How Evidence Helps Doubters Become Devotees
by J Warner Wallace
Last Friday I met Tim Freel at the Breaching the Barricade Law Enforcement Conference in Elkhart, Indiana. Jim Bontrager invited me to speak at the conference as part of the 2014 National Peace Officer’s Appreciation Week. Jim’s goal was to encourage and train officers and deputies to become better Christian Case Makers. Law Enforcement personnel are, in my mind, uniquely qualified to communicate the Gospel and Christian worldview to a disbelieving culture. We are, after all, skeptical by nature, and we ought to understand the role of evidence in forming a convincing case. In addition, we have experienced the problem of evil firsthand, and are uniquely qualified to navigate discussions in this area. Tim Freel personified these characteristics perfectly. According to associates, he is a gifted detective serving in the Elkhart Police Department. He’s smart, tenacious, skeptical and experienced. Until very recently, he was also an unbeliever. His conversion story was a humbling example of how evidence helps doubters become devotees.
At the end of my presentation on Friday, Tim told the group about his own experience with Cold-Case Christianity. A Chaplain at his agency, Valerie Smith, had given him a copy of the book. She knew he was an atheist and wanted to challenge him to examine the evidence like a cold-case. He said the book made him angry. He set out to disprove the case I had formed in the book, and he tore or cut several pages from the text where he thought he could find a flaw. After several chapters, however, he taped them back in place. At chapter six (a chapter describing the way detectives separate evidence from artifacts at crime scenes), Tim said he began to realize the case for the reliability of the New Testament was stronger than he first imagined. After several weeks, Tim eventually became a Christian. The book simply helped him remove his prior objections to Christianity as it presented the Christian worldview as an evidentially reasonable claim about nature of reality and the person of Jesus Christ.
Tim’s testimony was humbling. I wrote the book to describe the process I used to examine the claims of the New Testament when I first became a believer. I thought it might help others, but Tim’s story reminded me of several important truths. God has wired many of us to be more skeptical, more demanding and more evidential in our approach to any truth claim, especially claims about the existence of God. People like Tim Freel (and I) simply cannot believe something unsupported by evidence. Jesus, however, didn’t ask us to believe without evidence (or in spite of the evidence to the contrary). Instead, Jesus provided his followers with several lines of evidence and asked them to trust his claims because of this evidence. If you have someone like Tim in your midst, let me encourage you with a few observations…
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