After a long career as a cold-case detective, I’ve learned to get comfortable with unanswered questions. In fact, I’ve never investigated or presented a case to a jury that wasn’t plagued with a number of mysteries. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, there is no such thing as a perfect case; every case has unanswered questions. In fact, when we seat a jury for a criminal trial, we often ask the prospective jurors if they are going to be comfortable making a decision without complete information. If potential jurors can’t envision themselves making a decision unless they can remove every possible doubt (and answer every possible question), we’ll do our best to make sure they don’t serve on our panel. Every case is imperfect; there are no cases devoid of unanswered questions. Every juror is asked to make a decision, even though the evidential case will be less than complete.
As detectives and prosecutors, we do our best to be thorough and present enough evidence so jurors can arrive at the most reasonable inference. But, if you need “beyond a possible doubt,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you’re not ready to sit on a jury. The standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a good reason: No case is evidentially complete; no case maker can eliminate every possible reservation.
Christians, like jurors, need to get comfortable with unanswered questions. Every worldview has them. As an atheist, I struggled to answer a number of critical questions from my materialistic, naturalistic worldview: How did the universe originate? Why does the universe appear fine-tuned? How did life begin in the universe? Why does biology appear designed? How did our immaterial minds emerge from the material universe? How can I explain free will and objective moral truth? As a philosophical naturalist, my answers to these questions were little more than subjective speculation. My worldview was incomplete at the most foundational level. I had many unanswered questions, yet hung on to my atheistic perspective in spite of these mysteries. Every one of us clings to a worldview for which we have less than complete information. Every one of us has a series of unanswered questions.
As a theist and as a Christian, I am far more comfortable with my unanswered questions than I used to be as an atheist. My questions are fewer and less foundational. They are related more to non-essential issues than critical, core claims. The evidence I have points me in a given direction, and the gap between what I have and what I would like is much shorter than it used to be. All of us have to step out from the end of an evidence trail to a place of decision. That step across our unanswered questions is sometimes called a “leap of faith.” As a Christian, I don’t have to leap blindly and jump all that far. Yes, I still have questions, but I have more than enough evidence to make a reasonable decision. I’ve come to trust Christianity is true, even with a few unanswered questions.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian case maker, and the author of “Cold-Case Christianity” and “ALIVE.” Comment on his Facebook page or subscribe to his daily e-mail.