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Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
February 2, 2023 10:11 am

Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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February 2, 2023 10:11 am

Through his own faith journey and the context of his police-work analogies, J. Warner Wallace will provide a compelling evangelistic message that will challenge nonbelievers and inspire Christians to be bolder in their faith. (Part 1 of 2)

 

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Want more encouragement for your marriage? Look no further than Loving Well, a podcast dedicated to helping you and your spouse build a healthy marriage the way that God intended.

Listen at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash Loving Well, or wherever you get your podcasts. When you're in a tough spot, you will end up defaulting like muscle memory to what you know is evidentially true. And so I want my kids, as I raised them, I hope, that they know that this is evidentially true. And you're going to have a tragedy, you're going to have a tough time, and you're going to be tempted to say, where's God in this? But if you know that this worldview can stop bullets, you will stand in the gunfight. And so I think we have to help our kids to understand that this is not just my wishful thinking or one of many options that will make your life better.

This is actually true, and it will stop bullets. That's Jim Wallace describing how our faith in Jesus Christ is like a bulletproof vest. We can trust the message of the gospel with our lives. And if you have any doubts or questions about what the Bible says, if you wonder if God is real, then this episode of Focus on the Family is for you.

Stick with us. Your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, I love to think about and study the early church.

It's just one of the hobbies, I guess you might say. The disciples and the first followers of Jesus were living in very exciting times, certainly dangerous, but also full of wonder and amazement at what God was doing in their midst. And they were helping spread the good news like wildfire throughout the known world of their time. And I'm profoundly challenged by that witness. You know, I asked myself this question, would I be willing to change what I have today and live their life knowing I'd be martyred? That's an interesting question to ask yourself.

I hope the answer would be yes. But the passion those early Christians had to willingly give up everything, including their lives for the sake of the gospel is quite impressive. In many ways, I think they put us modern Christians to shame because of their zeal for the Lord. That's the kind of faith I want to have. And I hope everyone watching and hearing this program today feels the same way, because the Lord has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. And all he needs is our willing hearts to do great things in his name in this generation. Well, our guest today sure has a similar passion, Jim, to what you just expressed. He wants to inspire and motivate the Christian community to share our faith boldly and defend the truth of the gospel. Well, I'm thrilled to feature Jay Warner Wallace, Jim Wallace on this episode of Focus on the Family.

He's a homicide detective who's been involved in law enforcement for more than 25 years. Now, Jim was raised as an atheist and proud to be one at that time until he was challenged to consider the New Testament claims about Jesus. And that led him to an important journey to discover the truth, which we're going to hear more about today. And whether or not you're a Christian or have any kind of religious background, I want to challenge you to have an open mind about Jim's powerful message.

It could very well change your life forever. Jim Wallace is a popular author and speaker. He's written a number of books, and the one we'll hear about today is called Cold Case Christianity.

A homicide detective investigates the claims of the gospels. We'll have details about the book and our guest when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459, or check the program notes for all the details. And now here's Jim, how you began the conversation with Jay Warner Wallace on today's Focus on the Family.

Man, Jim, I'm so excited to have you here. Before we get into the details of your story and the great content in your book, by the way, my wife loves your book. And she loves the audio version. She's listening to it.

She just is really connected with the content. And I have too. But we do need some definitions. That's a good thing for us to do at the beginning here. So what is a cold case and how is that relevant to your investigation of the New Testament?

Well, okay. So the only kind of cold case you have are cold case homicides because every other crime, it closes by statute. Laws will say that, hey, if you commit a robbery and certain number of years go by, depending on the state, that we are not legally allowed to come back after you because everyone who's been accused deserves an opportunity to defend themselves.

