In this episode, Kurt speaks with detective J. Warner Wallace on how his skills as a cold-case detective led him to discover the truth of Christianity.
Kurt: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. So nice to be with you here yet again, week after week, out of the, Chris, how did you use to call it, the best international apologetics..
Chris: #1 international apologetics podcast being broadcast from West Chicago.
Kurt: Yeah. #1 international apologetics podcast being broadcast out of West Chicago, Illinois. We are the only one for those that are wondering.
Chris: That’s not a confirmed metric, but we are currently the #1.
Kurt: It’s like world’s best coffee. We’ve got it. If you’re just joining us, on last week’s episode we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. JP Moreland and we talked about Scientism and Secularism, his recent book that’s coming out very soon in October. If you haven’t had a chance, we’ve got that up at our website. You can pre-order the book. We’ve got a link to Amazon. We’d love for you to check that out. On today’s program, we’re talking about Cold-Case Christianity, but before we get to that, I’ve got one announcement for an event that we’ve been planning for the ages, the Defenders Conference 2018, Genocide in Scripture? We hope you’ll join us next week at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills here in the Western suburbs of Chicago. We have four different Christian perspectives on the supposed genocide commands. This is going to be a great opportunity for you to come and learn about these perspectives, to be prepared for when an atheist or a skeptic might ask you, doesn’t YHWH instruct the Israelites to kill even the women and the children? How are we to respond to that? We’ve got this great opportunity to learn about these different views and I’m sure the panel discussion is going to be just a fascinating opportunity to hear these scholars interact with each other’s views. Of course, there will be breakout sessions as well for different topics. You can learn more all about this and register even online at TheDefendersConference.com. That’s September 28-29, next week. We would love to see you there. We even have a group of six high school teachers coming from Louisville, Kentucky. We have a couple from Virginia, a family from Oklahoma. People from all across the country are coming just for this event which is so great. I hope it will be a huge blessing to them.
On today’s program, we’re talking about Cold-Case Christianity. What does that mean? Our guest on today’s program is J. Warner Wallace or Jim as his friends call him. He is a cold-case detective, senior fellow at the Colson Center for the Christian Worldview and a professor of apologetics at BIOLA University, my alma mater. He’s the author of several books which I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to talk about. Jim. Thanks so much for joining us on our program today.
Jim: Really glad to be with you, but I was cheating while you were introducing all this and I was looking at your Defenders Conference. You’ve got a great line-up. People out there watching or listening to this. I just look at it and I know who all of these guys and I know what their positions are on this and you have really done a good job I think at picking the four people who best represent the variety of Christian views on this topic, so really congratulations. That’s going to be a good conference. I think that’d be a lot of fun. Where am I next week? I’m actually in Ohio and in Tennessee, dang it. This would be a good conference to go to. If anyone’s interested, these are the guys who have written the most extensively and published the most extensively and are probably the foremost authorities in this area, so I can’t imagine coming away from that conference and not having that issue settled in your own mind. That’s great. Congratulations.
Kurt: Thanks, Jim. I appreciate that. It’s going to be a blast. If for whatever reason your flights get cancelled, come on out to Chicago.
Jim: I just need to cancel an event so I can get to this. That’s a bad thing sometimes about being a speaker and doing events is that you find yourself, even for church, people will say what church is your? I’ve got a church that I tithe at, but I’m never there because on Sundays I’m always on somebody else’s church speaking. This is true for conferences. Even the ones that I could go to, I’m probably traveling. It makes it hard for sure.
Kurt: Jim. For those who don’t know you, you are a cold-case detective for a number of decades now and you have integrated the skills that you’ve learned as a cold-case detective to come to the Christian faith. You were raised as an atheist which is, not many people are raised atheists. I guess more people are today.
Jim: Maybe, yeah. It wasn’t so much that my family was “We’re going to make sure that this guy does not believe in anything.”
Kurt: Religion wasn’t a big thing.
Jim; Right. Just nobody who was a believer to do otherwise. You just are raised in this environment where you just didn’t go to church, didn’t know anybody who did go to church, didn’t know anybody who believed this was true, and everyone, I did meet along the way in my life who would tell me they were Christians didn’t seem like they, they didn’t seem like they came to it for very good reasons. Even when you pushed back a little bit they would kind of shrink from your pushback. I just thought, “Okay. This is people who like certain kinds of food.” I don’t like those kinds of food, so I’m not going to be eating with them. That kind of thing. That’s just kind of where I left it for a number of years, although I would tell you, I used to mock, and I can remember one of my partners, I don’t want to give him away because he wouldn’t know I was talking about him, we were working undercover when I became a Christian, about a year before I did, I remember we had a guy on our team. No. We had a guy we arrested who was an outspoken Christian and told us that he was a Christian as he was taking him to jail after watching him do a bank robbery. We were a surveillance teams. We watched him do robberies. We thought we had a guy that was doing bank robberies. We got him up on him. We spent a week on him, watching him score dope, watching he live his life. He ran out of money and he walks into a bank and does a bank robbery of a home savings here in Lakewood, CA. After we’re done, we chase him down because he kind of got nervous and started looking over his shoulder and he spotted our team and now we’re in pursuit. We’re in plain cars. We’re chasing this guy in plain cars which is stupid. We ended up crashing his jail and taking him to jail and in the back of my car on the way, he told me “You know, I really should know better than this because my wife and I were Christians. We became Christians at a large outdoor evangelistic event.” He knows better he said. I remember sharing this story with one of my pastors. We just mocked this poor guy mercilessly because we thought this is what Christians do. It doesn’t seem like it makes any difference in their life. How can you old these views yet still be doing bank robberies. We thought as atheists we seem to behave a lot better than these Christians we’re taking to jail. That was something that always stuck in my head and then sure enough a year later, I’m investigating Christianity and all my partners are mocking me for even taking a step of investigating anything. I wasn’t even there yet, but I was just investigating it to see if it was true. That went on for probably another five or six years as they mocked me as a new Christian. A lot of it was not being raised in an environment where I had any positive examples of thoughtful, reasonable, evidential Christians that would kind of guide me toward this.
Kurt: What was it in your experience that sort of brought you to the belief that there is a God?
Jim: A lot of it was just that Suzie, my wife, was more interested and having been raised a cultural Catholic and had a Mom who’s a believer, and was really a Bible reader, somebody who understood the claims of Christianity, but Suzie was more of a cultural experience kind of person who after we’d been together about 18 years and during that 18 years I don’t think I’d ever been to church for anything other than a performance, someone’s performance, or a wedding or a funeral or something like that. I was not interested, but if Suzie was interested, I would go. I’d be happy to go, only because I wanted, my Dad’s the same way by the way as a non-believer. He’d be happy to go with his family members. When I was a pastor, he came to our church and he’s happy to sing the hymns. He thinks that Christianity has a place in culture, an important place in culture that needs to be upheld, but he thinks it’s not true, but it does provide great structure and moral foundations. He was willing, that was my position too. It was her encouragement to go. I finally went with her. We were in this neighborhood about three years of living in this house and I finally said, “Okay. I’ll go.” I went and the pastor was just so gifted. That’s why a lot of things are said about the way that pastors work in culture. Right? I know that there’s all variety of churches that are out there. I get it. Why people would argue for one form of church over another. I kind of think every form of church has value and liabilities and we just need to get over the fact that we see these liabilities we want to nitpick, because I was in a church at that point that was really a seeker-sensitive church that I would say today, “I’m not sure that’s really the approach I would take.” Really? That’s the approach that reached me. This guy was able to throw the ball across the center of the plate that I could hit it. He pitched Jesus as a smart, wise, sage whose moral teaching, just a couple of important sermons, changed the foundation of Western Civilization. He actually provoked me to think about whether or not I was in fact enforcing laws that were grounded in the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. I thought, “Is that true?” It provoked me to buy a Bible and that’s when this all began. That’s really how I got interested. It wasn’t because we were in a position of crisis. It just was honestly a pastor who provoked me to examine these claims and the only way you can examine the claims is to read the text and then you have to figure out whether the text is reliable or not and that’s what I started to do over the next six months.
