J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “If God is both all-loving and all-powerful, why does He allow evil things to happen? Doesn’t the mere presence of evil disprove the existence of God?” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“In criminal trials, evidence can either inculpate or exculpate a suspect. Inculpating evidence points toward a suspect’s involvement. Exculpating evidence, on the other hand, points away from the suspect’s involvement. So, the real question here is this: Does the presence of evil, either natural or moral evil, exculpate God as the best suspect for the creation of the universe? After all, if there's an all-powerful, all-loving God, why could He allow evil to exist? Either He's not all-powerful (so He can't stop it), or He's not all-loving (He doesn’t want to stop it), or presence of evil demonstrates that He doesn't exist at all.

There’s a problem with this question, however. We would have to know as much as God to understand why God would allow any evil. How would we ever know all the reasons why God might allow evil to exist? In any horrific crime I've worked as a detective, if someone were to ask, ‘Why did that happen?’ the answer is always going to involve a variety of hidden factors working together. It's always a combination of unique (and often unlikely) relationships between events, opportunities, and conditions. In a similar way, there are always a variety of factors we must consider when asking why God would allow any act of evil in the world. At the very least, we must try to understand the role eternity plays, the importance of free agency, the definition of love, the impact evil has in developing our character or drawing us to God, the role justice plays, and the difficulty we should expect in trying to understand how these factors interact. These complex factors must be considered before we render a verdict about God’s existence and involvement. It’s a difficult task, to be sure.

Let me just offer one quick thought, however. As an atheist (I didn’t become a Christian until I was thirty-five), evil was a problem and concern for me, based on my definition of life and understanding of eternity. Back then, I thought of life as a line segment; starting at my point of birth and extending to my point of death. If life is good, I hoped to get about ninety years between these two points, and as an atheist, I was hoping for the happiest, pain-free years possible. If, for example, I was to get sick at the age of forty, suffer for ten years and then die at the age of fifty, I would have seen this as an insurmountable evil. After all, I expected to get ninety pleasurable, pain-free years. But what if my foundational definition of life was wrong in the first place? What if life isn’t a line segment, but is instead a ray that starts at birth, extends through death and continues off into eternity? If that is the true nature of life, I would have to reevaluate what I believe about the nature of pain and suffering ‘between the two points,’ wouldn’t I?

All of us have suffered something evil or painful for a short period, but when we compare it with the length of our lives, we've seen the role this painful experience had in the larger context. If Christianity is true, we live for more than ninety short years. If Christianity is true, our lives are more than short line segments; we are eternal creatures. Any evil you may suffer in this short temporal life must be considered in the context of eternity, and eternity changes everything.

That's just one factor we must consider when trying to decide if evil exculpates God’s involvement in the universe. Our definition of life and view of eternity is incredibly important. When we think about this, in combination with the other factors I’ve described, we begin to understand that evil is not actually an exculpatory piece of evidence at all. In fact, unless there exists a righteous, perfect God to serve as the standard of good by which we measure any act and call it ‘evil,’ the notion of evil becomes little more than a matter of personal or cultural opinion. We need a true standard of good to recognize anything as evil. That’s why the presence of evil in our universe is another piece of inculpating evidence. It demonstrates the existence and involvement of God, because without a standard for moral perfection, evil doesn’t really exist at all. In the end, evil actually points toward the existence of God.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Christians claim God created the universe, but modern science explains the origin of the universe. God is not needed to order to explain how the universe came into existence.” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“As a detective, I have a goal at every crime scene. It’s my job to explain how each piece of evidence appeared in the scene. Can I explain it from inside the room, or do I have to go outside the room for an explanation? Just as importantly, I must ask the question: ‘Why did the crime occur here in the first place?’ If we examine the universe like a crime scene, we have a similar responsibility. Can we explain the evidence in the cosmos by staying ‘inside the room’ of the natural universe, or must we go ‘outside the room’ for a better explanation? And just as importantly, we must ask a similar question about the ‘crime scene’ itself: ‘How did the universe come into being, and why is the evidence here in the first place?’

While atheists and theists may disagree about what (or who) caused the universe to come into existence, they agree on one thing: everything in the universe, all space, time and matter, came into existence from nothing. Most astrophysicists embrace the Standard Cosmological Model, also known as ‘Big Bang Cosmology’. They accept this model based on many different forms of scientific evidence that point to the same conclusion. All space, time and matter came into existence from nothing at a point in the distant past. So, that leaves us with a critical question: What is the cause of all space, time and matter? Whatever it is, it cannot be spatial, temporal or material, because these attributes of the universe did not exist until the universe came into existence. Worse yet, this cause cannot itself have been caused (in order to avoid the problem of infinite regress).

