Interview with Cold Case Homicide Detective J. Warner Wallace, Part 2
The nature of evidence, how cases are built using evidence, and attitudes that investigators have when trying to determine “what happened.”
In this episode, Abdu sits down with his friend and nationally recognized cold case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace to talk about the nature of evidence, how cases are built using evidence, and attitudes that investigators have when trying to determine “what happened.” Along the way, they apply the discussion to our individual searches for the truth about Jesus.
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Abdu Murray: All rise ladies and gentlemen of the jury and welcome to another episode of The Defense Rests. I'm your host Abdu Murray. I am a trial attorney and Senior Vice President and speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. The Defense Rests is a podcast where we take a look at the claims for, the objections against the Christian faith using legal principles. Whether it's the rules of evidence or trial procedure or even the Constitution and the principles of law upon which a free society is based or the way juries think and jury science or the way judges make their rulings and why they make their rulings the way they do.
We have to examine ourselves as jurors, people who are the trier of fact. A trier of fact is simply exactly what it sounds like, someone who looks at the facts, sees the evidence, weighs the credibility of the witnesses, weighs the importance of the evidence presented and then makes a determination of liable or not liable, guilty or not guilty or in the case of the Christian faith, true or not true. It is the question each one of us has to ask ourselves and you my friends, as the audience, you are the jury. And so we have to find out, does the Christian faith meet the preponderance of the evidence test? In some cases, does it meet the clear and convincing evidence test? Or does it prove itself beyond all reasonable, not all possible, but all reasonable doubt?
Well, my friends I am delighted to have as a returning guest for part two of our—I'm hoping you're finding it a fascinating discussion, I certainly am. J. Warner Wallace. J. Warner Wallace is a well-known homicide detective, a cold case, Dateline featured cold case homicide detective, a national speaker and a best-selling author. He's written numerous books that take the perspective of being a cold case homicide detective, which is particularly pertinent to our discussion today because oftentimes the claims of the Christian faith and the test of the evidence for the Christian faith is based on centuries, if not millennia old evidence and to see if it actually holds up.
Well. Jim is a cold case homicide detective and so he has spent his entire career or most of his career looking at cases that are old and determining whether or not there are good reasons to present the case to a jury, helping the prosecution present that case to the jury and ultimately winning that case. Oftentimes, by the way, when witnesses are not around, they've died or passed on or memories have faded or they're unavailable, or whatever it might be. So you can see the obvious parallels, right, ladies and gentlemen? We don't have Mark or Peter or James or John or Paul or even Jesus, in the flesh right in front of us to ask them, "What happened?" We have other kinds of evidence, but it is good evidence. And we're going to get into that a little bit more.
Jim, it's great to have you back on for this next part of our conversation. Thanks for being on the show once again and providing us with some of your insight.
J. Wallace Warner: Well, I appreciate you having me on. You just said something that struck. Before I forget it, I want to just bring it up because you're right. We don't have access to the people who wrote the gospel, to ask follow up questions. Because when I worked fresh homicides before I ever worked cold cases, I was…You get called out in the middle of the night, takes you an hour to get there because you've got to put a suit on and then you get there, the police have separated the eyewitnesses for you. You want that. Otherwise, they'll have the same story five times and what you want is the five slightly different, it looks like they're even contradictory stories because that's the way real eyewitnesses testify and you don't want them harmonizing because they've had an hour to talk to each other.
But more importantly, you'll send out detectives to help you. I'm not alone. I've got to have a five man team. So I'll tell my buddies who are working on the team, "Hey, do me a favor." And either tell, "You talk to so and so. There's five witnesses of theirs split up and talk to those folks while I'm doing this thing over here." Maybe the coroner's investigator is about to land or CSI is about to arrive on scene, so I want to be there to deal with that. And I'll have the other detectives canvass the neighborhood, they'll go on all the...Potentially there's a witness out here who we haven't identified yet and we want to either capture their earliest statement or maybe the fact that they say early on, they didn't see anything in case they come up later on and say they did.
But we're going to canvass this neighborhood to collect all these eyewitness statements. Now, I'll get those back. And the next day after we work 48 hours and we're beat until I finally get some sleep and I come back. And now I've got this stack of reports from all the team who have interviewed say, 30 witnesses or at least knocked on 30 doors. And I've got to read those. And if I read through all those, I guarantee you that there will be problems. There'll be stuff that you're going, "What in the world?" It sounds like there...are you even on the same planet when this happened? How in the world could it be so different?
But what's great about it is I have the ability then to go back and re-interview everybody, maybe two or three times. And without feeding them what witness number one said, I can kind of tease at it, to get them to repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. For example, if you get one report where there's only one angel that appears to be at the tomb and the gospels in another report where there's two, well, I'm not available now to...clearly it didn't bug anybody at the time because both those gospels by the way were actively used together early in history. So it's not like they didn't know there was a difference between these two. But for whatever reason, they didn't need to ask a follow up.
