Here’s the pitch: An LA homicide detective, formally an atheist, takes up pen and writes an apologetic. He leverages his experience and applies cold-case investigative technique to examine the historical authenticity of the claims of the gospels. Intrigued? If so, you’ll probably be picking up a copy (or two) of Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner “Jim” Wallace.
The concept behind Cold-Case Christianity is a fascinating one, and I admit that I was excited to get my hands on a copy. Having watched my share of police procedurals, I’m aware of how we as a society are drawn to that genre. A well-executed apologetic using this treatment could be quite potent.
Cold-Case Christianity starts with “Learn to Be a Detective”, a ten-chapter section that lays out the key principles of cold-case investigation. Each chapter addresses a principle, using real-world cases from Wallace’s history on the police force as illustrations, then it provides one or more examples of how that principle can be applied to examine the Bible.
Section 2 (“Examine the Evidence”) takes the principles from Section 1 and applies them to a number of arguments against (or in favor) of the historicity of the gospels. Continuing the theme, Wallace draws from his professional experience and considers the testimony of the apostles in the same manner he would examine the testimony of an eyewitness to a crime.
The book is thoughtfully organized and well-presented. The illustrations are constructive as graphical explanation of key concepts – they augment without distracting the discussion. The layout is somewhat reminiscent of a modern college textbook, though it’s certainly not dry – in fact, it can be quite engaging. Wallace keeps the reader engrossed by balancing his instruction with frequent peeks into the life of a homicide detective.
Cold-Case Christianity is not advanced Christian scholarship – nor is it intended to be. More appropriately, it is what I call a “seeker apologetic” – a great introduction to common objections regarding the Christian faith – and one that employs a unique yet practical approach. Cold-Case Christianity is well-situated to attract the unchurched, the fence-straddler, the misinformed skeptic, or otherwise someone standing just on the other side of belief.
The arguments won’t be new to you if you’ve read similar titles by Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell; however, the strength of Wallace’s work truly rests in the concept and his execution upon that. Ultimately, Cold-Case Christianity triumphs because it successfully functions as a compelling but non-threatening invitation to explore one’s doubts about Christian faith.
For myself, the best testimony to the value of Wallace’s book is my own experience with it. I’ve carried Cold-Case Christianity across the country on airplanes, to meetings, and to coffee shops. Wherever I happen to be, it becomes a source of conversation, and people – believers or non-believers – are drawn to it. Friends and family members ask to borrow it – there is currently a waiting list for it in my “lending library”.
While Cold-Case Christianity is likely not the most comprehensive or eloquently written apologetic available, it just might be the most effective. I recommend you pick up two copies – one for yourself to read and mark-up, and another to make available when folks inevitably ask to borrow yours.
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