Sunday, January 9, 2011

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 11

Discerning God’s Will: Santa Clause and the Holocaust

(This is part eleven in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

Throughout this series, we have argued that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are necessary for discerning God’s will, and that even Justice Boshoff, who disparages the scriptures as the means to know God’s will, relies on the scriptural word itself to defend his position - a contradiction if I ever saw one.

What does it mean to discern (know) God’s will? Usually the question is asked with regard to a specific matter such as, Should I attend this college or that college? Should I marry Wendy? Should I marry Bill? Should I buy this car or that car, or keep the old one for now? Should I be an architect, an engineer, a soldier, an entrepreneur, a politician, lawyer, doctor, athlete, and so on. As far as I can tell, Justice Boshoff would say, that we need to hear a word from God, personally, through prayer, and that the scriptures are a hindrance in hearing that word.

Consider this, Should I tell my children that there is a Santa Clause, and that on every night before Christmas, he flies around the world in a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer delivering toys to good little children, and that he knows if you’ve been bad or good? There are many Christian parents who tell their children precisely this. [1] Some of those parents may think that the matter is trivial and the consideration of its propriety unnecessary - it’s all just a part of growing up and makes Christmas a more wondrous time for the child.

But is it trivial? Not when we want to be sure that all we do is in accordance with the will of God and that forces the question again, How do we know the will of God?

There are some things about which we do not have to pray for wisdom, because we already have the answer in black and white: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,’ Exodus 20:16, Deut 5:20. This is a prohibition to testify or say a word against one’s neighbor that is not true. Whatever statements are made about your neighbor, they must not be lies. The principle beneath this command is that God forbids lying and requires that we speak the truth. Succinctly stated, the command not to bear false witness presupposes the command, ‘You shall not lie.’[2]

In light of this, the necessary question a parent should ask: “Is telling my children that there is a Santa Clause a violation of the commandment not to lie?” The prayer for wisdom at this point is for discernment regarding that question. Justice Boshoff would say that we must wait for a word from the Holy Spirit, dispensed through prayer. But we hold that the word, which comes from the Holy Spirit, has already been spoken, and it is recorded in the scriptures.

In seeking to know God’s will through the Bible, there are often times when the answer is not straightforward, that is, there is no single statement that determines one way or another whether an anticipated act on our part is morally right or wrong. In the Santa Clause case, we are confronted with two problematic questions:

Does the Bible indicate there is ever a time:

(a) When not telling the truth is actually not a lie?
(b) In which God would condone the telling of a lie?

As a writer of Christian fantasy, I am concerned with (a). There are those who condemn Christian fantasy because at bottom, they see it as a lie (Christian Fantasy is an Oxymoron). The idea is that since a fantasy may have such characters as talking animals, or flying horses, or wizards and witches with magical powers, and that since these characters are not real but a blatant fabrication, they are in reality a lie. There are reasons I do not think Christian fantasy is a lie, fundamentally because it is not an attempt to deceive but to tell a story whose characters and circumstances happen to be fantastically fictional, which fact the reader is fully aware. But in order for me to write fantasy as a Christian with a clear conscience, I have to evaluate what the scriptures say on a variety of things in order to discern God’s will on the matter.[3] And likewise must the parent assess biblical tenets (based on a reading and analysis of the scriptures) in order to determine whether he may or may not tell his children the fantasy of Santa Clause.[4]

As regards (b), one might contemplate Nazi Germany. Suppose you are a Christian living in Germany around 1942 and you know that the neighbor across the street is providing sanctuary for a Jewish family. The Gestapo call you into their station and bluntly ask you if you know of anyone in the neighborhood who is protecting Jews. You may refuse to answer which is a certain sign that you know something. Given the ruthlessness of Hitler’s secret police, not only would it go bad for you, but almost certainly, the neighborhood would be turned on end until the Jews are found. What do you do?

Suppose you are the one who is protecting the Jews in your house, and the authorities, suspicious that Jews are being sheltered somewhere, come to question you. You are asked, “Are you hiding Jews in your house?” If you answer yes, not only are you in trouble, but you have certainly sealed the death of those who are trusting in your protection. What do you do?

If there is any scriptural warrant in which God condones lying, we must either find a direct prophetic word saying so, or as is often the case, discern the principle through the historical narrative of scripture. Is there such an example?

The case of Rahab and her lie to those pursuing Israeli spies whom she was hiding in her apartment in the city wall is a prominent candidate. Was she wrong in telling those seeking the spies that the spies had already departed thus sending them on a wild goose chase, giving the Israelis the opportunity to escape? There are some who say she did nothing wrong; others say that lying is not condoned under any circumstances and that she was wrong, though it did providentially work for the good of the spies and the nation of Israel.[5]

Rahab illustrates how an answer to a specific question regarding God’s will in a given situation [6] is not always straightforward. We need not an inward spiritual word from the Holy Spirit (as Justice Boshoff holds), for he has already spoken in the scriptures. What we do need is enlightenment from the Spirit, that he may open our eyes of understanding through the scriptures, Eph 1:15-19; Ps 119:18.

[1] My parents did, and the Easter rabbit too, which rabbit I was smart enough to rule out because it was an animal – but Santa Clause? Well, he was a person, a human as far as I could discern from the testimony of my parents and other adults who confirmed that testimony. As a child of four, Santa Clause’s humanity made it all long as I ignored the flying sleigh and reindeer.

[2] The presupposition of an underlying principle is also present in the command not to commit adultery (Exod 20:14, Deut 5:18). This command forbidding adultery is based on the ordained sexual behavior created at the beginning in Adam and Eve, husband and wife. This created order excludes premarital sex, homosexuality (male and female), and in its purest prohibition, the inward lusting of another for sexual pleasure, (Matt 5:27, 28: You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I [Christ] say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart).

[3] See my article, The Literary Genre of Fantasy and Its Use in Imparting Christian Truth which considers some of the Biblical support for the genre.

[4] Christian fantasy has fantastical characters like Santa Clause, and one might argue that if it is not wrong to tell such a tale, then it is not wrong to tell your children that there is a Santa Clause. But there is an obvious difference - your children think Santa Clause is real and believe in him; the reader of Christian fantasy knows the characters are not real and does not believe in them. This matter of faith is at the heart of the problem for as Christians we are to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4) - Christ is the object of faith, not Santa Clause.

[5] I am inclined to think that Rahab’s lie was condoned by God. There are those who do not deserve to know the truth, and to tell them the truth will make you complicit in their evil intentions and deeds. But we have to be very careful that we don’t use Rahab’s example to lie willy nilly because it is convenient. I would say that only under such dire circumstances as Rahab’s or the Holocaust can one even consider the possibility of lying. I have never been in such a situation.

[6] I am not advocating ‘Situation Ethics,’ the idea that the factors of a given situation determine what is a morally right or wrong course of action. Such a philosophy allows an ‘anything goes, as long as it hurts no one else’ or ‘one must do what is best for himself’ ethic. This leads to all kinds of evil behavior such as abortion on demand. Taken to its logical end, it allows one to establish his own relative standard of right and wrong on the premise that ‘what is wrong for you may not be wrong for me,’ a logically contradictory premise.

My use of the word ‘situation’ is a statement of the obvious – we seek to know what God’s will is for us in our situation now and we do that in part through examining how God worked in a situation of an event of the past, Rahab being an example.

1 comment:

  1. Timely topic, as I just attended a conference this weekend and am blessed to have heard Kevin DeYoung speak on the Will of God. His book can be found here:, and also Garry Friesen, whose book on this topic is

    On another note, I just finished "The Oerken Leaves" and am looking forward to continuing the story...