J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

Many critics point to the presence of the miraculous to make a case for late dating. Surely the miracles are works of fiction. If the gospel accounts were written early, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus would have exposed these miracles as fictitious, right? Much of this critical analysis comes from a literary discipline known as “form criticism.” Form critics attempt to classify portions of Scripture on the basis of their literary “type,” “pattern,” or “form.” Once these pieces are isolated within the larger narrative, form critics attempt to explain their origin. In the case of the Gospels, form critics have argued that the supernatural elements are different from those parts of the narrative that can be trusted as accurate history. They explain the “paradigms,” “sayings,” “miracle stories,” and “legends”46 as late additions inserted by local Christian communities to make a particular theological case or to present Jesus as something more than He was.

But, by now you probably recognize that the presupposition of naturalism (and the bias against supernaturalism) is once again the impetus behind this criticism. The form critics of history (a movement that was most popular in the mid-twentieth century) simply rejected the possibility that any description of a miracle could be factually true. It turns out that it was the miraculous “content” of these passages, rather than their common literary style or form, that caused critics to identify the verses they thought should be removed or handled with suspicion. In fact, they often selected passages that were very different from one another in terms of their stylistic forms. Sometimes they identified passages that did not fit neatly into one of their categories (or appeared to be a blend of more than one literary form), and they often disagreed with one another about the identity of particular types of literary forms and passages. They did agree on one thing, however: passages that contain miraculous events were not to be taken seriously as part of the original narrative.

These skeptics evaluate the gospel accounts with the assumption (based on the presence of the miraculous) that Christians must have written them in the second or third centuries, unafraid that their lies would be detected by those who lived in the first century. This proposal ignores, of course, all the evidence that supports an early dating for the New Testament documents. It also assumes that the gospel accounts are false until proven true. This is just the opposite approach we take with witness testimony when it is presented in court. We ought to presume that witnesses are telling us the truth until we discover otherwise, and the presence of the miraculous alone should not cause us to believe that the gospel eyewitnesses were lying.

There is no evidence, aside from the existence of supernatural elements within the gospel accounts, to support the assumption of late dating that form critics have proposed. While the insertion of miraculous elements late in history might be possible, it is not evidentially reasonable. Once again, the primary motivation for denying the early authorship of the Gospels is simply the bias against supernaturalism.

This article was excerpted from my first book. To learn more, please refer to Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

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.

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As a Christian believer, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. “Dualism” describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If non-material minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).

Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:

Objection: Dualism Resists the Growing Acceptance of Physicalism

Philosophical naturalists deny the existence and influence of nonmaterial (or supernatural) entities, and many scientists are as committed to physicalism and physical evolutionary processes as they are opposed to dualism. The theory of evolution is a wholly physical enterprise; material processes engage matter using the laws of physics and chemistry, guided and shaped by physical, environmental influences. If materialistic, evolutionary processes produce humans such as ourselves, they must also produce human minds. If human minds are the result of purely physical processes of evolution, they must also be physical entities.

This objection may sound reasonable, but it begs the question. In the end, the explanation we embrace must account for the five distinct evidences differentiating minds from brains. We cannot begin this investigation committed to a presupposition of philosophical naturalism or physicalism when this is the very thing we are trying to investigate in the first place. (We are investigating the question: Is there a nonphysical entity called the mind?) There appear to be five distinct characteristics of mind distinguishing it from the brain (refer to God’s Crime Scene for these distinctions). Whatever explanation we finally embrace, it cannot be chosen (in advance) based purely on our prior philosophical commitments. Like detectives entering a murder scene (or jurors assessing the case in a courtroom), we cannot begin our investigation with a preconceived idea about who killed the victim. We must, instead, allow the evidence to guide our decision.

I’ve edited and excerpted this brief article from my expansive (and referenced) investigation in God’s Crime Scene. Any effort to deny the distinct differences between mental states and brain states simply ignores the evidence, errantly redefines the nature of the mind, or suffers from a logical inconsistency (three flaws common to false arguments in most criminal trials). Dualism remains the best explanation for our common experience of consciousness, in spite of the growing bias toward physicalism. The best explanation for the existence of non-material consciousness is the existence of a non-material mind who created us in his image:

An Illustration from God’s Crime Scene

Atheism simply cannot adequately explain our experience of mind. If, however, there is an all-powerful mind who created the universe and conscious creatures in His image, consciousness is not only reasonable but inevitable. For a much more robust account of the inadequacy of naturalism in this regard, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

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.

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While the absence of any description of the temple’s destruction can reasonably be interpreted as a piece of circumstantial evidence supporting the early dating of the New Testament accounts, skeptics sometimes use this fact to make just the opposite case. Many have proposed that Jesus’s prediction related to the destruction was inserted to legitimize the text and make it appear that He had some prophetic power. If this was the case, the Gospels would clearly date to after the event (post AD 70), as the writers already knew the outcome before they cleverly inserted the prediction.

