#STRask: May 22, 2017

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Published on 05/22/2017

J. Warner Wallace is on a timer and answers questions about free will, consistent pro-life views, and Jesus dying for sin.


  • If the ability to do otherwise is a requirement of love, then given our new natures, how will we love the Lord in the new earth?
  • How would you reply to this: If pro-lifers were sincere about when life begins, they’d have funerals for miscarriages.
  • Why did Jesus have to die for us?


Melinda: Hello there. This is Melinda the Enforcer, and this is our podcast #STRask. And instead of Greg on the timer today, we have J. Warner Wallace, cold-case Christian detective.

Jim Wallace: I’m getting stuck...I didn’t realize you had a rule you couldn’t actually see the questions before you started.

Melinda: That’s the whole point of this.

Jim Wallace: Oh my gosh. Now I’m going to really sound stupid.

Melinda: You don’t need any advance knowledge. You have all that knowledge up in your mind.

Jim Wallace: Okay. Yeah, here we go. Now you’re making it worse. You’re doubling down on how stupid I’m gonna sound here.

Melinda: No, I’m not. If I thought you were going to be stupid, you wouldn’t be on here.

Jim Wallace: Now you triple-downed. Now I’m really going to crash here.

Melinda: Now I’m going to quadruple down, because normally Greg gets four minutes to answer these questions-

Jim Wallace: Oh no, I’m running out of time. Quick ask-

Melinda: ...And I’m only going to give you three because you talk so fast.

Jim Wallace: Okay, go.

Melinda: You talk faster than Greg, so I figure in three minutes you can get four minutes of content.

Jim Wallace: I’ll try. Okay.

Melinda: Not so fast, just calm down.

Jim Wallace: It just means that I can sound stupider, faster.

Melinda: That’s true. You can get it over faster.

Jim Wallace: Yes, that’s right.

Melinda: First of all, before we move on to the questions you have a new book out. Forensic Faith.

Jim Wallace: Yes. New book. Forensic Faith, but I’ll tell ya-

Melinda: Did you take that off my desk?

Jim Wallace: I did. This is your book.

Melinda: Okay. Yeah, that’s why.

Jim Wallace: And you were one of the first endorsers of this book. So I was just delighted. As a matter of fact, did you notice that when you endorse it then Greg says, “I’m not going to endorse it then. What’s the point of my endorsing it. Melinda’s already endorsed it.” So I said, okay, perfect.

Melinda: Well there’s only one person Stand to Reason needed.

Jim Wallace: That’s right.

Melinda: But when I wrote the endorsement. I wrote it, you know, and you had asked me to write it. And so I sent it to Greg, and I said, “Hey what do you think?” And he goes, “Well, it’s not very snappy.”

Jim Wallace: Oh my gosh.

Melinda: And I said, “Well, I don’t do snappy. You know me.”

Jim Wallace: That is so funny.

Melinda: He said, “Well do you want me to snap it up a bit?” I said, “Just a little bit, but just don’t rewrite it so it’s not mine anymore.”

Jim Wallace: Right, right.

Melinda: So he just-

Jim Wallace: So it is basically a combination kind of an endorsement.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: Okay, cool. That’s fine.

Melinda: The snappy part of it is his.

Jim Wallace: Got it.

Melinda: The basic content is mine.

Jim Wallace: I had no idea. Now this is good. We’re getting the story behind the story.

Melinda: I mean but that’s how much...Greg cares about all the details, which is good.

Jim Wallace: No, he does.

Melinda: But so like even just a little endorsement, he’s always thinking so strategically, as everybody who’s learned from him knows.

Jim Wallace: Yes.

Melinda: But even for endorsements he’s got a strategy.

Jim Wallace: No, no. That’s true. And also the way he wrote The Story of Reality.

Melinda: Oh, yeah.

Jim Wallace: I mean it was very...Remember, every chapter by chapter he would talk about-

Melinda: Well and you were reading the whole thing along at the real time.