And if too many years go by, you really don't have that ability to effectively defend yourself. So the only thing that stays open by statute are murders. So what typically happens is I've worked robbery homicide for a number of years in Los Angeles County. And then I started working our cold case homicides. And what you find in these red books of unsolved murders, because we have the red notebooks in our vault, every red notebook isn't unsolved. I just took all those notebooks off the shelves and I looked in them and I realized that sometimes you have a number of supplemental reports in those notebooks written by a detective years ago who interviewed a witness. But now, 35 years later, both the witness and the detective are not available to me. The witness has passed away. Maybe the detective is unavailable for any number of reasons. And so now I've got to figure out like, what happened?

Does this really happen? Even though I have no access to the eyewitness anymore and no access to the report writer. Well, that's kind of what I discovered as I first looked at the gospels when I was 35.

I've got no access to the eyewitnesses, no access to the report writers. How would I know if any of those gospels are telling me anything true about Jesus? That's the same skill set I've been using for years. So I just applied it to the gospels. And we're going to unpack that.

I'm excited. That's a great summary of how you got going and I'm looking forward to the discussion. First, though, I do want to paint that picture of where you're at spiritually back then when you're pulling these red files off the shelf. You kind of weren't really connected with the Lord at that point, right? Well, I didn't know any Christians growing up except for the few people I worked with who for the most part couldn't answer some of the... I was probably not just asking honest questions though.

I was probably... To be honest, I was really more aggressive kind of... Well, angry atheist, is that the word you use? Yeah, the Christians are just silly. They can't answer the questions that I would ask or two, they were the people who were taken to jail, which is often the case. And I just thought either they don't take this seriously or they don't...

In either case, they're not living like it's true, the Christians I met who I was taken to jail. But my wife, she was interested in going to church. We had at that time a six and an eight-year-old, so she... It'd be good for the kids.

Be good for the kids. Yeah. And I thought, well, I mean, my dad's kind of got a similar approach. He's not a believer, but he would have been happy to go to church because he thought it was a useful delusion.

So I decided I would go the same way just to kind of honor her. And that's when I heard... The pastor was a relatively ordinary looking guy. You're sizing everything up as a cop, it's so funny.

Well, because I walk in... He was 5'9", approximately 140 pounds. Exactly.

He walked with a limp. Yeah. And he was in this big box church. It was a big mega church. I'd never been in a church like this before.

He came on the stage, he was just dressed like... Kind of like I would be dressed. And he said that Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived, along with a bunch of other stuff he said that day. And when he said that, that intrigued me enough to wanna buy a Bible. And I bought a little red pew Bible, I think back when we used to have been called a bookstore. Believe it or not, there were bookstores.

So I don't even think it was a Christian bookstore, I think it was just a regular bookstore, but it had a Christian section or a religion section and it was a pew Bible. So it wasn't like a sophisticated Bible, I think it was like $7, $6 or $7. And I bought that Bible and I started to read through the Gospels just to see what's so smart about Jesus. But here's what you discover, when you read through the Gospel accounts, and two of these are alleged eyewitnesses, right? John and Matthew, two are allegedly writing from eyewitness sources. Luke says this in the first chapter of his Gospel. And Mark, according to church tradition, he is writing the account of Peter. So I thought to myself as I'm reading, well, can I just figure out what did Jesus say that was so smart?

That's really all I wanna know. But as I'm reading through there, I realized these are people who want me to believe that these things happened in a certain event order, a certain sequence, at a certain time in history, at a certain place on the planet. These are alleged eyewitness accounts. And so I just decided to test them the way you would test any eyewitness account. Just describe for us a little bit of that training, what that looks like. Well, so a lot of this is, I always say it this way, if the game for me was talking to you right now is just make sure I record everything you say.

Well, that's one kind of a game. And that means I'm gonna probably take copious notes about everything you're saying. And I'm really listening carefully and taking those notes. And I'm just trying to get the facts, get the facts. But if the game has spot the lie, that's a different game. And that means I'm gonna assume pretty much everything's a lie until I prove it otherwise. But now I'm looking at other things. I'm looking at how you're saying it. I'm looking at what you're leaving out when you could have included it. I'm looking at a lot of things that will tell me where the lie is, deception indicators, all that stuff.