Now, centuries later, we're like going, "Okay. I want to know why they're different." Well, if it was a fresh homicide, I could still talk to those guys, I would go out but I wouldn't say, "Witness number two says there were two and you only mentioned one. What's the deal with that?" Because then I'm giving up something I want the witness to tell me without being prompted by me. I'm going to have to say, "Okay," so you talked to a witness, "Okay. So tell me, what else did you see while you were there?" With that witness, when talking to that angel or talking to whoever that was. "What else did you see?" Be very general. I'm not even going to say, "Did you see anyone else?" Because that's to suggest to see another person that I'm looking for. I'm going to try to be as neutral as possible to tease out any kind of clarification.
And then hopefully, if I do that and it's all recorded, so that the juries later are going to judge me harshly if I'm too direct about this, I have to tease it out without being obvious, then I'll be able to clarify what otherwise is going to be used by the defense to argue that this guy's testimony is contradictory. A lot of that, what you see in the gospels is just our inability to...after that whole area is canvased, we unfortunately don't have access to the witnesses. But if we did, there's no doubt in my mind that a lot of these alleged contradictions or differences between the gospels would be worked out.
Abdu Murray: Yeah. And there's actually little hints too when you can see it at careful reading sometimes, which I would analogize loosely to re-interviewing the witnesses. Just go back and reread the testimonies. If you have a situation where, well, my goodness, the gospels, the Synoptics tend to report that there is more than one woman who comes to the tomb but John says there's only one woman who comes to the tomb on the first morning, it's Mary. And my goodness, you have a contradiction here.
Well, when she says the statement, "We," to Jesus, "We don't know," because she thinks that's the...they don't know where Jesus is, "We don't know where they've put him." Well, who is the we? See, it's oftentimes the case that one little word can open up a seeming contradiction. And I think whether you are re-interviewing the witness or you're rereading the testimony as written down in the testimony of the evangelists as Simon Greenleaf calls it, you're finding little things that can oftentimes clear up the problem that we think in our cleverness, oh presents a problem that's insurmountable. And that's a different story. But let me...go ahead.
J. Wallace Warner: Sorry. But look at it this way too. You know that if you look at the four gospels, you'll do a verse count of all four gospels, you'll find that Mark's gospel is very brief. There's a bunch of stuff that is not in Mark's gospels that you will find in Luke or in Matthew. There's a bunch of stuff in John's gospel, there's not in any other gospel and then a bunch of stuff from the other gospels that's not in John's. And John kind of gives us a clue at the end. Yeah, there's a lot of stuff we aren't writing about folks. We're telling you some of it but if we were going to write about everything that Jesus did and said, there would be more...It wouldn't be enough shelf space for all this stuff.
It's clear that every one of these guys, like every witness has an editorial process, a process by which they focus on some things and not on others. Well, what is it that guides the editorial process of eyewitnesses? Sometimes it's stuff that's really interesting because it could be like, well, what is he trying to say to me? What is he trying...he's trying to make a case for something about this guy when he tells me this. Okay. So that might show sometimes what it is his goal is in giving the testimony at all. But other times, it's very benign. It's very...
To give you an example of this, we live very close to the beach here in Southern California. So we're at the beach a lot and we'll either go for walks or runs at the beach. We're coming back from a run and we're walking up this long ramp from the beach to the street. And as we're walking up the ramp, a lady walks by. I noticed she was in running clothes. Okay. That's about...So if you asked me, "Jim, that lady who was walking by you on the way up the ramp, what was she wearing?" I would say, "Running clothes." "Well what kind of running clothes?" "I don't know." "Was she wearing shorts? Or was she wearing like a tight leggings? What was she..." I didn't catch it. Okay, because she just passed by me. It wasn't very critical.
Now my wife will tell you the brand of the running shorts and the pattern of the running shorts because it just so happened that she noticed she was wearing the same shorts that my wife wears but she noticed they were much tighter on the girl, like she was wearing a much smaller pair than my wife would typically wear. She could even tell you the size. Now, what's happening there? Well it turns out that of these two eyewitnesses, myself and my wife, one has no interest and the other has not only an interest but knows specifically because she is interested in that brand of clothing and that pair of shorts and even notices a size issue. Sometimes it's a combination of your background, who are you? What are you interested in? What are your likes and dislikes? How are you wired? Genetically, your parents, are raised by your parents a certain way?
These things go into how we see things and how we report them to others. If you're only interested in the angel who spoke, and what was really being said in that scene, you really are interested in the dialogue that occurred in that scene, you'll see there's a lot of heavy dialogue in that particular gospel, then you're probably only going to mention the angel that spoke. But there might be more but you're just talking about the one who spoke. These are why you see differences in all eyewitness testimony. As a new investigator of the gospels, this was the very thing that provoked me because when I...
The first pastor, whoever described Jesus just described him as the smartest man who ever lived and that's what started me on a journey. I wanted to see why did he think this guy was so darn smart? And if he was smart, maybe I could steal something. I was reading through the gospels for this limited purpose. And when I read the accounts and the level of variation between the accounts, I said, "Oh, this feels like eyewitness testimony." And it just has a texture of it. And I thought, I'm going to start to test it as eyewitness testimony to see if it actually is and if it holds up. And so it was the differences between the gospels that first interested me in the gospels.
