Verifiability Is A Christian Distinctive
by J Warner Wallace
Christianity is unique among theistic worldviews. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. In a similar way, the statements of L. Ron Hubbard form the basis of Scientology. But in both these examples, the statements of these worldview leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts, rather than on claims about a particular historical event. While Christianity makes its own ideological and conceptual claims, these proposals are intimately connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should you believe what Jesus said rather than the teaching of Buddha or Hubbard? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it’s established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His Resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. Like other historical events, the Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.
If I told you I had a vision from God yesterday in which He revealed a number of important ideas and concepts, how could you ever verify (or falsify) my claim? Personal visions and pietistic wisdom statements are difficult to validate evidentially. You either have to accept my story or reject it, but in either case you’ll have to do so without an evidential investigation. What if, on the other hand, I told you I had been visited by God physically? What if I told you God came to me in the form of a man and, in the presence of my friends, worked several miracles? What if I told you He moved trees and created a playhouse for my kids from thin air? These kinds of claims are categorically different than claims about ideas and concepts. These claims are locked into historical events occurring in my backyard in front of witnesses. As such, they can be investigated forensically and historically. They can be verified in a way conceptual claims cannot. This is the nature of Christian claims. Christianity is established on the basis of an event in history. We can investigate this event like any other event in history (including cold-case murders). Verifiability is a Judeo-Christian distinctive…
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