Today we mourn and pray for our brothers and sisters in France—for those who lost loved ones in yesterday’s terror attacks, and for the millions of French citizens who must now try to process this brutality.
One of the oldest and toughest challenges for Christians is finding a way to understand the existence of terrible evil in a world that is ruled by a loving, all-powerful God. It’s not an easy question to answer—if it were, we wouldn’t be struggling with it thousands of years after Christ—but the Bible does offer hope in the face of violence and evil.
We’ve talked about terror and the question of evil here in relation to terror attacks in past years. Most of those reflections are still relevant today in the wake of the Paris attacks; if these latest terror attacks have you wondering why a loving God could let this happen, take a few minutes to read through these reflections:
There are many Bible passages that talk about evil and suffering; one of the best-known is Romans 8, which reads in part:
The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us. Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely. Everything God made was changed to become useless, not by its own wish but because God wanted it and because all along there was this hope: that everything God made would be set free from ruin to have the freedom and glory that belong to God’s children.
We know that everything God made has been waiting until now in pain, like a woman ready to give birth. Not only the world, but we also have been waiting with pain inside us. We have the Spirit as the first part of God’s promise. So we are waiting for God to finish making us his own children, which means our bodies will be made free. We were saved, and we have this hope. If we see what we are waiting for, that is not really hope. People do not hope for something they already have. But we are hoping for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently. — Romans 8:18-25
We invite you to spend this weekend in prayer for our brothers and sisters in France. May God comfort the survivors, may He grant safety to police and rescue workers, and may the church of Jesus Christ be a beacon of hope for those overwhelmed by sorrow.
Has your church or faith community been talking this month about the plight of the persecuted Christian church around the world? The first three Sundays of November have been set aside as special days on which to pray for Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs.
If the struggles of the persecuted church have been weighing on your mind and heart lately, you might be interested in a devotional here at Bible Gateway that is focused on the persecuted church: Standing Strong Through the Storm. Standing Strong Through the Storm is a daily devotional that highlights true stories about believers who held to their faith even in the face of suffering.
Despite the grim topic of the devotional, Standing Strong Through the Storm is actually one of the most inspiring devotionals in our library. These aren’t just stories of misery and suffering; they’re tales of courage and faith that hold up under fire. It makes for inspiring devotional reading, but it’s also a good way to increase your awareness of the persecuted church, and it’s a daily source of ideas to pray about.
On a similar topic, you might also want to see the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also in our devotional library. While that devotional isn’t only about persecution, it’s written very much with the suffering church in mind, as Bonhoeffer himself was murdered by the Nazis for resisting Hitler’s regime. Each of the 40 daily readings will challenge you to build up a faith strong enough to stand up to persecution.
Pictured: Paolo Uccello’s depiction of the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr; and 20th century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
In 2010, the eyes and prayers of the world turned to Chile, where 33 miners were buried alive 200 stories underground by the catastrophic explosion and collapse of a 100-year-old gold and copper mine. Over the next 69 days, an international team worked in a desperate attempt to rescue the trapped men.
The 33, a major motion picture about the calamity, opened November 13 starring Antonio Banderas. A gripping story of resilience and personal transformation, the film depicts the Earth’s darkest depths while revealing the spiritual light the men grasped through prayer and reading the Bible to rely on God to gain the necessary courage needed for both the miners and their families.
“There are actually 34 of us,” nineteen-year-old [miner Jimmy Sanchez] wrote in a letter sent up from the mine on Tuesday, “because God has never left us down here.”
Amid reports of squabbling on the surface among families of the trapped miners, some say things are much calmer underground as everyone prepares for this week’s attempt to bring them back up. The men have worked hard to keep their spirits buoyant during the ordeal, organizing themselves into a community and dividing up their living-room-sized space. Early on, they set aside a space to pray daily, and religious groups have converged on the mine to serve the miners’ spiritual needs. Once a supply line was established, Seventh-Day Adventists sent down mini-Bibles with magnifying glasses; the Jesus Film Project loaded 33 MP3 players with an audio adaptation of the famous JESUS film. A crucifix was sent down in August, and it’s said that miners also requested statues of Mary and the saints.