Well, it's a different game. And so a lot of my background coming into this is that I knew how to test eyewitnesses. We test eyewitnesses based on 13 questions in the California jury instructions.

Those 13 questions come back to four areas. Were they really there to see what they said they saw? So were they present? Two, can they be corroborated in some way?

Even though I don't expect it to be robust, it could be something very small. That's always the case in corroboration. If you told me you saw him jump the counter and scream at the teller, well, I could go back to the counter. If I find a palm print, that palm print would corroborate your statement, but it would tell me nothing about what he wore or what he said. It gives me a small fraction of your overall statement, but I am looking for fractions of corroboration.

So I am looking for that. That's number two. Number three, is he honest and accurate over time or does he change his story? And then number four, does he have a bias that would cause him to lie to me? So those are the four criteria we look at for every eyewitness. And I thought, well, if you apply those to the gospel authors, how do they do? That's what I wanted to know. We're going to talk about that.

There's so much to get to. One of the things you mentioned in the book is presuppositions that initially can interfere with your search for the truth. Describe presuppositions and what... You're kind of alluding that, I'm sure.

Yeah. And you can't... What it comes down to is you... What I try to do is... Because people always ask me like, what are these... Everyone wants to be a detective and everyone kind of is because we watch these shows on TV and you do pick up some skills just from watching fiction. And you also watch a lot of date lines and other things where you're watching in true investigations.

So everyone's got some sense of what we do, but one of the things we have to be careful about, and it's so foundational that it almost sounds silly saying it, is that you can't assume you know answers before you identify them evidentially. Look, most of the homicides I'm working, it's sad but true, most of them are spousal. You're going to be killed by somebody who's probably in your proximity, and most of the time it's a relational proximity.

Right. So a lot of people get killed by their spouse. But when you walk in and you've got a dead wife, you could assume up front, you should be suspicious of everyone, but you can't assume, I already know who did this, it's the spouse. It's always the spouse.

What's the point looking anywhere else? It's the spouse. And I've had cases like that. I described one in the book. Wasn't that a first and early case you had? It was a pretty early case as a homicide detective.

Yeah, with the lead... Yeah, tell us. Well, I had a guy who was 15 years senior to me, who was the lead investigator, and I remember he was really smart and gruff. He was honest, tell you what he did wrong. But I remember that day, he came in and it was a woman who was... We found her in her bedroom, she was murdered. And so right away, we don't know anything about her, but right away we're looking for spouse relationships. It's gonna be... Yeah, and it turns out... And so we wasted about a week because we presupposed, we knew the answer. Listen, it's good to chase all the leads, but we were so focused on the idea that either a boyfriend or a spouse had killed her, that we missed the fact that it was a neighbor. Just a neighbor, not related to her at all. It's proximity, but it wasn't relational proximity, it was geographic proximity.

It's almost always proximity that gets you. But one of those two. But it's one of those two. So that's why you can't assume upfront. And this is what I think happens. I have made many assumptions about the Christian worldview, about the claims of the Gospels. We all do as non-believers. We make certain assumptions. Well, one of the biggest assumptions I made was just, I did not believe in anything miraculous. Is that naturalism I think you point out in the book? Yeah, I'm just super committed.

You're not gonna suggest... What you see is what's true. Yes. Period. If it's not caused by space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry, it's not caused.

Nothing's happened. Okay, you the listener. I know some of you are thinking, okay, that's me, or that's my spouse, or that's my friend. These are the things... This is what excites me about doing this program because, again, you come at it as a skeptic, you were an atheist, you're not predisposed to believing Jesus' truth claims.

Many people listening and watching right now are in that same spot. Well, this way. I would have said, the minute you insert a supernatural agency into any historical narrative, you're no longer doing historical narratives. You're not doing mythology because we don't... I'm not gonna go to a death scene and say, I wonder if a demon caused this.

