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Book Review: God's Crime Scene šŸ•µ

God's Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace
UPDATE: My review of the new Kids' edition has posted!


"God's Crime Scene" (KindlePaperback, GoodReadsPromo Video) is the highly anticipated "sequel" to J. Warner Wallace's "Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels". In his first investigation Wallace looks at the evidence for the claim that the Gospels were eye-witness accounts of the life of Jesus. In his latest book, he investigates the existence of God. He takes his experience and skill-set as a homicide detective to bring together the evidences and present them in a coherent and convincing manner for the jurors (readers) to decide. God's Crime Scene is 204 pages divided into eight chapters. He has also included nearly 80 additional pages of case files for digging deeper into the cases he investigates in the book. This review will provide a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book but it cannot be substituted for reading the full text. I've included short interviews with J. Warner Wallace and Bobby Conway from The One Minute Apologist at the end of chapter summaries so you can hear a synopsis of the chapter directly from the author.

Opening Statement: Has Someone Else Been in This Room?

J. Warner Wallace begins his investigation by taking the reader through one of his first crime scene investigations. The crime scene involved a death that needed to be determined if it was the result of natural causes, suicide, or homicide. Wallace explains that when making this determination, the investigator quickly assess the pieces of evidence in the room and asks whether those pieces originated inside the room or if the came from the outside. If the evidence cannot all be explained by remaining inside the room, then they have evidence of an intruder- someone outside the room. Not only can these pieces of evidence establish that an intruder invaded to commit the murder, but they can also be used to give the identity of the murder (a suspect profile). He notes that it is important to have multiple independent types of evidence to build the strength of the case for the type of death (homicide) and the identity of the murderer.

Wallace explains that investigating God's existence is analogous. If all the evidence of the universe can be explained by staying inside the universe, then there is no need to appeal to someone outside the universe. However, if all the evidence cannot be explained by remaining inside the universe, then we have stumbled upon direct evidence of a source outside the universe. Just as the same evidence can be used to construct a "suspect profile" of the murderer, so too can the evidence that must be explained by going outside the universe be used to construct a profile to identify the "intruder" external to the universe.

Video- How Does A Detective Investigate God's Existence?

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

Wallace's first piece of evidence that appears to not have an explanation inside the universe is the universe's beginning. He presents a diverse set of arguments for the beginning of the universe. These include the philosophical evidence of the impossibility of infinite regresses, theoretical evidence of mathematics and physics, observational evidence from astronomy, thermal evidence provided by the second law of thermodynamics, quantitative evidence in the abundance of helium, and evidence of the cosmic background radiation. All these used together provide powerful evidence of the beginning of the universe, and since everything that begins to exist, must have a cause, the universe must have had a cause outside itself too.

Wallace grants that there may be alternative explanations of the evidences provided and demonstrates how the alternative models that are commonly offered do not actually explain what they claim to, so the conclusion of the universe having a beginner is solidly established. Wallace then begins building his profile of the "intruder" by noting that the beginner must be external to the universe, nonspacial, atemporal (not confined by time), nonmaterial, uncaused, and powerful enough to create the universe.

VideoDoes the Beginning of the Universe Entail God's Existence?

Chapter 2: Tampering with the Evidence

Next Wallace examines evidence of tampering with the natural order of things. He explains that a death scene can be determined to be a crime scene (death not caused by natural causes) by knowing the natural condition of the scene and examining it for multiple differences that can only be explained from something outside the scene. Three levels of conditions are considered: foundational, regional, and locational. If the conditions of the room where a death took place contributed directly to the death, but are not natural conditions of the room, then evidence of tampering by an outside agent (a suspected murderer) has been established.

Wallace examines the universe at the same three levels. The "crime" he is investigating is the existence of life. The foundational conditions of the universe that allow for life's existence include the physical laws governing the atom, the matter of the universe, and the creation of chemicals. The next layer (regional) moves closer to home: our galaxy and solar system. The shape, position, and size of our galaxy make it habitable for life; while our sun's position, age, mass, and composition allow it to to host a planet fit for life. The third layer is the planet, itself. The earth's relationship to the sun, atmosphere, terrestrial nature, and moon all play a role in making a place that is fit for life. Compared to the rest of the universe to establish the "natural" conditions, the fact that these conditions are present and life exists are powerful evidences for tampering. The evidence for tampering indicates that the suspect was intentional.

