A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

My sister Angie died in January of 2004. I believe this to be the case. In fact, I am so convicted of the truthfulness of her death I could say without hesitation that I am certain that she died. No, not in a mathematical sense. No, not in an infallible sense. For cases such as this are not like mathematics. And I am not infallible. Therefore, by definition, I could be wrong. But I am not. Angie is dead.

(Please forgive the rather morbid illustration that I use throughout this chapter. I only include it because of its relevance to the issue of conviction and belief).

I got a phone call from the medical examiner while on HWY 635. “Is this Michael Patton” he said. “Yes, it is,” I responded with curiosity to this heavily accented country voice. “Are you in your car?” he asked. “Yes, I am,” I said with some amount of curiosity and a growing degree of fear. “Is your family with you?” he asked. “Yes, they are,” I said this time with more fear than curiosity. “Could you pull over please,” he requested. By this point, I knew what was next.

I have to tell you, I have never in my life had some random unidentified person ask me these questions while driving down the road. Neither have I since received such a request. I hope I never have to again. Just think about it. The phone rings in my car and an unfamiliar voice that sounds like he was either Brooks, Dunn, or Haggard asks me to pull over. There was one fleeting thought that popped in my mind. I remember because I looked into the rear-view mirror to see if it was a cop. Why would a cop call me to pull me over? However, I knew better. I hoped for different (even a cop!), but I knew better.

“Why?” I responded to his request to pull over. “It’s my sister isn’t it?” My overwhelming fear did not give him time to answer. I asked the preemptive question. “She is dead, isn’t she?” After a long pause, the medical examiner responded “Yes, sir.”

Although I did not have any “hard” evidence, I knew what had happened. Angie, my sister, had committed suicide.  I did not even stop by the medical examiner’s office to view the body. Though he told me where they found her (at a hotel in Denton, TX), I did not stop there to examine the scene. I immediately called my mother and told her what happened. I then began the three hour drive from Texas to Oklahoma to mourn with my family. All of this I did because I had implicit trust in some random voice on the other end of the line.

Two days later, I went back to Texas with my wife to pick up Angie’s car and her cremated remains. As we pulled up to the medical examiner’s office, my wife was gracious enough to go inside and do what needed to be done. When she came back, she told me they had pictures. She said that there were many, but she could not look at any of them but one. It was a picture of Angie’s hand on a gun. I said, “Are you sure it was her’s?” This was a question out of desperation. I knew it was. “Yes, it was hers,” my wife said with a look on her face as if she felt she was taking away my last bit of hope. I immediately called the medical examiner from the parking lot. “Can I come in and see the pictures?,” I asked. I am sure he was thinking very carefully about how to respond and that is why he paused for a bit before answering. “Yes, you can come see them. But I don’t think you want to.” My heart sank with those words, knowing what they implied. “Remember her as she was,” he continued. “Don’t do this to yourself.” I almost got out of the car, but then sank back into my seat and conceded. Kristie had brought out a white cardboard box which is supposed to have the ashes of Angie in them. Even today, they sit at my mom’s house on a shelf, twelve feet high in her living room. I have never looked at them.

I believe Angie is dead. I never saw her body. I never saw any pictures. I never saw the gun she used. I never saw any fingerprint evidence. I have never looked into that box. I never even saw the medical examiner. But based on one conversation with a guy I don’t know and the testimony of my wife who only saw her hand, my conviction level that Angie is dead is very strong. Every once in a while, I have this fleeting irrational hope that normally shows up in a dream that Angie is alive. She normally appears in some random place and we find out that it was all a big mistake. But those are dreams. I truly believe Angie died.

Forensic Conviction

We are talking about the anatomy of belief. We are asking about the why? and how? of our beliefs. Most specifically, we are talking about the process of belief in relation to Christianity. Building upon the intellectual conviction aspect of belief, we now turn to what I call forensic conviction. 

But as a bit of review, allow me put this in context once again: Forensic conviction makes up the second aspect of our “Real Life” conviction meter.

The real life conviction meter is one of three aspects that make up the relative strength of our overall intellectual conviction in belief. The overall conviction meter looks like this.

Finally, the conviction meter is one of three aspects that make up our overall belief.

