Books Make Me Barf: Cold-Case Christianity

“The answers are available; you don’t have to turn off your brain to be a believer. Yes, it is possible to become a Christian because of the evidence rather than in spite of the evidence. Many of us have done just that. ~J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity

I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic in that I have a tendency to question things. I’ve said this before, but I guess I’ll say it again. I’m interested in believing true things, not necessarily popular things.  Subjective feelings are not, necessarily, good indicators of truth.  Moreover, emotion is certainly inadequate, in most cases, to allow us to make a compelling case to somebody else for our beliefs. We must learn to responsibly follow and present objective evidence if we’re to compete in the marketplace of ideas. The good news is that we all seem to be predisposed to follow evidence.  We use evidence to make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  I look out the window every morning and, based on the evidence, decide if I should wear a jacket today or not.  In fact, I may just use circumstantial evidence to conclude it is raining outside when I see one of my kids come inside wet.  Sure it’s possible that they may have just been playing in the sprinkler, but if it is winter time and they’re fully clothed, I can infer the most reasonable conclusion is that the weather is inclement.  Evidence is important for forming our beliefs about reality.  We should all be skeptics to some degree, having sound reasons for why we believe what we believe.  Enter J. Warner Wallace.

J. (Jim) Warner Wallace is a vocal atheist turned vocal Christian apologist.  Having worked in law enforcement for many years, Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective in the Los Angeles County area. You may have seen his work featured on Dateline. In his recently released book “Cold-Case Christianity“, he tackles the case of the historicity of the life of Jesus using the techniques of his trade, applying the same principles he uses to solve cold-case homicides where witnesses are gone, physical evidence is slight, and it is solid circumstantial cases that bring the truth to light.  Detective Wallace takes you through his own journey from atheist to follower of Jesus of Nazareth via careful evaluation of the historical evidence, training you to think critically about things like evaluating witnesses, conspiracy theory, and the chain of custody in evidence gathering.

With this book J. Warner Wallace makes a significant contribution to the defense of the reasonableness of the Christian faith.  In recent years the vocal “new atheist” movement has been aggressively attacking religion, and specifically Christianity, with a newfound hostility, often claiming that the enterprise of reason stands solely with their position.  Tearing down strongholds and demolishing arguments against the knowledge of God, Cold-Case Christianity makes it abundantly clear that a belief in the Biblical text is not only reasonable, but even more reasonable than any of the other ancient documents which we accept at face value in our pursuit of knowledge about the past.  When evaluated objectively, as any good jury member with an open mind ought to, the historical case for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is successfully prosecuted by J. Warner Wallace.  It is only if one comes to the case with the pre-existing conclusion that supernatural events can’t happen that the case can be dismissed.

Undoubtedly, the charge against Wallace from some Christians will be that he takes the “faith” out of faith (by the way, fideism makes me barf).  They’ll likely say that this evidential approach to Biblical investigation puts God on trial.  I’d ask these naysayers to refer to their Bibles in places like 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 2 Corinthians 10:5, and Jude 1:3 (among others).  The Biblical authors were clear that reasoning with people and defending faith in Christ was a virtue, not a vice.  J. Warner Wallace has taken these mandates seriously, carefully arranging a book that is useful to both Christians and non-Christians alike in their pursuit of understanding.

Not only does Wallace build a successful case for the reliability of the eyewitness gospel accounts, but he does it in a way that is appealing to any fan of the whodunit genre of books, movies, and television shows.  Weaved into J. Warner Wallace’s investigation of the biblical accounts, are real world examples from his cold-cases that are used to reinforce the subject matter of each chapter.  Cold-Case Christianity is one of the most accessible apologetics books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  This is a book anybody can, and should, pick up and read not only to educate themselves, but for the pure enjoyment of it as well.  Kudos to J. Warner Wallace who has put together a book that is both educational and fun!  Thorough, winsome, and entertaining, this is the first book that should be recommended to any skeptic who levels a charge against the reliability of the gospel accounts or the historical figures that penned them.

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Barfing Makes Me Barf

WordPress recently wished me a happy anniversary.  I published 33 posts in 2012, which kind of surprises me.  I didn’t figure I’d keep it going for a year.  While I certainly tapered off on the number of posts near the end of 2012, largely because my mind was distracted with some work-related shenanigans, I actually made it through an entire year of barfing up my ramblings at an average of nearly 3 posts per month.  I found it useful to be able to sort of sit down and flesh out some of my own  thoughts, if only for myself.  It’s easy enough to have an opinion about something, but it is quite another to be able to think it through carefully enough to lay it out publicly and be prepared to defend it.

