars are placed alongside whoremongers (KJV), sodomites and murderers in God's eyes (1 Timothy 1:9-10). Interesting how easy it is to justify sin and wave it off as "not that big of a deal", and how others agree it's the right thing to do, as long as it's a sin that's comfortable for them. Having said all that, I would do the exact same thing you did in that situation.

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