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Author Topic: Commandment: Thou shalt not lie???  (Read 4990 times)
Alan
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« on: May 27, 2009, 02:43:32 AM »

Why is it that so many Christianthink there is a specific commandment from God not to lie, mislead, or even tell partial truths?

I have been teaching my own kids that telling part of the truth is often the best thing for one to do, depending on the situation -- especially when it is about talking to authority figures.

When I brought this up on a Catholic forum with a bunch of holier-than-me Catholics, they gave me this bull about whether I'm willing to "go against" what experts have said for hundreds of years.  I told them that I look at the evidence and decide for myself sometimes that it goes against what many say, and that I'm not afraid to think I may be the only one out of many contenders who actually got to the truth in any situation.

The opponents of my point of view state that any sort of lie or withholding pertinent information, is a terrible sin that goes against God because God is Truth.  During any discussion, it seems like the most intense challenge against being totally honest and forthcoming is the old question of whether somebody who is hiding Jews from the nazis (or gestapo or whatever) has an obligation to God to tell them complete and correct answers to their questions, because as Christians and ostensible God lovers must be totally honest at all times.

My position is that is nonsense, and if I were hiding Jews I would not consider myself under any obligation to rat them out just because dude with a gun is at the front door.

To their credit, some of the more "enlightened" Catholics seemed to think there are circumstances where concealing some or all truth in any given situation, might possibly be a better choice than blabbing when that truth would do a great deal of harm.

When I was little, I didn't know any better than to be truthful, and it got me into a heckuva lot of trouble when I answer questions honestly, as opposed, for example, to needing to say what a teacher wished I would have said in lieu of telling the truth.

Let's take a look at the commandment from which all these rabid Catholics (not just Catholics, really, but Christians in general) say is the basis of this philosophy of "all the truth, all of the time, even when not specifically asked."  That would be found at Exodus 20:16.  In our Catholic Bible (NAB) it is written: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. "  To me, that means that we should not lie in such a way as to get your neighbor into trouble.  To these people with whom I used to argue, this can be extrapolated to mean that one should NEVER say anything but the truth and the whole truth.

What about some other Bible versions:  here is Exodus 20:16 in some other Bible versions:

Amplified Bible: "You shall not witness falsely against your neighbor."
King James: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. "
New King James: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
New International Version (NIV): "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
New International Version - UK: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
American Standard Version: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. "
New Century Version: "You must not tell lies about your neighbor."
English Standard Version: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

So where, in any of that or in any other Bible translation, do we have a command of an obligation to tell the whole truth to anybody -- even evil people -- at any time, without leaving out any details?  Huh

Whenever I tell somebody "there is no 'Commandment' against lying, per se," they go bonkers.  Tongue

I'm not saying one should lie at any given time, just that none of the Ten Commandment prohibit it unless, IMO, that lie will hurt your neighbor.  I wonder where people get off claiming that this Commandment means anything other than what it actually states?   Sad

Further, in one of the Gospel stories, Jesus was asked "who is my neighbor" and Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.  One might even infer from that, that only people who would take the time to be kind to somebody in trouble, is a "neighbor."  Shocked  At this point, I'm not pushing that aspect of it, but it is there in case somebody breaks through my first barricade.  Wink

What say the members of this forum, if you care to ring in on this?  I welcome opposing views, without which my own perceived truth about things would be very shallow.  : Cool

Wow.  I guess my post is getting kind of long.  I'd better end it now.

Alan
« Last Edit: May 27, 2009, 02:45:05 AM by Alan » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2009, 09:18:10 AM »

I think I am going to have to disagree with your point of view on this one. Well, just most of it. I've always basically interpreted "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." as "Do not lie."

I think that to understand this particular commandment, we must understand the importance of truth. Wisdom only comes from truth, and truth comes from reality. I do not know what this world would be EXACTLY like if nobody ever told the truth, but I can almost guarantee that it would be somewhat of a chaotic mess. We need the truth to grow in knowledge.

The second part to this commandment, I believe, is to avoid dishonesty (don't lie!). I don't really think it's just lying to get your neighbor in trouble that is addressed in this commandment. First of all, don't lie TO your neighbor. Secondly, don't lie to YOURSELF. Thirdly, don't lie to God; of course he knows when you're lying, but he also knows that you know you're lying, and that's bad. Make sense?