Jim Wallace: Exactly as you’re going along with him. And I thought to myself, well how could you add to this? I mean he’s so thoughtful before you begin, that unless there’s something that’s really out in left field, you know it’s going to be the most thoughtful. So yeah, I think that’s why that book reads like an evergreen prose, as opposed to, you know sometimes we write disposable things. Things that are good in the moment, but no one’s going to be talking about these 25 years from now. That’s not what The Story of Reality is.

Melinda: But talk about your book for a minute, and not just my endorsement of it.

Jim Wallace: Well really what we’re trying to do is we’ve made a case for Christianity, a case for God’s existence in both a Cold-Case Christianity and in God’s Crime Scene. This is just the case for making the case. Because as I travel around the country, I realize that most of the churches where I’m appearing, they don’t necessarily even know why we’re doing this.

Melinda: Right.

Jim Wallace: Why do we need to make a case? I’m already a believer. I don’t need that.

Melinda: It’s like with our culture becoming so hostile. It seems to us, like it’s getting more obvious why we have to be able to make a case.

Jim Wallace: But I think, if you think about it, a lot of people are like well no, everything is relatively all subjective. Can you even make an objective case? Why would we want to? That’s a lot of it too.

Melinda: Christians even think that way.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, Christians even think that way. So, I just kind of, at least address that issue, and that’s what when I first went to the publisher years ago, I had ideas for all three books. I pitched all three books at the same time. And they decided what order to do them in.

Melinda: Oh did they?

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I thought this might be the first book we would write. But it ended up being the third.

Melinda: It’s kind of the least glamorous in a certain sense, you know? The other ones-

Jim Wallace: Yes, it is. Yes here’s-

Melinda: I mean it follows in the theme of the detective stuff.

Jim Wallace: That’s right.

Melinda: But it’s sort of the least-

Jim Wallace: Yes, it’s the least kind of like flashy.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: This is really about a call to action. At some point, we have to think this way. And if you feel like you already think this way, this is a good book to give your other Christian friends who don’t yet.

Melinda: Exactly, or how to explain it to them. How to go about it.

Jim Wallace: Yes, how to explain it to them.

Melinda: It’s a very practical book.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do, is give some practical tools.

Melinda: Yeah. Why we should be going about examining our faith so we can explain it to others, and the specifics of how to do it.

Jim Wallace: Right, and then how do you do that? Yes.

Melinda: And as usual, your style, you’re drawing from your cold-case detective background, your police work.

Jim Wallace: Right, and trying to stay in my lane.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: Yeah. That’s what I try to do.

Melinda: He’s always in his lane.

Jim Wallace: I think either you know your audience or you-

Melinda: He’s never veering all over.

Jim Wallace: I don’t try to go all over the place, yeah. That’s true.

Melinda: Okay, so let’s get going.

Jim Wallace: Okay.

Melinda: So people send us their questions on Twitter using #STRask, then I post them to you, and we put you on a timer.

Jim Wallace: Okay.

Melinda: So, three minutes or less.

Jim Wallace: Go.

Melinda: First question comes from evsp123 on Twitter. “If the ability to do otherwise is a requirement of love, then given our new natures, how will we love the Lord in the new Earth?”

Jim Wallace: So I think it all comes down to the definition of what it is to have free agency. And if we pose it this way, the ability to do otherwise, it can put us in a conundrum.

Melinda: Exactly.

Jim Wallace: But if we pose it in terms of the ability to do whatever it is you want to do. If you think practically, that is what free agency is. It’s my being able to go out, and look at the set of options, and pick the one I want. Pick the action I want, that I freely want. So now if that’s the case, if that’s the definition of free agency, well now I can kind of figure out how this might be reconciled to the sovereignty of God. If in fact, heaven is not a place where I’m limited, so I can’t make options, but is instead a place where my nature has been so entirely renewed that my wants are now different, then I’m not going to sin because I no longer want that. So now I’m still freely doing whatever it is I want, what’s been changed of course though is I no longer want to do what I ought not do.

