Friday, January 23, 2015

Reaction: J Warner Wallace and The Case For Truth part 1

One of the parents in the Christian Parents of Atheist or Agnostic Children support group asked for my reaction to this video of a lecture by J Warner Wallace, apparently entitled "The Case For Truth". It's taken me a little while to get to this -- the lecture is an hour long, and I have small children, which isn't a combination that lends itself to convenient review and reflection. Since that wasn't working, I decided to try a different approach: I'm going to watch the video in smaller chunks (at a guess, probably four sections of roughly fifteen minutes each; but that depends on how the lecture is structured) and write down my reactions here.

For anyone coming in new, it will help to understand my perspective: I'm an atheist (or an agnostic, unbeliever, or whatever label you prefer, really. "Unregenerate sinner" is not the worst thing I've been called). My role in the support group is to help -- or at least try to help -- the Christian parents get a handle on how non-believers and former believers look at things. (That's insofar as there's any one particular way that unbelievers look at things, which usually isn't the case.) So I'm not going to try to debunk or refute whatever Mr. Wallace has to say in his lecture, but I will almost certainly be trying to explain why his arguments may not be as convincing to unbelievers as they are to believers. (It's been mentioned before that a lot of Christian Apologetics seem to serve more to reinforce believers than to persuade unbelievers; I don't know if that will be the case here, but it seems likely.)

J. Warner Wallace is the author of Cold Case Christianity, which is a book and apparently (unsurprisingly) also a ministry. I have not read the book, and I don't follow the ministry, but his biography says that he was a vocal atheist who used his skills as a police detective to investigate the evidence for Christianity, and became a convinced and passionate Christian (and Christian apologist). That's oversimplifying a bit, but I think it's a fair summary.

According to the blurb on Amazon, "In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs." This isn't an entirely new approach; the basic idea isn't so different from Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands A Verdict (which I've read) or Lee Strobel's The Case For Christ (which I haven't). This... and I say this now now, so you'll understand my bias going into this... this whole approach is one that strikes me as fundamentally flawed, because it depends on treating the accounts given in the Gospels as if they were separate from Christianity. (There are other, nearly-contemporary accounts, but as independent evidence they're not that helpful; they're second-hand, written well after the events they describe, and/or open to question about how much of the text is original, as opposed to being later interpolations.)

Now, none of that may have anything to do with whatever Mr. Wallace discusses in this particular lecture; I don't know. But since I've run into his name and some of his ideas before, I thought it was worth laying out my background and the way it shapes my responses before diving into the video itself. Unfortunately, that's eaten up my writing time for this evening; so we'll actually start watching in a day or two (or three), in the next installment.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting Michael. I'll look forward to it.


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