Eight Steps to Investigating the Case for Christianity

Eight Steps to Investigating the Case for ChristianityThere’s a reason why God calls us to worship Him with our minds, understand the value of evidence, examine our beliefs until we are convinced, and live as Christian “case makers”. While our faith and trust in Christ saves us, our ability to make the case for Christ protects us and transforms our world. “Case making” needs to be a part of our Christian identity, and all of us need to be ready to defend the Christian worldview. We can’t continue to delegate this responsibility to well-known apologists and Christian authors. We don’t need another “million dollar apologist”; we need a million “one dollar apologists”. All of us can be equipped to defend our faith; it doesn’t require a master’s degree in apologetics; it doesn’t require a library full of books, a radio show, or a podcast. It simply requires a personal commitment to learn the truth and defend it to others.

After twenty-five years spent handling evidence and investigating the truth (much of that time related to cold-case homicides), I’ve learned a few things about how we can investigate the Christian worldview and present it to those who have questions. There are a number of important parallels to be drawn between criminal investigations and examining the case for Christianity. In this post, I want to share eight steps I take in all my cold-case investigations. In my next post, I provide you with eight steps prosecutors take when presenting our cases. I hope there are a few valuable principles you can apply to your own investigation (and presentation) of Christianity. When I open a cold-case investigation, there are a number of steps I have to take before I can even begin to think about making a presentation to a jury. The process looks something like this:

STEP #1 – Read the Book Completely
I begin by pulling the original case book off the shelf. All our cold cases are bound in red notebooks and stored in a special vault. I start by selecting a case, opening the case book and reading through each and every word recorded in the notebook. The notebook contains the original crime reports the investigative summaries, original eyewitness interview transcripts, autopsy reports, crime scene investigation reports and everything else documented and collected at the time of the first investigation. Before I can do anything with this case, I need to read and understand the case book as though I was part of the original investigation. This can sometimes be very interesting, but it can also be quite boring. I’ve got to be diligent here, and it helps to try to “place myself” in the original investigation. I need to understand everything the original detectives were going through, what they were thinking and the nature of the culture at the time of the crime.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. Before I can hope to make a case for the Christian Worldview, I better open the “book” (the Bible) and become intimately familiar with what it teaches. I’m going to need to read the original eyewitness transcripts (the Gospels) until I know them thoroughly. I’ve got to do my best to “place myself” at the scene and understand what the writers were writing from their perspective. This might require me to study history or geography to better understand the culture and how the original eyewitnesses thought so I can better understand their statements.

A “Case Making” Tip:
Read through the Biblical text in large sections over a short period of time. There are a number of reading plans to guide you through the Bible in a year, with selected readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms. If you read through the Bible in this way, you’ll never understand the flow and context of the eyewitness statements found in the scripture. Read sequentially through complete books of the Bible in as few sittings as possible. I take this same approach when reading the original case book. I may refer back and forth along the way, but I read the book “cover to cover” to get the broad scope prior to dissecting it. Proper Biblical “hermeneutics” are critically important. There are many good books that can help you understand how to properly read the Bible.

STEP #2 – Take Notes and Summarize the Case Thoroughly
Before I begin reading the original case book, I make a copy of it. I do this so I can highlight the pages of the book and write copious notes in the margins. I generally use colored pens, correlating a particular set of issues to a specific color. This helps me to think through the case more clearly and it reminds me of those areas needing clarification (or further investigation). It also provides me with a way to form my own summary of the important elements of the case. I usually then write outlines of the important details in my own personal notes.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. I’ve purchased a number of inexpensive “pew Bibles” over the years with the largest possible margins on each page. I treat these Bibles like case books; I highlight them and write extensive notes with colored pens. I’ll even write extensive summaries in the blank pages of the Bibles (usually the title pages or the pages at the front or rear of the text). These notes have been incredibly powerful for me. I often remember theological issues in my “mind’s eye” by recalling which side of the page I originally scribbled a related note. These Bibles, with their notes and summaries, are organized on my shelf for future reference.

A “Case Making” Tip:
On your first review of the text, feel free to note everything you are discovering. Include your rational and emotional impressions, reminders of things you want to research, and places where the text offers something causing you to be skeptical. In this “first pass”, consider your notes a “mind dump” allowing you the freedom to chronicle everything you are seeing and feeling. Also, try to take notes and write your summaries in the Bible you are reading, rather than on additional pads of paper. These notes will then be “married to the text” and easier to find later.

STEP #3 – Gather the Evidence Neutrally
As I am reading through the original case book of a cold-case Homicide and taking thorough notes, I begin to organize, list and summarize the evidence available to the original investigators. At this point in the process, I refuse to come to any conclusions about what the evidence is telling me. Instead, I simply circle each place in the case where a piece of evidence is described and make a list of everything. Even though the first investigators may have begun to form a conclusion about the identity of the suspect, I do my best to keep an open mind at this point in the investigation. I want to make sure I see things the original detectives might have missed. I am simply collecting data at this early stage of the research.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. The Bible gives us a number of clues and proofs to support its claims. As I study the text, I write out and list the evidences as they present themselves, trying to retain my skepticism in this process; like my examination of the original cold case book, I want to understand what the original writers believed while allowing for the possibility they were wrong. If we hope to present our case someday to a jury of our peers, we need to account for all the evidence, whether it supports the Christian claim clearly or otherwise.