All of us, whether theist or atheist, are looking for the same ‘suspect’: the uncaused, non-spatial, a-temporal, non-material cause of the universe. There are only two possible ‘suspects’ we can offer to describe this cause. The cause of the cosmos is either a personal or impersonal force, and given these two possibilities, only one will explain all the evidence ‘in the room’. Remember, the most reasonable suspect in any crime is the suspect that most completely and thoroughly accounts for all the evidence in the scene. As I examined the universe, I discovered several important pieces of evidence. Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for the existence of life and this organic life emerged from inorganic matter, displaying a similar appearance of design. As humans in this universe, we experience consciousness and free agency, and we recognize transcendent, objective moral truths and the presence of true evil, based on a transcendent standard of good.

Whatever caused the universe to leap into existence must also explain all the other evidence ‘in the room’. It must account for the fine-tuned features of the universe, consciousness, free agency, objective transcendent moral truths and the standard of good I’ve described. An impersonal first force, even if it’s eternal, simply cannot give you many of the features we observe in the universe.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Christians describe God as a Divine Mind who creates humans in his own image with consciousness and free will. But you don’t need God to account for the kind of free agency Christian describe. Free will can be explained from an atheistic perspective.” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“Several years ago, when I was serving on a police surveillance team, I arrested a guy who we followed for several days. We watched him burglarize a home. He walked through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors. If a resident responded, he’d ask, ‘Is so and so here?’ The resident would say, ‘No,’ and he would answer, ‘Sorry to bother you,’ and move on to the next house. Well, eventually he found a house where no one answered his knocking. He entered the backyard, and I jumped over walls to watch him from the house behind the victim’s residence. As I watched over the backyard fence, I could see him standing by the back door. He seemed to hesitate as he was thinking about what he was going to do next. From researching this man, I knew he was a committed drug addict and came from a family history of addiction and crime. His father and brother were also burglars. Now, as I watched him think about his next move, I could see he was struggling with his decision. He sat down and smoked a cigarette. He eventually stood up and kicked the door in; he committed the burglary.

Months later, when we went to trial, an important question was raised: ‘Did the defendant commit the crime of his own free will?’ He was, after all, coming off a heroin high, so one might wonder, ‘Did he commit the crime because his mind was altered by the drug?’ We might also ask, ‘Was he genetically predisposed to do this, given his family behavior?’ The defendant raised both defenses at his trial. The jury and judge were quick to answer, however: they found him guilty, and at his sentencing hearing, the judge said, in essence, ‘Despite these influences and circumstances, you had a choice; you chose to do this."

But if atheism is true, we live in a purely material universe, consisting of nothing more than space, time, and matter, governed by nothing more than the laws of physics and chemistry. If that's the case, everything in our purely physical universe is determined by prior physical causes. The neurons in your physical brain are firing based on the prior firing of neurons. These events are like dominoes that fall because they were struck by prior falling dominoes; you don’t have any control of this sequence of events. That’s why atheists like Sam Harris (trained as a neuroscientist) deny the existence of human free agency altogether. Atheists such as Harris claim free agency is an illusion.

But we have good evidence to demonstrate that the universe is not how atheists describe it. All of us experience free agency on a daily basis. In fact, authors like Harris expect us to use our free agency to assess what he’s writing in his books. We require free will to reason freely between two ideas, to choose between two claims, to show true empathy and compassion and to create artistically. Perhaps more importantly, we believe people are culpable for their free actions. This kind of culpability is impossible unless people have the freedom to act rightly (or wrongly). Where does this kind of free agency come from, if we're living in a purely physical, deterministic universe, as atheists describe?