This dramatic story is a vivid reminder to us that the Bible is our rescue book, giving us the light we need in a dark world. Use the following Scripture verses to help you meditate on the saving nature of God in our every day lives:
I may walk through valleys
as dark as death,
but I won’t be afraid.
You are with me,
and your shepherd’s rod
makes me feel safe. Psalm 23:4 (CEV)
I put all my hope in the Lord.
He leaned down to me;
he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
out of the mud and filth,
and set my feet on solid rock.
He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
they will trust the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3 (CEB)
God is our protection and our strength.
He always helps in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid if the earth shakes,
or if the mountains fall into the sea.
We will not fear even if the oceans roar and foam,
or if the mountains shake at the raging sea. Psalm 46:1-3 (ICB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (AMP)
Are you prepared to answer if a person should ask you why you trust the Bible? Can you articulate how Scripture communicates the very awe, mystery, passion, and power of God? And how God’s Word is living, relevant, reliable, and historically trustworthy?
Do you believe that God not only used transformative words to bring about the existence of all things, but that he also used words to bring meaning to lives and relationships?
Debate among evangelicals about the inerrancy of the Bible and veracity of Bible stories seems to be more common today than in years past. Why do you think that is?
Josh McDowell: One of the main reasons is the existence and size of the Internet. Before the Internet, people that oppose everything that an evangelical person would stand for (atheists, agnostics, and skeptics) had very little access to our young people. But today with the Internet, it has leveled the playing field. They’re just one click away. As a result, the Internet is taking the issues of inspiration, inerrancy—everything—younger and younger and younger, broader, and broader, and broader.
Now, this is also good because it gives us a great opportunity to answer some of these issues, and to use the Internet to make biblical truths clear and to defend them. But the Internet is probably one of the main reasons why it’s become more relevant today, because people have more access to the arguments against our faith.
While you were a college student, you were an unbelieving skeptic of Christianity and the Bible. How did you become convinced to trust the Bible?
Josh McDowell: When I was young and in the university, I was an ornery agnostic—the kind who says “you don’t know, I don’t know, so forget it!” Life was hard, having been homosexually raped for seven years (from six to 13 years old) and growing up with an alcoholic father. Because of this, I was very bitter, and I took it out on God.
I left and traveled to Europe. I went all throughout England, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, London, Germany, France, and Switzerland to gather the evidence to show that Christianity was not true. I checked out the manuscripts and the scrolls, because if I should show that they were not reliable or significant, then I believed my case was won. Now, you have to realize: I didn’t understand Hebrew and Greek back then, so I had to trust others. But I found out in all these universities that people were more than willing to share their knowledge with me. I became convinced that the scrolls are solid, physical evidence that the Old Testament had been recorded accurately. With the abundance of the manuscripts, and the ability to recreate such a high percentage of a pure text, I concluded that to not accept the Bible’s accuracy would mean becoming a total historical skeptic.
I would also add that a lot of the Bible was written by eye-witnesses. I didn’t believe that at first, but I was eventually convinced, and realized that this is the best historical testimony you can get. On top of that, they appealed to the knowledge of their opponents concerning the truth that they were talking about. In other words, they said “Not only do we believe this, but you do too! You saw this! You were there!” When you do that, you’re on pretty solid ground. It’s like going into a court and your opponent totally agrees with you. That carries a lot of weight with the judge and the jury!
Josh McDowell: We chose the title “God Breathed” because the New Testament says that the Scriptures are the outward breath of God, and it’s God sharing his heart, mind, and soul with his creation. The title depicts that it came from God—he breathed it out! When that’s established, we can conclude that the Bible is accurate.
The main purpose of the book is twofold. For the believer, that they might know him better and be more committed to their savior because they walk away with a greater conviction of the truth of His Word. I’m convinced that the greater knowledge we have of the truth of the Scriptures, the greater convictions we have and courage in our faith. For the non-believer, the main purpose of the book is so that he/she will see there’s evidence that God did breath out his Scripture, and that Scripture is accurate and true.
