Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace – A Brief Review

Cold Case ChristianityI knew about the book, but to be honest, I bought the book because I saw it cheap as a Kindle book for just £1.49.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I started reading it Wallace hooked me right in. It reads very well and his experience as a ‘cold-case’ detective works brilliantly. The stories (cases) are brief but are written in such a way to make them really interesting; and the way he relates them to his apologetic is excellent.

The top points of the book are the way it relates to the real world. We hear some rubbish about ‘the real world’ and the like but here Wallace draws from hard experience that has probably seen the awful things this wicked world has to offer and what people can do to one another. As a detective there’s not much he hasn’t seen. And in the world of detective work ‘abductive reasoning’ has to work. You can see examples of it on a program like CSI. All his examples and the way he deals with objections, especially to the resurrection work well. We can all use the answers when speaking to unbelievers. And he’s right, he does show that these answers to sceptics is entirely reasonable. It is a reasonable faith.

I particularly like his first point from the ‘tool-kit. Ch 1. Don’t be a “Know-it All”. No-one likes a know it all so best not to be one. As with all the chapters it comes with a real life illustration. In this case of how an experienced detective got it spectacularly wrong by thinking he knew it all. We should take it to heart.

It’s a fascinating book written by someone who knows what he’s talking about. The chapter on Circumstantial Evidence is very interesting and with all the other chapters does make an extremely powerful case. I have no doubt this book will have been used and will continue to be used to demonstrate the case for the Christian faith. I pray it will be so.

The chapter on Forensic Statement Analysis shows how a close reading of any text is critical. It also shows how as Christians we have nothing to fear from anyone wanting to take a close look at the Scriptures. The biggest problem is most people don’t tend to read it closely – including Christians. It challenges me. I need to pay close attention to the text. God has chosen to communicate through words and we should take notice of them.

There’s a But coming….

However, for all its good points, and there are many, it falls short. There are a few things it fails to address, there are a few things that are plain wrong and it shows why the ‘Evidentialist’ apologetic can’t quite get the boulder up the hill. I’d like to think what follows could be added to or supplement his method, but that would undermine his whole apologetic. Maybe the book needs an extra chapter ‘How to use Evidence with the Presupposisional Apologetic Method’. Actually there is such a book (Van Til & The Use of Evidence by Thom Notaro).

1. Where it fails to address.

There’s a lot of appeal to Evidence – the nature of the Book – but little appeal to Scripture or to the authority of Christ. This is where his criticism of ‘Circular reasoning’ or sometimes called ‘begging the question’ is wrong. It’s actually impossible to avoid. As Wallace points out everyone is Biased. It’s actually impossible to avoid because everyone reasons in a circle. Nowhere does Wallace appeal to Christ or the Scriptures as the final authority, and that’s a problem. Putting it bluntly, with this methodology Evidence trumps Revelation.

2. Where it’s plain wrong.

i) On this point I was actually quite surprised. Maybe it’s a mistake and I’m more than prepared to cut him some slack. I’m sure he is a good guy. But Wallace gives a definition of ‘faith’ that is at odds with how the Bible defines it. The Bible doesn’t use faith in the way he defines it. He says at the end of Chapter 2, p52. ‘… the biblical definition of faith is a well-placed and reasonable inference based on evidence’. No it isn’t. One of my favourite hymns puts it like this:

Faith, see the place, and see the tree
Where heaven’s Prince, instead of me,
Was nailed to bear my shame.