A “Case Making” Tip:
You may want to purchase another inexpensive Bible for this stage of the investigation. You are now ready to create “evidence lists” related to each claim of Christianity. Some evidences are important to making a case for the Deity of Jesus, others are more important to making a case for the nature of God, others still are more important to making a case for the creation of the universe from nothing (“ex-nihilo”). Again, use the blank pages of the Bible to make these lists; color code them and use the same colors as you highlight the evidences in the text of the Bible. Begin to focus in this stage of the investigation. Your “evidence notes” should be limited to the specific claims you are investigating, and they must include all the evidence available, even if this evidence tends to make a case against a presupposition you hold. Remember you are trying to gather evidence without bias. You may want to have separate Bibles containing separate kinds of evidence lists. There are also a number of “evidence” study Bibles on the market to help you form basic lists.

STEP #4 – Examine the Eyewitnesses Critically
Our cold-case books are filled with interview transcripts from eyewitnesses at the time of the initial investigation. The eyewitness statements are incredibly important and they seldom agree with each other completely. The variations between eyewitness accounts is not troubling in and of itself. No two eyewitnesses see the same event in precisely the same way. But as an investigator, I’ve got to make sure the eyewitnesses are reliable. Are they motivated to lie for some reason? Did they have any pre-existing biases that influenced the way they saw the event? Where were they when the event occurred; were they really present at the time of the crime and did they have a clear view of what happened? As the detective in this case, I’m going to have to critically assess each eyewitness to make sure they are reliable before I begin to build a case on what they offer.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. I’ve got to critically examine the eyewitnesses who observed Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. I need to recognize there are three eyewitness accounts in the Bible (Matthew, Mark and John) and recognize these accounts differ. Do they contradict one another? Can the differences be reconciled and can they be explained on the basis of perspective or literary purpose?

A “Case Making” Tip:
Begin this process by isolating the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John. Read through each account, flipping back and forth to compare the events as they are described by all three authors. Matthew and Mark often agree precisely on the details of events, John often adds something previously omitted. As you compare the accounts, highlight and note the differences. Now examine these differences carefully. Can they be harmonized? Are they truly contradictory? Can perspective or literary purpose explain the differences?

STEP #5 – Reconstruct the Crime Scene (and Events) Meticulously
The cold-case book will also usually include a crime scene diagram and photographs of the scene. The crime scene alone can tell us a great deal about the victim and the killer. Cases that have few original photographs or lack a diagram are more difficult to work. In addition to this, every homicide is a chronology of events leading up to a murder. It’s my job to try to retrace the last days of the victim to get a better idea of how the victim came into contact with the murderer, or to see what caused the murder to occur in the first place. Something happened in the life of the victim over time, bringing the victim into danger. Reconstructing the final days of the victim’s life will tell me a great deal about the victim and the circumstances leading to the victim’s death.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. The Bible is more than a book containing spiritual truth, it is a book of history including real geographic locations (many of which still exist today or have been located by archeologists). We can now “reconstruct” the geography of ancient Palestine to help us understand the events recorded in Scripture. In addition, I can recreate the timeline of events leading up to the birth of Jesus. I can also reconstruct the timeline of his ministry leading up to the crucifixion. The chronological reconstruction can help us to see the role successive prophecy played in predicting Jesus’ life and role as Savior, and the geographical reconstruction can help to confirm (or erode) the reliability of the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels.

A “Case Making” Tip:
Divide this portion of your study into two categories of inquiry. First, what is the prophetic timeline running through the Old Testament preceding the appearance of Jesus? I’ve written about the prophecies predicting Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection. This prophetic chronology is strong evidence for both the divine inspiration of the Bible and the Deity of Jesus. Next, examine the “crime scene” by evaluating the archeological support for the Old and New Testament. In addition to the articles that I’ve written, there are a number of good books describing the archeological confirmation of the Bible.

STEP #6 – Look for New Evidence Diligently
Every cold-case goes cold for a reason. Typically it’s because the evidence was insufficient at the time of the first investigation. While this evidence might have pointed to a particular conclusion or toward a particular suspect, the first investigators and prosecutors simply did not believe the evidence was sufficient enough to convince a jury. The new cold case investigation must, therefore, begin looking for additional evidence to strengthen the case. The passage of time often helps us to identify and recover new evidence. Sometimes new technology allows us to examine old evidence in a new way. Sometimes hesitant eyewitnesses are now willing to discuss what they saw. Regardless of the nature of the new evidence, it’s important for me, as the detective who is now in charge of the case, to begin diligently searching for something new to strengthen the existing case. This new piece of evidence may come from inside the original case book, or it may come from a creative approach previously unconsidered by the first detectives.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. I’ve got to step outside the Biblical pages and look for evidence outside the Scripture. While most Christians are familiar with the Biblical texts, few look at them evidentially (examining them from the perspective of fulfilled prophecy, confirmed archeology or scientific accuracy). Even fewer Christians are familiar with the writings of non-Christians and Jewish authors of the first century. Many of these authors provide corroborating texts useful in building the case for (or against) Christianity.

A “Case Making” Tip:
Begin collecting resources describing the first century non-biblical sources who write about Jesus or the early Christians. Become familiar with the writing of Thallus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Phlegon, Josephus and others. If you can’t afford to buy these resources and place them on your shelf, begin to bookmark the websites containing information related to these writers. Many of these websites are printable. When I first started my research (before I was able to purchase source documents) I printed a number of these sites and bound the materials in notebooks on my shelf for future reference.

