As an atheist, J. Warner rejected the supernatural claim of the gospels. He saw the gospels as some form of historical fiction. That was because he was a very committed philosophical naturalist, and would reject anything supernatural. The next part of the investigation for him as an atheist was, does his philosophical naturalism really explain the universe the way it truly is? Or has he been missing something? J. Warner went back and looked at evidence and the universe and asked the question, could he explain this from staying inside the room of the natural universe, or is the better explanation outside the realm of naturalism? If that is the case, it is always the same thing we do with crime scenes, we are looking at evidence for an intruder.
J. Warner attended church one day when he heard the pastor pitch Jesus in a way that stuck with him. The pastor pitched Jesus as a really smart person, whose teaching has been so foundational to Western civilization, he ought to listen to what Jesus had to say. J. Warner purchased a bible for the purpose of reading the words of Jesus, but he ended up seeing things in the accounts of the gospels that bugged him because they resembled the kinds of eyewitness statements typically in cold cases, that are slightly different versions of the same event that puzzle together nicely. That is what he sees in all of his cases, no witnesses ever agree on anything precisely, so you have to be able to puzzle. J. Warner was doing that with the gospels and asked the question, is his philosophical naturalism, the idea that everything can be explained by using nothing more than space, time, matter, laws of physics and chemistry? Has has believed that those were all we needed to explain anything within our experience and environment. Or were there some questions that he had an atheistic faith about?
The intellectualism of Jesus attracted J.Warner, because a lot of what Jesus talked about was counter cultural. Even as an atheist, he would have implemented these high values that he would want his kids to embrace, that he would want his culture to embrace. But what were they grounded in? Could his atheism get him there?
J.Warner found that humans were more morally obligated to other humans and not to impersonal objects such as cars and buildings. How does he ground the sense that these truths were true even before he was around to recognize him? They belong in the universe in a different way than his public opinion.
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