Spotlight Interview with J. Warner Wallace: Forensic Faith for Kids
J. Warner is a cold-case detective who has been featured on Dateline, Fox News, truTV, and other crime-related television shows. A former atheist, he is the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, Forensic Faith, and Forensic Faith for Kids.
Carmen LaBerge: Hey friends, you are listening to Connecting Faith, I’m your host Carmen LaBerge, I am so excited to be joined today by J. Warner Wallace. He is a family favorite in our household, you can follow him on Twitter at J. Warner Wallace. You can check out what he’s doing at coldcasechristianity.com. Today we are gonna talk about Forensic Faith for Kids. J. Warner, welcome to Connecting Faith.
J. Warner Wallace:Thanks for having me. This is gonna be great fun.
Carmen LaBerge: It’s a little bit like a fun, I’m gonna have, there’s a little bit of a fun thing going on now. I’m just letting you know. There might be … There are some palm waving at my house for you. For those who don’t know J. Warner-
J. Warner Wallace:Is it your daughter who is using the book?
Carmen LaBerge: She loves it. She’s actually a little bit older than the book is written for. It’s really geared towards kids who are eight to twelve. She’s a little bit older than that, but she loves solving mysteries. She loves engaging with the material, and you have designed this book, Forensic Faith for Kids in such a way that it is genuinely engaging. She’s already a kid who has this kind of well thought out reasonableness to her faith. What you are equipping her to do is actually share that with other people in a way that’s really fun, and so … You are helping her develop what you describe in here as Forensic Faith. Why don’t we just tell people what that is. What is a Forensic Faith?
J. Warner Wallace:The word forensic is a Latin word that basically means to do in public. This idea is could you make a case, do you have enough, good reasons, good avenues to be able to make a case for what you believe publicly? Is this really the definition of faith that is offered in Scripture because if you look at it. Jesus never says, “Hey, just believe me.” He always says, “If you don’t believe what I’m telling you, believe on the testimony of John the Baptist, believe on the evidence of these miracles I’m working.” He always points to other things.
J. Warner Wallace:He starts off by providing evidence to support his claims. Even when John the Baptist has got problems, and not quite sure and he sent his disciples to Jesus, and they say, “Hey, John sent us and he wants to know are you the one?” Could you imagine, if that was your cousin who baptized you, whose known all along, if that’s the guy who is now questioning you, you could have said a lot of things in response to his disciples, but instead of saying anything, Jesus does three miracles in front of John’s disciples. He says, “Go back and tell John what you just saw.”
J. Warner Wallace:That is a very evidential, he’s making a case in public. Publicly for what it is he wants his heroes to accept that’s true. Even though it may seem outlandish, it may seem like I wish I had some more evidence for this, but you’ve got enough evidence to move on. That’s what we want our kids to see is that, “Hey, this is not your parents asking you to take a blind leap like we did, it’s that this is the most reasonable inference from evidence, and in spite of the fact that you are gonna have one answer to questions, that’s the truth, this case, for everyone, every criminal trial I ever worked there were unanswered questions. That’s the kind of stuff we are talking about in these kids books.
J. Warner Wallace:We are doing it in the context of a mystery that each reader has to unwrap. It’s not related to Christianity in Forensic Faith for Kids, it’s related to my dog Bailey who is a Corgi. I put her in the book and that’s the mystery involves this dog, and how do we find where this dog came from. You are gonna learn about your faith along the way and, what faith really means along the way.
Carmen LaBerge: All right. It’s really fun, it’s Forensic Faith for Kids, it actually follows the same chapter sequence as the book Forensic Faith. Let’s encourage people also J. Warner, this is actually something that adults can do with kids. Parents can do with kids, grandparents can do with kids, or small group leaders can do with kids, because you’ve got the adult version of this in Forensic Faith, and then you’ve got this kid’s version, which follows the same chapter, sequence. Tell me what your feedback has been from folks who have done that together.
