I heard Wallace talking about this on one of his recent podcasts, and it’s nice to see it in an article that I can blog on.
Here’s the objection:
I’ve had the privilege to speak on university campuses across the country, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the truth of the Christian Worldview (I’ll be at Rutgers next Monday night). One of the most common questions asked in the Q and A is something similar to: “Have you taken the time to apply the same approach with all the other religious worldviews?” Sometimes people ask this question because they are curious about how well other ancient religious claims (or alleged eyewitness accounts) hold up under investigative scrutiny. But many times this question is followed by a more pointed objection: “How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives?”
Here’s the answer:
In every criminal trial, the investigators and prosecutors are obligated to present the evidence related to one defendant. While the burden of proof lies with the prosecutorial team, the prosecution is not required to have examined every possible alternative suspect. If I am investigating a case in which the suspect was initially described as a white male, 25 to 35 years of age with brown hair, the potential suspect pool in Los Angeles County would be quite large; there may be hundreds of thousands fitting this description. As I make the affirmative case related to one of the men in this large group, I’m under no obligation to make the case against the others. In fact, when the jury evaluates the case and decides whether the defendant is guilty, they will do so without any consideration of the alternatives. If the evidence is strong enough to reasonably infer the defendant’s involvement, the jury will make a confident decision, even though many, many alternatives were left unexamined.
When an LAPD homicide detective can use his professional experience to answer a very relevant apologetics question, it’s a good thing.
Now for a general point about investigating religions. You can make a cut to rule out many of the main religious alternatives just by using cosmology. Of the major world religions, only Christianity, Judaism and Islam affirm a beginning of the universe, and time itself. So it’s not a very difficult thing to take those three live options and move on to a historical analysis. Islam is out because its holy book has obvious historical mistakes, like denying the crucifixion of Jesus in Surah 4:157. So you’re left with two live alternatives, and that dilemma can be decided by selecting the best explanation for the minimal facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. There are minimal facts, and there is a best explanation of those minimal facts.
The real issue is whether people are willing to put in the effort in the investigation, and be bound by what they discover. If they decide up front that their lifestyle / career / social standing / etc. cannot be impacted by their findings, then the whole thing becomes moot.