J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

The Case for Christianity According to a 7th Grader

This is a special guest post by Annie Olson, a 7th grader who wrote this as her final paper in a rhetoric class. It is reprinted here with the permission of Annie and her parents, and it's an excellent example of what young people can accomplish when we elevate our expectations. Don't underestimate the ability of your kids to understand the evidence and make the case, regardless of their age. You never know, they just might write something like this:

We believe in God the Father. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit and that He’s given us new life. We believe in the crucifixion. We believe that He conquered death. We believe in the resurrection and that He’s coming back again. We believe.  So, why do we believe?  Should we believe?  Is the New Testament even reliable?

Most people recognize that the New Testament is used by Christians as a historical account and the basis of their faith.  Some people believe that the New Testament accounts are reliable.  Conversely, others do not believe that the New Testament accounts are reliable.  As described by J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity, there are strategic methods of investigation used to determine whether the facts of a case are reliable.  For the purpose of this paper, the case or the issue, is whether or not the New Testament accounts are reliable.  According to these methods, the New Testament accounts are reliable for three reasons: the writers lived early enough in the First Century to be true eyewitnesses of the events described; the testimonies given were verified by outside sources and evidence and were not corrupted over time; and the motives possessed by the authors were not biased.

The first piece of evidence supporting that the New Testament accounts are reliable is that the writers lived early enough in the First Century to be true eyewitnesses of the events described.  Known historical events were not depicted in the writings because they had not yet happened.  For example, the siege of Jerusalem in AD 67-70 and the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 were not mentioned in the New Testament because they had not occurred.  The deaths of Jesus’ early followers were also not recorded because they were still living.  For instance, the deaths of James, Peter, and Paul were not until AD 61-65.  Paul’s letters, written between AD 53-57, directly referenced the Gospels, which means they had already been written.  He referenced Mark’s gospel, which was written in AD 45-50 and Luke’s gospel, which was written in AD 50-53.  All this evidence supports that the New Testament accounts were written close to the time and events that they describe.  Substantial evidence that the authors lived during the time of Christ makes them powerful eyewitnesses.

Secondly, the testimonies given in the New Testament were verified by outside sources and evidence and were not corrupted over time.  Archaeological findings and writings from early, external, non-Christians gave detailed descriptions of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Some of these non-Christian historians included Josephus, Thallus, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, and Phlegon.  It is powerful to note that even non-followers and those who didn’t necessarily believe that Jesus was the Son of God provided documentation that Jesus lived in Judea, was a virtuous man, had wondrous powers, predicted the future, was the wise “King of the Jews”, was accused by Jewish leaders, and crucified by Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.  They also described darkness and an earthquake that covered the land at the time of the crucifixion.  Furthermore, these same non-believers stated that Jesus reportedly rose after death, was believed to be the Messiah, and was called the “Christ”.  Supporting that the New Testament accounts were not corrupted over time, the students of the original apostles consistently echoed the same message even though they were spread out geographically.  Moreover, true to the Jewish tradition, scribes were known for meticulously copying the Scriptures.  For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves in 1947.  There were fragments of almost every book of the Old Testament and a complete copy of Isaiah in these scrolls.  When the scroll of Isaiah was compared the book that we now have, 95% was word-for-word and the other 5% were simply some spelling differences and sometimes the presence of the word “and”.  None of these differences changed the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures at all.  There is no reason to believe that the writers of the New Testament would not use these same methods for copying their work and passing it down to their students.  It is clear that the New Testament accounts were verified by outside sources and were not corrupted over time.

Finally, the motives possessed by the authors of the New Testament accounts were not biased.  We are all motivated do to the things we do, whether that be for good or for evil.   Some of the prime motivations for anyone to take action include: financial greed, pursuit of power, and self-protection.  The apostles were not driven by financial greed, as evidenced by the fact that they abandoned all of their earthly possessions to follow Jesus in the hope of finding the treasures of Heaven instead.  The authors of the New Testament were also not driven by the pursuit of power.  Indeed, their status in the Jewish community was crushed considerably, leaving them outcasts according to Jewish elite, like the Pharisees.  Similarly, there is no evidence to support that the writers were concerned with self-preservation.  In fact, none of the apostles recanted their testimony, even to save their lives.  The evidence supports that the motives of the New Testament writers were pure.

Despite these facts, the opposing side will try to convince you that the New Testament accounts are not reliable.  They try to prove this by suggesting that the Gospels were written late, meaning they were not written when the true eyewitness were alive.  Therefore, they claim that they are a lie, saying that the Gospels were penned in the Second or Third Centuries.  Furthermore, skeptics proclaim that the Gospels were written much closer to the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire than to the life of Jesus.

These suggested explanations are inadequate because there is substantial evidence that the historical events described in the New Testament all happened in the First Century and were actually written about by true eyewitnesses in that same time period.

Others may deny the reliability of the New Testament accounts, saying that because Mark’s account seemed to be written in a hurry, it is not correct.  Because the facts are brief and jumbled, some may think they cannot be trusted.  There could also be concerns that Mark’s sense of urgency in his writing could have led to inaccuracy of the facts.

This proof against the reliability of the New Testament accounts is inadequate because it is plausible that Mark put together the facts quickly because he wanted to world to know about the life of Jesus before it was too late.  For all he knew, Jesus would return before there would be any need for an ordered biography of sorts.  Mark wrote almost word-for-word what his teacher, Peter, who had been a direct eyewitness, said.  Mark was very careful and unlikely to have written any false accounts.  The accuracy was simply more important to Mark than an ordered description.

The opposing side alleges to have accurate and reliable evidence to disprove the reliability of the New Testament; however, there are clear ways to refute their claims.

The New Testament accounts are reliable.  We know this because the writers lived early enough in the First Century to be true eyewitnesses of the events described.  The testimonies given were also verified by outside sources and evidence and were not corrupted over time.  Finally, the motives possessed by the authors were not biased.

The reliability of the New Testament accounts matters to Christians.  As stated by J Warner Wallace, “While we are often willing to spend time reading the Bible, praying, or participating in church programs and services, few of us recognize the importance of becoming good Christian case makers.”  Now that we are able to make a case, based on evidence, to strongly support the New Testament’s reliability, we need to use this knowledge to defend our faith.

(Reference: Wallace, J Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. David C Cook, Colorado Springs, 2013. Lyrics: We Believe by the Newsboys)

At 13, Annie is already well equipped to defend the truth. When I got her letter, I thought, "This is why I wrote Cold-Case Christianity, and this is why I'm so glad we had the opportunity to write Cold-Case Christianity for Kids." Our kids book is written for children 8-12 years old to help them understand how to evaluate evidence and make the case for Christianity. It's accompanied by an interactive Academy Website with videos and downloadable activities. Pre-order Cold-Case Christianity for Kids and get a free activity sheet. Let's encourage our young people to raise the bar and make the case for Christ.

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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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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