The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is Clandestine Christianity OK?

Let’s say that a young missionary couple moves to one of those Asian countries that is known for its opposition to Christianity but are not up-front with thier intentions to that country’s government. Let’s say they aquire thier visas by telling them they are English teachers or irregation engineers or something, but their ultimate goal is to subvertly hold Bible studies in thier homes and pray for an increase to lead to a church plant. All the while accepting donations from a ‘home church’ and reporting Gospel successes back home. (never mind whether they will report this taxable income to thier foster country’s gov’t or not)

Is this OK? Or is it a violation of even the 9th commandment about bearing false witness?

Is it better to let folks like, say, Franklin Graham infiltrate these countries? At least Graham is up-front; I’m Christian and have a whole bunch of shoe boxes for your children, let me in.

Keep in mind that I’m from a very traditional church. One where sometimes ends do justify the means, up to a point. We hold to eternal conscious torment for the lost until a once-saved-always-saved conversion, so that factors in heavily. Plucking people out of the fire so to speak.

But how about you guys? Would a Universalist be torn up about this?

Well, Guy, you are asking something along these lines: “is it OK to NOT be ethical on some point, if it benefits the greater good?”. It depends. Suppose you are hiding some people in a closet and a terrorist believes you are telling the truth. And he asks if there is anyone behind the door and you know he intends to kill them - but trusts your honesty. Would you tell him?

Of course, this situation I would argue is different from the first in degree. And if someone in your illustrated situation lies about their intentions, what other areas of life are they lying about? Would you trust such a person?

Then if the host government discovers them and imprisons them - or worse - do we blame the host government for being unethical?

And what about the consequences of other Christian ministers and/or ordinary citizens, who come to the host country under honest circumstances? That person’s actions could have serious consequences for them.

Sorry, Guz. But the situation you point out is NOT the same in consequences as the terrorist one. I wouldn’t sanction their actions, if I was a church or organization leader they belong to.

Keep in mind that I’m from a very traditional church. One where sometimes ends do justify the means, up to a point. We hold to eternal conscious torment for the lost until a once-saved-always-saved conversion, so that factors in heavily. Plucking people out of the fire so to speak.

But how about you guys? Would a Universalist be torn up about this?
A. Guy Posts: 27Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:23 am

Of course it’s unethical but if one believes in ECT then it’s understandable why the motivation may be great to do whatever it takes. In the NT there is never of an example of doing whatever it takes for conversions, in fact Jesus said if they don’t listen then dust off your feet and walk away.

Misinformation (ECT) begets misinformation (duplicity)… one is born/borne of ignorance, the other calculated; one doesn’t justify the other IMO.

I’m trying to see a problem with this example of clandestine Christianity.

The King and Lord of the cosmos has commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Any human “law” restricting the fulfillment of that command is thereby null. It is a non-law. “We must obey God rather than men.” Christianity was illegal in the pagan Roman Empire. If the Christians didn’t every single day break Rome’s “law”, then none of us talking about this would be Christian.

But did they lie about it? Is it OK to lie about your intentions? Does that not signify a lack of faith or courage to do it under a false guise?

Otherwise, it would be no different to deny God verbally in order to convince others to not kill you for said belief… That is to deny even as Peter did to avoid punishment… Seems this would be totally acceptable if one believes we can lie as to our intentions to enter the country. Is it not betrayal to lie? Seems a bit of a slippery slope.

Gabe, it might seem that any form of lying to authorities indicates a lack of faith.
But that great man of faith, Richard Wurmbrand did it. He proclaimed that it was RIGHT to lie to the Communists.
He made up his mind that he would never reveal the names of other Christians to the authorities in Romania so that they would be brought to the place of torment also. When he was tortured to the point that he could no longer endure, he provided names. But they were names of Christians who had either died or left the country.

Menno Simons, the man from which Mennonites get their name lied to the authorities to save his life. When driving a coach, they stopped him and asked, "Is Menno Simons in this coach. Menno hollered down to the covered coach where the passengers rode, “Is Menno Simons down there?” There was no reply. “Menno Simons is not down there!” Menno replied. That which Menno replied was literally true. But the meaning of “lie” is not to state something which is factually false. The meaning of “lie” is to deceive. Menno deceived these men into thinking he was not on the coach. But in my opinion, he did right.

Moral imperatives can be arranged in a hierarchy where some imperatives take precedence over others. The imperative to save a life takes precedence over the imperative not to lie, even if the life you save is your own.

Apples and oranges… “lying” to PRESERVE a human life is an act of goodness, which at least has some biblical precedence (Josh 2:4-6). Lying to spread a doctrinal belief… TOTALLY in a different ballpark. And HOW the two can be conflated as saying the same thing… I don’t think so! (IMO).

The other thing to look at is there is no certain outcome in Guy’s request. Perhaps he could NOT save anyone. He could make things worse. Perhaps his actions get some honest people killed. He might get caught and put in prison. Authorities could then make it difficult for other honest ministers, priests and visitors, In some Asian countries, there is an “official” government sanctioned version of Christianity - like Russia (i.e. Russian Orthodox Church )and China (whatever their version is). The country could be filled with spies and informers (i.e. more likely than not). Take North Korea - for example. Perhaps 1 in 3 people are government informers, along with their official spies. Foreigners are regularly watched and followed. Most likely, this person would never get anything off the ground. It’s a gamble with many possibilities - both good and bad.

