If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?Monday, August 7, 2017
I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?
In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?
Some questions simply cannot be answered unless a suspect is willing to confess to the crime (and that doesn’t happen often). The existence of unanswered (and unanswerable) questions is such a common part of jury trials that prosecutors typically ask jurors (prior to their selection) if they require every question be answered before they can render a decision. When potential jurors say they need every question answered, we simply remove them from consideration.
Jurors make decisions even though they have less than complete information, and they aren’t the only people who make decisions in this way. Regardless of theistic (or atheistic) worldview, we all trust something is true, even though we can’t answer all the questions. Today, I am a Christian because the evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of the New Testament are robust, cumulative, and compelling. This doesn’t mean all my questions are answered. They aren’t. But I’ve reached a conclusion based on the evidence I do have in much the same way a jury reaches a decision. In a strict sense, this is actually an “act of faith,” given that I trust in something I can’t fully demonstrate or understand. But my “faith decision” is more akin to “trusting in the best inference from the evidence” than “believing blindly” or “believing in something in spite of the evidence.”
This short article was excerpted from Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. For more information about this third book in my Christian Case Making trilogy, please visit www.ForensicFaithBook.com.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith.