If this book is about a “crime scene,” I have two additional charges to file.
One is against myself. J. Warner Wallace sent this book to me months ago, and I haven’t been able to read and review it until now. I’m criminally late.
One is against the author. He’s criminally competent. I like to think of myself as a fairly capable thinker and writer, but he does me in. He’s entertaining, he’s clear, he’s thorough, and he really, really knows his stuff. J. Warner, I’m going to get you for this!
J. Warner Wallace is a retired LAPD cold-case homicide detective–hence the name and theme for this book, a sequel to his excellent Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. The previous book covered claims regarding Jesus Christ in history. This one tackles the broader question of theism from a scientific and philosophical perspective.
Who’s Been In This Room?
While that may sound fascinating to some people, especially readers here, it’s a daunting topic to most. Wallace eases the challenge by setting all of his discussions in light of one main question he asked in almost all of his investigations: Has someone else been in this room?
A detective wants to know whether a death occurred by natural causes, by accident, by suicide, or by murder. One of the first questions is, Has someone else been in this room?; for if not, then murder is pretty well ruled out. I know, there are exceptions, but you get the point. If it’s a potential crime scene, investigators look closely for evidence that someone else has been there: items, markings, etc. that can’t be explained otherwise.
In one of Wallace’s investigations it was a small semi-circle of foam from a hiking boot. In another it was shoeprints that didn’t match the deceased’s shoes. You’ve seen enough detective shows, so you know how it goes. Recalling the gradual process of his conversion from atheism to Christianity, he writes,
It was time for me to look carefully at the evidence for God’s existence. If a supernatural being did exist, the miracles in the Gospels would be possible and maybe even reasonable. The case for God’s existence was an integral part of the case for the reliability of the Gospels.
Like our investigation of Richard’s living room, my investigation of the natural universe required me to look at the characteristics of the “room” and determine if they could be explained fully by what already existed within the “four walls.” Was there any evidence inside the universe pointing to the existence or intervention of a supernatural being outside the universe?
Once again my most important question was, Can I account for all the evidence in this “room” by staying in the “room”?
Or, Was the universe an inside job?
Saddle Up To Pursue the Truth
His police stories are fascinating, if at times disturbing (as he acknowledges in advance). They ease the journey through the evidences, as I said—but this is still quite a chase. He puts it this way: “Saddle up, partner! … The pursuit of truth is personal, and you’re in the driver’s seat.”
The chase runs through questions about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, evidence of design in biology and cosmology, our human experience including consciousness and morality, and the existence of evil. All of these point to someone from “outside the room.”
Frequent illustrations lighten the text, but it’s the sidebars, titled “Tools for the Call-Out Bag,” that really lay a foundation for true understanding. One of them is titled, “Can we reason through the lens of our experience to evaluate something outside our experience?” His answer there illustrates how he approaches this repeatedly throughout the book.
Jurors are allowed to consider their own experience, even in the case of something for which they have no personal experience. Courts instruct jurors to draw “reasonable inferences”: conclusions regarded as logical by reasonable people in the light of their experience in life.
The jurors in my cases typically have no personal experience related to murder, but we still encourage them to reason from their other experiences to evaluate critical (if sometimes limited) aspects of the case. In a similar way, none of us has personal experience with infinites, but we can still reason from experience to evaluate these notions and consider the absurdities we described.
Other sidebars highlight “Expert Witnesses,” which include authors and scholars writing on these topics from both an unbelieving and believing perspective.
Top of the List
Just a few days ago I overheard someone asking for the best introductory book on apologetics. I jumped in and recommended J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity, just as I have been ever since I first read it. (The other person in the conversation agreed with me.) God’s Crime Scene is likely to become my top recommended book for philosophical apologetics. Wallace’s detective analogies don’t necessarily make the scientific and philosophical topics easy to understand, but they sure go a long way towards making them easier than they are in many other volumes of the sort.
So, to avoid the risk of having to file a third criminal charge, I’m going to recommend that you obtain this book and read it as quickly as possible (quicker than I did!). It would be a crime if you didn’t.