Maybe the atheists are wrong. If we are the product of a conscious Creator Mind possessing free agency, choosing to create freely, and fashioning us in His own image, then we should expect to be conscious minds with the ability to decide freely. Theism, and the existence of this kind of Creator accounts for our experience of free agency in a way that atheistic determinism cannot.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Believers sometimes point to the appearance of design in biology as evidence of an Intelligent Designer, but natural forces can account for what we see in biology without the involvement of any intelligent Creator.” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“You know, even adamant atheists like evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, candidly admit that the science of biology is an effort to explain the ‘appearance of design,’ even though they still reject the existence of a Divine Designer. Non-believers like Dawkins stipulate (a term we use in criminal trials) to the appearance of design, yet fail to provide an adequate cause for this appearance. It’s reasonable for us to infer intelligent design if we see the attributes of design that can only be explained by the involvement of an intelligent designer, and I think there are eight attributes we can identify in any intelligently designed object. When (1) an object cannot be explained by chance events, (2) resembles other objects we know were intelligently designed, (3) displays high levels of sophistication and complexity, (4) requires information in order to come into existence, (5) displays evidence of goal direction, (6) cannot be explained as the result of natural law alone, (7) demonstrates a level of irreducible complexity and (8) displays evidence of decision making, it’s fair and reasonable to infer an intelligent designer was involved in its creation.

I know that’s a mouthful, but when we examine this cumulative case related to any object we see in our environment (including biological organisms), we can properly conclude that the object or organism was created by an intelligent creator. You don’t even need all eight attributes to be present to infer a designer. Think about a bird’s nest, for example. You might only identify six of the eight attributes present in the nest (you may not find evidence of informational dependency or irreducible complexity), but when presented with the nest, you’d be foolish to argue against the existence of intelligent birds, because the other six attributes point to the involvement of an intelligent creator.

Now let’s consider the ‘icon’ of the Intelligent Design movement, the biological micro-machine described by bio-chemist, Michael Behe, known as the bacterial flagellum. There are tons of similar examples in biology, but this little rotary motor is still an excellent example of deign in biology. All eight attributes of design are present in this motor, and even if two or three of these attributes were disputable, there would still be more than enough (just like the bird’s nest) to infer the existence of an Intelligent Designer. While atheist scientists continue to try to provide an evolutionary explanation for the bacterial flagellum, they’ve been unable to explain these attributes (especially the necessity of information in the genome that guides the process of assembly). The information in DNA requires an intelligent source, because we can’t find a single example in the history of science (or the history of the universe) in which information comes from anything other than intelligence.

For many unbelievers, the existence of an Intelligent Designer is problematic. If there is an Intelligent Creator, this Creator would likely be interested in us as His creations, and He may even have expectations of us. I think a lot of us reject the ‘appearance of a design’ because we don't like the idea that this Designer might want to be involved in (and have authority over) our own lives. But the existence of an Intelligent Designer is obvious in biology, not just because naturalism fails to explain the existence of design attributes, but because the cumulative evidence points most reasonably to an Intelligent Creator.  It’s up to us how we respond to this evidence and the existence of the Designer who accounts for it.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

About J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, Christian case maker and author. J. Warner was a conscientious and vocal atheist through his undergraduate and graduate work in Design and Architecture (CSULB and UCLA); he always considered himself to be an “evidentialist”. His experience in law enforcement only served to strengthen his conviction that truth is tied directly to evidence. But at the age of thirty-five, J. Warner took a serious and expansive look at the evidence for the Christian Worldview and determined that Christianity was demonstrably true. After becoming a Christ follower in 1996, Jim continued to take an evidential approach to truth as he examined the Christian worldview. He eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. J. Warner served as a Youth Pastor for several years, then planted a church in 2006. Along the way, he created and built the Cold-Case Christianity website, blog and podcast as a place to post and talk about what he discovered related to the evidence supporting Christianity. Jim has appeared on television and radio, explaining the role that evidence plays in the Christian definition of “faith” and defending the historicity of Jesus, the reliability of the Bible and the truth of the Christian worldview. Jim also speaks at churches, retreats and camps as he seeks to help people become confident Christian case makers. J. Warner’s first book, Cold-Case Christianity, provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts. In his second book, God’s Crime Scene, he investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence. J. Warner’s professional investigative work has received national recognition; his cases have been featured more than any other detective on NBC’s Dateline, and his work has also appeared on CourtTV and Fox News. He also appears on television as an investigative consultant and had a role in God’s Not Dead 2, making the case for the historicity of Jesus. J. Warner was awarded the Police and Fire Medal of Valor “Sustained Superiority” Award for his continuing work on cold-case homicides. Relying on over two decades of investigative experience, J. Warner provides his readers and audiences with the tools they will need to investigate the claims of Christianity and make a convincing case for the truth of the Christian worldview. You can follow J. Warner Wallace on Twitter @JWarnerWallace

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