Cold Case Christianity; A Book Review

What happens when an atheist detective who mocked Christians investigates the Gospels like one of his cold case murder investigations?

His world gets rocked. He didn’t want it to be true. 

Except for the evidence from his years of investigating, it was staring him in the face. J. Warner Wallace turned that investigation into a book called Cold-Case Christianity.

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

Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold-Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal investigator. 

Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity. A unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, Cold-Case Christianity inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.”

One of the things I loved about the book is Wallace teaches us to be detectives. That alone is worth the price of the book. Especially in this world of social media, slanted news, and conspiracy theories. 

We have to Sherlock Holmes ourselves out of the misinformation to get to the truth. 

He starts with ten principles every detective must master. 

  1. Don’t be a know-it-all.
  2. Learn how to infer.
  3. Think circumstantially.
  4. Test your witnesses.
  5. Hang onto 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.

Just taking these principles and applying them to life is invaluable. Learn them.

Now you’re Batman. Congratulations.

The next section is applying the principles to the New Testament. Asking questions like, were the authors there? Is what they said corroborated, accurate, and unbiased?

Here are some quotes from the book for you to ponder like this one on Christian hypocrisy.

“This has become a prominent tactic of skeptics who deny the claims of Christianity. There can be no doubt that history is replete with examples of people who claimed to be Christians, yet behaved poorly. In fact, many people have committed great violence in the name of Christianity, claiming that their Christian worldview authorized or justified their actions, even though the teaching of Jesus clearly opposed their behavior. 

But a fair examination of history will also reveal that Christians were not alone. Groups holding virtually every worldview, from theists to atheists, have been equally guilty of violent misbehavior. Atheists point to the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition when making a case against Christians; theists point to the atheistic regimes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung when making a case against atheists. Death statistics are debated in an effort to argue which groups were more violent, but all this seems to miss the point. The common denominator in this violent misbehavior was not worldview; it was the presence of humans. 

If we are going to decide what’s true on the basis of how people behave, we’re in big trouble, because every worldview suffers from examples of adherents who have behaved inconsistently and poorly.”

Reread this, “The common denominator in this violent misbehavior was not worldview; it was the presence of humans.

People are the problem in every ideology or religion.

“I’ve seen a number of debates in which the Christian representative possessed the best arguments and mastery of the evidence, yet seemed less influential from the perspective of communication. In a culture where image is more important than information, style more important than substance, it is not enough to possess the truth. Case makers must also master the media.”

Seriously, if you can’t put it on a meme, then your argument is irrelevant—thousands of pages of sound arguments defeated by less than 25 words.

The next quote is a bit of Wallace’s story.

“The apostles recognized that their message was a life-saving cure for what was (and is) killing all of us; they gave their lives to save ours, so we could save even more. When I recognized the power of this message, I moved from “belief that” to “belief in.” People started to notice a change almost immediately. 

It wasn’t as though I was trying hard to behave differently or follow a new set of rules; I didn’t even know all the “rules” when I first decided to trust Christ. But I did know this: I was grateful. I began to understand not only the true nature of Jesus, but also the true nature of my own fallen condition. It’s hard not to see your own imperfection when you are confronted with the perfect God of the universe. 

As I came to appreciate my own need for forgiveness and what Jesus did to accomplish this for me, I became truly grateful and optimistic for the first time in my life. I had been a cop for about eight years prior to being a Christian.

In that time, I slowly lost my faith in people. I was suspicious; I considered everyone to be a liar and capable of horrific behavior. Nothing surprised me when it came to the depravity of humanity. I trusted no one and thought of myself as superior to the vast majority of people I encountered. 

I was cocky, cynical, and distant. My wife and kids were my entire world. I had a few acquaintances who were also police officers, but few other friends. My heart was shrinking and growing harder with every case I worked and with every passing year. None of this bothered me in the slightest. In fact, I saw my suspicion as a virtue. 

That all changed when I put my faith in Jesus. As I began to understand my need and the gift I had been given, my compassion and patience grew. As someone who had been forgiven, I now developed the capacity to forgive. My excitement became contagious.

It spilled over into everything I said and did. My partners noticed it, even though I was careful in the early days to hide my conversion from them. My wife was perhaps the most surprised by all of this. She was raised in a Christian environment but patiently accepted my resistance and growing cynicism for the first seventeen years of our relationship. She was about to see my life (and hers) change dramatically. Looking back at it sixteen years later, she is still amazed at the transformation.”

