Book Review: Cold Case Christianity

Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

by J. Warner Wallace

I ordered this and the children’s version of it for our family for Christmas.  I haven’t looked at the kids version, though my oldest son (14) was reading it and thought it was interesting.

This book is exactly what the title says.  Wallace applies his training and experience in working homicide cold cases (murders that remain unsolved for year and are no longer under active investigation) to examining the Gospels.  He utilizes his skill in evaluating witness testimony to determine that the Gospels are what they claim to be – eyewitness accounts of the ministry of Jesus culminating in his arrest, execution, burial, resurrection and ascension.

This is a form of evidential apologetics, which treats the actual facts and details of the New Testament documents as worthy of scrutiny and as more than able to stand up to critical evaluation both in terms of their legitimacy, authenticity, and accuracy.  This is a great resource for the person who wants to honestly and objectively evaluate the Gospels on criteria that should be acceptable to anyone who isn’t pre-disposed to disregard or dismiss them based on what they say.  I will be encouraging each of my kids to make use of this book as they grow in their faith and understanding.

I have only one real complaint about the book.  It’s a small one at the very end, and could have been easily omitted.  Wallace talks about becoming a two decision Christian, which I interpret to mean moving beyond an objective acceptance of the Gospels as authentic, to a subjective faith and trust that they apply to me.  He uses the example of a brief conversation with an arrested drug addict and bank robber.  Wallace basically believes that if this person had a real faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, if he had moved beyond an objective belief that to a subjective belief in Jesus as his Lord and Savior, then this guy would no longer be a drug addict and bank robber.  Jesus would have changed his life dramatically.

I understand the temptation, but I find this a patently offensive dismissal of faith in another person.  It’s clear that St. Paul spends a great deal of time exhorting people who already accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are truly Christian, to quit behaving like they did before they were brought to faith.  In other words, it isn’t that they aren’t Christians, it’s just that living like a Christian is a big change for some people and they’re going to struggle in it.

Like I said, it was a very brief part of the book, and after the evidential apologetics work which this book does a great job of making understandable.  I just wish he hadn’t brought it up at all because it clearly wasn’t necessary.

So get this book for a very valuable lesson in how good the reasons are that we treat the Gospels as reliable witnesses to a very extraordinary Savior.

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