Mistakes & False Deception – Is There a Difference Between the Two?

Here are two questions I would like to put forth and here some answers:

Is there a difference between a) something being wrong as a mistake and b) something being wrong as false and deceptive?

Is there a difference between a) someone being in error as a mistake and b) someone being in error as false and deceptive?

Feel free to discuss in the comment box below.


28 thoughts on “Mistakes & False Deception – Is There a Difference Between the Two?

  1. Both come down to intent, which is subjective and impossible for us to determine in another person. We have tools and techniques that we can try to employ to read another’s heart, but really it’s a guessing game. Only God knows the intents of the heart, which is why we are repeatedly told NOT to judge each other but often to judge ourselves. The Spirit will show us the intent of our OWN hearts, not those of others.

    The worst condition of the four you have there is someone being in error as a mistake. They THINK they are correct, and so continue to push their belief as the truth, not KNOWING that they are pushing a lie. It’s a case of someone who is sincere (in their own heart), but sincerely WRONG.

    Many people would claim that most of the rest of Christianity suffers from this condition, because they judge others against the truth they have decided for in their own heart. They spend more time judging other people’s opinions rather than admitting that it’s possible the truth they have always believed is not necessarily the truth, but another opinion that they have judged as better than others.

    As for most of what’s wrong with the world, this all boils down to pride. People are proud of the positions they hold because they “figured it out” (after weighing the all the evidence – or so they believe), and so they hold a personal worth to that position, which makes them feel superior to those who hold a different position (a “less enlightened” position, so they feel).

    If people could just learn to be humble no matter WHAT position they hold, and be willing to admit that though this makes sense to them AT THIS TIME, that their may be new evidence (or a more logical, compelling argument) that could change their mind, we would all be much better off.

    At least that’s what I think (at this time). 🙂

  2. I’m not sure I can find a worthwhile distinction between being wrong and being in error, so the question for me comes to whether there is a meaningful difference between being merely mistaken and purposefully advancing a falsehood. Differences depend upon standard. Aside from the clear rhetorical difference, God seems to consistently judge those with understanding more severely than the ignorant (see: Israel). He makes this distinction because humans are created to live according to His hokmah, and to act in contrast with knowledge is different kind of perversion than to act with consistency according to foolish beliefs.

    So… Yes.

  3. As to the first question, I see no real difference in the actual thing that’s wrong or error. It doesn’t matter if someone mistakenly says that Obama was the first president of the US or deceptively says it; the fact is that the statement is wrong no matter what.

    As to the second question, yes, there’s a difference between someone being mistaken and someone being deceptive. This is an issue of intent. One can be mistaken and relay wrong information without intending to be deceptive. The intent to deceive is morally wrong while being mistaken is factually wrong. Two different things.

  4. There may be a useful distinction to be made, and indeed, an enormous difference between the two in some cases. For instance: The Biblical authors who depicted a dome over the earth were wrong but had no way of knowing that they were. Modern-day young-earth creationists are liars because they do not accept the evidence which is available to them.

    • Unless, of course, at the TIME, there WAS a dome over the earth which is now not there. Perhaps the “dome” fell to the earth in the form of, oh, I don’t know, WATER, and a lot of it. 🙂

      Not saying it WAS, just saying that until we have concrete evidence to the contrary, it IS possible.

      • Except that the dome over the earth is said to be holding back the water above it. And any water that “fell” is said to have returned to where it came from….

      • Returned where it came from? Really? Who says that? I don’t doubt you, just never heard that one before. I think it’s still here, like in the oceans. I think there was much less water on the earth when it was first created. Somewhere in the order of a 50/50 ratio, rather than the 70/30 water to land ratio we have now.

      • Well, I read most of that blog post, but it was difficult. The author is very confrontational and twists scriptures to make it say what he would like it to say.

        Receded can mean returned, but it doesn’t have to. If I pour a cup of water over a pile of dirt. The water will “recede” away from the dirt towards the edges. It didn’t return to the cup but it still receded.

        And the firmament can refer to both a pre-flood layer of water over the earth, and can still refer to the sky today, which separates us from the heavens (space), and STILL contains water.

