Imagine yourself sitting in a stuffy courtroom in the middle of the summer. The other jurors shift uneasily in their uncomfortable leather chairs. You see before you a young man being examined by an expert lawyer who seems to have the upper hand. Now imagine the evidence brought before the court just falls apart in the middle of the examination. What happens? The case is thrown out and all charges dropped on account of a lack of evidence. It is this type of scenario that Mark Lanier brings us in Christianity on Trial. The only difference between my hypothetical courtroom and his is that the evidence he brings before the jury withstands any line of questioning. In fact, his evidence has withstood thousands of years of examination and has never failed to prove true.
In his opening arguments, Lanier sets the scene by inviting the reader into the courtroom of God’s drama. He presents us the Gospels and his intent to examine them in light of the evidence and eye-witnesses we currently have available to us. He begins by presenting his methodology, much like J. Warner Wallace does in his opening chapters of Cold Case Christianity, in that he plans to “gather and sort through the evidence.” Lanier, as one of America’s top trial lawyers, is an expert guide as we begin to delve into the evidence and see how that evidence stands up against personal accounts.
After the first chapter we are introduced to God in a lengthy section on his person and attributes. We begin to see the arguments take shape as we dive into who God is and what he is like. In the background we also see thoughts arise regarding epistemology and ontology. Though Lanier doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on these things he does at least begin to stir the pot. Though this volume mainly deals with an evidential approach to apologetics, Lanier isn’t afraid to cross the boundaries into other disciplines in order to show the fullness of the argument.
In subsequent chapters we see more clearly a biblical worldview of morality and reality. Each chapter builds on the one previous and does so in an artful way. He touches on the big questions that Christians face from those who wish to cross-examine us because of our beliefs. Though we read of things those I mentioned before and much more, this is still an introductory volume on those who wish to begin to build a solid apologetic foundation underneath them. This courtroom drama reads like a transcript from a case where God wins, and that’s exactly what happens in the end. Lanier never makes the decision for the jury but presents a compelling evidence for one to believe in the God’s truth, which is really the only truth there is.
Overall this book was good. It got the mental juices flowing and I appreciated the type of writing that Lanier brought out. This is an easy read that lightly covers heavy topics. I think it would be somewhere between the depth of Paul Copan and the clarity of J. Warner Wallace. As a trial lawyer Lanier knows the tactics of the prosecutor and is willing to stand up and see where the evidence leads. He calls expert witnesses and navigates the court for us in a whimsical way. I appreciate what this volume does for apologetics and hope to see more like this from vocational ministers.