Book Plunge: Cold-Case Christianity

What do I think of J. Warner Wallace’s book “Cold-Case Christianity”? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many people know about J. Warner Wallace from his web site and podcast of “PleaseConvinceMe.” For those who do not know, Wallace was an atheist for several years and a cold-case homicide detective. To explain, cold-cases are cases that have been closed for a time due to lack of finding the criminal and then re-opened years later. Wallace has done a number of these and closed them, one I understand being done so well the jury returned a verdict in less than five hours. Wallace now has recently been put on staff at STR, the ministry of Greg Koukl. This is certainly a welcome addition.

As a chapter head of a Ratio Christi chapter (The Issues and Answers chapter), I was fortunate to receive a complimentary copy in the mail. Wallace and I have emailed some back and forth, especially since I got a link that he had shared some of my blog material, and a friendship has formed. Still, I want to be as impartial I can in my review.

Wallace approaches the questions of Christianity as if they were a cold-case. This is especially fitting since there can be no doubt that right now, all the witnesses are dead. What we have to go by is the writings that were left behind. If we followed this using the rules of detective work, would there be a strong enough case to return a verdict of true from the jury? (To which, we are all jurors)

Wallace’s work is different from many others in that he starts off each chapter in section 1 with a story about criminal investigation. Then, he relates that to a piece of evidence. He does not just give evidence, but he does something better. He actually describes the process by which the evidence is evaluated, which is something I find monumentally important. Wallace does not say what to think. He says what he thinks and he shows how he got there.

There are illustrations in the book to demonstrate the point, such as a picture of puzzle pieces, and there are sidebars that will tell a little bit more about a topic that has been presented, so the reader can always have more information. Each chapter in section 1 ends with “A tool for the call-out bag.” This is a bag a detective keeps nearby for when he gets a 3 A.M. phone call and has to go to a crime scene. For those investigating the claims of Christ, this is a tool of reasoning that will be used.

In the early chapters, Wallace deals with cases such as the resurrection, the existence of God, and the handing down of the New Testament. The chapter on conspiracy theories is quite amusing, especially when he brings forward subjects like “The God Who Wasn’t There” and “Zeitgeist” and even brings out points about Mithras, something that most Christians aren’t prepared for.

Section Two deals largely with the case that Jesus rose from the dead with analyzing the accounts in the gospels the way a detective would with the tools of forensic analysis. Wallace’s book I would consider a primer in apologetics, but at the same time, I saw him making points about the gospels to which I’d be saying “That’s interesting. I hadn’t considered that.” As someone who has been in apologetics for over a decade, I find that if a primer is bringing out points that I have not read in several years, it’s a really good one.

Wallace then has a section on becoming more than a Christian who just believes, an abbreviated Christian as he calls them, but one who acts on what he believes, particularly by becoming a case maker. He uses the analogy that few of us are professional chefs, but all of us know how to cook some meal. Few of us are professional apologists, but all of us who are Christians need to know how to make some sort of case.

Finally, in the end, he lists a number of other sources for each chapter. These are scholarly books that complement what he has written. He refers to these as expert witnesses who will come forward and testify. If the reader looks at this part, he will find an abundance of resources to continue his studies, an excellent aspect I think of any introductory book.

Naturally, I don’t agree with every statement in the book. There are some arguments that I think could have been phrased better and some points I did not find convincing, but there are more than enough that are convincing and excellent for those wanting to get started in apologetics.

There can be no doubt in my opinion that the verdict is in. This juror will put Cold-Case Christianity right up there alongside Case for Christ as one of the best introductory books to Christian apologetics. Wallace’s writing style is engaging and his style of showing how to reach a conclusion along with what his conclusion is will show readers that this is not just a blind assertion. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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