Ultimately, I wanted to bridge the gap between the mind and the heart. I wanted to write a book that would take all this evidence with the manuscripts, scrolls, etc. and intellectually bridge it down to how it should impact our lives.
Why do you say the Bible is “alive” when it’s content extends back thousands of years?
Josh McDowell: I like to say that the Bible is alive for two reasons. For one reason, despite being thousands of years old, they’re relevant to every single generation for all people in all places at all times. It’s not static, and it’s not dead. The other reason I like to use the word “alive” is that it literally changes lives! I saw this in my own life. When I finally got up the courage to tell someone about being sexually raped, that man began to mentor me out of the Scriptures for six months. As a result, I literally saw my life change right before my eyes. My attitude, my feelings, my emotions, and my behavior started to change. As a result, I always look to the Scriptures as being alive and relevant. And let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit (who is alive) always uses the Scriptures every day to teach us things.
How did you come to acquire rare Egyptian artifacts and what role do they have in corroborating the veracity of the Bible?
Josh McDowell: I can’t go into detail how I acquired the artifacts because I want to acquire several more. But I will say this: you must always do it legally, and you do it through a broker. Don’t go to Israel, enter a shop, and think you’re buying something authentic—you’re usually not!
Try never to buy anything that’s been stolen out of a country. (Sometimes you’ll never know, but your heart’s desire should be not to do that.) Also, never use the black market. If you do, it’s often stolen goods, and it will ultimately destroy the pricing of significant artifacts.
We hired a broker who took a long time traveling and searching for items that might contain Scriptures. You have to understand: what we did was a crapshoot. We did not directly purchase manuscripts. We bought a number of items that might have biblical manuscripts within them. There was no guarantee that we would end up with anything valuable after our purchase. By God’s grace, we ended up hitting the mother-load with a number of manuscripts that are probably the oldest ever discovered.
Long story short: you do it legally and honestly, and you spend a lot of money doing it. I had thousands of dollars invested into this before we even found something to purchase, because we had to send people there to check it out, determine authenticity, etc.
What do you identify as the purpose of the Bible?
Josh McDowell: Very simply! It is “to know Him, and to make Him known.” I believe the Bible is about how God created us to be in a relationship with him. Sin entered the human race which broke the relationship, but the story unfolds as God restores the relationship through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as forgiveness for our sins. Ultimately, God revealed his heart and mind through the Scriptures that we might know him, grow in him, and make him known.
You say people commit a common error when they say “what this verse means to me is…” Explain your thinking here.
Josh McDowell: You can only understand this in the light of our culture. World culture will pretty well say that there is no objective moral truth, even to the point of denying truth altogether. It’s all individually determined, they say. From this viewpoint you get the phrase, “Well it might be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” In other words: “Look, if you believe it and it works out for you, then it’s true for you. But I don’t believe it, therefore it’s not true for me.”
Now, when it comes to the Bible, what happens is the individual becomes the source of truth, not the Scriptures. Consider how Bible studies have changed with our young people. With an adult study—say, people 35 years and older—it will go like this: “Well Janet, when Paul wrote this, what did he mean by that?” “Jim, when Jesus said this, what did He mean by that?” But if you go into a younger group, it will go like this: “Well Barbara, when Paul wrote this, what does that mean to you?” This isn’t right.
When Scripture says something, we shouldn’t look at ourselves to determine what it means. We look at ourselves to determine how it applies! But we’ve reversed that. Because you see, the individual has become the source of truth. So for our young people today, it doesn’t really matter what it meant to Jesus because whatever it means to you is just as real and true. When you do that, you open up the avenue for total relativism, where all truth claims are relevant and true in accordance with however the individual determines.
What is the big picture of the Bible?
Josh McDowell: The big picture of the Bible is God working out His salvation through creation from Genesis all the way through Revelation. What God has done to create every one of us and how we can know Him personally—that’s the overall theme of the Bible. As I’ve said earlier, the Bible is all about our purpose: to Know Him and to make Him known in our culture today. On a similar note, it’s about seeing things from God’s perspective. I don’t think we can truly understand history unless we see
it from God’s perspective. I don’t think we can truly understand who we are unless we see ourselves as God sees us.
