I recently had the genuine privilege of attending a lecture at Ohio State University hosted by Ratio Christi where J Warner Wallace gave a lecture titled “The Bible on Trial”. Personally, I have been blessed enough to become personally acquainted with J Warner Wallace by attending Cross Examined Instructors Academy (CIA) in August 2013 where he was one of the instructors. Coincidentally, Jim and I stayed at the same hotel along with multiple other CIA students while attending CIA in North Carolina at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Since we were all staying at the same hotel, it seemed to make sense that we all meet for breakfast. We were all tremendously excited to partake in a meal with Jim and talk about apologetics. With all of us having read Cold Case Christianity, we knew of Jim’s cold-case investigative background and were fascinated by his unique outlook and evidential approach to the Christian faith. We, as novice apologists by comparison, were eating up every moment we had with Jim in the morning. From my perspective, what serves as the most powerful tool in Jim’s bag is his natural ability to develop and persuasively communicate a cumulative case for the historicity of the Bible. This is what he calls, “death by a thousand paper cuts”. Meaning that after so many pieces of circumstantial evidences are gathered, one cannot escape reaching the conclusion that Jesus is a historical person and that he was who he said he was.
The phrase “death by a thousand paper cuts” is one that has stuck with me since I heard it. This approach is not solely unique to J Warner Wallace even though Jim is among the best implementers of it. You can see this approach illustrated among the best Christian thinkers of our time. For those that make a solid case for Christianity, they use multiple arguments to make their cumulative case as to provide a more impactful effect on those they intend to persuade. For example, if an atheist wants to convert me from my Christianity to atheism, he will need a very strong cumulative case that refutes all of my presently held beliefs that persuade me that Christianity is true. Obviously, one argument is not going to dissuade me from believing in evidence for Christianity such as objective morality, fine-tuning of the universe, and the resurrection of Christ. An atheist would need multiple arguments to build a compelling cumulative case as to why I should consider atheism as a more reasonable explanation of reality than Christian theism. The same is true for the Christians who want to convince unbelievers of the truth claims of Christianity.
Given the ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ approach, what are the most effective arguments for the existence of Christian theism that will help build up a solid case for the Christian worldview in the face of skeptics in a way that shows the perfect alignment that Christianity has with reality? While there are dozens of arguments for the existence of Christian theism, there are some that pack more punch than others. The prominent Christian philosopher William Lane Craig uses many of the same arguments in most of his debates on the existence of God for a good reason. That reason is because they are effective and that skeptics have never replied in a manner that served as a reasonable refutation of these arguments.
The arguments that are put forward by Christian apologists encompass theology, philosophy, science, and history. A proficiency in all of these areas will assist in one’s capabilities as an effective apologist. As J Warner Wallace likes to put it, we need to strive towards being a competent ‘One Dollar Apologist’. This phrase was not meant to imply that we should sell ourselves short and not make an attempt to be the best case-makers we can be. Being a ‘One Dollar Apologist’ essentially implies that everyone is not destined to be the next William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, Frank Turek, Josh McDowell, and the like. It is not realistic to think that all of us will get our doctorate in philosophy or theology and publish mainstream literature and influence an entire culture. However, a One Dollar apologist can make a significant difference within his or her own scope. A One Dollar apologist can be just as effective within our own sphere of influence if we are prepared to do so. It is true that we can occasionally reach unbelievers in a way that the bigger names in apologetics cannot because of our specific placement in an unbeliever’s life. We have the ability to develop personal relationships and show direct love to people in a way that is not possible for the ‘Million Dollar’ apologist! Basically, be proud to be a One Dollar Apologist!
All apologists from all backgrounds need to know which arguments to be fluent in if they are ever in a position to make the case for their Christian faith to a skeptic. I will list what arguments I feel are absolutely necessary to be familiar with for a strong cumulative case. Think of it as your ‘Essentials Kit’ for Christian apologetics and these arguments will serve as the foundation for making a sound cumulative apologetic for Christianity. I will provide a brief summary of the argument and follow it up with a informative video of the argument that will describe it in more detail.
This is one of my favorite scientific and philosophic arguments for the existence of a personal theistic God. Obviously, this argument was not designed to prove the Christian religion true specifically. However, it does show that the cause of the universe must have properties that are consistent with a personal, all knowing, and all powerful God. Below is the structure of this argument:
1) Anything that begins to exist has a cause
2) The universe began to exist
3) Therefore, the universe had a cause
Many nonbelievers consider this argument for the existence of God to be the most scientifically persuasive. I would have to largely agree with them. Trying to account for all of the laws, constants, and quantities that can be objectively measured and observed within our universe from a naturalistic framework requires much more faith than the design hypothesis because the odds against these various conditions being the way they are by chance is so incomprehensibly small as to be make the naturalistic hypothesis nearly impossible. Below is the structure of this argument:
1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance
3) Therefore, it is due to design
This is the type of argument that convinced C.S. Lewis to turn from his atheism to Christianity. The idea that objective values and duties exist seems like a commonly accepted fact among most (if not all) of humanity. The reality is that without the existence of all-powerful moral law giver (aka God), there cannot be an objective moral standard by which we can measure moral good versus bad. All moral actions would be subjective to each individual if God does not exist. If there is no objective standard that transcends ourselves, we are utterly incapable of making any objective moral judgments of any kind. Below is the structure of this argument:
1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist
2) Objective moral values and duties exist
3) Therefore, God exists
This has become one of the most effective arguments for the resurrection of Christ and it has been made popular by New Testament scholars Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. The reason why it is so effective is because it uses five simple and easy to remember facts that a large majority of New Testament scholarship agree on (believers and non-believers alike), which allow reasonable and objective truth-seekers to come to a reliable historical conclusion about the resurrection. Below are the minimal facts:
1) Jesus died by crucifixion
2) The disciples of Jesus were sincerely convinced that he rose from the dead and appeared to them
3) Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus), who was a persecutor of the Christians, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
4) James (brother of Jesus), who was a skeptic of the Christian faith, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
5) The Tomb of Jesus was found empty three days after the crucifixion of Jesus
This argument is probably the easiest argument of them all. You can know God wholly apart from evidence through personal experience. Obviously, one’s experience of God is subjective for each individual. Not everyone’s experience of God is going to be identical but we are nonetheless rational to believe that God would have a saving personal relationship with us and that we should personally experience this relationship if this type of personal God existed. Below is a video of William Lane Craig explaining the argument from personal experience:
In conclusion, these five arguments will get the ball rolling towards making a strong cumulative case for the Christian faith. However that isn’t to say that you won’t need to pick up a book and do some studying to master these arguments in more detail to become proficient in them. Another important tool is to study the objections that unbelievers pose against these arguments as to more thoroughly understand the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. Even when one argument seems reasonably convincing, one argument is not likely going to change the mind of a devout unbeliever. In fact, it is unreasonable for any Christian to believe that an unbeliever would convert to Christianity in a single discussion. We need to trust that the Holy Spirit will convict the unbeliever to freely accept Jesus Christ as their Savior in his or her own time. We are merely the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works through. We must prepare ourselves in a way that will allow us to identify an opportunity to speak with our unbelieving friends about these matters and open up new dialogues on these matters that will hopefully nudge them towards salvation. Let us strive towards comprehending these arguments and learning how to communicate them in a way that is persuasive and appealing to unbelievers and that they will feel the love of Christ in the process.