Are Untruths Lies?

If someone tells something false repeatedly, are they lying? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was watching a video today where the subject was the recent lawsuit against Alex Jones and how he had to pay out for what he said about Sandy Hook. Someone with me who heard me watching it was telling me that what was really bad about Alex Jones was not just what he said but he had lied about it knowing otherwise. I then played a clip where I heard Alex Jones saying Sandy Hook was 100% real. When I asked the person with me where Jones said he lied he said, “You just heard him.”

Unfortunately for the person talking to me, that’s wrong.

This is not to defend Alex Jones at all. He was entirely wrong in what he said about Sandy Hook. It was a horrible thing to say. However, that being said, he was not lying. Why?

Because when he said that Sandy Hook was not real, he said it because he honestly believed that it was not real. If he had thought it was real and yet he was saying it was not real, he would be lying. If he thought it was not real, and was saying it was real, he would be lying.

This also means that someone could even tell you something that is true and at the same time be lying. Suppose you hear about someone being a flat-Earther and you go up to them and ask “Is the Earth flat?” Suppose that this person though is scared by you and is a rather timid person and is scared of an argument and just wants to appease you and says, “Absolutely not. The Earth is round.” This person has just lied to you. It’s not because they told you something untrue. It’s because they were not honest with their words in what they were saying and told you something that was contrary to what they really believe.

Why bring this up? Often in the worlds of politics and religion, which often do coincide together, it’s easy to have the word lie thrown around carelessly. We are not only accusing someone of having their facts wrong when they say this, but we are also accusing them of an immoral action. If just saying something that was wrong was a lie, then any time that a kid puts down the wrong answer on a math test, then he is guilty of lying.

In order to show a lie, one must show that a person said X is the case, when they really thought non-X was the case, or vice-versa. Often, I prefer to think not so much about lies that are commonly told, but myths that are commonly told. For instance, it is a myth that Columbus sailed to prove that the world was round. Everyone believed that it was. Many of us were taught otherwise in school, but that doesn’t mean our teachers necessarily lied. They could have passed on something they thought was true as well. It just means people collectively bought into a myth.

Be careful with the term lie, regardless of what you think of the person. I have plenty of people who are my intellectual opponents, but I do not call them liars lightly. That is not just making a statement about what is said, but about the character of the person saying it and should not be done lightly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Are Untruths Lies?

If someone tells something false repeatedly, are they lying? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was watching a video today where the subject was the recent lawsuit against Alex Jones and how he had to pay out for what he said about Sandy Hook. Someone with me who heard me watching it was telling me that what was really bad about Alex Jones was not just what he said but he had lied about it knowing otherwise. I then played a clip where I heard Alex Jones saying Sandy Hook was 100% real. When I asked the person with me where Jones said he lied he said, “You just heard him.”

Unfortunately for the person talking to me, that’s wrong.

This is not to defend Alex Jones at all. He was entirely wrong in what he said about Sandy Hook. It was a horrible thing to say. However, that being said, he was not lying. Why?

Because when he said that Sandy Hook was not real, he said it because he honestly believed that it was not real. If he had thought it was real and yet he was saying it was not real, he would be lying. If he thought it was not real, and was saying it was real, he would be lying.

This also means that someone could even tell you something that is true and at the same time be lying. Suppose you hear about someone being a flat-Earther and you go up to them and ask “Is the Earth flat?” Suppose that this person though is scared by you and is a rather timid person and is scared of an argument and just wants to appease you and says, “Absolutely not. The Earth is round.” This person has just lied to you. It’s not because they told you something untrue. It’s because they were not honest with their words in what they were saying and told you something that was contrary to what they really believe.

Why bring this up? Often in the worlds of politics and religion, which often do coincide together, it’s easy to have the word lie thrown around carelessly. We are not only accusing someone of having their facts wrong when they say this, but we are also accusing them of an immoral action. If just saying something that was wrong was a lie, then any time that a kid puts down the wrong answer on a math test, then he is guilty of lying.

In order to show a lie, one must show that a person said X is the case, when they really thought non-X was the case, or vice-versa. Often, I prefer to think not so much about lies that are commonly told, but myths that are commonly told. For instance, it is a myth that Columbus sailed to prove that the world was round. Everyone believed that it was. Many of us were taught otherwise in school, but that doesn’t mean our teachers necessarily lied. They could have passed on something they thought was true as well. It just means people collectively bought into a myth.

Be careful with the term lie, regardless of what you think of the person. I have plenty of people who are my intellectual opponents, but I do not call them liars lightly. That is not just making a statement about what is said, but about the character of the person saying it and should not be done lightly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Was Eusebius a Liar?

Did the father of church history lie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“Bishop Eusebius, a close ally of the emperor, was instrumental in crystalizing and defining the version of Christianity that was to become orthodox, and he is the first person known to have quoted this paragraph of Josephus. Eusebius once wrote that it was a permissible “medicine” for historians to create fictions–prompting historian Jacob Burckhardt to call Eusebius “the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity.” (P. 255 of Godless by Dan Barker.)

So says Dan Barker about Eusebius. Now this is naturally a serious charge if it is true, but is it in fact true? Well, not really. For one thing, the description comes from a chapter heading. The heading could have come from Eusebius, but not necessarily. It could have been a summation by a medieval copyist of what Eusebius wrote. Still, even if we grant it, do we have a dangerous case? Well no. In fact, if you just spend a few minutes looking up quotes, you can see what’s going on.

Let’s go and see what Eusebius said in the chapter in entirety.

CHAPTER XXXI

[PLATO] ‘But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly?

‘Truth, O Stranger, is a noble and an enduring thing; it seems, however, not easy to persuade men of it.’

Now you may find in the Hebrew Scriptures also thousands of such passages concerning God as though He were jealous, or sleeping, or angry, or subject to any other human passions, which passages are adopted for the benefit of those who need this mode of instruction.

Yes. That’s the entire chapter. Note that this is not at all about creating history. Eusebius writes about the Old Testament and I don’t know any skeptic who thinks Eusebius created that. (But hey, give it time and I’m sure someday some crazy skeptic will say that.) So what is going on?

Eusebius is writing about the use of anthropomorphisms in the Old Testament and saying that although these descriptions of God aren’t literally true, they can be helpful for those who need to be instructed in this way. Note that this does not mean it is a lie. It means it’s being explained in terms that can be understood. We should not expect the Old Testament to be the Summa Theologica for instance.

In fact, we have a parallel to this saying. That shows up in the Contra Celsum of Origen.

Others, then, may concede to Celsus that God does not undergo a change, but leads the spectators to imagine that He does; whereas we who are persuaded that the advent of Jesus among men was no mere appearance, but a real manifestation, are not affected by this charge of Celsus. We nevertheless will attempt a reply, because you assert, Celsus, do you not, that it is sometimes allowable to employ deceit and falsehood by way, as it were, of medicine?

Could this then be a sort of saying at the time? It’s possible. We don’t have enough evidence. Note in all of this, we’re not likely talking about lies, but talking about fictions. That is, it is beneficial to tell things that might not be true but serve for edification. Think of the parables of Jesus that don’t necessarily tell of true events, but are edifying, or of Aesop’s fables.

So again, we have an example of how modern day atheists too often do not check the original sources. Instead, most of them get in second hand from people who probably never checked either. (Jacob Burckhardt lived in the 19th century for instance.) The church fathers weren’t infallible and they needed a savior like we do, but always ask the person who gives a quote where it comes from and find it in its original context.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

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