Kurt: For you then, perhaps going from atheism to Christian theism was sort of one step. For some folks, they can come to belief in God and then they realize Christianity is the best reflection of that, of everything else I see, but for you it’s kind of a two-packaged deal.
Jim: Here’s what would happen with me. What really happened for me is kind of traced to my books and it came in the order of my books. I became convinced that the Gospels contained reliable eyewitness accounts and then you’ve got a problem. I would have said, “They’re reliable up to miraculous stuff,” I would have excised all of that. That was my first step of trusting. I get to the extent that you can verify ancient claims, I really felt comfortable with these claims because I had process in place. Remember, when you’re working cold-case homicides, you’re working any crime, you’re working an event in the past. As a detective, if I get a report on my desk, that’s probably two days old, before it went through all of our process and I finally get the report, it’s probably two days old. If I open a cold case, these are just homicides because there’s no statute of limitations on a homicide, if I decide to open one of those, this is really cold. It happened maybe 35 years ago. I might not have access to eyewitnesses anymore. They might be old. Many times they are. A lot of times too I’ve got a report written by a detective and when I call that guy he’s either so old that he can’t really help me anymore or he’s dead too. Maybe he was 35 or 40 when he wrote the report. Cops don’t live that long. We all die in our 50’s. Now I’m stuck with a report about something and I have no access to the eyewitness they’re talking about and I have no access to the person who wrote the report to tell me about an eyewitness who’s now dead also, so it’s very similar to what we’re looking at here. I got to that point where I felt “I’m testing these, but I still cannot take that step” because I’m such a committed philosophical naturalist that I rejected anything miraculous in the Gospels and that’s when I had to go a time out and say, “Okay. What am I grounding? Why do I believe that miracles are out of bounds?” I need to test this and see if as an atheist, I already held some extranatural beliefs related to cause. I needed to check that. The second book I wrote, God’s Crime Scene, really talks about that time out where I said let’s take a look and examine whether or not naturalism can really explain the universe the way it is. If it can’t, if the best explanation for the universe is a personal divine being that is the first uncaused cause of all space, time, and matter, then I really need to surrender my hesitancy about miracles because to create everything from nothing, that’s a pretty big deal and then anything else I would see in the New Testament would be small potatoes by comparison. That’s where I then relinquished my hesitancy about miracles, because I do think that the best explanation for the universe is an all-powerful, non-spatial, non-temporal, non-material, first cause that is the grounding for all moral things we consider to be virtuous and is the basis for information in DNA, the design we see in both the fine-tuning of the universe and biology and also is the reason why we experience mind and have free agency because we’ve been designed in the image of a being that is a mind that freely creates. Once I got to that point, then I was open to the claims of the Gospels and then I became a Christian. That process was not just me working hard to kind of figure through. I had a bunch of barriers that I constructed in front of the gospel that stood between me and the cross. I needed to knock those down and my interest to begin with in knocking those down didn’t start until I was 35 and I truly believe that that was God working because you cannot reason your way to the cross. God’s going to call you, but He may use the evidence, and I think He’s been doing that for 2,000 years, is using, a lot of us, we grew up in a tradition where we didn’t come to faith through the evidence, but that was, I don’t think that that’s part, you see the biblical model in the book of Acts is always on the basis of direct evidence, that’s the eyewitness testimony, of the people who saw the resurrected Christ. That is the catalyst for all belief in the book of Acts. It’s always, it’s never “Have you ever stolen anything? Then you’re a thief. Ever lied? You’re a liar. You need to stop.” It’s not about that. It’s not the Way of the Master approach to evangelism. It’s not about big stadium evangelism. It’s this. The Old Testament folks predicted these 3, 5, 10, things, and we as eyewitnesses are here to tell you that we saw that with our own eyes in the person of Jesus Christ and that’s why Jesus commissions them as His eyewitnesses, direct evidence, and He only replaced the missing Judas for example with somebody named Matthias who happens to be somebody who was part of the collection of people in the Upper Room who had seen Jesus from the baptism to the resurrection, that was the criteria by the way, there could have been a lot of criteria. They could have said has to be a certain kind of character, has to be, no. Has to have a certain kind of preaching skill. no. One criteria to replace Judas. Has he been an eyewitness from the beginning to the end? If he qualified in that regard, he was available, and Matthias got chosen. So clearly, this entire approach has always been from a Christian perspective, evidential. We may be in a tradition or we may have interpreted theological constructs that say, “No. It’s something else”, but that’s not the way it was presented in the New Testament and this is not even the way Jesus did it. Jesus was a strict evidentialist.
Kurt: I’m with you. I don’t think I disagree with anything you’ve just said.
Jim: Part of this is about us deciding, for me I just thought everyone becomes a Christian this way. I thought that church is full of people, cause I walked in….
Kurt: I wish.
Jim: It was so weird when I walked in and the only background Suzi had had was regular church mass attendance, which was for her probably maybe growing up was pretty frequent, but when we got started dating, she was 15 and I was 17, really we had no frequent attendance to anything, but on holidays, Christmas, I was willing as part of her family tradition to go to a mass, didn’t think it was true, but I did it. That was our only background coming into this and when we first were put in the evangelical church, it was kind of like a warehouse church. It was not….
Kurt: Traditional church structure.
