As an elementary school teacher, I can appreciate the importance of being prepared. Everyday before my students arrive at school, I know that there are numerous things that need to be ready in order to be an effective instructor. Most importantly, I need to know the material I am teaching and be ready to present it in a way that my students can understand and apply. When I teach my students anything, the ultimate goal is for them to take ownership of their own learning and be able to execute the skill I am teaching them independently.
The same is true for Christian case makers. Our job is not only to present the truth of the Christian faith in a way that is understandable (evangelism), but we also want to instruct in such a way that our listeners will ultimately be able to make the case themselves (discipleship). We want our listeners to know Christ and then be equipped to make Him known to others.
However, this is often times easier said than done. And cold-case homicide detective and Christian case maker J. Warner Wallace understands. He writes:
"When I first decided to accept my duty as a Christian case maker, I felt overwhelmed by all the diverse disciplines from which I could make the case for Christianity. I was already in my thirties and busier than ever as a homicide detective. I couldn't imagine how I would ever find the time to master all the philosophy and science."[p. 185-186]
Can you relate? I know that I can. And I have talked to numerous other Christians who desire to make the case for Christianity, but believe it is too difficult for them to master. In Forensic Faith, J. Warner Wallace's latest offering, not only will you learn the importance of "making a case for case making," but you will also learn how to prepare yourself and engage with both believers and unbelievers in a winsome and effective manner. If you have wondered where to start on your journey of becoming a Christian case maker, look no further!
Layout of the Book
Forensic Faith is the shortest (203 p.) of Wallace's three major titles.1 This work includes a preface, four chapters, and a postscript. Further, as with the author's other works, he includes "bonus features" such as "rebuttal notes" and an "evidence locker." These tools are especially helpful for the reader who desires to go deeper.
In the Preface, there is a sense of urgency in the Wallace's words. He stresses the importance of Christians being evidential about their beliefs and not accidental. One must not hold to Christianity simply because they were raised in the church or because our parents happen to be Christians. Wallace argues:
"Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It's time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven't been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity. When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they've been given so far."[p. 23] So, what is the answer to this very real problem? Wallace contends that "...we'd better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning.[p. Ibid.]
This reader could not agree more. As Wallace points out, most Christians are largely unprepared to make the case for what they believe and many deny the need to make the case in the first place. As the author rightly puts it:
"We are a largely anti-intellectual group, even though the history of Christianity is replete with some of the greatest thinkers who ever lived."[p. Ibid.]
In Chapter 1, the author encourages readers to embrace their calling as a Christian case maker. Wallace begins by demonstrating the uniqueness of Christianity among other religions. He argues:
"Why should anyone believe what Jesus said rather than what Buddha, the Hindu sages, or Confucius said? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it's established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. The Resurrection can be examined for its reliablity, and the evidential verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system."[p. 35]
Bearing this in mind, Wallace rightly points out:
"If thoughtful, evidential verifiability is a Christian distinctive, shouldn't a thoughtful, evidential approach to the evidence for Christianity be our distinctive Christian duty?"[p. 37]
The author proceeds by arguing that "Christianity encourages rational exploration and reasonable examination" and, as a consequence, "it's our Christian duty to examine and test what we believe so we can be fully convinced."[p. 38-39]
The chapter concludes by offering the reader historical examples of Christian case makers such as Jesus Christ, His followers, and the Early Church leaders.
In Chapter 2, and throughout this work, Wallace continually calls upon his experience as a police officer and detective to highlight the importance of changing our approach to making disciples. It is Wallace's contention that we must stop teaching our young people, and begin training them. Training involves putting instruction into practice. The author recognizes the importance of teaching, but as Wallace points out, even Paul made a distinction between teaching and training. (See 1 Timothy 3:16-17). For those looking for a practical way to do train students, Wallace offers the following simple acronym:
Challenge each other to expose our weaknesses.
Expect more from each other than we sometimes think we can handle
Learn the truth and how to articulate it
Deploy into the battlefield of ideas
Tend to our wounds and model the nature of Jesus [p. 74.]
This reviewer was impressed with the vast amount of practical ideas and tools packed into this chapter for the reader wanting concrete starting advice in Christian case making. One example is the "The Forensic Readiness Review." This is a 21 minute "test" of sorts for believers to take and, as Wallace explains, "This...will likely open your eyes to your own competency and to the readiness of the young people in your family." The test includes some of the most common objections to the Christian worldview.
This chapter is all about action. The author is acutely aware of the importance of "hitting the streets" and putting what you have learned into practice. Further, the more you practice making the case, the better you'll become at it and the more you will see the necessity of training.
In Chapter 3, Wallace offers five points that will help readers examine the claims of Christianity and other truth claims like a good detective. This reader appreciated Wallace's unique take on fundamental Christian disciplines such as Bible reading, note taking, and reading Bible verses in their context. I also appreciated how throughout the book the author peppers in answers to common questions and objections people have about the Christian faith.
In Chapter 4, the author draws upon his extensive past experience in court rooms and offers five principles to help readers learn to share what they believe like a good prosecutor. As Wallace points out, it is not only vital that we are prepared to share the case for Christianity, but we also must be wise about who we share with it (our "jury") and how we share it. Like a good attorney, how we deliver the content is sometimes as important as the content itself. If you are someone who finds yourself tensing up when sharing your Christian convictions, this chapter will prepare you to share your beliefs with competence, clarity, and passion.
Strengths of the Book
J. Warner Wallace has done the church a tremendous service with this work. Forensic Faith is easily the most comprehensive guide I have read to date for the believer desiring to become an effective Christian case maker. Not only does Wallace place numerous practical Christian case making tools into the hands of readers, but he also models how to use those tools through clear illustrations, sharp drawings, and engaging "true crime" stories.
Moreover, Wallace suggests numerous feasible ways Christians can use these tools and put what they have learned into action. Regardless of your comfort level with theology and apologetics, the author has suggestions that can be exercised promptly.
Finally, Wallace defies the common canard that Christians are afraid of opposing views. Throughout this work, the author encourages believes to read and become familiar with the best arguments of atheism and other opposing worldviews. He further understands the importance of making sure that our students are familiar with these arguments as well. It is his contention that we must inoculate our students rather than isolate them. That is to say, we must slowly expose them to doses of arguments from nonbelievers like Bart Ehrman, Peter Boghossian and Victor Stenger so that they are able to adequately address them with evidential confidence.
Let's be honest. The third film in a trilogy is many times a dud. It rarely meets our expectations. This reader is happy to report that Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace's ends his trilogy of Christian case making books on a very high note. Wallace successfully demonstrates why now, more than ever, it is of first importance that Christians are prepared to "make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" (1 Peter 3:15b).
As Wallace writes, "It's time to put up or shut up." It is time to stop making excuses and engage the culture with the truth of the gospel. The time for excuses is over. Detective Wallace has made learning how to make the case easier than ever. Forensic Faith is a systematic "how-to" manual of Christian case making.
Get your copy, read it, and apply it. Get out there and make the case. Jesus did; therefore, we, His followers, should do likewise.
You can order your copy here.
Courage and Godspeed,
Many thanks to J. Warner Wallace and David C. Cook for the review copy!
1. You can find our review of Jim's first book Cold-Case Christianity here. You can find our review of Jim's second book God's Crime Scene here.