So this kind of compatibilist view that kind of finds a way to find free agency in a very practical way. Because that’s how we experience it, right? We just know that free agency is what we want to do. So I think what happens here, is if you change the definitions in such a way to create a conundrum, then you’ve got a conundrum. But if you look at the practical definitions of free agency, and I think that really is the ability to do what it is you want to do freely. Then it’s really a matter of what do I want to do?

Melinda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Wallace: And I think that’s why I always say, no listen, you’ll be able to do everything you want to do when you’re in heaven. You won’t feel restrained. Oh I can’t do this, I can’t...No, you simply won’t want to do wrong anymore because your nature will have been so utterly changed.

Melinda: Mm-hmm. I think that way of defining it is important too, because I think it’s also consistent biblically. Because prior to God changing our nature in any way at salvation, we are in bondage to sin.

Jim Wallace: Yes.

Melinda: And we can’t choose to do things according to God’s law.

Jim Wallace: That’s right.

Melinda: We need His spirit in us to be able to even do that.

Jim Wallace: Okay, so let me jump off and get three minutes out of you on this. Where do you stand on this issue?

Melinda: Well, I completely agreed with you.

Jim Wallace: No, where do you stand on the issue, do you think that once we are saved, are we still going to wrestle with our-

Melinda: Well yeah. It’s obvious.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I do too.

Melinda: I don’t think we’re...I mean we’re still in this world. And I was going to say, I mean Paul even says, “I can’t do that what I do.”

Jim Wallace: Right.

Melinda: So we’re still struggling in this. Our natures are transformed now into wanting God, but we’re still struggling with our flesh as well. And it won’t be ’til the resurrection that we’re totally free.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I’m with you on that. I have a friend though, who’s a perfectionist right? He believes that-

Melinda: But I think prior...Sorry. But I think prior to salvation, we don’t even want-

Jim Wallace: That’s right.

Melinda: God’s way is not even among the choices that we want. It’s not even on the menu for us.

Jim Wallace: No, I think you’re right. I used to always say that sometimes on this side of the cross, I still find myself doing the things I detest as Paul did.

Melinda: Oh absolutely.

Jim Wallace: The only difference is that now I’m struggling with it.

Melinda: Exactly.

Jim Wallace: Now I feel this sense of shame and remorse, or just a desire to want to struggle, whereas before I never did. I was celebrating those things, and never saw them as anything I needed to correct. I’m not sure is that enough though? So my friend who’s a perfectionist believes that, he actually believes that as we are sanctified, that we have the ability to eliminate all of that from our sinful nature and reach a place of not just positional perfection, but of practical perfection.

Melinda: I just don’t see that in the New Testament.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, and that’s why...But of course, they would look at people like us then, and say well you’re not saved, or you’re not really where you need to be. I’m not sure how they would look at us. That’s why I asked you that question about how you feel about perfection.

Melinda: Yeah, I don’t think that’s even a Biblical view.

Jim Wallace: I don’t either, but I’m curious if anybody will later respond to us on Twitter or on social media and kind of offer that perspective also. Okay.

Melinda: But I was also...The way you redefined it, I think is important too, because of God’s nature. So is God not a free agent, if free will means being able to do otherwise?

Jim Wallace: Right.

Melinda: Of course not.

Jim Wallace: Right.

Melinda: And yet God is the most free agent there is.

Jim Wallace: That’s a great point, because that idea about free agency begins and is grounded in the nature of God.

Melinda: Mm-hmm.

Jim Wallace: The idea that you have every possible option, to me makes no sense if you apply this now to the divine free agency of God. So I think it is really a matter of saying the most practical definition we have is this ability to do whatever it is you want to do. That’s a good definition.

Melinda: Next question comes from dbcooper. Isn’t that the guy who-

Jim Wallace: I know.

Melinda: The one unsolved like-

Jim Wallace: Yes. And he jumped out of a plane-

Melinda: ...Hijacking case, yeah.

Jim Wallace: It was a billion dollars or whatever it was. A million dollars he had in his backpack.

Melinda: It was only like a quarter of a million.

Jim Wallace: Whatever it was...Back then-

Melinda: But in 1974 it was whole lot, but yeah.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, right, right, a lot of money.

