Not long ago, we took our kids to Movie Studio Grill because we thought they would enjoy watching a movie in a theater and eating dinner at the same time. We were right about that. They thought it was great that we watched a movie in a theater at a table while waiters took our orders and then brought us our food. Overall, it was a fun experience. But I found myself not really enjoying the movie. We chose a kid's movie and it was enjoyable on that level, but it was one of those movies that tries make a point and isn't very subtle about it. I didn't even mind that. But in order to make its point, the movie went so far to one extreme and ignored so many of the basics of the discussion in which it tried to participate that it lost all credibility with me. In some ways, the movie simply lied about the "opposing point of view" in order to achieve a noble goal. That practice has always gotten me a little hot under the collar. If you have a good point and the truth is really on your side, why would you have to lie or misrepresent in order to make your point?
The experience reminded me of a verse from Job that I have been thinking about a lot lately. Job 13:7-10 reads, "Will you speak wickedly on God's behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God? Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men? He would surely rebuke you if you secretly showed partiality" (NIV). A disturbing trend I have seen developing when Christians try to "debate" non-believers is a tendency to exaggerate, to misrepresent non-believers and atheists, to almost (sometimes more than almost) lie in order to defend God.
Far too often, we say things that, if we are honest with ourselves, we know are not true. Things like, "Atheists only want an excuse to live however they want" when we know that many have reasons for not believing that we simply don't agree with. Things like, "Evolution is just an excuse not to believe in God" when we know that many people are dealing with what they consider legitimate scientific data that we want to dismiss in the same way they dismiss what the Bible says. Things like, "You can't really be a decent person if you aren't saved" when we encounter lost people everyday who live the very best lives they can and Christians whom we accept as saved but who live like the devil (and we know that Jesus said, "No one is good but God alone").
When we use half-truths, misrepresentation, barely veiled lies and intellectual dishonesty arguments to make our point, it severely undercuts the truth to which we are trying to lead people. If we really have the truth on our side, we shouldn't be afraid of that truth, even when we are afraid it might appear to support the "other side." If what we believe cannot stand up to honest investigation and debate, then it isn't worth believing. But if we really believe the truth, then a thorough, tough investigation will only reinforce what we believe.
More significant than that, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6, NIV). When we distort the truth, we are messing with the person of Jesus. Does it really support our purpose to distort who Jesus is in order to get people to believe in God? When Job essentially asked, "Will you lie in order to defend God?" he also asked, "Would it turn out well if he examined you?...He would surely rebuke you…" What do we accomplish in bringing people to Jesus if we both base their faith on a lie and earn God's rebuke in the process?
Let's not lie in order to defend God. The truth will set us free. Let's not be afraid of it.