STEP #7 – Reason Toward An Answer Rationally
There comes a time in every Cold Case investigation, when the detectives have to move beyond the neutral collection of evidence. There comes a time when the investigators need to interpret and assess the evidence to determine what it all means. Does the evidence point to a particular suspect, and how do I determine WHICH suspect best accounts for the evidence I have? When evaluating the evidence on any homicide, I employ five reasoning principles in order to determine the identity of the suspect (I’ve written about these more extensively in Cold-Case Christianity):

The truth must be “feasible”
(The explanation has explanatory viability)
Before I even begin to think about the evidence related to a particular murder suspect, I need to make sure he or she was available to commit the crime in the first place. I investigate the alibis of potential suspects, eliminating those who are simply impossibilities based on confirmed alibis.

The truth will usually be “straightforward”
(The explanation demonstrates explanatory simplicity)
When considering a number of suspects, I look for the man or woman who most simply accounts for the evidence. If one person can account for the evidence (rather than some theory requiring three or four different potential suspects to account for the same evidence), he or she is most likely the killer.

The truth should be “exhaustive”
(The explanation displays explanatory depth)
I also consider the suspect who most exhaustively explains the evidence I have in a case. While a particular suspect may explain one, two, or three pieces of evidence, the suspect who accounts for most (or all) of the evidence is typically the killer.

The truth must be “logical”
(The explanation possesses explanatory consistency)
The truth is rational; for this reason the truth about the identity of my killer must also make sense. Suspects commit murders for reasons of one kind or another, even if these reasons seem insufficient to you and me. The true killer will make sense to the jury once they understand his or her misguided motivation. Conversely, some candidates will appear logically inconsistent because they lack motive altogether.

The truth will be “superior”
(The explanation achieves explanatory superiority)
Finally, I recognize one of my suspects is unique in the superior way he or she accounts for the evidence. In essence, this particular suspect is a far better choice when compared to other candidates who are offered. The quality of his or her connection to the evidence is better. When I see this characteristic of explanatory superiority, I know I have my killer.

Given these five criteria, I evaluate all the evidence and come to a conclusion regarding the identity of the killer. There comes a time when I have to focus in on one reasonable conclusion about the case, and these five explanatory criteria help me to determine the truth about the identity of the killer.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. The three basic evidential principles of reasoning can be applied to the Biblical evidence. Most scholars, for example, will agree on several minimal facts related to the claim of the Resurrection (even if they don’t agree that Jesus was actually resurrected from the dead). Most scholars agree Jesus died on a cross, a belief in the resurrection appeared very soon after the time of Jesus’ death, the disciples claimed to see Jesus resurrected, both Paul and James were transformed and said this was the result of seeing the resurrected Jesus, and the apostles all died a martyr’s death rather than recant their claims related to the resurrection. How are we to explain or account for these commonly agreed upon pieces of evidence? It may be a number of coincidental circumstances aligned to cause these facts to emerge. For example, Jesus may not have died, or he may have been stolen from the grave; someone may have pretended to be Jesus or the disciples may have conspired to create the story; the disciples may have hallucinated the resurrection or resuscitated the wounded Jesus to fake the resurrection. These possibilities would require an elaborate web of conspiracy, trickery and unreasonable self-sacrifice to support the lie, but we would have to admit one of these complex scenarios is at least “possible”. On the other hand, a simpler explanation could be offered: Jesus simply rose from the dead. If the simpler explanation is to be trusted, we must conclude that the resurrection of Christ is the most reasonable solution.

A “Case Making” Tip:
I’ve applied this approach to the Resurrection through the filter of “abductive reasoning” in ALIVE: A Cold-Case Approach to the Resurrection. Many gifted historians and scholars have utilized similar principles of evidence to make a case for historic Christianity. One of the best examples of this approach is found in the work of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Their example of creating a list of commonly accepted evidences related to the resurrection and then reasoning toward the best explanation is instructive and powerful. Read through their example and apply similar strategies to other claims in the Bible.

STEP #8 – Write Up the Case Carefully
Once I’ve narrowed my focus and come to a conclusion about the identity of my killer, it’s time to present what I know to others (particularly to the District Attorney who has to decide if there is enough evidence to make an arrest and prosecute the killer). Now’s the time to begin writing down what I know; the time to make a case on paper by laying out all the evidence and demonstrating how this evidence points singularly to the suspect I want to arrest. This process of summarizing and organizing the case is extremely helpful. In addition to making it possible to present the case to others, it helps me understand and clarify my own thinking about the evidence and what it demonstrates.

As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. It’s sometimes hard to grasp deep theological concepts and draw conclusions about where the evidence leads. It’s always helpful to write out or journal my observations, creating summaries and shorthand arguments I can then use in the future when reviewing the issue again. The act of concisely summarizing my findings has great value in critically thinking through the evidence and forming rational conclusions that can then be expressed to others.

A “Case Making” Tip:
Take the time to create evidential “cases” related to the issues concerning you the most. Write these cases out in some format so they can be saved and stored in a place where you can access them quickly later. For me, the best and most logical location for these “case notes” was my Bible. That’s why I designed my case summaries as half-sheet Bible Inserts. I’ve provided a number of these free downloadable Bible Inserts on the homepage at ColdCaseChristainity.com.

Once an investigation culminates with a decision about the involvement of a particular suspect (and results in the arrest of this suspect), we’ve next got to present our case in a court of law. The burden begins to shift from the detective to the attorneys who will represent the prosecution and defense. In my next post, I describe eight steps used by prosecutors to make the case.

