I don't watch much television; however, for a brief time I attended a local gym and while running on the treadmill, I found myself fascinated with shows such as CSI and Law and Order. I would sometimes run on the treadmill longer so that I could see how the case played out on the show! I enjoyed the detectives collecting the evidence, considering all the possible explanations and suspects and then deciding who they thought the guilty party was.
The author explains:
"Like cold cases, the truth about what happened can be discovered by examining the statements of eyewitnesses and comparing them with what little additional evidence is accessible to us. If the eyewitnesses can be evaluated (and their statements can be verified by what we have available), an equally strong circumstantial case can be made for the claims of the New Testament." [p.18]
The book is broken down into 2 sections. Section 1, "Learn to be a Detective," introduces the reader to ten important principles every aspiring detective needs to master. Section 2, "Examining the Evidence," draws upon these principles of investigation to evaluate the claims of the New Testament (NT).
From the very beginning of the book and throughout, Wallace's mastery of illustrations is on display. Using actual stories from cases he has worked [the names changed of course], he uses what he has learned in the field to demonstrate to the reader how to objectively and rationally examine the evidence for God and the NT. The result is a book that many times reads more like a crime novel than an apologetics work.
This reviewer was also very impressed with Wallace's ability to explain what could be considered difficult topics to some in very plain language that virtually anyone can understand. As someone who teaches apologetics, I know that many believers are sometimes intimated by the terms used in many of the typical arguments; however, not only does Wallace explain concepts such as abductive reasoning, circumstantial evidence and the nature of truth in easy-to-understand language, he further demonstrates to the reader that they already do this kind of thinking without even realizing it! The brilliance of this is that the reader realizes that they don't have to learn a completely new way of thinking to evaluate the Christian worldview, but just apply what they already know to it's claims.
Also, the book features text boxes, pictures and diagrams throughout that only add weight to the author's sound points and illustrations.
Finally, the book is very applicable to one's personal witness. As I worked my way through it, I found myself imagining how I could easily apply the concepts learned to sermons and conversation. Also, when I mentioned to people that I was reading a book written by a cold-case homicide detective who was investigating Christianity, there was immediate interest.
Arguments Dealt with in the Book
As the subtitle suggests, the main portion of the book is geared toward defending the gospels and the NT; however, this reader was also pleased to encounter other arguments in the text presented in what Wallace calls "The Cosmic Circumstantial Case." This case includes the following:
- The Cosmological Argument
- The Teleological Argument
- Arguments from Specified Complexity
- The Moral Argument
- The Minimal Facts Argument for Jesus' Resurrection from the Dead
Here, the author highlights the important role circumstantial evidence plays when defending one's Christian convictions:
After learning the chief principles of investigation, Wallace turns the readers attention to the claims of the NT. This reader was very impressed with the breadth and depth of difficult matters that the author was able to convincingly deal with. Readers who master Wallace's work will be equipped to:
- Defend the conviction that the gospels were written fairly early to the events they record
- Deal with common objections to the gospel accounts
- Learn how to deal with "late additions" to the NT text
- Share Non-Christian sources for Jesus
- Share examples of how archaeology continues to validate the claims of the NT
- Demonstrate that there are good reasons to believe that the NT was handed down accurately and is trustworthy
- Demonstrate that the NT Canon was established in the first-century
- Deal with the objection of bias
Who would Benefit from the Book?
It is this reviewer's conviction that both believer and non-believer will benefit from Wallace's work. The believer will find in Wallace an outstanding teacher who is able to take complex concepts and make them exciting and engaging. Further, they will be more equipped than ever before to defend the gospels, the New Testament, and the Christian worldview with sound thinking and a respectful approach.
The unbeliever could quite possibly find a like-minded individual in J. Warner Wallace, himself a former atheist and self-proclaimed, "outspoken skeptic." The author fairly represents the opposition's views, respectfully offers counter arguments and gently challenges the skeptic to reconsider the pre-suppositions they may be hindering their investigation of Christianity.
This book would also be ideal for church small groups or Sunday School classes [I'm hoping Wallace does a DVD companion!]. Even for those who are not accustomed to consuming apologetic material, this book will be a delight.
Due to it's unique approach, accessibility and depth, I believe Cold-Case Christianity is the best book I have read to date on the reliability of the gospels and the NT. Wallace effortlessly weaves the evidence for Christianity into exciting narratives from his cold-case investigations and while working through it, the reader not only learns just how reliable the NT is, but they also learn to how to think. Readers who work through this invaluable resource will look at the gospels and the NT through new eyes and have their confidence in the NT strengthened.
I highly recommend this book!
Courage and Godspeed,