There are three kinds of lies:
- Rash Judgment - This is assuming that negative things are true with no foundation at all.
- Detraction - Telling truthful things that hurt someone that do not NEED to be known!
- Calumny - Lies that hurt.

Maybe one is wondering, "What about lies that do NOT hurt?" But I've never believed that there was such a thing. A lie is a lie, and they always hurt. Let's say that a friend of mine (let's call her Amy) was going to compete in a singing competition. So let's also say that Amy's singing reeked! So if Amy asks me what I think of her singing, one might ideally think that I should just lie to her and say that she sounds lovely. That, of course, would make her feel good and build her confidence; so this is supposed to be the kind of lie that does NOT hurt, right? Wrong. When she goes to that singing competition and makes a complete fool out of herself, I would be the one to blame for lying to her. Now she's completely embarrassed and angry at me for lying to her. She may have gotten mad at me for telling her that her singing sucked in the first place, but she would've know better than to embarrass herself in front of tons of people. The moral of my story is: The truth can hurt, but lies hurt more. Also, even if nobody ever finds out you're lying, God always knows. And that hurts HIM.

"My position is that is nonsense, and if I were hiding Jews I would not consider myself under any obligation to rat them out just because dude with a gun is at the front door." Honestly, I wouldn't feel an obligation either. In most life or death situations, I'll admit that I would probably lie. Just because I wouldn't feel obliged to tell the Nazi that I was hiding a Jew doesn't make my dishonesty any less wrong, though. Life or death situation or not, I was still lying, and that's against the 8th commandment. I'd definitely make sure to make a trip to confession after that!

I guess here is the part when I say, nobody's perfect! Of course, we are all going to lie every once in a while. God knows that we're not perfect (blame Adam and Eve!) It is only human to make mistakes and also to be dishonest sometimes. We can't expect ourselves to follow every single commandment 24/7.

Okay, I don't really know if that was all just me babbling. But, I guess, that's how I understand the 8th commandment. Questions & responses welcome.

 Kiss Peaches





« Last Edit: May 27, 2009, 09:43:38 AM by peaches » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2009, 10:17:04 PM »

Hello, Peaches!  How was the trip?  Smiley

OK. I'm ready to join the exchange on "Thou shalt not lie."

I guess that I approach this by thinking about why God commands us not to lie.

You've stated the case clearly, I think.

quote: Peaches
Wisdom only comes from truth, and truth comes from reality.

And trust is based on truth, too. Maybe God asks that human beings
tell the truth, so that they come to understand what trust means.

 
Reen

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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2009, 10:44:55 PM »

quote: Alan
Why is it that so many Christianthink there is a specific commandment from God not to lie, mislead, or even tell partial truths?

Good grief, Alan. You think about the kinds of things that I think about, too.  Smiley

OK. How's this?
 
Early in life, one thinks in black & white terms. Either/or. Always/never.
Few realities have grey-tones, at the beginning of life.
Yet adult/rational thought accomodates grey-tones.

'Sometimes'...not so much 'always/never.'

And since I tend to think in either/or terms - all good/all bad, all right/all wrong, 
I need be alert to this kind of thinking and assessing.

Christ, I think, addressed the complex that may arise -

Be as innocent as a dove, and wise as an owl.
[He actually said 'serpent,' but I like 'owl' better.]  Wink




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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2009, 10:30:00 PM »

To lie (an untruth) is to mislead, divert, escape etc.
It presents a falsehood, a false sense of who one is,
or who we might think someone is.

I am the TRUTH, and the way....

Seems like a really good old fashioned GPS to me!

Always have been...a truth seeker!

Lana
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2009, 05:37:07 PM »

Dear Peaches,

Thank you for the enthusiastic response.  That said, now I'll see if I can shred the thing...  Tongue  I mean, before I can give you a reply.   Cool

I've always basically interpreted "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." as "Do not lie."
Why would God give a restricted commandment instead of "do not lie" which is shorter, easier to remember, and covers many kinds of lies other than lies to hurt your neighbor?  IOW, the behavior we are restricting is much greater with "do not lie" than "shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  It would be like if you had colored crayons out, I might say "pick up the crayons" which includes the red one at least.  If I said, "pick up the red crayon" then I don't mean all of them, just the red one.  In the same way, we are adding restrictions to ourselves that God didn't put there, as He was very specific about just what type of lies not to tell.

