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By Jasmine Harding
Scholars have argued against the validity of the Bible. However, Attorney William Mark Lanier refutes such claims by stressing the importance of constructing an argument based on thorough research, whether in the courtroom or the classroom.
On Feb. 5, Lanier presented a lecture titled, “A Trial Lawyer’s Challenge to the Academy,” sponsored by the School of Christian Thought. The main objective was to demonstrate a method to prevent inaccurate claims and refute false accusations such as arguments against the Bible.
Lanier founded The Lanier Law Firm in 1990. He ranked on U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Lawyers in America” list for nine consecutive years and was recently named the 2013 Top Class Action Attorney in America. Also in 2010, The National Law Journal named Lanier one of the most influential lawyers of the decade.
In his lecture, he discussed five key points to accurately perform research: be fair, be competent, admit biases, do not overreach and watch National Enquirer moments. Lanier explained that being cautious of these points will result in fewer errors when presenting an argument or being manipulated by someone else’s false argument.
Lanier said that the act of fairness indicates telling the truth and admitting one’s biases will cause someone to re-examine their weaknesses. When someone attempts to make sense of research and overanalyzes, that person has engaged in key point three, overreaching. Lanier added that National Enquirer moments are the outrageous claims often heard on television or seen on the Internet.
Dr. Joseph Blair, chair of the department of theology, was one of the University faculty members who attended the lecture.
“Lanier encouraged students to conduct research to support conclusions,” Blair said. “He reminded everyone of a helpful step by step process by which research becomes authentic and leads to legitimate results.”
Lanier illustrated the use of these points by refuting Bart Ehrman, New Testament scholar, who discredits validity in the New Testament. Lanier advocated that if an allegation appears to be incoherent, then someone should always verify it. Individuals believe everything teachers and superiors state but their facts should be checked as well.
Another false accusation that Lanier refutes is that of archaeologist Israel Finkelstein. Finkelstein insisted that archaeological research supports that camels were not domesticated as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000.
However, Lanier demonstrated how Finkelstein failed to follow all of the five points and presented the proof that his claim was blatantly untrue, if any research was performed.
Lanier showed art depicting camels and presented facts that the camel did indeed exist earlier than Finkelstein indicated. Lanier said that typically if someone adheres to the five steps, then their claims would be of substance.
“As a lawyer, I am begging these types of people to let me throw them on the stand,” Lanier said.
Dr. David Capes, Thomas Nelson research professor, said that Lanier is reacting to accusations often heard in the media that quote key scholars who make extreme claims about history.
“What’s most interesting is the parallel methodology that is employed by Lanier in the courtroom and scholars in the classroom,” Capes said. “I find that there is much we can learn from one another.”
Lanier has also successfully represented numerous clients in million dollar cases. However, he does not accept payment for speaking at universities on the topic of accuracy and literacy. He does these engagements as a service because of his relationship with God.
In addition to law, Lanier is involved in government activities and was honored with the Ambassador of Peace award by the Guatemalan government. Lanier also founded the Lanier Theological Library in Houston.
Junior Raquelle Johnson said that her favorite part of the lecture was the question-and-answer session.
“I appreciate how Mark Lanier gave all the glory to God for all of his success,” Johnson said. “Though he did say that God will not do all the work for you, he did make it clear that it is only by God’s grace that we can truly succeed.”