My Bible study group is reading through Forensic Faith by James Warner Wallace. It’s far more conceptual than his more popular book, Cold Case Christianity, which is focused more on the traditional subjects of apologetics. Not half-bad, give or take a couple of quibbles. Part of this includes a 21-minute quiz which evaluates one’s readiness to defend the source of our hope, as we are commanded in 1 Peter 3:15. If you’re a Christian please consider taking this quiz this yourself before reading my answers below.
Here are the instructions:
Answer the questions on the next seven pages. Take no more than three minutes with each question before moving on to the next page. Set a timer and do your best to respect these time limits. The entire review should only take 21 minutes. Remember, in a real conversation, you may not get much more time than this review allows. These questions are designed to reflect the most common questions and objections offered by skeptics.
I cheated in a couple of ways. I typed my answers up rather than writing longhand, and I can type at about 80 wpm when I really get moving. Also, I allowed myself to edit my answers after the fact to make them a bit less disjointed.
Question 1: Why are you a Christian?
I grew up in a Christian family, so to some extent it’s my default. However, there was a time when I was so depressed that I decided it would be easier to throw out everything I knew and start over.
I started by confirming that existence is real, using the Cartesian argument “I think, therefore I am”. Then I reasoned that God must be real, using the cosmological argument (i.e. “Where did all this stuff come from?”). Next, I decided that material reality is real for all intents and purposes, such that evidence must be accepted. Using evidence from a teenage interest in apologetics, I knew that the resurrection happened. So I decided that somebody who came back from the dead is somebody worth paying attention to, and that meant being whatever a “Christian” is.
Question 2: What evidence do you have to believe God exists?
There’s an extent to which I wonder if this is a logically coherent question. But, I suppose the existence of the universe is the main thing for me. There must be an uncaused cause. There is also a great deal of eyewitness testimony to support the existence of lower-g gods and the supernatural, both within and outside of the Christian worldview.
Question 3: Why do you trust what the Bible says about Jesus?
For the same reason that I trust history books in general, even those written by partisans with the goal in mind of deceiving their audience in some way. Even rhetoricians appeal to common facts which will sway the audience, and the audience of these gospels would have been local, contemporary people who had access to rumors and news through other sources, so that the writers would have to hew to the facts at least somewhat. This is aside from the fact that the gospels are not written in a partisan style at all, replete with boasts and easily grasped messages and “points”, but rather much more like eyewitness testimonies (replete, rather, with confusion).
Question 4: Why would God send people to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus?
The short answer is “I don’t know”. For some reason God views a person’s disposition toward the gospel story as a litmus test of overwhelming salience in comparison with all other factors. Judging by what the Bible says, it appears to identify a very specific aspect of a person’s character which identifies them as the ones he associates with himself. Maybe it’s something to do with their fitness for worship, which I hypothesize was the purpose of human life in the first place.
Question 5: If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there so much evil in the world?
This is the easiest of the bunch. Evil is an immediate consequence of free will in a universe governed by any moral considerations at all, and especially if we have some sense of what is evil and what isn’t. If there exists a rule demanding conformity (say, a dress code), then if a person is required to consciously choose this conformity then it must also be possible not to choose it.
Question 6: If God is the creator of everything, who created God?
Creation and destruction are concepts (or maybe “stories” is a better word) which suppose one state of being, then the passage of time, then a changed state of being. This is a categorical error with respect to things which do not have changing qualities, like the validity of a logical syllogism. God was not created any more than modus ponens.
Question 7: Why would a loving God command the total destruction of all of Israel’s enemies (including their children and livestock)?
The reason he gave was pretty clear. He demanded this because their evil was so great that it demanded justice and punishment, which is paradoxically an aspect of love for the criminal (see Dostoevsky) and a bit less paradoxically love for their victims. The destruction of children and livestock appears to follow from a recognition that, despite their potential innocence, their wretched condition would be irredeemable by any means. This would be a mercy killing, like a veterinarian putting down a horse with a broken ankle.
Having taken the test, here are some questions for reflection.
1. Was it difficult to think of a response for each question?
On question 4, yes. Looking back, my answer was weak on the fundamentals of the gospel, which is to say the absolute separation of sin and sanctity.
2. Did you struggle to articulate an answer without simply relying on your own subjective experience?
No, that was not much of a struggle. Organizing my thoughts within the time limit was far more taxing.
3. While there aren’t necessarily “right” or “wrong” answers for each question, some responses are definitely more persuasive than others. Do you think unbelievers would be satisfied with your answers, especially if they asked for objective evidence to support your claims?
They would see them as reasonable and probably think well of me personally, but a truly persuasive case would need to be heavier on the historical details and a bit less dependent on mere articulation.