You can believe because of the evidence, not in spite of it. For the first 35 years of his life, J. Warner Wallace was a devout atheist. After all, how can you believe a claim made about an event in the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence? Then Wallace realized something. Christianity was a lot like the cold cases he solved as a homicide detective - cold cases that turned out to have enough evidence, eyewitnesses, and records to solve. When Wallace applied his skills as an expert detective to the assertions of the New Testament, he came to a startling realization: the case for Christianity was as convincing as any case he'd ever worked as a detective.
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EFFECTIVE, but DECEPTIVE
Easily the BEST APOLOGETIC BOOK I’ve ever encountered. Destined to become a classic like Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” and Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”. The book version of “Cold Case Christianity” is even better than the audiobook because it has useful illustrations. (Unfortunately, there is no PDF supplement to the audible version.)
BUT I CAN ONLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ATHEISTS who want to debate apologists. (Or Christians who read “Cold Case Christianity”.)
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION if Christianity is reasonable or not, LOOK ELSEWHERE! (On audible, try “Not The Impossible Faith” by Richard Carrier or one of Bart Ehrman’s audiobooks.)
Virtually ALL of Wallaces key claims (basically: the Gospels are reliable eyewitness reports, and Wallace’s “evidence” for it) are rejected by the overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars, and that includes the CHRISTIAN ones.
The reason why they reject these claims (which are usually only made by apologists) ist that, as New Testament scholars, THEY KNOW THE BIG PICTURE. Wallace, however, will only present you with the parts of the picture that will make HIS claims look “reasonable”, and make the straw man objections he deals with look stupid. (Very much like “target the micro and distract from the macro”, a manipulative tactic he accuses atheists of in his book.)
Although Wallace will teach you in section 1 “how to think like a detective”, he never uses his own principles consistently, but only when they serve his purpose, and he ignores them when they don’t. He also heavily engages in the very same manipulative tactics he accuses atheists of.
One of the many low points of “Cold Case Christianity” ist the section wrongly entitled “Nonbiblical Eyewitnesses Corroborated the Gospels”. Because all the “eyewitnesses” Wallace refers to were either born AFTER Jesus’s death, or – in the case of Thallus – we don’t even know WHEN he lived and wrote. (Although Wallace claims that Thallus lived ca. AD 5–60, apparently based on a debunked interpretation.) Throughout the book, Wallace constantly inflates his claims vastly (“Thallus described Jesus”) or presents far-fetched speculation as fact (“Paul quoted Luke’s Gospel”).
The reason why “Cold Case Christianity” is so impressive, but also deeply flawed, is that it focuses only on Christianity’s PLAUSIBILITY. (Prepare to be underwhelmed by sections like “Pontius Pilate has been corroborated” and “The custom of crucifixion has been corroborated”.) That does not prove anything, because we must assume that any forger would also try to present a plausible story. So the instances where the Gospels are plausible do not help us to separate fact from fiction – this is only possible by examining the IMPLAUSIBLE or INCONSISTENT instances. But apart from a few straw men, Wallace never does that. Instead, he seems to consider ANY inconsistency as “evidence” that the Gospels are, in fact, eyewitness testimony. (Because, you know, eyewitness rarely report EXACTLY the same thing.)
If you HAVE some background knowledge in New Testament scholarship, it only adds to the annoyance that Wallace consistently refers to people who reject his fringe theories – people, to remind you, who make up the wide majority of even Christian New Testament scholars – as “some”, “skeptics” or “some skeptics”. So the listener is likely to get the false impression as if Wallace’s claims were generally accepted and only rejected by a few stubborn hardcore atheists. (You know, “people like Ehrman”.)
For almost all the arguments that are presented in “Cold Case Christianity”, excellent rebuttals can already be found online (start at adversusapologetica.wordpress.com, Counter-Apologetics FAQ) or in print, albeit not specifically mentioning “Cold Case Christianity”, because these rebuttals are older. As Lee Strobel wrote the foreword for “Cold Case Christianity” and Wallace uses many of the arguments found in Strobel’s “The Case for Christ”, New Testament scholar Robert M. Price’s rebuttal “The Case Against The Case for Christ” may be recommended. Price, by the way, started out as a Christian apologist, but eventually lost his faith when he tried to verify the claims made by “evidentialist apologists” like Wallace. Price is not the only one who lost his faith, and Bart D. Ehrman is probably be the most prominent among them. If you’re interested in an honest discussion, read their books and skip “Cold Case Christianity”.
- Matthias Krause