Becoming a “Case Making” Christian means applying the basic rules of investigation and presentation to every aspect of the Christian Life. Why do you believe a particular Christian Doctrine? Have you applied good investigative techniques to your view? Are you able to present your view to others? Why do you behave in a particular way? Have you investigated the foundational belief guiding your behavior? Are you able to defend this belief on the basis of Biblical evidence? Christian “Case Making” is not simply an approach to Christian apologetics; it’s an approach to Christian living. Christian “Case Makers” refuse to live unexamined lives; they understand the value of rationality and good philosophy. As a result, Christian “Case Making” raises the bar on thoughtful living. God has created us in his image and given us the capacity to live beyond our natural impulses and desires. He’s given us the ability to dream and reason; the ability to exceed our own natural limits. Let’s use what God has given us to make the case for the Christian Worldview.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE

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42 replies
  1. Robert says:

    Step 1. Prove there is an afterlife with some empirical evidence.
    Step 2. Prove Jesus actually existed using contemporary evidence.
    Step 3. Prove the universe was created and matter and energy have not always existed.
    Step 4. Prove angels exist.
    Step 5 Prove Satan exists.
    Step 6. Prove that demon possession is real.
    Step 7. Prove heaven and hell exist.
    Step 8. Give evidence for the zombie invasion described in Matthew.

    What’s that Warner Wallace? You cannot climb these steps? The Case closed, you lose.

    Reply
    • moose says:

      i doubt he will attempt to answer your questions–because he knows he can’t. that’s what christianity does–tells amazing stories and makes amazing claims, but never gives any real answers to any real questions. and then of course there are the hell threats to those who don’t believe their amazing stories and claims. it should come as no surprise to anyone that 3 out of 4 youths are leaving the church

      Reply
  2. Martin says:

    You could look at it another way:

    Step 1. Prove there is NOT afterlife with some empirical evidence.
    Step 2. Prove Jesus DID NOT actually exist using contemporary evidence. (Actually the evidence for the existence of Jesus is overwhelming. I find this point of yours just plain lazy.)
    Step 3. Prove the universe was NOT created and matter and energy have always existed.
    Step 4. Prove angels DO NOT exist.
    Step 5 Prove Satan DOES NOT exist.
    Step 6. Prove that demon possession is NOT real.
    Step 7. Prove heaven and hell DO NOT exist.
    Step 8. Give evidence AGAINST the “zombie invasion” described in Matthew.

    It is easier to throw the demand for proof around, but when these questions are turned around you cannot honestly answer them yourself.

    Reply
    • moose says:

      way to go martin–attempts to shift the burden of proof to non believers is just one of those desperate tactics used by religion, your comment is comical.

      Reply
    • moose says:

      martin, you say “actually the evidence for the existence of jesus is overwhelming”. ok–the evidence is also overwhelming that i flapped my arms and flew to the moon and back yesterday–if you can’t prove that i did not–then that proves that i did right?–at least according to your logic. the burden of proof is always on the person making the positive claim, not on the non-believer/skeptic.

      what is this “overwhelming evidence” evidence for jesus existence (and divinity). i have been looking for it for the last 49 years and have seen nothing. of course for most of those 49 years i blindly believed all the jesus nonsense.

      Reply
  3. Robert says:

    Here’s the response you’ll ALWAYS get from the Jesus hoaxers: “No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus.” As if “scholars” who believe in angels and demons should, for some unknown reason, be taken seriously. Then they’ll trot out the big four, Pliny, Tacitus, Seutonius and Josephus, as if men who were not alive when Jesus supposedly lived could give us anything but hearsay accounts. All of these passages in these men’s works are forgeries anyway but are way too late to prove anything even if they weren’t.

    So Martin should thank me for saving him from humiliating himself by presenting these stupid arguments. Got anything else Martin? I didn’t think so.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus

      “The Christ myth theory is the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels.[70] The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support”

      So if you are so sure that you are right, why are you wasting your time on this blog? Why not go ahead and make some updates to Wikipedia and correct this huge hoax for the masses? It’s open source, and since you obviously are more informed on this then us, why not swing the bat and correct Wikipedia? Why not? My guess is that if you started to try that, you would most likely be shot down by many of the scholars in the field (both Christian and non-Christian). I would think even Bart Ehrman would have an issue with what you said.

      Condescend much?

      ” The Case closed, you lose.”
      ” thank me for saving him from humiliating himself by presenting these stupid arguments. Got anything else Martin? I didn’t think so.”

      Reply
  4. Robert says:

    Bart Ehrman? Are you kidding? One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was Bart Ehrman trying to defend his belief in a historical Jesus to Robert Price and the Infidel Guy. I’m sure you can still hear this podcast and it is truly hilarious. Ehrman’s only “evidence” on the entire show was that, “no serious scholar believes Jesus did not exist.”” When pressed by the host to give actual evidence instead of that stupid argument Ehrman’s voice just got higher and higher as he kept insisting, “but scholars BELIEVE they really really BELIEVE.” You can hear the frustration in his voice and the tears welling up as his dumb argument was shot completely full of holes. I suggest you listen to this podcast so you can clearly see how impossible it is to defend a belief in a historical Jesus. Go ahead try to make a case for the existence of Jesus right here and I will demonstrate that you have no case, never did, never will. We don’t need Wikipedia when we’ve got Jesusneverexisted.com.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      So what’s so scary about Wikipedia? I guess I keep wondering if it’s such an open a shut case, why the “enlightened” among us have not cleared up everything there. Why are you wasting your time here, when you could team up with Infidel Man and Robert Price and expand this great hoax to the masses with some updates to the Wikipedia entry?