In 2011, after finishing a chronological read through the Bible, I found I kind of missed the cover to cover goal.  Not only have I slowly become, I think, a better student of the biblical text, literary context, history, and culture, but I guess I’ve also become at least a semi-avid reader (you’ve got to get your context from somewhere).  Now, if you ask my mother, or my wife, you’ll find out that all the way up through 2011 I would have told you I HATE reading.  They both love to read; always have.  My mother tried in vain to encourage me to like reading when I was young.  I couldn’t stand it.  I’d much rather watch the movie than read the book.  I think it turns out that maybe I was just reading the wrong things.  Basically, when it comes to fiction, I’d still rather see the movie.  Being a technology enthusiast, I love multimedia for storytelling.  In the past year though, I’ve consumed 14 books (that I can recall), which is probably more than my previous lifetime total as far as books that I’ve read of my own volition.  Amazon has helped significantly in that regard, as having books in electronic version rather than paper version so makes it easy to haul a whole library around.  Plus, being an IT professional, I’m a tech junkie.  I like to read now, but if it isn’t on Kindle, there’s still little chance I will read it.  If I find a book I want that isn’t in Kindle format, you’ll find me clicking that button that says “Tell the publisher I’d like to see this title on Kindle” rather than the “Buy” button.

Beyond Kindle, it turns out what I actually like to consume books, just not novels!  It turns out rather than a good story, I like ideas and matters of utmost importance.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”  I think this is a true statement, and perhaps I’ve finally realized it.  I’ve decided in a war of ideas, one can either be a soldier or a victim.  Being a bystander relegates you to being the latter.  This would explain the reading material I started consuming in 2012 I guess, along with acquiring a distance learning certificate in Christian Apologetics via Biola University’s apologetics department.

  1. Spiritual Warfare, Karl Payne
  2. Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen
  3. Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas
  4. Is God a Moral Monster, Paul Copan
  5. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Norm Geisler and Frank Turek
  6. True Reason, Collection of Essays by misc authors
  7. Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig
  8. Relativism, Greg Koukl
  9. Tactics, Greg Koukl
  10. Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, Garrett DeWeese and J.P. Moreland
  11. Seven Days That Divide the World, John Lennox
  12. Adventures in Churchland, Dan Kimball
  13. Love Your God With All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland
  14. Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey

Currently, I’m in the midst of a systematic theology book by Michael Horton, but I’ve decided to take a break and read the just released “Cold Case Christianity” by homicide detective J. Warner Wallace.  The latter which I’ve been anticipating for a year.  I love unique perspectives, so 13% in (because the Kindle doesn’t think in pages) it is living up to the anticipation!  Perhaps this year I’ll have to try taking up book reviews.

You probably see a theme here, as it is the same theme emerged in my occasional blog posts.  Initially I had intended to blog what I was thinking about, which I figured was about a lot of different things that interest me.  However, it turns out that what interests me the most, are things that I believe are of infinite importance, and so I want to try to understand them the best that I can.  While I’m interested in computers/technology, running, photography, video games, and other pop culture, it turns out that a lot of time my thought patterns about even those things always come back to apologetics, theology, and understanding/defending my own faith in a triune God of the universe who ultimately rules over all these things.  I like to think about it, talk about it, be challenged to refine my own views, and challenge other people to refine their views.  I really appreciate the folks that have chimed in, even if it was to disagree with my views!  Civil argumentation is the only way any of us can actually come to know and believe anything true.  It certainly isn’t in a vacuum of unchallenged group-think that the truth is reached.  Lest you think that’s what I’m doing because of my book list, it’s also worth pointing out that I also consume the ideas of scholars like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Bart Ehrman, etc.  I generally gather information from the skeptical crowd in YouTube, podcast, and blog form though, as I prefer my money go to supporting the authors and publishers of the side I find myself agreeing with.  I’m considering changing that policy this year though, as I haven’t yet found somebody to loan me books like “The God Delusion”, “God is Not Great”,  “The Moral Landscape”, or a “Universe from Nothing”.  A borrowed book would have to be paper anyway…yuck!

In any case, I guess I’ll give up this year and admit that if I’m going to keep this blogging thing up (which remains to be seen), that it will most often be about apologetic or theological matters, even if the thought was spawned by work, play, politics, or pop culture.  Binding all of those things together with my faith is unavoidable by my worldview.  If you want to kindly set me straight on anything, whether you share most of my worldview (Classical Christianity), very little of my worldview (none is not likely), or somewhere in the middle…go for it!  I don’t offend easily.  If things of infinite importance don’t interest you, then you might as well steer clear!