First Things -- 3635 East Paces Circle, Unit 1414, Atlanta, GA 30326
Could any two words be less compatible than the words “honest” and “deception”? How, then, can there be such a thing as “honest deception”?
The answer is that we encounter honest deception virtually every day of our lives and we accept it without question. For instance, we watch a fictional television program where the hero gets stabbed, shot, and beaten severely with barely a moment to recover before going after the bad guys and getting into another knock down dragged out brawl which would have normal people in the hospital for days if not weeks. We watch these shows and movies and enjoy every moment – often being on the edge of our chair worried about the safety of the hero who, we know, will survive because hero’s in television shows don’t die. In a sense, we are deceived, but we are not upset because no one claims the show is based on something that really happened.
We might also go to an antique store where reproductions are for sale for much less than the actual antiques. It has been reported that one store had a sign in the window that read, “Antiques made while you wait.” We are not upset that the store is selling reproductions as long as they are sold as reproductions. We enjoy having “antiques” in our house that we might never be able to afford if they were the real thing. No one is upset, because the deception is honest.
On the other hand, some people make reproductions of paintings and sell them as the real thing. That is dishonest deception and people go to jail if their deception is discovered.
What makes deception honest? In the first place, someone creating a reproduction that looks older than it is, for instance, must tell the truth about how old it really is. If God actually created the universe in six days roughly six thousand years ago, then he meets this criteria. He told us the truth about what he did.
In the second place, the one creating the reproduction must reveal that there is an element of deception in what has been made to look older than it really is. Is there anything in the Bible that would give us such a “heads up”? As a matter of fact, there is. On such passage is found in Deuteronomy 13:1-4 where god warns:
1 "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' — which you have not known — 'and let us serve them,' 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. NKJV
So God warned Israel that he might have a prophecy from a false prophet be fulfilled as a test for Israel because, no matter what, they were never to serve other Gods. They were to believe God despite evidence supporting the false prophet.
Another “heads up” that deception is a possibility came from Jesus when he prayed, “I think you father, lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21)
The word “hidden” in Jesus prayer connotes an element of deception. How did God deceive the “wise and prudent” who were on earth at the time of Jesus? Either he fiddled with their thought processes or he gave them misleading evidence. Why would God give the wise and prudent misleading evidence? Is it fair to hold it against them if they deny God on the basis of the misleading evidence? I believe that it is because the evidence overall clearly reveals God created the heavens and the earth. If they ignore clear evidence of God’s existence and gravitate to anything that supports their anti-God view , that is simply a case of God giving them enough rope to hang themselves. The warning is there. The evidence of creation is there. The factual statements of what God did are there. The apostle Paul put it this way:
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:20-25)
In the first century, people worshipped idols that often were made to look like creatures. Today, rather than worshipping and serving the creature, those who are proponents of the natural causes view of origins worship and serve, in essence, the creation rather than the creator. They give all glory and honor to the created thing, while refusing to acknowledge the creator.
How do we know what to believe if there is deception out there? First of all, with the claims the Bible makes about God and about eternity, the wisest approach is to put the burden of proof on those who say the Bible is not true. If we are going to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake that could ruin us for eternity. In that regard, it is important to remember that nothing exists that could not have been created that way (while many things exist that could not have come about by chance).
The next thing to keep in mind is that God opposes the wise and prudent today as he did at the time Jesus was on the earth. In order to deceive the wise and prudent of our day (who have a Hubble telescope and electron microscopes), God has to give them something that they believe can support their “natural causes” view. If, for instance, every test scientists made suggested our world and our universe were created roughly six thousand years ago and were probably created in six days, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to deny God.
That brings us to the faith issue again. God wants us to accept him on faith. As noted in the “Common Sense” section, the word “faith,” by definition, implies an element of uncertainty. The fact that God wants us to accept him on faith means that we cannot research our way to God. If we could, we would not need faith. We could walk by sight. That’s what we want, but the Bible suggests that is not what we will get. The Bible is full of accounts of significant faith challenges that God expected his people to meet. We should not be shocked that faith is a challenge. We should expect it and be watchful so that we recognize faith challenges when we encounter them and we don’t lose our faith when it is challenged.
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