Romans 3:7 - Is Paul a Liar?

Dear Mr Green,

Whilst reading the introduction to your material, "Uncomfortable Questions: An Authoritative Exposition", I was somewhat distressed to find the following comments:

"When this prejudice is combined with the interests of Christian missionary activities we can dismiss completely any resemblance of impartiality and honesty. Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian Missionaries with whom J. Smith is involved. It seems they have only the slightest hesitation in deceiving and telling outright lies.

Indeed this is not something surprising after having been taught this unscrupulous doctrine by their predecessor in deception, namely Paul, who we find declaring: 'If through my falsehood God's truthfulness abounds to His glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner.' (Romans 3:7), thereby disregarding and contradicting his own book where we read: 'A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.' (Proverbs 14:5)."

A cursory reading suggests that Paul is teaching Christians to deceive, and anyone who had never read the Bible might be lead to believe that in fact this is the case. Now I do not consider myself qualified to comment on much of what was in the article -- I'm a second year Biochemistry student, not a theologian or a historian, and I've been a Christian for less than a year -- but if I quote the remark in context, what the Bible actually says is this:

"What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some did not have faith? Will there lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.'

But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? that God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, 'If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increase his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?' Why not say -- as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim we say -- 'Let us do evil that good may result'? Their condemnation is deserved." (Romans 3:1-8)

In verse 7 Paul is quoting a hypothetical argument that someone might use in order to justify lying: having quoted this argument he then refutes it! There is no way in which, having read the quotation in context, you could honestly accuse Paul of deception by teaching Christians to tell falsehoods, nor could you accuse him of contradicting Proverbs 14:5.

Now I can accept this was an honest mistake, and I can understand that you feel very strongly about this issue -- so do I otherwise I would not be writing this -- but please, in future, before you quote a verse from the Bible (or the Qur'an for you Christian debaters out there) check the context. In quoting this verse out of context you have become guilty of that which you accuse Christians (and particularly J. Smith): namely lying and deception.

As I said previously, I have no qualification to comment on the rest of your material, and I must confess that at the time of writing I have not had time to read the whole document; but it would be good if you could revise your paper to correct this mistake.

Bart Read

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