Last Sunday, we covered the 9th Commandment in our series on the 10 Commandments. (To listen, click here or subscribe to the podcast here.) For those with an academic disposition, I (Jeff) thought you might enjoy this academic article on when it might be permissible to lie.
In it Paul Copan writes:
About 12 years ago I was lecturing in a philosophy class at a university in Indiana, and a student asked me: “Is it morally permissible to deceive Nazis at your door if you are hiding Jews in your basement?”
He continued: “If you say ‘yes,’ then this means that, on your view, ethics is relative and based on circumstances. On the one hand, Christians like you say it’s wrong to deceive, but then in this situation a lot of Christians will say it’s okay to deceive to save a life. But if you take that perspective, you are basically undermining universal morality — a view that insists on objective moral standards that are true for all people regardless of the circumstances.”
Was this student on track in his thinking? How should we respond to this kind of question? Does the Bible — in addition to rational reflection — give us any guidance about dealing with ethical conflicts like this? Is deception ever permissible? If it is, does this undermine universal moral truths?