But What About Anne Frank?

In my last post, we saw that Rahab’s treason and lying were not sinful, because God’s figurative consummation justice intruded into Jericho’s previous state of common grace, thus “the enemies of the theocracy lost the ordinary right to hear the truth.” But where does that put the liars who protected Anne Frank? A dispensationalist might put them squarely into Rahab’s six-inch sequined stilletos because protecting Jews from Nazis is directly contributing to God’s special plan for his special people. A more solid answer is that Anne Frank’s protectors were Dutch, not German, and their obligations under wartime occupation are quite different than those to their lawful peacetime civil magistrates.

But my aim is to avoid the particular question of the Jews, or war, and examine whether/how Rahab’s example applies to more common situations. Many people would instinctively resonate with the sentiments of this commenter that it is “justifiable to lie for the specific purpose of saving a life.” But why would that be so? Why would the 6th commandment obviously have priority over the 9th?

What if, today, spies (or terrorists) from country X were sheltered by a citizen of country Y? We would not blink an eye if the traitor were to be executed for treason (even the U.S. has a death penalty for treason), as well as the spies for espionage (and especially terrorists for terrorizing). What if country X is the U.S., and country Y is North Korea? If we shed the unreasonable notion that the U.S. is God’s country, what’s left to protect a would-be North Korean Rahab from guilt if she harbors American spies?

If it is indeed the case that life is more important than truth, to what extent would the right-to-life movement be bound to honesty in the pursuit of their objectives? Is fudging the numbers, or slandering pro-choicers actually morally wrong, or only unwise insofar as it might hurt the pro-life agenda if lies come to light? What should a Natural-Law-abiding obstetrician tell a pregnant mother who would be more likely to abort her baby if she knew the truth about her baby’s Down’s syndrome, or other malady? How should an ultrasound technician respond to an Indian woman who will have an abortion if the baby is female?

In many cases, I think a conviction that we need to lie exhibits a lack of faith in God’s providence. We should weigh carefully the words of Calvin:

Those who hold what is called a “dutiful lie” to be altogether excusable, do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God. Therefore, although our purpose, be to assist our brethren, to consult for their safety and relieve them, it never can be lawful to lie, because that cannot be right which is contrary to the nature of God. And God is truth.

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27 Responses to But What About Anne Frank?

  1. Chris Sherman says:

    “… Why would the 6th commandment obviously have priority over the 9th?”

    Loving your neighbor comes to mind.

    “”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

    I think it not so loving to allow either, someone to be murdered or to give information to one so as to allow them to commit murder.

    Somehow this whole subject is beginning to feel like a values clarification exercise.

  2. Zrim says:

    Somewhere floating in all of this seems to be the need to justify wrongdoing and thereby solve uneasy tensions. Which is understandable, but I find myself with Calvin: wrong is wrong. But there is something refreshing about a criminal who decides that a punishment is not only worth the action taken but something he should be given, over against the criminal who can’t stop justifying his crime and reading commandments on a sliding scale.

    Anyway, who’d kill the fat man? My morality consistency was only 92%. Like the man said, so thankful for the active obedience of Christ, no hope without it.

  3. todd says:

    I think the reality is that there are tensions in Christian imperatives, where again the Bible isn’t meant to be a case study for every case. Kinda like divorce. There are those who say the bible only allows for divorce in cases of adultery and desertion, worngly using the NT statements on marriage as a legal code for every situation. With the lying to save a life, it may still boil down to conscience, depending on the situation, and not having a clear answer from Scripture. Welcome to Ecclesiastes!

  4. RubeRad says:

    Telling the truth is also part of the Christian’s duty of love to his neighbor. But apparently you do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God.

  5. RubeRad says:

    a punishment is not only worth the action taken but something he should be given

    But doesn’t that replace the amorality of (civil) sin with a mere cost/benefit analysis?

  6. RubeRad says:

    Certainly the point of the last post was to convince that Rahab is not an applicable case study. So what other case studies exist, or how otherwise should the moral principles apply?

  7. Chris Sherman says:

    Got a 92% as well. I wonder where in life I got off track.

    Wrong is wrong, I agree.

    The priest and the Levite in the parable were both acting lawfully when they avoided the man who was robbed and left for dead and yet they were wrong.

  8. Chris Sherman says:

    Parable of the good Samaritan?

  9. adam says:

    I think WSC Q83 and WLC Q150 are helpful in this situation. Ms. Frank’s sin of lying was less heinous than the sin of suborning murder.

  10. todd says:

    Rube,

    yes, I liked your point that we must interpret her actions redemptive-historically. I was responding to the generally accepted idea that the Bible gives definitive ethics for each of these difficult situations.

