Man looking out at lake

Is God Able to Lie?

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It seems to me logical, sensible, and obvious, that an all-powerful God, who is creator and sustainer of the universe, can do whatever He pleases. Indeed, there is a scripture that says as much:

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
(Psalm 115:3 NKJV)

Yet I often hear Christians saying that God cannot lie, and there does appear to be scriptural justification for this:

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
(Hebrews 6:17-18 NKJV)

I have quoted two scriptures from the Bible that could be seen to contradict one another, for surely either God isn’t able to lie, or He can do whatever He pleases, but both statements can’t be true. It’s an important problem to consider, and readers may see this problem differently according to the degree to which they affirm the Bible to be inerrant and/or infallible.

Is there a way that both of the above quotations can be true? Or would you agree with me that to say God cannot lie places restrictions on His being; and we cannot restrict an omnipotent God?

Perhaps you have encountered this problem before, or have some thoughts that will illuminate the discussion. If so, feel free to leave a comment below.

39 comments

  1. I found it helpful to look up the defition of “lie” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) and found the information contained therein to be quite instructive:

    Lie – intransitive verb:
    1. to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.
    2. to create a false or misleading impression.

    The foundation of a lie, therefore, is the intention to deceive. I believe that there are examples in the Bible – specifically in the Old Testament – where God allowed people who were ALREADY deceived/hard-hearted to continue in their waywardness. Think of Eve, Pharoah/Moses, Nebuchadnezzer, etc. – but it seems like even then, though, God limits how long this happens, and is orchestrating the events of history to draw us back to Himself.

    I personally believe that this all boils down to choice. If we insist on having our own way and making bad choices, then the Lord may allow us to continue to experience the consequences of our actions. However, I do not believe that the Lord lies – as the dictionary defines the term, and as the Bible attests – because His intention is never to deceive.

    Also, because the Bible says that it is impossible for God to lie, then I believe that this statement is true. Rather than focusing on the possible constraints of His sovereignty, I simply stand on what Bible says, and trust in the knowledge that God will never do anything to compromise His character.

    Also, I must believe and accept that there are aspects of His nature that I am unable to grasp fully with my finite human mind. I suspect that all will become clear when we get to heaven, though. 🙂

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      1. Keep asking these good and thought-provoking questions! Whenever you do so, it always challenges me to reassess what I believe and what evidence I can find a support this perspective.

        Iron sharpening iron and all of that. 🙂

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  2. Hi Steven!

    Much of what I thought has already been said more clearly and eloquently than I could have.

    There remains one issue that may not have been covered. The theory of mind explains how we know things about other people because of our ability to “put ourselves in other people’s shoes,” and that children do not generally acquire this capacity until the age of four. The link below explains more:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/socioemotional-success/201707/theory-mind-understanding-others-in-social-world

    I do not agree that truth and lies are the only options, nor that telling lies is always wrong. An obvious case is when someone has just had a new hairdo and asks for your opinion of it. You might think their hair looked better before the new look. How do you answer? You could tell them the truth but does your opinion really matter? You could say, “It looks lovely,” which would be a lie. There is another option which is to reply, “Are you happy with it – that’s what matters.”

    Doctors have to make the decision whether it’s in your best interest to know the truth about a terminal illness you may have. Some people can’t handle it! I wonder if there are instances like this that may apply to God. Did God guide the doctor if he decided not to reveal the whole truth?

    Peace and love to all,

    Dinos

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  3. Hi Steven!

    I realise that this thread of thoughts has gone quiet but I’ve been thinking about this topic recently.

    The Care Home my mother lives in uses the acronym ‘TLC’ to mean Truth, Love and Compassion, which is their motto. Level 1 provides rooms for residents with dementia, including my mother.

    I have noticed that all the residents I’ve had contact with, including my mother, have developed fantasies that make living in the Care Home more bearable. One of the fantasies common to them all is that they imagine that they have been in the Care Home for a short while and that they shall return home soon.

    The staff say nothing to shatter their illusions and they avoid answering questions about when they might return to their homes to be with their loved ones. Should they be true to their motto and tell them that they are unlikely to see their homes again? Is God guiding them when they go along with their illusions? Are their illusions the refuge that God provides for them?

    I can see that God would not lie about covenants He made with Noah, Abraham and Moses but to place constraints on Him about what we think is the truth and what really matters may be going beyond our scope and benefit. What are your views on this, please?

    Peace and love to all,

    Dinos

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dinos!

      These are some really interesting thoughts. I will just offer my personal opinion, others may of course disagree.

      It seems to me that lying in pretty much any situation is a bad idea. It tends to lead to negative consequences down the line. And if the care home has ‘truth’ in their motto, I think they should make a point of discussing the truth with their residents.

      I believe that confronting difficult emotions is a good idea, rather than patching over them with a series of half-truths or lies. If those in the care home were offered therapy, perhaps, in order to deal with some of the difficult questions surrounding loneliness, old age, life, and death, I feel that would be a much better approach than building fantasies.

      I hope you understand where I’m coming from, and I completely respect your right to disagree. But that’s my view 🙂

      God bless you, my friend.

      Steven

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      1. Hi Steven!

        Thank you for your thoughts.

        I agree with you in principle, but without the time and resources to deal with people who can be difficult and raucous due to their dementia, it may be the only practical course available for the staff. They don’t expect people whose cognitive capacities have been significantly impaired to understand the therapy as they forget what has been said very quickly.

        I guess they need to engage them more in activities they enjoy like singing and listening to music.

        Peace and love to you,

        Dinos

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        1. Hi Dinos,

          Yes maybe my suggestion of therapy wasn’t sensitive enough to the complex needs of people with serious dementia. It must be very difficult indeed. But I maintain that telling the truth is always best 🙂

          Blessings,

          Steven

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