Inspiring Kids to Become Christian Gumshoes : A Review of Cold Case Christianity For Kids by J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective. As a detective Wallace was well respected and earned the nickname “the Evidence Whisperer.” At the age of thirty-five when Wallace was still an atheist, he turned his honed and careful mind toward the claims of Christianity. What Wallace found in his investigation surprised him; not only did the claims of Christianity appear plausible, but they were the best explanation of a variety of important facts, like the origin of the cosmos, the reality of the moral law, and the New Testament claims about the resurrection of Jesus. Wallace laid out his case for Christianity methodically as a homicide detective would in his book Cold Case Christianity, which has received numerous accolades, not least from my wife who, though acquainted with many well-known Christian apologists, found Wallace to be the most engaging and accessible. Wallace and his wife, Susie, have now translated that book into Cold Case Christianity: For Kids.

In this new book, Wallace aims to illuminate two ideas for children: how to think critically and the evidence for Christianity. Wallace tells the story of several young cadets who have entered cadet training under the supervision of wise Detective Jefferies. Wallace illustrates principles of critical thinking as the detective guides the children through the mystery of a missing skateboard.  Wallace breaks down tough concepts like abductive reasoning and induction masterfully. One might doubt that children could understand abstract concepts like these, but as Wallace applies them concretely to the skateboard case, they are easy to understand and ought to be within the grasp of most children. But Wallace does not talk down to his audience, either. Wallace employs terms that many adults would need a dictionary to understand. How many of us know what “abduction” is off the top of our heads? And yes, the term is actually in the book! Wallace also shows that discovering the truth is often not a simple process. It will take time to gather evidence and think through all the implications. This reticence to water down the content while simultaneously making the ideas understandable to children is the greatest strength of the book. Wallace expects his young audience to rise to the occasion of thinking deeply and critically about some of life’s most important questions. That’s not an easy balance to strike, but Wallace does it well.

Though the theistic arguments are not the focus of this book, one of the highlights is Wallace’s simple but effective summary of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments. The book also provides entertaining and informative pictures that will keep children engaged as well as provide clarity for them. Wallace further provides a simple but clear overview of some the primary issues relating to the resurrection of Jesus, and this is his main focus. Topics like “the chain of custody” of the New Testament documents, which I personally did not hear about until I was an undergraduate at a Christian college, are introduced and explained with ease.  Children who have read this book will be more prepared and aware of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than even many adults.

But it is the synthesis of critical thinking and the presentation of the evidence which deserves the most commendation. In a world that is increasingly pluralistic and challenges the central claims of Christianity, children will need more than simple articulation of Christian beliefs. They will need to learn to think critically, like Detective Jeffries. This book does not merely provide the evidence for the resurrection in a way that children can understand, it provides a model of intellectual virtues which its young readers will feel called to emulate.

This combination is the reason I will read and reread this book with my young son as he grows up. Wallace has provided parents an excellent tool that any parent concerned about teaching their children critical thinking and the truth of the resurrection should not overlook. Cold Case can help our children provide a reasoned defense for the hope that they have, and gives it our highest recommendation.

Image: "Junior Detective" by Jessica Lucia. CC License.