“Anyone who tells you that he (or she) is completely objective and devoid of presuppositions has another more important problem: that person is either astonishingly naive or a liar.” – pg 28
Cold Case Christianity is a book written by homicide detective J. Warner Wallace which encourages us to examine the claims of the gospels in much the same manner that he would investigate a cold case or that a juror would be asked to consider opposing accounts in the courtroom. Jim does not pretend that he has no preconceptions – rather, he is up front about the fact that he is a Christian though that was not always the case. Wallace’s systematic investigation of the claims of the gospels led him to the conviction that Christianity is true.
As an atheist, Jim had many of the same objections most atheists do. In an attempt to settle the issue, he approached it as as an unsolved case. In this exercise, he quickly found a number of parallels to his day job as an investigator. Much like investigating any other cold case, the original eyewitnesses to the events recorded in the gospels are not available to question, so recorded accounts must be evaluated. Chain of custody must be examined to ensure that only trustworthy evidence is admitted. Abductive reasoning would be the key to determining what is the most plausible explanation of the known facts. All competing alternatives must be explored and eliminated until only the most reasonable and persuasive answers remain. As in any other cold case, the issue is not certainty, but whether there is sufficient evidence to draw some clear conclusions.
Certainty is the realm of disciplines like geometry. In a court of law we can’t establish exactly what happened and answer every question. We can however identify when we have reached a sufficient level of proof. There will always be some doubt about some things, but the question to ask is whether that doubt is reasonable or even relevant. At some point, the jury must return a verdict. Silence is not an option.
When considering the claims of the gospels, we must come to a conclusion. After all, if Jesus is who he said he was, that will impact every significant issue in our lives. But this is no unreasonable blind leap of faith into a dark abyss. Faith is based on what is known, not the lack of knowing. When making this decision for ourselves, we must come to a conclusion that is best supported by the evidence.
Jim’s book is unlikely to bring a skeptic to an immediate change of conviction, but he has no such illusions. These are big issues that must be taken seriously. But taking the issue seriously requires taking the evidence seriously and seeing whether it holds up. I think it does, and Jim does a superb job of addressing all the options and presenting a compelling case that the claims of Christianity are true.
If you have ever had any doubts about the veracity of the gospels (and that probably includes everyone), you ought to read this book. It’s not a difficult read, but it’s packed with substance that will give you plenty to think about. Jim has done his homework, and it shows. He is not afraid of the opposition and he does not gloss over competing claims. In this book you will find a review of the evidence available, the opinions of expert witnesses, assessments from antiquity, and a thorough review of the case as attested by the copious end notes.
If you have an interest in apologetics, this book should be in your collection. If you have skeptical friends, whether casual or intellectual, buy a stack of these and give them away. Do your best to set aside your presuppositions, grab a copy of Cold Case Christianity and see if you don’t agree that you can believe because of the evidence, not in spite of it.