Abdu Murray: Let's pause for a moment because I think this is where we're getting to the million dollar thing that I was talking about before, this whole idea of, you're going to employ it at some point, but forensic statement analysis and understanding how important the differences are to not discrediting the gospels but actually giving them more credibility. We were hitting there. I want to make sure to pause the audience to understand. Let's not gloss over this. This is an important part of discussion. Continue, Jim.
J. Wallace Warner: Okay. Well, there's this discipline that we often use when we're talking about statements made by either...has much witnesses but mostly by suspects. It is called “forensic statement analysis, FSA.” And so we're using FSA. Usually, again, I'm going to just caveat this. It's kind of an art as much as a science. There are some aspects of it that we can say I can quantify, but most of it is really going to have to be what is my inference based on the evidence that I'm drawing out of the statement and these are statements that can be...I've done forensic statement analysis for example, on old cases where all I had was several cassette decks, cassette tapes of initial interviews.
So I will have...you find the best person on your team who can actually transcribe all of that for you. It has to be transcribed. You have to listen to it to make sure the transcriptions are good. So I listened to it, make sure that this written out exactly. And then I can do a forensic statement analysis on the transcription. Better, even is if you have the suspect in front of you, is that you can give them a piece of paper, it's usually going to have like 24 lines on one side. You see, you can only write on one side, you give them a pen. "Tell me everything you did yesterday, the day of the crime, from the moment you got up to the moment you went to bed."
So if he says he got up at 8 a.m., went to bed at 12. Well, then you know you got what 12 hours and plus four, you've got 16 hours you have to account for. So you can take a look and say well, 24 lines divided by 16. If he's going to give us an even accounting time-wise, he's going to have X number of lines per hour. And if he begins to expand time or contract time, we are going to look at that as an opportunity to ask why is he doing that? It may be benign. It may be just the way he tells stories. But if you have him do this repeatedly, you can get a sense. And the more you talk to somebody, you get a sense. If I've got like 20 transcripts or 20 interviews that were done in 1972, well, I've got a pretty good collection of responses that I can start to look at and say, "No, he always says it that way." Or, "No, this is new. He's never used that word before."
And so I'm looking for deception indicators. And those are the times where somebody is going to compress or expand, they're going to switch their use of pronouns, switch their use of tense sometimes, switch the way...if you look at the Tonya Harding statement about Nancy Kerrigan, this is years ago when Tonya was accused of clubbing her rival. There were both figure skaters, Olympic figure skaters and she releases a statement in which she describes her relationship with Nancy Kerrigan. Well, if you read that statement, you'll see the different ways she doesn't always call her Nancy. She doesn't call her...she sometimes might say, "My friend," or "my companion."
She'll change the way she refers to her as she's narrating the story and interestingly, she uses the most distant pronouns she can use for Nancy at the very time that Nancy is being attacked. So you're going to be able to look and see well how am I using tense? How am I using adverbs and adjectives? Remember that no one ever needs to use an adjective or an adverb. You really don't. These are optional words. And so because they're optional, I can look and say, "Well, why would he use, given all the choices? All the things that that could be said, why would you say it that way?" That was powerful.
I'm trying to think if I have...I've got a case from years ago, where when asked, he was notified that his wife was murdered. And he was asked for his response and you can imagine the ways you might respond to that, "Oh, I couldn't believe it." By the way. It just happened like yesterday. And he's talked to about it. He's interviewed about it. And he says, "I hate to inform you but your wife has been..." So it's the first he allegedly is hearing of it. And so what will his response be? You can stop it right there for the jury. Just say he's just been notified that 12 hours earlier, his wife, his ex-wife, he had just been separated had been murdered.
And what's he going to say? Well, that's a great time for use of forensic statement analysis because you're going to ask yourself, not just what does he say but like we talked about in the last episode, what could he have said but chose not to? Right. In this guy's case, he said, "Well, we never had a great relationship. But I hate to see anyone die. No one likes to see anyone die. I hate to see anyone die." That's a really strange way to put it, don't you think? It turns out that the last person to see her alive, the person who saw her die was this guy. Now is that statement give him away? Not really. It has to be assessed in totality with all the other things he would say.
But he never once said, "Well, who did it?" By the way, wouldn't you ask, "How did it happen?" He never asked how it happened. He never asked who did it. He never asked where it happened. Because he knew all those things. He already knew the answer to all those things. Now listen to me, if he had been playing along, he should have at least asked those questions because he doesn't know the answer to those questions and that's the first thing I want to know. If somebody says, "Your ex-wife was killed." By the way, this is why when we say that to them, we don't say, "Yeah, I hate to report to you, but yesterday, your ex-wife was found shot to death in her house at 12 p.m.” We think it's...
