Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cold-Case Christianity For Kids: Investigate Jesus With A Real Detective - A Book Review

Round Two

So, there I was again. Another book graciously given to me by J. Warner Wallace mocking me from my cluttered desk. Cluttered like so many other flat surfaces at home and in my office. My mind brooded over my last painful experience with completing a book review of God’s Crime Scene. The unpleasant memory wasn’t due to any quality of Wallace’s work. If anything reading God’s Crime Scene was refreshing and entertaining. So, Wallace’s writing wasn’t the problem. No, it wasn’t him. It was me. The lifelong compulsive procrastinator. The guy who can’t seem to start anything until a crisis is looming. At least now I had a explanation for my behavior. An explanation, but not an excuse as the literature on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder so often reminds its readers. I had been diagnosed with ADHD a few months prior to beginning to write this review. The clutter, the procrastination, the forgetfulness, the quickly drifting attention, the pervasive, nagging sense of underachievement. It all made sense now. And… wait what was I writing about? Oh yeah, an apologetics book for kids. Right… pardon my ADHD in action.

ADHD and Hyperfocus 

Or maybe I was going somewhere with that thought. Now I remember. The reason I bring it up actually has a lot to do with apologetics and my formative years as a teenager. Hang with me here. There is one quality that people with ADHD have that most people do not know about. Individuals with ADHD have a tendency to hyperfocus. What does that mean? I'm glad you asked! Hyperfocus is the term smart folks with credentials attached to their names use to describe what happens to the ADHD brain when it latches onto an activity, idea, or thought process like a leech and sucks the life out of it only to drop it like a hot-potato without warning at some unpredictable moment. In other words, the same person who can’t listen to you talk without his mind involuntarily drifting off into the stratosphere after 5 seconds despite his best efforts may often feel compelled to sit down and write very carefully crafted paragraphs quibbling about the nuances of theology, apologetics, or politics for hours, losing all track of time in the process only to suddenly lose interest in the activity. Hyperfocus. Yep. That’s me!

Hyperfocus and Doubt 

Did I mention that another paradoxical quality of ADHDers is that it often drives them absolutely insane when other people don’t get to the point, while they simultaneously have a strong proclivity to chase rabbits and consequently fail to get to the point? I’ve already rambled about ADHD for two paragraphs with little discussion of Wallace’s book. Case in point. So, here’s why I bring all of this up. Because of my tendency to hyperfocus my mind often relentlessly broods about big questions for extended periods of time. This started very early in my teenage years. And the big questions my mind would latch onto like a leech were often questions about the truth of Christianity. I didn’t just have a few casual passing doubts. I made doubt a mental bloodsport to the point of clinical depression.

And then at the age of 32 I received a copy of Cold-Case Christianity For Kids and after reading it I thought to myself: “Where was this book when I was a kid?” If only my parents had had the resources we now have for the apologetic task, maybe, just maybe my life could have gotten on track much earlier. Maybe my mind would have hyperfocused on examining the evidence instead of getting bogged down in a seemingly endless string of unanswerable questions. But, better late than never. God did eventually bring the right people and resources into my life that would help me find satisfying answers about the truth-claims of Christianity. And now I’m grateful for the apologetics resources I have available to help my children avoid the pitfalls I did not know how to avoid as a teenager. In the following book review I’ll explain why Cold-Case Christianity For Kids is one of the tools I’ll be keeping in my toolbag for the task of teaching my children about the evidence for Christianity.

Enough Rambling Prolegomena - Let’s Get To The Book! 

So, why should I buy this book for my children? Inquiring minds want to know! Well, what a happy coincidence, because inquiring minds is exactly who this book is written for. Afterall, J. Warner Wallace is a career cold-case detective, in case you didn’t know. And an inquiring mind is usually a prerequisite for that kind of job. His inquiring mind eventually led him from atheism to Christianity when he decided to apply his unique skill-set as a cold-case detective to the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Much to his surprise that investigation turned his worldview upside down and now he’s writing books defending the truth-claims of Christianity.

Cold-Case Christianity was the first of those books and it was written for an adult audience. Cold-Case Christianity For Kids takes the content from the first book and makes it accessible for young readers. I’ve been reading it to my six year old son and he has been enjoying it. I know because he has asked me to read it to him several times. I’m also confident that the book will keep the interest of children who can read it on their own. The chapters are short, the content is interesting, and there are illustrations on every page. Hey, I’d even say that if you’re an adult with ADHD looking for a concise and entertaining defense of Christianity, this might be a good, albeit unusual place to start. And why not? Us ADHDers are often overgrown kids with an affinity for the unusual, anyway! The rest of you “normal” grown-ups can always pick up one of Wallace’s grown-up books, which are also very good.

The Gimmicky Stuff 

What makes all of Wallace’s books attractive is what I endearingly call “the gimmicky stuff”. By that I mean all of the detective themes artfully woven into his books. What Wallace always does well is blend his experience as a cold-case detective into a tasteful concoction of apologetics and investigative techniques particular to his craft. This book is no exception and it also manages to make it work very well for young readers. In the introduction Wallace promises that by reading his book “You’ll learn how to be a good detective, and you’ll also learn how to investigate the case of Jesus.” I read the book cover to cover and I think he delivers on both of those promises.

Wallace places his readers smack-dab in the middle of the storyline of the book. The moment you begin reading you join a group of kids who are training to become student police cadets at the police department over summer break with Detective Jeffries as your guide. Together you learn to use investigative techniques to solve mysteries - one involving a skateboard and the other involving the claims that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. Lessons you learn from investigating the skateboard progressively shed new light on your investigation into the truth-claims of Christianity.

What makes this journey so invaluable is that in the process you are not only learning about the evidence for Christianity, but you are being encouraged to practice essential critical thinking skills applicable to all aspects of life along the way. There are a few twists and turns as the story unfolds with a bit of a surprise ending concerning the mysterious owner of the skateboard as the case is cracked. If you made it that far, then congratulations! You have learned a lot about what it means to be a good detective as well as what evidence there is that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. And all that in only 119 generously illustrated pages. The ADHDers of the world salute you, Detective Wallace!

But, Seriously. Here’s the Point… 

And if you have ADHD and made it this far I salute you, too! Although, it’s more likely that you just skipped to the last paragraph, isn’t it? No worries. I understand completely. At any rate, Here’s what I think it a nutshell. The book is well-designed and well-written for young readers. It immerses them into a story, a learning process, and an investigative discovery that will help them become more informed about the evidence for Christianity and will challenge them to become more careful and rigorous thinkers in general. The latter alone would make it worth your time and money. After all, How many people nowadays teach kids critical thinking? This is all bolstered by a companion website to the book which features free videos, printable worksheets, and a certificate you can use to reward your kids for finishing the investigation. And, of course, since Wallace has already published a version of this book for adults you can join your kids in the investigation as well and make it a family activity. Or if you have ADHD, like me, maybe you’ll just read the version for kids, too. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Either way, what’s not to love? Wallace just dropped a great apologetics resource in your lap that will help you prepare your children to think about their faith intelligently. And I can tell you from experience, it’s better for them to learn that sooner than later. So, do your kids a favor and give them a fair chance to avoid crippling doubts by teaching them good reasons to believe. Then maybe their young minds will be focused on the right things, instead of being distracted by nagging questions, like my ADHD brain was for so long. If that sounds like a desirable outcome for your children then I highly recommend Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. It’s one of the best tools available for the job.