Truth Is Greater Than A Lie
Truth is greater than a lie. No matter how dressed up and attractive the lie may be, it cannot compare to the beauty and strength of the most unpleasant truth. That is because the lie does not exist, but the truth does. You can build on an illusion only in your imagination, but you can always build and depend on a truth.
Suppose a man says and believes this:
“I am Me, the greatest of all there is, both living and unliving. There is no god besides Me. I am author of my own destiny. Whatever I do, it is good because I am good. I make no mistakes. Whatever I say is good and true simply because it is I who says it. I will live forever.”
Now suppose someone comes and tells him the truth:
“You are not the greatest of all there is, because there is a God who created you. Instead, you are a wretched and vile creature, doomed to suffer God’s wrath for your sins and pride. There is only one hope for you; you must give up all your self-righteousness and plead for mercy to God. His Son Jesus has already paid for your sins on your behalf because you are condemned without hope. God will forgive you because of His Son. He will cleanse you and make you fit to stand before Him, if only you will humble yourself.”
Which do you think sounds better to that man? Is it the belief that he is good, or is it the belief that he is evil and wretched? To him, his self-worth sounds wonderful. But he must give that up and believe the opposite in order to obtain forgiveness of sins and salvation. His illusion is no help to save his soul, but the terrible truth can bring his salvation.
Which “truth” is more beautiful? The story that he is a god sounds good to him, but it can neither help him now nor save him at the Judgment. That is instead an empty, horrid, terrible lie. However, the truth that he is a sinner who needs to be saved will purify and cleanse his soul; it will make him fit to stand before God in heaven.
A lie is a shadow. It has no substance. It cannot lift or push. It cannot help or save. It can only be looked at and admired. The weakest substance that casts a shadow - a feather or straw is greater than the shadow. Even a substance like air, which casts no shadow, is greater than the shadow because air gives life and a shadow doesn’t. Any truth has substance and it is always greater than the grandest lie.
How then can you and I use this information? We can freely and critically examine our most cherished beliefs. If we find they are false, then we are better off because we can discard a beautiful but insubstantial lie for the more glorious truth.
Do you think God, the Author of Truth, will be displeased if we carefully test to see if what we believe comes from God? The scriptures say:
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing:
but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
(Note: the words “glory” and “honour” come from the same Hebrew word,
dwbk, which means “glory” and “honor.”
Thus the translator may use either or both words and get the exact same meaning.)
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word
with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they
received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day
to see if what Paul said was true.
The Bible describes the action of finding out the truth as “noble,” “honorable” and even “glorious.” This is the way to please God, to test your beliefs – even your most cherished beliefs – to see if they are true.
Errors of Christian Doctrine
Various Christian churches have embraced error of doctrine throughout history. But don’t get cocky about that; so have you. However, we’re talking about history here, so we’ll focus on that. Errors of doctrine are not new. They have always existed.
The Man Born Blind
When Jesus and the disciples were walking through the temple area and saw a man who was born blind, the disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 They did not say “Rabbi, was this man born blind because of sin?” No, their doctrine was already fixed: he was born blind because of sin. So they just wanted to know whose sin it was, the man’s own sin or that of his parents’. Jesus said the man was not born blind because of sin, which shattered their illusion of the justice of God but put in its place a realization of the glory of God.
A Geocentric Universe
The most famous religious error, perhaps, was the belief that the sun, moon and stars revolved around planet earth. It existed for 1,300 years before being challenged. True, that was first a scientific belief, but the Roman Catholic Church had incorporated it into their doctrine. By the time Galileo Galilei arrived on the scene in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a geocentric universe had become religious doctrine. (“Geocentric” means “earth-centered.”) The scientists and college professors were Roman Catholics and they followed the scientific/religious teaching of the church.
It sounds good. Man is the center of God’s creation. Man is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. Besides that, the Bible says the sun revolves around the earth. The Bible mentions the sun almost 145 times. Over forty percent of the times it refers to the sun’s motion around the earth. In the other almost sixty percent of the times, it simply refers to the sun as being there, as being hot. Nowhere does the Bible indicate the earth revolves around the sun. It is always that the sun revolves around the earth. Well, if God made the sun, moon and stars, then surely he should know which revolves around which, right?
The church belief that the sun revolved around the earth not only was supported by the Bible, it also glorified man with the belief that the universe was created for no other purpose then for the benefit of man.
To repudiate the belief that the sun revolves around the earth struck at the heart of a cherished belief and doctrine. It contradicted the Bible. It contradicted the church. It contradicted science. It contradicted what seemed evident to the eye. This doctrine was so highly cherished that the church forced Galileo Galilei to recant under pain of death. For the rest of his life he was kept under house arrest.
When Johannes Kepler proved the earth revolved around the sun, it shattered all those illusions. What did it give in return? It gave us a calendar and space travel.
For the first time, an accurate calendar could be created that would be dependable for all humanity to use for marking the seasons, planting and harvesting crops. Up until then, under the error of an earth-centered universe, an accurate calendar was impossible.
It gave us the ability for space travel and all the accompanying inventions. We could never have done what we did in space if the illusion of an earth-centered universe continued for another 1,300 years.
Did the church fall apart? No. Did God cease to exist? No. Was the Bible discarded? No. No harm came from knowing the truth. Only tremendous benefit to humanity resulted from that tough and terrible truth.
But what about the Bible? Doesn’t the Bible demand a geocentric universe? No. Only the wrong interpretation of the Bible demanded a geocentric universe. Throughout the Bible, people expressed their belief in what they saw: the sun circling the earth. A person’s belief is not mandatory for God to accommodate. In the places where God was dealing with people, he was talking to them on their level of understanding. The Bible was not giving a prescription of how God created the universe. Instead, God was simply illustrating another truth by using man’s perception – or misperception.
What can we learn about that story?
- Our cherished beliefs and doctrines can be wrong.
- A wrong belief may seem to honor God more than a truth.
- A wrong belief does not benefit or advance humanity; instead, it always hinders.
- The truth benefits everybody, including and especially the person who formerly held a wrong belief but gave it up for the truth.
- The truth gives us new and better understanding of the Bible and of God.
What shall we do then? If someone challenges our doctrine, that doesn’t mean we’re wrong and he’s right. Instead it means we should listen; perhaps he is standing in for God. If his doctrine is proven wrong – or has already been proven wrong – then dismiss it. (That doesn’t mean our doctrine is right. It just means his was wrong.)
In every case we should strive to embrace the truth because God is Truth and he is the author of truth. Our doctrines, no matter how we strive to praise God in them, should always take second place to Truth. Our doctrine is the gift we give God. Truth is the gift God gives us.
1The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.
2The New International Version,
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.
3The Gospel of John, chapter 9