No, we don't give any of that information. We want to see, will he ask? Okay. Because we know that if you already know the answer, you're not going to ask. My point is forensic statement analysis considers all of these things. And so how powerful for me is that I had been doing this with my agency for a number of years by the time I was looking at the gospels for the first time and I also knew that just reading it, that Mark is not an eyewitness, necessarily. There's some traditions that say he us. I didn't see anything that I thought was all that compelling to suggest that Mark was actually an eyewitness. Papias in the early second century says that Papias, that Mark wrote the account at the feet of Peter in Rome. And that Mark was not necessarily writing everything in the right order.
He said he was accurate, if not orderly, meaning he wasn't putting the details in the right order, probably because Peter's not preaching them as a historical narrative. He's preaching them in topics. Mark's doing his best to reassemble it. Okay, so the question is, if that's true, wouldn't I expect to find a little bit of the fingerprints of Mark in the writings of...fingerprints of Peter rather in the gospel of Mark? Wouldn't I expect to find out a little bit? And so for me, it became an issue of well, could I use forensic statement analysis just to see if in fact, Peters fingerprints are in the gospel of Mark? And you'll find all kinds of interesting things if you do that.
I think there's a good case that can be made, that Mark is doing...by the way, we have somebody telling us that's what he did, because this is what Papias is telling us. But I'm just saying, if I didn't know that, could I use it? You will see that Mark mentions Peter with great prominence. He's featured frequently in Mark's gospel. He just is. He refers to Peter 26 times in that very short account where Matthew only mentions him three times more in a gospel that's about twice as long. Peter is very, very prominent in Mark's gospel. He also seems to be very familiar. He's the only writer who doesn't use the word Simon Peter when describing Peter.
He either uses “Simon” or “Peter.” He never uses the word “Simon Peter,” which is clearly the word you would use if you're distinguishing this Peter from others. That might seem like it's nothing, but I think it is important and that's the most popular name in Palestine by the way, at the time of Mark's writing, yet Mark makes no attempt to ever single out this Peter from others given us the most popular name out there. He never calls him Simon Peter. Really? John refers to Peter as Simon Peter 17 times in another short gospel, John's gospel is the second shortest gospel.
Okay, so I think that's something that's to look at. Also, he kind of starts...he bookends the gospel, if you look at Mark 1 and then Mark 16, you'll see that Peter is the first disciple in Mark 1. He is the last disciple mentioned in Mark 16. That's interesting to me. But he's also given great respect. What I mean is, if somebody says, "you see this all the time, Jesus teaching this and then Peter says this stupid thing. And Peter does. He says, all of a bunch of stupid things in the gospels. You see him do this all the time. That's not going to happen in Mark's gospel nearly as much.
As Mark covers for Peter really well, so there's two accounts for example of the walking water of Jesus. In one of the accounts, Peter decides to get out of the boat. And then once he gets out of the boat, he begins to sink. Then Jesus says to Peter, he says, "Hey, you're a man of little faith." He calls him a man of little faith in front of everybody else. But that was on Matthew's account. It does not happen in Mark's. Okay. As a matter of fact, in Mark's account Peter never gets out of the boat. I'll give you an example. Luke's gospel has a description of that miraculous catch. By the way if you haven't seen The Chosen-
Abdu Murray: Yeah, I definitely have.
J. Wallace Warner: Oh my gosh. I recommend it too. I thought they did a wonderful job with the miraculous catch kind of creating a fictional backstory that leads up to the miraculous... That was pretty cool. Anyway, but if you look at Luke's account of that, Peter is actually saying that he doubts Jesus's wisdom. It's in The Chosen series also. He's like saying, "Hey, I have already tried. Okay. I've been successful all day trying to catch fish." He doubts Jesus and then he catches a ton of fish, and he says, "Go away from me Lord. I'm a sinful man." This is in Luke 5. But in the parallel account with Mark, he leaves that stuff out. He leaves that almost anytime that Peter does something embarrassing, Mark leaves it out.
That's interesting to me. Why would he do that? Again, you can go through this again and again and again. But the point is, as I'm reading through all of Mark's account, I did think there was enough kind of forensic statement, evidence to at least confirm or corroborate the claims of Papias.
Abdu Murray: Well and if you can go through and do numerous different things if you wanted to go through this. And ladies and gentlemen, I would recommend then that you do that. And a good way to do that is look at Cold Case Christianity. Jim's book where he takes these principles and applies them to the "cold case" of Christianity. And you can go through this exercise amongst others and there's a nice way at the end of every chapter and even in the middle of the chapters, there's little helps like understanding how evidence works and the jury instruction and these kind of things.
So I highly recommend that to your reading, if you're interested in what Jim has been talking about here. Let me go to something else because I wanted to talk about a little bit more in terms of methodology and even the heart issue. I don't mean like an emotional issue, I mean, motivations about why we do the things we do and move along as well to sort of close here.
Now, I saw a show recently. My wife and I were watching a television show on Netflix. It's called Unbelievable. It's a based on a true story. I'm not sure how accurate the true story actually is to the episodes itself or the show itself, but it's basically the story of these two rape investigators. Two women, very different. One actually is a committed Christian. The other is about as committed an atheist as you can get but they formed this unlikely friendship and what I love about the show, by the way, is the Christian is not seen as some backwards, hokey sort of babe in the woods naive person who loses her faith and sort of becomes grown up at the end.
