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“While successful conspiracies are the popular subject of many movies and novels, I’ve come to learn that they are (in reality) very difficult to pull off.) – J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity

“Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.” – Charles Colson

This is the final part of a 3 part series on What Every Christian Needs To Know About Conspiracy Theories, and is taken from the podcast What Every Christian Needs To Know About Conspiracy Theories by cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, who is a former atheist turned Christian apologist,where he talks in detail about the rules for a good conspiracy, combined with information from chapter 7, Resist Conspiracy Theories, and chapter 14, Were They Biased?, of his book Cold-Case Christianity.

In my first blog on this topic, I talked in detail about the 5 components needed for a successful conspiracy:

1. A small number of conspirators.

2. A short conspiracy timespan

3. Excellent communication

4. Strong “Familial” Relationships

5. Little or no pressure to confess.

In my second blog on this topic, we compared the 5 components to the claim that Christianity itself being a conspiracy theory.

As noted in my previous blogs, these are notes or in most cases, direct transcriptions, of his podcast, along with some quotes from his book Cold-Case Christianity in italics.

Ok, let me just add another couple of important features of this claim that the twelve are conspiring to create a lie, a worldview which is based on lies in order to start a world religion and whatever their thing is. And whatever their thing is is an important question to ask, because it turns out that all lies, every crime that I’ve ever investigated, is driven by a motive. And if you’re going to ask the question why would the twelve lie, well then we are looking for the motive to this lie. And you might think, well gosh, there’s a thousand reasons why someone might lie about that. Well, it turns out that really, if you work criminal investigations, you’ll discover pretty quickly, that there are only 3 motives behind any crime. Hear me on this. Only 3 motives. If it’s a murder, if it’s a theft, if it’s a lie, a conspiracy, they are only driven, these things are only driven by 3 things. 3 forms of motives.

After 30 years of working cases, he hasn’t discovered a fourth reason.

I think it’s really important for us  to look at what the motives are for these kinds of crimes, and then we can ask ourselves if this is a conspiracy, we know it’s going to be driven by one of these 3 motives. And then if there is no motive, do you really think then twelve people are crazy enough to do something without a motive even though it’s going to cost the their lives? It’s possible, but it’s not reasonable. And the 3 motives we always talk about are almost always the same, and they are:

1. Financial Greed

Lots of people do stupid things on the basis of wanting more money. Or wanting to get money that they haven’t earned.

This is often the driving force behind the crime that I investigate. Some murders, for example, result from a botched robbery. Other murders take place simply because they give the suspect a financial advantage. As an example, I once worked a homicide committed by a husband who didn’t want his wife to receive a portion of his retirement.

2. Sexual (or Relational) Lust

Sometimes for a man, we’re really talking about sex issues…or sometimes it’s about relationships. Sometimes they are jealous of somebody, they are envious of somebody, somebody is making a play on their girlfriend or on their wife, that kind of thing. Or vice versa. It could be a woman who is jealous about a relationship involving another woman. I worked a lot of cases like that.

I’ve also investigated a number of murders that were sexually (or relationally) motivated. Some sexual attackers murder their victims so they can’t testify later. Some murders occur simply because a jealous boyfriend couldn’t bear to see his girlfriend dating another man.

3. Pursuit of Power.

Finally, some people commit murders to achieve or maintain a position of power or authority. It might be a rivalry between two people who are trying to get the same promotion. Others have killed simply because the victim dishonored or “disrespected” them in front of a group of peers.

Sometimes this can be a subset kind of a deal, where maybe your authority has been challenged or somebody has disrespected you. You’ll hear that kind of language a lot working these cases. “This guy disrespected me.” Well, what is the deal there? Well, you feel like your pride has been, in some way, damaged. Your authority has been challenged. It’s a power issue. You’ve pursued a certain statue and power in your community, this guy threatens it.

So these are the three things that involve or are motivating or driving anyone to steal, anyone to lie, anyone to murder.

From his blog Why Understanding Criminal Motive Is So Important To Christians

That’s it. Nothing more. When I enter a murder scene, I simply ask myself a question: Who would have benefited from the perspective of money, sex or power? My suspect will eventually fit into one of these three categories. When presenting this set of motives to groups across the nation, some have offered additional categories. What about jealousy, hatred, revenge or anger? “Motive detection” requires us to ask what is causing the jealousy, hatred, revenge or anger. When we seek the root causes, we end up back in the three simple categories I’ve already described.

Returning to quotes from his book, Cold-Case Christianity:

Sex, money, and power are the motives for all the crimes detectives investigate. In fact, these three motives are also behind lesser sins as well. Think about the last time you did something you shouldn’t have. If you examine the motivation carefully, you’ll probably see that it fits broadly into one of these three categories.

Let me just cover one thing before I got any further here. Sometimes people will say, well what about those people who are crazy? And just don’t have any motive at all for what they are doing? Granted, there  are groups of people who are just crazy and when that’s the case, they’ll go through a certain process prior to trial in which they will be deemed criminally insane, and we’re not going to be able to prosecute those kinds of people. I’m talking about those people who possess a motive, are not crazy, possess a motive that even allows us to try a case to begin with. And in those categories, there are only 3 motives. So if you’re going to say, well maybe the twelve were crazy, all 12,  were simultaneously crazy. Ok, possible, but not reasonable. In the end, a far more reasonable approach should be to say, “Well no, they are all motivated by the same lie, to say the same lie, because they are motived   by the same drive. It’s money, it’s sex, relationships, or power.