Melinda: So.

Jim Wallace: So this is him now writing to us with a question, which is awesome.

Melinda: We finally discovered him.

Jim Wallace: Yes, we’ll just track this guy down, and we’ll solve this crime.

Melinda: A few months ago on the History Channel, I saw a commercial for a special where they dug into just some new evidence. And they were going to reveal it and stuff, and so that’s kind of interesting. I’ll watch that. Two hours of slowly, all the buildup and everything. Two hours. No, it really isn’t, it’s not him.

Jim Wallace: Yeah. Exactly.

Melinda: So I was just like, oh gosh.

Jim Wallace: It’s like the old...Who was the one where he had the vault of Al Capone?

Melinda: Oh yeah.

Jim Wallace: And then nothing was in it, right? So yeah-

Melinda: Right, Geraldo Rivera.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, Geraldo had scheduled a two-hour special, when you get to that point you’ve got to fill the two hours.

Melinda: Yeah. So here’s dbcooper444. “How would you reply to this? If pro-lifers were sincere about when life begins, they’d have funerals for miscarriages.”

Jim Wallace: Well, I mean I think if you look at a couple of things. As far as Christians I know who have had, if not funerals, have had services for miscarried babies. I have actually seen that amongst my Christian friends, who really believe. And they will talk about that baby as though it’s a lost member of the family.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: And I mean I’ve got several Christian...So I think it’s not as though there’s no Christian that’s consistent about this approach. There are many Christians who do memorialize the loss of a baby and a miscarriage, the way they would any one-year-old. It’s not unusual, right? I think there’s something tragic and sad. We have to make a decision. Are we going to be consistent? And I almost feel it ought to compel us to commemorate miscarriages, and that’s just if we’re going to be consistent about our Christian world-view.

I often will hear people say, “Well if you’re consistent about your Christian world-view, if you think you care about life, what are you doing with those children who are unwanted who are born?” And I think that we of all people ought to be the people who will reach out and adopt, reach out and foster, reach out and take care of all children. Orphans, we’re called to take care of orphans. And so it does seem to me that if we’re going to be consistent and do that, we ought to also be consistent...And I think I’ve seen that many times.

Melinda: I was gonna say. Very often, Christians are very much doing these things. It doesn’t get a lot of attention.

Jim Wallace: Yeah. A lot of attention, right. But I know that I’ve got, I can think of two families in particular that have not only done that, but in the years since when they were able to conceive and have a child, they always referred to, they even had a name for that miscarried child. That they always referred to that as though that child could have died at the age of one, and it would not have been talked about any differently. So I don’t know that we aren’t being consistent that way.

Melinda: Well, it just seems like also there’s...I mean as Christians, we’re also products of our culture. And for many, many years, I mean like through our parents’ generation, you just didn’t even talk about miscarriages.

Jim Wallace: Yeah.

Melinda: So to a great extent, I think maybe it’s just that sort of thing is changing so people actually are talking about miscarriages.

Jim Wallace: That’s a good point.

Melinda: So it’s not necessarily an inconsistency in somebody’s view, it’s just whether we’re sort of ready to begin to acknowledge these things, even publicly within our own families.

Jim Wallace: You know, I almost wonder if there are still people who feel as though a miscarriage is some kind of judgment on whether or not I’m capable of carrying a child to term.

Melinda: Yeah, or they did something wrong. Right.

Jim Wallace: And then, so I have a sense of not just loss of the baby, but of almost-

Melinda: Guilt.

Jim Wallace: ...A shame or guilt, and that’s why this isn’t treated the same way right? So I think you’ve gotta factor that in for sure. And that’s probably why you do see that there is still a stigma attached for some people. And maybe that will be different as we go forward. I’ve noticed that as I’m studying Gen Z now, getting ready to write a book with Sean McDowell, and I’ll tell you what. I do wonder how much of culture has changed. How much this generation takes for granted, and how much they no longer think about these other issues that we would have thought about...I think our time is up. Sounds like it.