J. Warner Wallace: That is the challenge. Honestly this is the big challenge. The big challenge has been, do we continue to watch the number of young people walk away from the church in their teens and twenties like we have for the last 15, 20 years. It’s a huge number of people who are walking away, or are we willing to rethink the way we’ve been living our faith in front or our kids, so that they will catch it, not as a matter of a opinion, like this is my personal preference for how we should live. This is my personal related to all the ways that we think about God.
J. Warner Wallace: What if this is the objective truth about who God is? We want our kids to see it that way, but it means that we are gonna have to start to live it that way. What I mean by that is, most young people who walk away from the church, they ask questions, and they tell us afterwards in polls what the questions are that they are asking. They are asking questions like, “Hey, why should I believe this when evolution explains it a different way?”
J. Warner Wallace: They’ve got all kinds of questions about the problem of evil, questions about how science and faith work together. These are all questions that most of us as parents are hoping our kids will never ask, because we are not ready to answer it. We have to become different in our approach. It’s a little bit more of an ask, right? It used to be more of an ask … It used to be I could just say, “I don’t need any good reasons to believe this. I just believe it’s true and that’s been fine for me for 30 years.”
J. Warner Wallace: Guess what? It’s probably not fine for your kids. They want not just the what, what is true, tell me what you believe mom. They wanna know, why is that true? Why would you believe that given all the other alternatives? Don’t think for a second your kids don’t have access to the alternatives. We are in the information age. It used to be that 85% of Christians became Christians by the age of 18. That right now is around 13, which means the age of skepticism is dropping. Why is that dropping? Because you don’t have to wait for college to encounter a skeptic. They are at the end of your arm, in that glowing rectangle called a phone. They are all out there talking to our kids.
J. Warner Wallace:We now have to be in a position where we can offer good answers, because typically they’ll tell us the reason why they leave is because there were no good answers. There are good answers, we just don’t happen to know them.
Carmen LaBerge: All right friends. I know you are now thinking that you want a copy, and so you can either text or call us at 877-933-2484, we’ve got a handful of copies to give away. You are entering a drawing for the book, because I know there will be more people who want it than copies that we have. Text or call us at 877-933-2484, you can always email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carmen LaBerge: You can check it out at coldcasechristianity.com. You’ll see there is lots of options but one of them is Forensic Faith for Kids. Can we take a step back and tell people why we would be listening to you talking with us about these things? Share with people your journey to faith and then your expertise in this field and why you write this way?
J. Warner Wallace: I was not raised in a Christian environment. I didn’t really have anybody, I had no close friends or family that were Christians who shared the gospel, or even what Christianity was. My wife who I met when was a teenager. She was raised in a culturally kept background. When we had our own kids she was like, “Should we raise our kids in the church?” I thought she meant the Catholic church. That didn’t matter to me. I was happy to go, I was a nonbeliever. My dad would be happy to go to church as an atheist, he still is.
J. Warner Wallace: He’d be happy to go because he believes that Christianity offers a useful delusion. When I first stepped into that church, I was only interested in pleasing my wife, in that she wants to raise the kids with a certain moral grounding. That’s fine. If it serves a purpose like my dad would say. I was happy to go. I got there and the pastor was clever enough to pitch Jesus as a really smart ancient sage. He said a lot of other things too of course, but that’s the thing that stuck with me.
J. Warner Wallace: I bought a Bible just to see what Jesus had to say. As I started walking through it, I work cold case homicides, and these are events in a distant past, for which we have no living eyewitness. If we had a witness back in the day it would have gotten solved back in the day. The reason why it’s cold is because to begin with. I’ve got no living eye witnesses, I’ve got reports, can I trust these reports, what they are telling me? A lot of it is a very similar skill set to look into the gospels. I just apply the aspects of eye witness reliability to the gospels, and I ended up in a position where I had to do something with this guy who rose out of the grave.