Jim: Yeah. She walks in and says, “Man. This does not feel holy”, because her only context for this was the traditional structure, cross-structure, of Catholic sanctuaries and so she didn’t really understand, is this a church, and then they had a worship team that was like a full-on band. Right? I was thinking at the time, “This is bizarre”, but after I became a Christian I started looking around and I started thinking, “So all these people must know now what I know.” Nope. Not true, as you know. It’s something that I spent the last 20 years trying to argue for, and you know this. If you write an apologetics book. You’re going to reach 10% of the church buying group. Christians aren’t even interested in apologetics books. This is one of the smallest niche markets and that’s the trick. That’s why I think that I’ve tried, look for example, at your Defenders Conference. I’m looking at this website again. I know these guys. I know what their books do. I know how popular their books are and aren’t, and I look at those books and there’s a couple of guys there who have written some of the best books on this subject, yet I bet you if you compared their book sales to Jesus Calling, right? Forget about it. You compare their books to what Oprah Winfrey will do with a book. Forget about it. A lot of this is just that we are in this, I said this to Sean McDowell this morning. We were having coffee this morning and I said, “If you think about it, we are asking people to form a new kind of version of Christian living, but this version we’re asking for is a more laborious version. In other words, it’s really easy to discuss your Christian walk if all we’re asking you to do is share your testimony. You’ve always got one. It’s their whole life. It’s easy to say, but if you have to know something evidentially in order to share the truth that’s harder because you’d have to actually know something aside from your own personal experience which requires no work at all, so we’re asking people to live in a way that is more labor-intensive, and that’s why when people ask me, I can’t tell you, I do a lot of churches and a lot of conferences and they’re not always just the apologetics fans. They’re sometimes just church attenders, which is great, and they’ll always say during Q&A, “This is all great, but we want to know what’s your testimony.” They want to know how you became a Christian just like you were talking when we started here and I almost always will say, “It doesn’t matter how I became a Christian. I’ll be happy to share with you, but I think it’s meaningless and unimportant. What matters is is this true?” Everyone of every stripe of every religious belief system, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists…
Kurt: They have their own testimonies.
Jim: Right. Those don’t matter, because you can have a rich robust testimony that even seems supernatural, yet be in a system that’s utterly false, so I just don’t think that it’s worth telling you what my testimony is. I don’t want you to get locked into that view of what it is to be a Christian. I’d much rather you look and see if it’s evidentially true.
Kurt: For you, when you want to pursue the facts, to pursue the history, to discover what was true, you came to the understanding that Christianity is a falsifiable religion. What do we mean when we say that Christianity is falsifiable and what makes that different from the other world religions like Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc?
Jim: I thought that all of these systems, when I was an atheist, I thought that all of these systems were the same in the sense that you have to just take them on experience or take them on faith, the word meant basically you had no evidence so therefore you just took it on faith. I thought, that’s why I wasn’t interested. I don’t think I could be part of something that’s not falsifiable or verifiable, one or the other, both actually. What I mean by that is unlike other systems, this system rises and falls on the truth nature of a claim about history, so Buddhism not make historical claims about the past that I can cross-check, that I can even try to establish, but this system is all about whether or not Jesus rose from the grave. It hinges entirely on that one episode, only because it makes an affirmative claim that Jesus rose from the grave. If it’s not true, this is built on a lie, and this is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. For me, that made it really easy because when I hit that passage I was like, “Okay. Even he says if I spend my time here as an investigator, it will be well served, because this is what it all comes down to is this hinge experience.” That’s what I try to do. I try to stay in that lane and just look at this one issue and I have a tendency to believe people who rise from the dead so if I discover He rose from the dead, I’m probably going to believe what He has to say about other things and that would uniquely separate Him from other religious leaders. When I was in high school, the closest I ever came to wanting to follow an ancient sage, I had a sociology teacher who was B’Hai and introduced me to the writings of Baha’u’llah and I was so captivated by his story being imprisoned and writing this entire manuscript in his own blood while in captivity, and his statements, his wisdom statements, are all a collection of proverbial truth claims so they really would be great fortune cookies. Right? They really are good twitter posts because they’re these short, pithy, provocative statements about reality that are self-contained and make no claims about history, there’s no way to verify or falsify these things. You could say “That’s pretty wise. That’s a wise statement. That’s true,” but anyone could make that wise statement and still be a charlatan. Just a wise statement is all it is. I wondered if Jesus was in that same category, but He’s not because this is a claim about something that puts Him in a different category. He’s not like Baha’u’llah or Muhammad or Buddha or anyone if in fact, He’s claiming he rose from the dead. It’s liar, lunatic, Lord. I didn’t know that paradigm, but it was clear to me that if someone makes a claim like that as an investigator and it’s not true, then I’m done with you and so this is how I felt about this claim. I think that’s what separates it and why we ought to, if we have the one theistic worldview that is driven by a claim in history you could actually corroborate, then we ought to have a system in place to share this worldview that is uniquely Christian in the sense that it’s driven by this process of corroboration, cause we could easily do what everyone else does, but that’s what everybody else does. We have the one system you could actually work differently with and I think we ought to be taking advantage of that.
Kurt: Speaking of corroboration, your work as a crime scene detective has been able to allow you to see that the Gospels themselves are these reliable documents and so you might think you might take interviews of witnesses that have seen a crime and you might see how their stories corroborate and that can help lead to the reliability of what they’re saying actually happened. How was it that your skills here led you to discover that the Gospels were reliable?
Jim: Right away as I read through these Gospels trying to get the wisdom statements of Jesus I kind of thought it would be like reading the writings of Baha’u’llah. I buy a Bible and I open it up and I start going through to see what does Jesus say? What do the red letters say? What is it this pastor thinks is so brilliant. I read through the Gospels and I see they’re really cased in what appear to be claims about true events that actually happened in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I thought, Okay. I learned a long time ago you don’t trust any eyewitnesses on any case. They could tell you something really cool, something that could help your case. They can say, “I saw him do that.” Don’t trust it. I’ve been a fool many times when people early on in my career would tell me something that was untrue. I always test it and if I test it and it passes the test well then I will trust them because I know that test can be applied in front of a jury and he’ll still pass the test. My concern is I might trust someone, but what if the DA or the defense attorney rather has a more rigorous approach to this guy and discovers something in his past, discovers, I don’t know. I don’t need to find that out on the eve of his testimony. What they typically do is release this on the eve of their testimony and then I’m stuck with this guy. I want to do that myself before I get to trial. That’s what I try to do with the Gospels. Those are criteria we use in criminal trials. It’s built on 13 or 14 questions that jurors can ask themselves when accessing their eyewitnesses. They’re in the California jury instruction which I’ve got on my shelf back here. I just took those 13 or 14 questions, they really break down into four large categories, so if I could test the Gospels in these four categories, were they really written early enough to contain eyewitness testimony at all? If they’re not written early enough, then they don’t contain, you have to be there in order to say you were there. Two. Could they be corroborated in some way? Three. Have they changed their story over time or have they been honest and accurate? Four. Do they possess some bias that would cause them to lie? This is how we test eyewitnesses. I think part of the biggest problem. I think actually, if you look at the experts you have at your conference, how do we develop expertise in something? You’ve got people who are either experts in philosophy or they have great manuscript expertise or they have great expertise in the history of the first-century or the history in this case of ancient times regarding Jewish culture. That gives you a certain expertise. That’s not who I am. It’s not, but that’s not who jurors are either. Jurors are not experts. They’re just regular people. They’re people who are passionate, it’s why you try to pick people that care…
Kurt: That care for the law and justice.