So let’s take a look at that. Which of these 3 do we think is motivating the Christian claims?

1. Financial Greed

The apostles gained nothing financially from their testimony of Jesus’ life and ministry…All the nonbiblical accounts related to the lives of the apostles, whether legitimate or legendary, affirm the poverty of the disciples as they traveled the world to proclaim their testimony. The most reasonable inference from the early record of the New Testament documents and the agreement of the nonbiblical record is that the writers of the New Testament were as contentedly penniless as they proclaimed. It is reasonable to conclude that financial greed was not the motive that drove these men to make the claims they made in the Gospels. In fact, they remain impoverished primarily because of their dedication to their testimony.

2. Sexual Lust

From his blog Why Understanding Criminal Motive Is So Important To Christians

Given the repeated admonitions related to sexual purity in the New Testament, the apostles and disciples garnered a reputation for sexual reservation and modesty known to the world around them.

And from his book, Cold-Case Christianity:

In fact, while other men within the culture often had more than one wife, the apostles allowed men to rise to leadership only if they limited themselves to one wife…If the apostles were motivated by sexual desire, there is certainly no record of it in the ancient writings of the time and no hint of it in their own texts. They were married men (most likely) who held chastity and sexual purity in high regard. The most reasonable inference, given what we know about the lives of the apostles, is that sexual or relational desire was not the motives that drove these men to make the claims they made in the Gospels. 

3. Pursuit of Power

Well, are they maybe motivated by the fact that they are pursuing power? After all, they became respected within their religious communities, didn’t they? Well let’s take a look at the one person who is probably most of the time examined, most of the offered as an example of somebody who might be motivated or might be lying to us. After all, he wrote most of the New Testament. That’s the apostle Paul. Ok, he’s a case, the text book case for this. Paul had a position of authority and power and respect as a religious Jew, who had been charged with killing the Christians. So you are telling me that he’s going to jump out of that position of authority, power, and respect as a religious Jew and jump in with those renegade Christian rebels and basically take a beating for 20 years, hoping that some day he can return to a position of power and authority with a subset, a small little minority group called Christians when he had position, power, and authority with the larger group called Jews? I mean, really? Is that possible? Yeah. Is it reasonable? No. And that’s the whole point.

So I think this idea that if the 12 are conspiring, they each have to be motivated by something. A payday. Sexual lust. Relationships. Or Power. And that’s the problem. They didn’t even have the power to control the way they died. Remember, there is a big difference between fame and infamy. Lots of people will pursue fame. Few will pursue the very thing that will get them killed. And that’s what we have here.

Now on the flip side of this, when the writer [of a letter he received] asks about, “Well, people in my church believe in conspiracies related to the Illuminati or 9/11,”  you have to ask yourself a question. There are often times in those kinds of conspiracies where somebody who is initiating the conspiracy or initiating the act is going to be motivated by something. Right? And if that’s the case, eventually it will surface. Because 5 years down, someone is going to give it up.

On the other hand, if it has been discovered, then it’s not a successful conspiracy.

As Christians, we need to recognize that our culture is fascinated by conspiracy theories. Many of our friends and family members are quick to jump to elaborate conspirational possibilities even when there are simpler explanations on the table. Given what I now know about the difficult nature of succesful conspiracies, I can help the skeptics in my world as they assess the claims of the apostles. You can too. We all need to take the time to understand the elements of successful conspiracies so we can communicate them to others. But in order to be consistent in our beliefs and explanations, we’re also going to need to resist the temptation to see a conspiracy around every corner of current events. If it is unreasonable for the resurrection to be the product of a conspiracy, it is just as unreasonable that other events requiring a large number of conspirators and the prefect set of conditions would be the result of a conspiracy. Let’s be careful not to unreasonably embrace conspiracy theories related to secular issues, while simultaneously trying to make a case against the alleged conspiracy of the apostles. If we are consistent in our understanding and rejection of unreasonable conspiratorial explanations, we’ll successfully communicate the truth of the resurrection to a skeptical world.

So again, evaluating motive will even tell us if someone is lying. Conspiracies are another thing. But don’t you do the same thing when you talk to your friends or you talk to somebody who is on the phone with you trying to sell you something. What’s in it for him? Should I trust this guy in what he’s telling me about this product? Not really, he’s trying to sell me the product. Ok, he’s got some benefit if I buy this. So maybe I should be careful about his claims. Is he really telling me the truth? He could be lying to me for the benefit of making the sale. These are the kinds of thing we are going to look at when we assess whether or not somebody is telling us the truth. And I just think that as you apply these to the disciples, you apply these to the 12, you’re gonna be hard pressed to be able to argue that they have a motive that is driving them toward this end.

So just be careful as you assess these claims, understand the important thing you need to kind of take away, I hope, from this is the 5 things that are required for successful conspiracies.

1. A small number of conspirators.

2. A short conspiracy timespan

3. Excellent communication

4. Strong “Familial” Relationships

5. Little or no pressure to confess.

That’s #1. And number 2, the 3 motives that are behind any lie.

 

1. Financial Greed

2. Sexual Lust

3. Pursuit of Power

5 and 3.  You keep those details in your mind and you’ll be able to respond to anybody who makes an objection based on the statements of the 12, or who wants to offer the possibility of some crazy conspiracy.

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