Book Review: Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

Let me put my cards on the table.  J. Warner Wallace (Jim to those who know him personally) is one of my best friends.  For almost 10 years, we’ve been invested in each other’s life.  We’ve done ministry together.  We’ve served in the local church together.  We’ve led student mission trips together.  Our families have spent time together (my teenage daughter regularly crashes at his house and gets spoiled by Jim’s wonderful wife, Susie).  And now we’re speaking together, as colleagues at Stand to Reason.  Jim is a close friend, partner, and ally.  

So yes, as I offer a review of Jim’s book, Cold Case Christianity (CCC), you could argue that I’m biased.  However, if you dismiss my book review as unreliable on the sole basis of bias, then you need to read Jim’s book!  In chapter 14, he deals with a similar charge of bias against the disciples.  And had you read it already, you’d know bias does not preclude one from being reliable, as Jim’s “Mark Hillian” illustration demonstrates (see page 246).  So, don't dismiss this review before you consider the reasons why I think you need to read Jim’s book. 

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My Debate on the Grounding of Morality

Was I nervous? Yes, absolutely. Of course, this wasn't my ordinary speaking event. On April 5, about 170 people packed a room at Weber State University, to watch my formal debate with professor of philosophy Dr. Richard Greene. The question: Can there be objective moral values and obligations without God? Each debater had 20 minutes for opening arguments, a 10-minute rebuttal, about 40 minutes of joint Q & A from the audience, and a 5-minute conclusion.

Dr. Greene had home field advantage. He has been teaching classes at Weber State for about eight years and a number of his students came out for the debate. About 65% of the attendees indicated on a pre-debate survey that they held Dr. Greene’s view, that morality is best explained without God.

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Don’t Just Doubt Your Faith, Doubt Your Doubts

Students need space to share their doubts.  We all do.  If serious questions about Christianity and uncertainty toward God are not recognized and explored, they remain in the heart and mind, only to surface farther down the road and often with greater force.  Simplistic Christian responses will not suffice.  “Do extra devotions” or “just have faith” don’t do justice to a student’s real struggle with doubt. 

I encounter student doubt all the time.  My work actually helps to surface doubts, as I raise challenges to Christianity and then explore answers in my talks.  I remember when Helia, a freshman at a Christian college in Southern California, approached me after the talk I gave at a Summit Ministries student conference this past summer and shared her struggle with doubt.  I was glad for her honest questions and told her as much.  Why?  I want students to get their doubts on the table while they’re with me.  So I always allow space for questions, the starting point for dealing with doubt. 

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Is An Omniscient God a Contradiction?

Here's a challenge posed at Infidels.org, a big online resource for the skeptical community:  

"Can God know what it is like to learn? If God is omniscient (all-knowing), then it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something, which involves moving from a state of not-knowing to a state of knowing. This entails that at one time we were in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn. But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God's omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist."

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From True Belief to Confident Knowledge

I don’t want students to merely believe true things.  That’s a start, but it’s not enough.  I want students to know true things.  So what’s the difference?

What would you think if I said I know it’s raining outside, but I didn’t believe it was raining outside?  You’d be puzzled.  It doesn’t make sense to say I know something that at the same time I don’t actually believe.  All the facts we think we know are also facts we believe, so knowledge includes belief. 

What if I said I know it’s raining outside, but it’s not true that it’s raining outside?  Again, you’d be confused and wonder, “How can you know something that’s not true?”  You can’t.  A belief is true if it matches reality and it’s false if it doesn’t.  So to say someone’s belief is false means they don’t know.  Therefore, knowledge not only includes belief, but truth as well. 

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Chasing After the Heart of God

Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God.

Jennie’s DVD-based Bible studies are uniquely relational, interactive and dig deep quickly. Her first study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free was released at the end of 2011  Her latest Bible study is entitled Chase: Chasing After the Heart of God (Thomas Nelson), and it focuses on the life and psalms of David.

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The Line

One question I often get asked is: where is the line for being a Christian or not? 

You’d be surprised at how often I get asked that question.

Some people focus on a specific point and time for a decision to follow Christ. I certainly think that any decision of that magnitude should be the watershed in your history….and a hard to forget. But for some, they don’t really remember that “point”. For some it’s more gradual.

One seminary professor put it this way: “Everyone has to cross the Mississippi River to be a follower. You’re either on one side or the other. But the Mississippi River is narrower at some points than at other points. Some step over. Others ride a boat.”

I agree.

But the real problem today is that few actually knows what constitutes the “Mississippi River” of faith. Few know where the line lies. So here’s a simple way to remember:

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Who's Waiting for Your Kids?

Who’s waiting for your kids?  In a few short years, they will leave the safety of your home and church and head off to college.  Who will they meet?  What ideas will they encounter?  What moral choices will they face? 

For most adults, it’s been quite a few years since they’ve set foot on a college campus.  Let us bring you up-to-speed on who and what is waiting for your kids: 

  • Oakland University psychology professor Todd Shackelford, offers class PSY-315 entitled, “Evolutionary Psychology,” where he provides an evolutionary explanation for how religious individuals come to “hold and to have beliefs for which there is no evidence.”
  • Yale, Brown, Harvard, and other U.S. universities sponsor an annual on-campus “Sex Week,” where porn stars and sex workers lead various activities and workshops.
  • Zeta Psi frat boys at Yale University hold up signs reading, “We Love Yale Sluts,” while surrounding the Yale Women’s Center on campus.
  • In February 2011, Northwestern University professor J. Michael Bailey brings two sex workers onto campus for a “live demonstration” after class.
  • According to a 2006 study by sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard University and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, there is a much higher percentage of professing atheists and agnostics (26%) among the ranks of college professors than the general U.S. population.  In addition, 51% of professors described the Bible as “an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts,” while only 6% of college professors said the Bible is “the actual word of God.”
  • According to the Institute for Jewish and Community research, a survey of 1,200 college faculty, more than half have “unfavorable” feelings toward Evangelical Christians.
  • Almost half of full-time college students in the U.S. binge drink or abuse drugs at least once-a-month.
  • In 2006, the Secular Student Alliance, had 50 student-led atheist clubs on U.S. college campuses, but by 2012, there were more than 300 clubs nationwide.
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Blacks & Atheism

Within African American culture, it is widely know that Christianity is the main religion, culturally speaking, for African Americans. Yet, how do other religious practices such as atheism, Gnosticism, and even unbelievers get dealt with? How does a Black atheist navigate a culture with such strong religious mores? Check this video clip out below—from the National Black Programming Consortium and internet series on Black people Don’t:…-- as the conversation continues on issues such as these. Fascinating stuff!

 


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Why the Dead Sea Scrolls Matter

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the most significant artifacts of the Ancient Near East. In this special article that first appeared online at the Baptist Press, Benjamin Hawkins shows how the Dead Sea Scrolls speak to the reliability of the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls are currently being exhibited at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Hawkins is a PhD. student. The Scrolls are also on display in New York City in a magnificent display presented by The Franklin Institute.

When a Bedouin shepherd discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel in the 1940s, few people immediately understood their importance. After taking the scrolls back to his camp, this shepherd left one of them on the ground to be torn apart by children, while one person reportedly used another scroll fragment to wipe a baby's bottom.

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