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.