Josh McDowell: My view of the Apocryphal books is that they are not Holy Scripture. I think Jesus outlined that, and I touch on that in the book.
But I think every Christian should read them and study them. The great value of the Apocryphal books is that it gives you a sense of the religious thinking, and of religious processes between the Old and the New Testaments. You get a sense of the religious tone, what people thought about it, how it influenced people, etc. All of this helps you to see the light in the New Testament when it comes on the scene. Ultimately, this helps you to understand Scripture even better.
Give one reason why the Bible should be considered reliable.
Josh McDowell: I’ll stick with the New Testament here, because the question is so broad. I would say with the New Testament that it was written by eye-witness accounts. You know, we think people today are so interested in the truth of what Jesus actually said and did. Back then, they were even more concerned about that! Why? The difference is they were dying for it. Many of us are not. They wanted to know more than anybody what Jesus said and did because they knew that they would probably be martyred for it. So they would ask the apostles like John, saying “How do you know that’s true? How do you know Jesus said that?” Remember in 1 John, he said “What our eyes have seen [not somebody else’s!], what our ears of heard, what our hands have felt, we declare onto you.”
I would say if I had to just narrow it down to one small area of confirmation of the New Testament, it would be that. You can’t get closer to a subject you’re reporting on than through eye-witness account.
How does this new book of yours fit in with your other apologetic books?
Josh McDowell: This book is a little different in two ways. The first way is that the scrolls, manuscripts, mask, etc., portrays physical, historical evidence that is firsthand to me, the author. This takes it back from somebody else saying or doing this, to: I myself, saying this and doing this. So it takes the reader back to first-hand account.
Second—and probably even more significant—is that even more than my previous titles like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, etc., I bridge from the head to the heart. People may say “So this evidence is true. So the Scriptures are accurate. So these manuscripts are reliable as they report on God’s Word. So the scrolls record incredible history of preserving the Word of God. So what? How does it affect my life? How should it affect my attitude, or my behavior?” And one of the keys to God-Breathed is it takes the intellectual stuff and brings it down to how you ought to live.
Bio: Josh McDowell has been at the forefront of cultural trends and ground-breaking ministry for over five decades. He shares the essentials of the Christian faith in everyday language so that youth, families, churches, leaders, and individuals of all ages are prepared for the life of faith and the work of the ministry. This includes leveraging resources based on years of experiences, new technologies, and strategic partnerships. Since 1961, Josh has delivered more than 27,000 talks to over 25,000,000 people in 125 countries. He’s the author or coauthor of 142 books, including More Than a Carpenter and The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, recognized by World Magazine as one of the top 40 books of the 20th century. Josh’s books are available in over 100 different languages. Josh and his wife, Dottie, have been married for 43 years and have four children and ten grandchildren. For more information, visit www.josh.org. Also see the Publishers Weekly article: Christian Bookseller Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award-Winner Reflects on Five Decades of Writing.
This is the third lesson in Mel Lawrenz’ new “How to Study the Bible” series. You can catch up with last week’s lesson here. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
I had left a large evangelistic rally in our city one day when I was 21 years old, and was surprised to see the speaker, Leighton Ford, walking across the parking lot where I happened to be. Seeing an opportunity to talk to the great man, I introduced myself and told him that I was going to seminary the following year because I believed I was called to be a pastor. Ford stood several inches taller than me, and had piercing but kind eyes. I will never forget what happened next. He took his large black Bible and held it over the top of my head. That got my attention. He said, “Young man, when you’re in seminary you are going to be studying the Scriptures, but always remember this: you must never place yourself over Scripture, but you must increasingly place yourself under its truth and authority.” That thought and that image remained with me for the next three years, and many years of ministry afterward.
We do a lot of reading. We read news articles, editorials, stories, advice columns, blog posts, and tweets. Most of our non-fiction reading is in order to solve a problem. How to fix a toilet, what vitamins to take, what sights to see at a vacation destination, etc. We read to get information, and that puts us in a certain relationship with what we read. We evaluate it, deciding whether to believe it or not. We use the information for our practical needs. We use it, and then forget it, because there are limits to how much information we can remember.
