Why Do Two People See the Same Evidence Differently?
by J Warner Wallace
I’ve been involved in jury trials for the past 25 years; I can’t even remember how many I’ve testified in as a police officer and detective. More recently (for the past 15 years or so) I’ve been involved in many high profile cold-case trials (four of these have been featured on Dateline). We’ve never suffered a loss in any of these trials. People sometimes ask me what the secret to our success has been. Has it been the depth and detail of each investigation? Has it been the meticulous way we assemble each case? Has it been the multi-media approach we take with each trail at the opening statement and closing argument? Has it been the determined way in which the prosecutor puts on the case? All of these things are important, of course, but I don’t think any of them have been the key to our success. In my experience, every case is either won or lost at jury selection. You can have the best possible case and the most articulate prosecutor, but if you don’t have the right jury (free of biases and presuppositions inhibiting their ability to see or accept the truth), it’s all for nothing. As it turns out, every case is dependent on the lack of presuppositional bias. This is what causes to people to see the same evidence and come to different conclusions.
If you think this is only the case in criminal jury trials, think again. Let me tell you a story. Two young men (B1 and B2) were raised in the Church as Christians. Both attended youth groups and pursued their interest in the Bible in their college years. Both attended a Christian undergraduate school (B1 at Wheaton College and B2 at Lebanon Valley College) and earned a degree in Biblical studies of one kind or another. Both eventually found their way to Princeton. B1 earned a Master’s Degree in Divinity; B2 earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Theology. Both men continued their Princeton educations and eventually earned PhD’s in Biblical studies and ancient languages. Both married believing wives and became authorities in the Bible; examining the exact same set of ancient manuscripts and texts. Although both men have examined precisely the same set of evidences, one is a Christian believer today while the other is not. B1 is Bart Ehrman, the famed agnostic author of many skeptical books challenging the reliability of scripture and the Deity of Jesus. He presently heads the Bible Department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, although he is a committed non-believer. B2 is Bruce Metzger, the famed Bible authority and longtime professor at Princeton Theological Seminary who served on the board of the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies. Why does one of these men fight against the reliability of the Biblical scripture while the other died as a scholar and advocate for the scripture? It’s not about the evidence, that’s for sure. Both men knew the evidence well and were looking at the same facts. Like any two jurors, it all comes down to their presuppositions…
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