Then he makes a challenge to all Christians to become a two-decision Christian. 

“We’ve become abbreviated Christians. Let me explain. Most of us understand the importance of evangelism in the life of Christians. Jesus told the apostles to “make disciples of all the nations” and to instruct these disciples to obey everything that He taught (Matt. 28:16–20). We’ve come to call this the “Great Commission.” We are clearly commanded to make disciples, just as the apostles did in their own generation. 

As a result, Christians typically feel that they have been called to evangelism of some sort, even though many of us feel ill equipped to share our faith. Paul seemed to recognize this and discussed evangelism as a matter of gifting. When describing all of us as members of the church, Paul said that God gave “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12). 

Not everyone is a pastor or a prophet. Some of us are gifted in this area and some are not. In a similar way, only some of us are gifted as evangelists; not everyone has the ability to share his or her faith like Billy Graham. 

I’ve often been comforted by these words from Paul when struggling to begin a conversation about Christianity. But the New Testament authors, while recognizing that not all of us are gifted to be evangelists, described a responsibility that does apply to each and every one of us as Christians. 

Peter said that no one is allowed to relegate his or her duty as a Christian case maker. According to Peter, all of us need to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV). 

While only some of us are gifted and called to be evangelists, all of us are called to be case makers. It’s our duty as Christians. We need to stop thinking of ourselves in an abbreviated manner. As biblical, New Testament believers, we aren’t just “Christians”; we are “case-making Christians.” 

We can’t allow ourselves to get comfortable and relegate the hard work of defending the faith to those who write books on the topic. Some of us prepare meals for a living. The world is filled with popular and proficient chefs who make a living preparing meals for restaurants or television programs. 

We recognize these chefs, and we can learn something from their recipes and experiences. But even if you aren’t a professional chef, I bet you know how to prepare a meal. Meal preparation is an important part of living. Yes, some of us are professional chefs; but the rest of us need to be able to cook if we want to survive. 

In a similar way, some of us make a living preparing a defense for Christianity. The rest of us can learn a lot from the arguments and presentations of professional “Christian apologists.” But that doesn’t get us off the hook. All of us, as Christians, need to be able to prepare a defense for what we believe.”

“Each of us has to answer God’s call on our lives as two-decision Christians. If you’ve already decided to believe the Gospels, take a second step and decide to defend them. Become a case-making Christian; work in your profession, live your life faithfully, devote yourself to the truth, and steadily prepare yourself to make a defense for what you believe. I want to encourage you to make that second decision. Start small. Read and study. Engage your friends. Start a blog or host a website. Volunteer to teach a class at your church. Get in the game.”

For a while, this blog had an apologetic bent in its posts. Still does on occasion, like the book review series I’m doing now that you’re reading. 

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. This was the review then, “I’ve read a lot of books and this is the first one that I’ve read that gives you the tools to conduct your own investigation. I’m going to buy a copy for myself and do a lot of research into the footnotes.

I did; I took a small notebook’s worth of notes. From this book, blog posts were born. I’ll link them to this post. 

Get the book, become a detective, defend your faith. When times are hard, I fall back on the evidence, not my experiences. They’re important, don’t get me wrong. The evidence is the foundation, the experiences are the framework.

Investigating Christianity: Practical Application and the Evidence for a Creator and Jesus

In the last post, I wrote about J. Warner Wallace’s steps to thinking like a detective. The reason why is that anything in the past, like cold cases and historical events, all require the same skillset in forensic science. Without a time machine, we cannot empirically test the past with our senses. Break out your…

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Investigating Christianity: Tips From A Cold-Case Detective

Every person alive believes something. Even a nihilist who ‘believes’ in nothing has to make decisions. The question is if we can back it up. That is something more important than we realize, especially in matters of life or death, or eternal life or death. Questioning Christianity! I was going to my Connections class when…

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Investigating Christianity: How Can You Give a Reason for What You Believe?

Every person alive believes something. Even a nihilist who ‘believes’ in nothing has to make decisions. The question is if we can back it up. That is something more important than we realize, especially in matters of life or death, or eternal life or death. I was going to my Connections class when I overheard…

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3 thoughts on “Cold Case Christianity; A Book Review

  1. Pingback: Don’t Be Foolish | A Ronin's Journey

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