The Limits of Accidental Christianity

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67I occasionally get the opportunity to train with pastor (and Packer’s Chaplain) Troy Murphy and his family of believers at Green Bay Community Church. They hosted an “Accidental Faith” Seminar recently and we talked about the case for truth, the case for God’s existence and the case for the Resurrection. These believers want to be more than accidental Christians. I often use that expression to describe what I see around the country. Here’s what I mean:

Imagine that you and I are sitting in my family room. The television is turned off; it’s 5:20pm. I lean over and ask, “What channel is the weather report on?”

“I don’t really know,” you respond.

“Well, give me a channel number’” I insist.

“OK, channel 7,” you reply, shrugging your shoulders.

I turn on the television and switch over to channel 7. Lo and behold, the weather report is being broadcast at that very moment on the channel 7 nightly news. “Good call,” I proclaim as you grin with satisfaction. You made a proclamation about where the weather forecast was being aired  and your claim about the truth was accurate. You were right. But you were only accidentally correct. You made that proclamation without any evidence to support your claim; you simply took a stab at it and happened to be correct. This doesn’t in any way diminish the “rightness” of your proclamation, but you came to it “by accident.”

There are lots of us who are Christians in a very similar way. We have trusted in Jesus for our salvation; acknowledging He paid the price for our sin on the cross. We recognize He is God. We accept the essential orthodox teachings of classic Christianity. But if you asked us why we believe these things to be true, many of us would have little to offer. We just happened to guess the right “channel”. We’re accidental Christians. We happen to hold to the truth of Christianity in the same way you guessed the right channel for the weather report.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, I suppose, how you happened to turn to channel 7. I guess the important thing is simply that the weather report was playing on the channel you happened to pick. But if someone was listening to our conversation, do you think they would trust you to tell them when the next weather report was going to broadcast? I think they would know you only found the first report accidentally. You had no evidence to support your selection, so there’s little reason to expect you will get it right the next time around. Accidental Christians are saved just like those of us who have taken the time to study the evidence and understand the solid reasons why we believe Christianity is true. But accidental Christians aren’t likely to be trusted by those who are watching or listening to our conversations. Accidental Christianity has a hard time competing in the marketplace of ideas, especially when alternate worldviews are being argued evidentially.

As Christians, we happen to possess the truth. We don't have to be accidental Christians. Click To Tweet

Troy Murphy and Green Bay Community Church understand this. That’s why so many of them turned out for a conference that helped them move from accidental Christianity to evidential Christianity. As Christians, we happen to possess the truth. We don’t have to be accidental Christians. It’s time to prepare ourselves so we can demonstrate our faith is well placed, reasonable and evidential.

For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Forensic Faith DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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