Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace – Book Review

forensic-faith-review

Book Review of Forensic Faith

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace encourages you not to be an “accidental Christian,” but to know Christianity is evidentially true—moving from “accidental belief to evidential trust (p. 23).” In this book review post, I’ll share a brief summary of the book and what I appreciate about his approach before offering some critique.

Jim and me in the green room at the Thrive Apologetics Conference in California

Jim is genuinely a great guy to know. He’s personable and approachable and his books are filled with the kinds of interesting cold case detective stories he’d tell you over lunch. What makes his work unique in the field of apologetics is his fresh take on using CSI skills to investigate Christian truth claims.

Jim’s first book in the series, Cold Case Christianity, investigated the Resurrection of Jesus. His second book, God’s Crime Scene, investigated the existence of God. His third book, Forensic Faith, is a call to duty, challenging Christians to become case-makers. Like Jim’s other books, Forensic Faith includes many interesting cop stories. These are woven into an approachable argument for being prepared to make the case for Christianity by learning about the skills of professional case-makers.

Summary of Forensic Faith

Chapter 1 defends a defense of the faith, challenging you to embrace the call to Christian case-maker. He advocates taking an evidential approach to the faith as a kind of Christian duty, believing Christianity is true because of evidence, including the witness of the Holy Spirit. This is key, as some believers have objected to my making similar statements until they realize that personal religious experience is also part of the cumulative case.

Chapter 2 is about preparing yourself to serve others and protect the truth from being contaminated by error. He argues we can’t just give Christians more knowledge. We have to prepare them to respond to challenges. We’ve also got to expose our weaknesses and arm ourselves with the ability to articulate the truth. As a former youth pastor, I really resonated with this. Youth group should be a training ground where students can wrestle with the hard questions. They need more than devotionals, games, and pizza!

Chapter 3 encourages examining Christianity like a detective: Read the whole Bible in context; think about evidence broadly; Analyze the Bible; Summarize and organize biblical evidence well; Use sources outside the Bible and philosophical arguments to bolster your case. Here, I appreciate his tips on summarizing data, especially the evidence for Jesus’ claims to be divine.

Chapter 4 is about sharing truth like a prosecutor. First, carefully pick a person to talk to about your faith. Are they ready to listen? Find the seekers. Pray for atheists and befriend them. Jim was once an atheist, too! Second, protect your first impression and live a life consistent with your message. This last part is so important and I’m glad to see more apologists stressing the relational aspect of apologetics.

Critique of Forensic Faith

While Forensic Faith challenges and energizes certain kinds of Christians to study hard and defend the faith, some could still come away thinking, “This is too hard. I’m no scholar.” To them, I would say go hear Jim speak, attend a Biola on the Road event, or a similar conference. You’ll see you don’t have to get an advanced degree in apologetics to be obedient to 1 Peter 3:15. You can be well-equipped as a lay person and effectively engage your coworkers, friends, and family.

Here is where I will give some technical critique of Forensic Faith:

A very small part of the book suggests Jesus altered the Shema from “you shall love the Lord your God with all your…might” to “you shall love the Lord your God with all your…mind” (p. 34). But this difference is related to the depth of the Hebrew meod (very much-ness or might)While I agree with Jim that Jesus wants us to use our minds, I don’t think Jesus altered the Shema but rather the quote reflects what may have perhaps been a less-popular Greek translation which glossed meod as the Greek word dianoia (mind). A more popular translation glossed meod as the Greek word kardia (heart).

Beyond this, we read “mind and might” in Mk 12:30, “might and mind” in Lk 10:27, and just “mind” in Mt 22:37. In every case you get the word “mind.” Where does this come from? It comes from the Hebrew word layvav, which is often translated “heart” but means both “heart” and “mind.” So the idea of “mind” is already built into the opening phrase of the Shema: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your layvav (heart/mind)…” As Brian Webster noted in one of my early Hebrew classes at Dallas Theological Seminary:

When the New Testament writers are putting [the Shema] in the New Testament, they understand that [the word layvav] means both heart and mind. They didn’t have this bifurcation of head knowledge versus heart knowledge. It’s one and the same for them.

Still, a key point of the Shema is that we are to love God with every part of us, and I agree wth Jim that Jesus viewed this as being inclusive of the mind.

To me, the “brief answers to common questions” at the end of the book seem a bit like a publisher’s afterthought or an add-on. Still, this may help some of the newest case-makers get started.

Recommendation of Forensic Faith

Overall, I really like the detective tie-in and Jim’s emphasis on being gracious and accessible as he calls Christians to active duty (pgs. 183-184). I always say that your apologetic arguments aren’t heard in a vacuum—they come in a wrapper that is your life. Truth matters. But tone matters, too. I’m also a big fan of visual summaries like the ones on page 191.

Who would love this? Anyone who liked Cold Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, or enjoyed one of Jim’s excellent apologetics presentations. Also, Christians who are just beginning to discover the reasonableness of the faith and especially those who have an interest in detective stories.

Look inside Forensic Faith now.

Note: The publisher sent me an advanced review copy of this book at the request of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The views expressed here are my own. Purchasing resources via links on this page will help support my accessible apologetics ministry.

 

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