Forensic conviction is that aspect of our conviction that provides evidence for what we believe. Normally, this word “forensic” limits the evidence to issues of forensic science (i.e. DNA evidence, fingerprints, tire tracks, and the like). But we are not limiting it to such things here. The word “forensic” is taken from the Latin forensis, meaning “before the forum.” It speaks to the evidence that one can bring to solidify a truth claim. Broadly, this can include any line of legitimate evidence that substantiates one’s claims. It goes beyond first-hand evidence in that it looks to material, historical, as well as traditional forensic evidence.

For Christians, we believe many truth claims. As has been said before, many people believe things without any evidence at all, believing that the introduction of evidence is the polar opposite of faith. However, our conviction, while based on many things, must take into account the evidences for the veracity of our truth claims. Faith is very weak if it is blind. If God exists and has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, while we may not have been there to have first-hand conviction about such things, we can and should look to the fingerprints left behind.

This is often referred to as “Evidential Apologetics.” “Apologetics” is taken from the Greek apologia of 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter tells his readers to “always be ready to give a reason (apologia) for hope that is within them to everyone who asks.” An apologist is one who spends his time constructing arguments based on the evidence to defend and strengthen what they believe. While this book is not an apologetics book per se, it is an attempt to legitimize and encourage the type of thinking and conviction that apologetics provides.

Evidence and the Resurrection of Christ

The central truth claim for Christianity is the resurrection of Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the grave, we should all just pack our bags and go home (or something like that).

1 Cor. 15:13-19
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (NAU)

While our faith is “worthless” without Christ’s resurrection, conversely, we believe that if Christ did raise from the grave our faith is the opposite of worthless. It is the paradigm of all of history. It demands all our allegiance and devotion. If Christ has risen from the grave, the implications are beyond tremendous.

However, none of us were there when Christ rose and, I assume, none of us have personally seen the risen Christ (1 Pet. 1:8). You cannot search YouTube for official or rogue footage of Christ’s resurrection. Therefore, we have to look beyond first-hand conviction to “forensic” or evidential conviction. This is the way it is when we believe all matters of ancient history. It is important for us, then, to look for the fingerprints of the resurrection so that we can add forensic conviction to our belief.

The Resurrection of Christ and the Death of My Sister

As I said before, I believe my sister died in 2004. I have a strong conviction about this and I believe this conviction is warranted. In fact, I believe that it is so warranted that if I did not believe it, I would need to be assigned to a therapist for treatment. Granted, my conviction could be stronger. If I had gone into the medical examiner’s office and seen the pictures myself I would have even more conviction. If I had been there when she died, I would be even more convicted. But I do not need these things to be secure in my belief that Angie died.

You see, Angie was living with me for many months prior to her suicide. Her life had taken many unfortunate turns. She had become severely depressed. About a year before her death, she attempted suicide. I know because I found her, carried her limp body out to my car, took her to the hospital, and watched as they treated her. Since that time she was on “suicide watch” in our family. In fact, the night I got the call from the medical examiner, my family and I believed that something was not right. No one could get a hold of her. I was actually out looking for her at the time I got the call, already fearing the worst. Therefore, I trusted that medical examiner without much question. I believed my wife when she said it was Angie’s hand in the picture. I trust that the ashes at my mother’s house are Angie’s ashes. The fact that I have not seen Angie since that day further confirms my conviction. This is what we call circumstantial and corroborating evidence. There are certain things that we would expect to find if said truth claim were really true.

While you and I will not be able to have first hand evidence or, even, photographs of Christ’s resurrection, this does not mean that our conviction meter has to suffer much. We simply look to the “footprints” of history. When it comes to Christ’s resurrection, there are certain evidences which we should expect to find.

Let me list a few:

Contemporary documented evidence:

My conversation with the medical examiner that night and with my wife in the medical examiner’s parking lot both combine to give me much needed contemporary evidence. Along with this comes my own testimony and understanding of Angie’s volatile condition. I, being a contemporary of the event (though not an eye-witness), have written about it many times on my blog. It had an incredible impact on my life. And here I am, many years later, still giving testimony to its reality.