That is much more than an inference! But we don’t get our theology from Hymns. What he has done is interpret Hebrews 11:1 to fit with his Evidential Apologetic. Yes, it uses the Word ‘evidence’ but it doesn’t mean what Wallace is making it say. Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8) and saving faith is from the Holy Spirit alone (John 3:). We exercise a God-given faith in response to the preached (Heralded) Word of God, The Gospel. Our minds are presented with the claims (not inferences) of the Gospel and we are commanded to repent & believe (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30 ). There’s an excellent Chapter on Faith in God’s Words by J. I. Packer p. 128, IVP, 1981.

ii) There’s quite a serious error on page 122 of 290 (Kindle edition) where he says the Bible Gospels ‘were established as Scripture at the Council of Laodicea in AD 363’. This would put the council over the Self Authenticating authority of the Bible. Words are important and maybe it’s just a typo but it’s quite a serious one. The Historic Church Councils didn’t establish the Gospels as Scripture but recognised them as Scripture. You might think this is nit-picking but the difference is quite profound. The 1689 Baptist Confession and The Westminster Confession are in agreement on this. The Holy Scriptures 1:4 (1689) ‘The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God its Author (Who is Truth itself). Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.’ Not received because it has been established through the evidence or the ‘chain of custody’. Evidence is a good thing but we do not place it over Scripture, and that’s the difference between ‘establishing’ and ‘recognising’. There isn’t space here but the Council (Synod) of Laodicea 363 AD isn’t one of the 7 Ecumenical Councils but was a local council comprising some 30 leaders, and I would fault him for using it here as evidence. [BTW: If anyone has more information on this particular Council I’d be interested.]

3. Why it doesn’t go far enough.

Unfortunately, it falls short of certainty. It can only ever be a possible explanation, an ‘inference to the best explanation’ or abductive reasoning. Dealing with the grimy world of homicide and dealing with the Scripture is a whole other ball game. The Bible is in a completely different category – a category on its own and must be treated in that way. [That doesn’t mean we do not address difficulties, we do. Van Til said we must. Presuppositional scholars engage in Textual Criticism at an academic level] The Scripture is the Only Explanation. God is the Only True God. I’m sure Wallace believes this to be so, but his apologetic won’t allow certainty. The most it can give is to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. [Otherwise there would be no mistaken convictions – but there are. Juries can get it wrong.] Using ‘evidence’ in this way it can only ever be a possibility. Can Christ only be a possible Saviour, a possible explanation? Or even to be a Saviour ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Surely not! The Bible speaks of certainty.

The problem is, it will not matter how much evidence you gather, nor how reasonable a case, rebellious men and women would rather believe the lie (Rom 1:25; 2 Thes 2:11-12) than believe in the word of God. There will always be another piece of vital evidence produced – the killer evidence that will prove the Bible to be a fiction. The problem is not an evidential or intellectual one, it’s a spiritual one. We must start with the Word of God as the Word of God. The unbeliever will grasp hold of any contrary evidence no matter how fantastic. And even if the evidence is accepted it’s on the basis that the reason of man has been elevated to the position of Judge. In this book, we are the Judges, we are the Jury and the Word of God and the very existence of God Himself is in the Dock. The reality is very different. We are in the Dock, we are being judged, and a verdict has already been passed – Guilty! Guilty, vile and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God is He’.

Cutting to the chase

Would I recommend the book? I think it would be helpful for Christians. There’s a lot of good and useful information. My view is that it needs an explanation as to WHY the evidences are there. Wallace doesn’t, and his methodology will not allow him to explain evidence this way. The very fact that any investigation can take place ALREADY proves there is a God and the reliability of the Scriptures. Building a case by finding evidence presupposes order and rationality before finding one shred of evidence. If there was an introduction to the book that laid out these assumptions that are already there, then the book would carry much more weight. Every page that is turned and the fact of language and communication already proves the truth of the Bible. In fact just picking up the book, without even opening it proves what Wallace spends the whole book trying to prove. The evidence is already there.

A final word.

We are called to the work. But no matter what your apologetic, no matter how good, or even how bad your arguments are, there’s only one way an individual will become a Christian – that’s through the operation of The Holy Spirit on the sinner. We dare not think that if we can muster our best arguments and make the case in as loving and earnest manner as is humanly possible it will – voilà, make the person become a believer, a Christian. It is not so. We do not help the sinner by making them put their faith in a methodology or in evidence. Our faith must be in Christ. That is the Christ of Scripture, of history, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Evidence and even presuppositional apologetics is good but it doesn’t save. Only God can do that. Thankfully He uses our efforts – including this book – for His Glory. But His Glory He will not share with another. Christ Alone is our watchword.