        There is no great broken cosmography here except the one people want to find so they can say the Bible writers didn’t know how the universe worked therefore they can’t be relied upon to know ANYTHING, therefore I don’t have to listen to anything said in the Bible, and therefore, I am not accountable to God for any decision of faith concerning Christ.

        It’s using “knowledge”, and the pride in such, to keep people from Christ, something Lucifer has done since Eve.

      • Seriously, Ken? Pages of Bible references that indicate a documented ancient cosmology of the time is trying to keep people from coming to Christ? And THEY are the ones making assumptions? ROFL

      • It can’t refer to the water because linguistically it denotes something solid, and it is also explicitly said to be that which holds up the waters above, and thus is distinguished from the waters themselves.

        I realize you think that you must defend the Bible being compatible with what we today know, lest its entire message be put in doubt. But if you have to twist the meaning of Scripture in order to claim it is accurate, you are not in fact defending Scripture. it is better to be honest, and accept that what these authors had to say about God, they expressed in terms of their understanding of the world, their own limited human perspective, just as we do.

        I do not understand why this is such a sticking point for some people. If God did not force correct grammar on these authors – something that some people are capable of even without a miraculous intervention – then why would anyone insist that he imposed correct science on them?

      • James, it’s not a sticking point for me. I completely agree with you that the authors of the Bible did the best they could with the information about the earth that they had. But if you read the post that was linked to, you will see that this guy claims that because GOD is quoted as saying these things that are obviously “wrong” about the earth, that the Bible is simply incorporating cultural mistakes about the make-up of the earth, and therefore (by inference) is just a product of it’s times and has no real relevance for today.

        He can’t conceive that #1, even if God was “speaking”, it was through a human, with a finite concept of the world as it was understood at that time (which might even, shocking, have included common cultural inferences). and #2, that if God WAS directly quoted, He might actually use language which people of that time would understand more completely rather than revealing the true nature of the universe, especially, when in most of the verses quoted, the point was usually something about HIS nature, not the nature of the universe or world.

        And that kind of stick-out-my-tongue at the Bible attitude really gets under my skin. The pride oozing from the page was just so thick, it was really hard to read (I just had to start skimming it after a few pages).

        I just wish there was a little more humility involved when people talk about the Bible. I don’t think it’s perfect, or that you have to believe every literal word to find a relationship with Christ, but it still deserves more respect than that.

      • The truth can be harsh, sometimes. It is precisely because some are willing to posit outlandish scenarios for which there is no evidence (except for evidence against them) and twist both the Bible and science in an attempt to have the Bible be allegedly accurate, that leads to the opposing view that if the Bible is wrong about science, therefore there is no God. It is the creationists themselves who must bear the responsibility for creating this opposing view through their own obstinate rejection of science and Scripture and their own deceptive and deceitful tactics.

      • I’m glad you’re not saying it WAS. If you were, you might have to give a bit more detail. For instance, how high up was the water before it fell?

        If it was in orbit, its kinetic and gravitational energy as it fell would ensure that it arrived as superheated steam, killing everything on the ground.

        If it was somehow sitting in or on top of the atmosphere, the air pressure at ground level would have been hundreds of times what it is now. As it fell and released the pressure, everyone would have died of the bends, and suffocated from the fall in oxygen levels.

        You see? Possibilities have to be coherent before they are worth considering.

      • David, yes, I admit there are many scientific issues involved with my hypothesis. I don’t know how God did it, but I believe it was something LIKE that. I’m OK not knowing until I get to heaven (and then I probably won’t really care). But James calling creationists “liars” because they say it’s possible that something like that existed is a bit too harsh, in my mind’s eye. That’s what initially got my hackles up.

    • Yep. Satan offered Eve knowledge over faith and a relationship with God and she picked it (so did Adam with full understanding of what he was doing, unlike Eve, who was simply deceived), and man has been making that same choice ever since.

      Knowledge puffs up, separating man from God, while faith humbles, bringing man close to God.

