If “Faith” Involves Making An Inference From Evidence, Why Do We Call It “Faith”?

by J. Warner Wallace

In a previous post, I offered a definition of Biblical “faith” that was more akin to “trusting the best inference from the evidence” than “believing something that lacks supporting evidence”. Whenever I make this distinction, someone inevitably asks, “If you’re simply making the most reasonable inference from the evidence, what’s the need for ‘faith’ at all?” The definition I’ve offered does sound like there’s little left unanswered in a process of reasoning that seeks inferences and requires evidence to direct our decision. After all, we ask juries to enter into this form of reasoning all the time, don’t we? Juries attempt to find the best inference from the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith”! If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions”, what is left for there to have “faith” about?

My experience in criminal trials continues to teach me about the nature of evidential cases. I’ve yet to investigate or present a case where there weren’t a number of questions that the jury had to leave unanswered. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative and compelling, they always have some informational limit. There are always some questions that never seem to get answered: How

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precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? There are some questions that simply cannot be answered unless a suspect is willing to confess to the crime (and that doesn’t happen all that often). This is such a regular and expected part of criminal cases that prosecutors typically ask jurors (prior to their selection) if they are going to require that every question be answered before they will be able to come to a decision on our case. If a potential juror says that he or she needs every question answered, we simply remove them from our panel. I’ve never seen a perfect case presented without an unanswered question, and jurors that expect such a case will be a problem for both sets of attorneys. The expectation for perfection is simply unreasonable…

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