We're gonna go to death scenes and look for naturalistic suspects. The same thing is true, I would have said, in science. You cannot insert supernaturalism into science, you're not doing science anymore. But those are presuppositions that we make philosophically. In other words, we decide that we're not gonna accept anything supernatural as a matter of personal preference. It's an assumption we don't have to make, we just make it.

So when I'm reading the gospels, I'm like, okay, I could believe some things about Jesus, but this miracle stuff clearly can't be true. So one of the things I had to ask myself is, okay, how do I get a universe though, where all of the science points to a universe that came into existence from nothing? In other words, the science says that all space, time, and matter came into existence from nothing, not from another spatial environment involving time or matter, but it has to come into existence from something outside of space, time, and matter. That's just standard cosmological model, that's just big bang cosmology. Well, if I believe that, that there's something extra natural, because if it's outside of space, time, and matter, it's extra natural. So if there's something extra natural that caused the universe to come into existence, then every miracle we're reading in the New Testament is what I call a small potato miracle. It's not a big deal. Well, it's interesting.

I would love you to interview some of these still atheist scientists like Dawkins or others and put your skills to the test with them. Because typically, what I've heard in debates from these people is they take you back to the bang, and they say, science can't really talk about what happens before that, because we don't know. Right. Because you imagine... So there's an out clause.

Yes. So you can imagine, this is what I see all the time. I think there's like eight things about the universe that I think have to be explained, and one of them is just the origin of the universe, but also the fine tuning we see in the universe, the origin of life, the appearance of design and biology, the consciousness, mind and consciousness, free agency. A lot of atheists deny both of those things because they can't explain them.

And even objective moral truths, and even a standard of righteousness by which we call something evil. Here's what I see the atheist friends will do. They'll say, well, yeah, we can't explain that, but we are on the road to explaining it. In other words, someday science will explain this. Could you imagine if we said, hey, you know what, I can't explain that, but someday when I'm in front of God, God will tell me.

I don't think they're gonna allow us that God of the gaps. We can't explain it, therefore God. What they're doing is we can't explain it, therefore science. And it's the same, it's just science of the gaps.

So I think in the end, those are good places to start. And the answer, well, we don't know yet presumes that when we finally do know, it will not involve God. Well, how do we know that?

Right? That's the presupposition we have to avoid. So that's why I think it is important to avoid presuppositions in any investigation, especially criminal investigations. Abductive reasoning.

Let's get that definition. I'm kind of trying to lay the groundwork here so we can crack this big discussion open, but abductive reasoning. Well, that's one of the things we all do.

Everyone does it. We do it in jury trials for sure, but if you've got a kid, you've been doing it as your teenager has been growing up, I'm sure you've been doing it too. We make two lists that begin with an E. One is a list of evidence, one's a list of explanations. And we ask ourselves, which of these explanations best fits the evidence? So when your son stumbles in the morning and from a late night and you ask him where were you last night, he's going to give you... There's several ways to explain where he was.

You have to kind of figure out which of these explanations best fits the evidence before your own eyes right now. Well, the same thing is true in death scenes. There's four ways to die, accidentals, naturals, suicides, and homicides. There's only four ways to die. But when you walk into a death scene, it's not necessarily a murder.

It could be a natural, it could be a suicide, it could be an accidental. And how you discover the difference is by looking at the evidences and just asking yourself the question, I know this is evidentially true, so the explanation suicide, does that work? I know this is what's here in the room evidentially, does the explanation accidental work? And we just figure out which of these explanations, accidental suicide, natural or homicide, best makes sense of the evidence. This is sometimes called just inferring to the most reasonable explanation, or it's called abductive reasoning.

All of us do it. It's a reasonable way to determine what is true evidentially. So you don't have to be like lost in the complex logic of how we're gonna do this. Let's steer this back to the existence of Jesus. There are many naysayers who've disputed the empty tomb as an example. They believe Jesus didn't really die or his disciples stole the body. You start coming up with excuses to fit the evidence, the objective evidence. So how do you apply the investigative theories to that specific thing that maybe somebody just took Jesus out of the tomb? Well, this is why I think that abductive reasoning is a good skill set to learn, and it has great value in investigating the claims of the gospel authors. Because look at it this way, we have certain... I would have said he's evident as an atheist.