But, this sort of skepticism is clearly rooted in the presupposition I describe on this website and in my book, Cold-Case Christianity. If we begin from a position of philosophical naturalism (the presumption that nothing supernatural is possible), we have no choice but to describe the supernatural elements we find in the Gospels as lies. From a naturalistic perspective, prophetic claims are impossible. The skeptic, therefore, must find another explanation for Jesus’s prediction related to the temple; critics typically move the date of authorship beyond the date when the prophecy was fulfilled to avoid the appearance of supernatural confirmation. But as we described earlier, a fair examination of the evidence that supports supernaturalism must at least allow for the possibility of supernaturalism in the first place. The naturalistic bias of these critics prevents them from accepting any dating that precedes the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and forces them to ignore all the circumstantial evidence that supports the early dating.

When explaining why the destruction of the temple itself was not included in the gospel record, skeptics have argued that the gospel writers intentionally omitted the fulfillment to make the accounts look like they were written early. But if this was the case, why were the gospel writers unafraid to describe the fulfillment of prophecy in other passages in the Gospels? Over and over again we see the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies that are attributed to Jesus in one manner or another.

In addition to this, on several occasions Jesus predicted His own resurrection. The gospel writers readily described the fulfillment of these predictions in the resurrection accounts. Why would they be willing to describe this aspect of fulfilled prophecy, but shy away from discussing the destruction of the temple?

In addition, Luke freely admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the events in his gospel. He told us from the onset that he was writing at some point well after the events actually occurred, working as a careful historian. Why not include the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple? There was no reason to be shy here. Other Old Testament authors wrote from a perspective that followed the events they described and were unafraid to say so. Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, for example, repeatedly reported on events that took place well before their written account; they often wrote that the conditions they were describing continued from the point of the event “to this day” (indicating the late point at which they were actually writing). Why wouldn’t Luke take a similar approach to the destruction of the temple, especially given the fact that he made no pretense about writing as a historian?

While it is certainly possible that the Gospels were all written after the destruction of the temple, it is not evidentially reasonable. In fact, the primary motivation for denying the early authorship of the Gospels is simply the bias against supernaturalism that leads skeptics to re-date the Scriptures to some point following the fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy.

This article was excerpted from my first book. To learn more, please refer to Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

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

As a Christian theist, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. Dualism describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If nonmaterial minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).

Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:

Objection: Dualistic Interaction Is Difficult to Understand, Therefore Dualism Is Untrue

The “interaction problem” is perhaps the largest obstacle for dualist explanations. Dualists believe the mind is completely distinct from the brain yet interacts with it in some way. But how precisely does this occur, especially given the nonmaterial nature of the mind? The laws of physics explain the causal interactions between physical objects, but how can a nonmaterial mind interact with a material brain? In response to this objection, philosophers have historically offered a variety of explanations, including “occasionalism,” “parallelism,” and “epiphenomenalism” (read God’s Crime Scene for more on these definitions).

But even without certainty related to the specific way in which the mind relates to the brain, this objection alone fails to exclude dualism from consideration. Our lack of understanding about how the mind interacts isn’t prohibitive evidence against this interaction. If dualism is true, we must look to a source external to the physical universe to explain the existence of the mind. This opens the door to the reasonable existence of God and, as a result, extra-natural explanations for the interaction between mind and brain.

However, even without pondering the Divine, there are several examples of causal interactions here in our universe for which we have less than complete understanding. Magnetic fields act on objects, as do gravitational forces. In both cases we have no doubt about the causal interaction between entities, yet we have less than complete understanding about the precise nature of these interactions. And in both cases, the nature of the causes and the character of the effects appear to be substantively different, just as the nature of the mind and the brain are fundamentally different.

I’ve edited and excerpted this brief summary from my expansive (and referenced) investigation in God’s Crime Scene. Any effort to deny the distinct differences between mental states and brain states simply ignores the evidence, errantly redefines the nature of the mind, or suffers from a logical inconsistency (three flaws common to false arguments in most criminal trials). Dualism remains the best explanation for our common experience of consciousness in spite of the “interaction problem.” The best explanation for the existence of non-material consciousness is the existence of a non-material mind who created us in his image:

GCS Chapter 06 Illustration 08

An Illustration from God’s Crime Scene

Atheism simply cannot adequately explain our experience of mind. If, however, there is an all-powerful mind who created the universe and conscious creatures in His image, consciousness is not only reasonable but inevitable. For a much more robust account of the inadequacy of naturalism in this regard, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

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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