Thursday, September 11, 2014

Examine the Evidence Like A Cold-Case Detective

What would happen if a cold-case detective turned his skills towards examining the truth claims of the gospels? Would the Bible come up wanting? Would he expose faulty evidence and discredit their reliability? J. Warner Wallace is such a cold-case detective, and he shares his findings in his highly readable book, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

Detective Wallace did not grow up in a Christian home, attend church, or read the Bible for the first 36 years of his life. As a matter of fact, he was an avowed atheist who liked to antagonize Christians. Once he finally sat down to study the Scriptures for himself—using all his skills in forensic statement analysis, eye witness questioning, and abductive reasoning—he discovered something startling. He was coming to believe that the gospel accounts were actual eye-witness testimonies. Throughout this book Wallace shares his own journey of coming to faith in the Scriptures and the God of whom they give testimony. And it is not a journey of existential angst or subjective emotion but one of a man examining the facts and weighing the evidence.

For a culture that is so steeped in police procedural shows and courtroom dramas, this book offers an understandable and relevant gateway into Bible study, defending your faith, and becoming better skilled at examining and weighing evidence. In order to bridge the gap between good old-fashion police work and Biblical case-making, Wallace uses examples from cases he has worked to illustrate how these methods are fully accepted in our legal systems, therefore we should find them to be credible methods for investigating the claims of the Bible. This blend makes for an enjoyable and thought-provoking reading experience.

Some Christian apologetics books may be content with telling readers what to believe through theological and/or philosophical reasoning. These are important and have their place, but J. Warner isn’t satisfied with simply stating his findings and telling readers why they need to believe. He takes it further and gives instructions on how to think and do the hard work for yourself. In his first ten chapters, he sets out to teach his readers how to become detectives through “ten important principles”:

1.       Don’t Be A “Know-It-All”
2.       Learn How To “Infer”
3.       Think “Circumstantially”
4.       Test Your Witnesses
5.       Hang On Every Word
6.       Separate Artifacts From Evidence
7.       Resist Conspiracy Theories
8.       Respect the “Chain of Custody”
9.       Know When “Enough Is Enough”
10.   Prepare For An Attack
In the second section of the book, he walks the reader through applying these principles to the claims of the New Testament.

While this book is by no means comprehensive, it offers a window into the hows and whys of evidential reasoning. Wallace focuses his work on the gospels and makes an excellent case for them being reliable sources for our faith. He does not spend time on philosophical or scientific reasons for Theism in general. Rather he hones in on historic and critical reasons why Christianity is reasonable—given the evidence. If you are the type of person that avoids enjoyable reading in favor of stodgy academic material, then this book is probably not punishment enough for you. Thankfully, you should be able to find plenty of reading material up your alley among the stacks of doctoral dissertations at your local seminary. However, if all you read is cotton candy fluff (and first of all, thank God your on this blog because there’s hope for you yet!) then this book is equally not for you. To my mind this book has an excellent blend of entertainment and educational content. Highly recommended!

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