Video- Do The Intricacies of This World Point to a Designer?

Chapter 3: The Origin of Life

A key piece of evidence in one of Wallace's cases was a text message on the victim's phone. As a detective he needed to answer the classics questions of what, where, when, why, and how to explain the message and its significance to the case (connecting a suspect to the death). In Chapter 3, Wallace asks the same questions about life and its origin to connect a suspect to its origin. In explaining what life is, where could it have originated, when it could have originated, why and how it originated, Wallace concludes that not only is an outside agent required, but it is an agent that possesses intelligence and volition.

- Can We Explain the Origin of Life from Non-Life? 

Chapter 4: Signs of Design

Examining a crime scene for evidences of "design" can be highly useful in identifying a suspect. In one of Wallace's case, he demonstrated that a particular object found at a crime scene was a homemade weapon- the product of a mind, external to the scene. He identified eight characteristics of the object that cumulatively led to the correct conclusion:
  • Dubious Probability
  • Echoes of Familiarity
  • Sophistication and Intricacy
  • Informational Dependency
  • Goal Direction and Intentionality
  • Natural Inexplicability (Given the Laws of Physics)
  • Efficiency/Irreducible Complexity
He explains each of these criteria and how each one points to the conclusion of a mind. He then applies these same eight criteria to the living cell, and in so doing, he concludes that it must be the result of a mind. But just like in a murder case, the other side is allowed to offer alternative explanations to show that the evidence can be accounted for without the presence of the suspect. Wallace examines possible alternative explanations offered by naturalists to explain the evidence from a purely naturalistic (in the room) perspective. He shows how such explanations fail and his conclusion of an external agent's involvement is the best explanation. 

Video- Does Biological Appearance Point to a Designer

Chapter 5: Our Experience of Consciousness

Wallace now moves away from evidence from astronomy and biology to the human brain. In naturalistic worldviews it is common to believe that the brain and the mind are the same thing. Wallace explains that the only way that two things are the same is if they share all their attributes with no differences. He describes six attributes of the brain that are not shared by the mind. All of these distinctions build a powerful case for the two being completely different. He concludes that the brain is physical while the mind is non-physical and that the mind's existence can only be explained "outside the room" of the universe being the product of another mind. He examines several attempts by naturalistic philosophers to explain the mind "inside the room" of the universe, but he shows how each of them fail to offer an adequate explanation. His conclusion is that the existence of the mind offers powerful evidence that can only be explained by going "outside the room." Because only a conscious mind can produce another conscious mind, Wallace adds the characteristic of being a conscious mind to his suspect's profile.

Video- How Does Our Consciousness Point to God's Existence

Chapter 6: Free Will or Full Wiring

Even  though Wallace has firmly established that there exists a distinction between the mind and the brain, he now examines an attribute of the mind that is hotly debated: free will. From a naturalistic perspective (one that holds there is no distinction between the mind and the brain) free will does not exist; it is an illusion much like the mind. If free will does actually exist, it points even more powerfully towards the existence of the mind, which must derive its origin from the supernatural, since it is supernatural itself. Wallace uses the concept of responsibility and the ability to choose other than we do to build his case for free will's actual existence. Without e the ability to chose something other than what we do, we cannot be held responsible, thus no one would be worthy of punishment (in the case of wrong-doing) or praise (in the case of doing right). Our experience tells us that we have the ability to do otherwise when we are presented with options; we also acknowledge that others have the same ability by giving them either praise or punishment for their chosen actions.

Wallace recognizes that naturalistic options have been proposed to accommodate this reality, but he shows how none of the explanations suffice. They reduce to complete determinism (making no one responsible, praise-worthy, or punishable for their actions), making free will something of an illusion foisted on us by evolution in an effort to make our genes survive instead of others.

