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A Review of “God’s Crime Scene” by J Warner Wallace

When I received J Warner Wallace’s recent book “God’s Crime Scene” several weeks ago, I was pleasantly unsurprised. It was fairly thick and extensive.

If you’ve ever met Jim or have had the privilege to hear him speak, you will understand what I mean when I say that Jim Wallace is a man of substance, and his book represents him well. He has a drive that’s contagious and his books show it. “God’s Crime Scene” is no different.

There were eleven things that I quickly noticed as I began to read “God’s Crime Scene”.

  1. The book was packed with information. Most of the primary apologetic arguments for God’s existence were addressed.
  2. The book was written from the perspective of a detective. Like “Cold Case Christianity”, Jims first book, “God’s Crime Scene” is peculiar in its authorial perspective. (Jim Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective in the Los Angeles area)
  3. The book unfolds its case step by step. There is a logical progression to the book. It is not merely a book of data or information.
  4. There is an attempt to bring the reader into the detective persona. Because of the books peculiar perspective and its logical progression, it forces the reader into the shoes of an investigator.
  5. There are morsels of data. Not only is “God’s Crime Scene” packed with general information, there are some very useful, more specific facts distributed throughout its pages.
  6. There are references to additional data and recourses. “God’s Crime Scene” is meant to be a general apologetic argument for God’s existence. It is not meant to be comprehensive in any specific sense. But, there are references for further study in each chapter and a “further study” section that accompanies each chapter.
  7. “God’s Crime Scene” oscillates back and forth from crime scene to crime scene. Jim tells stories of actual crimes he investigated and relates them to the crime scene of the Universe.
  8. “God’s Crime Scene” exposes counter arguments fairly. Jim treats the counter arguments against God’s existence fairly by representing them accurately and referring the reader to the works of his opponents.
  9. “God’s Crime Scene” does not presume the reader will agree. It’s frustrating to many who read apologetic works that most of those works presume the assent of the reader. This book does not do that.
  10. “God’s Crime Scene” leads the reader to a decision. Because the book lacks the presumption of the readers assent, Jim can ask the reader to decide. He does that with each piece of evidence in “God’s Crime Scene”.
  11. There are pictures. For many of our cultures modernists, words are sufficient. But in “God’s Crime Scene” J Warner Wallace informs the existentialist and the post-modern skeptic with pictures. Some people only trust what they see.

Those eleven things grabbed my attention pretty fast but as I read “God’s Crime Scene” another strength began to emerge. It was in my opinion the overarching strength of the book and like a doorway to truth, the strength did not come from the open space through the door but it rested in the epistemological support above the opening.

In today’s culture, facts are spun, data is cherry picked, and statistics are contextualized in such a massive corruption of truth that causes most people to become natural skeptics. The media has their finger on the pulse of this skepticism and in my opinion author their own brand of it.

Fox News is the alternative to the “liberal media”, “We report, you decide”.

CNN is the standard bearer of reporting fact as they simply say, “This is CNN”.

Social media is the new news source where people reject absolute truth by fixating on their presuppositions and ignoring all other perspectives (unless they’re a troll).

We live in a culture formed by post-modernity’s founding principle that rejects “trust but verify” for “never trust any attempt to verify”.

In the present culture’s wholesale rejection of truth, most folks extend that rejection to the truth bearers. Some mottos might be: trust no one who attempts to convince you of anything; opposition to presupposition; or the truth is not what you say it is.

Post-modernism though, in all of its glory, is very peripheral. It’s more like poison ivy than it is leukemia. It’s a skin rash or maybe acne. Its effects are easily visible and extremely uncomfortable, but they don’t run very deep.

Epistemological skeptics are only skeptical of those things that they don’t want to believe.

They still go to the bank and assume the value of the numerical system and the money they deposit. They remain committed to ideas like equality or moral systems that encourage goodness and punish injustice. Post-modernity hasn’t breeched those truths.

That’s where the strength of “God’s Crime Scene” lies.