I would have said, well, I'll give you certain things. I'm not a Jesus myth. There's these folks who will claim that Jesus never even lived. I think that's a silly claim.

I've written about that in a couple of books, but it's a silly claim. But I would have said that Jesus lived and died on a cross, but that doesn't mean he rose from the dead. That doesn't mean anything in the New Testament is actually true. You could be a first century sage who died on a cross. But I would have given you that Jesus lived. I would have given you that, okay, he's an ancient sage who probably was executed by the Romans.

Fine. People certainly said they saw him afterwards. I don't know if that's true or not, but the claims that they said they saw him are pretty uncontroversial. Somebody said they saw the risen Christ. And finally, I would have said, well, there's an empty tomb, for example. If there wasn't an empty tomb, if you had the body of Jesus, this would be game over in the first century. Well, there's like six explanations I would have tried to offer as an atheist.

Either they were lying about it, or they were mistaken about it, or you didn't really die on the cross, or they were conned by somebody who pretended to be Jesus, or they never said he rose from the grave, and that's just a story that developed over time. In other words, I would have said, I can explain that five or six ways that all point to the fact that Christianity is false. Now, there's a seventh explanation. That's the Christian explanation that he just rose from the grave. Okay, so put those on your list, and now go back through your list and see which of these explanations best fits the evidence.

Now, here's what I always say. Every explanation for evidence has strengths and weaknesses. Even the true explanation in a criminal trial, it'll have some strengths, explanatory strengths, and there'll be some weaknesses, because I don't know everything that could be known.

And that's what good lawyers exploit, are those weaknesses even in the truth. And this is true even for the Christian explanation. It has strengths in that it explains the evidence better than any other explanation, but it has a weakness. And the weakness is that it requires a resurrection. And I would have said, well, that's supernatural, and there's the weakness.

I'm a naturalist. That can't be included. And that's why thinking deeply about the nature of the universe helped me to overcome the one and only weakness of the Christian explanation.

Because from a historical perspective, it best explains all of the evidence, but its weaknesses is that it requires a resurrection. And once you're over yourself in the presupposition that nothing supernatural could ever happen, well, now suddenly this becomes the by far best explanation for the evidence. Jim, let me ask you a question. Family members, let's just use that proximity description.

The scariest... Yeah, the scariest, they know you best. That's right. But kind of that you can present the evidence, you can talk about it, you could do it winsomely, you could do it at Christmas, you could do it at Thanksgiving, you could do it at whatever time of year. But you have these discussions, and with everything in your heart as a Christian, you wanna see your family in heaven, right?

Yes. And then you have that one person who is stubborn as can be, you can present all this kind of evidence, but they just... They do revolutions in denial.

I mean, no matter what you put in front of them... Oh, that would have been me. It's all silly. It's all ridiculous. I'm sorry, I don't believe it. I love you, but I just don't believe it.

I think you're chasing Peter Pan. Where do you go with that? I mean, how do you keep in the fight? And what I mean is the right fight.

How do you keep in the spiritual battle with that loved one and not just grow so fatigued to say, Lord, I give up? Well, a couple of things. And the first thing is really simple. I don't put everyone who walks in for jury duty, we don't put them all on the jury. We have a board-iron process where we figure out, are these folks qualified to sit on the jury panel? And we might go from 100 people in the room down to 12 and four alternates.

So we're gonna get from 100 to 16. It's jury selection. How it typically works is this, the whole room is full of people, some are pro-prosecution, some are pro-defense. Of those people who are pro-prosecution, pro-defense, some are so pro-prosecution, they would never... As soon as you walk in with a jumpsuit at the end of the defendant's table, they assume you're guilty.