Quote


I think that to understand this particular commandment, we must understand the importance of truth. Wisdom only comes from truth, and truth comes from reality. I do not know what this world would be EXACTLY like if nobody ever told the truth, but I can almost guarantee that it would be somewhat of a chaotic mess. We need the truth to grow in knowledge.
I am not claiming the world will be better if nobody ever told the truth, just that God didn't write a Commandment that covered all lies and all types of lies the way we have interpreted it.  Strangely, fundamental Christians who also intrepret the Commandment the way you do, are the same ones that go around saying, "the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is not subject to interpretation."  Tongue

Quote

The second part to this commandment, I believe, is to avoid dishonesty (don't lie!). I don't really think it's just lying to get your neighbor in trouble that is addressed in this commandment. First of all, don't lie TO your neighbor. Secondly, don't lie to YOURSELF. Thirdly, don't lie to God; of course he knows when you're lying, but he also knows that you know you're lying, and that's bad. Make sense?
It makes sense.  Things would be nice if everybody were honest.  I'm not saying the world would not be a better place if people were more honest.  The only claim I'm making is that God neither did nor intended to write a Commandment that covered all sorts of lies, but He didn't so I don't think the Commandments should be used as a "weapon" to cover behavior that isn't stated in the Commandment.
Quote

Maybe one is wondering, "What about lies that do NOT hurt?" But I've never believed that there was such a thing. A lie is a lie, and they always hurt. Let's say that a friend of mine (let's call her Amy) was going to compete in a singing competition. So let's also say that Amy's singing reeked! So if Amy asks me what I think of her singing, one might ideally think that I should just lie to her and say that she sounds lovely. That, of course, would make her feel good and build her confidence; so this is supposed to be the kind of lie that does NOT hurt, right? Wrong. When she goes to that singing competition and makes a complete fool out of herself, I would be the one to blame for lying to her. Now she's completely embarrassed and angry at me for lying to her. She may have gotten mad at me for telling her that her singing sucked in the first place, but she would've know better than to embarrass herself in front of tons of people. The moral of my story is: The truth can hurt, but lies hurt more. Also, even if nobody ever finds out you're lying, God always knows. And that hurts HIM.
If she was already at a contest, there isn't much she can do about it at the time.  Maybe you should tell her the specific aspects of her voice that you think need work, but at the time of the contest one must do one's best and there isn't much time to change it.

Quote

"My position is that is nonsense, and if I were hiding Jews I would not consider myself under any obligation to rat them out just because dude with a gun is at the front door." Honestly, I wouldn't feel an obligation either. In most life or death situations, I'll admit that I would probably lie. Just because I wouldn't feel obliged to tell the Nazi that I was hiding a Jew doesn't make my dishonesty any less wrong, though. Life or death situation or not, I was still lying, and that's against the 8th commandment. I'd definitely make sure to make a trip to confession after that!
I'm glad you wouldn't want to turn them over for their death, but I think you would act this way because it is the more Godly, pro-life approach.  You say "life or death situation or not" but in the case of such a situation, because it's the right thing to do.  If you want to go to confession to confess "bad" behavior when it was really the proper thing to do, then I am concerned it is turning into scruples.
Quote
I guess here is the part when I say, nobody's perfect! Of course, we are all going to lie every once in a while. God knows that we're not perfect (blame Adam and Eve!) It is only human to make mistakes and also to be dishonest sometimes. We can't expect ourselves to follow every single commandment 24/7.
nice.  I agree.

Quote
Okay, I don't really know if that was all just me babbling. But, I guess, that's how I understand the 8th commandment. Questions & responses welcome.
No, sweet Peaches... you are saying a lot, not just babbling.  Of course I disagree with half of it, but as I wrote before I welcome opposing opinions.  Cool

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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2009, 07:24:46 PM »

quote: Lana
Seems like a really good old fashioned GPS to me!

That's really good. Like the star of Bethlehem.

"For we observed His star at its rising, and have come to pay Him homage." Matt. 2

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« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2009, 05:05:39 PM »

Dear Dad,

I like how you took the time to respond to my message. But I still am sticking strongly to my point of view on this particular subject. So now it is my turn to contradict. Smiley

Quote
Strangely, fundamental Christians who also intrepret the Commandment the way you do, are the same ones that go around saying, "the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is not subject to interpretation.
That is kind of strange. Seems a bit hypocritical to me. I believe that the Bible has a LOT to be interpreted. But I guess that I have my POV and they have theirs.

