Equipping Christian Ambassadors with Knowledge, Wisdom, and Character

The Circumstantial Case for the Christian Worldview Explore More Content

~/Media/Default/Article/courthouse.jpg

The Circumstantial Case Against Phil Spector
On September 26th, 2007, the murder trial of Phil Specter ended in a mistrial. Two jurors were unable to find Spector guilty of murder. In spite of the many pieces of circumstantial evidence that made up the cumulative case, these two jurors focused on single isolated issues (more on this HERE) and these single issues proved to be the downfall of the prosecution’s case.

Just a few days later, a cumulative, circumstantial murder case of my own came to a very different conclusion. Our jury returned a guilty verdict in a 23 year old case in the city of Torrance (you can download a Word Document of the news coverage HERE and HERE). Like Phil Spector, our case was cumulative in nature, originally built on a large number of circumstantial pieces of evidence, all of which pointed to the killer, a man named William Marshall. But unlike the Spector case, our jury had been carefully picked as a part of the judicial process. We interviewed the prospective jurors carefully, and seated a panel that understood the value of circumstantial evidence and also understood the power of a CUMULATIVE case.

Cumulative, Circumstantial Cases
Our jury was instructed over the course of four days as we interviewed and screened the candidates. From the prosecution’s perspective, we wanted jurors who understood how powerful circumstantial evidence can be when taken cumulatively. Circumstantial evidences, by definition, are unrelated facts that, when considered together as a whole, can be used to infer a conclusion about something that was previously unknown. In this sense, circumstantial evidence is different than direct physical evidence. Let me give you an example. If you are sitting in a restaurant and someone comes inside and tells you that it is raining outside, you now have an eyewitness and you have direct physical evidence that it is raining. On the other hand, if you are sitting there and you see several people come in carrying umbrellas and dripping wet, you may reasonably infer that it is raining from this circumstantial evidence, even before any of them tells you that this is true. You see, all of us assess circumstantial evidence as a part of our normal experience.

As we selected our jury for the homicide trial, we simply wanted people who (1) understood the power of circumstantial evidence and (2) would not fixate on minutia. We wanted jurors who would not ‘major on the minors’ but were capable of seeing the ‘big picture’. We were trying to avoid jurors like the two hold outs in the Spector case; jurors who would ‘camp’ on minor ‘possibilities’, while ignoring the major ‘reasonable’ inferences. We wanted jurors who could understand the difference between what is ‘possible’ and what is ‘reasonable’

The Possible Versus the Reasonable
We had to take the time to teach jurors this difference between what is ‘possible’ and what is ‘reasonable’ based on the evidence that they have in front of them. This was critical to our case. The judicial system does NOT allow jurors to enter a jury room and discuss theories that may be possible if there is no evidence to support these claims. This is called “speculation”, and it is NOT allowed. Jurors are specifically instructed about this.

For example, it’s quite possible in our restaurant scenario that there is someone outside who is handing customers umbrellas jut prior to hosing them down with water. Perhaps THAT is what is causing these customers to come into the restaurant looking as they do. But while this is possible, it is certainly not reasonable. If no evidence about a man with a hose has been admitted into the trial, this kind of wild speculation about ‘possibilities’ is simply NOT allowed. Only REASONABLE inferences from the testimony and evidence can be considered in this case. Anything else is speculation and it is outside what can be legally considered.

The Building Blocks of a Circumstantial Case
Circumstantial cases are cumulative in nature; they usually are built with a number of evidences. The power of these kinds of cases increases when more and more of these evidences point to a single suspect. Eventually a case like this can be overwhelming as it becomes harder and harder to explain how ALL these individual circumstantial pieces could all point to the same suspect.

In our case against William Marshall (linked in this article), we presented approximately 30 pieces of circumstantial evidence, all of which pointed to the defendant as the murderer. By the time we got to the closing argument, the prosecutor was correctly able to make the claim that William Marshall was either the murderer, or the singular most unlucky person on planet earth; the evidence either accurately pointed to him as the true killer, or was just coincidentally aligned against him. The jury had no problem finding him guilty, because they understood the odds against the latter possibility. The only reasonable conclusion was that Marshall murdered the victim in this case.

The Cumulative Case for the Christian Worldview
There are many similarities between homicide cases and the case for the Christian Worldview. As a Christian, I don’t accept the claims of Christianity as an act of blind faith. I’ve instead placed my faith in something that is reasonable and can be evaluated evidentially. Much like a juror in a homicide trial, I have the ability to examine the circumstantial case ‘piece by piece’. The case is comprehensive and cumulative. There are MANY items of evidence that must be considered and they cannot be considered in isolation from one another. The strength of the case for the Christian Worldview comes from the cumulative depth of the evidence.

