J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

Can An Understanding of Eternal Life Change the Way We See Evil?

In my latest book, God’s Crime Scene: A Homicide Detective Examines the Evidence for A Divinely Created Universe, I examine eight pieces of evidence in the universe as I make the case for God’s existence. When a piece of evidence points toward a particular suspect it is called inculpating evidence. If it points away from a suspect (or, more precisely, excludes the possibility a particular suspect is involved), it is called exculpating evidence. The existence of evil in the universe has been trumpeted by many skeptics as a form of exculpating evidence, excluding the reasonable existence of God altogether. After all, how can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow evil to persist? An ancient form of the problem is sometimes attributed to Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? ”

Does the persistent existence of evil exclude the reasonable possibility God exists? No. As I’ve described in God’s Crime Scene (Chapter Eight - The Evidence of Evil: Can God and Evil Coexist?), I offer an explanatory filter built on seven considerations related to the existence of evil, the nature of the universe, and the desires of God. One important consideration we must consider when evaluating the potentially exculpatory nature of evil is the nature of life, particularly if, as Christians believe, life extends beyond the grave.

Evil and suffering are typically experienced and understood within the context of one’s life. For thirty-five years an atheist, I thought of my life as a “line segment” spanning two points: my birth and my death.

GCS Secondary Investigation Illustration 18

All Illustrations from God’s Crime Scene

I hoped for a life (a “line segment”) of approximately ninety years. In the context of this span of time, if I had developed cancer in my forties, I would have been angered by the amount of time stolen from me as I battled the disease. In fact, if I had been diagnosed with a terminal disease at that age, I would have been outraged to be deprived of fifty percent of the life I expected.

GCS Secondary Investigation Illustration 19

If theism is true, however, and we are more than mere material beings, life is not a line segment. Life is, instead, a ray stretching from the point of our birth, passing through the point of our physical death, and extending to an eternal life beyond the grave.

GCS Secondary Investigation Illustration 20

Now consider any experience of evil, pain or suffering in the context of an eternal life. You may, for example, remember the painful vaccinations you received as a child. If you’re reading this book at the age of thirty, the small period of your life occupied by the pain you experienced during those vaccinations has been long outdistanced by the years you’ve lived since then. As time stretched on from the point of that experience, you were able to place the pain within the larger context of your life. You don’t even remember it now.

If dualism is true, we are both material and non-material, eternal beings who will live forever. Our experience and understanding of pain and evil must be contextualized within eternity, not within our temporality. Whatever our experience here in our earthly life, no matter how difficult or painful it may be, must be seen through the lens of forever. As our eternal experience stretches beyond our struggles in this life, our temporal suffering will become an ever-shrinking percentage of our consciousness. The anguish we may have experienced on earth will be long outdistanced by the bliss we’ll experience in eternity.

GCS Secondary Investigation Illustration 21

When someone asks me why something bad or evil has occurred (particularly when an evil act involves an innocent child), I am hesitant to offer a quick answer, even if this answer is evidentially or philosophically accurate. The truth related to evil is always far more complex and inter-related. As I describe in God’s Crime Scene, there are seven considerations we must weigh and evaluate when trying to explain any act of evil. One of these considerations involves the nature of life and eternity. If the Christian worldview is true, evil must be assessed through the lens of eternity, not through the limited perspective of our mortal lives. And eternity changes everything.

This brief excerpt from God’s Crime Scene doesn’t begin to adequately explain the inculpating nature of evil (yes it actually does point toward the existence of God). For more information, please read Chapter Eight - The Evidence of Evil: Can God and Evil Coexist?

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

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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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