How to Avoid An “Atheist Ambush” in University

If you’re a Christian, you already know the sad truth. Someone in your family (a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, or nephew) has already walked away, in spite of all the years you spent raising them in the church. I believe we can change this alarming trajectory, but we have to be willing to address the problem head on. If we are willing to do what it takes to respond to the trials facing the poor, the hungry, and the homeless, why won’t we do what it takes to respond to the challenges facing our own Christian family?

I write about the evidence for Christianity several times a week and post these articles (along with videos and podcasts) on my website (www.ColdCaseChristianity.com). I often get email from readers. One young man named Andrew Deane recently sent this message:

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The Christian Difference Is the Foundation of Our Christian Duty

Christianity is distinct in the nature of its claims and the value it places on reason, intelligence, and evidence. 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. Hinduism is based on the revelations of the ancient sages as revealed in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Confucianism is established from the wisdom statements of Confucius. In all these examples, the statements of these religious 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.

Although Christianity makes its own ideological and philosophical claims, these proposals are intrinsically connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone believe what Jesus said rather than what Buddha, the Hindu sages, or Confucius said? 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. The Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the evidential verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.

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Jesus Was A Case Maker

The Jesus I encounter on the pages of the New Testament is a committed case maker. He didn’t expect His followers to believe what He said (direct evidence) without good reason (the support of indirect evidence). Jesus continually supported His testimony with the indirect evidence of the miracles He performed. He then made the case for the authority of His testimony from the corroborative evidence of these miracles:

John 5:36
But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I dotestify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John 10:25
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”

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If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?

In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?

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Why Make the Case for Christianity, If God Is in Control?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith and accept their duty to become Christian case-makers. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this call to become better case makers, have asked, “If God calls His chosen, can’t He achieve this without any case-making effort on our part?” I also pondered this question as a new Christian, and I think the following analogy is helpful, although certainly imperfect.

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What Does It Mean to Possess A Forensic Faith?

We have a duty to know what we believe and why we believe it so we can give an answer, contend for the faith, and model Christian case making for the next generation of believers. Are you ready? If someone challenged you with a few simple objections, could you make a case for what you believe?

The adjective forensic comes from the Latin word forensis, which means “in open court” or “public.” The term usually refers to the process detectives and prosecutors use to investigate and establish evidence in a public trial or debate. You seldom hear the word attached to our traditional notions of “faith,” but given what I’ve already described in this chapter, it seems particularly appropriate when describing the kind of faith Jesus expected from His followers. Jesus did not affirm the notion of “blind faith,” and He didn’t ask us to believe something unsupported by the evidence. Consider the following definitions of “faith”:

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Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity (refer, for example, to the ongoing research of the Pew Research Center, including their 2015 study entitled, America’s Changing Religious Landscape). When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning. The brilliant thinker and writer C. S. Lewis was prophetic when he called for a more intellectual church in 1939. On the eve of World War II, Lewis drew a parallel between the challenges facing Christianity in his own day and the challenges facing his country as war approached:

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God’s Hiddenness Is Intended to Provoke Us

Many of us have moments in our life when God’s presence and providence seem obvious, but there are also many times when God seems far away and “hidden”. In fact, the “hiddenness” of God is a common objection to His existence. As a skeptic, I often wondered why God didn’t make Himself known in a visible, tangible way. Why doesn’t God appear to us in a public setting to end all doubt about His existence? I’ve written about this objection, and I believe the answer lies in God’s desire to provoke us; His desire to elicit a true, loving response from His children. This goal of producing something beautiful (a genuine, well-intentioned, loving response), requires Him to hide from us.

