Esse quam videri

He was a military leader like none other. His exploits “were considered classics of military strategy.”1 He’s been described as “more courageous” than all other soldiers, “more imaginative” than all his fellow generals, and “more daring” than all other field officers.2 Serving “with distinction in one battle after another,”3 this American military leader at one point even used his own savings to help the American cause.4 He had his horse shot out from under him during one battle, but he acted so courageously that Congress gave him a promotion in rank. Also, “as a token of their admiration of his gallant conduct,” lawmakers awarded him a new horse.5

Yet, even before the war had reached an end, he seriously considered leaving the military. The commander of the armed forces urged him to stay, however, because he valued his contributions to the war effort and his savvy as a military leader.6 The commander later appointed him to serve as commandant at Philadelphia.7 Eventually, based on this same commander’s trust, this military leader was given command of West Point, a strategic stronghold during the war.8

This general was none other than Benedict Arnold. Arnold had grown resentful when other, less experienced men had been promoted, even as he was not. Also, having grown convinced that the Colonists would lose the war, he decided to turn against them.9 Following through, he gave detailed plans of West Point to British Major John André. Had André been able to deliver the plans to other British soldiers, the Americans probably would have lost the war.10 Fortunately, however, the British officer was captured before he was able to complete his mission.

While a great many words can be used to describe Arnold’s treason, one stands out. At Arnold’s hands (and, we also might say, at the hands evil spiritual forces, for America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles) a lie threatened what would become American independence, freedom, and liberty. Put another way, it was only when the truth about Arnold was discovered and necessary actions were taken that Arnold’s deception was rendered powerless.

This is not a discussion of military tactics, including lies and spying during warfare. Rather, the lesson of Benedict Arnold is presented to illustrate profound spiritual truths, including the potentially devastating power of a lie and the liberating power of the truth to overcome it.

The writings of the apostle Paul echo these principles. In what we now know as chapter 10 of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul declared,

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The word translated strongholds in verse 4 is especially significant. Used nowhere else in the New Testament, this Greek word can mean “a castle or a fortress.” It doesn’t mean a literal building in 2 Corinthians 10:4, however—it refers to the ideas on which an individual relies, the rationale a person uses to bolster and defend his opinion against God’s reality or truth.11 Verse 5 affirms this very thing when it elaborates on what “pulling down strongholds” (v. 4) means. Again, verse 5 says, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Couldn’t we say, then, that a stronghold is either a lie or a system of lies standing contrary to the truth of God? How else can a lie be overcome but by its corresponding truth? The Latin phrase Esse quam videri, which means “To be, rather than to seem,”12 says it succinctly. This is the motto for the state of North Carolina.


All the biblical truths we’ve highlighted thus far are entirely consistent with everything Paul wrote about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-17. Of all the equipment in the armor of God—

  • the belt of truth,
  • the breastplate of righteousness,
  • the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace,
  • the shield of faith,
  • the helmet of salvation, and
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word—

only the sword is an offensive weapon. Strongholds cannot be torn down when we hold an exclusively defensive posture. And what is God’s Word? Jesus revealed the answer to this question in John 17:17. It is truth. We note that since truth is represented by both a belt and a sword, it has both defensive and offensive capabilities. Only truth, however, is an offensive weapon.

Eve learned that God’s Word is truth the hard way (just as we also often have). The serpent questioned God in her presence in Genesis 3:1; then in verse 4 he flatly contradicted what God had said. In other words, he lied. While Eve thought eating the forbidden fruit would liberate her, she found that it actually put her, and all of humanity as well, in bondage.13

Just as was true at the dawn of time and centuries ago in American history, lies continue to pose ominous threats to liberty. We must never underestimate the destructive potential of such lies—including the lie that the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family can be redefined to mean whatever government wants them to mean, to affirm whatever behavior patterns people find enjoyable and acceptable, to normalize behavior that goes against nature and nature’s God. As a nation, we will follow this lie to our own peril.

Fully armed for spiritual warfare, Christians must engage this falsehood head-on to tear it down and to reestablish God’s truth on marriage and the family as the cultural standard and as national policy, just as has been the case in our history until only recently. We do this not to enslave, but to liberate! Indeed, as Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Let us keep in mind that as Americans, we have been fortunate to live in a land where the founding documents, including most obviously the Declaration of Independence in this case, affirm that liberties come from God. Contending for the biblical view of marriage and the family is therefore American in the most authentic sense of the word.

Recalling Benedict Arnold once again, let’s make just a few more observations.

  • The truth about Benedict Arnold was offensive—and
  • the lie about him was pleasurable to hear. Even so,
  • the lie about Arnold was far more destructive than it was soothing; and,
  • because the Colonists were willing to respond, the truth was far more liberating than it was tough to accept.


George Washington, the commander of the armed forces who previously had praised Arnold, communicated to his men the news of the discovery Arnold’s treachery. He described the treason as being “of the blackest dye” but joyfully affirmed that it had “been timely discovered, to prevent…fatal misfortune.” He added, “The Providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of Divine Protection.”14 He conveyed the same basic idea when he used these words to summarize the situation: “In no instance since the commencement of the War has the interposition of Providence appeared more conspicuous.”15

Thankfully, God intervened in America’s early days to give people an opportunity to allow the truth about Benedict Arnold to liberate.16 Let’s pray that He will intervene again and that the truth about marriage and the family will be upheld. Whether or not He intervenes through the Supreme Court, we as His people must cooperate with Him to lovingly yet forthrightly and boldly contend for the truth about marriage and the family in all our spheres of influence—not to impose anything on anyone, but for the benefit of all, that all may enjoy true freedom and liberty.

Read the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage.


Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Update, added July 7, 2016

Here’s the point of application for us today. At the most rudimentary of levels, homosexuality is a lie! Same-sex marriage is a lie! So are other sins. They are lies because they deny the realities that God has set up in human relationships and in the natural world. When we understand this, we can comprehend the urgency of warning those who have been deceived and encouraging them to take a path consistent with the truth.


1Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1637.


4Toby Mac and Michael Tait, Under God, (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 162.


6Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.


8Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1638.

9Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.

10Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 162.



13Star Parker’s story is but one modern example of this same principle. Read it and listen to it at

14,15Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 164.

16While it’s true that the lie Arnold perpetrated was, in one sense, a different kind of lie than the lies promoted about marriage today, in another sense a lie is a lie. We note again that we are using Arnold’s deception to illustrate a point. Focus on the parallels between these scenarios and the lessons that arise from history.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.