Books Make Me Barf: Cold-Case Christianity

“The answers are available; you don’t have to turn off your brain to be a believer. Yes, it is possible to become a Christian because of the evidence rather than in spite of the evidence. Many of us have done just that. ~J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity

I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic in that I have a tendency to question things. I’ve said this before, but I guess I’ll say it again. I’m interested in believing true things, not necessarily popular things.  Subjective feelings are not, necessarily, good indicators of truth.  Moreover, emotion is certainly inadequate, in most cases, to allow us to make a compelling case to somebody else for our beliefs. We must learn to responsibly follow and present objective evidence if we’re to compete in the marketplace of ideas. The good news is that we all seem to be predisposed to follow evidence.  We use evidence to make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  I look out the window every morning and, based on the evidence, decide if I should wear a jacket today or not.  In fact, I may just use circumstantial evidence to conclude it is raining outside when I see one of my kids come inside wet.  Sure it’s possible that they may have just been playing in the sprinkler, but if it is winter time and they’re fully clothed, I can infer the most reasonable conclusion is that the weather is inclement.  Evidence is important for forming our beliefs about reality.  We should all be skeptics to some degree, having sound reasons for why we believe what we believe.  Enter J. Warner Wallace.

J. (Jim) Warner Wallace is a vocal atheist turned vocal Christian apologist.  Having worked in law enforcement for many years, Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective in the Los Angeles County area. You may have seen his work featured on Dateline. In his recently released book “Cold-Case Christianity“, he tackles the case of the historicity of the life of Jesus using the techniques of his trade, applying the same principles he uses to solve cold-case homicides where witnesses are gone, physical evidence is slight, and it is solid circumstantial cases that bring the truth to light.  Detective Wallace takes you through his own journey from atheist to follower of Jesus of Nazareth via careful evaluation of the historical evidence, training you to think critically about things like evaluating witnesses, conspiracy theory, and the chain of custody in evidence gathering.

With this book J. Warner Wallace makes a significant contribution to the defense of the reasonableness of the Christian faith.  In recent years the vocal “new atheist” movement has been aggressively attacking religion, and specifically Christianity, with a newfound hostility, often claiming that the enterprise of reason stands solely with their position.  Tearing down strongholds and demolishing arguments against the knowledge of God, Cold-Case Christianity makes it abundantly clear that a belief in the Biblical text is not only reasonable, but even more reasonable than any of the other ancient documents which we accept at face value in our pursuit of knowledge about the past.  When evaluated objectively, as any good jury member with an open mind ought to, the historical case for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is successfully prosecuted by J. Warner Wallace.  It is only if one comes to the case with the pre-existing conclusion that supernatural events can’t happen that the case can be dismissed.

Undoubtedly, the charge against Wallace from some Christians will be that he takes the “faith” out of faith (by the way, fideism makes me barf).  They’ll likely say that this evidential approach to Biblical investigation puts God on trial.  I’d ask these naysayers to refer to their Bibles in places like 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 2 Corinthians 10:5, and Jude 1:3 (among others).  The Biblical authors were clear that reasoning with people and defending faith in Christ was a virtue, not a vice.  J. Warner Wallace has taken these mandates seriously, carefully arranging a book that is useful to both Christians and non-Christians alike in their pursuit of understanding.

Not only does Wallace build a successful case for the reliability of the eyewitness gospel accounts, but he does it in a way that is appealing to any fan of the whodunit genre of books, movies, and television shows.  Weaved into J. Warner Wallace’s investigation of the biblical accounts, are real world examples from his cold-cases that are used to reinforce the subject matter of each chapter.  Cold-Case Christianity is one of the most accessible apologetics books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  This is a book anybody can, and should, pick up and read not only to educate themselves, but for the pure enjoyment of it as well.  Kudos to J. Warner Wallace who has put together a book that is both educational and fun!  Thorough, winsome, and entertaining, this is the first book that should be recommended to any skeptic who levels a charge against the reliability of the gospel accounts or the historical figures that penned them.

Advertisements

Fideism Makes Me Barf

It’s been a while.  I guess the weather has just been too nice or something.  There’s nothing like learning a new word to give me something to write.  My wife thinks these words make me sound arrogant, but I’ve read that most congresspersons have only a 10th grade vocabulary, so I’ll take the risk.  Apparently our lack of vocabulary isn’t getting us anywhere!

The word “fideism” is only interesting to me because this past week I had a couple of conversations about the role of evidence as it pertains to Christianity.  One was with a group of adults who had a lot to say over 1.5 hours about evidence and how it builds trust/faith.  It was a fun conversation.  The other was with a group of mostly Jr High kids, who seemed to meet the question with mostly blank stares.  They’re the ones that concern me the most, since this is about the age of my own kids now.  I’m concerned we’re letting our kids down, teaching them to be fideists, because that’s what we are.

The word fideism comes from the Greek word fides, which simply means “faith”.  So fideism is simply faithism.  In short, it is the idea that faith and reason are contrary to one another, and that faith is the better mechanism for arriving at real truths.  I find this absurd.  It seems clear to me that Christian faith and reason are complimentary.  In fact, Christianity in general has a long tradition of appealing to both physical and spiritual evidence.  Personally, I cringe when I hear Christians say that we just need “simple” faith.  I don’t think classical Christianity has ever been a simple faith other than the fact that aligns itself nicely with the reality we observe around us.  Doctrines of other religions (including anti-theism in my opinion) require you shut off your mind and ignore evidence in order to accept them.  Somewhere along the way after the Enlightenment, Christians got the idea that reason was at war with faith, so it was best to “just have faith”.  This certainly wasn’t true for the Jesus, the Apostles, or early church leaders.  They spent vast amounts of time reasoning with people and defending the rationality of their faith.  We should be no different.

I love evidence, and I love that Christianity, in my opinion, is reasonable and evidential.  History, archaeology, theology, science, philosophy…it can all be leveraged to support the claims of the Biblical narrative God->Man->Fall->Jesus->Resurrection = Salvation.  This gives me proper justification for my belief, rather than just having blind faith, or faith based primarily on certain feelings like LDS missionaries have encouraged me to put over external evidence rather than in combination with external evidence.  On the contrary, I think belief without evidence is foolishness!  If a person says they know something, but can’t say why they know it, I can’t see why I would believe them.  I’d guess pretty much every worldview out there can present a membership who “feel” that they’re correct.  I can no more accept that fideism is a proper epistemological theory than is the scientism professed by today’s new atheists.  Both views are deficient.  Faith needs evidence, and evidence, or rather the conclusions drawn from evidence, need faith.  Any scientist that tells me this isn’t so, must prove to me scientifically that science works!

We all have faith in something, it’s merely a matter of whose faith is more rational.  If you can’t explain to somebody why you’ve placed your faith in something, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Allah, science, etc, then you can’t actually claim to know anything.  We must get to know God, and teach our kids to know God .  We need to renew our minds(Romans 12:2), not shut them off.  We need to be prepared to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15)!  Blind belief is just fideism.  This is why kids are walking away from the Church in droves when friends and college professors present their arguments for why all religions are the same…simple fairytales to explain former gaps in science.  We’ve got to train ourselves and our kids why it is we have good reason to believe Christianity is true.  Fideism isn’t acceptable.  If you think it is, don’t be surprised if you, your kids, or your grandkids end up buying ocean front property in Arizona (or some magic golden tablets in upstate New York).  Fideism makes me barf.