SETI – Celebrating 50 Years of Silence (55 years now)

Frank_Drake_-_editThis is a post from 2010. Thought I’d reblog it – hope you like it.

I had no idea that it had been 50  silent years for the SETI project.  Material World on Radio 4 (BBC) interviewed Dr Frank Drake (Chairman of the Board of the SETI Institute) inventor or originator of what is known as The Drake Equation.  The equation is a series of guesses based on the assumption that life is ‘out there’ resulting in what scientists might call a best guestimate. [I hope I’ve not misrepresented here as this is not my intention at all.] The interview on Material World was fascinating. Dr Drake was faced with the fact of 50 years of total silence. Did this put him off – not a bit of it. I suppose in the end it comes down to wishful thinking. I was tempted to say faith – but true faith must have an object. But because there is no evidence of life, in fact no life, no object, no faith, just wishful thinking. There must be life ‘out there’ because, well there just must be.

SETI InstituteThis is interesting – and tragic – because if Dr Drake applied a similar set of guesses and called it The God Equation he would be convinced in far less time than 50 years that there is a divine creator. The evidence of a creator is overwhelming. But Dr Drake and others simply do not want to believe it – so it can’t be true because well it just can’t be.

What I do applaud is the honesty of Dr Drake. There was no attempt to falsify or weasel his way out of the argument. He’s a believer just like Mulder – though with less proof – and will not be dissuaded.

As Christians we should praise and thank God because left to ourselves there is no difference. We suppressed the truth about God because we didn’t like where it led us – to God. Even with overwhelming evidence of a God and a Saviour, still we would not bow the knee to King Jesus. Ah but He sends His Word & Spirit – it’s all of His grace. There’s real hope then for people like Dr Drake because it’s not dependent on how bright we are but how Gracious God is.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17   ‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend’.

That’s a great verse, especially for friends. We have our friends best interest at heart and we seek to sharpen them. Here’s a part of Matthew Henry’s commentary:

‘…. Men are filed, made smooth, and bright, and fit for business (who were rough, and dull, and inactive), by conversation. This is designed, 1. To recommend to us this expedient for sharpening ourselves, but with a caution to take heed whom we choose to converse with, because the influence upon us is so great either for the better or for the worse. 2. To direct us what we must have in our eye in conversation, namely to improve both others and ourselves, not to pass away time or banter one another, but to provoke one another to love and to good works and so to make one another wiser and better.’

It’s a good thing to have a friend that will sharpen you up even when it hurts!

Some of you may know (if you don’t, check it out!) Chris Arnzen has a Radio program called ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ and he quotes Matthew Henry at the beginning of his program.

Here’s the link: Iron Sharpens Iron

James White 3-part Video / Audio response to David Gushee

Dr White of Alpha & Omega Ministries has concluded his response to Dr David Gushee. I recommend you all watch / listen to these. With Churches collapsing and falling over themselves to affirm Same Sex Marriage and the LGBTQ totalitarian ideology Christians need to be prepared. I watched part of a BBC Q & A session last evening (05/05/2015) with Northern Ireland leaders as part of the election coverage over here in the UK. They just were floundering to affirm LGBTQ rights. There was a Christian in the audience that spoke out and despite assurances to the contrary it was obvious his fears will probably be confirmed. Among words used and forcefully expressed by members of the audience were Bigot & Homophobe. As Dr White says ‘it isn’t a slippery slope it’s a cliff’ and we are teetering on the edge looking over. O Lord our God in wrath remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). Videos below. (Go to the bottom of this page for Audio Links) I don’t know Dr White but I take him to be a sane level-headed man not given to scare-mongering. He’s far more aware of what’s going on than I am so I take his warnings seriously.