  11. RubeRad says:

    Thanks, but it was our good friend Merry’s point first…

  12. RubeRad says:

    Yes, thanks, the thought had previously floated through my head that the more/less heinous distinction might be relevant, but then the thought fell out. However, those Q/A are (quite properly) followed by

    Q. What does every sin deserve?
    A. Every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God, both in this life, and that which is to come.

    So it comes back to, wrong is wrong. Which makes me wonder, what’s the point of SC83/LC150? How is it helpful to distinguish between levels of heinousness of sin?

  13. Chris Sherman says:

    Peter to the church, (1Peter 2)

    “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”

    Peter to the council in Jerusalem, (Acts 5)

    “We must obey God rather than men. …”

  14. RubeRad says:

    But what about when the emperor sends the evil to punish those who do good? Is that your point?

  15. Chris Sherman says:

    I do indeed consider how precious truth is in the sight of God.

    There are however, weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness.

    If Rahab had told the strict truth, would she have disregarded mercy? Considering also that she was shown great mercy afterwards?

  16. Chris Sherman says:

    Not sure what the point was, I was just throwing it out there to think about.

    No easy answers.

  17. Chris Sherman says:

    I’ll have to go with Zrim’s quote of Machean,

    “so thankful for the active obedience of Christ, no hope without it.”

  18. Anonymous says:

    “God’s figurative consummation justice intruded into Jericho’s previous state of common grace”

    O Brother. You guys think too much. The decalogue is a summary of the law – details are revealed elsewhere throughout scripture, as in the story of Rahab. A very simple and logical explanation is provided by Richard Philips here:

    http://www.alliancenet.org/CC/article/0,,PTID307086_CHID559376_CIID2098416,00.html

  19. RubeRad says:

    I’d say Phillips’ article is mostly good. Because mostly it agrees with me.

    How is “God’s figurative consummation justice intruded into Jericho’s previous state of common grace” different than “God’s holy war against his enemies called for deception”?

    Another circumstance in which we are right to deceive is when people are committing a crime.

    So then pro-life organizations are allowed to pursue their agenda dishonestly? Phillips shortly contradicts himself by asserting “when opposing villains today like abortionists and pornographers, the example of Rahab does not give Christians the right to lie to the media or to government officials, to whom we owe the truth.” So we can lie directly to the faces of abortionists and pornographers, but we must tell the truth to media and government? How do we convince the media not to tell the abortionists and pornographers what we said? But I do agree that the example of Rahab does not give Christians the right to lie, which was the whole point.

  20. von says:

    >>Your Consistency Score Your moral consistency score is 100% (higher is better)

    I don’t have a problem with the Anne Frank issue. I believe I disagree with the definition of ‘truth’ being used, which is not consistent with Scripture. The term ‘false witness’ puts it rather well, involving a legitimate jurisdiction, with a legitimate and God honoring need for accurate information, being given accurate information. Where one of those is missing, the definition of ‘truth’ is, IMO, missing.

  21. RubeRad says:

    So then pro-life organizations are allowed to pursue their agenda dishonestly?

    Also, if you read LC143-145 on the 9th commandment, you will find that they range very far from simply false witness against neighbors, to “speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever

  22. von says:

    I read the article in question, and they, plus various other articles, have a lot more nuance then you allow for here. The command ‘Thou shalt not murder’, for example, would include participating in unjustified killings, including by giving information to the murderers.

    Scripture is actually rather clear on this nuance, with many people, including Christ, giving information in less than complete and accurate ways to those who do not ‘deserve’ or merit accurate information.

  23. kazooless says:

    92% for me too. But they’re incorrect when they say one answer is inconsistent with my beliefs. They didn’t ask enough about them and the scenarios had other morally relevant questions that determined decisions.

    That said, I know I’m late to this post, but I wanted to make one short comment.

    Zrim said:

    Somewhere floating in all of this seems to be the need to justify wrongdoing and thereby solve uneasy tensions. Which is understandable, but I find myself with Calvin: wrong is wrong.

    This is begging the question though. The question is, “Was it wrong for Rahab or Anne Frank’s protectors to lie?”

    Since we’re asking if it was “wrong” then we can’t assume that is was “wrong” in our premise. Simple logic here. I’m surprised nobody else here picked up on this problem.

    kazoo

  24. Zrim says:

    The question is, “Was it wrong for Rahab or Anne Frank’s protectors to lie?”

    Yes.

  25. von says:

    The question is, “Was it wrong for Rahab or Anne Frank’s protectors to lie?”

    No. Indeed it wasn’t a ‘lie’.

  26. RubeRad says:

    Uh oh, look who’s back!

    Was it wrong for Rahab or Anne Frank’s protectors to say things that were not true?

  27. Pingback: Liar, Liar! | The Confessional Outhouse

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