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How Skeptics Use a Partial Truth to Tell a Complete Lie
by J Warner Wallace
I’m a cold-case detective, but many years ago, while working a “fresh” homicide, I got a call from a woman who wanted to provide important information related to my case. She gave me her name and started confirming some of the details of the murder. She knew a great deal about my victim and suspect, and she seemed to be familiar with many of the important particulars. She also provided a key detail capable of changing the case entirely. I was interested, to say the least. Alas, her “key detail” was a complete fabrication. Yes, she cloaked her lie in a number of true facts, and these truisms made her lie seem plausible. Most of what she told me was true, but not all of it. The more I investigated her claims, the more obvious it was she was lying. I eventually learned she was the killer’s sister-in-law. Her lie was an earnest (although misguided) effort to distract me from her beloved brother-in-law, the man who killed my victim.
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In homicide cases, mostly true is good, but it’s not good enough. When examining the case for Christianity, this important principle is even more critical. Skeptics and critics of Christianity continue to bombard our culture with alternative proposals about Jesus, attacking the reliable New Testament history by distorting the truth to embellish a lie. This summer alone we’ve experienced three such efforts. Reza Aslan would have us believe Jesus was a political revolutionary, “a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords… and ultimately the seditious ‘King of the Jews’ whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime.” Bill O’Reilly would have us believe Jesus was more obviously human than unmistakably Divine, presenting Jesus more as the son of Mary than the Son of God. And most recently, Joseph Atwill would have us believe “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats” who “fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.” All of these authors (none of whom agree with each other) built their alternative narratives on a collection of truths related to Jesus. Some (like O’Reilly) incorporated more truth than others. But in every case, the authors used some truths to tell some lies…