      • Two quotes…

        “To the ancient Near Eastern mindset, including that of the Hebrews, the
        earth did not move (except for earthquakes) and the sun revolved around that immovable earth. They did not know that the earth was spinning one thousand miles an hour and flying through space at 65,000 miles an hour. Evidently, God did not consider it important enough to correct this primitive inaccurate

        “… Job affirms the three-tiered universe of waters of the Abyss below him (v. 5) and under that Sheol (v. 6), with pillars holding up the heavens (v. 11). Later in the same book, God himself speaks about the earth laid on foundations (38:4), sinking its bases and cornerstone like a building (38:5-6). Ancient peoples believed the earth was on top of some other object like the back of a turtle, and that it was too heavy to float on the waters.”

        Sure sounds like that to me.

  5. I think there IS a difference. One shows a lack of perfection. The other not only shows a lack of perfection, but also a lack of judgment or discretion. The Bible seems to put Eve in a separate class from Adam because she was deceived.

  6. Is there a difference between a) something being wrong as a mistake and b) something being wrong as false and deceptive?

    Is there a difference between a) someone being in error as a mistake and b) someone being in error as false and deceptive?

    I’m ignoring the comments (some of which should know better) in this post.
    Unfortunately, I think both of these are being presented differently in the question which automatically makes them different. (A) is presented as a state of being mistaken whereas (B) is presented as an action of depicting “false” or depicting “deception”. In other words the question essentially is “is there a difference between being mistaken and being deceptive?”

    Well surely, when it’s asked that way. Being deceptive is where one professes error—perhaps while knowing truth.

    But let’s move that to the side and consider a more fundamental question: is there a difference between being wrong and being deceived.

    Imagine an atheist. She doesn’t believe that there is a god. She is mistaken. There is actually a god—the Living God who created her. But she is not merely mistaken, she has actually fallen for an obvious lie: she is fundamentally deceived. By whom? Well, without arguing the point: the devil, the world, and her own lusts. She doesn’t see it that way though. She sees that she is right and professes this as right. Now, she is not only in error she is also being deceptive. She is spreading the lie.

    Okay, that’s easy: being mistaken and being deceived are essentially the same in that they reveal an underscoring Truth principle. On the one hand, the person has not appropriated the truth and on the other the person has been duped (by whatever, including self) to accept a lie. When they then profess the lie as truth, even if they really think it is truth, they are being deceptive about the actual truth of the thing.

    Let’s push it then. Say you have a math problem 2x+4=10 and you formulate that x=6. But you even checked your math and show me the proof that 6+4 does equal 10 so you’re sure you are right. But you’re actually wrong. You made a mistake in your math. Not only that, you were deceived by something along the way which led to the mistake. Maybe it was a stray number. Maybe it was a leap of thinking. Maybe a stray eraser mark. Or maybe it was your lovely wife strutting by the computer with your favorite articles of clothing. Who knows. The fact is that you have been fundamentally deceived (by whatever) and that accounts for your mistake…and vice versa. You are fundamentally mistaken about the truth and that is why you are deceived.

    Expand outwards to two (more) Biblical examples. Agabus receives a vision of Paul being wrapped in rope. He interprets the vision as a warning that Paul should not go to Jerusalem because if he goes he will be bound up by the Jews. He is mistaken on several levels. But how was he mistaken? Well, not because he received a deceiving spirit but rather because he is afraid of Paul getting arrested (or whatever). The correct interpretation (the truth of the matter) was If Paul goes to Jerusalem, he will be arrested, full stop.

    Second example: Ahab wants to fight against Ramoth Gilead. As part of a contract he has to ask God. So he checks with 400 prophets and they all say exactly what he wants to hear “the lord is with you.” His contract specifies that he needs to talk to a real prophet so he goes gets Micaiah with an idea: this prophet (unlike the hired prophets) always prophesies against him. The prophet comes along and tells him exactly what he wants but then he knows he’s lying. After all, this prophet (he believes) always prophesies against him. Now the prophet tells him the truth: a lying spirit was sent so that Ahab deceived but he’ll tell the truth. Ahab will be killed in battle.

