God's Holy Deception
The question has been raised about the ethical nature of recent deception in exposing Planned Parenthood. The many "fraudulent activities" required to expose this worship of Satan has drawn the attention of some progressive Christians. So of course I drank a few beers and decided to broach the subject with whoever was around me.
Does God lie? Does He participate in deception? Does He endorse deception? These are important questions that Christians have discussed throughout church history. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do think the Scriptures present a more convoluted answer than we would like to believe.
First, I have concerns about modern paradigms of Christian thought on lying and deception. These two concepts while similar are perhaps not the same. Numbers 23:19 would seem to make it clear that God does not lie. Is this because of His nature? And if it is shouldn't Christians emulate it?
The God Examples
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:11-12)
And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ 21 So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’ 22 Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.” (2 Chronicles 18:19-22)
Many Christians have potential issues with the above-quoted passages for obvious reason. For most, deception along with lying is bad and unethical. Thus, we cannot look upon our God as one who deceives. This type of analogical argument (though rational) has plagued the church from its conception (I would heartily recommend Language For God in Patristic Tradition on this subject). We need to be careful about reading our cultural stigmas as something that is not in God's nature.
These two passages support the idea that God utilizes deception. Does this mean He is devious? Not in His actions but at least in His intent? This is a principal step in our discussion about the ethical status of deception. These passages are clear that God desires people to be deceived. He is also the sender of these deceptive spirits. So He is not merely passive in these examples. Our God is the source of deceptive behavior even though He is not the deceiver. What does this permit us to say about his character and nature?
Whether one thinks 2 Thessalonians is in the future or past it is clear that God is the sender of the delusion. The resulting delusion is a false belief. One could even render it as a false faith. This is not deception on a small scale. This is a deception that will result in complete judgment. This is a deception that demands the truth be rejected. This delusion slams the door shut on redemption. It would seem the delusion reinforced the mindset of those in rebellion against God (like Romans 1).
The second passage provides a historical event. Not merely a historical event though. It is the crux of a spiritual war. God is seeking to bring judgment against a faithless leader of His covenant people. God first asked for a deceiving spirit. Then, an angelic being decides he is willing to deliver God's delusion. He is the one who will deceive on behalf of God. Through him, judgment will be brought down upon God's enemies. Once again we see a deception occur that reinforces existing rebellion against God.
In both cases, God uses deception against His enemies. It would seem quite clear, He is not beyond deception to cement perpetual rebellion against Him. He Himself is not the deceiver. Is this because it is against His nature? What does utilizing deception say about His nature? And what does this all mean for Christians?