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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Strong Grip of the Lie

Unbelievably strong.

Truth Exchange (4)

But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them
is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” Acts 4.15, 16

Blind reason?
Indeed, a “notable miracle” had been done by Peter and John, done in the name of truth – the healing of a lame man – by merely pronouncing the Name of Jesus upon him. Many had witnessed that work just as it was recorded by Luke. Not even the religious leaders of the day could deny that this remarkable work had happened, a good work, and one which reasonable people would wish to see multiplied. It was true. They had seen it, and so had a good many other people.

It’s reasonable to respond to truth, especially when it takes the form of a good work done for a helpless person, with interest, enthusiasm, and appreciation.

But the Name of Jesus was such a threat to the pretended autonomy of those religious leaders that they would not accept what they could not deny. Though they knew the truth, they refused to embrace it, preferring instead to redouble their efforts to preserve their autonomy. They exchanged the truth they had seen and knew, for the lie which deceived and misled them.

The power of the lie can be very great, causing otherwise reasonable and responsible people to deny what is true but perhaps uncomfortably obvious, and to cling to what can never satisfy their deepest wants and needs.

No amount of evidence or argument will persuade people to embrace the truth so long as they continue to hide behind the lie, in whatever form, as their benchmark explanation for life. As the discipline of argumentative theory demonstrates, people do not typically employ reason as a tool for discovering truth, but for defending and vindicating their chosen perspective on life. That is, people begin the reasoning process with what they already believe and cherish – even though those beliefs may be wrong – then bend their arguments and reason to defend that perspective. And when that perspective is the lie, and wrong belief defines the parameters of thought, all justifications, reasons, and proofs will simply reinforce the starting point of the argument.

And this is precisely what we see happening with the religious leaders in Acts 4.

The record of Christianity
This truth is obvious in our own day. As Rodney Stark, Tom Holland, and others have shown, Christianity has been a source of enormous good throughout the course of human history. Even institutions and conventions cherished and enjoyed by our unbelieving contemporaries have their origins in the Christian movement – the arts and sciences, universal and higher education, campaigns for literacy and good health, capitalism and democratic forms of government, hospitals and charitable organizations of all kinds.

Christians created the first free hospitals, cared for victims of plague and war, and took in orphans and outcasts. They created laws to elevate the status of women and the poor, denounced and worked to eliminate lewd and barbaric entertainments, taught literacy, freed slaves, produced an enormous amount of literature in vernacular languages, started schools and universities, improved conditions for workers and prisoners, created standards of high quality in craftsmanship and the arts, built cities, turned swamps into fertile fields, and laid the foundations of the modern scientific enterprise.

This glorious record of achievement, grounded in the truth that is in Jesus, is clear and undeniable. Except, of course, for those who choose not to be moved by it.

Christians are not perfect, and the Christian movement has much to decry in its record. In the main, however, and contrary to the claims of such detractors as Bertrand Russell, Christianity has been a source, not of more evil, but of more good in the world than any other religion, philosophy, political party, or social movement. Nevertheless, so strong is the power of the lie that, even though people may acknowledge the truth of Christian achievement, past and present, they will not turn to God and believe the Gospel, but entrench themselves even more solidly in the foolish ways of the lie.

Something more powerful
Something more powerful than reason, logic, and evidence is required to break people free of the strong grip of the lie and bring them into the light of truth. We cannot reason people out of their folly. At best, reason can set the stage for the greater power of God’s Word and Spirit, by creating doubts, challenging inconsistencies, and reminding those who live on the lie side of the human divide that much of what they take for granted as good and useful is the fruit of the grace of God and the truth that is found in Jesus. Indeed, sowing doubt into the confident blindness of wrong believers is an important step in pointing them to the truth, as Michael Polanyi explained: “Yet where the metaphysical believer cannot hope to convince, he may still strive to convert. Though powerless to argue with the nihilist, he may yet succeed in conveying to him the intimation of a mental satisfaction which is lacking; and this intimation may start in him a process of conversion” (Science, Faith and Society).

The only power that can liberate people from the lie is the truth that is in Jesus, applied by His Spirit. And God’s determined way of bringing that truth to prisoners of the lie is for those who know the truth that is in Jesus to so live and proclaim the Good News of His Kingdom, praying that the Spirit of God will be pleased to work in His power – spiritual power – to subdue the hearts, transform the minds, convert the souls, and save the lives of those who cannot break free of the strong grip of the lie by their own strength or wits.

The lie is blinding and powerful, but the truth of God, lived and proclaimed, can prevail where reason fails, and help those who are dead in their trespasses and sin find new life in Jesus on the truth side of the human divide (Eph. 2.1-10).

For reflection or discussion
1.  In what ways have you experienced the blinding power of the lie (or of sin)?

2.  Can you see the blinding power of the lie at work in our society? Can you give some examples?

3.  Why is reason alone powerless to free people from the blinding power of the lie? What more than reason is needed to bring people into the light of truth?

Next steps – Preparation: What is the Gospel? That is, in a concise statement, what is the truth that is in Jesus Christ? Write a brief outline of the Gospel of the Kingdom as you might share it.

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

For help in being clear about the Gospel and in preparing to share it with others, order your free copies of our book, The Gospel of the Kingdom and Joy to Your World!, by clicking here and here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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