Melinda: Let me just go back kind of to the question again though. But if a pro-lifer does not have a funeral or things like that for miscarriage, does that mean we should question their pro-life view?

Jim Wallace: Oh I don’t think so, because I think this issue you’re talking about, is that this is not as though...I think miscarrying a child still has this emotional attachment, this emotional connotation that’s more. It’s deeper. I think there is a sense, that until you know...How many young women have you known, who have miscarried, and you can tell they really want to carry a child to term, almost in an effort to demonstrate that they can carry a child to term.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: And once they have, like okay, now I can actually talk about the miscarriage, and it finds it’s place in my narrative.

Melinda: That’s true yeah.

Jim Wallace: Whereas if all I’ve ever done was miscarry, I would feel like I was a failure in some way.

Melinda: Yeah. I’ve noticed that.

Jim Wallace: Is it me? Am I not healthy enough? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not a good steward? Am I mistreating my own body to make this happen? There’s a sense of guilt involved. I think that kind of rules the day still for a lot of people. You notice, after two or three successful kids, now they’re talking about, “Yeah, you know the first two times we miscarried.” And it’s not so raw anymore.

Melinda: Yeah.

Jim Wallace: They can talk about it. When it is raw, I wouldn’t expect them to draw attention to it.

Melinda: Well, yeah, I think there’s a lot of pain involved in miscarriage and the loss. And like you said, if you don’t already have children, it’s the wondering if you’ll ever have children. So I think a lot of keeping it private is also just how painful it is.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, and I’m always afraid to even discuss this, because we’ve not experienced that in my relationship with Susie, so I know that I’m speaking out of the side of my head in some ways, trying to kind of figure out why this would be true. And taking the chance that I’m minimizing, or not really capturing the whole picture. But I bet you that those elements are part of the narrative at least.

Melinda: And I think a lot of women, and husbands too, even if they may not have a ceremony, if they may not talk about it, I would be willing to bet the vast of majority of them in their minds remember that often, and remember it every year on the anniversary it happens.

Jim Wallace: Oh absolutely, yeah, no I think that that’s why I say the discussion afterwards, even if you’re not willing to celebrate the fact you couldn’t carry a baby to term. That’s what probably it feels like to a lot of people. If I have this ceremony, am I really bringing attention to the fact that we failed. So I think for a lot of people, it’s not going to happen, but years afterwards, they will always talk about that unborn child as a living part of their family that died. And so I think that that’s the language we need to look at, to see if they really believe it’s a living child.

Melinda: Good. Thanks. Okay, last question, all4hymn, H-Y-M-N, “How would you...” Oh I’m not going to ask you this, nevermind, because it would require a little more preparation, and I didn’t let you prepare.

Jim Wallace: Okay.

Melinda: Okay let me just throw this at you. Why did Jesus have to die for us?

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I remember asking this question of Susie, after I went through all of the Gospels, and I was looking at them from a forensic perspective about are they reliable. And I got to a place where I felt like, okay I think these are telling me the truth about Jesus of Nazareth in the first century.

Melinda: Was this before you were a Christian?

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I wasn’t a Christian yet, but I was already kind of working though the Gospels, and I felt comfortable that they passed the test of reliability. And I remember one night, saying to Susie, “Okay, so I’m close. I think these are reliable accounts, but I don’t get why this would have to be this way. Why would Jesus have to die? Why would this have to happen this way?” And I asked, “Do you get it? Do you understand that part of it?” Because she had been kind of raised as a cultural Catholic, and just kind of attended mass. And I said, “Do you get it?” And she’s like, “No. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know why it has.”

So I knew I had to go further, right? I had to go do more than just look at the forensic statements about Jesus of Nazareth. And what I discovered as I looked at the statements made in scripture about Jim Wallace, because there’s ton of those in there too, especially in the letters of Paul, then I started to get it. I had believed that, which was just my understanding of what was said about Jesus of Nazareth was true, but I had no belief in, because I didn’t understand yet what it was saying about me. And as I realized that, yeah all of this...I remember exactly where I was for this. I remember where I was parked. I was in a surveillance team. I was working a bad guy in the city of Carson. I was not on the eye. I was reading my Bible off the eye. So you have a couple of hours to kill.

