Since writing Cold-Case Christianity, my speaking schedule has been extremely busy; I am blessed by opportunities to make the case for Christianity every weekend in churches across the nation. As a result, however, I get to see how many of my Christian brothers and sisters are interested in the evidence supporting their faith. I must tell you, the interest in Christian case making is thin, at best. In a typical church, about ten percent of the congregation is usually concerned enough about “apologetics” to attend a training session or conference. My fellow speakers and traveling case makers report the same interest wherever they go, and if you are among the few Christians who are actively studying or making the case, you know what I am talking about first-hand. Why are so few Christians willing to be Christian case makers? The one thing most of us lack is the very thing that made me successful as a cold-case detective: a desire to work hard and do whatever it takes to master the material.
In my career investigating cold cases, I’ve never failed to see an arrested suspect successfully prosecuted. I’m proud of that record, but I don’t attribute it to any brilliance on my part. My success wasn’t the result of my uncanny Sherlock Holmes type of intellect; I’m not all that smart. I was successful because I was determined not to be out-worked. By the time I arrested a suspect for a murder, there was no one who knew the details and issues related to the case better than I did. In fact, even when the case ultimately got to trial, I was still the best source of information about the crime and the person who committed it. Many of my defendants hired excellent attorneys who, in turn, hired a team of investigators to comb through the case and every aspect of my investigation. In an effort to undermine my work, these attorneys and investigators often looked for things I might have missed and tried to find witnesses or evidence to contradict my case. Even if they located someone they thought might help them achieve this goal, once they travelled out to talk to this alleged “witness”, they only discovered I had already been there (and locked in the statements I would later use to make my case).
In one recent example (featured on Dateline in an episode entitled “The Wire”), my suspect used an unusual variety of braided picture-hanging wire to form the garrote he used to kill the victim. In order to determine the rarity of this wire, I contacted companies responsible for creating such wire at the time of the crime. I could have stopped at just one or two phone calls, but I didn’t. I called and interviewed every manufacturer, distributor and retailer of this wire I could identify. I conducted hundreds of interviews over eight weeks. By the time I was done, I was actually the best available expert on the creation, sales and distribution of braided picture-hanging wire. Few of us ever expect to gain this kind of expertise when we sign up to work murders, but if you want to be successful, you’ll need to be the hardest working person in the room and do whatever it takes to succeed.
Christian case making is similarly demanding. It’s easy to call yourself a Christian, and, in fact, our salvation is independent of any work we might do to defend what we believe. But Christian case making requires another level of commitment altogether. The people who attend my talks understand his within about thirty minutes. I usually warn them in advance they are going to feel like they are drinking water from a fire hose. But if you want to be prepared to defend the truth, you’ll need to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed. This may sound daunting, but I’m not asking you to do something you don’t already do. I bet there’s some aspect of your life where you are willing to invest time and energy for a much less important cause. How many hours a week do you spend catching up on our favorite television dramas? How much time do you spend watching sports, or reading about your favorite hobby? Few of us are so busy we have absolutely no time to spend studying what we believe about God. It’s really all a matter of priorities. Most of us are willing to spend time on the things that interest us most. Are our metaphysical beliefs about the existence of God important enough for us to invest the time necessary to become successful case makers? I’ve often described the impact of C. S. Lewis’ words when I first read the following:
“Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” (C.S. Lewis, from God in the Dock)
Nothing could be truer. If Christianity is an accurate description of reality, it ought to inspire us to commit our time and effort. It ought to cause us to do whatever necessary to become the best Christian case makers possible. The reason why few of us are willing to become case makers is simply because case making requires work. Hard work. But it’s worth it, because this kind of work is actually a form of worship. When we dedicate ourselves to understanding and defending what we believe, we are worshiping God with our minds. I hope you’re willing to be part of the “ten percent”. Let’s do whatever it takes to make the case.
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 Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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