I call those ones. There are twos, they're pro-prosecution, but they're fair. There are threes, they're pro-defense and they're fair. There are fours, they're so pro-defense that if a police officer is testifying, they assume upfront he's lying. Well, what we do, prosecutors and defense attorneys, we eliminate ones and fours.

We want twos and threes. People who might be on one side of the issue or the other, but they're open and fair enough to do the right thing. We know you're gonna be on one side or the other. Now, in your family right now, there's probably people who are divided between people who are receptive to the gospel and people who aren't. And there's a one to four spectrum. People who are so convinced that Christianity is true, that even if it could be demonstrated to be false, which it can't, but if it could, they still stay in.

Because I think it's useful. They love it, they love the celebrations, they love... There's twos, they're Christians, but they have questions sometimes. There are threes, they're not Christians, but they sometimes wonder if there is a God. And then there are fours, they're anti-theists. Don't even talk to me about this. It's all foolishness.

Stop. Well, we don't panel fours on juries. And I don't panel fours in these conversations either. The question I'm asking myself is where is this relative of mine on the jury spectrum? And there are ones who are so committed to Christianity, they'll say, well, you don't need to make a case to me. It's all this evidence stuff is ridiculous. I just had somebody this morning on Instagram post this.

I believe without any evidence and that's true belief. And I always ask the question, well, do you have kids? Do you have students? Do you have kids in school? They're probably not ones.

They're probably twos or threes. And they don't want to listen to Jim Wallace on this. They want to know what mom and dad say about this issue. So if you're a one and you think there's no...

I'm so committed to the Christian worldview. I don't even need you to make a case for it. Are you able to make the case for your own kids?

Because they need you to make the case, not me. And if you're a four, I have a strategy for fours. And I'm sure I'm going to share something with fours, especially if I'm at Thanksgiving or at a birthday party, or if I'm at Easter.

You'd be fun to bring to Thanksgiving. Let me tell you. But if you're going to ask a question, I don't believe this is foolish.

This is fiction. Well, I'd ask, well, why do you ask good questions? Be ready to answer people's questions when they approach you. But more importantly, fours, I don't spend a lot of time trying to make a case for fours. They're fours. But here's what I do, is you pray and model Christ for fours, because only God can move the four to a three.

And then you can share the gospel with them. And you're speaking from a former four position. I was in a four position. You were the four plus.

Yeah. I think my dad has been a four. I see him now kind of moving toward three.

And I think, okay, so we just want to not do anything to damage that transition from four to three. Don't let me be such a jerk in front of him. I need to model Christ for him. And I need to ask God to make this move.

And I'm sure people were doing that for me. Such great insights today from our guest on Focus on the Family, Jay Warner Wallace, as he describes how and why we need to be ready to share our faith with conviction, because the evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is irrefutable. John, I'm reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 9.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. There are so many people who are blind to God's love and truth, or have a distorted view of Christianity, much like Jim Wallace did. That's why we need more laborers, more committed believers, who will boldly live out their faith and become powerful witnesses for the gospel.

This resource, Cold Case Christianity, it will equip you to do just that. And we can put a copy into your hands when you make a monthly pledge of any amount to Focus on the Family. That's our way of saying thanks for standing with us to support marriages, encourage parents, save preborn babies, and so much more. And if a monthly pledge is more than you can afford right now, we get that.

A one-time gift will also greatly help. Let's work together to strengthen today's families and share the good news of Jesus. Donate and request your copy of the book from Jay Warner Wallace when you call 800 the letter a and the word family 800-232-6459 or check the program notes for more details. And if you'd like more information about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, we have a free booklet or download. It's called Coming Home and it explains how you can experience God's forgiveness and reconciliation into his family forever.

Contact us today to get your copy. Detective Wallace returns next time to debunk the Jesus conspiracy and describes how the truth claims of the New Testament transformed his life. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-02 12:07:30 / 2023-02-02 12:20:17 / 13

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