Melinda: What’s the eye?

Jim Wallace: That’s the person who has to watch the bad guy. He was home, so we had a couple of hours while he was hanging out at home. And then we had one officer whose job was to watch him, kind of in the bushes, and then the rest of us were on the perimeter. So I had some time to kill, and I’m reading my Bible. And I’m reading through Romans and I Corinthians. And I’m like, wow, you know, nailed it. I really felt convicted, and I realize that there is a penalty for sin, and that if anyone deserved to be punished...I started to become convicted of my own need for a savior, but I don’t know that I would have been able to be convicted if I first didn’t trust that that Bible was telling me something true.

And that’s what all that other work had done. It had cleared the bushes for me so that I knew that it was telling me the truth, and then I started to look at what it was telling me about me, and that’s when I realized that yeah, by the way, this is not God saying that one of us must die for the other. This is God paying the price Himself in the form of the man, Jesus. So He’s taking that...It’s that analogy we often use, of being in front of the judge, and I get this during jury trials, and having the judge pardon somebody, and take the punishment on himself to let this deserved sinner, this deserved criminal walk free.

And this idea that...Then I started to get it, and I remember coming home to Susie, and trying to kind of walk through it with her, because I didn’t have good tools at that time. I wasn’t listening to preachers on the radio, or I didn’t have any Christians that I could ask this. We were going to church, not all the time, but occasionally. And I was just trying to glean it from Paul’s letters, and I was really kind of testing as I was going. And it took me a little while to get to that point where I realized that that death on...That something had to be done to pay the price that I deserved. And if any act of a good, loving God was ever going to take place, wouldn’t it be God doing all of it?

And that’s what he did with Jesus. He’s not asking one of us to pay the price for somebody else. He’s willing to pay the price Himself. And that at least helped me to take the next step.

Melinda: The cross doesn’t make any sense if you don’t understand your guilt in the first place.

Jim Wallace: Right.

Melinda: That’s why, you know Ray Comfort has for many years talked about the importance of the bad news. And a lot of times, we’re quick to share the Gospel, but we’re quick to share the Good News, and yet we haven’t laid the groundwork for it. Which the Bible actually does, in the law, in the Mosaic Law and all of that, which is supposed to convict us of our sin, and how bad we are.

Jim Wallace: No that’s a very good point.

Melinda: Because otherwise, the Good News makes no difference.

Jim Wallace: You know I will sometimes say that the approach that the disciples took in the first century is not a Ray Comfort approach. But they’re taking it in the context of a culture that understood the bad news. So they didn’t have to make this case from zero up, but I think you’re right. That’s why Ray’s work is so powerful, right? Because he gets the culture to that point first, his group, his audience to that point first, so the Good News sounds like good news. And I think we’re in a different culture right now, where everyone’s view of themselves is determined by themselves. So it’s not surprising that no one thinks they are in a bad place.

Melinda: Of course, we know because they are created in God’s image, we know the truth, and it’s deep down in there somewhere, they’re just suppressing it.

Jim Wallace: That’s right.

Melinda: They’re trying to deal with their guilt in other ways.

Jim Wallace: No you’re absolutely right, and that’s why I always say that this is all a God thing. I do believe it’s all the Grace of God, because I would never have been interested to even open that scripture, I never would have had that moment where I saw my own sin, all of that is a gift. And until you get to that point where God gives you that open eyes, none of this does make sense. It’s crazy.

Melinda: Yeah, that’s for sure. Well thanks Jim. We really appreciate your input on all this. It’s very insightful.

Jim Wallace: Yeah, I look forward...We kind of went over the three minute thing but we did our best.

Melinda: That’s okay. Well, you know, interesting discussion trumps the three minutes.

Jim Wallace: Well, I hope so.

Melinda: So that’s it for this episode folks. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRasks so we can find them, and this week is only going to be one episode. That’s all the questions we had this week. So send us more questions. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with J. Warner Wallace for Stand to Reason.