J. Warner Wallace: That’s where I begun a whole, it took me six months to even begin the journey of hearing toward hearing the gospel message, because I wasn’t sure that Jesus either really lived, or lived as recorded in the gospels, or did the things recorded in the gospels. I thought that everyone who became a Christian did all this stuff that I did. We tested. We know how to test eyewitnesses, but it turns nobody, I found nobody who actually became a Christian that way. Instead, a lot of us will say that the chief reason why we are Christians, this is the most popular answer I get nationally is that we were raised in the church.
J. Warner Wallace: That is the most popular answer you get, why are you a Christian? It’s not because I would examine the evidence and I discovered it was evidentiary, it’s that I have been raised this way. Or they’ll say I’ve had an experience that for me demonstrated that Christianity was true, I had a prayer answered or a miracle I saw. Trust me, everyone of, I have family, half brothers and sisters who were raised LBS, Mormon, if you ask them why are you a Mormon, they’ll give you the exact same two reasons. Buddhists will give you the exact same two, Muslims will give you the exact same two reasons. I was raised this way is the most popular answer why anyone says they were raised any particular way.
J. Warner Wallace: It doesn’t mean it’s true though. We would say, “Hey, you need to look at this more carefully.” So do we. Because if that’s our chief answer, we are not answering in a way, by the way your kids want more than your … Just believe me, you’ve been raised this way. That is not gonna get it done for most of our kids. I think your daughter probably is wired that way similarly, wants to know. Is this really true? Well, I think it’s time for us to be able to least answer that question.
J. Warner Wallace:Carmen, you and I both know that they may say this is the reason why I don’t believe but really there is something that’s wagging the dog. There is some other desire to do something they should do, there is some hidden sin, there is some volitional resistance, fine. What I wanna be able to do though, let’s take away the excuses they are offering. Let’s at least take away those answers to the objections. Then we can get to the root issues if the objections aren’t the root issues. A lot of times the objections are the root issues, we have to do a better job of being able to answer their questions.
Carmen LaBerge: All right friends, the voice you are hearing is J. Warner Wallace. We are talking about the book Forensic Faith for Kids. We are also then sort of going back through the layers of this conversation, so we are talking about Forensic Faith, which is the book for adults, that I would describe is a complement to Forensic Faith for Kids. Then we are going back another layer to a book called cold case Christianity where J. Warner actually lays out the 10 principles that we need to learn in order to apply cold case detective work to the gospels.
Carmen LaBerge: Then to force that template to actually evaluate the claims that are made in the scriptures in relation to who Jesus is, and specifically to his resurrection. If you love Lee Strobel, you love The Case for Christ, you love Apologetics, you love the conversations that we have with folks like Jonathan Morrow, at Impact 360, and the Ration Christi people, and John Stonestreet. If you resonate with those conversations, and you’ve been looking for a resource that is really well designed to engage the questions at the appropriate level for kids who are eight to twelve years old, this is your book, today is your day. The book is Forensic Faith for Kids. The website is coldcasechristianity.com.
Carmen LaBerge: You can call or text me at 877-933-2484, if you’d like to enter a drawing for the book, or you can always email me, email@example.com. You can find J. Warner on Twitter at J. Warner Wallace. J. Warner, I’m interested to know when you think about where we are at at this cultural limit. If there is one question that you get more often than not, and so … This could be a question from any age level person, and anybody out there. What’s the question you hear most often that goes unanswered?
J. Warner Wallace: I think a big category of objections falls into what we call the problem of evil. This idea of if there is an all powerful, all loving God. Then why would he allow something to happen to my loved one? I get this a lot just as an investigator. Forget about Christianity, “Look man, how can this happen to my daughter? If I could figure that out I could solve the case.” Okay, same thing is true with when you talk about God. If God is all powerful then doesn’t he have the power to stop it? Does he not care to stop it?