In fact, I would say that they sort of both influenced each other in one way. But it's interesting because at the end of the season, the atheist, although in a very crass way, and warning, there's a lots of vile language, but in a very crass way, she says at the end, "I prayed last night." Maybe I spoiled the show for you but I didn't spoil the outcome. Here's my point. The show is called Unbelievable because there's a moment when a young lady who's got a bit of a checkered past, and because of the things she's gone through, she's raped. Someone comes into her home, the apartment she staying in and very cleverly, basically wipes the place clean of all forensic evidence and she's giving the account to the detectives.
The first detectives who interview her about what happened and one of the detectives picks up on a bit of a contradiction in the statement and another detective is sort leery of this and basically says, "Look, Miss, our job is to protect the public. And every time we have to deal with someone who comes in with a false claim, we have to take away resources from real cases." And so both of these detectives are sort of painted as a bit jerky. The one is a little more understanding and circumspect. But he's like, "I don't know. I can't reconcile the differences in her story." And what they end up doing is, for lack of a better word, browbeating her into saying she made it up.
So she takes it back. And she's actually convicted at some point of false reporting, which is a big deal. Anyway, it turns out she wasn't lying. And there's a number of things that happen after that are important because it leads to other cases that could have been prevented. Here's my point in bringing this up. My point is, at some point, there comes a time when there's a bias or a motivation and even dismissiveness.
Now, with these detectives, they saw a contradiction or an irreconcilable at the moment. Difference in her accounts, two or three facts didn't seem to line up or maybe one fact didn't line up with another in her account. Now, the one detective wanted to try to get to the bottom of it, but eventually became dismissive. And the other one was outright dismissive. I bring this up because the possibility exists. If you're a non-Christian for example and you're looking at the Christian claims and you're looking at the eyewitness testimony or the claims in the gospels and you find something that looks like a discrepancy and you don't decide to dig a little further or you do dig a little further, but not quite enough to see if there's a contradiction or a reconcilable difference of account, you might be dismissive and you might miss the whole thing.
But along come two other detectives who are looking at the claims and they're looking at them and they're saying, "You know what? We understand. People often have sometimes contradictory, but sometimes just multiple perspectives on a fact based on when they happened or the vantage point they were looking at them from that can be reconcilable." A difference doesn't necessarily derail a detective from continuing the investigation just because they're not being dismissive. Motivation plays a factor here. So Jim, I'm sure there's been times when you looked at something and you said to yourself, "Wait a minute, some stuff isn't adding up here but I have good reason to continue."
J. Wallace Warner: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I'm going to say something super controversial because-
Abdu Murray: All right.
J. Wallace Warner: But just my own experience when I was first looking at scripture, I didn't have a...I wasn't raised in the church. Didn't have any idea of what occurs in church, didn't have any idea what the language of church was. None of these things were part of my background. And so this created for me, maybe some open doors that were not available for others. So in other words, I never wrestled. Had to wrestle or even give it a thought about inerrancy of Scripture. I didn't care about inerrancy. I didn't know anything about inerrancy.
Here's what I knew. I just needed to figure out is this witness reliable? That's all I really cared about. Is the witness reliable? It turns out that reliability does not require inerrancy. And as a matter of fact, I've never had ever in my history of written cases any inerrant witnesses. They're always wrong about something. They just are. And by the way, defense teams love this because defense teams are going to do their best to make a big deal out of this because that's what they're going to do. They're going to argue that, "Look, she was wrong about this." I've had cases where the key witness in the case, where needed for some key piece of evidence. Like I needed this key piece of evidence that I needed to bring in and this is the only way to get it in was through this witness.
And sure enough, the witness ends up being wrong about something else. And so the defense team is going to argue, "Look, she was wrong about this thing over here in the corner. So therefore, you can't trust her on this key thing that they're trying to use her for." She's not reliable because she was wrong. Well, then juries actually have an instruction. Here's what I always say. You can be wrong as a witness, yet still be deemed reliable. That yes, you can be wrong. Now, I'm not suggesting that any of the gospel authors are wrong because a lot of what appears to be a discrepancy or appears to be a contradiction, for the most part, they very seldom ever are. There things you can always work out. There's not something that...
But this idea that you can be wrong and still be reliable is a part of the jury instructions. This is section 105 here in California of the California criminal jury instructions and I'm going to read it to you. "Do not automatically reject testimony, just because of inconsistencies or conflicts. Consider whether the differences are important or not. People sometimes honestly forget things or make mistakes about what they remember. Also, two people may witness the same event, yet, see it or hear it differently." That's a jury instruction that judges give jurors. So they want to throw under the bus a witness who's actually doing her best or his best. And maybe if you find out that they were mistaken about something, doesn't mean they are necessarily now unreliable because of this.