Jim: They’re smart enough. They want to serve. They want to be there. You don’t expect them to be experts in the area you’re investigating. As a matter of fact, I will not allow experts on my jury. I may call experts, but you don’t put experts on your jury because they sometimes are prideful and they hold a position. You’ve got four experts here on this issue and they all disagree with each other. Okay? What’s going to happen is your attendees get to be the jury that after listening to the four experts will land this issue for themselves. That’s what we do in criminal trials. I’m always concerned about what I bring to this. What I bring to this is I know how to put together cases. I know how to put together cases and make them clear for juries. I listen to the experts. I don’t always agree. I land it because I’m looking at every expert. I’m looking at all four of these guys. I will tell you which one of these four, I won’t tell you. Your audience wants to tell you next week, but I would say “Based on what I would do, I think I can only land this in front of a jury one of these four ways, and this is the way…” I think that because I know how to build cases in front of a jury and I know which seems to be the most reasonable inference from the evidence that juries will accept. That’s the expertise that I bring to this and that’s what I try to do in my books and I just try to say, “Look. I get it. There’s lots of evidence in manuscript evidence. Lots of experts around the first-century related to Israel or related to the context in which Jesus lived, but it turns out all these experts don’t even agree with each other on most things. What I can help you do is see how to put the evidence case together and how to arrive at the most reasonable inference that you could actually throw to a jury.” For me, that’s what I try to do and one of the toolsets that I realized early on is people will say that these differences between accounts have to be resolved in some way. How do we resolve the differences between the Gospels? What I see is a lot of people who have manuscript expertise who are wrestling with this and are willing to concede certain issues, to concede certain points of Scripture even, because they’re trying to resolve the differences between the Gospels. Those people all have great expertise in history and in manuscript evidence, but they have never worked with eyewitnesses. They have never interviewed three, four, five, six, people who see the same event and they come to you within hours of seeing it and they give you a story. They never line up. They never match, yet I don’t start sacrificing the details in order to arrive at the truth, because this is what reliable eyewitness testimony looks like, and the only thing I ever say to any body, when a dispatcher dispatches me to homicide, I only have one request that I make and that is “You’ve got officers at the scene. It’s going to be an hour before I get there. I got to put a suit on. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. I’m going to be a little while getting there. Do me a favor. Have your officers separate the eyewitnesses. That’s the only instruction I offer because I know if they don’t separate those eyewitnesses, I’m going to get the same story five or six times. I don’t want the same story. I want it to be nuanced. I don’t want them to talk to each other and try to resolve the alleged differences. Those differences, #1, are not really what you think they are. They’re built into a witness’s geographic difference in the crime, also their personal histories, the thing they’re interested in. If I’m a gun nut, I’m probably going to get the gun details down. If I’m a clothing nut, I’m probably going to get the clothing details down. I need to know enough. I’ll be interviewing and asking those kinds of questions so I know who to trust on certain issues. Why would you leave that detail out? I didn’t even notice it. How could you not notice that? That’s not his interest. I need to figure out what are your interests so I can see why it is you would notice something. So a lot of these alleged discrepancies that I see a lot of theologians and academic people wrestle to try to figure out what is the overarching reason. I’ll just be honest. I’m not impressed with any of that because I just know that the one thing I can help you with is what it looks like to interview eyewitnesses because that’s what I’ve been doing for a living for 30 years. It does teach you that there’s a certain level of variation you should expect to see, I can’t give it to you in numbers, but it’s something you just start to get comfortable with. If I see it’s outside that range, then I’m going to ask penetrating questions, but if I see its under that range, I’m going to go,”You guys have been talking to each other haven’t you?” That’s where I am at.
Kurt: What you mean by variation is the stories will be different from one person to the next.
Jim: Absolutely. Something will be so different, give you an example of this. Order matters. The reason why we try to separate the eyewitnesses is we don’t want them next to each other when we finally interview them. We’re going to separate the eyewitnesses and we’re going to keep these people separately. We’re going to talk to each one individually. I don’t want the other people to hear what this guy says, but there are times when you just can’t help it, for whatever reasons, you’re now dealing with someone who for whatever reason is aware of what the others said. Maybe he comes to you several days later and he’s talked to one of the other eyewitnesses, but he doesn’t want to stick around the night of the murder, but now he’s coming back, but he knows what that one eyewitness has already said. Maybe somebody gets wind of it in the press and they release certain details you don’t want released and then you have a witness come forward, this is really true on cold cases because after awhile we start releasing details. You’ve got to deal with a guy who comes in ten years later and he’s aware of what the original details are, so what happens is typically those kinds of witnesses will quickly just fill in the gaps. They already know you have the overarching story and they will simply fill in gaps for you. They’ll say, “I want to clarify something that people have been telling you” and they will clarify it and you’re “I get that. Just do me a favor. Pretend like you don’t know what you already told me and please just start at the first and walk me through what you saw. I don’t want you to try to fill in gaps. We can do that later, but what I want right now is to have you start at the very beginning.” You’ll see that if there’s somebody who comes in late who’s aware of the prior testimony, you’re going to have to do this and so when I see that John, for example, has a different kind of Gospel that includes elements of the Synoptics, but really includes clarifications of details that are in the Synoptics. I don’t get nervous about that. It doesn’t bother me because I see this all the time in eyewitness testimony. Unfortunately, nobody is able to do what we do in criminal trials, separate people, keep them from knowing what they’re talking about and start at the beginning and work to the end. That didn’t happen with John so I get that, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to now wrestle and say, “This is some unusual”, I’m not going to go to extraordinary efforts to explain that because that is so typical. You can just stay within the simplicity of eyewitness statements to explain this stuff.
Kurt: And your intention here isn’t per se to harmonize every difference in the Gospel. Your intention here is to illustrate that these are reliable eyewitnesses to the events surrounding Jesus’s life.
Jim: Let me just that if you’re not careful in how you sparse it, and we’ve seen this recently where church leaders have been really making an effort to be persuasive, but because they’re speaking every Sunday, they’re not necessarily as precise, so you sacrifice some precision in order to be persuasive at times, you just do. I’ve seen that happen in the last year or so with several people on the national level, but what, I’m going to say something and I’m going to clarify quickly. I think my interest as an atheist, was not about inerrancy. I wasn’t in circles where that issue was coming up. For me, I just bought a Bible for the first time. I needed to know is this reliable eyewitness testimony. I do believe in inerrancy, but I think we have to talk about what we mean by that. Okay? For me though, as an investigator who was coming out of atheism, inerrancy’s not the issue. If you said, “We believe that every word is spoken from”, what I believe we have are eyewitness accounts that were driven by the Holy Spirit, but retain the kinds of, let’s put it this way, if God intended for us to get four accounts that we could test in such a way that we could determine that they’re reliable like other reliable eyewitness accounts, He achieved it, because we have a system in place that we can use and so you might say, “Why would He leave these variations?” Because this is the nature of, do you really think if we have four accounts that were word for word identical that we would have greater confidence in their reliability? I think we’d have less confidence in their reliability. I don’t think God would remove those kinds of differences. I think that in the end, and you might say, “How do I harmonize these?” They’re always a way to harmonize. I retweet on my twitter account, I follow 750 Christian blogs and I scan those every day and I try to get the top 12, 15 articles, and there’s a couple of people who will write about these discrepancies, the alleged contradictions, they do a great job, and every single one of them, I don’t always agree with the approach, but it’s clear that these can be harmonized. The question becomes, if you think this is a bit of a stretch, you have not worked my cases. You’d have a harder time, believe me, harmonizing my eyewitnesses, but we convicted these guys, and after we convicted some of them, they confessed to it, so although I had crazy allegedly contradictory accounts, we were able to harmonize them without throwing anything out and then we convicted these guys based on those accounts and then they eventually confessed that, “Yes. I did it.” so clearly you can have eyewitness accounts that appear to be contradictory yet you can know that something is true. That to me was never, it never stalled me, it never became a problem for me. That was the one thing that actually led me to think “Aw, man” because I know when people lie, they will line up their lies and this to me looked, that principle we talk about of embarrassment, I’ve known some guys who would include embarrassing things in their lies.
