Tag Archive: J. Warner Wallace


In my last post, I described the influencers that contribute to the beliefs that people hold, categorizing them as sociological, psychological, religious, and philosophical, and showing that go-away-1544609members of the first three categories were insufficient of themselves to provide adequate basis of belief. Only when we begin with a properly functioning mind can we correctly appraise truth claims presented by the society, psychology, and religion.

It is also worth noting three categories of reasons why people will “SHUN” or reject a truth claim, according to J. Warner Wallace [1]:

A. RaSHUNal – Rational reasons are a request for more evidence to justify a truth claim. It is in this aspect which Christian case-making may be most useful.

B. EmoSHUNal – A truth claim may be resisted due to emotional hurts in the past or present related to the claim. As concerns Christianity, the resistant person may have been hurt by a pastor, another Christian, or (seemingly) God Himself. Helping this person will require patient love and friendship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is generally not the situation for a formal argument, although sometimes rational objections may be offered as a smokescreen to hide the true hurt.

C. VoliSHUNal – Volitional objections to a truth claim amount to a declaration that “I don’t care if it can be shown to be true, I’m not changing my life for your claim.” As relating to Christian claims, again, making a good case will not make much headway, as their will is set against it. Although they will often present rational objections as well, the smokescreen nature of their objections become apparent if a couple of exploratory questions are asked: “If I were able to answer your objections to [God’s existence, reliability of the Bible, historicity of Christ’s miracles, etc.], would you become a Christian?” or “What is your standard of proof? What evidence would you require to convince you of the truth of Christianity?” The answers to these questions frequently reveal the volitional nature of their resistance to Christianity. In this situation, the softening of their hearts by the Holy Spirit is required, and your steady and virtuous friendship with them may provide you an opportunity to answer honest questions about God that may be forthcoming.

In almost all cases, it is my belief that the normal use of apologetics by the Christian will be done in the context of a relationship with the other person. Theodore Roosevelt is attributed with the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and I agree. You aren’t making friends simply as an emotional wedge to proselytize; I’m talking about genuine and caring friendships in which the other person then becomes open to finding out more about that which is important to you and the reasons you hold for your beliefs.

1 Peter 3:15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Form friendships, and be ready!

Next post will be concerning how truth is known. I hope you’ll join me!

Comments, questions? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

[1] J. Warner Wallace, “Why Some People Simply Will Not Be Convinced,” Cold Case Christianity, August 16, 2013, accessed October 8, 2013, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/why-some-people-simply-will-not-be-convinced/.

God’s Crime Scene, by J. Warner Wallace Review

Guest Post by Diane E. WoodGCS

Being a cold case police detective gives Jim Wallace a unique and intriguing point of view about things.  In his first book, Cold Case Christianity, he examined the four Gospels in the New Testament for the evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Bible is a historically accurate and divinely preserved account of what the first century apostles observed and did.  In Wallace’s second book, God’s Crime Scene, he asks and answers even more hard questions such as, how did time and space begin, is man different from other living things in the world, and how can a good God permit the evil that exists.   His responses are intellectually reasonable and convincing in part through his cold case examples to prove his point, thus making the book easy for the common man to understand as well as intellectually satisfying.

Wallace employs the same meticulous search for answers as he did as a detective.  By examining and eliminating other “suspects,” we are systematically and reasonably led to the conclusions that make the most sense on each topic discussed.

This book is an excellent resource for the Christian who wants to be more effective in the public square with their faith in an inoffensive manner.  With the information in this book, we can have a non-hostile and well-informed dialog concerning what is political correctness, what a lie is, and what is the Truth.   God’s Crime Scene is a tool for intelligent dialogue with people of different beliefs with confidence and gentleness.  Jim’s book is a great source of information for seekers of truth wherever they are in their journeys.   As a former atheist in search for answers to life’s difficult questions, his systematic investigation lead him to specific solid answers concerning the validity of the Bible.  Detective Wallace uses the same tools of the trade as he would have done in a cold murder case, to find the “culprit” who created the universe and everything in it.

