We were just having a driving discussion (that’s a discussion while driving) about “always being ready to give a reason for your faith.” This conversation was brought about by the many Christians we have met on our travels that claim they shouldn’t need reason to support their faith. Then those same Christians ask why their children are falling away from the church. Here’s a thought–the children were never taught to defend their faith, and if they can’t defend it against the attacks of the world, they will also struggle to defend it against their own questions and doubts. I don’t know if that’s the correct answer, but I do know that “always being ready to give a reason” is straight from the Bible. That’s reason enough.
J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace would, I believe, agree. They are the authors of the book Forensic Faith for Kids from David C Cook. Mr. Wallace is a cold-case forensic detective who uses his career knowledge to investigate Scripture and went from atheist to apologist in the process. He has written such books as Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith. Also available from David C Cook is the supportive material available at the Case Makers Academy website.
Let’s talk about the book.
The book contains two mysteries.
The first mystery involves a lost puppy. A group of kids takes it upon itself, with the help of a detective (based on a real detective), to find the owner of the puppy. That’s a whole mystery in a nutshell right there.
The second mystery involves the deity of Jesus Christ. One of the kids has a friend who has been told by the world that Jesus Christ is not God and never claims to be God. Your children will at some point encounter this argument, which makes this mystery super relevant.
A group of junior detectives, or cadets, use investigative techniques to analyze the forensic evidence around Christ’s deity. In the process, they are talking to respected elders (like Dad and Pastor), interviewing professionals (like a veterinarian), digging deeply into Scripture, and learning that they can apply the same investigative techniques they use in the world to their investigation of Scripture. They also learn other important skills, such as persistence, and potentially life-changing definitions, like the difference between blind faith and forensic faith.
The sidebars are my favorite part. They provide detective definitions, Scripture references, questions, and deep concepts to get your child thinking beyond the general nature of the story. They are dynamite!
The book is written in second person. You are one of the characters in the book. Personally, I don’t normally enjoy second person writing, but I was surprised that it didn’t bother me once I got used to it. And my daughter enjoys being a character in books, so she was good.
Apparently this is the third in a series of books. I detected that (using my new detective skills), but rather than confusing me, it made me want to read the other two books. I think this book would be a tad more enjoyable as part of the series, but it is not at all necessary to read the first two in order to grasp the third. It is still a valuable resource on its own, as each of the books is meant to stand alone.
Let’s talk about the academy.
The Case Maker’s Academy offers a large amount of material, but is not intimidating. Here’s a brief rundown.
Online Leader Guides are available. They match the adult version of the same book with the children’s book. Essentially, it includes discussion questions and parallel reading.
Online videos with the author are short enough to not give you quite the nap you like to sneak during video time. They are a great review or preview of what’s in the book in about six minutes’ time.
The Academy also includes printables. There are fun activity sheets which are…wait for it…fun. There are also fill-in-the-blank type sheets for taking notes as you listen or read or for “homework.” Finally, there’s a certificate of completion you can print and a badge for your cadet. It’s all part of your Academy Notebook.
The Academy is also a great tool if you wanted to use this course for a group class, Bible study, co-op youth group, etc., or if you wanted to have one of your older children teach a class to your younger children, if you’re blessed with that type of age spread.
How We Used the Book
I know that most of the Review Crew printed activities and lessons from the Academy and assigned certain amounts of reading per day or week. In other words, they teach the book. I’m not like that, and I’m telling you this because I want you to know that your children can still benefit from the book without making it a subject, so to speak. We did what I do with many of the faith-building books we’ve gotten for our kids–I hand it to them and say, “This is for you.” This time, the reader was our ten-year-old daughter, Rebecca.
Yup, I let them read it and soak it in and enjoy it…and often they come back and read it again.
I also read the books myself so I can speak knowingly with them about the topics brought up in the book.
A few other options:
- Read the adult book at the same speed they are reading the children’s book.
- Read it aloud together.
- Let them read some each day, and then discuss the brief sidebars.
- Let them read through it on their own and assign written sidebar responses as they encounter them.
- Use the Academy moderately.
- Use the Academy intensely.
A Few Opinions
This is our first exposure to Case Makers, and we are definitely pleased! I would like to go through this book again with more of my kids in more of a teaching fashion, since the Academy is available for this. It’s a short and enjoyable read at eight chapters and just over 130 pages, so it wouldn’t cut into a regular schoolweek too much. Even if it did, apologetics (defending your faith) will serve them far better than math and diagramming, and that’s coming from someone who loves to diagram.
If you do use my hand-it-to-them approach, I recommend you take a couple hours and read the book yourself as well. or at least the sidebars. There is some valuable information that you will want to casually talk about with your kids and which you yourself may never have thought of. Seriously an excellent tool in preparing your children (and yourself) to give a reason for their faith.
Also, the Academy information is not dry and will not take the love of reading out of them, which is so often the case with Bible or literature study materials.
The book is intended for the tween age group, and I think it’s appropriate for them. I also feel that children a bit older would enjoy it for its intended use. As for us, I give it to my older kids, too, with a “you might enjoy this” comment, until there’s room in the budget for the adult versions. There is seriously so much of value in the book, that I wouldn’t put an age limit on it, despite the story being geared toward the younger set.
Doctrinally, I haven’t had any issues. I know some people will feel that we shouldn’t need “evidence” for our faith and that “blind faith” is what God asks for in Hebrews when he says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” I ask you, then, why did God give evidence? Why did he have four separate men write down the life of Christ? Why did Jesus appear to many, many people after he rose? These are evidences. Our faith doesn’t stand on the evidence over the Word, but God gives us the ability to give a reason for our faith, and demands that we do so. Why would he ask that if there was no reason or evidence to give?
One more thing: I really appreciate the focus on our Christian duty. So often I hear Christians in my life talk about not doing something if we don’t want to do it or if we’re too much of an introvert or if it isn’t “fun.” God doesn’t say, “All you extroverts, go into all the world… .” He lays out our duty and there it stands. This book emphasizes not only our duty, but how to fulfill it, and it does it without watering down the truth of the matter, straight from Scripture.
It also emphasizes that it is our job to train, to learn the correct response so that we are able to give a reason for our belief. It’s okay and encouraged to say, “Good question. I’ll get back to you.” And then go and learn, train, and be strengthened so you can give a reason. And what does the transforming? The power of God. Our job is to learn and share; God’s job is to transform. The book is a powerhouse in this area.
Well played, Wallace. Well played.
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