Are Christians Too Biased to Fairly Investigate the Claims of Christianity?

Christians are often accused of being unreasonably “biased” simply because we believe in the supernatural. This accusation has power in our current culture. Biased people are seen as prejudicial and unfair, arrogant and overly confident of their position. Nobody wants to be identified as someone who is biased or overly opinionated.

But make no mistake about it, all of us have a point of view; all of us hold opinions and ideas that color the way we see the world. Anyone who tells you that he (or she) is completely objective and devoid of presuppositions has another, more important problem: That person is either astonishingly naïve, or a liar.

The question is not whether or not we have ideas, opinions, or preexisting points of view; the question is whether or not we will allow these perspectives to prevent us from examining the evidence objectively. It’s possible to have a strong, foundational beliefs yet leave these presuppositions at the door in order to examine evidence fairly.

We ask jurors to do this all the time. In the state of California, jurors are repeatedly instructed to “keep an open mind throughout the trial” and not to “let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision.” The courts assume that people have biases, hold sympathies and prejudices, and are aware of public opinion. In spite of this, jurors are required to “keep an open mind.” Jurors must enter the courtroom with empty hands; they must leave all their baggage in the hall.

Everyone begins with a collection of biases. We must (to the best of our ability) resist the temptation to allow our biases to eliminate certain forms of evidence (and therefore certain conclusions) before we even begin the investigation.

As a skeptic, I was slow to accept even the slightest possibility that miracles were possible. My commitment to naturalism prevented me from considering such nonsense. But after learning about the dangers of presuppositions at crime scenes, I decided that I needed to be fair with my naturalistic inclinations. I couldn’t begin with my conclusion, and if the evidence pointed to the reasonable existence of God, this certainly opened up the possibility of the miraculous. If God did exist, He was the creator of everything we see in the universe. He, therefore, created matter from nonmatter, life from nonlife; He created all time and space. God’s creation of the universe would certainly be nothing short of . . .  miraculous.

If there was a God who could account for the beginning of the universe, lesser miracles (say, walking on water or healing the blind) might not even be all that impressive. If I was going to learn the truth about the existence of a miraculous God, I needed to at least lay down my presuppositions about the miraculous. My experience at crime scenes has helped me to do just that.

This doesn’t mean that I now rush to “supernatural” explanations every time I fail to find an easy or quick “natural” explanation. It simply means that I am open to following the evidence wherever it leads, even if it points to the existence of a miraculous designer. As it turns out, the evidence does point to the existence of such a miraculous Being. We just have to be fair and unbiased to recognize the strength of the case.

I didn’t become a Christian because I had a prior bias in favor of Christianity. In fact, I had a bias against Christianity. As I said in my scene in “GOD’S NOT DEAD 2,” “I’m not a Christian today because I was raised that way or because it satisfies some need or accomplishes some goal. I’m simply a Christian because it’s evidentially true.”

This article is adapted from my book “Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (for more information, please refer to Chapter 1: “Don’t Be A Know It All”). A version of this article appeared at ColdCaseChristianity.com.

Image courtesy of kyoshino at iStock by Getty Images.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of “Cold-Case Christianity,” “Cold-Case Christianity for Kids,” “God’s Crime Scene,” and “Forensic Faith.”


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  • Tyler

    I wouldn’t argue with the author about the objective reality of Christianity. It either is true or completely false, and I agree that it is. However, I will say this: No one is a Christian BECAUSE it is evidentially true. It is evidentially true and therefore has the power to save sinners, however the claim that a person is saved because of it evidentially could come across as voiding the faith of any real spiritual power and flat out isn’t even Biblical. Jesus calls himself the truth, and that this truth would set us free, but it’s not simply based on the fact that he is the truth that he saves us, it’s because of the redemption He offers us through his sacrifice on the cross. Which again, is true, evidentially. A person could hypothetically recognize the veracity of the Scriptures and conclude that the best explanation is that Jesus died and was raised from the dead for our salvation, but still reject the invitation of the Gospel and go their own way.

  • Phoenix1977

    “It’s possible to have a strong, foundational beliefs yet leave these presuppositions at the door in order to examine evidence fairly.”

    Interesting contradiction to ealier statements. When discussing items like marriage equality, abortion, euthanasia it’s constantly said Christians are not required to check their faith the moment the do their job. Whenever it’s said a doctor, county clerk or baker should simply do their job it is said people are a Christian 24/7. But apparently Christians CAN decide to leave their faith at the coat check? Good to know for future topics.

    • Jason Taylor

      Nobody can “simply do their job” and put their conscience on hold nor has anyone said that doctors, county clerks, or bakers should confuse the question of how they use their training for the training itself. And there is no such thing as equality, marriage or any other.

      • Phoenix1977

        In that case Christians cannot be scientists, or jury members, or police officers or any other job where their conscience might get in the way. After all, pretty much all professions have moral shady elements or require to keep an open mind. Your comment indicates that is not possible for Christians.

