At first, he seemed like the ideal man. Intelligent. Suave. Indelibly romantic. He could deliver compliments the way Michelangelo wielded paintbrushes. And according to the online dating algorithm, he and she were a 100% match. How was she supposed to know that the man stealing her heart was also stealing her $300,000?
Unfortunately, rip-off relationships and other scams have cost victims over $76.8 million so far this year alone.1 The tactics vary, but the patterns repeat themselves. A mysterious caller insists your computer needs immediate repairs. An online seller needs you to wire cash to a third party. A stranger named Prince Kackalacka emails you about a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity to import platinum-spitting ferrets from Abuja. Whatever the hooks of your own friendly neighbourhood conmen, you’ve probably noticed that their different approaches share a few recurring themes:
- A problem requires you to send money or personal information to fix it.
- Insecure money transfers happen before goods or services trade hands.
- A deal sounds impossibly good.
Now imagine that the stakes are higher.
Like, life-or-death kind of high.
We’re talking now about scams that cost not millions of dollars, but millions of eternal souls. What if those kinds of eternity-impacting lies also shared recurring tell-tale patterns? And what if those lies were embedded in the ideological brick and mortar of our own cultures?
To find out, let’s look at four of the key teachings which secular cultures embrace:
Lie 1: God’s word isn’t completely true
The Bible, states this lie, is a collection of ancient myths. It includes some potentially good reading material thanks to its literary value, historical influence and moral advice, but modern science has firmly established its central tenets as fictitious.
This idea that God’s word isn’t completely true is quite literally the oldest lie in the book, first whispered in a woman’s ear in a certain garden at the edge of time:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:1-4, NKJV.
Today, as in Eden, the question Did God really say…? rings in our ears to make us second-guess God’s messages, character, and the veracity of His word. And today, like then, we face many different messages which insist, with a familiar hissing voice, that the opposite of what God says might be true; or, that at least, if we ignore His words, the consequences won’t be so bad.
How scripture responds:
- God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19, NKJV
- The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Psalm 119:160, NKJV
- Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Proverbs 30:5, NKJV
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 1 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV
- And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation 2 Peter 1:19-20
Lie 2: You can be like God.
According to this lie, in fact, you might be God already. Maybe everybody is. Because if humans have no Creator, then Divine privileges like deciding what’s right and wrong belong to us. Our lives and destinies belong to us. The power to command our individual and collective courses according to our will belongs to us, and we can do whatever we want.
This message, You can be like God, is another lie as old as time, recorded first in that same conversation between Eve and the serpent:
God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:5
How Scripture responds:
- Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. Psalm 100:3a, NKJV
- Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. Isaiah 43:11, NKJV
- Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Mark 12:29, NKJV
Lie 3: Truth is up to you
Even if there were a God, says this lie, then all paths would lead to Him anyway. So it doesn’t really matter what you believe, so long as you don’t hurt anybody.2 If it works for you, then it’s right. Just don’t inflict your truth claim on me.
This sort of relativism, which has numerous problems that I touched on in 5 Consequences of Societies that Forget God, is the central teaching of postmodernism. And we don’t need to look far—at least, no farther than the nearest university campus—to see that postmodernism is secular culture’s favourite approach to reality.
How Scripture Responds:
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6, NKJV
- Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
- The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:9-10, NKJV
- Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV
Lie 4: Jesus is less than God
He was probably a good guy, according to this lie, if He existed at all. His disciples were (and still are) a bit nuts though, and probably made too much ado about him. Eventually the whole thing blew up into a series of radical tall-tales, legends which probably borrowed from pagan myths.3 Draw your own conclusions, but don’t tell me there’s anything about me that He needs to fix.
How Scripture Responds:
- Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61b-62
- Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58
- For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Peter 2:16 NKJV
- But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. Hebrews 1:8
- By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:2-3.
Now here’s the surprise: these top four lies of secular culture are the same top four lies which characterize countless other false teachings, including various other worldviews, cults and the occult.
These lies might not all appear together in any given teaching, the way they do in secular culture, and they probably won’t all take the same form. But look into any other worldview, and you’ll almost certainly find a spin-off of at least one of these recurring lies.
This might sound a little harsh. Some will ask, “How could you claim that truth is so closed-minded and exclusive?” Fortunately, though, it’s not my claim. The Apostle Paul himself referenced the exclusive truth of the gospel, telling Galatian Christians that anything besides it is false:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9, NKJV
At this point, the astute critical thinker might stop me and say, “Now, Patricia. The four ‘lies’ you’ve mentioned here all directly oppose key Christian doctrines, so OF COURSE non-Christian worldviews are going to have these non-Christian statements in common, and OF COURSE you and Paul would be expected to say that they’re false.”
Good thinking. However, the astute critical thinker who keeps thinking critically would soon realize, “But wait. I guess it’s a fallacy to say that something must not be true because the person who’s saying it would be expected to say it. Whether a statement is expected is irrelevant to whether it’s true. And I guess it makes sense that if the Bible is true, anything that opposes its key teachings would be false, because that’s the way truth works.”
Again, good thinking. After all, for any one truth, there can be an infinite number of lies. And those lies, no matter how different, all share one thing in common: the opposition of that truth. For example, for the one truth My English first name is Patricia, there could be infinite untruths claiming that I’m named something else, like Victoria, Patrick, Fried Chicken or Zophar the Naamathite. Those statements are pretty diverse, but they all agree that my name isn’t Patricia. This is how diverse teachings which oppose the key doctrines of Scripture also work together.
Furthermore, the fact that diverse false teachings share the same four lies in different forms is exactly what we’d expect to see if the Bible were true. That’s because Scripture states that all lies stem from one source:
[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44,b NIV.
It makes sense, then, that different scams from the same con artist should share similar themes. And because false teaching will only grow louder, more pervasive and more persuasive as history progresses (see Mathew 24:24, Timothy 3:13 & 4:3-4, and 2 Peter 2:1-2), being able to recognize and resist those lies will be more important than ever.
This we can do by knowing God, consuming His word, and being aware of the enemy’s key tactics and recurring themes (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Then, we can avoid falling for the ultimate relationship scam whenever that suave serpent appears, attractive as a glimmery fishing lure, to court our immortal souls.
Notes and References
- Interestingly, although otherwise postmodern thinkers usually want to add the disclaimer “so long as you don’t hurt anyone” to the statement that you can believe and do whatever you want, postmodernism provides no foundation for this disclaimer. The absolutist claim that hurting others should be avoided is, rather, founded in an Absolute Lawgiver, who gave us scriptures like Romans 13:9-10, cited in-text.
- This has been thoroughly countered elsewhere, for instance in an article available at https://evidenceandanswers.org/article/pagan-connection-did-christianity-borrow-from-mystery-religions/