I found the book very interesting and it inspired me to learn more about how the more how science confirms Christian claims.  They blend quite well instead of being opposed to each other.  My confidence in my ability to share Christianity has been enhanced through this study of Christian case making.

doubt-1429549Christian Apologetics involves making a reasoned defense of the things we believe as Christians. In the last several posts, I’ve tried to give you good reasons, both biblical and pragmatic, why every Christian ought also to be a good case-maker. However, some Christians think the Bible actually teaches the opposite, that apologetics actually goes against biblical mandates. Since I’ve made a biblical case previously, and a biblical case is being raised to show the opposite, we must carefully consider each and decide which is the most accurate and true.

So, to start with, let’s tackle what is probably the most often raised, and at first approach, appears to be the most challenging: Doubting Thomas. Here’s the passage, from John 20:24-29 (NASB):

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him,“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

It seems that in this passage Jesus condemns evidentialism. After all, he says “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,” and “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” It sounds like Jesus is saying to Thomas, “The only reason you believe is because you have the evidence in front of you. That’s weak faith. Those who believe without evidence are the ones who are truly blessed.” Is that really what is going on here though?

Remember, in a previous post I showed how in John 14:11, John 10:25, 37-38, and John 5:36 Jesus presented the evidence of his miracles as foundation for belief in the eyewitnesses. Jesus continually seemed to be saying “I didn’t just assert, but I demonstrated and gave evidence.” So then, in this context, what was meant by “blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed?” I think usually when reading this passage, we stop too soon; we need to continue reading through John 20:30-31 (NASB, emphasis mine), immediately after this passage about Thomas:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

In his gospel, John repeatedly affirms Jesus’ miracles as evidence of His divinity. Why then would Jesus have continued providing these miracles if He was promoting a blind faith? Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:20-21 is instructive:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

In this passage, Jesus is praying for his disciples, for their protection and for the next generation of disciples that follow them. Here we have a proclamation by Jesus, not only for those who saw Him personally and knew Him, and knew that what He said was true because they had seen the miracles with their own eyes. He’s also praying for those who would not get to see the miracles with their own eyes, but would have to trust the reliable eyewitness testimony of those who did. You and I were not there to see the risen Christ and to touch his wounds, so we are those who did not see. But we have reliable testimony of eyewitnesses who did. Did Jesus condemn apologetics in this passage? Certainly not; just the opposite. He continually provided evidence and called those “blessed” who would come to a reasonable faith because of this testimony.

Next time, I’ll run through several other objections to apologetics that I’ve heard from Christians.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

[This post inspired by and largely paraphrased from J. Warner Wallace on his excellent site Cold Case Christianity.]

 

Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors,studying-2-1475294 has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.

Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.

Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]

Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.

Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Romans 14:5b…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

gavelAnd behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

– Luke 10:25-28

What is Christian Apologetics?

In brief, it is the bridge between faith and the intellect, and is part of loving God with our minds. In this, and the next few posts, I’d like to go into some detail about the “what’s” and “why’s” concerning Christian apologetics. I intend to make the case for you both from a biblical standpoint as well as from a purely pragmatic one as to why you (if you are a Christian) should care about Christian apologetics and hone your skills in Christian case-making.

What apologetics isn’t

“Apologetics” is a word that may not hold much meaning for most, and may lead others to think it has something to do with being sorry. As in, “I’m a Christian, and I’m really sorry about that!” or “I apologize for what these other Christians are doing!” No, this is not what I’m meaning by the word.

Others may hear the word “apologetics” and think about someone who just really likes to debate and beat people into submission with their rhetoric and personality, someone who knows a few facts and is just looking to shout down any opposing viewpoint. While this sort of apologist does exist, this is not what I believe the Bible calls us to be, and not what I am going to try to show you.

Prepared to make a defense

Because of the unfamiliarity with the word by most, and the negative association many have who do know the word, I have been moving away from the word “apologetics.” Instead, taking a cue from J. Warner Wallace, I think a better term is “Christian case-making,” although for the purposes of this introductory post, I will be using the two terms interchangeably. The goal of apologetics, then, is to demonstrate the reasonable nature of Christianity and its ability to best explain reality among the competing hypotheses. It is the field of theology that provides defense of Christian truth claims by providing evidence in favor of those claims and carefully investigating opposing viewpoints. Christian case-makers are concerned with answering the question “what is the rational warrant for Christian truth claims?”