        • Jason Taylor

          Nobody expects scientists or jury members or police to put their consciences on hold and when they do we call it dishonesty, corruption, and tyranny respectively.

          • Phoenix1977

            So what you are actually saying is a scientist who discovers something in contrary to the bible (let’s say, that not the earth is the center of our solar system but the sun) should be allowed to either omit or falsify his or her findings because of his/her consciences. Just like police officers should be allowed to refuse to help LGBTs who are the victim of discrimination. And jury members should be allowed to refuse to find a murderer guilty if that means he /she would be sent to death row?

          • Scott

            “So what you are actually saying is a scientist who discovers something in contrary to the bible (let’s say, that not the earth is the center of our solar system but the sun) …”

            The example you give is not contrary to the Bible?

          • Phoenix1977

            Tell Galileo that.

          • Scott

            Good one! : – )

            Galileo’s example points to the importance of interpretation (and misinterpretation). Galileo remained a believer though… If I remember correctly, Francis Collins told a little of Galileo’s story in his book “The Language of God.”

    • Jason Taylor

      And why are the technical details of surgery even relevant to the ethics of abortion or euthanasia? Both procedures can be done easily enough with a cudgel. How is it telling someone to do their job when it is a job that is superfluous?

      • Phoenix1977

        Because abortion and euthanasia ARE medical procedures, whether you like it of not. And therefor they are a doctor’s job. Doctors don’t have personal opnions or feelings while on the job. They simply have to do their job, including every aspect of it.

        • Jason Taylor

          Why do they have to “simply do their job including every aspect of it?” Is there some scientific law that mandates that? Do medical textbooks change when one doctor refuses to abort, or when another does abort? What you are really saying is what you think in your moral judgement a doctor should do with the technical knowledge he has. In other words you are speaking out of both ends of your mouth as clearly you do not think a doctor should just do his job.

          • Phoenix1977

            Every doctor who completed medical school in the US after 1973 knows abortion is a regular medical procedure like any other. If they can’t perform that part of the job because of moral reservations they should not have become a doctor in the first place. So if you became a doctor, or a nurse or any other type of health care professional in the US after 1973 you should simply do abortions because they are part of your job.

          • Scott

            Right… because if you don’t believe abortion (killing an unborn human as a means of contraception) is moral, then you shouldn’t be allowed to perform a potentially life saving surgical procedure on another human that managed survive their stay in the womb?

            Please forgive me if I do not agree with your logic. : )

          • Phoenix1977

            “Please forgive me if I do not agree with your logic. : )”
            That’s fine. Yesterday I read an article on a different website about a nurse who was suspended for refusing to participate in abortions and contraceptives and was suing the hospital for that. Somewhere in the small print they buried the fact her faith also prohibited receiving and administrating vaccines. If there’s one thing that saves lives is vaccines, both actively and passively.
            You can read the story here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/lawsuit-duke-university-punished-catholic-nurse-who-refused-to-do-abortions

          • Scott

            Thanks for sharing the story about the nurse.

            I’m not quite sure how the Christian faith keeps one from receiving or administering vaccines though?

        • The Lost Fart

          Just as guards at Auschwitz had a job to do and therefore had to do it without moral reservations.

          • Phoenix1977

            First of all, you already lost the argument for simply bringing the holocaust into it.
            Second, the guards at Auschwitz weren’t doing a job; they were forced to do whatever they were told in order to keep their friends and family safe from being deported to Auschwitz or a similar camp. But you would be correct: if they had applied for that job and were hired to do a job they should do it without reservations, yes.

          • The Lost Fart

            No, genocide is genocide — whether committed to root out the inferior breeding stock or to avoid inconvenience to the unwed mother. The fact that the victims of modern genocide are innocent babies hardly improves the abortionist’s moral position.

    • Gina Dalfonzo

      There’s a difference between “leaving your faith at the coat check” and exploring various subjects with an open mind. We’re asking people to be aware of their own presuppositions, not to ditch them.

      • Phoenix1977

        Yeah, that’s not what the author says. He literally says to “leave these presuppositions at the door”.

  • Tyler

    I think you’ve set up a false dichotomy here. I’m not saying Christianity is true objectively therefore any rational human being should believe it, and I also think it’s wrong to say there is zero evidence. No, I certainly wasn’t there, but Christianity is also not worth following if it isn’t factually true. Paul even said so, that we are to pitied over all people if Jesus did not rise from the dead. So, I would agree with you theologically, we are saved because of the election and grace of God, but it is not simply theology, it’s based historical events orchestrated and ordained by the Father in his sovereignty. We can’t divorce our beliefs from historical facts.