As I examine all the circumstantial evidence, I am struck by not only the volume of evidence supporting the reasonable truth of the Christian Worldview, but also the interconnected nature of this evidence. There is so much evidence to examine, but let’s just stop and look at the few evidences that we have examined so far on our website. As you know, PleaseConvinceMe.com is a growing resource, and as time passes, this list of evidences will only grow longer and more comprehensive. In the meantime, let’s look at some of the good reasons we have to believe that the Christian Worldview is true (you can click the links to examine the issues in more detail):

  • The Case for the Existence of the Soul is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that the Spiritual Realm Exists
    • The Case From Public Vs. Private Properties
      • Physical Properties Can Be PUBLICLY Known 
      • Mental Properties Are Only PRIVATELY Known 
      • THEREFORE: Mental Properties Are NOT Physical Properties 
    • The Case From First Person Reality
      • Like Everyone, I Only Use First Person Possessive Pronouns to Indicate Possession of Something Other Than “Me” 
      • Like Everyone, I Commonly Use First Person Possessive Pronouns When Describing My Body 
      • THEREFORE: My Body Is Something Other Than “Me” 
    • The Case From Measurability
      • Physical Entities Can Be Measured Using Physical Measurement Instruments 
      • But As Humans, We Possess Mental Entities (Thoughts, Wills, Desires and Sensations) That Are Not Measurable By These Methods 
      • THEREFORE: Humans Are More Than Physical Beings 
    • The Case From Self Existence
      • Mental Entities Are Not Self Existent 
      • But Our Brains, As Physical Entities, ARE Self Existent 
      • THEREFORE: Our Brains Are NOT The Same As Our Minds 
    • The Case From Free Agency
      • No Physical System is a Free Agent 
      • Therefore No Physical System Has Moral Responsibility 
      • Human Beings DO Have Moral Responsibility 
      • THEREFORE: Therefore Human Beings Are NOT Simply Physical Systems
  • The Case for the Nature of the Universe is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that God Exists
    • The Temporal Nature of the Cosmos
      • The Universe Had a Beginning 
      • Anything That Has a Beginning Must Have Been Caused By Something Else 
      • Therefore, the Universe Must Have a Cause 
      • This Cause Must Be Eternal, Uncaused and Personal (with the ability to ‘decide’ to cause)
      • The Cause is Therefore a Being with Incredible Power (God)
    • The Appearance of Design 
      • Human Artifacts (like watches) Are Products of Intelligent Design 
      • Our Universe and World Resemble Human Artifacts 
      • Therefore, the Universe Is the Product of Intelligent Design 
      • But the Universe is Complex and Giant in Comparison to Human Artifacts 
      • Therefore, There is a Powerful and Vastly Intelligent Designer Who Created the Universe
    • The Existence of Objective Moral Truth 
      • There is an Objective (Absolute) Moral Law 
      • Every Law Has a Law Giver 
      • Therefore, There is an Objective (Absolute) Law Giver 
      • The Objective (Absolute) Law Giver is God
    • The Anthropic Nature of Our World and Universe 
      • Our World has been uniquely designed so that: 
        • Life can exist 
        • That same life can examine the Universe 
      • This unique design cannot be the result of random chance or probabilities 
      • There is, therefore, a God who has designed us for a special cause in the universe 
  • The Case for the Nature of Good and Evil is Strong Circumstantial Evidence for a Good God Existing in Superiority to an Evil Being
    • Evil exists in our world and begs for an explanation. There are two possibilities: 
      • A “Good” Power is presiding over a world that is temporarily under the influence of a finite, subordinate “Evil” Power (This is the Christian worldview), or… 
      • “Good” and “Evil” Powers (or Forces) exist in the world and are equal in strength, independent from one another, and co-eternal. 
    • If two independent, equally strong, equally eternal powers of “good” and “evil” exist in the universe, each power would assert that it is “good” and the other is “bad”. True “good” and “bad” would require the existence of yet a third thing in the Universe: an outside standard that decides between the two 
    • If this outside standard exists, IT is actually supreme over the two powers and is the true God of the Universe. It must “stand on its own” without dependence on yet another, additional standard. 
    • We know that “evil” is the result of the perverted pursuit of one of three things: the attempt to satisfy physical need, the attempt to satisfy personal gain, or the attempt to attain power and glory, but these three objects of pursuit are actually “good” things by their nature. 
    • For this reason, “evil” requires the existence of “good” before it can actually exist. “Evil” cannot ‘stand on its own’. 
    • Therefore, we know that the objective standard that is supreme in the universe (and can ‘stand on its own’) must, by necessity, be a “good” power, while the “evil” power must, by necessity, be a subordinate power. 
  • The Case for Immaterial Life and Intelligence is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that Spiritual Beings Other Than God Exist
    • The Argument from Thomas Aquinas
      • A good God creates beings in his image 
      • God is an immaterial conscience being, and has created humans as material conscience beings 
      • Consciousness is not a function of the material body 
      • Therefore, humans are both material and immaterial beings (we have immaterial, conscious souls) 
      • THEREFORE: In the continuum of beings it is reasonable to assume that some sort of immaterial conscious being exists in between the categories of God and Man
