A number of years ago, a study came out showing that Canadian young people are leaving the Church in droves. In it, several key contributing factors were identified. One such factor is that many youth and young adults feel that their intellectual questions are not being taken seriously by the Church. Often, their questions are met – usually when the person answering questions gets stuck – with the greatly dissatisfying answer: “Just have faith.” Having grown up with a naïve faith, then, these young people become disillusioned as they move on to adulthood and encounter a world of ideas hostile to the Gospel. Mistaking their lack of defense for a supposed lack of substance in the Christian faith, they leave the Church.
Against this backdrop, J. Warner Wallace’s new book, Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith, brings our attention to the importance of evidence in our faith. After all, few are better qualified to talk about this. Having been an atheist for the first 35 years of his life, he was convinced of the truth of Christianity after examining the evidence for it. (As he once put it, “I am at home with evidence because evidence brought me home.”) This is forensic faith; as opposed to unreasonable faith (faith in spite of evidence) and blind faith (faith without any evidence), forensic faith is one that is warranted by evidence.
A number of things I enjoyed about this book:
- There is a natural flow to this book. Wallace begins by talking about the rationale for his evidentialist approach to the Christian faith. This is not to say that God has no role in this, and Wallace is careful to acknowledge along the way that God must first remove enmity from people before they are open to the evidence. Then he moves on to discuss the theory behind his approach, how to study the evidence, and, finally, how to put into practice what you have learned. This natural flow made for a satisfying read.
- Wallace boils his principles down to sets of five points, some with a mnemonic for easy commitment to memory. Along with the natural flow of the book, the subheadings make it easier to reference the book later down the road.
- Whereas professional academics often bring forth contrived illustrations that seem rather detached from the real world, Wallace draws from the wealth of his experience as a law enforcement officer, bringing life to what can be dry concepts and principles. Law enforcement is something most people are familiar with either through direct experience or entertainment culture. As such, I think most readers will find it easy to relate to the stories and digest the ideas Wallace wants to demonstrate.
Some Christians will want to question this forensic approach because they believe that faith primarily comes through a direct encounter with God. For example, how is this approach supposed to help the persecuted Christians in North Korea or the Christian labourers working the rice fields in rural Laos? Now, I doubt that Wallace will deny the need for a direct encounter with God but, even if he did, I think the Christians who object to Wallace’s forensic approach will still agree that there is a significant need in the post-Christian West to train our young people to be better case-makers.
Overall, I think Forensic Faith is a great accessible resource. I commend it to Christians – be they new to the faith or “veterans” – for their spiritual journey. If you are looking for a book filled with apologetic arguments, this is not the book (though Wallace recommends many resources for those who want to go deeper). However, if you are looking for a resource on the why and the how of apologetics, this is an excellent book to read.