|Close Up: J. Warner Wallace|
|Written by Production|
|Friday, 14 December 2012 11:18 AM EST|
Latest project: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (978-1-434-70469-6, David C Cook).
How is Christianity a “cold case”? When detectives investigate cold cases, they’re investigating events (murders) from the distant past for which there are often no living eyewitnesses and little, if any, direct or forensic evidence to make the case. Detectives learn how to evaluate and employ circumstantial evidence to demonstrate what happened at the scene of the crime. In a similar way, Christianity makes a claim about an event in the distant past for which there are no living eyewitnesses and little, if any, direct or forensic evidence.
What is your background as a detective? I’ve been working murders in Los Angeles County for 15 years and cold cases for the past 12. Many of these cases have drawn national attention and have been featured on FOX News, Court TV and Dateline NBC. Along the way, I came to appreciate the nature of circumstantial evidence and recognized the skills I developed as a cold-case detective would serve me well in my investigation of the claims of the New Testament Gospels.
What are some of the principles of investigation used in Cold-Case Christianity to evaluate the claims of the New Testament? I’ve identified 10 principles of investigation I believe will assist believers and skeptics as they evaluate the Gospel accounts. Cold-Case Christianity will help people to understand the importance of investigative presuppositions, the role of abductive reasoning, the power and nature of circumstantial evidence, the value of word choice in eyewitness statements and much more. The techniques we use as detectives are appropriate and relevant to the study of the claims of Christianity.
What made you change from a self-described “angry atheist” to a passionate defender of the gospel? When I first read through the Gospels, I observed “unintended eyewitness support” from one Gospel account to another. Like eyewitnesses I had interviewed at crime scenes, one Gospel writer would describe an event in a way that raised as many questions as it answered. The parallel testimony of another Gospel writer would then inadvertently answer the questions raised by the first account. This “eyewitness attribute” I observed in the Gospels intrigued me as an investigator. I eventually decided to use the tools of Forensic Statement Analysis to evaluate the Gospel of Mark. My conclusions forced me to take Mark’s account seriously. My journey toward Jesus began with this investigative approach to the Gospels.
Based on your extensive experience as a detective, how sound is the evidence for the case of Christianity? In the end, the case for Christianity comes down to the reliability of the Gospel eyewitnesses. We can attempt to evaluate the Gospel writers using the same criteria that jurors use when evaluating witnesses in criminal trials. Were the Gospels recorded early enough to have been written by true eyewitnesses? Can the claims of the Gospel writers be verified by external sources of evidence? Have the Gospel writers been accurate in the past? Has their testimony been delivered to us accurately over the ages? Are the Gospel writers too biased to be trusted? Cold-Case Christianity asks and answers these important questions. The conclusion: The New Testament Gospel accounts are reliable.
You encourage readers become “two-decision” Christians. What does that mean? Most of us recognize our spiritual journeys began with a decision; each of us decided to accept and trust Jesus for our salvation. But the Christian life is more than that initial decision. The apostle Peter said that each of us has to be ready to “make a defense” to anyone who questions us about our hope and trust in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). Most of us, however, don’t feel properly prepared to defend the claims of Christianity or the reliability of the Bible. We need to make a second decision. “Two-decision” Christians make a second decision to engage their culture as good Christian case-makers.
How can Christian retailers promote Cold-Case Christianity? I am personally available to describe the nature of the book to retailers through Skype. I think you’ll quickly see that it occupies an unusual but important niche in Christian apologetics. I’d also be happy to do a presentation or devotional for bookstore staff utilizing principles in the book. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up. In addition, PDFs of downloadable shelftalkers and bookmarks are available for use at the stores to help promote the book at www.coldcasechristianity.com.