Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cold Case Christianity: A Book Review

Dr. Pollard had a most intense look on his generally wry face, "The things we're going to talk about...I don't want them to shake your faith."  That was the shocking introduction one day's Greek Texts class.  The day's topic? Textual evidence.

At the end of the day's lecture I was deeply disturbed. My professor had addressed questions about who wrote the Bible, how we got it and was it trustworthy. My teacher agreed with my Sunday School teachers; the word of God was inspired and inerrant (without mistake).  But the overwhelming complexities of multitudes of manuscripts with variations and copyist errors, made my stomach ache! It was weeks before I digested the lesson that text is evidence FOR God's work not against it.

I needed an apologist (someone to explain God and his work to me).  Most apologetics books deal with things like creationism, intelligent design, the problem of evil or the problem of pain.  Popular level books that deal with the troubling, even faith altering, issue of textual evidence are hard to find.  However the book Cold-Case Christianity certainly fits the bill.

The curious name isn't a reference to the canceled TV show but to the fact that the author himself, Jim Wallace, was for years a "cold-case" detective.  A vociferous atheist, he eventually applied the same skills he customarily used to solve crimes decades old to investigate a mystery 2,000 years old.  Is the Biblical record a trustworthy account of Jesus's life, death and resurrection?

The book is divided into 2 sections.  The first talks about the "tool-kit" of a detective.  Each chapter gives a colorful example from the homicide department (suitable I'd say for anyone mature enough to enjoy Murder, She Wrote) and uses it to illustrate an apologetics "tool". Although the issues he deals with in this section vary widely, they are clear and easy to understand.  In the second section he makes a logical and persuasive argument for accepting the New Testament as we have it as the authentic eye-witness testimony of the apostles.

I don't always appreciate apologetics books.  Sometimes I find them obnoxiously exclusive (everyone who dares to disagree is obviously a heretic); sometimes they are ridiculously simplistic leaving the reader vulnerable to ridicule by the first better educated agnostic they meet; worse sometimes they are so miserably technical that it is nearly impossible for the reader to make use of the concepts either in their own faith or evangelistically .

Therefore when I endorse this as the single most entertaining and readable apologetics book I ever got my hands on, you should know I don't say so lightly.

My favorite thing about the book is that in far less technical terms than my professor he laid down the same case.  The Bible we have in our hands is better attested than any other ancient document and the gospels fit perfectly the profile of eyewitness testimony.  Rather than disturbing or perplexing us, Cold-Case Christianity suggest every Christian should be ready to use textual evidence to make a case for Christ.  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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