Tag Archives: c.s. lewis

Why Are You a Believer? A Review of J. Warner Wallace’s Forensic Faith

J. Warner Wallace is a  cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author.  Wallace has written two books defending the truth claims of Christianity: Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene.

Cold-Case Christianity provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the New Testament gospels. In God’s Crime Scene, Wallace investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence.

But having written these two helpful books, Wallace came to realize, as he spoke in churches across America,  that many of the Christians attending his presentations doubted the need for Christian evidences in the first place.

When Wallace asks audiences why they are Christians, he typically gets these answers:

“I was raised in the church” / “My parents were Christians” / “I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember”

“I’ve had an experience that convinced me” / “The Holy Spirit confirmed it for me” / “God demonstrated His existence to me”

“I was changed by Jesus” / “I used to be [fill in your choice of immoral lifestyle], and God changed my life”

“Because I just know the Bible is true” / “Because God called me to believe”

But why, he wondered, does nobody ever answer the question with “I am a Christian because it is true“? After all, isn’t that the primary reason we should believe anything?

But many of the Christians Wallace encountered seemed to set aside their Christian beliefs as somehow privileged, as exempt from evidential considerations. This approach to Christian belief, however, is just not acceptable.

Wallace writes:

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity.  When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning.

The famed writer C. S. Lewis, all the way back in 1939, wrote the following words about Christianity:

If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against the cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.

Is the church anti-intellectual today when it comes to defending her core truth claims? This has certainly been my experience while teaching Christian apologetics for the last 14 years. Wallace concurs:

I’m not the only one to notice how anti-intellectual the church is today. Atheist activist and philosophy professor Peter Boghossian wrote a book in 2013 entitled A Manual for Creating AtheistsIt was published around the same time my first book, Cold-Case Christianity, hit the bookshelves. Boghossian describes his book as “the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith—but for talking them out of it.” He hopes to teach atheists “to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.” In a YouTube video promoting the approach, Boghossian made an interesting observation: Christians fail to process truth claims rationally; instead of assessing the evidence and drawing the most reasonable inference, they typically rely on personal experience, emotional response, and “blind faith.” For this reason, he encourages atheists to engage Christians not on the evidence but on the way Christians evaluate truth claims in the first place.

Is Boghossian wrong in his assessment of Christians? Wallace thinks not.

Sadly, my own experience in the church confirms what Boghossian has described. Boghossian, and others like him, believe they need only show Christians how to examine evidence and the rest will take care of itself. Confident of the evidence supporting their view, they can’t imagine Christianity will survive a forensic investigation in the “age of reason.” But as someone who has examined the evidence of God’s existence and the reliability of the New Testament documents as a detective, I hold a similar, although opposite, view. If Christians will simply learn how to approach their beliefs evidentially and take the same forensic approach detectives take when examining an event from the past, the rest will take care of itself. I’m confident the claims of Christianity are supported by the evidence, and I believe a forensic faith will comfortably survive in the age of reason. Boghossian and I are engaged in a race of sorts. Both of us understand the importance of the evidence, and we are trying to reach the same group of accidental Christians. The only question is who will reach them first.

Mature Christians who have walked with the Lord for many decades may dismiss all this talk of evidence and apologetics. They just don’t need it. Their experiences of Christianity are unshakable and no skeptic is going to change their mind. To that Christian, though, I ask: What about the young? What about the students? What about the teenagers and twenty-somethings? Do we just abandon them?

Wallace cites disturbing survey results about young people in our churches:

Most teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their religious beliefs and practices. They typically cannot defend what they believe. Young, uninformed believers also reject important Christian claims.

63 percent of teenage Christians don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God;

51 percent don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead;

68 percent don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real Being.

Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people aged 15 to 30 will leave the church for at least a season, and most will never return.

Only 33 percent of young, churched Christians said the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

If current trends related to the belief systems and practices of young people continue, church attendance will decline by 50 percent in the next decade.

College professors are nearly five times more likely to be professing atheists or agnostics than people in the general population. The vast majority of university professors reject the Bible as “the actual word of God.”

When surveyed, the largest segment of young, ex-Christian respondents said they left Christianity because they had intellectual doubt, skepticism, and unanswered questions.

