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Cold-Case Christianity

Recently, I finished the book Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace. Wallace, a now-retired Los Angeles homicide detective, shares his journey from atheism to faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Cold Case Christianity, readers may find parallels to classics such as More Than a Carpenter and Case for Christ (all written by former atheists who came to Christ after examining the evidence). What makes Wallace’s take different from the others is that Wallace explores the claims and evidences for the historical Jesus through the lens of someone who solves crimes for a living. Wallace reveals that many of the cold case homicides he worked on were solved by old-fashioned detective work. He gives readers a glimpse into the tools he uses as he analyzes homicides, and how they helped him examine the early Christian writers.

Wallace lays out the evidence for the resurrection as if he were investigating a cold case. He takes the reader frame by frame and gives real world crime examples to demonstrate his thought process. One of the most interesting parts of the book is when he describes the gospel writers according to forensic statement analysis.  Taking the gospel writers as witnesses, Wallace describes the subtle differences between them that only leave two explanations: either the gospel writers “worked together, writing at precisely the same time and location, to craft a lie so subtle that very few people would even notice it at all” or they wrote based on eyewitnesses’ accounts who experienced the same event from different perspectives. As an example, Matthew records that during Jesus’ trial, guards struck him and told him to prophesy who had hit him. But only Luke states explicitly that Jesus had been blindfolded during that incident. Matthew’s account does not make sense without knowing from Luke that he had been blindfolded. Wallace’s book is filled with these nuggets.

Another thing that makes this book different from others in the same genre is Wallace’s research into the reliability of the early New Testament writers. This was the most valuable part of the book for me. As a young Christian, my biggest doubts centered on the New Testament’s transmission. Using the New Testament, I was confident the case for the resurrection was solid based on available facts. However, I had questions about the book that provided those facts. Had the texts been changed by later generations?  How could I be sure that the Bible we have today matches that of the early church? Why should I regard the early Christian writing as scripture rather than ordinary religious writing? In section 2 called “Examining the Evidence,” Wallace examines the writings of the early church fathers and shows how the books we now include in the Bible were transmitted over several generations to the Counsel of Laodicea. He slowly but methodically builds his case using the New Testament writers, secular historians, and the early church fathers. Readers will come away from Cold-Case Christianity with a greater confidence in the testimony witnessed by the New Testament.

You may want to read Cold Case Christianity if you are new to the historical evidence of Christianity, if you have had doubts about the reliability of the New Testament, or if you would simply like to have more informed discussions with people about the claims of Christianity.

Amazon happens to be offering the Kindle e-book version for $4.74 through  August 15th. Think about picking it up and learning to think a bit more like a detective.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

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