    • HpO

      Poor you, Tyler, for liking to think naively that all these guys are pitching is – tada! – “Christianity … Factually True”! Or: “Election and Grace of God … Historical Events [All]”! Wake up, man, they’re pitching not the original gospel faith, but their own brand of faith, as expressed here:

      “My definition of faith is a step of trust we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing. … Our trust is based on a rational understanding of what the evidence is in support of what we believe. … That Jesus claimed to be the son of God … I believe there’s good historical evidence that he did, and … that he authenticated that claim by returning from the dead … I think there’s good evidence that he did”. (Lee Strobel, Beliefnet, 2005/05)

      Wanna be part of dat and risk Jesus’ comeback with, O ye of little faith? No, thanks, count me out.

      • Tyler

        I’m failing to see how the Gospel can be effectual in saving sinners if it is not factually true. Please clarify. I’m not saying that believing in the facts of the historicity of Christianity saves a person. But what I will say is that if Jesus did not rise from the dead in real history, and we believe it, it benefits us nothing. And if I am to “wake up” as you so kindly put it, what am I to wake up to?

        • Phoenix1977

          “I’m failing to see how the Gospel can be effectual in saving sinners if it is not factually true.”
          Please proof to us your gospel is effectual. You cannot know because that would mean you must have spoken to someone who died and was indeed saved from his sins. You only have your faith of that, causing this to be a circular reasoning: your proof is your faith and your faith comes from that “proof”.

          “And if I am to “wake up” as you so kindly put it, what am I to wake up to?”
          Reality?

          • Tyler

            I don’t specifically remember saying “wake up” to anything, in fact, I remember challenging another commenter about what I was admonished to “wake up” to. And I have never been one to say that I can prove anything about the historicity of the resurrection. I’ve heard very convincing arguments in favor of it. What I am saying is that I believe wholeheartedly in the risen Lord Jesus. I believe this literally happened in history. Why? Because of the effect that his had on my life. So in one sense, you’re correct, I cannot, based on your criteria, prove that Jesus’s death and resurrection saves anyone from their sins. I believe this to be true. However, on a Christian website, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about these things this way. My main point is that Paul himself even said that if Jesus rising from the dead did not actually happen in reality, then we are to be pitied. But if he really did rise from the dead (and I believe He did) then we have much to celebrate!

  • Santiago M Anaya

    Hello Hp0.. Peace of Christ… Where in your bible or any bible says that Jesus the Christ redeemed you?!!!! Tell me the bible that says that….Brother James…

    • HpO

      1st off, brother Santiago, Epistle of James – unlike all of Paul’s epistles – doesn’t talk about Jesus & His REDEEMing gospel. But what I don’t get is – why can’t you look it up yourself “that Jesus the Christ REDEEMed you?!!!!”

      Luke 24:21, 25-26 – Hoping that it was Jesus was going to REDEEM Israel … we were foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken of the necessity for the Christ to suffer and to enter into His glory.

      Galatians 3:13-14 – Christ REDEEMed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us and hung on a tree – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

      Galatians 4:4-7 – When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might REDEEM those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

      Titus 2:11, 13-14 – The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, … the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to REDEEM us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

      1 Peter 1:18-19 – You were not REDEEMed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

  • ah.1960

    Having read Cold-Case Christianity, I find its premise compelling. I note from some of the comments below that some people are bothered by the idea of finding “evidence” to support their Christian faith or of “leaving their presuppositions at the door.” I would offer two points for these friends to consider. 1) Our faith in Christ is not believing without evidence or believing in spite of evidence to the contrary. 2) As noted in the article, jurors in a court case are asked everyday to set aside their biases and objectively rule for or against a defendant. Don’t read into this that the author is somehow trying to get believers to give up the faith element of Christianity.

    For support, we can cite the Gospel or Luke and Acts. Dr. Luke was in investigator. He carefully checked out the stories he heard about Jesus to see if they were true or false. He personally assembled a dossier of facts about Jesus. He conducted interviews with Jesus’ known associates. As a doctor, he detailed the physical symptoms of people Jesus healed. He was looking for evidence to show who Jesus was and what he did.

    Likewise Paul, even though he did not know Jesus personally, gave readers evidence from the Old Testament to support Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. He also offered up a list of eyewitnesses who could corroborate the claims that Jesus rose from the dead.

    Neither of these Biblical authors is negating faith but rather are offering evidence to support faith in Christ.

  • Scott

    “I think you need to read a little more about Galileo and his “trial”.”

    No doubt I do. : – ) Although neither you nor I can attest to the state of Galileo’s faith post-scandal beyond what can be found in books. The only way we could know for sure is if we someday get the chance to ask him… and only one of us believes that possible.

    Also I do know that the fruit of his work was eventually accepted and the corruption you speak of was ultimately lost to truth.

    • Phoenix1977

      “Also I do know that the fruit of his work was eventually accepted and the corruption you speak of was ultimately lost to truth.”
      And it only took another 100+ years to do so. Not that Galileo benefited from any of it. The corruption of his work cost him the respect of his peers and his academic credibility. In the end the church destroyed him in every way except physically.