Many people study the Bible exactly that way, looking for information, solving a problem, seeking a certain emotional effect. But if the very reason the Bible exists is because the Creator of the universe spoke through prophets and apostles to establish and deepen a relationship with him, then how we read Scripture must be different. We read it not merely for information, but for formation. We examine Scripture while it examines us.
Think about this for a moment: what have been the most formative spiritual experiences in your life? By formative I mean that they shaped you by opening your mind to a large truth, or by softening your heart, or by instilling values, or by confronting your sin. Reading Scripture ought to be one of those experiences. We may not be aware of it every day, but over a long period of time we are formed and transformed by the truth of God.
This will not happen if we stand over the Bible.
In his book, Shaped by the Word, Robert Mulholland describes formational reading in these ways:
Formational reading is not concerned with quantity.
Informational reading is linear; formational reading is in depth.
Informational reading’s task is to master the text; formational reading’s purpose is for the text to master you.
With formational reading “instead of the text being an object we control… the text becomes the subject of the reading relationship; we are the object that is shaped by the text.”
“Instead of the analytical, critical, judgmental approach of informational reading, formational reading requires a humble, detached, willing, loving approach.”
Informational reading is problem solving; formational reading is openness to mystery.
The 18th century scholar Johann Albrecht Bengel put it this way: “Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself.”
It is easy for us to give a head nod to this idea, to think that we know about letting Scripture shape us. But this requires diligence. In the busyness of life we may read Scripture quickly and superficially. We may read with the attitude, what’s in it for me? Worst of all, we sometimes read in order to feel righteous.
This is why prayer must go hand in hand with studying Scripture. We talk to God, then God talks to us, then we talk to God again. And so it goes. Along the way we use Bible study techniques (which we’ll get to in detail in this series), but the attitude must be consistent. Whether we are studying a biblical character or an era of history or the background of a particular book or a theological truth, it is always about knowing God and letting his word examine us.
James puts it well when he says:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)
May we not forget.
Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See other books here.
For many years, I figured that C.S. Lewis must be the single most quotable Christian writer in the history of the church. His Mere Christianity alone is full of more quote-worthy insights and witticisms than many excellent Christian authors and thinkers manage in a lifetime of writing. Add in works like The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the Narnia books, and the case is closed.
Or so I thought… until I started immersing myself in the sermons and devotional writing of the 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon. After reading through his Morning and Evening devotional and two sermon collections, I’m afraid that—no offense to Mr. Lewis—I must transfer the title of most-quotable Christian writer over to Mr. Spurgeon.
I’m being facetious about that title, but I’m quite serious about Spurgeon’s writing: it’s immensely witty, inspiring, and thought-provoking. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spurgeon’s eloquent style, I’ve gathered together five of my favorite Spurgeon quotes below. (These are all drawn from Morning and Evening, Sermons at the New Park Chapel, and Sermons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, each of which can be read online or via email subscription here at Bible Gateway.)
Without further ado, here are five of my favorite Spurgeon quotes:
1. Spurgeon on sin
“A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ, that he will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us. A great sin cannot destroy a Christian, but a little sin can make him miserable….