If Christ rose from the grave we would expect to find the same sort of accounting of the event and its immediate impact. Think about if an event such as this is claimed to have occurred and there was no record of it until hundreds of years later. For something as epic as someone claiming to be God’s son dying and raising from the grave, it would be very hard to believe if contemporary testimony was not present. In the Bible, there are four accounts of Christ’s life and death written within a generation of the event. These are called the “Gospels,” meaning “good news.” Each of these Gospels tells the same story, but are different enough for us to assume that there was no plot or collaboration to fabricate the event. As well, there is much evidence to believe that two of the Gospels (Matthew and John) were written by eyewitnesses. The other two, Mark and Luke, were written by those who were contemporaries of the event. Luke even claims to have investigated everything closely (Luke 1:1-3). This would make him a key historical witness. This is what we would expect if Christ rose from the grave.

Near contemporary collaboration and impact:

Since Angie’s death, I have had many conversations with people who new her, both friends and family. They all account for her absence with a belief in her death. Their knowledge of her past depression and present absence provides collaborating evidence. This is exactly what you would expect if Angie died.

Just as when you drop a boulder into a pond you will get a ripple of waves, so also we would expect there to be ripples—indeed tidal waves—of residual impact from such a monumental event as the resurrection of someone who was the Son of God. Not only do we have contemporary testimony through the four Gospels, but we also have many more first-century documents which give account of or assume the resurrection of Christ. In the collection of documents we call the New Testament, we have twenty-two personal and public letters and one historical account of the the impact and implications of the resurrection. Outside of the New Testament, there are dozens of first and early second-century documents which assume the reality of the resurrection of Christ. These are from early believers, historians, pastors, philosophers, and, even antagonists. This is exactly what you would expect if Christ really rose from the grave.

Chronological and geographical information:

When I gave an account for Angie’s death, I included places and times with a fair amount of detail. In doing so, I opened the door for you to test the veracity of my claim. If I were making this story up, I would have left those details out or replaced them with obscure places and times. That way you could not test my truth claim about Angie.   

When a monumental event is claimed, it is very hard to believe if it was done in secret. Providing information about cities that there is no record for, kings who never ruled, and geographical sites that find no grounding in history is a sure way to be labeled as “myth.” That is what you would do if you were making something up. However, if the testimony is true, one would expect the revelation of such details. Why? Because the one who is making the claim would not be afraid that his or her testimony would be debunked. When someone is fabricating something, they can’t provide these types of details since there is a good chance people would check up on their accuracy. Surrounding the claims of the resurrection are an abundance of details. There are city names, names of people involved, names of rulers, the timing of the event, and all the details one would expect from a truthful testimony. 

Lack of motive for fabrication:

Neither you nor I have any evidence to believe that the story of Angie’s death is being fabricated. I have no reason to believe that someone would call me and claim to be a medical examiner and tell me my sister had died when she had not. There is no reason to believe my wife made up the story about seeing Angie’s hand. It would be hard for you to make the case that I, myself, am making this story up. I suppose that you could say that I am creating this up to use it as an illustration for this chapter, but that would require a greater leap of faith than believing that it is true.

Everyone knows that motive provides a great deal of circumstantial evidence for things. When it comes to the resurrection of Christ, to claim that those who testified about the resurrection made it up, we would have to propose some sort of motive for fabrication. This asks the question Why would they make up such a story? Almost always, motives for fabrication involve some sort of personal gain. But it is very difficult to find a motive for fabrication among those who claimed Christ rose. They did not become rich. We don’t know of any issues of prideful revenge. And, in their lives, they did not win any popularity contests. In fact, it would seem that most of them died a martyr’s death. Even the Gospel writers did not include their names in the Gospels, showing us that they were not seeking fame. It is only from early Christian testimony that we believe we know who wrote them. I am sure that we could come up with some theories for fabrication, but these theories would require a great deal of blind faith to believe. Our conviction meter here would have to be very low were we to opt for an alternative theory.

Incidental and obscure details:

When I told the story about Angie, I provided many details that were unnecessary. I told you about the conversation I had with the medical examiner word-for-word as I remember it. I told you that I was on HWY 635. I told you how I thought it might have been a cop calling me. I told you that the Angie’s remains were in a white cardboard box. And I told you about how I almost went into the medical examiner’s office to look at the pictures when he advised me not to.

A good indication that a story is true is when there are details told that are not necessarily relevant to the big picture. Sometimes these details will be confusing for the listener, but make sense for the one who is telling the story. When people are making stories up, they normally only include what is relevant to insure the substance of the fabrication. In the accounts of Christ’s life and resurrection, the Gospel writers include many details that are somewhat irrelevant from the standpoint of the hearer. For example, in John’s Gospel, we are told that “the one whom Jesus loved” (John the writer of the book) outran Peter to the tomb (John 20:4). This information is completely irrelevant from the standpoint of the bigger story, but is a mark of authenticity to the historicity of the events.

