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.
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:
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.
I got the call at about 1:00 a.m. Detectives who are assigned to the homicide unit also investigate officer-involved shootings (OISs), and all of us on the OIS team were called out for this one. When I arrived at the scene, Officer Mark Walker was standing by his patrol car talking with a sergeant and waiting for our arrival. I shook his hand, made sure he was ready to talk about the shooting, and began to walk through the events that precipitated our “callout.”
Mark told me that he was working patrol when he saw a man driving down the street, swerving from lane to lane as though he was drunk. He pulled the driver over and approached his car. When he leaned in to talk to the man, he could smell the alcohol on his breath. Mark asked the man to step out from the car, and the driver reluctantly complied. As the man stood outside his car, Mark could see that he was angry and defiant. Mark decided to conduct a quick “pat-down” search to make sure the irritated driver wasn’t carrying any weapons. Mark had no idea that the driver was Jacob Stevens, a parolee with a long arrest record in an adjacent city. Jacob had just been released from state prison. He was on parole for an assault charge, and tonight he was carrying a loaded Colt .45-caliber pistol hidden in his waistband. Jacob knew that he would go back to jail if the gun was discovered, and he was determined to stay out of jail.
When Mark asked Jacob Stevens to turn around so he could conduct the pat-down search, Jacob turned away for a moment, pulled his gun, and then turned back toward Mark, pointing the gun at Mark’s chest.
“I knew that he had the drop on me,” Mark told me as he recalled the events. “His gun was already drawn and pointed at me before I could even get my hand on mine.”
Jacob had no intention of discussing the situation with Mark. He’d already decided that he wasn’t going back to jail, even if it meant killing this police officer. Jacob pointed his gun at Mark and started to squeeze the trigger. Mark was about to enter the fight of his life, and he was starting off with a distinct disadvantage; he was already seconds behind his opponent. All of us who work in law enforcement understand the importance of wearing our bulletproof vests. When we first became officers we were trained with these vests, and at some point most of us were shown how the vests performed in live-fire tests. We knew that they could stop a bullet, including a .45 round. On this night, Mark was going to put his vest to the test.
“I just tensed my stomach muscles and prepared to take the shot as I pulled my gun out of the holster. I knew he was going to get the first round off.”
While Mark knew that his vest could sustain the impact of a .45-caliber round, tonight he trusted in the vest for the very first time. In that singular moment, Mark went from “belief that” to “belief in.” It’s one thing to believe that the vest can save a life; it’s another thing to trust it to save your own life. Mark obviously survived the shooting and lived to describe it for us. The lesson I learned from Mark, however, had far more impact on my life than he would ever know.
It’s one thing to believe that the Gospels are true and that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s another to trust Jesus as your Savior. This article was excerpted from my 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.
When a dead body is discovered, detectives must investigate the evidence to determine the most reasonable explanation. Did the deceased die naturally? Did he suffer some kind of accident? Did he commit suicide? Was he murdered? These are the four possible explanations at any death scene. Homicide detectives are concerned only with the last one. Of the four explanations, the first three do not require the involvement of anyone other than the victim. If his or her death was an accident, the result of some natural cause, or the result of a suicide, all the evidence we might find related to the victim’s passing will ultimately come from the very room where he or she died. Every death scene involves evidence of one kind or another, but intruders turn death scenes into crime scenes. For that reason, every death investigation begins as an intruder investigation. Without evidence of an intruder, deaths are likely to be the result of natural causes, an accident, or a suicide. One simple strategy in death cases, therefore, is to ask a foundational question: “Can I account for all the evidence in this room by staying in the room?”
During most of my early investigative career, I was a committed atheist and resolute naturalist. I rejected supernaturalism thoroughly, denying both the existence of a supernatural God and the possibility of the miraculous. I truly believed everything I observed in the universe could be explained and attributed to natural, physical causes and processes. Thinking of the universe as a “room,” I didn’t believe there was any evidence pointing to anyone outside. I certainly didn’t believe anything “extra-natural” or “supra-natural” entered this natural realm. But I hadn’t yet looked at the evidence carefully; I wasn’t an experienced investigator. Over the years, I learned how to evaluate and assemble evidential cases, and along the way—at the age of thirty-five—I was introduced to the New Testament.
I became interested in God’s existence only after investigating the gospels as eyewitness accounts. (I describe this investigation in detail in my book Cold-Case Christianity.) The New Testament accounts passed the same four-part test I apply to all my witnesses, yet I still rejected them on the basis of their miraculous stories. As a naturalist, I believed the accounts of miracles in the biblical narratives disqualified them as reliable history. But what if I was wrong in my anti-supernatural presuppositions? It was time for me to look carefully at the evidence for God’s existence. If a supernatural being did exist, the miracles in the Gospels would be possible and maybe even reasonable. The case for God’s existence was an integral part of the case for the reliability of the Gospels.
Like many of my death scene investigations, my examination of the natural universe required me to look at the characteristics of the “room” and determine if they could be explained fully by what already existed within the “four walls.” Was there any evidence inside the universe pointing to the existence or intervention of a supernatural being outside the universe? My most important question was, “Can I account for all the evidence in this room by staying in the room?
As I considered the natural “room” of the universe, I identified and listed four categories of evidence for consideration:
1. Cosmological Evidence
Our universe had a beginning.
Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life.
2. Biological Evidence
Life in our universe emerged from non-life.
Biological organisms appear to be designed.
3. Mental Evidence
Non-material consciousness emerged from unconscious matter.
As humans, we are “free agents” in our otherwise “cause and effect” universe.
4. Moral Evidence
Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe.
Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts.
These features of the universe must be explained, and they can be attributed either to something inside the natural realm or to something outside the natural realm. In many ways, our investigation of God’s existence is very similar to my death investigations:
Illustration from God's Crime Scene
In both cases, several evidences in the “room” require explanation. Their origin must be identified before we can decide the correct nature of the scene. In my book, God’s Crime Scene: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, I examine the evidence inside the natural, physical realm of the universe to determine if there is someone we need to look for outside the natural, physical realm. After investigating these eight important pieces of evidence (in four very different categories) I determined the most reasonable inference is a suspect with the following characteristics:
1. External to the universe
2. Non-spatial, atemporal, and non-material
4. Powerful enough to create everything we see in the universe
5. Specifically purposeful enough to produce a universe fine-tuned for life
6. Intelligent and communicative
7. Creative and resourceful
8. A conscious Mind
9. Free to choose (and create) personally
10. The personal source of moral truth and obligation
11. The standard for good by which we define evil
This article was excerpted from my book. To learn more, please refer to God’s Crime Scene: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.