      My strong suspicion is that there are more experts monitoring Wikipedia then on the CE blog and your “proof” would not go over quite so well there.

      Reply
    • Thinker says:

      BTW – I noted you did not comment back on my Google entry above.

      An apology to Robert Wallace might be in order here. It seems very rude even by internet standards to call him out, especially when it probably took you longer to type the message then it took me to find the answer.

      Reply
  5. Robert says:

    Okay Thinker, if someone can refute my claim that Jesus Christ never existed on Wikipedia then YOU should be able to step up to the plate, stop the smoke and mirrors act and refute that claim RIGHT HERE. Go ahead if Jesus existed you should be able to give me some evidence that this is so.. I don’t want arguments I DEMAND evidence. So using sources independent of the Bible and contemporary with the time Jesus supposedly lived prove Jesus Christ really existed. I’d say you just painted yourself into a corner. It’s going to be entertaining to watch you try to wiggle out of it. I already know what you’re going to do.

    Warner Wallace owes us all an apology for the atheist poser trick he tried to play on us.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      “if someone can refute my claim that Jesus Christ never existed on Wikipedia then YOU should be able to step up to the plate,” – this makes no logical sense. No reasonable and logically honest researcher would claim that if a single person cannot 100% defend the claim of something by themselves, then it must not be true. You do understand how ridiculous that sounds, right? The proper thing for them to do would be to tell the challenger to go back to the source and take it up with them.

      I will readily admit I am not an expert on this topic. As with many issues, I rely on experts in the field for their opinions. I don’t wonder about that funny mole on my back, I see my primary care doctor. If they aren’t sure, they escalate it to the next level of expertise, a dermatologist. If I am concerned about my taxes, I go to a accountant, etc.

      This line of thinking is a core part of academic research – it’s called peer-review. And not just any peers – other experts in the field in question. No self-respecting journal publishes a paper that has not been peer reviewed. You are like someone who has written a paper, but is afraid of critique. As long as no one in this little box called the CE blog cannot trump it, you feel like they lose. When you are challenged to take it outside the box, you claim it is smoke and mirrors. You are like a professor in a room who has a theory that they are 100% confident of, with no one in the room refuting. But when one of the students challenges them to walk down the hall and post their findings for the other professors to see and critique they refuse and claim “smoke and mirrors”. The only smoke and mirrors here is your refusal to get out of your little comfort zone in the blog where you feel you can push everyone around with your pompous attitude, and go big time. So let’s see it.

      We’ll admit for the sake of argument no one has the evidence here to refute this on the blog. Fine. But there’s a big world outside of this blog with many more experts, so let’s get some peer-review going. The cross-examined blog obviously has a slant, and so does jesusneverexisted.com. Let’s go with a wide audience that does not have a slant one way or the other – Wikipedia.

      Put your money where your mouth is. Take that next step. Prove me wrong. Go beyond this tiny little blog and inform the masses with your vast air-tight arguments that end the discussion once and for all. I am sure academia is waiting with baited breath for you to close the Jesus Myth issue once and for all.

      So here we are. Call it “wiggling out” if you want. Is this what you expected me to do? The same thing any self-respecting academic institution would ask a researcher to do with questionable material? Submit it to the next level or more widespread peer-review?

      You know more than me on this – pat yourself on the back. But you don’t know more then everybody out there. So what are you afraid of? You are either willing to take on the challenge of going to the next level, or you are not. It’s that simple.

      In your now famous words “your move” 

      As an aside, it sounds like whatever issue you had with what Mr Wallace said was comments about atheists in general. Did he call you out and personally attack you or your “credentials”? That is totally different then the personal call-out you gave him. It still comes across as an unprofessional and juvenile move by you.

      Reply
      • Thinker says:

        I retract the word “pompous” from my response above. It is neither kind or gracious, nor does not add to the discussion. I do not want to make this personal.

        Reply
  6. Robert says:

    Thinker,
    A lot of blah, blah, blah and not one shred of evidence as predicted. When you’ve talked to one creationist you’ve talked to them all, kind of like the Borg on Star Trek. If there were really some kind of evidence independent of the Bible that Jesus Christ was a real person we would all know what it is. It would not be some special knowledge only available to supposed scholars. Your Bible scholars don;t have ANY evidence and THAT is my whole point. The Jesus story is in fact the greatest story ever sold. It isn’t historical or there would definitely be evidence to support it. Just go through the gospels and see all the huge crowds that supposedly saw Jesus do all these miraculous things and ask yourself why not one writer or one person left us an account of anything described in the gospels. The answer is clear. These stories were never meant to be interpreted as history. Like most other stories from the ancient Near East they are solar myths. Jesus starts out with John the water bearer in Aquarius, moves to Pisces to pick up the two fishermen…. get a zodiac and follow the story through the rest of the signs and you can see what you really have here. You’re welcome. You can sleep in next Sunday now that you know the truth.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      Wow – asking you for peer review is “blah, blah, blah”. You would be eaten alive by the committee in a thesis defense. Admitting one does not have the answers is at least intellectually honest. Standing your ground and refusing peer review is academic and logical suicide.

      We were discussing the purported “Jesus Myth”. Now your off on creationists, Jesus miracles, etc. Let’s at least stay focused on the issue at hand for simplicity.

      “Your Bible scholars don;t have ANY evidence and THAT is my whole point.” – so I guess you are smarter then all of the scholars out there. Go ahead and write this on Wikipedia and see what happens. I would be very interested to see you shut down academia.

