Unlike Any Other Apologetics Book I Have Read
Today is the release of J. Warner Wallace’s intriguing new book called Person of Interest. Undoubtedly, this book is very well written and captivating from the first page all the way to the last. I had the privilege of being part of the launch team for this book. This post constitutes my attempt to give a robust review of this fine work. As a Van Tillian Presuppositionalist I have a fairly distinct approach concerning apologetical methodology than Mr. Wallace (more on different schools of apologetics here). Nonetheless, I appreciate many aspects of his work and consider these differences to be important, but brotherly matters to be handled with charity. I can certainly say I found Person of Interest to be an enjoyable book. It was fun to grab a cup of coffee, my furry fido friend, and dive into the book making lots of notes in the process. With that being said, let’s dive into some of the primary components of Detective Wallace’s newest contribution to apologetics.
The Fuse Leading Up To Christ
J. Warner Wallace, as many of you likely know, has a tremendous background as a prolific cold-case homicide detective. In Person of Interest, he draws from that background and interweaves stories into his examination of the person of Christ. His goal in this book is to look at the evidence outside of the Scripture and see what historical events led to the coming of Jesus and what proceeded the coming of the Lord. Throughout this process, he also shares vital details of his own conversion from being an atheist to a follower of Jesus. Whenever examining a case, Mr. Wallace expected to find a fuse of events leading to the explosion, which represents the murder. He says:
“Less significant crimes can be committed successfully with a smaller degree of preparation. Shoplifting, for example, takes little time to plan, while committing burglary after the store is closed requires more planning. Planning a successful murder is even harder. It takes time for the evil desire to mature. And it takes effort to plot out the manner of death, obtain the right weapon, and formulate a successful alibi. The more consequential the crime, the longer the fuse.”1
Consequently, when examining Christ’s incarnation, one would expect to find a significant series of events leading up to His appearance on earth. This portion of the book truly amazed me as I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Wallace’s presentation of the detailed information. I can only imagine how much time he must have spent in historical analysis seeking to mine all of this data from various fields. Let’s take a look at a few of them!
The Historical Events Leading To Christ
The first aspect of this section I want to highlight is the growth of the Roman Empire, which was a key historical event. Mr. Wallace says:
“The size of the Roman Empire allowed Jesus’s teaching to spread within its expansive borders, but it was also the power of the empire that allowed the message of Jesus to be heard.”2
Detective Wallace goes on and states:
“The small window of Roman peace provided the perfect setting for the teaching and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The relative tranquility resulted in a surprising development that would assist those who wanted to spread Jesus’s message.”3
Rome was a united empire at the time of Jesus, which meant His message could spread like a blazing wildfire on a hot summer day in California. The power and might of Rome allowed it to be united as the unquestioned military leader in the world at that time. There was a small period of peace known as the “Pax Romana” which lasted from around 27 B.C. – 180 A.D.4 In other words, it was the perfect time for Christ to come, fulfill His earthly ministry, and commission the disciples to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Another intriguing development leading up to the coming of Christ was the developments in transportation. Until around 400 B.C. roads were incredibly difficult for wheeled transportation with only some exceptions.5 However, as the Roman Empire continued to grow, so did its roads. They were widespread and usually paved. The Romans had a habit of building long, fairly straight roads wherever they conquered in order to make movement of military equipment easier.6 The construction of the most famous Roman road, the Appian Way, began in 312 B.C. and actually set the bar for many other famous roads leading up to the time of Christ.7 The Romans ended up perfecting the development of bridges and tunnels by about 100 B.C.8 This development served to set the stage for the coming of Christ and for His Gospel to be proclaimed because of the developments in transportation.
There are a wide variety of other factors which play into this discussion regarding events leading up to Christ’s coming. Areas such as the development of Koine Greek, the mail system, and other factors are also discussed. After examining many areas, Detective Wallace demonstrates the stage was prepared for Jesus to come from roughly 29 B.C. to 70 A.D.9 He brilliantly illustrates the truth that Christ truly did appear “when the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:14).”
The Fallout of Events After Christ’s First Coming
Not only the circumstances before Christ’s appearance, but also the events after His coming are important to consider. When working on a case, Detective Wallace says examining details after the murder is vitally important. He gives us a helpful understanding of this area:
“And just as every bomb begins with a fuse, the blast results in fallout, the debris that bombs inevitably cause.”10
Therefore, using this metaphor, we would expect to see the explosion of the life of Christ creating a substantial amount of impact in the world after He came. He shows the fallout of the life of Christ by demonstrating the astounding amount of literature which has been written about Jesus. Not all of these individuals listed by Mr. Wallace followed the Lord. In fact, some even held heretical views of Christ. Nonetheless, they did write about Him and detailed many key events in His life. Wallace gives the research of Peter Dickson, who discovered in 1999 that out of the 18 million volumes found in the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, twice the amount of books had been written regarding Christ than anyone else.11
Detective Wallace curiously wondered what the results would be when considered on a global scale. He searched Google Books which has the world’s most comprehensive index of full-text books, and found Christ has 109,000,000 books written about Him, almost two times higher than the next closes figure.12 This examination demonstrates the severe impact the “blast” of Christ’s incarnation had upon the world.
