Falsehood and the Reasons We Believe It

Image by David Clode on Unsplash

Listen to an audio version of this article read by Blaque Nubon of South Africa

Jesus Christ testified that Satan is a liar. There is no truth in him. All truth is from God. All falsehood is from Satan as he doesn’t speak from God. In John 8:44, Jesus says that Satan is a liar from the beginning, possibly referring to Genesis 3. This article is an exposition of the scene in the garden of Eden and its applications to falsehood and those who listen.

Genesis 3:1 starts with showing the craftiness of the serpent. Craftiness can be positive or negative. In this case, the following verses shows Satan’s evil designs. The word “now” at the beginning of Genesis 3 signals a new movement in the story. The stage is set.

Dialogue 1: muddying God’s commands

In the first dialogue, Satan tries to create doubt in the validity of God’s word by mixing truth with error. He asks Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). He casts doubt. Did God really say? Did God actually say? It is evident that he knows what God said. Nonetheless, he supplies a false proposition in order to question God’s words. In doing so, he obscures what God actually said and succeeds.

Satan tries to create doubt in the validity of God’s word by mixing truth with error

Eve answers the serpent that God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:2-3). Satan blurred the clarity of the Word in Eve’s mind. So now she adds extra commandments to the Lord’s original speech (Genesis 2:16-17). In exaggerating God’s command she makes herself vulnerable to error and Satan’s falsehood. As she is deceived she becomes complicit in the Serpent’s lies.

Dialogue 2: mistaking our desires for God’s promises

But Satan is not done. His desire is for the woman to disobey God. He said that they shall not die and that they will be like God (Genesis 3:4-5). Satan claims that God was not being truthful, or generous, to his creatures. The accuser adds, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). His claim is that God is fooling Adam and Eve, preventing them from being like him. Note what is at stake here: God’s sovereignty and goodness. Satan is telling Eve they can be gods, alongside the only true and living God. The Serpent convinced Eve that God was depriving them, because he is not in fact good.

The first Adam failed. The historical account goes on to say, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” she ate the fruit and gave it to her husband (Genesis 3:6). She claims that the tree God commanded not to eat from was good for food, in gross and foolish contradiction to what God really said. She desires the wisdom promised by Satan above obedience to God. Obviously, her trust in the goodness of God was also broken. She wanted to be a god, together with Adam. What was the consequence? So Paul writes in Romans 5:12, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

The Serpent convinced Eve that God was depriving them, because he is not in fact good

Application of Genesis 3 regarding false teaching

As Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” It is therefore appropriate for us to ask what we can learn from Genesis 3. As I said in my introduction, I will draw some lessons about false teaching from this familiar Old Testament passage.

Mixing Truth and Error

Firstly, false teachers attack the Word of God by sowing doubt. They do so through the mixing of falsehood and truth. Satan did not come to Eve as an atheist or overt opponent of the Creator God. His theology was cunning and subversive. He spoke about God but that does not mean what he said was true.  He expertly mixed truth and error. Similarly today false teachers sprinkle their error with biblical verses and the name of Jesus. Yet when one looks closer they do so in a way that undermines God’s truth.

Satan’s theology was cunning and subversive. He spoke about God but that does not mean what he said was true.  He expertly mixed truth and error.

 

Forgetting the Truth

Secondly, the fall narrative in Genesis 3 demonstrates how false teaching is like a slow poison. It is insidious. The more we tolerate false teaching, the more we forget the truth and doubt God’s authoritative counsel in Scripture. Eve, and Adam for that matter, needed only to evaluate the Serpent’s speech by what God had actually said. This way they could have stamped it out. Obviously, there is room for uncertainty where Scripture is not explicitly clear. However, where it is clear, we should accept it as it is. God is speaking and there is no room for negotiation.

Ambition above Truth

Thirdly, though our first parents were deceived by Satan (Genesis 3:14), their actions make them complicit (Genesis 3:16-17). In fact, their decision to believe error rather than test it by God’s truth left them blameworthy. We might go as far as saying that their sin was the fruit of theological error, not necessarily disbelief but misbelief. As someone said, “Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy.” But Eve’s desires led to neglect of God’s precepts and rebellion against God. Adam and Eve were not simply the victims of trickery. They were guilty of placing themselves and their ambitions above God’s revealed truth. Today, the popularity of much false teaching stems from its invitation to things God has not promised us. We must be discerning, always weighing up what is being claimed by men against truth from God.

Adam and Eve were not simply the victims of trickery. They were guilty of placing themselves and their ambitions above God’s revealed truth

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