    • The Argument from Johannes Quenstedt 
      • There are purely corporeal beings (i.e. stones) 
      • There are partly corporeal and partly spiritual beings (i.e. Humans) 
      • THEREFORE: It is reasonable to assume that there are purely spiritual beings (i.e. Angels)
    • The Argument from Charles Hodge
      • There are more than one kind of irrational beings (i.e. insects and animals) 
      • THEREFORE it is reasonable to assume that there should be more than one kind of rational being (i.e. Humans and angelic beings)
  • The Case for the Reliability of the Bible is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that the Bible is Accurate in What It Teaches
    • The Old and New Testament Have Been Faithfully Transmitted
      • Careful Masoretes Subscribed to an Incredibly High Standard of Old Testament Transmission
      • The Dead Sea Scrolls Confirm the Transmission Process of the Old Testament
      • Ancient Sources Confirm the Early Canon of the Old Testament
        • Prologue to Ecclesiasticus 
        • Philo 
        • Jamnia 
        • The Early Church Fathers 
        • Josephus 
      • Ancient Sources Confirm the Early Canon of the New Testament
        • Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 95) 
        • Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 115) 
        • Polycarp, a disciple of John, (c. A.D. 108) 
      • The Early Canon Arose and Was Recognized in Geographically Independent Areas
        • Irenaeus (in Asia Minor) 
        • Origen (in Alexandria, Egypt) 
        • Hippolytus (in Rome) 
        • Eusebius (in Cæsarea, Palestine) 
        • Athanasius (in Alexandria, Eqypt) 
      • The New Testament Can be Nearly Completely Re-Constructed from the Writings of the Early Church Fathers
      • The New Testament Documents are Larger in Number and Closer in Proximity to the Events Than ANY Other Ancient Recording of History
    • The Old and New Testament Have Been Verified with Archeology
      • The Old Testament Has been Verified by Archeological Findings from Neighboring Cultures
        • The Ebla Tablet
        • Archaeological digs in the city of Bogazkoy, Turkey
        • Archeological Digs in Sargon's Palace in Khorsabad, Iraq
        • The Belshazar Tablet
        • The Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet
      • The Old Testament Has been Verified by extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events
        • The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak 
        • The revolt of Moab against Israel 
        • The fall of Samaria 
        • The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II 
        • The campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah 
        • The siege of Lachish by Sennacherib 
        • The assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons 
        • The fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah 
        • The fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon 
        • The captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon 
        • The fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians 
        • The freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great 
      • The New Testament Gospels and Writings Have Been Verified By Archeology
        • The Census Has Been Confirmed by the Quirinius Inscription
        • The Existence of Lysanias has Been Confirmed by the Damascus Inscription
        • The court called “the Pavement” has been confirmed by the discovery of the Tower of Antonia
        • The Existence of Pontius Pilate has been confirmed by the Pontus Pilate Rock
        • The Practice of Crucifixion Has Been Confirmed by remains of Yohanan Ben Ha'galgol
        • The Existence of Iconium Has Been Confirmed by the William Ramsay monument
        • The Term “Politarch” Has Been Confirmed By Thessalonican Inscriptions
        • The Existence of Sergius Paulus Has Been Confirmed y the Sergius Paulus Inscription
        • The Existence of Gallio, the Proconsul of Achaia Has Been Confirmed by the Delphi Inscriptions
      • The New Testament Gospel of Luke Includes Several True Accounts of Roman Cultural Practice
        • It includes a correct description of two ways to gain Roman citizenship 
        • It includes an accurate explanation of provincial penal procedure 
        • It includes a true depiction of invoking one's roman citizenship, including the legal formula, de quibus cognoscere volebam 
        • It includes a true description of being in Roman custody and the conditions of being imprisoned at one's own expense 
    • The Old and New Testament Have Been Confirmed by Prophecy
      • The Old Testament Accurately Predicts Ancient Historical Events
        • Babylon Will Rule Over Judah for 70 Years
        • Babylon's Gates Will Open for Cyrus
        • Babylon's Kingdom Will Be Permanently Overthrown
        • Babylon Will Be Reduced to Swampland
        • The Jews Will Survive Babylonian Rule and Return Home
        • The Ninevites Will Be Drunk in Their Final Hours
        • Nineveh Will Be Destroyed By Fire
        • Tyre Will Be Attacked By Many Nations
        • Tyre's Stones, Timber and Soil Will Be Cast Into the Sea
        • The Jews Will Avenge the Edomites
        • Edom Will Be Toppled and Humbled
      • The Old Testament Accurately Predicts The Coming Messiah
        • Daniel 9:25
        • Nehemiah 2:5,6
      • The New Testament Contains Accurate Predictions From Jesus Himself
        • Jesus Told Peter That He Would Deny Him Three Times 
        • Jesus Said That Jerusalem and the Temple Would Be Destroyed 
        • Jesus Said the Church Would Survive and Grow
        • Jesus Said the Gospel Would Be Preached to the Entire World 
        • Jesus Said His Words Would Never Be Forgotten 