“Christian, what hast thou to do with sin? Hath it not cost thee enough already? Burnt child, wilt thou play with the fire? What! when thou hast already been between the jaws of the lion, wilt thou step a second time into his den? Hast thou not had enough of the old serpent?” – from Morning and Evening
2. Spurgeon on our misery
“If you are to go to Christ, do not put on your good doings and feelings, or you will get nothing; go in your sins, they are your livery. Your ruin is your argument for mercy; your poverty is your plea for heavenly alms; and your need is the motive for heavenly goodness. Go as you are, and let your miseries plead for you.” – from a sermon on Matthew 15:27
3. Spurgeon on Christ’s never-ending grace
“Our Lord Jesus is ever giving, and does not for a solitary instant withdraw his hand. As long as there is a vessel of grace not yet full to the brim, the oil shall not be stayed. He is a sun ever-shining; he is manna always falling round the camp; he is a rock in the desert, ever sending out streams of life from his smitten side; the rain of his grace is always dropping; the river of his bounty is ever-flowing, and the well-spring of his love is constantly overflowing.” – from Morning and Evening
4. Spurgeon on the reality of death
“[The apostle Paul] does not deny that death is a gloomy thing. He does not laugh at it; he does not say, “Oh, it is nothing to die;” he describes death as a monster; he speaks of it as having a sting; he tells us wherein the strength of that sting lies; and even in the exclamation of triumph he imputes that victory not to unaided flesh, but he says, ‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'” – from a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
5. Spurgeon on “little sins”
“When Satan cannot get a great sin in he will let a little one in, like the thief who goes and finds shutters all coated with iron and bolted inside. At last he sees a little window in a chamber. He cannot get in, so he puts a little boy in, that he may go round and open the back door. So the devil has always his little sins to carry about with him to go and open back doors for him, and we let one in and say, ‘O, it is only a little one.’ Yes, but how that little one becomes the ruin of the entire man!” – from a sermon on Exodus 8
What preachers, writers, or thinkers do you find yourself quoting and sharing with others?
More than 2,800 Bible Gateway Blog readers responded to our latest survey, telling us their favorite book of the Bible (from a prepared list of four New Testament (NT) books and four Old Testament (OT) books).
Answering the question, “Of the books of the Bible listed, which one is your favorite?,” the following list developed:
Some of the most famous Bible verses are found within the first chapter of each of these books, which then set the reader’s expectations of what the book is about:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NIV)
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)
I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (CEB)
The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7 (HCSB)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)
We encourage you to use Bible Gateway to enjoy your favorite book. One way is to use Bible Gateway’s many Bible Reading Plans that you can easily personalize to fit your own reading style and time schedule. Once you sign up, be sure to share what you read with your Facebook and Twitter followers, telling them about the options available on Bible Gateway.
What would happen if an experienced homicide detective applied the investigative tools he uses to prove that God exists? Could he examine eight pieces of critical evidence in the “crime scene” of the universe to determine if they point to a “divine intruder”?
How does God’s Crime Scene differ from other books on Christian apologetics?
J. Warner Wallace: It’s my hope to add something of value to the historic case for God’s existence by providing a new investigative framework for the evidence. While other books certainly describe the facts, God’s Crime Scene incorporates investigative techniques from real-life crime scenes to examine eight key attributes of the universe. Each chapter begins with a real crime scene, based on my work as a Cold-Case Detective. I describe the specific forensic principle we used to solve the case, then we apply this technique to the evidence for God’s existence. God’s Crime Scene doesn’t just describe the evidence, it provides readers with the detective skills necessary to evaluate the evidence so they can make the case. It’s also fully illustrated to make the case clear.
What message are you trying to convey with the title?
J. Warner Wallace: I realize God’s Crime Scene might sound like I’m describing God as a criminal suspect, culpable of some kind of crime, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I’m simply trying to apply crime scene investigative techniques to the universe to infer the most reasonable inference for what we all experience. I’m treating the universe as a crime scene to determine if there is good reason to believe we have an external “suspect”.
How does your profession as a cold-case homicide detective help you uncover evidence for Christianity and God’s existence, which led you to write this book?
J. Warner Wallace: My journey of faith was directly tied to my work as a detective. When I first encountered the New Testament Gospels, for example, I investigated and tested them as I would any set of eyewitness accounts (I described this process in Cold-Case Christianity). At the end of that process, I was comfortable with the reliable nature of the Gospel accounts except for the existence of the supernatural miracles of Jesus and the Resurrection. I thought the Gospels were some form of historical fiction. But I decided to take an additional step in my investigation to determine if my bias against the supernatural was warranted. I examined the universe the same way I examined other targeted scenes and I applied the same scrutiny I did to other pieces of evidence in such scenes. The result is the process I describe In God’s Crime Scene.
Explain “inside the room” and “outside the room.” What common detective investigative technique do you use to examine the cause of the universe?