Quote
The only claim I'm making is that God neither did nor intended to write a Commandment that covered all sorts of lies, but He didn't so I don't think the Commandments should be used as a "weapon" to cover behavior that isn't stated in the Commandment.
I especially had trouble agreeing with you here. Your wording bothered me a bit. You say that "God neither did nor intended to" do something. But first of all, how would you know what God intends or does not? I have never been able to get into God's head. I never had the great experience of reading his mind. I bet that a lot of questions in our faith could be answered if we were able to know what God's thoughts were. I just don't think that you have the right to say what he intended. That's his job!  Cool

Also, I've never thought of the commandment as a "weapon." It is a guideline meant to help us grow closer to God by learning to use our spiritual strength to overcome sin. Well of course it isn't stated RIGHT THERE in the commandment. It's called reading in between the lines! Not everything in life is going to be right there for us. We have to work to find the answers sometimes. 

Quote
You say "life or death situation or not" but in the case of such a situation, because it's the right thing to do.  If you want to go to confession to confess "bad" behavior when it was really the proper thing to do, then I am concerned it is turning into scruples.
Let's say that one night, a deadly criminal is on the loose. He is equipped with a gun. Police show up and try to corner him. The man is shooting everywhere he sees. The policemen are hiding behind cars and other things to avoid getting hit by bullets. There isn't a way for the policemen to get to the man and confiscate his weapon without getting shot. So, eventually the policemen start to shoot back. One of the policemen hits the man and kills him (or just hurts him enough to get him to stop shooting). Maybe this seems like it was the right thing, the only thing, to do in the situation to save the innocent bystanders and the other policemen. But that doesn't mean the policeman who injured the man shouldn't go and confess his sins to God.

Well, I don't really know if this post if going to be good for conveying my opinion. But honestly, right now I am too lazy to look over it and add points and stuff. So, hopefully, it will sound alright.

 Kiss Peaches
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2009, 02:11:29 AM »

I think I'm going to let this thread go for a while, not as a concession but I'm just kind of weary of it... also I typed so much, in some places I didn't even remember my own words until I reread them.

Maybe when/if I get back to this thread I'll be better prepared to clarify my point and understand what y'all are saying.  Thank you, Reen, Lana, and Peaches for your time and effort at addressing my issue.  Smiley

Alan

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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2009, 01:13:02 PM »

OK, Alan. Anytime that you start a thread, I enjoy taking part.  Smiley


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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2009, 01:42:35 PM »

Ok, figure I'll throw in my two cents worth. Please apply for any refunds at Customer Service.

I tend to think that the original intent of the commandment had to do with those three kinds of lies that Peaches noted: Rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. All of these fall into the "bearing false witness against your neighbor" category rather than being things about misleading someone. In many ways, I see the typical forms of lying as actually being forms of "stealing"  by depriving them of something that rightfully belongs to them (the "truth").

The question becomes however, at least in my mind, how absolute this right to the truth is. Moral theology deals with different types of scenarios and the duties that arise from those scenarios. I see three primary ones that apply in this case.

1) One cannot commit a moral wrong to accomplish a moral good ("the end doesn't justify the means")
2) Where there are two or more morally good choices, one has the duty to choose the greatest good
3) Where there are two or more morally evil choices, one has the duty to choose the lesser evil.

From number one, we can see that we cannot choose a moral evil to accomplish a moral good. This would seem to indicate that could not lie to, for instance, help someone feel better about themselves. "Oh, I just love your new <gag> haircut." "No, honey, those jeans don't make you look fat." (Admittedly, regardless of the morality involved in the second example, sin is the better choice for almost any man in that case.  Cheesy)

Since lying would never be among a list of morally "good" choices, number two really doesn't apply.

Number three however would seem to me to be very applicable. If one has to choose between moral evil #1--lying--and moral evil #2--someone being killed because of your sticking to the truth--lying is the lesser of the evils and, in my mind becomes one's duty under that circumstance. I wouldn't pretend to try to determine where the line might be drawn in the determination, but I'm pretty certain that there are circumstances where lying is actually the "right" choice.

That being said, I don't think many of us run into many circumstances where lying is going to come into play as the lesser evil and while not absolute, I think that lying is almost always sinful.