Kurt: In order to be perceived as…
Jim: Yeah. They want to be more persuasive with me so it’s not as though it’s not possible for you, but it was one of those pieces, I always say this is death by a thousand paper cuts. It’s not that this is the one thing that solved it for me. It’s just one of hundreds of things that when I look at them together cumulatively, people will say what’s the one thing that convinced you? There’s not one thing that convinced me. There’s never one thing that convinces me unless he confesses. It’s always going to be on the strength of 100 things on how I don’t know you could not get another reasonable inference because of the weight of these 100 things. This is where I arrive with Christianity.
Kurt: Jim. This has been great. We’ve got to take a short break here. When we come back we’re going to talk about the skills that you’ve applied and how Christians can apply those in their pursuit of truth and some of the questions we should be asking ourselves. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor you can visit our website at Veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. If you notice something different about our video during this half of the program, you’ll see I forgot to turn on our screen here today, but check that out. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as well and if you want to text the word VERACITY to 555-888, you will get free text updates about our show, upcoming guests, you can even reply back if you have a guest you want on the show or a topic you want addressed. We’d be happy to take that input. Also, for our patrons, those are folks that just chip in a couple bucks a month, $5, $10, maybe $20, we’ve got a Marco Polo group on the Marco Polo app. It’s a video walkie-talkie app and I’ve had a great time interacting with some of the supporters who have asked questions or they wanted me to ask questions of our guests. It’s a great way for me to engage with some of the listeners and of course, we’d love to get your support, so you can go to VeracityHill.com to learn more about that. On today’s program we’re talking with cold-case detective, J. Warner Wallace. He was an atheist growing up and in his 30’s began to evaluate the truth claims of Christianity and came to realize, gee, what we have with the Gospels are reliable, eyewitness, documents, and so they’re worthy of our attention and support and he became a Christian and now he speaks nationwide, he’s I guess an international speaker as well. He’s written a number of different books, Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith. We’re talking about here the Gospels and how Jim has incorporated his detective skills and he’s going to be sharing with us some tips as well about how we can incorporate some of these tips when we’re seeking truth. Jim, I didn’t tell you about this next segment of our program and that’s intentional. It’s called Rapid Questions where we ask just quick….
Kurt: I’m not sure. We have a game clock. It’s a 60-second game clock.
Jim: Got it. The answer has to be in 60 seconds. Is that what it is?
Kurt: We try to see how many questions you can answer within 60 seconds.
Jim: Let’s do it.
Kurt: I’ll start the game clock. You won’t hear it, but everyone else will. It will start when I ask my first question. Here we go.
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Jim: Men’s Wearhouse?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Jim: Taco Bell.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Jim: Something probably from David Nail.
Kurt: Favorite sport?
Kurt: What kind of razor do you use?
Jim: Gilette of course, mach 3. Come on.
Kurt: What’s your spouse’s favorite holiday?
Jim: Probably Christmas.
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Jim: Most hated sports franchise. It used to be Cleveland but now Lebron’s here in the Lakers. What am I going to do now?
Kurt: What’s your favorite movie?
Jim: Favorite movie? The most recent favorite move is A Silent Place I think it’s called.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Jim: No. Not really.
Kurt: I’m sorry. Pick a fictional character you’d like to meet.
Jim: Fictional character? What does Chris Pratt play on Guardians of the Galaxy? That character. I wouldn’t mind meeting that character.
Kurt: Nice. The buzzer has gone off, but I’ve got one question I must ask you.
Jim: Yes. Go.
Kurt: Which celebrity are you most like?
Jim: Oh man.
Kurt: How about which celebrity do you look most like?
Jim: Oh. The guy from Mad Men.
Kurt; The guy from Mad Men. Chris. Load it up. We’ve got it right here on the screen.
Jim: I get that all the time. Are you kidding me? I get that all the time, or I get Anderson Cooper. I get that a lot too.
Kurt: Okay. I could see Anderson Cooper. What’s the celebrity’s name Chris?
Jim: I forget his name.
Kurt: What is it?
Kurt: Latterny? I know him as Howard Stark from the Marvel movies. He’s one of the actors that plays Howard Stark.
Jim: Is he? I didn’t even know that. That’s the guy that everyone thinks I look like.
Kurt: We’ve got it up here for those watching the video online.
Jim: He’s a much better-looking guy. I’m happy to be mistaken for him then.
Kurt: Most hated sports franchise was the Cavaliers so now that has changed to…
Jim: You know what’s interesting about that?
Kurt: You’re being playful.
Jim: They were rivals all those years for the West coast team all of us loved, the Warriors. That’s one of the only reason. We’re happy to have Lebron at the Lakers. What’s interesting about basketball. Basketball is not like other sports. Basketball is all about heroes and villains whereas the other sports are like teamwork team kind of sports and so there are people you like or don’t like and that becomes the thing.
Kurt: Basketball used to be a team sport.
Jim: I know, but it’s now about personalities and I do like Lebron, but I just hated the fact that that franchise was always giving the Warriors a run for its money, so I guess basically I am a Warriors fan. I’ll just tell you that now. Anyone who steals a player from the Warriors or gives us a difficulty in the playoffs, for that year, that’s the franchise I hate.
Jim: Like Houston was the Rockets. Really? They came within a whisper last season, 7th game. I hate that.
Chris: Our actor’s name is John Slattery.
Kurt: John Slattery is the celebrity.
Jim: He should change his name because it’s really a hard name to say. Right? I guess you don’t have to if you’re famous.
Kurt: J. Warner Wallace. That’s easy. Just rolls off.
Jim: That’s also hard to say. Too many w’s I think.
Kurt: But do you know how many people can’t even say my last name? Jaros.
Jim: You either want a y or a j, they think they can help you with that. I changed my name because of Greg Koukl. He basically, I was doing radio with him and I would either sit in for him or be a guest or people would say you’re going to have Jim Wallis on your show next week. You must be a pretty open-minded guy because Jim Wallis doesn’t hold to your positions because they were thinking about Jim Wallis from Sojourners in Washington D.C. He said, “Dude. If you’re going to be on my show, you’re going to have to change your name”, and I’m like, “My search warrants all say J. Warner Wallace because of my grandfather.” I said we’ll just use that one. That kind of stuck and that’s why I use that name when I write to avoid confusion.
Kurt: In the first half of the program we talked a little bit about your background and the importance that evidence and eyewitness testimony played into your journey and your confirmation too, for you, it’s about the facts, you wanted to know what the truth is. What are some of those skills that you would advise Christians to utilize in their own pursuits of truth?
