Note: I was provided a complimentary advance copy of the second edition of this book without coercion toward a positive review. Unless, of course, I was deceived…
The occasion of this book is the backlash against David Daleiden and his organization’s release of undercover videos documenting the monstrous practices of Planned Parenthood. How can the deception involved in undercover work be justifiable for Christians and believers?
Torrey’s outline builds the foundation for his ultimate argument by looking at God’s relationship to deception (chapter 1), man’s use of deception (chapter 2), a brief survey of deception in Genesis (chapter 3), and the penultimate chapter deals with the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who deceived Pharaoh in defense of Hebrew baby boys (chapter 4). The final chapter addresses objections.
Torrey seeks to distinguish between lying and deception; he further distinguishes between sinful and holy deception. Holy deception is “any form of deception that subverts injustice in support of righteous judgment of God” (Foreword).
It’s an interesting distinction, and one I haven’t thought of nor heard taught before. As defined above and explained in the following chapters, it seems to be a useful definition. It’s specific enough to be testable; it actually has boundaries beyond Justice Breyer’s “know it when I see it” vagueness.
The question of Rahab’s deception of the King of Jericho’s Brute Squad is one I have been asked before, and at that point, I answered in line with the objectors to holy deception: the lie was sin, but God used it for His purposes nonetheless. However, I feel the weight of the argument presented here: she’s commended for her righteousness, and the deception is a necessary component of that righteousness. She could not have spared the spies without it.
One possible rejoinder to this argument would be that Hebrews 11 speaks from the perspective of justification, not the reality of the moment. What we see in Hebrews 11 is the way Jesus views justified sinners, not a commentary on particular, discrete acts in the moment. Even justified sinners’ obedience is still tainted by sin until we reach the full measure of Christlikeness for which we have been saved. In that case, the lie would be forgiven, and all that remains to be seen in Rahab, now that she’s justified, is her faith in the promises of God.
Chapter 4 addresses the direct parallel to our times: the Hebrew midwives, represented by Shiphrah and Puah, defy Pharaoh’s decree to murder Hebrew baby boys and lie to defend themselves. (Interestingly, not only do they lie, but they also take a cheap shot at the weakness of Egyptian women.) It’s a powerful chapter.
Chapter 5 seeks to answer some common objections, namely, isn’t deception antithetical to God’s nature? Isn’t it lying and therefore prohibited by the eighth commandment? Isn’t it basically situational ethics (ends justifying the means)?
Brevity is a feature of the book, not a bug, so my desire for further discussion about the objections doesn’t fall within the scope of the author’s intent. I’d definitely like to probe the parallel between sleep as non-natural and non-sinful and deception as the same. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I would absolutely be interested in diving deeper.
This line from the final chapter was particularly important for not only the objection it answers but also the concept as a whole: “holy deception is not defined by the ends or conclusion. It is defined by what it glorifies and defends” (32).
A Lying Spirit is a well-thought, thought-provoking look at a fascinating and immediately applicable subject. My thanks to Joshua Torrey and Torrey Publishing for the review text, and may we all receive double portions of the Spirit of Shiphrah and Puah to defend children against the Pharaohs and Herods of our day.