J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

Verifiability Is A Christian Distinctive

Christianity is unique among theistic worldviews. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. In a similar way, the statements of L. Ron Hubbard form the basis of Scientology. But in both these examples, the statements of these worldview leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts, rather than on claims about a particular historical event. While Christianity makes its own ideological and conceptual claims, these proposals are intimately connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should you believe what Jesus said rather than the teaching of Buddha or Hubbard? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it’s established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His Resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. Like other historical events, the Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.

If I told you I had a vison from God yesterday in which He revealed a number of important ideas and concepts, how could you ever verify (or falsify) my claim? Personal visions and pietistic wisdom statements are difficult to validate evidentially. You either have to accept my story or reject it, but in either case you’ll have to do so without an evidential investigation. What if, on the other hand, I told you I had been visited by God physically? What if I told you God came to me in the form of a man and, in the presence of my friends, worked several miracles? What if I told you He moved trees and created a playhouse for my kids from thin air? These kinds of claims are categorically different than claims about ideas and concepts. These claims are locked into historical events occurring in my backyard in front of witnesses. As such, they can be investigated forensically and historically. They can be verified in a way conceptual claims cannot. This is the nature of Christian claims. Christianity is established on the basis of an event in history. We can investigate this event like any other event in history (including cold-case murders). Verifiability is a Judeo-Christian distinctive.

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, Christianity isn’t the only theistic system based on an historical event. What about systems like Mormonism or Islam?” While Mormonism, for example, is also based on an historical claim about the past (in this case, a claim about one thousand years’ worth of events here on the North American continent), these claims are demonstrably false. In fact, the same four step process I used in Cold-Case Christianity to verify the New Testament Gospel accounts quickly falsifies the claims of Mormonism. The distinctive attribute of Christianity is not simply that it is verifiable, but also that an intense investigation of its claims actually confirms its truth. Christianity is both verifiable and verified. It is true. Mormonism is verifiable but false. It fails to pass the test we might offer to establish its authenticity. While I am no expert in Islam, my friends, Abdu Murray and Nabeel Qureshi both examined Islam as I examined Mormonism and came to the same conclusion about its historical claims. Christianity remains the one religious system (1) rooted in an historical event and (2) verified by critical examination.

I’ve often said I am not a Christian because it works for me. There are many days when the Christian life is the most difficult life I could choose to lead. It requires me to think of others first, to remember my true positon relative to a Holy God and deny my selfish desires. I’m also not a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home. I wasn’t surrounded by practicing Christians as a child. I’m not a Christian because I was trying to fix a problem or because I was hoping for Heaven or afraid of Hell. None of these things animated me. I had a great life before becoming a Christian. I am a Christian today because I investigated the reliability of the Gospel accounts and determined Christianity was true. It’s really that simple. I’m a Christian for the same reasons I’m a not-Mormon. One system can be verified, the other only falsified.

If evidential verifiability is truly a Christian distinctive, shouldn’t it cause us to live differently than the adherents of other religious systems? Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be the one group who knows why their beliefs are true and the one group who is most willing to defend what they we believe? Shouldn’t we be the one group most interested in making the case for our metaphysical beliefs? Why then, are we often uninterested in the evidence? It’s time for us to allow the distinctly evidential nature of Christianity result in distinctly evidential believers. The nature of Christianity, rooted in the Resurrection, allows us the chance to investigate and defend its claims. As Christians, we ought to be uniquely thoughtful, reasonable and evidential in our beliefs, because verifiability is a Christian distinctive.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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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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