      You come across on here like someone looking to enlighten the masses with your truth, yet when challenged to go beyond this blog you fold like a cheap tent.

      You are either willing to do it or you are not. That’s all there is. I am willing to admit I do not know all of the answers, but rely on the research and knowledge of others.

      I have laid my personal knowledge limitations out to you, as well as my clear challenge. I will say it one last time. Put up, or shut up. Take it to Wikipedia with your air tight arguments promoting the “Jesus Myth” or don’t.

      The ONLY question left is whether or not you are willing to do it. Stop the smoke an mirrors. Get off the rabbit trails. Address my direct challenge to you head on. If you still refuse, you are proving you are as intellectually bankrupt and close-minded as you claim us Christians are. I know it, any self-respecting intellectual knows it, and so do most people on this blog.

      “Your move”.

      Reply
      • Toby says:

        “– so I guess you are smarter then all of the scholars out there.”

        Than. Not “then”. I’ve seen you make that error at least once before. Not calling into question your knowledge or anything, but I see that all over the internet and am trying to make it extinct one correction at a time.

        Reply
        • Thinker says:

          No worries. I appreciate the feedback. My wife is very careful about grammar too, so if I did not hear it from you I would have eventually heard about it from her.

          Reply
  7. Robert says:

    “I will readily admit I am not an expert on this topic.

    > This is a really odd statement. You’re not an expert on something you have dedicated your entire life and everything in it to? Perhaps you should have done a little research before you bought a ticket on the sinking ship called Christianity.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      “This is a really odd statement. You’re not an expert on something you have dedicated your entire life and everything in it to?”

      Why is that so odd? People do this all the time. I know people who have had cancer and trust their doctor / Oncologist with treatment without personally being experts in every aspect of their treatment. They do what many people do – research it and make their best judgement, then move forward by faith. So, say for instance your doctor insisted that some course of treatment was the best way forward. You looked into it and found that most other doctors disagree (similar to when Wikipedia stated “The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support”). That would be call to question the doctor. Now if research showed it to be convincing within a reasonable doubt, you would probably have confidence in proceeding forward with the treatment without being an expert in every aspect of it.

      ” bought a ticket on the sinking ship called Christianity” Wow – way to keep it classy. I’m always amazed how your posts can go from interesting and thought provoking comments to grade school taunts in the matter of a few syllables. I feel embarrassed for you.

      Reply
      • moose says:

        thinker-if jesus was real, he was born to a virgin–how did that happen? how did “god” impregnate a virgin? did “god” send some magic sperm to earth that somehow penetrated jesus’ mommy? produce a video of him performing all the amazing miracles, of him being killed and coming back to life–can you do that? “god” –with all of his/her infinite power and wisdom surely has the ability to produce a video of all these amazing events, then we would maybe all believe all these amazing things.

        Reply
        • Thinker says:

          Moose – those are all relevant questions, but we are sliding into the “scope creep” that can be so paralyzing when trying to keep focused on an issue. That is why I commented to Robert above: “We were discussing the purported “Jesus Myth”. Now your off on creationists, Jesus miracles, etc. Let’s at least stay focused on the issue at hand for simplicity.” If you have a relevant comment to add to this specific issue at hand, then feel free to add any constructive comments. Other then that, let’s just leave those questions for another conversation.

          Reply
          • moose says:

            thinker–the first step–at least for me in whether or not i believe anything about jesus or christianity is the so called virgin birth. why can’t you answer the question? if no evidence or explanation of the virgin birth is ever given, why should anyone believe anything at all about jesus?———this is all that christianity does–makes amazing claims and tells amazing stories, but NEVER gives any real evidence or any real answers for anything. but of course there are the repuganant hell threats to those who don’t just believe all the b.s.

  8. Robert says:

    I’m not interested in Wikipedia. This challenge of yours is just smoke and mirrors meant to distract us all from the fact that you can’t make a case for a historical Jesus. I’m proving or have proved by now that there is no way to verify the existence of Jesus Christ, or any of the apostles including Paul or any of the events described in the gospels using sources independent of the Bible. Surely Herod’s supposed slaughter of innocent children or a zombie invasion such as described in Matthew would have been mentioned somewhere by someone had these events actually taken place. Obviously these events are fictional as are the characters in them.

    Bible scholars do the exact same thing you did when confronted with the fact that Jesus Christ never existed. They denigrate this point of view and the people who hold it and claim it is a minority opinion and was debunked a long time ago. Of course they won’t and can’t tell you exactly how this was debunked because it wasn’t. It’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors meant to hide the truth, you know the game religion has always played. When pressed for real evidence these “scholars” prove just how weak their case is and just how desperate they really are by trotting out the same four historians none of whom were alive when Jesus supposedly lived. So there you have it. You’re not going to present any evidence that Jesus existed because there isn’t any. You either believe the Bible’s account and are satisfied that these accounts cannot be verified or you don’t and are not. In the end we are left with what we have evidence for and what we don’t. We don’t have any evidence that Jesus Christ actually existed. It’s an article of faith. I don’t choose what I will believe and what I won’t. I cannot believe that such a person as Jesus Christ ever existed. No evidence.
    Robert, life long atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      A simple answer of “No, I am unwilling to accept your challenge” would have sufficed and saved you the trouble of the extra typing.

      You may smugly believe you have “won” this, but you have simply shown that you are not willing to take this to the next level of review.