Jim: You guys got a great, I’m looking at all your podcasts, you have some great people on. You had Craig Evans. You had some great people on your podcast who kind of talked about how we could test the reliability of Scripture. Right? I’m guessing these are some principles, like the principle of embarrassment. Those kinds of things are usually what we talk about. Let me just give you some different principles that maybe you haven’t heard in the last few months or weeks on the podcast that might help you and they’re really 30,000 feet principles. They’re overarching large principles. You might look at this and go “Really? That’s going to help?”, but actually it will if you’re trying to communicate what you believe is true, what is true about God or Christianity to others. A couple of things, these are just jury instructions we give jurors. They help us and you do not just pick a jury. You pick a jury and then you instruct the jury and then they can access the evidence, but they don’t just access this blindly. We actually give them some guidelines. Structure. One of the simple things we talk about is the difference between possible and reasonable. This will help you, because people think they have to be beyond impossible doubt before they can accept anything and that’s not true for anything they believe. No one believes anything beyond a possible doubt. Our own existence, I can raise a possible or imaginary doubt about anything you think you know with certainty. The question, of course, is my complaint, is my objection, is the issue I am raising reasonable, and that’s why the standard of proof is not that high at possible doubt, it’s lower at reasonable doubt, and there’s a difference between possible. We have a jury instruction for this where we tell people to remember that I can raise an imaginary or possible doubt about anything. That’s not our standard. We would never convict anybody if that was the case. This is true for example, we’re going to get out of this podcast today and at some point we’re going to go back to our cars, put our key in the ignition, and turn the key, and that car could explode in your face and on the driveway because that happens everyday in America or in the world somewhere. It’s possible.
Kurt: It could be you.
Jim: It could be you today. We don’t operate on what’s possible because we’d be paralyzed by that high standard. Instead, we operate on what’s reasonable and that is important for us to remember, and what that means is that you’re going to have to make a decision about something with a lot of unanswered questions and that’s another jury instruction we give jurors. We can’t answer every question for you. I’ve had cases where what you might think are the most important questions are unanswerable. Where’s the body? We never recovered her body? We don’t know where her body was buried. We don’t know how he killed her. We don’t know where he killed her. We don’t know where he put her body. We don’t know how he moved her objects in her car so it looked like she ran off. We couldn’t answer any of those questions. Yet, the jury came to a verdict within four hours because you can know that he did it without having to know how, why, or where, he did it. These were large, unanswered questions. It turns out all of us believe things for which we still hold large unanswered questions, yet we still believe this to be true, whatever this is, and so if you think I’ve got to remove all questions that could be asked about Christianity or about God’s existence in order to believe that He exists or that Christianity is true, well you’re holding a standard for this claim that you don’t hold for any other claim because we certainly tell jurors all the time you cannot go to the jury room and say, “I still have open questions.” Duh. You’re going to have open questions. That’s just the nature of this work. That cannot paralyze you. That’s something I think helps when talking to people about this claim.
The third thing is that all of us share a burden of proof. I think that argument is sometimes made that you Christians believe there is a God I can’t see and that means you have a burden, you’re making an affirmative claim for something, therefore the burden is yours to prove your claim. I have no burden. I’m not making the claim that God exists. That’s not what happens at crime scenes. What happens at crime scene is we get to the crime scene and we look at the stuff at the crime scene and we say, “Wow. There’s ten pieces of evidence here.” My partner’s going to say something’s going to put up and go “This dude’s husband killed her.” I might look at that same set of evidence and say, “I don’t think so. I think the evidence in this scene points to her sister.” He’s got a claim about a cause. He thinks it’s the husband. I’ve got a claim about a cause. I think it’s the sister. I’ve got a burden to show to him, my team first, and eventually a jury, why the sister is the best inference from evidence. He’s going to have a burden why he thinks the husband is the best inference from evidence. We’re at the scene of the crime, the universe, and we’re looking at the universe and we see features of the universe that have to be explained. I’m going to make a claim. I think God, a cause outside of space, time, and matter, is the best explanation for the things we see inside of space, time, and matter. I have a burden to show you why I think my causal explanation is the best inference from evidence, but if you’re telling me you think you can get those same things with just nothing more than space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry, you have a burden to show me how space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry can get those eight things. We both share[NP2] ….
That’s why we have to at least put that burden back on those who are asking us to be the one to make the case.
Kurt: Jim. Your Skype kind of paused there and caught up quickly. Could you repeat that? The last couple sentences there.
Jim: I think we each have a causal burden, if we think that somebody, for years I thought that I could get everything in the universe from a purely naturalistic perspective, nothing more than space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry. That is my claim, that I can get that stuff, and I don’t need God for it then I have a burden to explain how space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry can get that stuff. We each hold an equal burden because we’re each offering a different causal suspect.
Kurt: So when we’re looking at the Gospels, what are some of the questions we should be asking to determine whether they are in fact, reliable?
Jim: If we think these are telling us something that occurred in history that’s been reported by people who allegedly were there. If Matthew and John are really eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, if Luke allegedly has access to those eyewitnesses during his time traveling with Paul and he would have had access to them and he seems to make that claim in Luke 1, if Papias is correct in arguing as an early bishop of the church, that Mark wrote his account at the feet of the eyewitness named Peter, then we can test these using eyewitness tools and it’s going to come down to those four things. Are they early enough to have been present so that we really are looking, because if you’re going to lie about Jesus, here’s the way you do it. You wait until everyone who knows the truth is dead because then you can say anything you want about Jesus and who’s going to know if you’re lying? You wait and write the story in the second generation, third generation, after Jesus is alive. If they are eyewitness accounts, that means they would have to be written by eyewitnesses, and that helps us because #1, it’s early enough to kind of check the first box and it would be early enough that if somebody caught a lie, they would be able to call them out and say that’s not true. I knew Jesus. He was none of those things. That’s the first criteria, how early are they? Early dating of the Gospels will go a long way toward helping us answer the question. #2. Can they be corroborated in some way? We will use evidence, physical evidence to corroborate an eyewitness’s claim. We will use another eyewitness. We can use any number of things to corroborate an eyewitness, but whatever we use, it’ll only be touchpoint, so for example, if a witness says, “He leaned over the counter and he stuck a gun in her face and he said, ‘Give me all your money’ ” and that’s the claim of the eyewitness. If I go back and I find the print of his palm on the counter exactly where this witness said that he leaned over to make this claim, that’s going to help corroborate the claim, but the palmprint will tell me nothing about what he was wearing, what he said, or if he had a gun, so it turns out that any corroborative evidence you use in a case is just a small fraction, like I wish I had video of every crime. I don’t. I have to look at small pieces of corroborative evidence that support a larger story. This is the nature of corroborative evidence. I’m looking for something similar in the Gospels. I don’t expect to have a video. I’m expecting small pieces of corroborative evidence.
Kurt; To make that connection them for corroboration, for me, the author Luke as a historian, he talks about historical politicians, places, structures at these places, these then would fall under this category of the corroboration there.
Jim: I feel like, so fine, he’s got small pieces of corroboration, but you could also use the earliest commenters, the people who were writing about Christianity. I would only stay within the first century or close to the first century, try to stay within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. I would not look at things that we sometime will pull in the writings of other authors. I would leave those later ones out, but that will give you some small glimpses of what corroborates. You could also look at internal evidences in the Gospels themselves. There’s a number, and I think that if you’re only going to get touchpoint corroboration then you need to be able to build a cumulative package of touchpoint corroboration and I think that’s very easy to do for the Gospels and that’s what I try to do in the book. That’s the second thing.