Let me try to offer an analogy. Most of us, would be offended if someone described us with the colloquial term: “gold digger.” This expression is typically used to describe “women (predominantly young and attractive), meeting wealthy men in hope to get monetary gains and increase their social status.” When someone uses this term, it is nearly always as a pejorative; it’s not good to be a “gold digger”. Why is this the case? Because “gold diggers” are in relationships for the wrong reasons. Rather than truly loving the men whom they’ve married, they love the wealth, power and position these men can offer. If I were a wealthy, powerful, or famous man, I would be very careful when selecting a mate. I would hate to find myself asking questions like, “Would she want me if I was just another ‘average’ guy? Would she still love me as a person if I hadn’t overwhelmed her with my money and fame?” I bet powerful men occasionally wonder about such things.

God knows all of us can be similarly misguided in our affections, even when it comes to our love of Him. He also understands the degree to which He is “powerful, wealthy and famous,” and He doesn’t want us to be in a relationship with Him for the wrong reason. The Bible provides several examples of men and women who have been in the presence of God, only to realize His true power, majesty and glory. In fact, in every case, those who were exposed to God, even for only a moment, were overwhelmed:

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The Top 10 Cold-Case Christianity Articles from 2016

Thanks to all of you for another great year at ColdCaseChristianity.com. Our readership continues to grow as we have increased our unique monthly visitors by over 30% since January. This year I also spoke at over 50 events nationally (giving well over 200 talks), we increased our viewership on NRBtv with 40 new episodes, and conducted nearly 50 radio and television interviews. In addition to this, I had a modest role in God’s Not Dead 2, and Susie and I finished Cold-Case Christianity for Kids (and the accompanying Academy). In 2017, we’ll publish the final book in our Christian Case Making trilogy (Forensic Faith), and God’s Crime Scene for Kids will publish in October. I’ll also be working on a project with Sean McDowell and expect to speak at another 50-60 events. I’m already exhausted and we’re still a week away form 2017! So, in the interim, here are the 10 most popular articles from 2016:

The 10th Most Popular Article of 2016:
Can We Trust the Gospels, Even If They Were Transmitted Orally?
How early were the Gospels written, and how was the material transmitted prior to being documented by the gospel eyewitnesses?

The 9th Most Popular Article of 2016:
Jesus Is A Myth, Just Like President Kennedy
If we’re prepared to say Jesus is a myth just because he shares a few characteristics, we better be ready to say president John F. Kennedy was also a myth.

The 8th Most Popular Article of 2016:
Investigating Bart Ehrman’s Top Ten Troublesome Bible Verses
A look at Bart Ehrman’s list of troublesome verses in an effort to examine how they impact the reliability of the New Testament text.

The 7th Most Popular Article of 2016:
The Case for Christianity According to a 7th Grader
Special guest post by Annie Olson, a 7th grader who wrote this as her final paper in a rhetoric class.

The 6th Most Popular Article of 2016:
The Apostles Wrote the Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts
A straightforward reading of the Book of Acts reveals the apostles saw themselves as eyewitnesses.

The 5th Most Popular Article of 2016:
The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians
Does Jesus' command in Matthew 7:1 prevent Christians from judging others? What did Jesus mean when he said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged"?

The 4th Most Popular Article of 2016:
Six Ways Christians Can Respond to the Growing Police Dilemma
In this article, I’d like to outline six things each of us, as citizens and Christians, can do to respond to the growing dilemma.

The 3rd Most Popular Article of 2016:
Four Self-Refuting Statements Heard on College Campuses Across America
You might be surprised how often professors are prone to saying something self-refuting.

The 2nd Most Popular Article of 2016:
UPDATED: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?
Some deny the flight of young people altogether, but the growing statistics should alarm us enough as Church leaders to do something about the dilemma.

The Most Popular Article of 2016:
Six Things That May Change the Way You Think About Police Officers
Here are six important things everyone should keep in mind (and prayer) when assessing the actions of police officers in our country.

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Rapid Response: “The Gospels Are Unreliable”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone made the following claim: “Even if the events recorded in the Gospels came from eyewitness accounts, why should we trust what eyewitnesses tell us? Even modern-day witnesses are notoriously unreliable and are often wrong about what they claim to have seen. Why should we trust ancient eyewitness accounts?” How would you respond to such an objection? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

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