    The king receives the truth, it is against him (just as he was expecting), is actually not from one of his own prophets but he mistakenly believes Micaiah is lying when he’s telling the truth. Why? Well, apparently he was deceived by his own prophets but that on account of being mistaken about God.

    Deception and Error have a cyclical nature then. One is mistaken when they are deceived and one is deceived to be mistaken. And apparently it expands to big things (like Ahab and atheism) or very small things (like the mistaken belief and self-deception that I can dunk just like Michael Jordan).

    Intentions don’t have anything to do with it. What has everything to do with it is the truthfulness or falseness of the thing one is being mistaken/deceived about.

    Note a final example of the devil with evil: she was mistaken that she would touch the fruit and die. No, young woman, you won’t die. And yet, she was utterly deceived. For on that very day she would be separated from God. Intentions were in play but they had no hand in deciding if she was mistaken or deceived; all that mattered was if it was true that she would die—whatever that meant.

    So there is fundamentally no difference between being wrong and being deceived.
    But a follow up question: is there a difference between not knowing and being wrong?

    In that case, most definitely a very real difference. I may not know what my dog is doing upstairs right now. I don’t have a false belief about where she is (the kids screamed “Sophie’s upstairs!” and there is barking coming from upstairs) so being mistaken/deceived-by-whatever isn’t at play. I just don’t know what she is doing. I can imagine things—false things—and convince myself into believing what I want her to be doing: sleeping in her crate. But if it isn’t true I’m merely deceiving myself into mistaken beliefs. But, if I’m agnostic about what she’s doing I’m not mistaken, I’m just not committed to believing one of my scenarios. They are, for me, all equally viable but I just don’t have the knowledge content to commit to any except that she is upstairs.
    Well, maybe this now lets the (legitimate and utterly hypothetical) agnostic off the hook. He has done his research on God but just doesn’t know if he’s there or not. He really doesn’t have a clue if God is there or not so is he mistaken? Well, no: he just doesn’t know if God is there or not. Unlike the atheist, he believes a proposition that includes the existence and non-existence of God.

    So our atheist friend believed “It is true that there is No God” (false belief/self-decption) while our agnostic friend believes “It is either true or false that there is a God ; likewise it is either true or false that there is No God; both of these cannot be equally true” which is undeniably true.

  7. I would agree with Brian. Intent is important. Also, the questions are incredibly subjective. What is true for one person may not be true for another. No don’t mishear me, I believe in truths but we must have respect for those who disagree within the bounds of orthodoxy. I like what Peterson said about Bell during the Love Wins hoopla,

    “Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister. We have different ways of looking at things, but we are all a part of the kingdom of God. And I don’t think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight. I think that’s bad family manners.

    I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell says. But I think they’re worth saying. I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people. I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another.

    I knew that people would jump on me for writing the endorsement. I wrote the endorsement because I would like people to listen to him. He may not be right. But he’s doing something worth doing. There’s so much polarization in the evangelical church that it’s a true scandal. We’ve got to learn how to talk to each other and listen to each other in a civil way.”

  8. James –

    It’s fine for me.

    All –

    I’m reserving any comments until I ponder more what people are saying and noting. I might write up a follow-up post with some of my own ponderings.

  9. I would say with regard to both prompts that the answer is yes, there is a difference.

    For example, in the Old Testament law, there were differing punishments and regulations for when a person was killed by accident or on purpose. If you don’t fence in your oxen and it ends up trampling people, that sort of thing. Even contemporary law recognizes the difference, by differentiating between “manslaughter” versus more aggressive/intentional crimes. Manslaughter and such is more like a mistake, lack of knowledge, or negligence.

    Related to this, but somewhat different, is the classic distinction between sins of commission (sinning by things which we do), and sins of omission (sinning by not taking certain actions). An example of “commission” is lying or stealing or murdering, and an example of “omission” is not rescuing someone in need, or not giving money to the poor, etc. The difference between what you’re talking about in your original questions and sins of omission is knowledge: are we aware of the situation? Was it intentional, or simply a mistake?

  10. Pingback: Is there or ‘aint there mistakes the Bible?

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