#8 Post of 2015 – A Review of ‘God’s Crime Scene’

Normally, I don’t review books in the traditional sense. Instead I prefer to excerpt portions from the books I read and highlight them to you, my audience (I’ll probably still do that later on with this book). However, Jim Wallace was kind enough to send me a pre-publication copy of his new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universeand I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it over my summer vacation, so here goes!

Jim is a translator. He takes the sometimes complex arguments of academics and he translates them into a simpler form for his audience. This a crucial task for the Christian church, because without translators the vast majority of people will never understand what academics are saying about the Christian worldview. We need to know what the academics are saying because they are doing the research that either corroborates or rebuts the claims of Christianity.

There are two things, I think, that make Jim an especially effective translator. First, he has a knack for developing analogies and illustrations that communicate the complex ideas of Christian apologetics. Second, Jim is masterful at bringing his cold-case detective experience to bear on apologetics arguments. He demonstrated both of these talents in his first book, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, which analyzed the historical reliability of the New Testament documents.

The idea behind his second book, God’s Crime Scene, is that we are investigating the “crime scene” of the observable universe and we are trying to determine if the cause of the observable universe operated from inside of it or from outside of it. Wallace compares this investigation to that of a detective who arrives at a death scene where a dead body has been discovered. The detective must figure out whether the death was caused by the elements inside the death scene (e.g., disease, accident) or whether the cause of death was outside the death scene (e.g., murderer).

Wallace takes the reader through eight different pieces of evidence that must be analyzed at the “crime scene.” These evidences are : 1) the origin of the universe, 2) the fine tuning of the universe, 3) the origin of life, 4) the apparent design of life, 5) consciousness, 6) objective morality, 7) free will, and 8) evil. A chapter is dedicated to each of these.

Wallace not only steps the reader through the evidence in each chapter, but he teaches us how to think about the evidence, using his decades of experience as a detective and as a participant in numerous criminal trials. The task of any jury is to listen to the evidence and arguments made by both the prosecution and defense, to weigh what each side has presented, and then to render a decision about which side has presented the truth about what really happened.

In the same way, we are called to sit on a jury where the prosecution argues that the eight pieces of evidence lead to a theistic creator-God who exists outside the observable universe, and the defense argues that the eight pieces of evidence can be explained by the forces of nature contained inside the observable universe.

As an apologist who has been studying the evidences for Christianity for over a decade, all eight evidences that Wallace presents are familiar territory to me. He has certainly done his homework (extensive citations of scholars on both sides) and updated bits and pieces of the evidences and arguments, but this book is not primarily intended for someone like me.

Just as Lee Strobel brought the evidences for Christianity to a generation of people who had never heard of apologetics (yours truly included) using his background as a journalist, J. Warner Wallace is bringing the evidences for Christianity to yet another generation using his background as a cold-case detective.

Here’s to J. Warner Wallace and all the other translators. You’re doing essential work for the kingdom!

  • The Foundation 4 Pi

    I review Wallace’s “God’s Crime Scene” in my philosophy blog…http://theoryparker.blogspot.com/2015/10/i-read-it-so-you-dont-have-to-gods.html

  • You said,

    If one is in the habit of questioning, one would be inclined to ask if a house is like the universe. The answer would be “no” because we have knowledge of things that can be outside of a house and brought in, but we have no knowledge of things outside of the universe that can be brought into the universe, seeing how we’ve never seen something inside the universe outside of the universe. To begin a book with such a flawed analogy does not help Wallace establish any credibility.

    One does not have to see something physically with one’s eyes to know it exists. i can’t see the laws of logic, but they exist. I can’t see your mind, but I know it exists. i can’t see the laws of mathematics, but I know they exist. I cannot see the concept of justice, but I know it exists.

    Only material objects of a certain size can be seen with human eyes, so if you are going to rule out the existence of everything that doesn’t fit this criterion, then you’ve just ruled out of existence a tremendous number of things that actually do exist and that you assume the existence of every day of your life.

    Also, you might want to float your argument by other atheists, because a large number of them believe that multiple parallel universes exist outside of our own, but yet they’ve never seen these universes.