The third thing is how do we know that even if it’s an early account related to the life of Jesus. We know it’s early enough to have been written by an eyewitness and to have been written within the lifetime of those who would know better, it doesn’t mean it’s true because you might have a version back then that was very different than the version you have now. If that version was a simple Jesus who was a preaching rabbi who spoke some sermons but didn’t do all the miraculous stuff, if that stuff’s all added later, well how do we know if that stuff was there in the beginning? That’s where we talk about a chain of custody, because what we do in criminal trials is we ask whoever collected that evidence at the crime scene, that first collector’s going to write a report about collecting that evidence and he’s going to give it to somebody else and that second person in the chain is going to write a report about what he received so does that shell casing, does it look the same in the second report as it did in the first and then he’s going to bring it to the crime lab and that better match the first two reports and then he’s going to bring it to someone like me, I’m going to take it out and bring it to trial. My report needs to match so I’m not at report after report after report over time, a chain of custody. Who touched it? What did they say about it? You can do the same thing in the New Testament. You can look at the eyewitnesses, someone like John. You can say who did John give his report to? He’s got three personal students, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias. What do their reports say? We have those letters they wrote to local congregations. Let’s see if their story about Jesus matches John’s. They have a student. Two of them taught Irenaeus. We can see if Irenaeus’s story matches Ignatius and Polycarp and does it match John? We can do the same thing with this report. You’re going to be stuck with and this is why I think it’s silly to argue that somehow Jesus of Nazareth became the Christ of Christianity, it’s going to be silly to do that because the chain of custody shows us that this is an early account and it never changes. It doesn’t mean it’s true, but at least you get that, and so I do think the most reasonable reference is, and finally the issue of bias. Right? Look. When I first became interested in Christianity I was also simultaneously interested in Mormonism because I had so many Mormons in my family. That was the one group of believers, all atheists except I do have six brothers and sisters all raised LDS so I was interested in the claims of Joseph Smith. On this one issue of bias, the problem you’re going to have is there’s only three reasons why anyone tells a lie. The same three reasons why you commit a murder or do a theft or do anything you shouldn’t do. It comes down to financial greed, sexual lust, and pursuit of power. There’s no fourth category. I had someone who wrote me this morning, “What about someone who wants prestige or fame?” That’s in the third category, power, authority, respect, fame, or saving face is power. There is no fourth category. Jealousy is not a fourth category. Why are you jealous? It’s one of the first free. Vengeance is not a new category. It’s one of the first three is why you want revenge. This makes it easy for us to access liars because I’m looking at those three areas. Joseph Smith had motive in all three of those areas to lie about the Book of Mormon. He was being supported financially by his church. He consistently tapped into the money of his followers to buy things. He started a bank with the money of his followers. He also had more than 30 wives that were written into the system in Doctrines and Covenants, this is a prophecy that he wrote in to make sure he could do this. He also at one point was running, he announced his running for the presidency. He was in charge of the largest standing army on the North American continent aside from the American militia. Power was an issue. It does not mean Joseph’s lying, but it means he had motive to lie. What I have a hard time with is figuring out why any one person let alone hundreds of people, because that’s the claim here, it’s not just the twelve disciples. It’s 120 in the upper room. It’s 500 that Paul says were still alive for the Corinthians to ask questions. It’s a lot of people here who are making this false claim. What is motivating them? Is it money, sex, or power? Those are the only things that motivate any of us to lie. I think you’re going to have a hard time arguing that they’re motivated by these three things. I think when you look at that entire cumulative case of are they early enough, have they changed over time, can they be corroborated, and are they driven by a motive that would cause people to lie? I became relatively comfortable that this is a reliable account and then you’re stuck with this dude that came out of the grave so what do you do with that? You have to do something with him.
Kurt: Good. Speaking of what to do with him, scholars have different hypotheses about the events of early Christianity. What are some of those different perspectives on the events surrounding Jesus’s life and ministry?
Jim: When you say different perspectives, you mean in terms of the transmission of the documents or the actual claims of the document? There’s a couple of different ways of looking at this.
Kurt: Sorry. I think I have in mind here specifically with regard to the resurrection. Christians believe Jesus physically rose from the dead. People have other perspectives like there was the twin theory. It was thrown out in a debate against William Lane Craig. What are some other theories out there?
Jim: Imagine yourself as a detective in a court room where your defense attorney is offering one of these alternatives. You’re going to have to access this alternative evidentially in front of your jury, and so that kind of helps you to think about how, just get real practical. What happens sometimes is we think about this as a 2,000 year-old event that’s in Scripture and we kind of forget that you could actually approach this in a very non-sensical way as a detective. There’s lots of different theories. I think there’s probably 6 that I would have held or embraced or championed as an atheist and then, of course, there’s the Christian perspective, that is just reliable, this is what actually happened, but the non-Christian perspectives are pretty numerous right. It could be the result of a lie, a conspiracy told by people who want to advance a cause. It could be that they imagined this in some way, a hallucination or it could be, for example, that an impostor sat in and did this, pretended to be Jesus either on the front side of the cross or on the back side after the cross. It could be that was[NP3] looking at this. Right? So I made a list of all six ways, and by the way, this is not uncommon. I talk about this in the book. We have to do something similar when we look at death scenes because not every death scene’s a crime scene. There are four ways to die. We will write out the four ways to die. Accidental, natural, suicide, homicide. You look at all the evidence in the room and you try to figure out which of those four ways is the most reasonable inference given the evidence in the room? Let’s make a list of all the evidence we have of, and you can argue about whether or not this is good evidence, but we do seem to have a claim that’s pretty early in history, that involves an empty tomb, that by the way I think was empty because the easiest way to stop this quickly is to provide the body of Jesus. Over. Done. Or get the eyewitnesses to recant. Those two things would end it. I think you can make a list of what you think are evidences that we have to explain. By the way, everyone of these other explanations does that. It tries to explain what they think they have to explain because they’ve got a problem. They don’t agree with it. I made a list of all those things. Seven ways to explain the resurrection. The problem is that none of them work and that’s why we have seven because they realized they don’t work and so they always provide an alternative because did they lie? If you know anything about how conspiracies are built, you’ll quickly find out, “Maybe He just didn’t die. He was badly injured. He just looked bad. He was unconscious, but not dead.” Well, do you know anything about death? If you know something about death, I kind of walk through all of these and I did this myself as a new investigator of this claim, because I would have embraced one of those six. I would have been happy to do that. They don’t work though. I would have said, “Your Christian explanation doesn’t work either, because your Christian explanation requires a supernatural event called the resurrection and we know that’s garbage. There’s no way I can embrace that, but remember, that is only garbage because I held a view that disallowed anything supernatural, disallowed anything miraculous, and the reason why I held that view is because I held that view. It was my bias against the supernatural, but you could argue I’ve never seen anything like that. We work in physics all the time exploring areas that we will not see in our lifetime and we develop theories to explain the unseen, that these we’ll never experience. I don’t know that that should disqualify it. The issue it comes down to of all the explanations the only thing that made the Christian explanation unacceptable it turns out was my bias against the Christian explanation. If I could be neutral, then clearly the other things don’t work and I could take great pains to go through why they don’t work, but then I’m left with a straightforward explanation. It just happened. The only thing I have to overcome is my bias against the supernatural. That seemed to me to be an easier jump. Remember, everyone believes something for which they have less than perfect evidence, less than complete evidence. If you’re an atheist, you believe something and you can’t explain several features of the universe and your explanation’s probably going to be something like, “Yes, but we’ll be able to explain those because we’ll figure out a figure to explain those, but right now we can’t explain those things.” You can’t explain the information in DNA. You can’t explain the fine-tuning of the universe without going to a theory like multi-verse theory, which is a much bigger jump for me than the God hypothesis.