Now, I'll tell you that you might think well, is it important or not? Well, if your standard is that I believe that there's none of Mark in Mark's gospel and there's none of John in John's gospel and there's none of Matthew and his or Luke in his, it is 100% the words that God chose without ever using the writer in any way. He was just in a cosmic trance as he penned the scripture. I don't know that that's our view. I think our view is that God uses the attributes and the nature and the experiences of John differently than those of Luke and you get gospels have slight variations because the authors have different experiences.
Luke's background as a doctor, it gives him insight into certain things that he talks about, which are very interesting from a doctor's background. John's a fisherman, he's got different experiences. By the time he's penning this in Rome, he's gone through all kinds of things with Jesus. And God uses these differences. The stuff that comes off the pen of the scribe, who is scribing for these authors, it very much takes into account the nature of the authors. They have a big part. If God intended to get us four gospels, that we could test to see if they are reliable, He achieved it because reliable eyewitness testimony bears these attributes.
And so if that was the goal. If the goal was I'm going to give you something that you can then use for eternity, for the rest of our temporal lives here before Jesus comes again, that you can have confidence is the reliable account of what happened in the first century. He achieved it.
And I think that was the goal. And I think that means you have to factor in that...So just for sake of argument, if someone says, "Well, I see a contradiction." Okay. Okay. So? What's the contradiction? If you saw that in a criminal trial, you would not be allowed to throw the witness under the bus. And you would be sending someone potentially to his death based on that testimony. That's a high kind of sense of responsibility. Someone's temporal existence hangs in the balance and that standard, I think it also works for your eternal existence.
And as a guy who didn't know anything about the standard of inerrancy or what that even meant as a new investigator of the Scriptures, all I cared about is, is it reliable? And should I make a decision based on its reliability? And that's basically what I try to do.
Abdu Murray: Yeah. And I think that this is an important thing just to pause for a moment and just make sure it's clear is that it's one thing to...I ascribe to inerrancy and I think that the Bible contains no errors in that which it affirms or teaches, but I think that the important thing here to point out is that there will be those people who are listening right now whose faith is hanging by a thread or who are not Christians.
And the important thing to understand is this, is that in order to understand and believe that which occurred in the first century to Jesus of Nazareth, you don't need to prove that the Bible is inerrant in everything it says or that the eyewitnesses didn't juxtapose something for either literary effect or for a mistake or whatever it might be.
The question is, did what they say happened actually happen? And I think you can do that even if you were to allow for the possibility that such people might not report things in every detail accurately. It's a baseline issue. It's not a matter of that you have to prove inerrancy before you can become a Christian. I do think inerrancy is important. I think it's a very important thing to wrestle with. I happen to be in innerantist but I also don't think as a skeptic, you need to get there. It's funny because my own background as a Muslim, I thought that the Bible was full of errors because I thought it had been corrupted. And through a number of reasons that people have heard me say before, I came to a different conclusion that it was not changed.
But I didn't come to it believing every word that it had to say or even at some point, most of the words. What ended up becoming convincing for me, much like you, Jim. And we share so much of the same story in so many ways because of our evidence based backgrounds and the way we look at things, I wanted to know, did it say what comported with reality? Does the Bible say that which actually happened? And the answer that I came up with was, yes. And am I an inerrantist today? You bet. But did I become a believer before I was an innerantist? I'm not sure. I don't know how I looked at it at that point. I wouldn't be able to go back and say I was an innerantist and then I became a believer. I don't think that's the case.
In fact, if you had to believe in the inerrancy of 2 Timothy, for example, then there would be no Christians before Paul wrote it, because you had the believers that even exist at the time. Your point is well taken is that you don't have to prove inerrancy before you can come to the reliability of the scriptures. Those are actually two different things all together. The evidence standards in the criminal jury instructions or civil jury instructions for that matter.
J. Wallace Warner: Yeah. You're right. Let me just say something else that is relatively controversial right now but I think it needs to be said and that is that I see a lot of scholars who will take different approaches, trying to reconcile different literary theories about the nature of the gospels based on the fact they're trying to reconcile what they consider to be differences. I see these in debates. I've seen them in their academic work, I've seen them in the books they're writing, where they're basically saying, "Hey, maybe there's a genre for example of biography in the first century that would allow an author to say something that really isn't true just for literary effect. And that's just the way that the biographies were written in the first century."
I see a lot of this. What I would suggest is that look, if you've ever worked true eyewitness accounts, I'm talking about thousands upon thousands of them, you don't... I guarantee you, if you looked at one of my cases from 1975, you'd have to argue there must be a different genre for eyewitness testimony in 1975 because these things don't seem to... You're not going to do that. You're just going to say, "No, this is the nature of eye witness." There is no reason to concoct another literary theory in an effort to explain differences in real events. I can tell you, I've been there when it's only been an hour since the guy was shot in the head. And an hour later, I can't get four people to agree on things that I know later on are going to be a problem in trial because they've got different perspectives and different things they were focused on and different attitudes about what was going on and what they thought of this guy from the very beginning.
