A Review of “Cold Case Christianity”

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.

“Happy New Year,” and Empty Phrases

[Editor’s note: in choosing an image for this post, it seemed appropriate to select perhaps the simplest and least innovative picture I could find. This may be to the author’s frustration, but hopefully you, the reader, will find the humor in it. Bah humbug, and all that.]

As with any type of major event or holiday, the World Wide Web exploded this Christmas and New Years Eve. Tweets were tweeted, photos were posted, and Facebook statuses were updated at a furious pace. Now I don’t generally mind people updated their virtual worlds, in fact I think people should be intentional about keeping their digital representations of themselves up-to-date. Yet during these major events, I am deeply irked by most of what was posted because, well, frankly, it’s garbage. It’s as if, with the holidays around and then a new year approaching, people threw out their thoughtfulness and sensibility, and replaced it with cliches and platitudes.

Let me first note that I understand the role of tradition, and I’m in no way saying one should not repeat the traditional “Happy New Year” or “Merry Christmas” year after year. Repeating traditional greetings is a fine thing to do and there are many traditions people should actively participate in. What I am saying is that we need to stop being so banal.

Seth Godin wrote a blog noting that in order to be a successful blogger one needs to post constantly, push through the doldrums of un-inspiration and just post. I agree with Seth mostly, but I would add this caveat: one should post with the intention of contributing something new, original, unique, etc. to the arena in which they are contributing. In the event that one cannot contribute something new, profitable, unique, etc. one has two options: either

a) Post merely the traditional greeting (i.e. “Happy New Year everyone”).


b) Remain silent.

Better to be thought a fool (or in this case a humbug) than to open your [digital] mouth and remove all doubt.

New Years Day I sat gathered around a large dining room table filled with my immediate and extended family. Given that I’m the wordy one of the family, one of my relatives looked at me before we began feasting on homemade things and, raising her Cadillac margarita-filled glass said “Andrew, would you give us a cheer for the New Year?” I screwed up my face in contemplation and said, “You know I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, how to give a New Year cheer without being cliche and–” I was immediately cut off by my jokester cousin who said “Aww to heck with it, Happy New Year everybody!” and with a resounding laugh, my family toasted to the New Year. Spontaneous simplicity infused itself into our conversation and we avoided sounding cliche. Unlike a conversation, a Facebook status or a Twitter post is a premeditated piece of writing and as such it reflects upon us in a very different way than a passing comment or remark. Be cognizant of what you are posting, to whom you are posting, and how what you post reflects upon your image.

People are constantly making resolutions for the New Year so add this one to the top of your list: don’t be cliche. Avoid cliches at all cost, even if it means saying nothing. Now go back and purge your Facebook of its yawn-inducing bromides, clear your Twitter feed of its platitudes and go post some authentic, original, unique content.

Microsoft Surface: A Brief Review (of sorts)

Reviews of the new Microsoft’s new Surface tablet suck. There, I said it. Someone had to! Mossberg gives his thoughts on it, David Pogue opines about it, Josh Toplosky reviews it, everybody has something to say about this new piece of technology from Microsoft. They break down this new gadget in every category imaginable: hardware, software, design, build quality, impressions, etc. But these reviews don’t grasp the most important element of using a device, the likeability. Likeability is an intangible that is extremely difficult to quantify or write about. Each reviewer tells you (the reader) whether they like the device or not, but it’s impossible for the reviewer to gauge whether you will like the device. Whether someone likes a device or not is determined by a complex variety of reasons, one that doesn’t just appear if you add up all the factors. Continue reading Microsoft Surface: A Brief Review (of sorts)

Why Folk Music Rocks

This is not a review of Mumford & Sons’s newest album. Ms. Alicia Prickett did a fantastic job writing a thoughtful review on Mumford & Son’s newest album a few days ago. This post seeks to understand a couple of questions. The first: where did this genre we call folk music come from? The second: why is this genre so popular today, why is contemporary folk music making a resurgence? Continue reading Why Folk Music Rocks

Sensationalism and the iPhone: Where Did Thoughtful Blogging Go?

Incendiary pieces about Apple’s newly announced iPhone (the curiously-named iPhone 5) are a dime a dozen, that is to say, they’re extremely common and of no particular value. A quick internet search will return literally thousands of articles regarding the announcement. These articles vary in their level of incendiary-ness. It’s as if those in the cheer-on-Apple’s-downfall camp got together and decided to have a competition to see who could publish the most badly argued, least convincing, ludicrous articles. Whether you’re for or against the new iPhone 5 it’s clear that articles with titles such as The Disappointing iPhone 5: Is Apple Falling Behind the Competition?  or Apple’s Big iPhone Disappointment swing to the extreme. Over-the-top sensationalism reached a fever pitch in articles such as The iPHONE 5 UNDERMINES western DEMOCRACY: 5 Reasons Why Owning One Will Be the Badge of an Utter Fool.   Continue reading Sensationalism and the iPhone: Where Did Thoughtful Blogging Go?

Titles, “Christians,” and Shots in the Dark

One morning a coworker of mine, Kenneth, was expressing his vehement distaste for Christians when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Oxenham, you’re a Christian, right?” I replied, “I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘Christian,’ but I do love Jesus immensely.” Kenneth nodded his head in agreement, noting, “Mhmm you’re not like any of the Christians I’ve met. You don’t judge me, you’re kind to me, and more than that, you’re a good friend.” With that, the conversation moved to a new topic. Continue reading Titles, “Christians,” and Shots in the Dark