So what do we do about this? Wallace answers:

If properly equipped, [young people] could actually grow in their faith and confidence, even in the midst of strong opposition. You and I have the opportunity to reach the young people we love. . . if we are willing to embrace the mission. Our children, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, are in the right place; they believe something true. If they’ve come to understand their own need for a Savior and have repented and placed their trust in Jesus alone for their salvation, they are saved for eternity. But if they haven’t taken the time to study why Christianity is true, . . . they will be ill-equipped to answer objections and less than persuasive with a group that requires far more evidence than ever before. We have to change the course of the church in order to meet this challenge, and the church is much more like an ocean liner than a jet ski. We cannot turn it on a dime. Instead, we must make small course corrections—one degree here and one degree there. Forensic Faith is my effort to come alongside the church as a tugboat and shift the direction of our ocean liner one degree at a time.

Wallace is right and I hope you will read his book so that we can all get this ocean liner turned together.

What Is the Purpose of Life? Part 11

The only thing that our soul yearns for more than anything else is to know and experience the Perfect Good. According to Aquinas, the Perfect Good of man, the thing that will give him ultimate happiness, cannot be something which was created. “It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object . . . of man’s appetite is the universal good. . . . Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone.”

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33).

Speaking to God, St. Augustine said “Thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” – C. S. Lewis

There is a void in every person’s life that only God can fill. Nothing on this earth can fill it. How do we know this? From experience. Nobody has ever found anything in this world which completely satisfies their desires. We always want more.

The only way we can be totally satisfied and at rest is when we find the Perfect Good. The perfect good is God. It can be found nowhere else.

So how do we experience ultimate happiness now, in this life?

I do not even pretend to have all the answers for how to come to know God in this life, but let me offer a couple of things from my life that might help you grow in your happiness.

First, spend as much time as you can around people who know who God is, who have godly wisdom, and who follow God’s moral commands. Learn from them how to think and how to act. Watch them and see how they live their lives. In my case, I have one of those people in my own house, and she happens to be married to me. If you’re not that fortunate, then find a mentor. Find someone who you can emulate.

A.W. Tozer said that “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In order to know who God is, you need to read. You will learn about God much quicker if you read His Words to us. Read as much as you can of the Bible, first and foremost. I know it’s difficult, but there are truckloads of study Bibles and commentaries out there to help you. So you really have no excuse.

Also, read as many books as you can written by great Christians, preferably those that are dead. There is little being written today that can match the lofty insights of Augustine, Aquinas, Lewis, and Tozer. Give them a try and you won’t be disappointed.

Third, live out the commands of God by serving others. Serve your family members, your co-workers, your church family, the poor, the imprisoned, and the outcasts of society.

Even if you read about God, emulate a godly Christian, and serve others in every possible way, you cannot be perfectly happy in this life. Even the greatest saints of the church were not perfectly happy in this life.

Aquinas says,

For since happiness is a ‘perfect and sufficient good,’ it excludes every evil, and fulfills every desire. But in this life every evil cannot be excluded. For this present life is subject to many unavoidable evils; to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of the appetite, and to many penalties on the part of the body; . . . Likewise neither can the desire for good be satiated in this life. For man naturally desires the good, which he has, to abide. Now the goods of the present life pass away; since life itself passes away, . . . Wherefore it is impossible to have true Happiness in this life.

But this life is not all there is. Aquinas argues that it is only in the next life that we reach perfect happiness, because that is when we see God face to face. This is the Beatific Vision, which means the “blessed vision.” John describes the Beatific Vision this way: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2).

The Beatific Vision brings direct knowledge of God and perfect love of God, who is the ultimate good. This, my friends, is true happiness. The rest we seek, the fulfillment of all of our desires, the state of perfect good will finally be reached.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Co 13:12).

Let me summarize all we’ve learned about happiness. If you focus on God, then you will very likely gain great wisdom and virtue, the goods of the soul. If you focus on God, you will receive pleasure along the way. If you focus on God, you will receive a perfect body at the resurrection. If you focus on God, the power you have will be used to achieve great things. If you focus on God, you will spend this life and the next honoring Him, because everything good in you was put there by Him. If you focus on God, you will pile up treasures in heaven.

On the contrary, if you don’t focus on God, you will squander your wealth, seek honor and fame for yourself, abuse your power, waste away your body, regret many of your pleasures, and ultimately lose your soul.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:1-2).