Some witnesses have a bad attitude about who the shooter is or who the victim is or who the other witnesses is and he's wrong and he'll just be agreeable for the sake of being disagreeable. I'm just telling you that eye witnesses never, ever, ever, can I be more clear, never agree. Okay, they don't. They agree on some things and disagree on a bunch of other things. That to me does not cause me then to try to jump out and figure out how to explain these differences.
Abdu Murray: Yeah. Well, let me do this. I want to bring this to a close. It's been a...boy, we can go on for multiple, multiple episodes Jim. But there's so many things that I want to talk to you about and get your perspective on. But let me close this out with a matter of motivations. Whether it's a Dateline, or cops show, you see. And what does the defendant usually say at some point, whether it's the defendant at the trial, but it's a suspect during the investigation. "You never had your eye on anybody else but me. You came to this investigation, looking for evidence that I did it, not to see if I did it and you had your eye on me the whole time."
Now, I think that can be true, of people who are supernaturally believed minded people who can believe in religious claims and those who are anti-supernatural or don't believe in the supernatural. And I've seen a time and again, people who will come to the table and look at the same exact evidence because there's confirmation bias in all these things. But at some point, you are going to have to ask yourself, "Am I looking to see if it's true or am I looking to see that it's false?" I think that's an important thing. I'm sure you've had to wrestle with that bias often, because you're a human being. No matter how objective you try to be about the evidence, you're a human being. And my guess is at some point, you're to wrestle with that even as you began to look at the Christian faith and the evidence for it against it.
J. Wallace Warner: Oh, yeah. You're right about that. A lot of it though, was tempered early, I got lucky. And one of the first homicides I had to roll to, I was a junior member of the team and I had a senior guy who was about 15 years more senior than me. This guy had been to about everything and he was our go to guy. And I remember, we picked up a suspect on this murder that we thought, okay, this is interesting. It was this using investigation." And as it was kind of unwinding, getting close to the end, I made a statement in front of the team which I should never have made.
I said, "Dude, this guy is so guilty that if this isn't our guy..." And by the way, we're just waiting for the DNA to come back. I said, "If this isn't our guy, I should be working auto theft. I should not be in crimes persons. I should not be working on homicide." And so sure enough, it ended up not being him. It was a guy who was...his roommate...So a lot of things that pointed to him and actually, it was his roommate. I can see why we were close but we weren't...it was never the right guy. But what was good about it is...But for me, what that did was it gave me a certain sense of humility, because by the way, my team never forgot it. Until those guys retired, I heard it every day.
I just could not wait until there was nobody around who remembered that and I never made that kind of stupid statement or actually presumed I knew anything, ever again. I was always the last guy to be convinced and somebody comes in and says, "I got a cold case. And I think I know who did it." Really? I'm going to guess not until...but we had a system in place, a mechanism in place because it's not unusual that you have cases where there are several pieces of evidence that either point away from the guy who you know did it. Later on he confesses, you know he did it. Or there are things that point to somebody who's not suspect. This happens all the time.
It's not as cut and dry as you might think it is. It's often a little unclear. And so you have to have a mechanism in place that will exclude people. And so that's what we have with him. We knew we had DNA at the crime scene, so after we located him, established like five things that I thought made him look like our guy, then we swabbed him. We wrote a search warrant, we swabbed him right for the DNA because if you're okay, if he is our guy, this will lock it in. And then of course, that was our default mechanism. That was our way of negating his involvement. We have a system in place you hope if you do this, you hope that you have a system in place that leads you away from who you think the bad guy is if you're wrong. But I will tell you that this does happen.
For example, there's two kinds of cold cases. There are true, who done it. So we got no suspects looking at it. It was a who done it from the beginning. I've had some of those had one, for example. I had one for example where I had to swab 34 guys for this poor girl's murder. We never did find the guy. And we never had a case on any one of those that was all that compelling. But we've also got a bunch of these cases where they knew who the guy was back in 1980, they just could never make a case. Now I hesitate on those cases. Because if you think, "Oh, we know who... You'll talk to those investigators. Oh, we knew this was the guy." Well, really? You've got to convince me now though, because I'm going to be the one who's hanging on dateline if we're wrong about this. So I'm always very...
I'm always the last guy in now. Even if my partner says, "Oh, I'm sure this is our guy." You know what? Great. Good for you. I'm not. So I'll be the last guy in because I'm not going to look like a fool on this episode of national TV. But that does happen. But here's what I would say I see a slight twist to this. When you hear people say, "Well, okay. Jim, you think that you applied this to Christianity. If you weren't raised in a Christian nation, this wouldn't have been the focus of your investigation to begin with. Did you take that approach to every other religious worldview at the time to make sure or did you just stop right there and focus on Christianity and that's a reason why you're a Christian? In other words, was it just that you didn't have any other suspect that you were willing to look at and instead you just looked at Christianity?"
Well, okay. Abdu, I know you're a huge man. How tall are you?
Abdu Murray: 6"8.