J. Warner Wallace: Every death investigation presents one of four possibilities; the victim died accidentally, died from natural causes, committed suicide, or was murdered. Only one of these circumstances requires someone outside the room to enter the scene. Accidental deaths, natural deaths, and suicides can occur without an intruder. Homicide detectives, therefore, are looking for evidence of outside involvement.
One important question must be asked and answered: “Can the evidence ‘in the room’ be explained by staying ‘in the room’?” If, for example, there is a victim in the room with a gunshot injury lying next to a handgun, but the doors are locked from the inside, all the DNA and fingerprints in the room come back to the victim, the gun is registered to the victim and there are no signs of an outside intruder, this is simply the scene of a suicide or accidental death. If, however, there exist fingerprints or DNA of an unknown suspect, the gun does not belong to the victim, and there are bloody footprints leading outside the room, detectives must consider the reasonable inference of murder. When the evidence in the room cannot be explained by staying inside the room and is better explained by a cause outside the room, there’s a good chance a murderer is on the loose. Intruders turn death scenes into crime scenes.
As we examine the universe around us, a similar opportunity awaits those who want to begin the most important of all investigations. Can everything we see in the universe be explained solely from causes found within the natural realm, or is there evidence of an outside “intruder”? Can the universe be explained by natural “internal” forces, or is an external “intruder” a better explanation? God’s Crime Scene was written to help readers examine the nature of the universe as they sift through eight important characteristics of the cosmos, biological organisms, and human experience, considering each as though it were a piece of evidence at a crime scene.
How do the judicial terms of explanatory liabilities and explanatory virtues enter into your approach to proving God’s existence?
J. Warner Wallace: In every case I’ve investigated, the explanations ultimately offered by the prosecution and defense teams possess both virtues and liabilities. Even true explanations typically suffer from unanswered questions or explanatory liabilities (weaknesses in understanding or knowing precisely what happened). It’s our responsibility, then, to evaluate every explanation to see which explanation possesses the greatest number of virtues and the least liabilities. In God’s Crime Scene, I describe all the virtues and liabilities from explanations offered from “inside the room” and “outside the room”. I also point readers to the best three atheist defenders and theist apologists so readers can examine the case for themselves. In the end, the explanations offered by those who describe an all-powerful Creator “outside the room” possess the greater explanatory power and the least number of explanatory liabilities.
What do you mean when you write, “Intruders turn a sense of curiosity into a sense of urgency”?
J. Warner Wallace: Death scenes provoke a response from those who are investigating them. When a death occurs accidentally, naturally, or because of a suicide, criminal investigators may have a sense of curiosity about what happened, but there won’t be any sense of urgency to catch the murderer. If the evidence in the death scene can be explained from inside the room, curiosity will rule the day. On the other hand, if investigators believe they have a murder (because the evidence in the scene can’t be explained from inside the room), everything changes. Curiosity turns into urgency as detectives quickly move to identify and capture the intruder who is responsible for the crime. Intruders turn a sense of curiosity into a sense of urgency.
In a similar way, if the evidence in the universe cannot be explained from “inside the room”, we ought to have a sense of urgency about this reality. If there’s a Divine Intruder we ought to passionately pursue him.
What four categories of evidence do you explore?
J. Warner Wallace: In God’s Crime Scene, I identify eight pieces of evidence in the universe in four very divergent categories:
Cosmological evidence (1. A universe that has a beginning, and 2. The fine tuning of our universe for the existence of life),
Biological evidence (3. The origin of life in our universe, and 4. The appearance of design in biological organisms),
Mental evidence (5. Consciousness, and 6. Free agency), and
Moral evidence (7. The existence of transcendent, objective moral truths, and 8. The presence of Evil).
These eight pieces of evidence simply cannot be explained from “inside the room” of the natural universe. In fact, the best explanation for these features of the universe is found “outside the room,” and the divergent nature of these evidences makes the case all the more compelling.
What is the “cumulative case for an intelligent designer”?
J. Warner Wallace: Famed atheist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins has written, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” In God’s Crime Scene I try to identify the attributes of design all of us recognize (either consciously or unconsciously) when we identify intelligently designed objects. To make these attributes easier to remember, I’ve assembled them in an acronym (DESIGNED):
D – Dubious Probability (Given Chance); Is random chance an insufficient explanation for the formation and assembly of the object we are examining?
