Conversations from Campus: Cumulative Case 1

Rick Mattson Apologetics, Uncategorized 0 Comments

The International Center, Michigan State University, dining area:

We grabbed a table and set up a simple white-board sign that said “Questions about Christianity?” with my name underneath.

No one in Lansing has ever heard of me.

Ten InterVarsity students gathered around the table and began asking me questions.

A young atheist emerged. He was sharp, courteous, unsmiling.

His opener was this: How is Jesus any different than Zeus?

I said that Jesus was real, Zeus was not.

The atheist asked what I’d think if a group of zealots set up a church and began worshiping Zeus.

“Crazy,” was my response.

“That’s my point,” the atheist said. “Worshiping Jesus is no different.”

I said there are good reasons to believe in Jesus, then I proceeded to make a “cumulative case.” That is, I marshaled together converging lines of evidence from origins, design, history, philosophy and experience.

Think of a cumulative case this way: Say I’m a member of a jury. A lawyer tries to convince me that Smith committed a crime.

I learn from the lawyer that Smith owns a gun. No big deal, I say to myself. Guns are everywhere.

But Smith also had a motive. 

OK, now you’ve got my attention. Gun-plus-motive is at least interesting.

And Smith can be placed in the general vicinity of the crime, the lawyer informs me.

Any single piece of evidence can be explained away. Gun, motive, circumstance — taken individually, not persuasive.

But the combination of all three? Pretty convincing.

Similarly, the “cumulative case” for faith is a combo platter of arguments that reinforce each other, like interwoven strands of sturdy rope.

Next week I’ll share a bit of the cumulative case itself.

rope graphic credit:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *