Thursday, March 11, 2010

Would You Lie for God?

The late Morris J. Niedenthal, professor of homiletics (preaching) at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, used to ask his students, "Would you lie for God?" The question is paraphrased from the Book of Job, but I can never find the exact reference. It is a question to haunt a preacher or anyone who would dare to speak on God's behalf.

The question "Would you lie for God?" is open-ended. It can be understood in many different ways. I think Dr. Niedenthal intended it to be so. Let me explain how I understand what it means to lie for God.

I think that we lie for God when we misrepresent what the Bible says. For example, I would be lying for God if I were to say that the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior. The five biblical passages that speak of homosexual behavior are all negative. This is a fact that every exegete concerned with homosexuality must deal with.

We also lie for God when we misapply the Scriptures. I would be lying for God if I said that those five biblical passages add up to a universal condemnation of homosexuality or gay sex. As I have written in earlier posts, the Old Testament condemns homosexual sex for the men of Israel. The New Testament texts probably condemn pagan temple orgies and pederasty. None of those five passages condemns homosexuality as we now understand it.

Yet another way to lie for God is to deny plain fact in defense of the Bible. I am not churlish enough to suggest that every Young Earth Creationist is a deliberate liar. In fact, I believe most Young Earth Creationists to be quite sincere. They are also mistaken. The physcial evidence indicates that the world is much older than the 6000 years that the biblical texts suggest. So while I do not believe that Young Earth Creationists are lying, I know that I would be lying for God if I were to endorse a literal understanding of the Bible's creation accounts.

By the same token, I would be lying for God if I were to deny what research, science and experience tell us about homosexuality. Homosexuality is a normally occuring subset of human sexuality. The Bible's condemnations of gay sex do not apply in light of our current knowledge.

There are people of good faith who disagree with my stance on homosexuality. I do not believe that they are deliberate liars, but neither will I lie for God by misrepresenting or misapplying Scripture. I will not lie for God by denying plain fact. I do not believe that the God of truth would want me to lie for God.

How about you?

On the news front, the ELCA Conference of Bishops have proposed a process for the seventeen pastors who were ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to be rostered in the ELCA. ELM has agreed! Read about it here.

The picture accompanying this post is one of William Blake's illustrations for the Book of Job. I found it here.


  1. I found it! The reference that I can never quite find is Job 13:7

    Will you speak falsely for God, and speak deceitfully for him? (NRSV)

  2. how was it that the homosexual condemnation in the old testament may no longer be applied in today's context? i would like to know please. would help a lot. thanks!

  3. Hi, Roxanne.

    Thanks for reading my blog. The main reason that I don't think the Old Testament prohibition against male same-sex intercourse applies for Christians today is that the Levitical laws were specifically written for the people of Israel in order to set them apart from their Gentile neighbors. The Law was about holiness, that is, set-apartness, rather than morality. As a side note, the OT says nothing about female same-sex intercourse. I think that this says a lot about the status of women in ancient Hebrew society.

    In Christ, we are set free from the burden of keeping the Law in all of its specifics. This does not mean that we are free to live in immorality and sin. But, as I've said elsewhere, I don't believe that homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral any more than heterosexual acts are.

    At any rate, using Leviticus to condemn all homosexual acts today is a misapplication of Scripture.

    God bless,