J. Warner Wallace:Then why are we calling him all loving? If he’s all powerful and all loving why wouldn’t he stop this thing from happening to me, or stop this thing that I’ve seen in the world, or all the kinds of evil I’ve seen in the world. Some aspect of the problem of evil has to be addressed. That’s why we wrote a book called God’s Crime Scene, in which we talk about evil. We actually wrote a kid’s version, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, because we really want our kids to be able to unpack why it is God would allow any particular act of evil to occur to themselves or to a family member or any Messianic culture.
J. Warner Wallace:I think that’s a category. You said something a minute ago that was really striking. If you are interested, you are a Christian out there, and you are interested in the work of a leader, there is a good friend of mine John Stonestreet, who we work together at Colson Center, these are things that John, I’ve served at Impact 360. These are friends of mine. Say what? Forget about those people and forget about my resources if you just have young Christians in your family and you give a leak about whether they stay Christian, it’s time for us to become interested in things that maybe before we weren’t interested in, because that’s the problem as I see it, right?
J. Warner Wallace: The problem as I see it is that we can be as a group some of the most unreasonable and unthinking, I hate to say it that way but if for the most part we’ve been convinced for whatever reason that the truth is utterly independent of any facts that we could determine of any evidence. Believing absolutely blindly, didn’t Thomas come and didn’t Jesus say to Thomas that blessed are those who did not see yet believed. The very next line it says, he continued to give evidence to the disciples.
J. Warner Wallace:Jesus is either a walking contradiction or we have to reinterpret what he means by that. What he meant by that was that Thomas, you are the eye witness whose testimony will convince those who never saw me, that they are now going to believe something that they didn’t see themselves, but they are going to trust your eyewitness testimony going forward. That’s what we do. We have to point people back to the eyewitnesses of the resurrection. And show them why that testimony is reliable, why that testimony, we can test it, and we can wait, I should believe it, because this is what we do in every criminal trial. The jurors are not gonna get to see the crime occur again.
J. Warner Wallace: They are gonna have to decide if they trust the eyewitnesses who did see the crime. That’s what we are doing here too. Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who on the basis of your testimony Thomas, and having never seen it for themselves will trust you and believe that this is true.” That’s how Christianity has grown historically. Look at the book of acts, the only way the disciples shared their testimony or shared their evidence for Christianity or shared the gospel in the book of Acts was that they said we were eyewitnesses, that was a criteria.
J. Warner Wallace: Think about it, Matthias replaced Judas on the basis that he in Acts one saw Jesus from the baptism to the resurrection, he was an eyewitness. That’s what qualified him. You’ll notice they don’t say anything about his qualifications. The only qualifications they list is, the happened to see it all. That’s because eyewitnesses, that’s called direct evidence by the way, has been at the root of Christianity from the very beginning. That’s what we need to return to so that our kids, and so that means, whatever you are reading, if it’s not helping you to make the case to your own kids, we are in a season now, if you’ve got kids, remember when you have small kids, I don’t get to go the restaurant that I wanna go to. I don’t get to go on vacation that I wanna go on.
J. Warner Wallace:I don’t wanna get to go to the movie that I wanna see. We make all of those choices during that season in the best interest of our kids. Now whatever you are reading, it’s time to put this in the best interest of your kids, because if you want them to actually believe the truth, we are gonna have to work for it.
Carmen LaBerge: All right friends. I know you appreciate everything that J. Warner Wallace is saying. This book Forensic Faith for Kids actually helps kids develop what we would describe as good, investigative skills, in order that they can navigate the tough questions about faith, and that they’ll be equipped to actually share what they’ve learned with others. J. Warner wrote this book with his wife Suzie, we’d love for you to check it out. It’s Forensic Faith for Kids. We do have some copies, I know we’ve had lots of calls, but we’d be happy to enter you into the drawing as well. The number you can text or call is 877-933-2484, J. Warner thank you so much for joining us today on Connecting Faith.
J. Warner Wallace: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate you.