An example of a confusing detail is when Christ talked about the “unforgivable sin” (Matt. 12:32). Outside of Matthew and Luke, this idea is not spoken of again. It is not a theme of the Gospels and does not get explained later on. All of church history has been confused about what the “unforgivable sin” is. Most, like myself, would say that it amounts to a rejection of the Gospel. Either way, this is a mark of genuineness due to its obscure nature. When people are making stuff up, they normally make sure that every detail fits into the big picture and is understood.


I have just scratched the surface of what it means to have forensic conviction. My hopes are that by reading this small bit of evidence for the resurrection, you see how forensic conviction can add to your overall conviction meter.

Let me ask you a question. Based on what you have read here, do you believe that my sister Angie died in 2004? I imagine that you do. Why? Because you, on autopilot, did not even need for me to explain the reasons why you were convicted that I was telling the truth. You were automatically filtering this through your already existing conviction meter. You trusted my testimony.

But you know what? While I think that the evidence here is substantial for us to believe that my sister died, I think that it is even more substantial for a belief in the resurrection of Christ. The reason why we don’t often see it as such is because of the miraculous nature of the resurrection. People die every day. We experience it. People don’t raise from the grave every day. I imagine none of you have experienced it. I understand this, but we must be careful. Our conviction cannot be wedged through a presupposition that people cannot raise from the dead. That is what we call “question begging.” It is assuming the conclusion (people cannot raise) and basing the way we look at the evidence upon this assumption (therefore, whatever the evidence says, it cannot say that Christ rose). For our conviction level to be high, we have to let the evidence itself produce a conclusion, not the other way around.

For some people this type of empirical “forensic” evidence will not be so important. For others, it will be paramount. As I have been arguing, we need to see faith as multifaceted and complex. However, we need to see the simplicity here as well. I encourage you, whether this is what you think you need or not, to explore and examine the evidence for Christianity, specifically Christ’s resurrection. If Christianity is true, then God went through a lot of trouble to make sure this is all available to us. We want to have our faith strengthened. We don’t close our eyes and our ears to the real world. We look to the evidence and follow it wherever it leads. If we don’t, our faith will be either non-existent or very weak.


1. Draw and fill in your conviction meter chart. How high is the “forensic” sub-meter? Explain where you are at and why.

2. How important is this type of evidence for your faith? Explain.

3. Do you think that Christianity is seen as a belief that has its forensic meter set a zero? Why or why not.

4. What challenged you most about this chapter?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    23 replies to "The Anatomy of Belief (9): Forensic Conviction"

    • John Lollard

      I have to ask this.

      You mentioned how someone making up a story doesn’t include names of people and places because anyone can go look to see if those people and places are real and discount the story.

      What then do we do with details like the census in Luke that apparently never took place or the reference to Quirinius of Syriah who was not a ruler at that time, or the like? Or when John seems to be putting Jesus meeting Andrew and Peter across the Jordan while Matthew seems to place it in Galilee?

      If your wife told me that you were getting breakfast when you got the call and that it was a police officer and not a medical examiner who called you, I would rightfully start to doubt a lot of your story. When I try to use evidential apologetics, skeptics rightfully ask me about the asynopsis of the gospel accounts, not being willing to trust contrary statements as reliable testimony.

      I greatly enjoyed this post and look forward to an answer.

      Love in Christ,
      John Lollard

    • Ed Kratz

      John, I deal with these things two ways personally:

      1) Discrepancies and inaccuracies are in everything. This does not mean that the main points are not true. Even if Luke made a mistake about who was governor or even if there are some minor discrepancies among the Gospel writers, this does not take away from the main points that they all agree on.

      For example, if I was to have Kristie, my wife, write a testimony about the night we found out about Angie, she might say that we were on Preston Rd. This would create a definite discrepancy, but it would not illegitimize or give reason for doubting the main point, that Angie died. She just would have remembers incidental details wrongly (or even vice-versa). As well, it would still be a mark of historical genuineness (as opposed to fabrication) if she gave specific details as she remembered them (i.e. being on Preston Rd.). Therefore, the Gospels could have erred at certain incidental points, but this does not necessarily evidence fabrication (it could even evidence the opposite since there is no collaboration).

