Does God lie? Interesting question to demonstrate our inability to verify claims made about God. I occasionally have the following conversation:
Christian: God does not Lie!
Me: How do you know?
Christian: Because He says He tells the truth!
Me: But if he could lie…couldn’t he be lying when he says he always tells the truth? How can you tell the difference between a lying God saying, ‘I always tell the truth’ and a truthful God saying, ‘I always tell the truth’?
I leave it to the theists to wrestle among themselves as to whether God can lie. The follow-up question is: Regardless of whether or not God could; WOULD God lie? Think of all the reasons humans lie. Primarily because we think our position is better served to lie instead of telling the truth.
As children we lie to avoid the consequences the truth would bring us. Better to blame the broken television on a sibling than take the punishment ourselves. As adults, we lie to avoid a fight with our spouse. Or to cover up where we were, or what we were doing. Because we think telling the truth will cause us more harm than the lie.
We lie to convince others to believe us. If we were totally honest, we think we will never sell this used car. We lie to avoid problematic situations for ourselves. “Does this dress make me look fat?” We lie for selfish reasons to elude what we perceive as future complications.
Seems peculiar to attribute such motivations to a God, doesn’t it? God—afraid of consequences? If one holds to a fore-knowing sort of God—He already knows the consequences. (And perhaps is unable to modify them.) And if one holds to a non-preknowledge sort of Spirit...well…he is God after all—do we think humans screw something up so bad God can’t fix it?
One of my favorite lines to use comes from Die Hard 3 in which Bruce Willis drives a car erratically:
Bruce Willis: Trust me! I know what I am doing.
Samuel L. Jackson: Not even GOD knows what you are doing!
(Sometimes, when I see actions of others and even myself, I think, “Not even GOD knows what you are doing!”) The humor of the line, of course, is that God knows everything, and what the person is doing is so crazy, so insane, not even a God could figure it out.
Can we picture God thinking, “Gosh, I would like to tell the truth here, but that human could really mess this thing up…they could do something I can’t fix…Guess I am going to have to lie.” The God who can create billions of galaxies, with billions of stars in each, with trillions of planets, and space, and time, and life, and love, and déjà vu, is stumped by a human who will not live more than 100 years and cannot lift the average automobile? Seriously? We are that much of a problem for God he has to lie?
Can we create an obstacle for God? It seems almost laughable to attribute a motivation to God, commonly in humans, “fear of a predicament.” Clearly, it is just as difficult to determine an incentive for God to lie, due to lack of ability to verify, as it is to determine whether He lies at all.
But wait a minute…
I am often informed the reason God does not physically appear to everybody is that He wants us to believe by faith. (I take “faith” as a belief based upon incomplete data.) The reason God doesn’t update the Bible? Faith. The reason God didn’t “write his name in the stars” or made a 6000 year old universe look 13 Billion years old, or doesn’t answer every prayer? Faith. The reason Christians are put through human hardships, like unable to afford this year’s model car, or the sudden drop in the stock market, or the 16-year-old daughter who drained the liquor cabinet? Faith.
Every time we question why God plays this hide-and-seek game, resulting in 1000’s of different gods, with millions of variations on a personal level, the answer provided is, “He wants to be believed in, NOT by observational information…oh, no!... rather He wants us to gather the scraps of the few puzzle pieces we have, and “by faith” create the whole rest of the picture.” Some of those Gods even demand we put together the picture accurately, or there will be Hell to pay! Literally.
In point of fact, the Bible makes it patently clear evidential belief will not save you. “Justified by faith…” Rom. 5:1-2. Eph. 2:8. It would seem if we are given too much information, we could be in jeopardy of not being saved; we believed—just not in the correct way.
It seems fantastic to me the same God who created those billions of galaxies with their billions of stars, and all those planets would be so highly concerned over the method by which a sentient species on one of those planets came to discern knowledge about Him. That such a God would desire the humans to know he exists, but not know it with certainty of information. That such a God wants the final leap of belief to be on a guess.
Yet this is what they tell me. God wants to be believed in by faith. Unfortunately, this results in a God with a motivation. He is motivated to make sure we get enough information to start the journey on evidence, but not enough to finish the journey with it.
This is a curious sort of God. One who cares enough to mandate a certain method by which we can learn about him. A method we can apparently screw up. What happens if we learn too much? Will God have to take our knowledge down a notch? What if we don’t learn enough? Will God have to give a boost? Worse, would we reach a point where God, in order to achieve his goals, would have to lie?
Does this create a God who fears the truth may be more problematic than a lie?
The reality is the proofs for God peter out. Then, to make the leap to the God the theist desires, “faith” is invoked, with the defiant claim that “faith” is the thing God cares about. That God does not want us to have TOO much information (since the theist doesn’t have it to give) or otherwise everyone would believe in him.
What none of us can figure out is why God is so concerned about everybody believing in him? Why does he care?
By attempting to fill in the gap of information about God with the incentive of “faith,” the theist makes a God who would lie in order to avoid the harm of the truth.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)