Man's Lies, God's Wisdom
Commentary for January 2, 2006 — Old Lies or Progressive Revelation?
Question: At the start of this new year it is always best to identify and cast off the lies of the past and look at the truths that God provides to us as they are progressively revealed in His Word.
The January 2006 Newsletter and the article for this month “The Pagan Immortal Soul and ‘Double Doctrine’” are up on the ASK webpage. The lies of the immortal soul form a major source of the “Double Doctrine” that presents lies to the people in order to have power over their behavior. That practice continues today in all too much religious teaching.
In the past, the Gentiles, pagans, of the past did not have the benefit of God’s revelation. As a result the leaders of various Gentile nations felt it both necessary and efficacious to purposely lie to their own people about facts of religion as a means to control their populations through Double Doctrine.
While many examples are presented in the Newsletter and Article, let me present two additional examples of clear statements, one by an ancient politician and the other by a religious leader.
Varro was a famous politician and rhetorician of the late Roman Empire. The Roman statesman and lawyer Cicero and the church father Augustine called Varro the most learned Roman of his time. After he died Varro was most famous for the 41 volumes of ancient history, human and divine. Only small segments of his work have survived in history, embedded within other authors’ citations. Varro expressed plainly that one of the ways rulers had of controlling their populations was through lies to their people about religion. Note what Augustine (354–430 C.E.) wrote regarding what Varro has to say about those who claim to be the offspring of the gods:
“Varro, a very learned heathen, all but admits that these stories are false, though he does not boldly and confidently say so. But he maintains it is useful for states [governments] that brave men believe, though falsely, that they are descended from the gods; for that thus the human spirit, cherishing the belief of its divine descent, will both more boldly venture into great enterprises, and will carry them out more energetically, and will therefore by its very confidence secure more abundant success. You see how wide a field is opened to falsehood by this opinion of Varro’s, which I have expressed as well as I could in my own words; and how comprehensible it is, that many of the religions and sacred legends should be feigned in a community in which it was judged profitable for the citizens that lies should be told even about the gods themselves.”These outright lies were used for social control and to motivate the people to greatness. This view even pervaded the Christian church. Just before he became Bishop of Cyrene, a neo-Platonist named Synesius (c. 370–415 C.E.) wrote a series of letters. One in particular shows how Synesius, appointed to be a Bishop of a city, felt that it was quite proper to believe completely different than what he was preaching and lie to his own people. In a letter to his brother, Synesius wrote of his misgivings about accepting the appointment to become Bishop of Cyrene. He also discussed the resurrection and the presentation of lies to the common people:
• Augustine, City of God, Book III, chapter 4
“This resurrection, which is an object of common belief, is nothing for me but a sacred and mysterious allegory, and I am far from sharing the views of the vulgar crowd thereon. The philosophic mind, albeit the discerner of truth, admits the employment of falsehood, for the light is to truth what the eye is to the mind. Just as the eye would be injured by an excess of light, and just as darkness is more helpful to those of weak eyesight, even so do I consider that the false may be beneficial to the populace, and the truth injurious to those not strong enough to gaze steadfastly on the radiance of the real being.”
• Synesius, Letter 105
[This letter is from: Essays and Hymns of Synesius translated by A. Fitzgerald (Oxford University Press, 1930). Read the entire letter at http://www.geocities.com/athens/acropolis/5164/sletter105.html.]Both Varro and Synesius were wise men of the world, educated men who understood the realities of life and the necessity to control the meaner and basest nature of their fellow man. Their examples clearly show how God has confused the wise of the world, just as He said he would do, so that they have to lie to their own people under their rule:
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He takes the wise in their own craftiness.’”
• 1 Corinthians 3:19
God does not play the game of lying. Although God hides truth from people (even most people throughout history), God does not lie to people. It is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). God does actively hide even Himself from most people although they should know Him from the things He has made and, in so doing, became fools (Romans 1:20–22):
“Verily you are a God that hides yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior. …God no longer hides Himself from those few whom He has selected to reveal His secrets. To those people He has revealed Himself through His written Word, the Bible. He not only reveals Himself and no longer remains hidden, He reveals even the secret things of Himself, the secret things of God (see Deuteronomy 29:29; Psalm 25:14; Daniel 2:22; Romans 16:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:5).
[God says:] ‘I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek you me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.’”
• Isaiah 45:15, 19
Whatever God reveals to the world, He reveals in words that speak plainly and openly so that in the future judgment all people can understand that God’s truth was available to them. Today it is our honor to seek out those secrets of God (Proverbs 25:2), those secrets that God hides even from the wise of the world.
“Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but [your faith should stand] in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world [eon, age], nor [the wisdom] of the princes of this world [eon, age], that come to naught:In the Bible a “mystery” or a secret does not mean something incomprehensible, but something that is hidden. When that hidden thing is revealed it is by its nature plain and intelligible. As explained in Dr. Martin’s chapter “Progressive Revelation, Part 1” and “Progressive Revelation, Part 2” in his book The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine, many things that God reveals to mankind He reveals in stages, progressively step-by-step, in His own good time.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery [secret], even the hidden [wisdom concealed], which God ordained before the world [eons, ages] unto our glory.”
• 1 Corinthians 2:5–7
Those things that God concealed and subsequently revealed to us (us who believe in the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, the Christ), have been given to us as a privilege and it is to our eventual glory for us to have that wisdom of God.
Having been given the great privilege to know secrets that not even the wise of the world have been given to know, we should appreciate and acknowledge through prayer the goodness, mercy, and grace of God. Seek God diligently, earnestly, honestly, and God shall reward you in His own way, in His own time. You shall find Him.
“He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
• Hebrews 11:6
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