Can We Believe the Lies?

Rock art at Nampaweap, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona
Rock art at Nampaweap, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona

There’s been a debate going around my world of Christianity recently about the truth vs. deception.  Specifically, the debaters ask: Can you still be saved and yet be deceived?  In other words, can you believe a lie as a Christian?  Some would even say, “Can you have the Holy Spirit within you and still become deceived?”

The Triplets and Cascade Peak from Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington
The Triplets and Cascade Peak from Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington

This debate stems from the focus of Christians on truth and doctrine ever since the Reformation.  The leaders of that day were trying to sort out what God had said – truth – from what their spiritual leaders told them was true – too often corrupted with traditions, assumptions, and misinterpretations.  Today, we still cling to truth because, as the Bible says, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  There’s a lot of talk in the Bible about believing the truth and keeping yourself from false doctrine.

Boardwalk in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Boardwalk in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Knowing the truth is a good thing; believing it is even better.  Holding onto truth and wisdom is the way to life (Proverbs 3:16).

Zapata Falls, Colorado
Zapata Falls, Colorado

So the question remains: Can a Christian believe a lie or a deception and still be a Christian?  To answer that, let’s look at the Galatians.  Paul wrote them a short but passionate letter about 50AD.  He condemned them for believing lies that were preached to them – things that were contrary to what He had taught them.  He doesn’t doubt their faith even while they are believing the deception – only that they might lose their salvation through the continued pursuit of things that aren’t full of faith in the New Covenant (Galatians 4:11).

Mt. Moran from the north end of Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Mt. Moran from the north end of Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Even Peter was living under deception – and there’s no question that He had the Holy Spirit.  He believed – firmly – that only Jews could be saved.  But God took him through an experience that taught him that Gentiles were also invited into the Kingdom of God (see Acts 10:1-35).

I-80 in the Delaware Water Gap from Mt. Minsi, Pennsylvania
I-80 in the Delaware Water Gap from Mt. Minsi, Pennsylvania

So to say that a born-again Christian who has the Holy Spirit can’t be deceived doesn’t hold water.  It’s sort of like going out into the wilderness with a map and compass and then saying, “We can’t possibly be on the wrong trail.  I have a map and a compass; what more do I need?”

A genuine waterfall in a fake slot canyon in the Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah
A genuine waterfall in a fake slot canyon in the Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah

As an avid hiker, I can tell you that maps are great and compasses can get you into and out of some pretty crazy situations, but neither one will keep you off of the wrong trail if you’ve chosen to go the wrong way.  You can look at a map and believe you’re in one place when in reality you’re quite somewhere else.  Even a GPS doesn’t necessarily keep you on the right trail at times (I’m thinking of Duck Pass… which was a fairly successful hike despite the GPS not having all of the information that I needed!)

Most of the trail up this valley to Duck Pass was under snow... Inyo National Forest, California
Most of the trail up this valley to Duck Pass was under snow…

The good news is that, while we can believe lies as Christians, the Holy Spirit is in us to direct us toward the truth.  So while we may choose to believe a deception and even live in that lie, as long as we’re pursuing God He can turn us around and set us straight.  In the example of Peter, he could so easily have ignored the vision and refused to go with the visitors – and God would have used someone else, but Peter would have walked further into deception.  Listen to God, test what you believe against Him and His Word, and let Him lead you into all truth.