Kurt: And just begs the question too.
Jim: Yeah. I think it’s only a construct that helps you to get over the problem to begin with. It’s not like you didn’t know about the fine-tuning of the universe, but some other cause led you to believe that there’s a multiverse. It was the fine-tuning of the universe that was the tail that wagged that dog from the beginning, so that’s a problem I think. I just got to that place where I thought that was the most reasonable explanation.
Kurt: So if there was one weakness to the resurrection hypothesis, that would be it. That it requires the supernatural and that was a jump that you had to make.
Jim: A lot of us who are not believers, we would say if you’re going to include supernatural explanations you’re not doing history and you’re not doing science. Here’s how I put it. If you’re investigating a crime scene, you’re doing the same thing, asking questions that we were asked when we were kids. Our English paper would say write a paper and I want to you to answer these questions. Who? What? Where? Why? When? How? I can tell you what we do in investigations. If I made a list of how and where and why and when and what happened I will never take anyone to jail, because the how, what, where, when, those things don’t answer the biggest question I need to answer which is a who question. Who did it? The who question is what brings people into custody. Okay/ Science is willing to ask the other questions, but they will never ask the who question. We know in order to do an investigation completely you have to ask all the questions. What happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen? Where? Who did it? If we’re not going to ask that, if you think there are no who questions, only what questions, what set of impersonal forces is behind this? You’re leaving out the most important question, the classic questions we ask in any investigation and you’re only leaving that question out because you refuse to ask it. For years, science asked who questions, but after the Enlightenment we decided that who questions were out of the questions and we’ve eliminated who. I think you can still do science with the same kinds of revolutionary advances. All you’re doing, I’m not going to default everything to a who. Sometimes the best answer is what, but if everything points to minds who act freely and are the source of information in DNA, I don’t know why I would reject the most reasonable inference if it seems to me that the who question will get it done and so I think we should leave that question on the table and that’s what I was unwilling to do as an atheist when examining any event in history or any event in science, I just rejected who questions.
Kurt: So given the evidence that we have available to us and when we talk about the best explanation, whatnot, why do some people still reject that conclusion?
Jim: There’s a difference between facts and inferences. I spend many weeks in a criminal trial presenting the facts during the evidence show, but then the closing argument, I’m going to argue for what the best inference is from those facts. I see people confusing this. They’ll say the fact of evolution. Evolution, if it’s true, it still wouldn’t be a fact, it’s an inference from facts. It may be a true inference, I’m not going to argue that right now, but stop calling it a fact because that’s not how this works. We present facts in trial and then we ask a jury to make an inference. Those are two different things. The problem is that between the facts and the inferences I wish all it was was the rules of evidence, this very kind of computer thing you pump in and the computer takes all the rules and does statistical analysis and pushes it back out, but humans aren’t computers and we make inferences and we allow other things into that process like desires and personal histories and hopes and aspirations and matters of the will, matters of the heart. These things are part of our inference making process and those unfortunately are the things that sometimes will be more dominant in our thinking than just the rules of evidence and where should this lead and so what happens is we often will hear people say that they have rational objections when, in fact, their real trouble might be an emotional or volitional objection that’s unstated. I don’t want to say this, it’s hard to say that because then atheists will listen to that and say, “You’re telling me I don’t have good reason to reject this? It’s just my will or my emotions? That’s what’s at work?” I’m not saying that. I think that none of us are going to express our volitional resistance or our emotional resistance to strangers. We’re more than likely going to express it in the form of rational. I’ve got several things that bother me. I get it. Those are standing between the facts and the inference, but if you just try to be neutral and allow the rules of evidence, that’s why a lot of time I spend with people is talking about the rules of evidence because we’re trying to help jurors be unemotional and we know that every juror’s got a bias, got an opinion, got a perspective they come from. We say, “Can you suspend those things in order to deal with this because you might have had a bad experience with someone’s who a redhead, but my suspect’s a redhead. Are you going to be able to take your bad experience with redheads and not hold it against my suspect?” They’ll say, “Yeah. Of course.” The defense attorney has to decide, “Can I trust this guy that he really can do that?” and if he thinks he can, he’ll leave him on the jury. That’s what we do. Right? The same thing is happening here is that at some point we have to ask ourselves, “Are you rejecting this because there’s nothing enough evidence for this or are you rejecting it because you don’t want there to be enough evidence for this?” Just be honest about that. At the same time, I have to ask myself, “Am I embracing because I think there’s enough evidence for this or am I embracing this because I really want it to be true and this is close enough?” That’s something we also have to do as believers.
Kurt: Yeah. Jim. This has been great. We’re going to put up links to your books, Cold-Case Christianity, and even with the cold-case set you’ve got sort of a discipleship small group series here. We’ve got it up here.
Jim: Forensic faith, we just finished though Cold-Case Christianity video curriculum. It releases October 1. That’s coming out next month and I just finished filming the God’s Crime Scene curriculum. That’ll come out next year. Our hope is we’ve got three adult books that make the case for Christianity, the case for God’s existence, and the case for making the case, which unfortunately we have to do sometimes. Then we have three kids books that do the same things for your kids at the kids academy, and now we’ll have three sets of curriculum you can use in a small group setting. That’s the hope.
Kurt: Awesome. We’ll put links to all that stuff on our website. Let me ask you a final question. What’s the next book if any coming from your pen or your computer I guess?
Jim: I will tell you that Sean McDowell and I are working on a book that will help people who love young people, Gen-Z, this next generation of high schoolers. If you have those in your family or you’re a youth pastor or you’ve got those of your grandkids or you just get it, that the church has to be focused on this generation above all else, we’re writing a book called So The Next Generation Will Know and this is a book that just gives you practical strategies given on what we see and know is true about Gen Z, practical strategies to reach the next generation with the Christian worldview.
Kurt: Nice. Maybe we’ll have to coordinate both of you guys on our program. That would be stellar.
Jim: That would be awesome.
Kurt: Thanks Jim. Again, you’re doing excellent work. Keep it up and God’s best to all that you’re doing.
Jim: Thanks. I appreciate you.
Kurt: God bless you. That does it for our program today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thank you to our technical producer Chris and to our guest today, J. Warner Wallace, the cold-case detective, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Kurt laughs over Jim at 44:35
[NP2]Cut out around 55:00
[NP3]Unclear at 1:05:30