Cold-Case Christianity

Cold-Case ChristianityBook Review

Is it too late for Christmas book shopping? I can’t link to it now as I write this—our Internet is down due to nasty Ohio weather—but I’m sure you don’t need my guidance to find J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (Link updated in a later post revision.)

The book is one of the most readable arguments for the faith I have ever encountered. Part of its intrigue is in the way Wallace lets us in on a life most of us have watched eagerly on TV, but which he has lived; for he is indeed a veteran cold-case detective with the Los Angeles Police Department (though I’ve heard rumors of a career move coming soon).

Wallace’s credentials for this book are impeccable in at least one sense, for as far as evidence goes, the case for Christianity is distinctly cold. The thing is, old, cold cases get solved. It happened with the murder of my cousin, fifteen years after the event, and as Warner relates, he has seen it happen multiple times as well. It’s not all about scientific evidence. In fact, Warner’s own track record with DNA evidence is almost nil. He’s seen it being useful as evidence in other detectives’ cases, but (as I recall) it only figured in one of his convictions.

Evidence did not begin with crime labs, in other words. There is testimony, for instance. We’ve had debates in the past here on this blog over the value of eyewitnesses, with one skeptic claiming their testimony is never really reliable. Wallace goes into that question at length, explaining how and in what circumstances eyewitnesses can be of great value to an investigator. His discussion of interlocking testimony alone is worth the price of the book, where he shares the value of witnesses not saying the same thing about a crime. The implications for the Gospels are obvious.

He even provides real-life perspective on the Fourth Gospel, the one that is so different from the first three, the one that was written last. In his experience, if a certain witness has heard others give their reports, that witness is unlikely to say what they said. He or she will fill in with additional, new information instead.

And then there’s his very relevant, informative discussion on circumstantial evidence, which I was surprised to learn has much more value than I had thought, not only for police work but even in the courts.

Wallace says he kept a leather bag by his bed to take to crime scenes, and he offers a metaphorical investigational tool kit for readers. His book would be a great first item to include in yours.

(This review should post automatically when our Internet service returns. I might find time to add my usual links and book cover photo tomorrow.)