      2) I am not sure I would be too quick to say Luke erred. I think Bock is a good one to consult for viable options as to what happened.

      For example, Kristie, while technically speaking, would have erred if she said we were on Preston Rd. when we got the call. However, we did turn on to Preston Rd. (I think) right after I got the call. In this sense, she is not trying to be technically precise. Sometimes this is the way the Gospels may have presented things. They are not trying to be technically precise.

      Hope that answers things.

    • mike

      Excellent article. I had not considered thinking about the death of Jesus from a forensic approach.

      explaining it with an example from your life was very helpful.

    • Lynn

      Wow. I appreciate that you would even consider there might be errors in the Bible. To those of us who were taught inerrancy, it is a shock to find out about the errors. You basically never recover from that shock.

      The other shocking thing is that tons of Christians aren’t even aware there are discrepancies, and they’ve been Christians a very long time. There’s a lot of ignorance out there.

    • Lynn

      Interesting post, Michael. It all gets confusing, but I enjoy trying to think thru these things. My first thoughts are that your sister’s death was not really unexpected, so it fit into the flow of things, unfortunately. It’s hard to talk about it, and I appreciate your willingness to speak about such a thing that must be difficult still. The medical examiner was just doing an unpleasant part of his job in notifying you. He had no emotional involvement other than one human being feeling bad for another’s bad news. He was like a disinterested 3rd party, which also adds to your trust in what he’s saying.

      Another thought that came to mind in thinking about the resurrection-what about the groups that have been led to believe the end of the world is on a certain date. (It’s May 2011, by the way, per Harold Camping.) Anyway, in the past, did the whole group of true believers get disgusted when it didn’t happen, although they had sold their land, quit their jobs, etc? No, from what I’ve read they simply find a way to explain why it didn’t happen and proceed with believing anyway. They want to make it work out somehow.

      To me, that type of thing more fits the resurrection story.

      • Hodge


        I think atheists and agnostics are made in such ways. You have to believe that there is such a thing as a disinterested (i.e., neutral or transcendent) party. This is why I tried to communicate on the last post that there is not such thing in terms of metaphysical assumptions. Everyone believes first and then tries to explain what occurs within that framework. You can trade beliefs, but it is not based on the factual details and interpretation given to you from a disinterested party. Hence, explaining away the report of the resurrection is on equal footing with explaining it within certain ultimate beliefs. Until you understand this fully, you may not be duped by a religious cult, but you will be by the cult of the Enlightenment and all of her children.

    • Dave Z

      I spent a good bit of Saturday doing research on the census and Quirinius, and ended up, in one sense, thoroughly confused and without a solid answer. But one thing I did find was that most of the argument against the census is based on Josephus, who had not yet been born when Herod or Quirinius were in power. I had to wonder why Josephus seems to have the benefit of unquestioned reliability, and why Luke, if he disagrees, is automatically wrong.

      These events happened a long time ago and there are very few records. Last night I asked a group of 20+ people this question: “In what month did the 2010 census begin?” No one could answer. Everyone in the group knows someone who worked the census, but no one was sure of the details. And it was THIS year.

      While I believe Luke could have been wrong, I hesitate to pronounce him wrong on the basis of the scant evidence available to us.

    • Ed Kratz

      While the medical examiner had no emotional involvement, that is a (valid) assumption that is made in faith due to many other things going on. That he was even a medical examiner was faith (again, valid).

      When I was twelve years old we had someone call our house and claim to be from the crisis pregnancy center wanting to talk to my mother. They said that my sister’s tests “were positive.”

      My mother flipped out. I thought that someone had died she was screaming so loud.

      It turned out to be a prank (fabrication). To this day, we have no idea why whoever called did what they did. I wish such were the case with the medical examiner.

      Again, the main point is that I have no first-hand evidence of Angie’s death, just the evidence listed above. There is no doubt that she is dead. But this is the same type of evidence that we have for Christ’s resurrection, but, as I said, I believe the resurrection is stronger.

      The reason why we don’t propose alternative theories for the evidence for Angie’s death is because it has no broad implications and is not asking us to change our lived based upon it. This is very understandable. However, we need to back up and look at these things with a fresh eye. When we do, I think we will see how much faith it takes to believe that Christ’s resurrection was fabricated.

