False Narratives And Those Who Perpetrate Them

False Narratives And Those Who Perpetrate Them

False narratives are an affront to God and damaging both to those who promote them and those who are slandered by them. God never lies and is the God of truth (Titus 1:2). The person who traffics in lies—concocts stories and accusations that are not true—breaks the ninth commandment and sins first and foremost against God. In a day when sin is not taken nearly seriously enough, those who regard the Bible should pause and soberly consider what God says about lying.

Jesus said of the devil, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6).

No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes” (Psalm 101:7).

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22).

There are more, but those verses are sufficient to show that the person who perpetuates lies is acting like the devil and making themselves liable to God’s judgment. Anyone who fears God should tremble at the thought of spreading false narratives before His very face.

Such malicious activity is also a violation of love because bearing false witness against your neighbor can be deadly for the one about whom you lie. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). This has been sadly illustrated countless times throughout history. 

This is what happened to our Lord. After Jesus healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees and Herodians began to plot a way “to destroy him” (Mark 3:6). They had a goal in mind, an agenda. All they needed was a plan to execute it. That plan included having Him falsely arrested and unjustly condemned by the testimony of false witnesses. Mark succinctly describes the success of their plot:

Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree (Mark 14:55-59).

Their lies didn’t have to agree. They merely had to further the narrative that this Man deserved to die. 

A false narrative is a conclusion in search of an argument. It is an agenda in need of patrons, a goal that, in the mind of the narrator, is worthy of being supported by lies because, you know, the end is so noble that it fully justifies the means. 

Anyone who fears God should tremble at the thought of spreading false narratives before His very face.

Because false narratives are inherently unscrupulous and ungodly, no Christian should ever traffic in them. Yet, too many who bear the Name of Christ do exactly that today. In fact, in our tribal age the zeal to justify “my side” can easily numb otherwise well-meaning believers to the biblical standards of truth-telling.

I was reminded of this last week when I received a text asking me if claims made in a series of tweets by Stephen Feinstein, a pastor in California, were true. I’ve met Stephen and believe him to be a sincere, faithful pastor. The story that Stephen told (which involved me at several significant points) to rebuke people for promoting false narratives was simply not true. When I pointed this out to him in the same forum where he had made his assertions, he apologized and deleted his false comments (which is proper and greatly appreciated).

A far more serious and insidious false narrative has been perpetrated against John MacArthur in recent weeks. Sadly, that is not uncommon because there are numerous people who always seem ready to spread unfounded accusations about him. Rachael Denhollander is simply one of the latest and most outspoken of his critics to employ this strategy against Pastor MacArthur.

Mrs. Denhollander is well-known in the evangelical world for her faithful witness for Christ as she testified against rapist, Dr. Larry Nassar when he was convicted of sexually abusing numerous girls on the US women’s gymnastics team. Since then, she has been an outspoken advocate for sex abuse victims. At times, sadly, her zeal as an advocate has led her to perpetuate falsehoods in pursuit of what she believes is justice.

Most recently, she and her followers have boldly accused MacArthur of being closely associated with Bill Gothard and working to resolve claims of abuse by Gothard to avoid litigation. The conclusion that these false charges were meant to support is that MacArthur and Gothard are birds of a feather and all the unbiblical teachings of the latter on authority and submission should be attributed to the former. When those in positions to know sought to refute or even question the accusations they were assured that there are plenty of receipts, including “photographic evidence.” 

Such “evidence,” Denhollander claims, demonstrates that “they were closely aligned during that era.” Furthermore, she boldly claims, “I also have first-hand information directly from individuals involved in both ministries at the time.” All of this sounds convincing, and it is to people who have no interest in truth. Because all those claims are, in fact, false. 

If there were ever any doubt about this, Ron Henzel has completely erased it with his thorough, measured, and devastating critique of the false narrative that has been concocted, believed, and promoted by those who should know better. You should go read it here. If you have believed and spread the false narrative Denhollander et al have spread and you are a Christian, you should repent. Jesus died for just such sins, and He freely forgives us all our sins, so there is no reason to pretend or try to cover up when we sin. Christians are repenters as well as believers. 

Scripture is filled with warnings against bearing false witness—against lying. It is also not silent about believing lies or believing any accusation without careful warrant. “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Paul reiterates this in the New Testament, instructing Christians to be especially careful about entertaining accusations against elders without warrant. “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). If these and other passages about being careful were taken seriously by Christians, the false narratives would die quickly after leaving the lips (or keyboard) of the talebearer (For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases, Proverbs 26:20).

False narratives should be renounced by every follower of Jesus Christ. After all, He is the truth. Those who belong to Him should walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). We should, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

Follow Tom Ascol:

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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