December 18, 2017

Believing the Lie

a peril of present times

Don Johnson

2 Thessalonians 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

With respect to 2 Thess 2.11, the context makes clear that the apostle is referring to the end times and the delusion that will bring the nations and people of the world under the sway of the Antichrist. A student of prophecy will be aware of this expectation and perhaps will not give it much thought. The end times, though imminent, are yet far away. “It is sometime in the nebulous future, but not my future,” we think, so we might view the teaching somewhat academically and miss present applications.

Have you ever wondered how it is that people will be so easily deceived en masse to believe The Lie?

Careful consideration of history and even our present times ought to demonstrate how easy it is for people to believe outrageous falsehoods, sometimes ordering their entire lives based on these false beliefs. From this observation one ought to ask a sober question: how many lies to I believe?

You have no doubt heard of the belief that the earth is flat. When I learned about Christopher Columbus in grade school, I recall hearing that “everyone” thought the earth was flat and that Columbus faced great opposition, especially from the Church, as he set out to gain sponsorship for his voyage of exploration. The fact is that most scholars of the Middle Ages believed in a spherical earth and the relationship between church and science is far more complex than some would have you believe. The idea that Columbus had to overcome “flat earth” views is a myth perpetrated by some with a grudge against the church. Yet I was taught it as fact in my school days.[1]

Recently I have read a good deal of American Civil War history. I realize the history remains a sore spot in the national consciousness, so I won’t get into much detail, but it is interesting to read in many sources the confidence of some combatants, both blue and grey, asserting that “the war will be over in a month,” all that was required was one good whipping (from one side or the other) and the losing side would sue for peace at any cost (or sentiments along those lines). There are a number of other notions each side sold itself in preparing and prosecuting the war. Looking back through the cold light of history, many of the notions people of the day believed seem astonishingly naïve. Yet blood was spilled and lives were lost in the prosecution of often false ideals.

How is it that myths often take hold of the national consciousness in a wide-spread way? Less than thirty years ago, almost 60% of Americans thought homosexuality itself should be illegal (the question of homosexual marriage was hardly on anyone’s mind in those days). (See here for data.) Today, you can barely express such ideas in public. What changed everyone’s mind?

I would suggest that by and large the “mind of the public” is formed by the constant repetition of the myth to the point at which the falsehood has been repeated so many times by so many people that many accept it as truth. The medium by which the myth of the “flat earth theory” or Northern or Southern “invincibility” was spread varied with the technology of the time, but our current society finds itself in the midst of a culture where we are bombarded with media in many forms. Twenty-four-hour news channels must fill their air time with something. As soon as some major event occurs, they are “on it like a fat kid on cake” and the story is explored from every possible angle yet always from the world-view of the purveyor of “news.” The stories are repeated online by various news sources and by countless private citizens, chatting with one another via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and who knows what else. A general (anti-God) consensus quickly forms and nudges public opinion in the direction of the world’s way of thinking.

The myths of homosexuality are so widespread they are now being repeated within the evangelical church — allegedly conservative believers are beginning to repeat some of them. (See our recent report on the ETS for some samples.) Most of our readers will be familiar with this phenomenon. Hopefully you are shocked by it and a bit mystified as to how it is happening and how our world is changing so fast.

Given these observations (and I am sure we would not have to look hard to find many more), it is not all that surprising that when the Antichrist shows on the scene, the people of the earth will be only too glad to adopt the strong delusion and believe the lie.

But all of this is merely illustration material for my main point: human beings are very susceptible to falsehood. We were born children of the devil, the father of lies (John 8.44), and though regenerated, believers are still susceptible to falsehood of many kinds. On the internet, I notice Christians repeating certain “truths” (of the right wing conservative political variety, mostly). Sometimes I see things repeated that I am sure are false. I don’t like to get into arguments with friends, so I (mostly) just ignore it. Occasionally I have written to a friend, with a link to, for example, in hopes that they will temper some of the zeal for a mythical cause. Incredibly, I’ve received replies at times along this line, “Well, that may be true, but X is an evil organization and we still should warn people.” With falsehood?

· I am not against gun ownership, but, brethren, is everything we say and believe about guns true?

· I oppose the doctrines, lifestyle, culture of Islam, but, brethren, is everything we repeat about Islam true?

· I am against unfettered and poorly screened acceptance of refugees, but, brethren, is everything we say about refugees and immigration true?

These are hot topics today and we are emotionally involved. There are some who want to manipulate our emotions and gain our support by pandering to fear. We are concerned about peace and safety. We are concerned about the degradation of our culture and the life we lead. But are we, perhaps, deceiving and being deceived by the things we accept as true and propagate to others?

Think about it.

I am probably more conservative politically than most. But I don’t trust conservative politicians to bring about the peace and security I long for. I recognize they are fallen human beings. Most of them are conservative for pragmatic reasons. Very few are principled conservatives (which explains their voting patterns once they get elected). My hope is not in men to solve the mess we are in.

Nor am I advocating that we abandon conservative political involvement. Perhaps we can have an influence if we prudently support just causes and politicians who will at least to some degree implement our political wishes. But I am very concerned with our tendency to become overwhelmed with falsehoods to the point where we are simply repeating myths to one another and believing them to be true.

Our hope is not in men; it is in the Lord. Let us test every spirit, believe the Bible, discern God’s will for our nation and rely on him for our peace and safety.

Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.

  1. See Wikipedia for more details, and see here for the history of the ‘flat earth view’. []

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