Video- Does Free Will Point to God's Existence? 

Chapter 7: Law and Order

The very fact that Warner is in law-enforcement allows him to see, first-hand, many acts of "evil." The next piece of evidence at the crime scene of the universe is evil. He explains that evil does not actually exist if objective moral duties and objective human value do not exist. However, to exist these cannot find their grounding in individuals or people groups. Both of those options result in flexible "standards" (subjectivism and relativism, respectively) which cannot provide a rule by which to punish criminal activity (if there truly is such a thing).

Warner examines several attempts to stay "inside the room" to explain moral duties and human value, but none of the attempts result in authentically objective results. He concludes that our experience of evil is not mistaken and the denial of it is unlivable in societies, so to explain the evidence, the investigator must go "outside the room" of the universe to find the responsible party that explains objective moral duties and objective human value.

- What is the Best Explanation For Moral Laws

Chapter 8: The Evidence of Evil

As the final piece of evidence Wallace introduces the reader to exculpatory evidence. This is evidence that would ultimately demonstrate that a suspect could not have possibly committed a crime. The problem of evil and suffering is often raised as exculpating evidence against God as the suspect who intervened from "outside the room" into the "room" of the universe. Many people do not see that God is compatible with the existence of evil based on the fact that God is all-loving and all-powerful. They argue that if God is both of those, then He would necessarily have removed evil by now or not let it happen in the first place. If they are correct, then no matter the rest of the case for God being the suspect "outside the room," He simply is not the one we're looking for.

However, to remove the exculpatory nature of the problem of evil, it simply needs to be demonstrated that an all-loving and all-powerful God would have a purpose for allowing evil and suffering. Wallace puts forth seven explanations that is compatible with God's existence. He also reminds the reader that even if an event cannot be explained by one of these seven, we are not omniscient and do not know the future, so the explanation simply has yet to be revealed. Ultimately, evil and suffering do not serve the purpose that skeptics believe that it does. It does not remove God as a suspect.

Video- Does Evil Disqualify The Existence of God?

Closing Argument: Make a Decision and Make It Now

Wallace concludes the book similarly to the closing arguments in a trial. He reminds the reader that he has presented several pieces of evidence from multiple disciplines, each with several evidences from multiple disciplines support their validity. He explains that jurors throughout the country are required to make decisions based on the evidence they are presented even though not every questions they have can be answered- when the evidence for a conviction is sufficient, the decision must be made. Wallace also recounts incidents where the identification that the cause of a death was to be found "outside the room" rather than "inside the room." This causes a sense of urgency among the investigators. He encourages the reader to embrace the sense of urgency that comes with the knowledge that a suspect exists and to continue their investigation to identify Him. He encourages the reader to read his book "Cold Case Christianity- A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels" to help them further identify the suspect as the God of the Bible (Jesus Christ). Finally Wallace explains that the urgency must not be limited to the investigation, but include sharing the results of the investigation with people.

Video- What Makes the Cumulative Case for God So Powerful?

Reviewer's Thoughts

God's Crime Scene is a engaging read. For many people investigating the existence of God seems like a dull, philosophical project. To make matters worse, the resources to investigate seem overwhelming, so people do not know where to start. Because of the interest of people in criminal investigation (as evidence by the popularity of both fictional and non-fictional crime investigation shows on television) and the fact that people often are involved with the criminal justice system (as a victim or juror), Wallace is able to use his skill set and experience as a homicide investigator to bring the investigation into God's existence to the masses. This book is not only filled with the evidences for God as the "suspect" in the "crime scene" of the universe, but he includes stories of his own experiences and many stories that most people will connect with on a deep basis. Wallace's connection to the reader and his powerful case result in a book that I highly recommend for everyone to read and pass along to friends, family, and others who may be interesting in God's existence but may not know exactly where to start.

Check out the Book Reviews Page for more.

Thanks to Brian Auten at Apologtics 315 for originally publishing this review on his site. This review is only one of many in a project by Auten to build a solid collection of reviews of books of interest to Christian apologists. His collection grows on a weekly basis.