I spent last weekend with Frank Turek and Mike Adams speaking at another Fearless Faith conference. We trained and talked about the evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of the Gospels because we’re dedicated to helping people overcome their skeptical objections to the Christian worldview. All of us, however, recognize that some people will simply not be convinced by our arguments and presentation of evidence. In fact, I know that most people will not be convinced. Why? Because (as I’ve written in Cold Case Christianity) there are three reasons why someone will “shun” (reject) a truth claim:
Some Reject Ra”shun”ally
Sometimes folks simply have rational doubts based on the evidence. You’ll recognize this form of resistance when you hear someone say something akin to, “I need more evidence. I’m not convinced.” For those of us who have taken the time to prepare ourselves as good Case Makers, this is the kind of skeptic we are hoping for; someone who’s resistance is grounded in a lack of information. Unfortunately this seldom the kind of person we encounter.
Some Reject Emo”shun”ally
Many people have doubts that are purely emotional. You’ll recognize this form of resistance when you hear someone say something like, “I know a lot of hypocritical Christians. If that’s what Christianity is about, I want no part of it.” Some skeptics have been injured or offended by Christians and now struggle to overcome negative feelings that prevent them from evaluating the case fairly.
Some Reject Voli”shun”ally
When I was an atheist, I denied the truth for volitional reasons. I was willfully resistant and refused to accept any argument offered by Christians I knew. In fact, I actually hated the idea of God and all it represented. I was happy running my own life; I was stubbornly independent. People like me typically say things like, “I don’t care if it is true, I’m not changing my life.”
If you’re a Christian trying to make the case for what you believe, recognize that your jury is filled with all three kinds of people, and only the first group will probably be willing to listen to your presentation. I’ve discovered most people actually fall into the third category; their willful resistance to the truth actually prevents them from fairly examining the case for Christianity. Frank Turek offers an excellent example of this in his “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” presentation. As part of his four step argument, he engages the issue of miracles, and offers a brief example of how a volitional presupposition can actually prevent you from recognizing a miracle, even if one occurred in your own life.
David Hume famously argued against miracles, on the basis that we humans have no “uniform experience” of such events. But if we start with a volitional presupposition against the miraculous, this willful foundation will prohibit us from any fair, rational inference from our observations. In other words, we know the experience against miracles to be “uniform” only if we accept all reports of miracles as false. And we know all reports to be false only if we begin from the position miracles have never occurred. In essence, our volitional resistance leads us to reason in a circle.
While you and I can do our best to present the evidence to our unbelieving friends, there is clearly a foundational, presuppositional problem in the heart of man. Our own desires and love of autonomy (our rebellion from God) typically stand in the way of our investigation. I am an evidentialist; I believe in the power of the evidence when presenting the case for God’s existence. But I know that God had to do something with my heart before I could see the evidence fairly, and no friend of mine could accomplish this with his or her evidential presentation. So as I share the case with my skeptical friends, I begin by praying God will remove their enmity so they can hear my words with clarity and interest. I know volitional and emotional resistance is often the reason some people will not be convinced.
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.