  • The Foundation 4 Pi

    1) I think you are taking me too literally. It goes beyond physical sight. I could have easily said, “We have never measured anything outside the universe to know that it was outside the universe to begin with and then brought into the universe.” You get the same result. 2) How DOES one know? A good question to ask about whether something exists in reality at large is if such things exist when there are no human beings around. When you do that, many concepts are revealed not to be an inherent feature of the universe, such as justice or love. Even logic is not flawless, as many logical and mathematical paradoxes show. They are all concepts and all concepts – as the product of human minds – are inherently flawed. 3) I needn’t float my arguments by other atheists. If any of them believe in other universes sight unseen, they make are making a faith claim and not a knowledge claim; they do the same thing as theists do and it is wrong to do so.

  • You said,

    “We have never measured anything outside the universe to know that it was outside the universe to begin with and then brought into the universe.”

    The question that Wallace is asking is “Is there anything outside the universe that can account for what’s in the universe?”

    The whole purpose of the book is to answer this question.

    What you are saying is that you already know the answer without looking at any of the evidence he presents. That seems like begging the question to me.

    You said,

    “A good question to ask about whether something exists in reality at large is if such things exist when there are no human beings around.”

    You can’t possibly know that justice, logic, and mathematics do not exist without human minds. How would you ever prove that? It is entirely possible and plausible that there are other minds in existence outside of humanity.

    What about the SETI project? Their whole premise is that non-human intelligent life exists. Do you think these other intelligent life-forms, if they exist, are not subject to the laws of logic and mathematics? Can 1+1=3 for an alien, but not a human?

  • The Foundation 4 Pi

    You said: The question that Wallace is asking is “Is there anything
    outside the universe that can account for what’s in the universe?” The
    whole purpose of the book is to answer this question.

    We only
    have knowledge of what’s in the universe. There is absolutely NO WAY to
    know what’s outside the universe using the tools we have from inside the
    universe. We can’t even say IF there is an outside – there’s NO
    evidence that there is. Wallace thinks there is, but he’s made an a
    prior mistake: He didn’t see the evidence THEN believe in a Christian
    god, he believed first THEN went about justifying his beliefs. How can I
    say this? Because had Wallace converted to any other religion, he would
    have done the exact same thing. Theist of all stripes and colors do
    this all the time. Let’s assume Wallace had been a crime scene
    investigator in Saudi Arabia; given that he obviously WANTS to believe,
    he would have wound up coming to the conclusion that Allah is the one
    true god. If you’ll notice in Wallace’s first book Cold Case
    Christianity, he doesn’t weigh any of the evidence against his beliefs,
    or at least doesn’t take them seriously because he simply doesn’t want

    As for justice, logic, and mathematics, similarly there is
    no reason to suspect that such things DO exist when people aren’t
    around. I would imagine that an alien race capable of interstellar
    travel would laugh at our concepts of math and logic, seeing how often
    these concepts fail. Sure, these concepts work for humans insofar as the
    help us survive, but the way humans compartmentalize information only
    begins to hint at the true laws of the universe. But again, in a way you
    are taking me too literally. Imagine there is NO life around, do the
    concepts of love, logic or math still exist? I would argue that they do not. There is no way to prove
    that the do exist, so we may be stuck at an impasse.

  • Can you define “universe” for me? I suspect we are using different definitions.

  • Vanessa Benoit

    would just like to chime in here about a premise you just used in your argument that kind of dismantles the rest of it. You said that Wallace first believed and then used things to justify such beliefs. Actually, in the book he says he was an atheist. So therefore the rest of your argument is based around a misrepresentation of the person you’re talking about. And an argument based on a misrepresentation of your opponent is known as a straw man. I won’t speak to the rest of what you’ve said but I thought someone ought to point *that* out

  • The Foundation 4 Pi

    I don’t believe Wallace was what you’d call a ‘strong’ or philosophical atheist. True, this is a bit of assumption, but I’ve met plenty of these types of atheists who are atheist (or agnostic) by default, who don’t think much about it. Myself, I used to be a theist; does this lend any credibility to atheism as being true? Probably not, so, perhaps one has nothing to do with the other and Wallace’s prior atheism is moot. In the end, his prior athesim or my prior theism has nothing to do with the other arguments he presents which are still quite unsound.