Let me put my cards on the table. J. Warner Wallace (Jim to those who know him personally) is one of my best friends. For almost 10 years, we’ve been invested in each other’s life. We’ve done ministry together. We’ve served in the local church together. We’ve led student mission trips together. Our families have spent time together (my teenage daughter regularly crashes at his house and gets spoiled by Jim’s wonderful wife, Susie). And now we’re speaking together, as colleagues at Stand to Reason. Jim is a close friend, partner, and ally.
So yes, as I offer a review of Jim’s book, Cold-Case Christianity (CCC), you could argue that I’m biased. However, if you dismiss my book review as unreliable on the sole basis of bias, then you need to read Jim’s book! In chapter 14, he deals with a similar charge of bias against the disciples. And had you read it already, you’d know bias does not preclude one from being reliable, as Jim’s “Mark Hillian” illustration demonstrates (see page 246). So, don't dismiss this review before you consider the reasons why I think you need to read Jim’s book.
The secular university is a huge mission field. We need smart Christians who will earn their Ph.Ds. and go on to do high-level apologetic work in a multitude of academic fields. To this end, I thank God for the William Lane Craigs, Alvin Plantingas, and J.P. Morelands of the contemporary apologetics movement. However, this is just one point of what should be a multi-pronged strategy. Not only do apologists need to make incursions into the Academy, but we must continue our infiltration of the church. The average church-goer needs to be equipped with “the weapons of our warfare” (2 Cor. 10:3-5) in order to fend off the secularism of our culture, to protect the impressionable hearts and minds of our children, and to advance the gospel with unbelieving friends and family. To this end, I thank God for the Lee Strobels and now, with his writing of CCC, the J. Warner Wallaces of the contemporary apologetics movement. To this latter strategy, Jim makes an extraordinary contribution.
In this book, Jim does four key things as he defends the reliability of Gospels, that will appeal to the non-specialist masses sitting in our churches:
#1 – Cold-Case Christianity is accessible. If we don’t make apologetics accessible to the average Christian, we run the risk of making it seem irrelevant. I’ve talked to that man or woman with the deer-in-the-headlights look after attending one of their first apologetics conferences. I’ve heard their “if-this-is-what-apologetics-is-then-it-isn’t-for-me” dismissals. Thus the contemporary apologetics movement is in need of more translators and Jim steps up with this offering.
No, no, no, he does not put the cookies on bottom shelf. Hear me carefully; I’m not saying we need to dumb down things. No, Jim actually raises the bar—just check out his historical work in chapters 11 through 13—but does so without blowing people out of the water. And because of this, CCC is also a tremendous tool for Christians to use with their skeptical friends. It’s the kind of book you can confidently give to an unbeliever, knowing they’re in good hands with Jim.
#2 – Cold-Case Christianity is interesting. As far as I know, Jim is the only man on the planet who could’ve written this book. He’s a cold-case homicide detective and a first-rate apologist. The combination allows Jim to weave gripping stories and illustrations into his apologetic. It’s one of the most engaging apologetics books I’ve ever read. Seriously.
#3 – Cold-Case Christianity teaches the reader how to think, not just what to think. This could be the most valuable aspect of the book. Jim doesn’t lay out a laundry list of apologetic pat answers. Using his training as a detective and experience in the courtroom, Jim teaches the reader how to think well through the first ten chapters. Yes, ten whole chapters. Indeed, it takes up the entire first half of the book, but it’s indispensable. Jim lays down a foundation for thinking carefully not just about the Gospels, but for all areas of truth.
#4 – Lastly, and most importantly, Cold-Case Christianity is backed up by a writer who lives what he writes. Any bias I may have toward Jim is actually a benefit, not a barrier. I’ve seen Jim, outside of the limelight. I’ve been on mission trips where he and I have shared sleeping quarters with a bunch of foul-smelling high school boys. I’ve watched Jim go head-to-head with advocates of atheism. And through it all, I’ve seen a man who loves Christ, loves people, and whose life overflows with integrity.
Thankfully, Jim’s life has also spilled out onto the pages of CCC, giving the reader a small glimpse of what I’ve observed for years. It’s only after seeing this man practice what he preaches that I became a J. Warner Wallace-onian (again see page 246!). Go buy the book and read it, and your bias for Jim and his work will grow as well.