    • Ed Kratz

      Lynn, I don’t know if you have ever read this, but here is my view about how necessary inerrancy is: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/12/if-the-bible-is-not-inerrant-then-christianity-is-false-and-other-stupid-statements/

      At one time I was the same. If someone proposed that their might be an error in the Bible, I would say that they were proposing to deconstruct the entire Christian faith.

      I changed, not because of some error I found, but due to my theology of Scripture. I still believe in inerracy, it just is not as important for my faith as it one time was.

    • Hodge


      I think that’s a great point. The Bible is automatically suspect, many times because people are looking for errors on one side of the spectrum as much as people are looking for harmonization on the other. We are to blindly believe that “secular” histories (although Josephus isn’t really secular per se) are the more reliable. I’m reminded of Sennacherib’s description of his conquest of Judah versus the biblical version. His version is always seen as the more reliable, but he has a clear agenda in what he communicates and is more likely the one fabricating the details. Of course, we can say both of them do so, but the point is that scholarship usually paints the Bible as inaccurate first in a guilty until proven innocent type of manner. This too has to do with our biases.

    • Lynn

      I will check out the link you provided. The Bible inerrancy thing has been huge in my life.

      Well, can we say that I’ve listened to both sides, with neither side being a disinterested party, and found one side’s arguments more convincing? Plus it’s a given that I have the background that I do, etc. and am not any purer in my thinking and evaluating than anybody else.

      I think you’re saying we all have prejudices, etc., but given that fact, can’t we still find one side’s arguments to seem more likely to be the truth than the other?

    • Hodge

      “I think you’re saying we all have prejudices, etc., but given that fact, can’t we still find one side’s arguments to seem more likely to be the truth than the other?”

      We can and do, but we do so because we’ve already adopted one side’s ultimate beliefs. So we don’t find one side compelling as opposed to another because of the arguments given. We have to begin with belief, and maybe change beliefs, but not because one side is transcendent above another because it is simply “more likely” within itself. That’s why people become more entrenched in their positions when the arguments are brought forth. People can usually change their minds based on arguments within their respective belief systems, but not outside of them. Hence, in order for an atheist to convince you that atheism is the right position to hold, you would have to change your metaphysical assumptions, and vice versa, before you adopted it. Or, what is more likely, is that you always held those assumptions and your Christian views were inconsistent with them. When the time came, the one gave out to the other in order to maintain consistency.

    • Lynn


      So what are these assumptions that I had from way back, which were inconsistent with my Christian views and eventually caused me to throw off the Christian view?

    • Hodge


      By what you’ve told me already, and by the fact that you live in our Western culture (I’m assuming), you seemed to have had a methodology of verification based on empiricism, which is itself based on metaphysical assumptions. You’re seeking “evidence” to verify Christianity, by what you said before (and by what many seek still within evangelicalism) was through sensing God in some way rather than believing the report of Scripture. When God did not succumb to your naturalistic need to verify His existence through your experience/empirical verification, you began to doubt His existence/whether Christianity was true. Eventually, that brought you to your present position; but this is all based on your previous acceptance of the idea that what is true must be empirically verified, which has naturalistic assumptions at its root. Of course, what is metaphysical and can only be known through report, for the most part, can never meet that goal. Hence, your faith was doomed from the beginning. The only thing that would have saved you from going this route is either for you to be clueless as a walking contradiction (something many evangelicals and fundamentalists are in our culture) or for you to realize that God called you to faith in what He has spoken rather than in yourself, and for you to, therefore, change your assumptions of how metaphysical knowledge can be gained with certainty (i.e., through faith in report rather than in what you can check out for yourself). This is our present condition in this culture, and is the primary reason you have a severe decline in, not only believers, but believers who have a certainty in the truth of Christianity. Of course, I can’t detail the specifics for you, as only you know the exact hows by which this took place, but that’s it in a nutshell from the human side of things.

    • Lynn

      Hmm. Thanks for your thoughts. So given all that, I have now come to a wrong conclusion and should have just accepted that I was either not one of the chosen or meant to be a very unhappy Christian?

