Taking Liberties with the Truth
“Let the buyer beware” applies to things we read as well as to things we buy.
TRUTH is important to man. It can mean the difference between life and death, riches and poverty, health and sickness, misery and happiness. With good reason does the Bible command: “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—Eph. 4:25.
But because man is fallen, imperfect, weak and selfish he often takes liberties with the truth. While at times this may be due to emotionalism, misguided zeal or a lack of the facts, not infrequently it cannot be so excused but must be charged to dishonesty, to a deliberate attempt to deceive for the purpose of advancing one’s viewpoint, cause or profit.
Man’s proneness to take liberties with the truth might be said to be more or less taken for granted in the business world. So much is this the case that caveat emptor, that is, “Let the buyer beware,” is a recognized principle. In an effort to protect its people from this human tendency to take liberties with the truth, some governments have special departments concerned with honest advertising and labeling of products. Thus early in 1963 the United States government issued regulations requiring shoe manufacturers to state plainly in their advertising and labels just what was leather and what was not and whether it was first class, top-grain leather, or not.
But what is not so generally appreciated is that the principle of caveat emptor should be kept in mind when one is buying ideas, that is, when he is reading articles or books that are trying to “sell” him on a certain viewpoint, philosophy or religious idea. Writers of such articles or books may, for reasons of their own, be just as likely to be tempted to take liberties with the truth. This may be done very subtly, at times simply by ignoring certain pertinent facts in discussing a certain subject.
For example, today modernistic theologians as a rule do not believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, generally known as the Pentateuch, and in particular the fifth book, Deuteronomy. However, when discussing just who could have written it, not a few of these studiously ignore any reference to what Deuteronomy itself has to say about who wrote it:
“It came about that as soon as Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book until their completion, Moses began to command the Levites, the carriers of the ark of Jehovah’s covenant, saying: ‘Taking this book of the law, you must place it at the side of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah your God, and it must serve as a witness there against you.’” Surely to ignore this plain statement in discussing who wrote the book of Deuteronomy as though the Bible left it anonymous is taking liberties with the truth.—Deut. 31:24-26.
SECTARIAN TRIFLING WITH TRUTH
To quote something out of context is another device by which some play free with the truth. Thus every now and then there comes in the mail of the publishers of this journal what is purported to be the “Knights of Columbus Oath.” This document attributes extreme fanaticism to the Roman Catholic fraternal organization by that name. Accompanying this purported oath usually are remarks to the effect that this oath appeared in the Congressional Record of the United States Congress.
That this oath was published in that Record is true; but what is not true is that it is the Knights of Columbus oath. Rather, it was put into the Congressional Record as an example of the depths to which some men will stoop in attacking a man running for office on the basis of his religion. Surely to present such an oath as genuine because it appeared in the Congressional Record is taking liberties with the truth.
Then again, truths may be stated in such a way as to imply a false conclusion, which is another way of playing free or taking liberties with the truth. Thus one William J. Whalen, a Roman Catholic “layman,” who advertises himself as an authority on Jehovah’s witnesses, and even boasts of his being objective in his appraisal of them, that is, to be honest and free from emotional bias in discussing them, stated in a magazine article regarding the former president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, “Though he coined the watchword, ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die,’ the judge died in 1942.”
Now, both statements are true. Rutherford did coin that statement and he did die in 1942. But what is not true is the implication expressed by the word “though,” as if Rutherford expected to be one of those “millions.” As Whalen well knows, the witnesses of Jehovah teach that there is one salvation for all those exercising faith in Jesus Christ, but two destinies, an earthly one and a heavenly one. The heavenly one, which is for Jesus Christ and the members of his “bride,” is limited to 144,000, and to gain that destiny it is necessary that one die. Rutherford had the hope of realizing that destiny and so expected to die. The “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” slogan he applied only to the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” mentioned in the Scriptures at Revelation 7:9 and John 10:16, whose destiny is an earthly paradise. Therefore it is palpably dishonest, a taking of liberties with the truth, for a man who professes to be an authority on Jehovah’s witnesses and claims to be writing objectively, so to misrepresent matters, as though Rutherford himself expected to be one of the ‘millions now living that will never die.’
In this same magazine article, which is now being reprinted in pamphlet form, Whalen charges Jehovah’s witnesses with teaching that “Caesar is Satan.” But not so. It is one thing to say that Caesar is a part of the world whose god, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, is Satan, and something entirely different to say that Caesar is Satan himself. Jehovah’s witnesses have always held that they must “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar,” and so must be subject to Caesar so long as he does not require anything that directly conflicts with God’s law, in which case the rule applies: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” But as for Satan the Devil, they have always held that they must resist him at all times. Therefore, to say that Jehovah’s witnesses believe that Caesar is Satan is to prejudice the governments against Jehovah’s witnesses and obviously is taking liberties with the truth. It is of interest to note that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day took like liberties with the truth in order to prejudice the rulers against him.—Mark 12:17; Acts 5:29; Luke 23:2.
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE
There is also much taking of liberties with the truth in the name of science, especially by evolutionists. Sweeping, groundless assertions are stated as facts regarding man’s origin and ascent or descent from the lower animals. A scientist who with righteous indignation comes to grips with this matter of taking liberties with the truth is Ivar Lissner, Ph.D., whose books have been published in fourteen languages. In his latest book, published in 1961, and entitled “But God Was There,”* he speaks of “the ineffable stupidity of all attempts to reconstruct Neanderthal or even Peking man. Exaggeratedly hirsute [hairy] plaster figures of bestial mien glower savagely at us in museums all over the world, their features usually chocolate-brown in color, their hair wild and unkempt, their jaws prognathous [sticking forward] and their foreheads receding—and this despite the fact that we have absolutely no idea what color Paleolithic man’s skin was or how his hair grew and virtually no idea of his physiognomy” or facial features. “The American authority T. D. Stewart rightly pointed out in 1948 the impossibility of reconstructing hair, eyes, nose, lips or facial expression. ‘The probabilities are that the expression of early man was not less benign than our own,’ he wrote.
“When a museum displays models of Peking man, Neanderthal man and modern Homo sapiens [man] side by side, it encourages a conception of physical and intellectual development which is not in accord with the views of contemporary science. Those who make such models tend to give their imagination free rein. . . . The exhibition of these half-human, half animal figures is symptomatic of the moral arrogance of our era and latently inspired by a smug feeling of ‘look how far we’ve come!’” In his book scientist Lissner shows that man at all times was far removed from the lower creation and at all times had some form of religion. In one of his closing chapters he therefore asks, “Why do we cling so stubbornly to outmoded theories? Why do we prefer to look for our origins in the animal rather than in God?” Obviously because they do not want to recognize the debt of gratitude they owe the Creator nor their need to be in subjection to him. They refuse to admit the truth that “Jehovah is God. It is he that made us, and not we ourselves.”—Ps. 100:3.
The foregoing illustrations, which could be multiplied many times over, certainly do incriminate certain ones of being guilty of stretching the truth, and that from motives that are suspect. Since this is so, the principle of caveat emptor, “Let the buyer beware,” is one that all should keep in mind when hearing or reading anything that claims to be the truth and upon which belief or actions are to be based. As the Bible, the Word of God, says: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”—1 Thess. 5:21.
This is the literal translation from the German, which reads, “Aber Gott War Da.” The English translation is entitled “Man, God and Magic.”