Forensic Faith 101: Convincing Communication

“There are four things that we ought to do with the Word of God – admit it as the Word of God, commit it to our hearts and minds, submit to it, and transmit it to the world.”  – William Wilberforce

This week we are focusing on the fourth and final chapter of J. Warner Wallace’s new book Forensic Faith. This final chapter is packed with principles and tools to help us practice case making and defend our faith. According to Wallace, “there are a number of things we, as Christians, can learn from professional case makers. The ability to communicate convincingly is the final characteristic of a forensic faith.”

There are five principles that case makers consider when presenting their cases. Wallace outlines these five principles and makes a direct comparison with case makers in a court of law to case makers contending for the Christian faith. Reading Forensic Faith will help you develop your case making knowledge and abilities, and considering these principles will help you practice effective communication skills:

Principle #1: Pick A Jury Insightfully

Understanding who will be listening to your case is critical. Not knowing about ‘presuppositions’ they may have will make the job of presenting your case more difficult. Wallace cites Jesus as being the best in jury selection: Jesus selected His twelve disciples, the group tho whom He would make the case for three years, with care and precision, and all four authors of the Gospels captured this important selection process (see Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; and John 1:35-51).”

Wallace points out the importance of identifying the people you may be presenting to beforehand, as they do in jury selection, because they will basically fall into four categories: 1) Believers who are convinced of their position; 2) Believers who are starting to have doubts about their faith; 3) Non-believers who are starting to have doubts about their unbelief; 4) Non-believers who are convinced of their position. Applying a 3/4 principle here will help you focus on people who will most likely be receptive to your case and that would be groups 1, 2 and 3 (even though you hope to reach those in groups 4 as well). Knowing their position beforehand will help you craft your case more effectively.

Principle #2: Instruct Your Jury Evidentially

Once you have your people selected, whether they come from category 1, 2, 3 or 4, the next important step is to make sure your ‘jury’ understands “the nature and role of evidence prior to citing the evidence itself.” In this principle Wallace lays out six critical parts to “evidence instruction” before getting into the actual evidence so that ‘jurors’ can make informed and educated decisions about the evidence. The following six instructional pieces are described in detail in chapter four of Forensic Faith:

1) The fact the other side can make a case doesn’t mean it’s true; 2) Everything has the potential to be evidence; 3) Whoever makes the claim has the burden of proof; 4) Possibilities are irrelevant (that’s why it is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ not a possible doubt in a court case); 5)  The more cumulative the case, the more reasonable the conclusion; 6) Witnesses are reliable unless demonstrated otherwise. These are important pieces that must be understood by the ‘jury’ before you can present a case. Having this discussion first will help eliminate unnecessary arguments or misunderstandings.

Principle #3: Make An Opening Statement Enthusiastically

Making a good first impression with your case is extremely important. Your audience (whether it is one person or a hundred) is going to sense right away if you know your material and if you believe what you believe is really true! According to Wallace, “it is one thing to be intellectually capable or academically prepared, but it’s another to confidently and enthusiastically deliver what you’ve prepared.”

In this section Wallace presents five important things to do before you present the evidence for your case: 1) Practice your presentation – find a place to practice, if possible have a trusted person help you; 2) Protect your first impression – people watch you long before you try to make a case; 3) Be eager and prepared – know how to start a conversation; 4) Make promises you can deliver – do not overstate or embellish; 5) Capture the momentum – have that a’ha statement memorized. These are important tips and, according to Wallace, Jesus’ opening statements were the best ever delivered. The more we model Jesus, the better we will be at case making for our faith.

Principle #4: Present The Evidence Powerfully

This is where you get to put all of the things you have learned out there for evaluation. If you have the attention, and hopefully the respect, of the ‘juror(s)’ it is now time to lay out your case. According to Wallace, “The presentation of evidence is the nuts and bolts’ part of any jury trial.” There are five suggestions in this section that will help in your ability to present the evidence and make the case:

1) Be self-effacing and gracious – “make sure you have evidential confidence and not obnoxious arrogance”; 2) Be accessible – make sure your language and presentation is not ‘over their heads’ and that you are translating Biblical truth in a non-threatening way; 3) Be strategic – decide what is most important in your case and when to present it; 4) Be a good questioner – make sure your ‘juror(s)’ do not have any misunderstandings – Greg Koukl’s book “Tactics” is excellent for practicing this skill; 5) Be preemptive – understand the common claims atheists, cultists or other faiths will make and have prepared answers.

Note: It is OK as a Christian Case Maker to say, “I’m not sure of the answer to your question or claim, but I will find out and get back to you.” Then go and do your research, but make sure you stay true to your word and return with an answer because the truth is out there and on the side of Christianity!

Principle #5: Make A Closing Argument Persuasively

Know when to close your case, but do this with a powerful ending statement. According to Wallace, “closing arguments are impassioned pleas for the jury to remember what they’ve seen and to make the right decision.” Again Jesus was a master of this, for example, “after one of His most famous messages, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had an opportunity to leave His listeners with something powerful as He summarized the importance of the words He had just spoken.” (see Matthew 7:24-27)

A final few tips for your closing argument include: 1) Close confidently; 2) Summarize visually (if possible); 3) Offer a rebuttal (if necessary); 4) Ask for a decision passionately; 5) Place the case in the hands of the jury confidently. In the end, pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede and use you in the cause of sharing and defending the faith. It is extremely important to remember that we are only workers for the LORD, and in the end we must trust Him to speak into the hearts and minds of our ‘jurors.’

Become a Christian “Sheepdog”

It can be stressful becoming a case maker because it means that we have to take time to study, but it is what all Christians are called to do (1 Peter 3:15-16). Wallace asks us to become “Sheepdogs” in a world where wolves are everywhere, even in the Church. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told His disciples: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” According to Wallace, “Christian case makers are also Sheepdogs. It’s our duty to protect the sheep from the wolves who seek to draw the sheep away from the Shepherd.” The more Sheepdogs we have in the Church the less we will have wolves threatening the truth of God.

Become a Christian Sheepdog today!

Listen to J. Warner Wallace as he presents the importance of Christians arming themselves with the truth:

Prayer request: Please continue to join me in prayer for Nabeel Qureshi and his family. Pray for God’s healing hand to work a miracle in Nabeel’s life and for God’s peace and comfort that passes all understanding for him and his family. Amen

Join us next week as we continue to make a case for Christianity!

You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!  Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.

Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.

Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.

Teri Dugan

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