Broadly speaking, apologetics provides two services. For the Christian, evidences are marshalled which serve to strengthen our belief and trust that the Christianity is an accurate guide to reality. This also gives us courage and confidence to work to persuade others without having to rely only on our subjective experiences as evidence. As the Stand to Reason tagline goes, we want to show that Christianity is something worth thinking about. For the non-Christian, apologetics is pre-evangelism. It is not common that people on hearing Christian gospel presentation will immediately convert.  Often they will need convincing that it is an intellectually viable option. How can someone accept “God loves you and has paid for your sins,” if they are predisposed in belief that God cannot exist?

In part 2, I’ll show you the origins of the word “apologetics,” and in doing so, give a hint of the flavor of what and how apologetics should be.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

Earlier in the week, I posted a link to an article by Stephen J. Bedard called Ten Reasons Why There Really Was a Historical Jesus.  Today, I want to point you to a post by J. Warner Wallace called “Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus.”  On this page, Wallace links to several articles he has written that make the cumulative circumstantial case that Jesus was indeed God.

Wallace writes:

Skepticism related to Jesus of Nazareth generally takes one of two forms: those who don’t even believe He ever existed, and those who acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but deny He is God. The case for the Deity of Christ is centered on the Resurrection, but there are many other cumulative circumstantial factors to consider. I’ve written quite a bit about the Deity of Jesus, and I’ve assembled these articles to help you make the collective case.

He then presents evidence in six areas:

  1. The Conception of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  2. The Behavior of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  3. The Statements of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  4. The Authority of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  5. The Resurrection of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  6. The History of Jesus Demonstrates His Deity

    Photo by @Doug88888, creative commons license

    Photo by @Doug88888, creative commons license

 

WallaceLast weekend, author and speaker J. Warner Wallace of ColdCaseChristianity.com came to Alabama to speak at several engagements in the Birmingham area, where I live. I had the privilege of spending the day Friday with him and Matt Burford of Tactical Faith, the grass-roots apologetics group which brought him to town.  Wallace writes of his experiences and the work done by Tactical Faith:

They’re interested, passionate and concerned. They want to change the direction of the Christian culture in which they live and they’ve designed a strategy to do so. If they can do this, you can do this. What are you waiting for? If you’ve got a passion for truth and a desire to grow the life of the Christian mind, either start a ministry of your own or support those like Matt who have already put their tugboat in the water.

Read the rest of Wallace’s thoughts here:  http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/how-to-turn-the-christian-ocean-liner-one-degree-at-a-time/ Tactical_Faith_Logo1

Wallace also encourages Christians to step up to the challenge of being prepared to defend the faith as commanded in God’s word:

I have to admit, prayer and bible study do not come easily to me. If you are in the same boat, or could simply benefit from some tips, check out J. Warner Wallace’s advice concerning reading and studying the bible:bible

As Christians, we have a lot of questions that we don’t always know how to investigate on our own, and we’re grateful when somebody will come in and give us the quick answer. But if you’ve raised kids, you know that when your kids have a question and ask you to sort something out for them, they come away with one kind of knowledge. When you allow your kids to work through, and find, and research the answer for themselves, they come away with a completely different kind of understanding. I can remember when I first came to Christianity out of atheism, I really needed to examine the issues for myself. And let’s face it, there are lots of times when it’s not so much an understanding of the truth; it’s not so much that the truth is out there and I just can’t grasp it; it’s that I hold some type of prerequisite, presupposition, that prevents me from seeing the truth clearly.

That’s why for me, as a new Christian, apologetics websites were just as important as the skeptic sites I had been visiting. I wanted to get some balance and some clear thinking on the issues we know are inherent to the Christian worldview. I found myself applying the same skepticism I had as a detective, and an atheist, to my own examination of Scripture. Here is my approach to answering some of my own questions about Christian doctrine, and Christian evidence. These are principles and tools that may help you sort out the truth for yourself.