Another influence of the life of Christ was the impact upon education. Followers of Jesus were commanded by the Lord to think deeply by loving God with the entirety of their minds.13 Mr. Wallace demonstrates the impact followers of Christ had upon education as a result of the ministry of the Lord. For example, it was Christians who caused the revolution leading directly to the modern university.14 Schools such as Oxford University were founded to teach from a Christian basis.15 What J. Warner Wallace shows is the truth that the life of Christ caused a tremendous impact. The worldview based upon the teaching and life of Christ has dramatically impacted the world. Education, art, literature, and many other realms were directly impacted by the life of the Lord. It is exactly what we would expect to see, considering Jesus is the Son of God. He influenced many different aspects of the world through His teaching and life.
A Couple of Brotherly Disagreements
Now, as I stated earlier, I do differ with Detective Wallace on a few matters, and I want to bring those up in this part of the post. As I said earlier, I hold to the presuppositional model of apologetics. Which is going to necessitate the fact that I think evidence plays a secondary and not primary role in apologetics. Mr. Wallace, certainly presents evidence as though it is primary in this book. However, do not misunderstand what I am saying, true presuppositionalists are not against evidence. One of Cornelius Van Til’s most prolific followers, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, puts it this way:
Likewise, Van Til does not tone down the objective and clear evidence for the truth of Christianity; admitting the inescapable revelation of God in all things, Van Til renounces the claims of neutrality and will not consent that the facts have been properly interpreted unless the certainty of Scripture’s truth is our conclusion—not merely its probable truth. His presuppositional apologetic defends Christianity, not in terms of piecemeal truths, but as a unit or complete worldview. His argument is transcendental in character, aiming to demonstrate that the truth of God’s word is the precondition of intelligibility for man’s thinking and interpretive efforts; that is, he wishes to show that Christianity is reasonable in virtue of the impossibility of the contrary. Consequently, rather than presuming to act as an autonomous judge over God’s revelation, presuppositionalism as taught by Van Til applies the truths of that revelation to the unbeliever, by: (1) setting forth the pervasive, positive evidence provided by God of His veracity, and (2) performing an internal critique of the unbeliever’s worldview and presuppositions so as to show that they destroy the possibility of human knowledge.16
Indeed, what I want to do as a presuppositionalist is to show the folly of the unbelieving worldview and the cohesive truth of Christianity. Evidence will always be evaluated through the lens of presuppositions. I appreciate Mr. Wallace’s setting forth of the evidence, but would have enjoyed seeing the overall presuppositions of unbelievers being critiqued as well. It is not that I, or presuppositionalists, are anti-evidence, rather we desire to present the evidence within the framework of a biblical method for undertaking apologetics.
Nonetheless, I will say that I view all of these points as disagreements amongst Christians. Should Mr. Wallace ever happen to read this humble little blogger’s thoughts, I should hope he reads these differences as coming from a heart of Christian charity and respect. Evidentialists and presuppositionalists may differ on quite a few points, but we are certainly on the same team. Though I will jokingly assert we perhaps sit at different areas of the sidelines on more than a few occasions!
I commend Person of Interest to you as a very well-written book with which I mostly agree and have some broader methodological differences and such. Even my fellow presuppositionalist brothers should read this book as it contains some insightful information. We may not agree with every point, but it is good to be well-read, and you will benefit from this work. I want to thank Mr. Wallace for his work seeking to proclaim Christ’s Gospel. My sincere hope is that his book will be used powerfully by Christ for His glory and that many will come to saving faith in the Lord through Mr. Wallace’s work in proclaiming Christ’s Gospel. You can find a link to the book here (this is not an affiliate link), and I hope you have found this review to be helpful!
1 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 3-4.
2 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 15.
3 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 16.
4 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 16.
5 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 17.
6 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 17.
7 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 18.
8 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 18.
9 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 93.
10 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 2-3.
11 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 112.
12 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 113-114.
13 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 157.
14 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 160.
15 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 166.
16 Bahnsen, Greg, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, p. 21.
17 Wallace, Jim Warner, Person of Interest, p. 118.