I received another one of those emails calling me a liar. It comes with the territory. It was not that my particular view was wrong, misinformed, or even misguided. Nope. I was a liar. I was deliberately misleading people. I knew the truth, but I withheld it, so that I could consciously exchange it for something that is false. This was merely another case of the ol’ bait-and-switch tactic. I was a “liar from the pit of hell.”

I am often humored by the extreme rhetoric that some Christians employ, but never more so than when people become so loose with the accusations about lying. Maybe humored is the wrong word, as it’s a very disturbed type of humor.

The presupposition is this: Whenever someone teaches something we disagree with, the method employed to combat such is to accuse the teacher of lying. In other words, if someone does not teach the truth as it stands in our opinion, they are lying. Period. No question about it.  Since I am right and they are wrong about the issues, they must be liars. That is the only solution, right?

Be careful with such rhetoric. Better yet, let’s just stop it.

I read it on blogs and hear these accusations in debates. It is the default position in the media. Christians—well-meaning Christians—use such rhetoric in blogs, sermons, books, articles, and on Facebook, all the while proclaiming to defend the faith.

According to the dictionary, a lie is “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.”

There are a couple of things to note here. A lie is intentional and deceptive. It is not simply something that is untrue. Inherent in deception is the assumption of intent to make someone believe something that the teller knows is false.

I do believe there are times when people teach something that could truly be called a lie. I could give many examples. But when our default position is the conclusion that someone who teaches something we believe to be wrong must be lying, then we have big problems.

Four come to mind immediately.

1. Most of the time, people who teach wrongly about something are not lying, they are just convinced of a wrong position. It is that simple. There is no need to denigrate the person’s morality. There are many things that I believe and teach that are wrong (of course, if I knew what they were, I would change my teaching!). I am not lying when I teach them. I may be deceived by a lie, but my deception is genuine. In other words, people who teach something that is not true usually truly believe that it is true. Therefore, they are not lying.

2. Extreme rhetoric such as this can often be a sign of personal insecurity about our own position and our ability to defend it. I see it all the time. If you are ignorant, but passionate about your own position, things are often more black and white than they would be otherwise. I just tweeted this today, “Often, the more militant you are, the less confident you are. Calm down. Be cool. Excessive combativeness can evidence insecurity.”

3. Using such rhetoric is emotional manipulation. The one who uses it is frequently attempting to play on people’s emotions in order to heighten the sense of urgency for them to reject the opposing beliefs. While defending what we believe to be true is mandated in Scripture, we are to do it with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). Calling someone a liar as the default method of engagement and evaluation of their teaching is not gentle and shows no respect. Saying, “That is a lie from the pit of hell” is not only presumptive and easy to say, but manipulative, playing on your own emotions as well as others’.

4. It does not really work. Our generation is already suspicious of a person’s ability to come to know truth to the exclusion of other alternatives. Rhetoric such as this is a clear sign of hostile ignorance, and will quickly serve only to disperse an audience that may need to listen. A few loose accusations such as this and they won’t trust anything you say (or you will have to resort to preaching only to your choir).

Truth, doctrine, belief, and the Gospel are too important to spice up with emotionally charged rhetoric that is easily dismissed. I do believe Catholics are wrong – seriously wrong – with regard to their view of justification by faith alone and the authority of the church/Pope. But I don’t think they are necessarily being intentionally deceptive. I believe Arminianism is wrong with regards to election, but I don’t think Arminians are liars. Rather, they are simply and personally convinced of something that I am not. (This is not meant to say that I believe that the error of Arminians is equally as wrong as the error of Catholics).

Main Point: Anyone, including me, may be deceived, but it does not mean that we are deceiving. We may be spreading a lie, an untruth, or misinformation, but that does not mean we are liars.

People believe things for a reason. The best way to engage the issue is not to assume intentional deception, but to be willing to study and learn in order to find out why people believe what they believe. You may end up discovering that they have good reasons for believing the way they do, even if you remain personally unconvinced.

If you want to represent your position well, don’t attack the opposition with such rhetoric. The key is to be cool. Passionate, but cool. Then, when and if you do feel it necessary to employ such rhetoric, it will be seen as intentional and serious. People will take you seriously.

Whether you are a pastor, teacher, blogger, poster on this blog, or just a living, breathing person (that should cover everyone), be careful. This is, simply put, an ad hominem (attacking the person rather than the position) argument. You should be confident enough in your position that you do not feel compelled to resort to such childish maneuvers. Anything else dishonors God, as much as you believe the opposing belief is dishonoring God.

1 Pet 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Don’t forget the last part. Be cool.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    23 replies to "Liar from the Pit of Hell"

    • Ed Kratz

      Nice! I wish this could be widely understood and embraced.

    • Michael Bell

      “There are many things that I believe and teach that are wrong (if I knew what they were, I would change). ”

      Ok, one word for you. Calvinism. There you go. You no longer have an excuse! 😉

    • cherylu

      Thanks for this post, Michael.