      • The New Testament Contains Accurate Predictions Fulfilled by  Jesus Himself
        • The Messiah Would Come from the Tribe of Judah 
        • The Messiah Will Appear After the Jews Return to Israel 
        • The Messiah Would Be Born in Bethlehem 
        • The Messiah Would Be Preceded By a Messenger 
        • The Messiah Would Enter Jerusalem While Riding on a Donkey 
        • The Messiah Would Suffer and Be Rejected 
        • The Messiah Would Be Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver 
        • The Messiah Would Be Silent Before His Accusers 
        • The Messiah Would Be Wounded, Whipped and Crucified 
        • The Messiah Would Suffer at the Crucifixion 
        • The Messiah Would Be Crucified With Criminals 
        • The Messiah Would Be Buried in a Rich Man’s Tomb 
    • The Old and New Testament Foreshadow Scientific Discoveries
      • The Shape of the Earth
      • The Seating of the Earth in the Cosmos
      • The Fact That the Universe is Expanding
      • The Fact That There is a Beginning to Time and Matter (a Cosmological Singularity)
      • The Fact That There Are Valleys in the Seas
      • The Fact That There Are Springs and Fountains in the Sea
      • The Fact That There Are Ocean Currents
      • The Existence of the Hydrologic Cycle
      • The Existence of Entropy
      • The True Nature of Pleiades, Orion and Arcturus
  • The Case for the Historicity of Jesus is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that Jesus Existed
    • The Account from Pagan Historians
      • The Historical Record of Thallus (52AD)
      • The Historical Record of Pliny the Younger (61-113AD)
      • The Historical Record of Suetonius (69-140AD)
      • The Historical Record of Tacitus (56-120AD) 
      • The Historical Record of Mara Bar-Serapion (70AD) 
      • The Historical Record of Phlegon (80-140AD)
      • The Historical Record of Lucian of Samosata: (115-200 A.D.)
      • The Historical Record of Celsus (175AD)
    • The Account from Jewish Historians
      • The Historical Record of Josephus (37-101AD)
      • The Historical Record of the Jewish Talmud (400-700AD) 
      • The Historical Record of The Toledot Yeshu (1000AD)
      • The Historical Record of Josephus (37-101AD)
      • The Historical Record of Josephus (37-101AD)
    • The Account from the Trustworthy Biblical Record
  • The Case for the Nature of Jesus from the Biblical Record is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that He Was Divine
    • Jesus Claimed to Be God
      • He Prefaced His Statements As Though He Was God
      • He Identified Himself With God’s Own Name (“I Am”)
      • He Said that He and the Father Were From the Same World
      • He Talked As Though He Was Equal With God
      • He Said That He and God Were One
    • Jesus Demonstrated that He Had the Nature of God
      • He Demonstrated Omniscience
      • He Demonstrated Omnipresence
      • He Demonstrated Omnibenevolence
      • He Demonstrated Omnipotence
    • Jesus Was Worshiped As God by Those Who Knew Him
      • The wise men worshiped him from the moment He was born 
      • The leper worshiped Him at his healing 
      • The synagogue ruler worshiped Him 
      • The disciples worshiped him in the boat 
      • The Canaanite woman worshiped Him 
      • The mother of James and John worshipped Him 
      • The blind man worshiped Him at his healing 
      • The women worshiped Him at the empty tomb 
      • The disciples worshiped Him at the Ascension
    • The Resurrection is Evidence of Jesus’ Deity
      • There is Good Reason to Believe That Jesus Died on the Cross
        • The Roman Soldiers Would Not Have Allowed Jesus to Survive
        • The Soldiers Didn’t Break Jesus’ Legs
        • John Saw Water Come from Jesus’ Side
        • The Living Jesus Does Not Show Up anywhere Else in History
        • The Bible Offered an Eyewitness to Verify the Death
      • There is Good Reason to Believe That the Apostles Didn’t Imagine the Resurrection
        • There is no Such Thing as a Group Hallucination
        • The Corpse Was Never Produced
        • The Apostles Calimed to be Eyewitnesses
      • There is Good Reason to Believe that the Resurrection is Not Merely a Legend
        • There’s Not Enough Time for the Legend to Develop
        • The First Witnesses Were Women and This Would Have Been Seen As Unreliable
      • There is Good Reason to Believe That the Apostles Were Not Lying About the Resurrection
        • They Could Not Have Removed the Body
        • The Locals Would Have Known It
        • They Had No Motive, and Only Suffered for the Claim
  • The Case for Life Beyond Death is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that Heaven Exists
    • The Evidence Persuades Us That There is a Good God Who Has Created Our World 
    • We Know That a Good God Would Not Create a World in Which Complete Justice, Satisfaction and Joy Are Unattainable 
    •  We Know That Complete Justice, Satisfaction and Joy Are NOT Attainable in This Temporal Earthly Life 
    • Therefore, If There is a Good God, It Is Reasonable to Believe That He Has an Eternal, Heavenly Life Waiting for Us in Which Complete Justice, Satisfaction and Joy Will Be Found
  • The Case for God’s Nature is Strong Circumstantial Evidence that Heaven is a Place of Perfection
    • If there is a God, He is powerful enough to create everything that we see in our world. He is powerful enough to create something from nothing, powerful enough to create life from non-life, matter from non-matter. 
    • If God is can do all that, he has UNFATHOMABLE power 
    • If God has unfathomable power, he has the power to eliminate this little thing we call IMPERFECTION 
    • If God has the power to eliminate imperfection, then He can certainly eliminate it from the realm in which HE exists 
    • Therefore, Heaven is a place of PERFECTION