John
 
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« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2009, 11:01:55 PM »

Then, of course, there is always causitry.
Searching for - and then applying, the applicable moral principle.

One of the prime examples of causitry is the treatment of  'unintended consequence.'

If an act is morally acceptable  - yet will concurrenlty precipitate an
unintended, painful consequence - if the situation is dire, one may go forward.
----------------

As aside, it is perfectly clear why - in a courtroom setting - one takes an oath to tell
'...the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.'

reens

 
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2009, 01:31:41 AM »

When I was little, I didn't know any better than to be truthful, and it got me into a heckuva lot of trouble when I answer questions honestly, as opposed, for example, to needing to say what a teacher wished I would have said in lieu of telling the truth.

I missed this discussion when it happened so I decided to add my 2 cents now.

Telling the whole truth wasn't what got you in trouble. There were numerous occasions when you were accused of something that you didn't do. The nuns, for some reason, seemed to think you were a trouble-seeking kid and you actually fostered this reputation by eventually caving in to their demands that you confess to your transgressions. Therefore, although you would maintain your innocense for a while, you frequently went ahead and confessed to things you didn't do just so they would shut up and leave you alone. I guess you figured whatever punishment they would mete out would be over with in a few minutes then you could get back to more important things.

As far as the rest of your initial post, you seem to be treating telling only some of the truth as being equal to lying. I see at least three distinct situations -- telling the whole story, telling part of the story accurately leaving out some of the details, and telling part of the story accurately but so that it implies something untrue. It doesn't matter if the inaccuracies were deliberate or not, that they simply exist is what matters. I don't consider the first two to be lying at all. Technically, I supposed the misleading is not exactly outright lying but since it is designed to convey a false conclusion or belief, then it would most likely be considered false witness.

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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2009, 05:51:59 AM »

Wow.  After rereading the responses I see much to comment on at this time...



Ok, figure I'll throw in my two cents worth. Please apply for any refunds at Customer Service.
LOL (yes I was in fact LOL just now) Cheesy

Quote
I tend to think that the original intent of the commandment had to do with those three kinds of lies that Peaches noted: Rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. All of these fall into the "bearing false witness against your neighbor" category rather than being things about misleading someone. In many ways, I see the typical forms of lying as actually being forms of "stealing"  by depriving them of something that rightfully belongs to them (the "truth").
Why does anybody have an actual "right" to the truth, in any given situation -- and of course such an entitlement would put the onus on me to provide that truth?  We have been given the Truth in both the living and breathing form of the Christ, and we are told that we all fall short as far as "earning" or "deserving" the truth.  That means I cannot tell "the whole truth" even if I tried, so unless it is actually in the written Word, it is from humans and is fallible anyway.

You know what?  I really don't want to go through sentence by sentence.  Maybe it's time I had a little comic relief in this whole area ... Yessss.  I know just the thing.  George Carlin famously discussed the Ten Commandments; I just listened to him again.  Here's the video clip:

>>DISCLAIMER -- ("BAD" LANGUAGE, "ADULT" HUMOR):
The following link will lead to some modest "adult humor" and is anti-religious (dunno if he's an atheist or what) at times, and contradicts popular interpretation and even origin of the Bible so if you don't want to hear it be warned.  Personally I think it's very funny, and the foul language was fairly minimal -- at least for Carlin.

[URL DELETED BY Alan]

I still think he's funny whether I agree with him or not on anything in particular he said.

Now... whew... since that's out of the way, I feel much better motivated to go back through this thread and see what needs my comments.  LOL (actual) of course they *need* my comments; everybody needs them of course -- on the topic of others listening my advice, I agree with one of my dad's favorite comedians, Allan Sherman.  He knew how important his advice was, and wrote a song about it.  This is one of my several favorites by him.  My favorite part:  "I sincerely doubt that the world could do without ... my goood aaadddvice."

>>CLAIMER:  Family viewing is fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MInOApCkA98



Alan
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2009, 06:26:22 AM »


 ... but I'm pretty certain that there are circumstances where lying is actually the "right" choice.

<cut>

That being said, I don't think many of us run into many circumstances where lying is going to come into play as the lesser evil and while not absolute, I think that lying is almost always sinful.
Thank you.  I rest my case (if only for a minute   Wink ).

Alan
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