– See more at: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/tips-for-studying-the-bible/#sthash.CKO7Ciex.dpuf

What is the only good reason to hold a belief?  Because it is true; any other reason (pragmatism, comfort, tradition, experience) is secondary, at best.  I am a Christian because I believe that the truth claims of Christianity are evidentially supported.  This blog is primarily about showing those evidences and applying the discovered truth of Christianity to daily life.  As such, in this post, I won’t go into these evidences in detail.  Instead, I want to talk about how I came to believe that the Christian worldview reflects reality the way it truly is.

As a child, I was raised in a very Christian environment.  Born in the buckle of the Bible belt, I grew up in a Christian home with two Christian parents, studied at a Christian school from K5-12th grade, and regularly attended Sundays and Wednesday night services at a Christian church.  But, “God doesn’t have grand-children,” as my father once told me.  My Christian upbringing did not itself guarantee that I would place my trust in Christ, although it did ensure that the knowledge of the Bible was in my head.  The “fear of God” (and parents) kept me, no doubt, from getting into serious trouble as well, so don’t misunderstand me: I don’t disparage my Christian upbringing.  I (and every one of us) needed to take ownership of the things I claimed to believe for it to “stick.”

In hindsight, I believe the process of my taking ownership began around age eighteen, when I began college.  I never had classes with aggressive anti-Christian professors or belligerent atheist student groups.  What I had was a new freedom of schedule, action, and disposable income (as I was working off and on during that time) that I did not have in the more rigidly controlled high-school days.  This time of new choices was exhilarating and intoxicating.  However, at the same time, very slowly, a cloud of depression began to form around me, one that would continue to grow over the next decade.  I finished college, began a career, married a wonderful woman, began a family, and took on a mortgage.  There I was, living the American Dream, but I had days of terrible depression and desperation, and I did not know why.

tired

Selfie, around the time of my worst depression

I was for a short while under the care of a very attentive psychiatrist, who prescribed some anti-depressants.  These did not seem to have any effect, and after a while, I stopped taking the meds and seeing the psychiatrist.  My depression reached its peak shortly before my 30th birthday.  I wanted a change.  I had to have a change.  I considered options, some very desperate indeed.  I did not know what was wrong, though, so I could not decide the proper application of a solution.  A counselor at my church recommended a Christian psychologist, and I began to attend regular counseling sessions at her office, which has led to a long, and sometimes painful process of recovery.

Through a process of self-reflection and discovery, led by skillful questions and insights from my doctor, I began to recognize in myself a lot of emotional repression and unasked questions.  My understanding of the Christian life needed an overhaul as well.  For one thing, I had a deep mistrust of emotion and experience in the life of the Christian.  My perception was that a whole lot, if not all of it, was manufactured in the mind of the believer, or manipulated by the man behind the pulpit.  For another, my evaluation of my own poor spiritual state was because I was not praying enough or reading my Bible enough, but I had no particular desire to do either.  It began to be clear to me that I had not allowed myself to consider questions about the truth of the Bible and Christianity, silencing the doubts when they would begin to surface.  While I have no memory of anyone saying so explicitly, the impression I had grown up with was that doubt was sin and questioning the claims of Christianity showed a lack of faith, which was also sin.  These things which were repressed were not eliminated though, and were now coming back in strength, demanding to be dealt with.

I gave serious and lengthy consideration to both atheism and deism, the two alternative worldviews that seemed the most likely contenders with Christianity.  However, there were in my life a handful of Christian men, in particular, my father and a couple of pastors, whom I respected.  These were men who I knew to be intelligent and thoughtful, and I could not easily dismiss the fact that they held to a Christian worldview.  I felt I owed it to them and myself to find out if the Christian worldview could withstand scrutiny, or if it was inferior to other views.

Next up, Why I Am a Christian.

 

At some point I had to ask myself, “Am I rejecting this because there isn’t enough evidence, or because I don’t want there to be enough evidence?”

– J. Warner Wallace: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/volitional-resistance-to-christianity-often-masquerades-as-rational-opposition