Forensic Faith 101: Intense Investigation

“Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”  R.C. Sproul

This week we are focusing on chapter three in J. Warner Wallace’s book, Forensic Faith. In this chapter Wallace presents five practices to help Christians, and others, examine the claims of Christianity like good detectives. Experience as a Cold Case Homicide Detective has led Wallace to make amazing comparisons in his cold case investigative techniques with that of a skeptic looking into the claims of Christianity and how one can go about determining truth in this worldview.

As Christians we should be confident in what we believe, not because of a blind faith but because of a faith based on tangible evidence. We are expected to love God with all of our “minds” (Matthew 22:37) and then share the truths of the what we know with others (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 3:15), but this takes some diligence on our part to study. According to Wallace, “evidential confidence is often the result of investigative diligence.”

In cold-case investigations there is no longer any direct evidence such as witnesses, fingerprints or DNA that can be tested. However, in all of Wallace’s cases he was able to help solve them by the use of indirect evidence, or what we know as circumstantial evidence. Many people assume circumstantial evidence is not strong, but Wallace has a 100 percent conviction rate over the course of his career in cold cases all based on indirect/circumstantial evidence. The key is diligence in collecting this type of information and as Wallace says, “it is not any one thing that demonstrates guilt; it’s the collection of everything that demonstrates guilt.” It is like “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

Wallace points out, for example, that the New Testament Gospels present a similar challenge as cold case investigations. Even though there no longer any witnesses alive or physical evidence left on the scene, there are literally thousands of pieces of indirection evidence available, and if we are diligent to investigate we will be surprised at how our confidence level will increase with every new piece that unravels.

In Forensic Faith, Wallace offers five investigative practices detectives use when examining (and solving) cold cases and we can apply them to our Christian case making skills:

1. Read the casebook completely = Read the Bible completely:

Cold case detectives have casebooks on initial investigations that contain original reports, witness accounts, Investigative summaries and other related material. A good detective will read through these casebooks thoroughly, making note of every detail important to understanding the big picture, and until the case is solved, detectives will repeatedly read it through, looking for things they might have missed or ignored. It is the same with the Bible. We need to read it through completely, trying to get the big picture. Understanding the big picture will help us keep what we are learning in context. As Wallace says: “I’ve learned the importance of reading through everything, from cover to cover, before returning to any one report, and I’ve learned to read the entire report before isolating any set of lines or paragraphs. It’s all about context, context, context.” We can apply this same principle to verses or passages from the Bible, never taking them out of context for our own purpose without knowing how it fits into the big picture of the book and the Biblical framework itself.

2. Think about the nature of evidence broadly = Think about the evidence for God and the Bible broadly

Whether investigating a cold case, or a case for God and the Bible, it is important to note and include all potential evidence, even if it seems like it might be unimportant. Often a case is made or strengthened by small, often overlooked pieces of information. For example Wallace says, “everything counts as evidence if we are trying to determine who Jesus is. This can include the behavior of people who originally witnessed His life, the testimony of those who listened to the statements of these witnesses, the touch-point corroborative evidence of archaeology, the internal confirmation of geography, politics, proper nouns, and the deficiency of alternative explanations.”

3. Take notes and analyze the case thoroughly = Take notes and analyze the Bible thoroughly

A good cold case detective will not only read the casebook thoroughly but will take notes thoroughly. Often, taking notes on what you are reading in the Bible, or learning about case making, will help you to focus on the big picture as well as narrow down the tough areas for additional research. Make an outline as you study and note things like word usage, insights into the culture of the time, and questions or things not understood for future research. This is where you may need outside help using resources such as commentaries, concordances and dictionaries. Don’t get hung up on difficult questions, or Biblical passages you don’t understand, just jot them down so that you can revisit them again later. 

4. Summarize and organize the evidence usefully = Summarize and organize the Biblical evidence usefully

Detectives make lists as they investigate. These lists provide a cumulative study for building a case. If we apply this to building a case for God, Jesus or the Bible we can show the strength of the case in totality. Wallace explains the importance of cumulative cases as follows: “Cumulative case arguments are typically built on a number of pieces of evidence, each of which may be imperfect or insufficient when considered in isolation. When examined in totality, however, the case becomes strong and reasonable. Opponents of cumulative cases usually attack the imperfections or insufficiencies they observe in single pieces of evidence within the larger case.” This is often what skeptics do when they attack Christianity or the Bible. For example, they will usually pick a Bible verse out of context and ask why a Christian believes what it says, or they may make a blanket statement about something Jesus did or didn’t say. Being diligent does not mean you will always have the answer off the top of your head, but it does mean that you know where to go to find the answer.

5. Add to the case evidentially = Add to the Biblical case evidentially

A good detective will continue to add evidence to his case, even if he feels he has a good case there is always room for more evidence as it becomes available. The same is true as Christians. As Wallace points out, “the Bible is our Christian ‘casebook,’ and while there is plenty of good evidence inside the book, there will be times when the skeptics will demand more evidence, and they’ll likely want additional evidence from outside the book.” If we want to make a case for God, the Bible or Jesus it is important to know there have been many before us doing the same and we can put the work they’ve already done into our evidence locker. This includes not only Christian case makers over the years, but we can also use ‘unfriendly accounts’ from outside the Christian casebook that support what the Bible says, like Thallus, Tacitus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Josephus. And, we can use both General revelation and Special revelation to support the existence of the Christian God.

Watch J. Warner Wallace speak on the topic of evidential Christianity:

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 having a forensic faith!

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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