      You seem such a stickler for logic, yet here you are committing one of the biggest mistakes by closing your mind to further scrutiny. Your refusal to stand behind your statements in a more public forum for additional “peer review” would not be accepted by a thesis committee or a journal review, so why should anyone here buy it? You don’t care about Wikipedia, but expect us to accept your view simply because you said so?

      I am honestly disappointed in you.

      Good day, Robert.

      Reply
  9. Robert says:

    “You seem such a stickler for logic, yet here you are committing one of the biggest mistakes by closing your mind to further scrutiny.”

    > Your lack of self-awareness is off the charts. You’re the one who bought this Jesus myth and have completely closed your mind to further scrutiny. You bought into religious dogma that says that doubt or unbelief are unpardonable sins that will send you to hell forever. You MUST keep your thoughts in captivity and beat back any kind of doubts about Jesus lest they spoil your free trip to a magic happy land. So I know exactly who I am talking to. A person who is AFRAID to consider the fact that Jesus never existed. Fear is NOT a good reason to believe something. However that is all it took to hook you.

    Reply
  10. Thinker says:

    “You’re the one who bought this Jesus myth” – Actually, you were the one who brought it up with your assertion that Jesus absolutely never existed. I was simply calling you out on your statement based on the reviewed and referenced statement in Wikipedia.

    “have completely closed your mind to further scrutiny.” – So by suggesting we expand this discussion beyond this blog, I am the one with the closed mind? I am open to the truth, are you sure you are? If you are, then what do you have to lose?

    “You bought into religious dogma that says that doubt or unbelief are unpardonable sins that will send you to hell forever. You MUST keep your thoughts in captivity and beat back any kind of doubts about Jesus lest they spoil your free trip to a magic happy land. So I know exactly who I am talking to. A person who is AFRAID to consider the fact that Jesus never existed. Fear is NOT a good reason to believe something. However that is all it took to hook you.” – Robert – I’m not sure where this is coming from. We went from a discussion we were trying to keep on logical points and context to these off-the-wall appeals to emotion. I’m open to it. I would be VERY interested to see you upturn the experts / reviewers on Wikipedia – that’s the beauty of my challenge – it takes any of the “dogma” or preconceived things you accuse me of and takes them out of the picture. It is simply your “truth” against what the peer-review on Wikipedia.

    I find it very ironic that you have chastised others on this board (rightly so) for their fallacy of appeals to higher authority, when you are doing the exact same thing here. “I don’t care about Wikipedia”, and believe in Robert is hardly good logical sense.

    You are either willing to put your money where your mouth is and expand your assertions that the Jesus Myth is absolute truth and without doubt to the peer-review of the scholars on Wikipedia, or you can take the easy way out and keep skirting the issues with further rhetorical gymnastics. I can assure you that the open-source nature of Wikipedia will preclude any of the dogma or preconceived notions you so blatantly accuse me of.

    If you are so confident in the truth, then why not follow it? You claim to be a atheist-evangelist, just think of all the converts you will help make by correcting the horrendous error in Wikipedia. I highly doubt that would happen (and my guess is you are to, or you would have shut me down already and done it).

    Reply
    • Stephen B says:

      “just think of all the converts you will help make by correcting the horrendous error in Wikipedia”

      What do you mean? There’s already an extensive Wiki section on Christ mythicism.

      Reply
      • Thinker says:

        Yes it does Stephen. My concern is with Robert boasting how Jesus never existed and acting like it is an absolute fact. I challenged him to apply his air-tight evidence to the Christ Myth Theory Wikipedia entry above that states “The Christ myth theory is the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels.[70] The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support”.

        If he would have simply stated “I don’t believe Jesus even existed”, I would have been fine with that, and respected (though disagreed with) his opinion. But he acts like it is an established fact, like Ohm’s Law or the Boltzmann Constant. I do not believe that to be correct, nor do many scholars as noted in the Wikipedia entry. If his evidence is as solid as he claims, I challenged him to take it to the Wikipedia entry and make the updates, then work through the peer review process their. He has so far declined.

        Reply
          • moose says:

            thinker–here is something you can add to wikipedia–you can add an explanation of how the virgin birth happened–how did it happen?-did god send some magic sperm to earth that entered mary and she got pregnant? did god just flip a switch and out popped the magical being jesus? the first step in believing or not believing anyghing about jesus is hearing an explanation of the virgin birth, along with real evidence of the virgin birth. unlesss or until that happens, those like me will continue to laugh at the jesus thing–all the other stories are laughable, but the start of it is the so called virgin birth

        • Stephen B says:

          “I challenged him to take it to the Wikipedia entry and make the updates, then work through the peer review process there”

          Wikipedia is not science. Someone just submitted “The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support” and no-one’s questioned it. I don’t get what would it prove if Robert went through the process of challenging it. It doesn’t make his arguments any more or less true. If you’ve got a counter to his arguments, just present them. I don’t know if Jesus existed or not, but you’re not butting the arguments of, say, Richard Carrier, just by saying that Wiki disagrees with him.

          Reply
  11. Robert says:

    Thinker is using smoke and mirrors and committing the logical fallacy called Shifting the Burden of Proof. He wants me to prove a negative. It’s the Bible believers insisting Jesus existed and will send me to hell. I’m saying prove it, where’s the evidence for this? Using sources independent of the Bible prove Jesus existed. Thinker can’t and no Bible scholar on this planet anywhere can either. Since the gospel stories cannot be verified we must assume they are what they appear to be: religious fiction. There are no historical narratives from antiquity that contain dialog, people all speaking to each other in complete sentences. ONLY fictive narratives contain dialog and so there is no reason at all to believe the gospels are historical or were ever intended to be interpreted that way. If you go outside and squint at the sun you will see where the Christian cross comes from. Jesus is just another sun god and the gospels are solar myths just like most of the other stories from this time and place.

