Conversation: Randy Singer
Randy Singer is the critically acclaimed author of two nonfiction books and five legal thrillers. A veteran trial lawyer, he teaches at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Va., and has a passion for communicating the gospel to the next generation of legal professionals.
Singer's The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ offers an in-depth look at the events surrounding Christ's passion and examines key teachings of Jesus during His earlier confrontations with the religious leaders of His day. Singer spoke recently with Scott Harrup, senior associate editor, about the book.
tpe: What motivated this project?
SINGER: The genesis of the idea came as I was reading the Gospels and realized how much of it felt like I was in a courtroom. The Pharisees were asking Christ questions not because they wanted to know the answers but because they were trying to trip Him up. And He kept giving these amazing answers.
Today we try to teach people through three-point sermons or carefully organized lectures. But Christ taught people through stories and also during the most confrontational circumstances. It was on the rough edge of life where people were out to get Him, and He would turn these questions into incredible teaching moments.
I thought about when I was in the courtroom. The jury would listen to testimony, but when it came time for cross-examination, they were on the edge of their seats. When they sensed a confrontation, they were interested. I realized that same principle — that controversy draws interest — was behind how God used the Pharisees.
I tried to mold two elements into the book — the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and the moments of confrontation during His ministry as well. Some of the most important truths Christ taught were in response to hostile questions from Pharisees, Sadducees and religious lawyers.
tpe: How do you hope the book affects readers?
SINGER: One of my unpleasant surprises in writing this book is how much I found myself looking at the Pharisees and feeling like I was looking in the mirror. We typically never see ourselves in the Pharisees. The Pharisees might be our critics; they might be other religious people; they might be people in general who are against us. But when we really look at the Pharisees' self-righteousness and self-justification and the way they substituted their pious activities for really helping others, we get this uncomfortable feeling we have done all of that too. It was personally convicting to write this book.
tpe: Your opening and concluding chapters deal with the historic events of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, but you use a fictional character to establish the point of view.
SINGER: My heart's desire as a novelist is to tell that story in a way that makes people feel like they're there. You can lose yourself in the story and feel like you're seeing it firsthand. I think that touches our minds and our hearts better than just talking about it.
tpe: Your fictional character is placed at a key post during Jesus' trial.
SINGER: Pilate would have been advised by at least one assessore, a legal expert. That information comes from accounts of the Roman judicial system. That allowed me to create the perfect first-person perspective for my readers. The assessore would have been close enough to the action to be involved but also removed enough to try to assess if Jesus Christ is really who He claims to be.
I started with the idea of what a great vantage point this character offered to put us firsthand at the trial of Christ. The assessore would have stood behind Pilate and quietly offered legal advice over his shoulder; he would have been in Pilate's chambers when he talked to Christ.
But as I went through the story, I realized this advisor was probably the one responsible for trying to dodge the tough legal issues by some slick legal maneuvering. He may have been the one to suggest sending Jesus to Herod or even releasing a prisoner for Passover. We know that both of those tactics failed to let Pilate off the hook.
tpe: The assessore, like the Pharisees, can speak to our lives?
SINGER: Like the assessore, we try to dodge the tough questions with compromises. We try to find a way to have Christ in our lives without having to deal with everything that is required in order to truly follow Him. That's why, in the book, I felt it was necessary to take the assessore to the cross. Because that is where the decision is made in all of its fullness. Are you going to follow the Christ who is crucified for you and lay down your life for Him?
tpe: What are you doing outside of your writing?
SINGER: I'm involved in ministry in three areas, and they're all passions of my heart that combine law and faith. I teach at Regent Law School part-time. Next year I'll be starting a class called ÒFaith, Ethics and the Practice of Law.Ó Second, I'm writing, and now I have more time to write. Third, I'm actually practicing law again. I'm involved in some cases I really care about.
The way this is all coming together also allows me to be involved in ministry to law students through the Christian Legal Society. We recently had about 350 students from Harvard, Yale, Cornell and a host of top-flight universities at two regional retreats.
Someone has said the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next generation. We're trying to reach into the law schools and help Christian law students build a solid biblical foundation for the law, but also to be missionaries in that very critical environment where a lot of our future leaders are coming from. I've been very involved in that area.
tpe: You mention in your book a friend, Clark, who was a public defender. He makes an interesting statement: ÒIf Christ were alive today, you might find Him advocating for clients like mine. After all, that's what He did 2,000 years ago and it's what He's been doing ever since.Ó Can you comment on that?
SINGER: First John 2:1 describes Christ as our advocate: ÒIf anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteousÓ (NKJV). Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. Just as Christ advocated for the woman caught in adultery, He has been an advocate for guilty people like you and me who are sinners.
Clark was asked how he could represent clients if he thought they were guilty. One of the things Clark, a public defender, shared was, ÒI'm just grateful Jesus didn't make me prove my innocence before He became my advocate.Ó Our system of justice is predicated on the fact everyone is entitled to an advocate. The grace of God is predicated on the fact Christ died for all, and every one of us has an advocate if we will choose to accept Him.
tpe: Any other thoughts?
SINGER: One of the things I wanted to do was look at the proof of the Resurrection from a courtroom perspective. I devoted a chapter to that. Thousands of years after the death and resurrection of Christ we see a renewed attack on whether He died and whether He rose again on the third day. It's important for Christians to be versed enough in apologetics and the evidence that any court would rely on so they won't be led astray by this new wave of Gnosticism and skepticism.
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