Video 1 – Responding to Dr. David Gushee’s “Reformation Project” Presentation
‘I began a multi-part, full response to Dr. David Gushee’s presentation at the Reformation Project conference back in 2014 on today’s 90 minute long program.  Gushee has taken the position of “lead ally” and scholar in support of the “gay Christian” movement, asserting that the church is guilty of hurting her “sexual minorities.”  It is important to understand the arguments Gushee is putting forth, for we will all be hearing them repeated in the months and years to come.  I managed to get 22 minutes into the hour long presentation today, and will continue the response on Thursday’s program.’

Video 2 – Continued Response to Dr. David Gushee (Part 2)
‘Here is another 90 minutes of response to Dr. David Gushee in response to his presentation at the Reformation Project back in 2014.  I only got through about 12 minutes today as I took more time to expand upon particular points. If you are enjoying this response and finding it useful and edifying, please, share it with others!’

Video 3 – Finishing Up Review/Rebuttal of David Gushee “Reformation Project” Presentation
‘Finished up a five hour response to David Gushee on his presentation identifying the biblical view of homosexuality as a message of “contempt.” We hope to put the entire five hours into a single audio file available for download.  Given the recent events at the Supreme Court, this is a vital discussion.’


Audio Links Below
(I’ll try to change this to a single file when I can)

Response 1

Response 2

Response 3

Does Scripture forbid same-sex relationships? Robert Gagnon vs Jayne Ozanne

The latest (25/04/2015) ‘Unbelievable’ program hosted by Justin Brierly tackled the question Does Scripture forbid same-sex relationships? [The short answer is yes BTW]

‘Prof Robert Gagnon has become a well-known voice advocating the traditional biblical view on sexuality. In a highly charged show he debates the scriptural issues on sexuality with Jayne Ozanne, the director of Accepting Evangelicals who came out as gay earlier this year.’

I would recommend listening to the program, if for no other reason than to see the vacuity of the LGBTQ case. The case that Jayne Ozanne put forward anyway. I would summarise each position like this:

Robert Gagnon: The Bible clearly forbids Same-Sex marital relationships as I have demonstrated.

Jayne Ozanne: I don’t care what the Bible text says, It’s what I feel God is doing in my life and is about love.

That just about sums it up. And if you don’t believe me….

Go to the program page HERE.

Just remember as the catechism states, The Scriptures are our only rule for faith and practice. If the Bible is usurped in the way Jayne Ozanne has demonstrated; what now is our rule for faith and practice? Authority is the heart of the issue. It always has been so.

Responding to Dr. David Gushee’s “Reformation Project” Presentation – Part 1

From Dr Whites Blog page:

I began a multi-part, full response to Dr. David Gushee’s presentation at the Reformation Project conference back in 2014 on today’s 90 minute long program.  Gushee has taken the position of “lead ally” and scholar in support of the “gay Christian” movement, asserting that the church is guilty of hurting her “sexual minorities.”  It is important to understand the arguments Gushee is putting forth, for we will all be hearing them repeated in the months and years to come.  I managed to get 22 minutes into the hour long presentation today, and will continue the response on Thursday’s program.

Link to the page with links to the Audio.

Apologetic Sermon Illustration #27: Transcendental Argument illustrated with Would-be robber breaks leg, calls ambulance with shop’s payphone | The Domain for Truth

Apologetic Sermon Illustration #27: Transcendental Argument illustrated with Would-be robber breaks leg, calls ambulance with shop’s payphone | The Domain for Truth.

Nice illustration over at The Domain for Truth to show the use of Presuppositional Apologetics.

A Historic Debate in the Juma Masjid in Durban, South Africa

Dr James White is keen to get his recent debates in South Africa circulated as widely as possible. If you are a Muslim visiting this page please listen and watch the debate.

James White and Yusuf Ismail debate the Christology of the Gospel of John, and then the Christology of the Qur’an, in an historic debate in the famous Grey Street Mosque in Durban, South Africa, the home mosque of the late Ahmed Deedat.