In “God’s Crime Scene” J Warner Wallace takes the hand of the post-modern skeptic and walks them from those minimally accepted truths found in criminal investigations to equally reliable truth claims in the Universe and leads them to a conclusion about God’s existence that mirrors the same conclusion from a legal perspective that they have already accepted as valid. Wallace trades upon the value of evidence in the legal system to force the reader to make a decision that they would normally refuse to admit into their courtroom of conscience.

“God’s Crime Scene” is more than an investigators case file, it’s the argument of an apologetic attorney who has picked his jury and is ploddingly proving his paradigm.

I enjoyed the way that this unfolded early in the pages of the book, but I’m not sure that there would be any suspicion of Jim’s epistemological effort until page 131.

It’s on that page that this book makes a decisive turn.

In one of the inserts he calls A Tool for the Call-Out Bag, Jim says, “When examining any set of accounts, we must always recognize the ratio of liabilities to virtues. When an explanation suffers from more deficiencies than assets, its reasonable to favor the explanation with fewer liabilities.”

Suddenly, Jim is exploring more than evidence. He is probing views of certainty and trust by stating an obvious standard on how the reader should come to a conclusion, weighing the value of evidence against the skeptical readers refusal to commit.

As if he can sense a level of distrust creeping into the mind of skeptical reader, on page 134 he makes an effort to retain and recapture the trust of the post-modern reader who has recognized the books immerging truth claim by walking toward them epistemologically. He asks the question “How Can We Guard Against Bias and Presupposition?” in the next Call-Out Bag as if he anticipates their cry foul.

His answer is to impose the skeptic’s assent to the judicial system back onto their doubtful mind. He forces the reader to think about the power of humans to overcome presuppositions in favor of evidence. We do it all the time in courts when making judgments that effect peoples lives forever. We must trust our ability to judge without having complete certainty because we realize that we can’t have absolute certainty in almost anything.

Truth does not depend on certainty and neither does our assent. We can know truth and Jim explains how as he described some essential qualities of truth.

Truth must be feasible. Truth will usually be straightforward. Truth should be exhaustive. Truth must be logical. Truth will be superior.

Why are some explanations more reasonable than others? This description helps the reader recognize why as it helps the reader recognize truth itself.

This is Jim’s effort to rebuild trust in truth. Trust in truth is a form of certainty that is healthy and virtuous. This trust of truth is a building block of faith and although we can have absolute certainty about very little, what we can have is faith. I don’t mean faith as in a blind leap and Jim doesn’t either. In so many words, this trust in truth is a description of faith and flies in the face of deconstructionists.

Post-modernism is a supernatural attack on the virtue, essence, and etymology of Christian faith. It is deceptive deconstructionism and Jims book stands against it and holds skeptics accountable in a winsome and subtle way.

As J Warner Wallace compounds his cumulative case for the existence of God in the rest of the book, he continues to build an epistemological arch above it.

On page 152 he asks, “How Much Evidence Does it Take to Refute Eyewitness Testimony?” This is an effort to help us trust what we observe to be true.

On page 171 he calls skeptics back to reason and reality when he asks, “What is the Value of Nonphysical Evidence?”

On page 172 he asks, “How Do Multiple Lines of Evidence Point Us to the Truth?” This is an exploration of the value of a cumulative case.

On pages 175 and 178 he explores exculpatory evidence. What evidence can exclude God as a suspect as creator of the Universe?

Finally, on page 202, he calls the reader to epistemological responsibility by explaining the responsibility of jurors in criminal trials.

“Jurors evaluate evidential cases every day across our country, and they are asked to make a decision even though they don’t have every question answered or every possible detail explained. When the overwhelming evidence points to a reasonable conclusion, jurors make a decision, even though the case may not be perfect.”

Make no mistake. This is no mere statement of fact. Jim Wallace has moved from the evidence to the closing argument. And just as if the reader was sitting with eleven of his peers deciding on the guilt of an accused man, each juror is required to decide.

If you’re looking for a book that is an accurate display of the cumulative case for God’s existence, “God’s Crime Scene” is a good one.

If you seek data or resources, “God’s Crime Scene” has it.

But don’t fool yourself; “God’s Crime Scene” is much more than a great resource for the apologist. It’s a handheld guide to the truth about the Universe for skeptics and laypeople alike.

Donnie
I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice
http://www.southernbyhisgrace.com

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