What Hypocrisy Really Tells Us

PleaseConvinceMe Blog

0-hypocrisyChristians are all hypocrites! How often do apologists for the faith encounter that objection? Jim discussed it last week as he hosted the Stand to Reason radio broadcast, and his comments got me thinking about the subject. He said a couple of things: that yes, there are hypocrites in the church, at least in the sense that none of us can actually and fully live up to what the Christian faith commands. But more significantly, hypocrisy isn’t about simply failing to live up to the rules; it’s about being duplicitous about it. It’s about celebrating the things we shouldn’t do, about not properly regretting the sins that we commit. What my reflections brought into focus was that this prevalence of hypocrisy – and the recognition that it is wrong – are actually more consistent with the existence of God than with atheism.

Hypocrisy is not a modern phenomenon. Jesus himself condemned it repeatedly in addressing the religious leaders of his day. They sought power and influence by using their elevated status to suppress and burden people. I would venture to say that every culture in the world, and throughout all periods of time, has recognized, and reviled, hypocrites. The root of the word provides some explanation: the Greek word from which it derives meant a “stage actor,” a person who is not what he appears to be. In modern usage, it carries of course a very negative connotation: “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs” or “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”

So, hypocrisy is not simply failing to live up to a set of expectations. As Jim pointed out, that is inherent in human nature. No, hypocrisy involves something more calculated…


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