      And I’m sorry you have been lambasted in that way.

    • Michael Bell

      To be serious for a moment though. I thought your post was very well written.

    • Doc

      So, if I understand you correctly, the person that called you a liar is a liar?

      But – ahem! – to be serious, if I may: too many people confuse the Scriptures (which are inspired) with their interpretation of Scripture (which is not inspired). And “their interpretation” must be understood broadly so as to include their tradition, their church, their pastor, their seminary, their their.

      Not a lot of humility involved in such dogmatism.

      Curious: Is it possible to call someone a liar in an irenic manner? I figured you’d know if anyone would. 😉

    • Nice statement from C. Barton! Sadly, the blog itself seems to bring out the worst of some people? And of course a liar is someone who does not speak the truth or a truth on purpose. And only God never lies! Some people sadly think the end justifies the means.

      Dogma or dogmatics is always right, but we also must have some sense of humility, and of course hopefully at least the path and pattern of doctrinal truth. If we have Christ, and seek the Spirit.. we will find “truth”, but too we must “study, or be diligent in our handing (accurately), the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

    • Btw, Calvin was a man of truth! The Text & Study! 😉 Though certainly not infallible!

    • Judy

      This is true in politics as well. We question the motives of the ‘other side’ rather than just debating the facts. The other side is ‘evil’ and deceptive rather than just wanting the best as well but seeing a different way to get there.

    • Colby

      Honest question: Can a person describe a certain teaching as a lie (formulated by a different intentional deceiver), without implicating the one teaching as a liar?

      When I teach things I hold to be true I am rarely the originator of said idea or “fact.” As you said, I may in fact be spreading a lie without knowing it to be so or knowing the deceptive intent of the one from whom the idea originated.

      Honest disclaimer: I did not write the email in question and I love more than anything a logical and well thought out discussion of all viewpoints on any theological topic…even if the originators of the ideas were liars

    • Ken Moorer

      Thank you for this post! This was right on time. I see this extreme behavior all the time.

    • Donnie

      I’d rather discuss the “from hell” part of the accusation. Can someone actually be FROM hell? Can a person originate in hell or is hell purely a destination? Once in hell is there a chance of returning to spread lies? If not, isn’t this person lying about the doctrine of hell? or are they just mistaken? I’m just sayin…

    • C Michael Patton

      Hell as a metonymy for the devil I suppose. :/)

    • Steve Martin

      Thanks be to God that we are not saved by our perfect doctrine. Nobody’d get in.

      But we do learn. And. as St. Paul said, “there is a more excellent way.”

      And everybody knows that St. Paul was a Lutheran 😀

    • Brian Roden

      I’ve had to correct a lady at church who accused her preteen daughter of lying, when the daughter was stating the facts as she knew them. The mother just had more facts.

    • Perhaps man/humanity without Christ does originate in hell, i.e. death, spiritual death?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      I have to confess.

      I did not write that e-mail to CMP.

    • C Barton

      I’ve heard that phrase many times before: ” . . .from the pit of hell.”, as well as, “So heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good”, and a rather boorish litany of epithets, none of which really communicate anything enduring.
      The “pit of hell” part is simple acrimony, and a little knife-twisting!

    • Paul Wilkinson

      It’s impossible to have on objective test as to whether a person has simply become convinced of something handed down to them from someone else, or is themselves advancing a deception. It would be nice if there were such a test, for example, if their pants were on fire.

      But a greater problem is that some people seem naturally predisposed to believe a false teaching or false report about a Christian author or organization. It’s like there is something in their spiritual DNA that simply wants to believe an untruth, or that fascinates them about a distorted doctrine to the point of obsession.

      When so much fresh air is available, why desire to breathe polluted air?

    • C Barton

      Paul W.: Good point! I wonder if there is a “Spiritual lie detector” that reveals the intent to deceive? It’s probably more a product of discernment and experience. Even so, there are scriptures about false teachers whose conscience is “seared”, meaning (best guess) that they no longer feel guilt about lying, etc., so they would pass as good guys.
      There is a tactic known as, “demonizing the opponent”, which sounds close to the “pit of hell” thing, literally.
      In war the first casualty is truth, yet in our battles, the truth is that which we defend.

    • Mark Ducharme

      ”There are many things that I believe and teach that are wrong (of course, if I knew what they were, I would change my teaching!).”

      And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22

      What are we to “seek first”? The Kingdom. What is the Kingdom? God Himself. What is God? His Spirit. What is His Spirit? Truth – absolute & perfect.

      “… how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:13

      To say you KNOW you are TEACHING things that are not true is not humility, but surrender to the flesh (& or the spirit of this world) as opposed to surrender to the will of God. James chapter 4 addresses this and, FWIW, it is the Word which judges (effectively), not me or ANY man.

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