Verifiability Is A Christian Distinctive

Christianity is unique among theistic worldviews. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. In a similar way, the statements of L. Ron Hubbard form the basis of Scientology. But in both these examples, the statements of these worldview leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts, rather than on claims about a particular historical event. While Christianity makes its own ideological and conceptual claims, these proposals are intimately connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should you believe what Jesus said rather than the teaching of Buddha or Hubbard? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it’s established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His Resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. Like other historical events, the Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.

If I told you I had a vison from God yesterday in which He revealed a number of important ideas and concepts, how could you ever verify (or falsify) my claim? Personal visions and pietistic wisdom statements are difficult to validate evidentially. You either have to accept my story or reject it, but in either case you’ll have to do so without an evidential investigation. What if, on the other hand, I told you I had been visited by God physically? What if I told you God came to me in the form of a man and, in the presence of my friends, worked several miracles? What if I told you He moved trees and created a playhouse for my kids from thin air? These kinds of claims are categorically different than claims about ideas and concepts. These claims are locked into historical events occurring in my backyard in front of witnesses. As such, they can be investigated forensically and historically. They can be verified in a way conceptual claims cannot. This is the nature of Christian claims. Christianity is established on the basis of an event in history. We can investigate this event like any other event in history (including cold-case murders). Verifiability is a Judeo-Christian distinctive.

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, Christianity isn’t the only theistic system based on an historical event. What about systems like Mormonism or Islam?” While Mormonism, for example, is also based on an historical claim about the past (in this case, a claim about one thousand years’ worth of events here on the North American continent), these claims are demonstrably false. In fact, the same four step process I used in Cold-Case Christianity to verify the New Testament Gospel accounts quickly falsifies the claims of Mormonism. The distinctive attribute of Christianity is not simply that it is verifiable, but also that an intense investigation of its claims actually confirms its truth. Christianity is both verifiable and verified. It is true. Mormonism is verifiable but false. It fails to pass the test we might offer to establish its authenticity. While I am no expert in Islam, my friends, Abdu Murray and Nabeel Qureshi both examined Islam as I examined Mormonism and came to the same conclusion about its historical claims. Christianity remains the one religious system (1) rooted in an historical event and (2) verified by critical examination.

I’ve often said I am not a Christian because it works for me. There are many days when the Christian life is the most difficult life I could choose to lead. It requires me to think of others first, to remember my true positon relative to a Holy God and deny my selfish desires. I’m also not a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home. I wasn’t surrounded by practicing Christians as a child. I’m not a Christian because I was trying to fix a problem or because I was hoping for Heaven or afraid of Hell. None of these things animated me. I had a great life before becoming a Christian. I am a Christian today because I investigated the reliability of the Gospel accounts and determined Christianity was true. It’s really that simple. I’m a Christian for the same reasons I’m a not-Mormon. One system can be verified, the other only falsified.

If evidential verifiability is truly a Christian distinctive, shouldn’t it cause us to live differently than the adherents of other religious systems? Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be the one group who knows why their beliefs are true and the one group who is most willing to defend what they we believe? Shouldn’t we be the one group most interested in making the case for our metaphysical beliefs? Why then, are we often uninterested in the evidence? It’s time for us to allow the distinctly evidential nature of Christianity result in distinctly evidential believers. The nature of Christianity, rooted in the Resurrection, allows us the chance to investigate and defend its claims. As Christians, we ought to be uniquely thoughtful, reasonable and evidential in our beliefs, because verifiability is a Christian distinctive.

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

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8 replies
  1. David says:

    The claim that Christianity is verifiable is so silly! You speak as if it’s a branch of science with reproducible experiments. You’re ignoring and hiding from your reader a lot of evidence in the formulation of your “proof”.

    Reply
    • Alan Halsey says:

      The verifiable part of Christianity does fall within a branch of science – forensics. And there have been many tests applied to the validity of the claims of Christianity, by far the most that have ever been applied to anything we know of in history – by an order of magnitude. The verifiable acts of Jesus have beyond a reasonable doubt been verified. And this evidence is available for our own examination and decision. See I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Norm Geisler. It would be silly to make a claim that there is no proof without seeking to find the truth.

      Reply
      • David says:

        If Jesus had appeared to the Sanhedrin that might be credible evidence for verification. If the Romans had recorded anything about Jesus resurrection that might be credible evidence. Why didn’t he go and present himself to the chief priest and the elders in the temple after the resurrection? Why didn’t he go and show Pilate a fool by appearing in his courtyard? Isn’t it convenient that he only had to “appear” to his closest followers for the myth of his resurrection to be believed and begin to spread? I guess you would consider their stories totally trustworthy and unbiased? Come on. Nothing could be less trustworthy. This is a faith, not a verifiable event.

        Isn’t it interesting that, just about the time we developed a methodological way of thinking about the world, all the miraculous things that the ancients claimed to have witnessed ceased? The bible says all these supernatural things happened in the past, axe heads floated, a guy with long hair slaughtered hundreds with the jawbone of an ass, the earth stopped rotating for the better part of a day, people were miraculously healed and raised from the dead, and these supernatural events will again happen in the future but alas, none of these things happen today. I wonder why? What seems most logical to you? That they have only ceased for “a time” or that they never happened in the past either?

        Alan, you’re a believer and that’s ok, but admit that, on this particular topic you’re a believer not a critical thinker. Sure you can put together an apologetic line of thought that might seem convincing but you’re omitting a vast amount of evidence that would contradict your faith position and so are Frank and Norm.

        Mike, who said science answers all questions? Mr. Wallace’s likes to portray his apologetics as scientific or “science-like”. I was simply saying I thought that was silly. So too, I think, would most scientists.

        Reply
        • meta8888 says:

          So, David, your position is that there is insufficient evidence to convince you that the Resurrection actually occurred, but if Jesus had appeared to the Sanhedrin, then that would constitute sufficient evidence? Perhaps, no matter what the evidence, you would remain unconvinced, because you don’t want to be convinced?

          Here’s a question for you: If Christianity were true would you become a Christian?

          Reply
          • David says:

            meta8888, To discover that Christianity were true would, to me, be the most heartbreaking, devastating news anyone could learn. To contemplate the senseless, eternal torture of billions is staggering. I don’t know how anyone could call the gospel “good news”. Hey, good news, the vast majority of everyone god created is going to burn in hell forever. And, one of the reasons they have to burn is so god can demonstrate to the elect just how lucky they are. See Romans 9. How about you meta? If you discovered that Christianity were false would you renounce your faith? Perhaps, no matter what the evidence, you would remain convinced, because you don’t want to be dissuaded?

    • Mike says:

      Science answers all of your questions about life? That’s very interesting! ALL is pretty broad for science! Not sure your scientist buddies will agree!

      Reply
  2. James Archbold says:

    You would simply be laughed out of court.
    Somebody who might have lived.No birth certificate,Prison records,execution papyrus-work.Doubtful authenticity of statements by Josephus . Four wildly conflicting statements by anonymous sources though reputed to be deity inspired and without error ,some of which is found hundreds of years later to have had passages added to ? . Why were other statements reputed to have been written by eye witnesses withdrawn. No record of hundreds of resurrected people wandering the streets of Jerusalem in Roman folklore of the time. Judas an important player in the drama,hanged or impaled?Did he purchase the Potters field or did the Pharisees? 500 people testified to seeing Jesus. Seems a rather round number?Why not 503 or 497? what are their names and where can they be contacted…I move that the court would dismiss on the grounds of a lack of first hand eye witness documentation and conflicting hearsay statements.

    Reply

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