J. Wallace Warner: Okay, you're 6"8. Can I ask...I'm just going to ask the big question. You can lie about this. Okay. I'll give you permission to lie. How much do you weigh?
Abdu Murray: I'm going to say...No, I'm going to say the truth. It's 280.
J. Wallace Warner: Yeah. Okay. 280. That's not bad for 6"8, dude. That's great. Okay, so here's my point. if I was going to take you in as a suspect and now you're the defendant in a criminal trial and I make a case in front of a jury and I've now got 100 pieces of evidence that point to you as the suspect, can you imagine the defense attorney getting up and saying, "You realize, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there's probably 100,000 other 6 foot 8, 280 pound man who have brown hair or black hair and brown eyes? Has he gone out and investigated the other hundred thousand? No."
Well, okay, that's silly. Look, if there's not enough evidence to convict this guy, don't convict him. As simple as that. I'm making a case based on the strength of this evidence. And if you don't think there's enough...But to say, "I've got to make an anti-case against every other person who looks similar," is stupid. Okay. And no one's going to say that. So I think in the end, what we have to be able to say is once I discovered...Now, I actually did a simultaneous investigation on two worldviews because I had family that were Mormons and they would have loved for me to become a Mormon. So my first investigation really was the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants. I read through all of that before I even read the Old Testament, because they were so convinced the Book of Mormon was true.
And so as I applied the same, I have a template I apply to all of this. It's in Cold Case Christianity is a template that tells you if eye witnesses telling the truth. Well, the Mormonism cannot pass that template in any aspect of the template. It fails on every four areas. I ended up...Of these two views, I knew that Mormonism wasn't true. But if Christianity passes in all four areas, I'm not under any other obligation. The suspect, I found his fingerprints and his DNA at the crime scene. Do I have to go out now and swab every other person that looks like him? I don't think so. Same thing is true here. If you've got a worldview, a theistic worldview that checks the boxes, you can stop. Congratulations. Sometimes you pick that suspect, the first guy you pick. Sometimes it's the 10th. But once you get the guy who checks all the boxes, you're good to go.
Abdu Murray: Yep. Yeah. So let me bring this to a close ladies and gentlemen, because this is important to how Jim has ended his previous comment. This is important, because oftentimes I find it to be the case that if someone sees the strength of the evidence in favor of the Christian faith, they engage in what I call, yeah, but syndrome, they can't stop saying, "Yeah, but...Yeah, but..." They keep offering new objections. And very intelligent, very well meaning, very thoughtful well-read people will start to add a bunch of objections, not because they think that the objections actually work but because they are in some sense a diversion.
Now, I'm not saying that happens every time. There's a matter of motivation. So if you would say to somebody, "Look, you are dismissive. You didn't look at every other worldview or you dismiss the evidence." What I would caution you is on two things. One, is if you see something that might seem to put a point of concern for you on the Christian faith because something doesn't quite add up, I would ask you to keep at it. Don't be dismissive. Keep at it, because the case might be strong enough for you to say, "There's good enough reason to put my trust in Jesus based on the evidence that I do see and maybe the stuff that I can't quite reconcile might have an impact later."
I'm not saying put your head in the sand. What I am saying is that there is enough evidence that can form a strong case even if one strand of it might not be exactly as you like it. But number two, it's this. Is that if you find yourself making objections like, "Well, I need to investigate every single worldview that's out there lest I pick the wrong one."
I think what is important is this, is that ask yourself the question, are you doing that to avoid the decision or are you doing it because you're genuinely curious? Now the reality is if you start to investigate every worldview out there, even when you have enough evidence to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that he claimed to be the Son of God, who takes away the sins of the world by dying and across meaning he paid a debt that you and I owe that we can't possibly pay, but he pays it for us. And then he rises from the dead to prove he was right. If you have all of that evidence, I'm going to tell you this, every other worldview contradicts those statements.
And so if you have that established, you need no more evidence in favor of the Christian faith to exclude the opposites, those that claim the opposite. I think this is an important question on motivations. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You have heard a seasoned cold case homicide detective who has spent a lot of time in front of a lot of juries and helped a lot of prosecutors present a lot of cases. Now, does that mean that because he's a Christian, you should suddenly just really fall in line and be that? No. What I'm going to suggest to you is that if you're someone who's a skeptic, good. I want you to be a skeptic. Don't be cynic. A skeptic is someone who doesn't believe until there's enough evidence. A cynic is someone who doesn't believe even when there is enough evidence.
And the evidence is strong enough, I think that you'll begin to see there is a good case for the Christian faith. Jim, it's been such a pleasure to have you on the show, to go through all this stuff. We could keep going on and on and on. Maybe we'll have you back on for another episode at some point. But until then, you have my thanks for spending the time with us and giving us your insight and the value of your experience.
J. Wallace Warner: No, thanks so much for having me, brother. You know how I feel about you. I think somehow we got tied together because of our background and our experience and I'm just glad we can continue forward together as well.
Abdu Murray: Me too. Me too. Thanks again. Ladies and gentlemen, this is another episode of the Defense Rests and until next time, the defense does rest.
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