Reformed Articles

God of life and truth

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The ultimate reality of which Moses was the shadow, the archetype of which Moses was the ectype, now appeared. The true light (John 1:9), the true grace were now manifested.’ It is in this sense that we are to understand our Lord when he said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’…He is the God of truth and all truth derives its sanctity from him. This is why all untruth or falsehood is wrong; it is a contradiction of that which God is… The necessity of truthfulness in us rests upon God’s truthfulness. As we are to be holy because God is holy, so we are to be truthful because God is truthful. The glory of God is that he is the God of truth; the glory of man is that he is the image of God and therefore ‘of the truth’ (cf John 18:37). It is not without significance that the arch-enemy of God and his kingdom is the father of lies; ‘he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, because he is a liar and the father of it’ (John 8:44).

There are some problem with this inference:

i) Not only is God the exemplar of truth, but as Murray mentions, the exemplar of life. Conversely, Satan is not only the archetypal liar, but the archetypal murderer. 

Likewise, humans are life-givers, through the power of procreation. In that respect, we emulate God–at a finite, derivative level. 

But where does our duty lie if we can save innocent life through an altruistic falsehood? Which of God’s exemplary attributes provides moral guidance in that situation: the God of life or the God of truth? Is our primary obligation in that situation to safeguard truth or to safeguard life? Does the preservation of truth take precedence over the preservation of life? So Murray is arbitrarily selective in his appeal to God’s nature. 

ii) I don’t think we can automatically extrapolate from what’s right for God to what’s right for us. God is not exposed to the vulnerabilities that lead human agents to lie, to get out of the situation. Of course, that doesn’t justify lying in general. But we can find ourselves in dangerous or unjust situations through no fault of our own, where a lie may be the only escape. God is never in that desperate position or predicament. So it’s not analogous. God is not in every respect our role model. In some respects he’s a radically different kind of being, with some unique prerogatives.