E – Echoes of Familiarity; Does the object resemble other structures we know (with certainty) were designed by intelligent designers?
S – Sophistication and Intricacy; Does the object display specificity, sophistication and intricacy consistent with the involvement of an intelligent agent?
I – Informational Dependency; Is there any evidence the object was directed and created by way of instructional information?
G – Goal Direction (and Intentionality); Does the form and assembly process of the object process to be goal-directed?
N – Natural Inexplicability (Given Laws of Physics or Chemistry); Are the laws of physics and chemistry insufficient to account for the form and function of the object?
E – Efficiency / Irreducible Complexity; Does the object display efficient, irreducible complexity reflecting the involvement of an intelligent designer?
D – Decision / Choice Reflection; Does the object display evidence of conscious choices indicative of an intelligent designer?
We don’t need all the attributes of design to be present in order to correctly infer the involvement of an intelligent agent, but the more attributes we identify, the more reasonable the inference. There are many biological organisms that possess these attributes of design, including the modern icon of the Intelligent Design movement, the bacterial flagellum. Even if we skeptically rejected the presence of some of these design characteristics in biological micro-machines like the bacterial flagellum, the strength of the inference for design is still very strong, given the remaining pieces of the cumulative case. In God’s Crime Scene, I describe each of these design attributes in much greater great detail as I navigate the structure of flagella. I also examine the naturalistic explanations of those who deny the existence of an Intelligent Designer.
How do you approach the subject of good and evil coexisting?
J. Warner Wallace: Few people witness as much horrific evil as homicide detectives. I’ve certainly seen my share. But what do we really mean when we say something is evil? Are we saying we just don’t like it personally, or are we saying there are some things that are truly, transcendently, objectively evil? Is evil nothing more than a matter of opinion? If so, we could remove all evil by simply changing our minds about what we thought was evil in the first place. If we can’t eliminate evil in this way, we need to think about why and how transcendent notions of evil could exist.
While evil might at first appear to be a strong evidence against the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving Divine Creator, it may actually be the best possible evidence for the existence of such a Being. Unless we are prepared to dismiss evil as nothing more than whatever fails to please our private desires or opinions, we’re going to need a transcendent standard of good by which to evaluate and identify anything as evil. As crazy as it might sound at first, the existence of true evil, the kind that transcends each of us as individuals and groups, is dependent on the existence of a true, transcendent standard of good. True evil is evidence for God’s existence.
The only thing left to us, then, is to understand why an all-loving, all-powerful God might allow evil to occur. That’s what I hope to do with a seven-part explanatory template in God’s Crime Scene.
What outcomes do you hope for once someone has read your book?
J. Warner Wallace: I wrote God’s Crime Scene to chronicle my own journey from atheism, to provide the case for those who are genuinely seeking to know the truth about God’s existence, and to encourage those who already call themselves believers. If you’re a skeptic, I hope to show you to the strength of theistic explanations for the universe and the weakness of atheistic accounts. If you’re a believer, I hope to provide you with the evidence in a way that’s both easy to understand and communicate to others.
J. Warner Wallace: I’ve been using the Bible Gateway for many years as both a pastor and case maker. It’s my “go to” website to research the Bible so I can “connect the dots” from the New and Old Testament. It’s one of only a few apps I have on my phone to study God’s Word on the go.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
J. Warner Wallace: I believe each of us is called to be a Two-Decision Christian. If you’ve already decided God exists, take a second step and decide to make the case for what you believe. Become a case-making believer. I hope to encourage believers to make this second decision, and I hope God’s Crime Scene will help them fulfill their calling. Start small. Read and study. Engage your friends. Get in the game.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. - Psalm 100:1-3 (NKJV) www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20100&version=NKJV...
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"I know from personal experience how hard it is to forgive yourself. But I'm learning that if I do not receive God's grace and gift of forgiveness, I am saying that the death of my savior is not enough to cleanse me." Watch this week's video devotional from Sheri Rose Shepherd: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uodYkCSnOc4...