Reasonable Faith, Biblical Interpretation and “Tipping Point” Evidence
by J Warner Wallace
I’ve been reviewing a cold-case for a local agency this week, examining the evidence they’ve collected to help them determine if they’ve got enough to file the case with the District Attorney. We’re using an approach that I’ve described in my book, called “Abductive Reasoning”; a process that also has application for those of us who examine the evidence of Scripture. This local cold-case, like all my cases, relies on a cumulative collection of circumstantial evidences. Convincing circumstantial cases emerge when a large number of facts are most reasonably explained by the same common cause. If a particular suspect can account for all the evidence in the case, that suspect is the most reasonable candidate. In this particular local case, there just wasn’t enough evidence. I called the I/O (investigating officer) and told him the bad news: The case needed a “tipping point”.
How “Tipping Points” Impact Criminal Cases: The problem with some circumstantial cases lies in the alternate explanations that could be offered for each piece. Let’s say a suspect behaves in a certain way the day after the murder. I have to ask myself: Is that behavior most reasonably explained by his guilt? Could it also be explained in some other way? What if he made a statement to someone on the day of the murder; did he say something that can only be reasonably interpreted as an indicator of his guilt or is there another way to reasonably interpret the statement? The local case I examined suffered from the problem of multiple interpretations. Each and every piece of evidence could be reasonably explained as consistent with the suspect’s guilt or just a reasonably explained by some other cause. As I made a comprehensive list of all the evidence, I found that none of the facts were without a reasonable alternative explanation. While the detectives interpreted the evidence to demonstrate the suspect’s guilt, a member of the jury could just as rationally conclude that some alternate explanation was reasonable. The case lacked a clear, irrefutable piece of evidence to act as the “tipping point” to guide us in how we ought to interpret the rest of the facts.
“Tipping point” evidences help us understand which interpretive direction we ought to travel. If, for example, our suspect later told a friend…
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