The Case When Considered in Totality
It’s important for us, as Christians, to understand the value and power of cumulative circumstantial cases. Just like the jury in the criminal trials, we have to be wise about how we look at the evidence, and remember to look at the ‘big picture’. It’s also important for us to remember that the case for the Christian Worldview can be built on reasonable inferences; it does not rely on blind possibilities. We can make reasonable deductions and inferences from the many arguments and evidences that are presented, just as a jury does when it deliberates on a case. Our case is further strengthened by the fact that there are so many different lines of evidence, crossing over a variety of disciplines, and all leading to the same conclusion. The case for the Christian Worldview becomes strong as we consider the TOTALITY of the evidence before us. While each individual piece of evidence is compelling in its own right (and, in fact, many people have been convinced by the singular arguments) the case becomes overwhelming when considered in totality.

The two jurors in the Phil Spector case failed to step back from the individual issues and look at the case in totality. They chose to speculate about possibilities, rather than draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence. The majority of the other jurors were able to focus on what is reasonable instead of what is possible, and they were convinced by the cumulative circumstantial case against Spector. In our case against William Marshall, the jurors were also convinced by the totality of the evidence and the reasonable inferences. In the end, they knew that William Marshall was either the unluckiest person in the history of the planet (and just happened to match all the circumstantial evidence), or he was, in fact, the killer.

In a similar way, Christianity is either FALSE, but lucky enough to be consistent with the circumstantial evidence we have listed, or it is TRUE and cannot help but be authenticated by this evidence. The case for the Christian Worldview is overwhelming because it requires us to explain how ALL these individual circumstantial pieces could all point to the same conclusion. If we consider the case for the Christian Worldview just as a jury considers the evidence in any criminal case, we will come to the conclusion that Christianity is the best and most reasonable explanation for the evidence.

Article | Apologetics, Christianity & Culture, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, Theology
Jan 1, 2013
Spotlight