Fully agree with you - but that is far different than the scenario talked about in the OP. Hence, Davo said it best - “Apples and Oranges”. As a Christian, I don’t support the OP’s methods. But, say, Cory Tenboom (I know I spelled it wrong) from WWII, IMO she could have lied and remained true to God. She didn’t and God blessed her, but I think she could have lied morally and that God still would have blessed her. But, I guess that is just my opinion. Again, Davo said it best.

Foreigners are regularly watched and followed. Most likely, this person would never get anything off the ground. It’s a gamble with many possibilities - both good and bad.

At this point many folks in some repressive countries have satellite TV using hidden dishes on their roofs disguised as a part of the roof and have the chance to watch Christian TV via satellite or sometimes they have a vision or dream about Jesus. Also the gospel is starting to be delivered over cell phones via new apps using just about any language.

Christ commanded us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He didn’t add to that “unless you are a foreigner trying to enter a nation that forbids Christianity, in which case just stay at home and pray”.

The Church during the days of the pagan Roman Empire lived a life of subterfuge. They didn’t walk-up to Roman officials and loudly state, “I’m a member of the illegal Christian Church!” No. They infiltrated, they were inconspicuous, they were subtle. They smuggled Christian texts to people. They secretly baptized. Etc. When the Romans sniffed them out, they ran away. Only when caught and ordered to burn incense to the emperor did they boldly refuse and go to their deaths as martyrs.

If the early Christians had been “law-abiding citizens”, Christianity would have been stillborn.

At first I would’ve said, divert the train to the track that’s not in service, saving the small group of kids while sacrificing one. But the question they asked really made me think. I would let the train stay it’s course. Those kids on the main track will die and hopefully remind kids not to play on train tracks. I don’t want to see or hear about any children getting run over by trains, so I would have to look away and hold my hands over my ears.

Yet… Paul says to be subject to government… Peter and Paul both said to be law-abiding citizens. There is a big difference from being persecuted because you are being inflammatory vs speaking the truth. Many Christians will say when people call them out for shoddy obnoxious behavior that “I am in good company, as I am persecuted for Jesus sake” No, no and no. You are being persecuted because you are being obnoxious, rude and and inflammatory!

Actually, Cory did lie. She deceived those who would have killed the Jews she was hiding. Deceiving is lying.

They asked, “Where are you hiding the Jews?”

Cory responded, “Under the table.”

Cory’s response was literally true since the Jews were in the basement directly under the table.
Nevertheless, this response was given in order to deceive the Jew killers into thinking she was being sarcastic, as clearly there were no Jews under the table within the room. Thus through this deception, Cory saved the lives of the Jews she was hiding.

That can never be an excuse for disobeying the commandments of the God and Creator of the universe. Christ is the King of kings. Thus when another king orders something contrary to the commandment of the King, that king’s command is immediately nullified by the superior commandment of the King.

To put it in military terms, if a Corporal orders you (a lowly Private) to do something, and his order conflicts with that given you by the General, the Corporal’s “order” is null even before being given. The General out-ranks the Corporal. Similarly, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ out-ranks pagan king Shmuck.

We can lawfully obey King Shmuck’s commands only when they do not contradict the commands of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So this raises a question. How far should we go to preach the gospel? in the original question, it was folks entering the country, disguised as carpenters, etc. - to preach the gospel. Suppose I was a billionaire, right wing, evangelical political Christian. And My mission was to preach my “understanding” of the gospel to North Korea. And I hatch a plan - with my bought army of paid mercenaries - to kill the current leader and overthrow the government. Then I establish a puppet government and preach my “understanding” or “version” of the gospel. Is this right?

So I pose this question: How far should we go to preach the gospel?

The early Christians in pagan Rome were sneaky but not violent. I think they had the right of it.

Unfortunately, I am not so sure that “Christians” got it right in the first place. Certainly Christ is divine, but what he left might not be. The people who decided to call themselves Christian’s - well, maybe they got Jesus all wrong.

Due to the fact that east and the west church split and have at least 4 main different forms of Christianity (Prot, Cath, EO, Anglican) should cause all of us to pause and considere that they all can’t be right. There is a truth that transcends these traditions and that truth is following Jesus Christ for yourself and making bold moves to act on what you believe.

Thanks folks. A few little surprises in the answers.

Steve framed his position well, which gave me an ‘aha’ moment but then I tought that this command may be 1st century specific. Time was of the essence during this particular evengelistic trip. Jesus also said that they would not have time to complete their tour of the cities of Israel.

Geoffrey’s points to a command that is not Israeli specific; but planet wide and timeless.

Davo; I’m sorry but a traditionalist could say the same thing to a Universalist. That misinformation begets misinformation. That sitting on one’s universalists hands lead to horrific results for the unsaved.

Randy makes good points too. Unintended harm could be the result. We just don’t know. I guess we have to trust that if it’s of God, it will proceed and succeed.