      Actually, thinking back, I did at one point try that “quit worrying about it, just trust” approach. I think that made me happier for awhile, but then my brain started up again. I had a Christian recently tell me to quit worrying or I would go insane. So maybe that’s the key-don’t worry, be happy. Seems to work very well for the majority of Christians. And she said this in response-not to me worrying-but to me asking a question about the Bible. She was discouraging such. I always thought investigating something is to be admired. Isn’t that how we’ve made progress in the world-thru curious people? I guess I’m revealing more of my assumptions here.

      So we are to accept that the Bible is God’s revealed word and start there? But what if that’s not true? We can’t even go down that road? Why not? Aren’t we critical of others who just accept their holy book as truth?

      So, people cannot stay in an aggravated state of mind forever. They seek relief. I sought relief. So I can choose from the following conclusions.

      I am not of the elect.
      There is no God.
      I am elect but will tend toward misery because of my wrong assumptions and inability to just trust. That’s my cross to bear.

      All three seem pretty depressing! Being a happy, trusting Christian does not seem to be an option for me.

      So, in your opinion, which conclusion is most likely correct? (Well, I know you won’t pick the second one.)

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Hodge


        I think you’re still not grasping the concept. I’m not saying, don’t worry, be happy. I’m saying that you ALREADY have a blind trust/faith in something that you cannot question. You ALREADY assume this and judge all other beliefs by it. So you are just seeking to be happy by trusting without questioning those assumptions. You question Christianity with a belief system that negates Christianity. So, of course, what are you going to come to in your conclusions? That Christianity is false. That God does not exist or cannot be known to exist. My point to you is to say that you ought to see if you can turn that same skepticism back upon empiricism and the naturalistic assumptions that it holds. You’ll end up in a self refuting situation if you do. So it’s not a matter of what makes you happy. It’s a matter of what you believe that then drives your happiness with a particular viewpoint. The conflict you have is due to the attempt to try and hold on to two conflicting viewpoints. That does bring misery and confusion, and many are like you within the church.

        “I am not of the elect.
        There is no God.
        I am elect but will tend toward misery because of my wrong assumptions and inability to just trust. That’s my cross to bear.”

        Well, it could be that you’re not of the elect and God exists at the same time, but your blind trust in belief X is not allowing you to believe in belief Y. The choice you have to make is whether to chuck belief X and accept the presuppositions that would bring you to belief Y or to keep presupposition X and continue to have conflict, either by rejecting outright or continually stressing over, belief Y. Either way, Lynn, you need to understand fully that you are blindly believing something at all times. Neither you, nor your third party, “disinterested” authors, can escape this (and I would run screaming from anyone who claimed otherwise).
        As for what your status is before God (elect or non-elect), that is not something anyone can tell you, but God. No one knows the future and whether you do or will believe.
        Now, I do think there is a difference between a belief that can consistently…

      • Hodge

        explain the human world with our beliefs, specifically speaking, the laws of logic, mind, various phenomena, etc.; but after that it’s simply a matter of critiquing one metaphysical belief with another (and everyone does this, including atheists). So, as said before, the Bible has got it right where others who are supposedly more enlightened have gotten it wrong. You always begin with faith. Only the objects of that faith is where we part ways, not in our means of knowing.

    • Lynn

      I read your post on inerrancy. I think you were saying that the historical facts are the important thing-not the Biblical report. But where do I find these historical facts except for in the Bible?

    • Lynn

      What is it that I have blind trust in?

    • Hodge


      Didn’t I already address this? You have a blind faith that empiricism is needed for you to know that Christianity is true, or that God exists. The empiricism itself is built upon a blind faith concerning the nature of metaphysics, specifically, that the metaphysical world does not exist and therefore only I, in the natural world, through natural means, can verify what is true. If the metaphysical world existed, then there must be another way of knowing it, specifically through report (which is what I think Michael is communicating above). The fact that you need something other than report in order for you to know what is true is symptomatic of your empiricism and the assumptions that it needs in order to establish itself as the sole methodology of inquiry. Yet, it self destructs at that point, since it must assume something about metaphysics that cannot be gained through empirical verification.
      My point to you is that you have ASSUMED these beliefs. It’s not that you said to yourself one day, “I think I’ll believe in naturalistic empiricism now.” That’s not how it works. We usually acquire our ultimate beliefs through secondary beliefs and practices based upon them, and never question them. Is that any clearer?

    • Lynn


    • Dr. Jay

      Bottomline. All knowledge of truth is intuitive. Otherwise you’re God.

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