A Review of “Cold Case Christianity”

Book Reviews — By on February 6, 2013 at 7:00 am

Upon finishing Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, my thoughts traveled back through the literary journey I had just taken and I was surprised at what a wonderful feeling that re-tracing left in my mind. But let me back up. When I was given a copy of Cold-Case Christianity, it came highly recommended. It had a forward by notable Christian apologist Lee Strobel, and praise written by Rick Warren scrawled across its back. Now call me a contrarian, but when something sits in a particular camp and is recommended by people in that camp, I’m not very wowed. Of course Christians say a Christian author’s book is really great; I mean, look what happens when Nokia ridiculously reviews its own phone. Is anyone surprised by that review? Needless to say, I went into the book a bit off-put.

Despite my hesitancies, J. Warner Wallace lays out guidelines for the book which prove to be very thoughtful. He is “careful not to jump to supernatural explanations” about things which are satisfactorily explained by natural phenomena (30). Despite his caution, Wallace is out to “encourage [his] skeptical friends to reexamine their natural presuppositions,” while still being “careful to respect the claims of naturalists when they are evidentially supported” (30). And true to his word, Wallace will spend the rest of the book respectfully walking the fine line between ascribing things to the supernatural and allowing for scientific (or “naturalist,” to use his term) theories to explain events.

The 261-page book follows an extremely simple format: the book is broken down into two major sections for a total of 14 chapters plus a post script. Having spent 30 some odd years as a homicide detective, Mr. Wallace is full of intriguing stories which are both interesting and educational. He not only peppers the book with these stories but places one roughly at the beginning of each chapter, using the story as a springboard with which to talk about the particular focus of that chapter.

Wallace is quick to explain his terms, show how they are relevant, and then use them to make his point about a particular area of apologetics. The book could easily function as an apologetics primer; a casual or young Christian would find the various points discussed helpful and educational. The book touches on all different types of apologetic devices—notable arguments such as the cosmological argument make an appearance—and Wallace does a fine job of breaking them down into their component parts and explaining them, all after grounding the larger idea in a tangible example from a previous homicide case.

Now the material inside of Mr. Wallace’s book is, by its very nature, controversial. In this review I seek not to defend the validity of the material, I recommend you get the book, read it, think about it, and come to conclusions on your own. Now as to the question of whether you should pick up this work or not, I’d answer yes only if one of the following were true:

1)  You’re a new believer and want to learn the basic tenets of apologetics.

2)  You get the general gist of apologetics but would like to better learn how to debate and discuss your faith.

3)  You were on the fence about becoming a believer and wanted more concrete evidence that the worldview you were buying into had grounding.

Cold-Case Christianity does contain a slight negative that limits its appeal. While the book covers all sorts of philosophical defenses of Christianity, it spends very little time on each one. The cosmological argument, for example, is introduced, Wallace says a few things about it, and then he moves on. The book serves more as an introduction and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it makes this more of a basic piece of literature on apologetics, one that would need to be complemented by more in-depth looks at some of the various apologetic tools. That being said, the book is a great place to begin a deeper look into the whys behind the Christian faith, a broad survey of the evidence.

A review copy for Cold Case Christianity was provided by J. Warner Wallace in exchange for a review. There were no requirements for the content of the review.

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