    So Thinker, present your evidence or admit you don’t have any. By the way Wikipedia is nothing but an error multiplier as Jerry oyoveed recently proved on his blog.

    Reply
  12. Thinker says:

    I have made it clear that I am not a NT historian. That’s why I thought subjecting the claims of Robert to more peer review on Wikipedia (which seems to me to be a more middle-of-the-road venue then either this blog or Jesusneverexisted.com). I did look on Jerry Coyne’s blog but did not see the Wikipedia article.

    I think one of the challenges here is that you are equating a person’s existence in antiquity with contemporary sources. There is a very interesting explanation of that here 🙁http://www.strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/#disqus_thread), which is interestingly a blog written by an atheist. Are you sure that contemporary sources alone are the defining factor for someone’s existence? Just out of curiosity, would your required burden of proof suffice for many generally accepted historical figures? It sounds like from the evidence you require even Hannibal would need to be deemed fictional.

    “There are no historical narratives from antiquity that contain dialog, people all speaking to each other in complete sentences. ONLY fictive narratives contain dialog” – Do you have a reference for this?

    Reply
  13. Robert says:

    Are you sure that contemporary sources alone are the defining factor for someone’s existence? Just out of curiosity, would your required burden of proof suffice for many generally accepted historical figures? It sounds like from the evidence you require even Hannibal would need to be deemed fictional.

    > The heretic Reverend Robert Taylor had a great response to this absurd argument and the Jesus hoaxers of his day: “We might, say they, as well affect to deny the existence of such an individual as Alexander the Great, or of Napoleon Bonaparte, and so set at defiance the evidence of all facts but such as our senses have attested. It being quite forgotten that the existence of Alexander and Napoleon was not miraculous, and that there never was on earth one other real personage whose existence as a real personage was denied and disclaimed even as soon as ever it was asserted, as was the case with respect to the assumed personality of Christ.”

    “There are no historical narratives from antiquity that contain dialog, people all speaking to each other in complete sentences. ONLY fictive narratives contain dialog” – Do you have a reference for this?

    > Sure. The fact that you’ll never be able to find a historical narrative that contains dialog, people and bogey entities all speaking to each other in complete sentences.

    Reply
  14. Robert says:

    Gee thanks for the link to that website. It’s the dumbest thing I have ever seen and here is the stupidest argument I have ever seen in my entire life, bar none: “The weaknesses of the Mythicist hypothesis multiply when its proponents turn to coming up with their own explanation as to how the Jesus stories did arise if there was no historical Jesus.”

    > Oh my what a stumper that is. How did stories about Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Demeter, Horus and other gods arise if there was no Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Demeter, Horus? How can anyone fall for such a stupid argument? This blogger does what all the other Jesus hoaxers do. He denigrates the people who disagree with him calling them “New Agers” and their position but never does he actually present a shred of evidence to support his case. His evidence is ,scholars believe and agree, they really really do! So typical, I could have guessed it.

    Reply
    • Thinker says:

      Robert,

      What a gracious response: “Gee thanks for the link to that website. It’s the dumbest thing I have ever seen and here is the stupidest argument I have ever seen in my entire life, bar none: “The weaknesses of the Mythicist hypothesis multiply when its proponents turn to coming up with their own explanation as to how the Jesus stories did arise if there was no historical Jesus.”.

      What’s interesting here is that while the author of the quote you presented died over 150 years ago, the author of the link I provided above (who is also an atheist) just posted it in the last day or two and there is a very active comment section.

      So how about we make a deal. I will concede that within this forum neither I nor anyone else (at least who has spoken up) can absolutely prove the physical person of Jesus existed (not talking about His Deity here). You, on the other hand, can get a login to the stangenotions web site and post your comment there. I think we have hit a limit here (though I am still no closer to being convinced by your rhetoric given the vast contradictory information I have read outside of this blog). I will humbly concede “defeat” in our little blog here. Given that, would there be any reason why you think that would be a bad idea? There are obviously more members on that board, with a more active group of commentors. Additionally, the site is listed as “StrangeNotions.com is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It’s built around three things: reason, faith, and dialogue.”, so it does not appear to come with any preconceived notions. What is there to lose? Are you up for the challenge now that I have humbly accepted “defeat” (though, as mentioned, am still no closer to being convinced by your information).

      If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. But all logical fallacies, etc. aside, I guess I am just perplexed why when you seem so confident that you are correct that you seem so hesitant to take your arguments outside of this blog and it’s relative small audience to other sites on the web with people with more knowledge then me on this specific topic. Call it the fallacy of burden of proof if you want, it just does not seem to make sense to me.

      Have a good day.

      Reply
  15. Thinker says:

    No response Robert? Have you come with some reason that the discussion on strangenotions.com is not worth your time? I would think you would have been all over it considering the article contains the “stupidest argument I have ever seen in my entire life, bar none”. You made a comment on another post about how you doubt WLC will ever debate a scientist, so why would you shy away from engaging the author on the web site listed who is not only a historian but another atheist as well?

    My apologies if you posted there and did not respond back on this blog. If so, please post your name on that site so we can view the conversation.

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  16. Robert says:

    I might post something on that website. However I have a particular problem with Frank Turek and the dishonest statements he constantly makes on the air. Someone has to call him out on this stuff.

    Reply

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