Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels
by J. Warner Wallace
When it comes to the issue of evidence for Christianity, there are two types of skeptics. Outside of Christianity, there are the religious skeptics who regard Christianity as a matter of a blind leap of faith because, they believe, there is not a shred of evidence for the things Christians believe. Within Christianity, there are those who, though well-meaning, claim that evidence is somehow impotent in bringing someone to faith.
Enter J. Warner Wallace. Wallace is a seasoned cold-case
homicide detective from LA who was once an angry atheist
who reveled in making Christians feel foolish for their faith.
At one point in his life, however, he came to employ his skills and experience as a law-enforcement officer in investigating the four gospels of the New Testament. His professional conclusion: the evidence indicates that these gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are indeed reliable eyewitness accounts. At the age of 35, this angry atheist became a believer in Christ. The evidential approach he took and the fruit it has borne is a testimony against said skeptics and we as readers can benefit from his insights in his recently released book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.
This book is divided largely into two parts. In the first section, Wallace prepares the would-be investigators of the gospel accounts with ten essential skills and mindset they need to have in order to assess the evidence fairly. No one is free from bias when assessing any kind of evidence and many fall prey to their bias because they are simply unaware of it. Wallace brings some of the key bias, assumptions and false expectations to light, helping the readers “tweak” their view. In fact, this first section is helpful not only in assessing the evidence in relation to the gospel accounts, but in assessing any kind of evidence in general.
In the second section, Wallace discusses the evidence that led him to conclude that the gospels in the New Testament were indeed eyewitness accounts. He sets up a paradigm of four key questions by which we can test whether the gospel accounts are eyewitness accounts and whether they are trustworthy: Were they present? Were they corroborated? Were they accurate? Were they biased? He presents multiple lines of evidence and convincingly argues for the affirmative of all four questions, dealing with some of the more common objections along the way.
There are a number of things that are quite striking about this book, one that truly stands out to me is its readability. Being a layman himself (albeit a very well-read researcher-type), he communicates in such a way that other laypeople can easily grasp the point he makes. His language is down-to-earth and most of the points he raises (that is, the skills mentioned in the first section, different lines of evidence in assessing the reliability of the gospel accounts, etc.) are almost commonsensical. The stories from his personal experiences as a seasoned cold-case homicide investigator are engaging; they serve as great “rest stops” along the way as the reader processes through the presented material. The illustrations (which, impressively enough, were done by Wallace himself) provide quick summaries for visual learners.
Wallace truly brings something unique to the table of apologetics. The combination of the skepticism he once held and his current profession (which has a natural connection to assessing accounts that no longer have any surviving eyewitnesses) together produced a book that is both easy and substantial for beginners to read. Wallace also points his readers to further reading in the Appendix for the topic discussed in each chapter. Along with Greg Koukl’s Tactics and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, I would recommend Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity as an absolute must-read for anyone starting out in apologetics.