Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review: Chapter Eight, Part 3

My eleven-year-old daughter and I, both atheists, are reviewing J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. Links to all posts in the series are collected at the end of this introductory post.

So, as expected, Lacey was the skateboard owner, and, as not expected but should have been, Jeffries pretty much hands this one to the cadets rather than helping them work it out themselves. I forgot to update my prediction accuracy count, but this, of course, brings it to three accurate out of five; which, alas, is where it stayed, as my daughter had an unusually long episode of rationality while reading this and thus did not at any point randomly utter any of the words ‘mushrooms’, ‘potatoes’, ‘cheese’ ‘jalapeños’, or ‘chicken’. You win some, you lose some.

Time to wrap this up:

We get a bit more information from Lacey, including the fact that she kept the board in the shed. What the hell is the security at this school like? A shed on school grounds containing potentially dangerous tools should be locked. Also, of course, it’s supposed to be filthy in there; surely her parents would have noticed her continually turning up at home with smudges on her face or cobwebs in her hair? She put the sticker over her initials when she was about to graduate as she didn’t want to risk her parents seeing her initials on a skateboard, although since she seems to have just left the board in the shed permanently at this point it’s not clear why she thought it would be an issue. Oh, and she did eventually confess all to her parents.

I went back after reading this and checked the earlier parts of the book, and Wallace has completely borked his own continuity.

  • The conclusion drawn by the cadets in Chapter 2 is that the skateboard is at least nine years old (appearance, plus sticker with the school’s previous name on it), which is why Daniel asked Lacey about it in the first place (she’s ten years older than him).
  • In Chapter 4, Lacey tells us that Lincoln Singleton, the board’s previous owner, moved away five years ago.
  • When the cadets go to see Mr Warren, the school custodian in Chapter 5, we learn that he’s worked there for three years. We also get the following history from him:

“[…]A boy named Lincoln gave it [the skateboard] to Mr. Templeton, the first custodian of the school. When he retired, he told the temporary custodian, Mr. Jenkins, about it, and Mr. Jenkins told me. I didn’t really want to throw it away, and one day a nice, polite girl asked if she could have it, so I gave it to her. Then sometime later it appeared in the shed again—and there it stayed, until you guys found it.”

So…

  • After all that business about ‘nine years ago’, it turns out Lacey would have to have owned the board in the last three years.
  • Except that, at the beginning of Chapter 4, it’s stated that Lacey attended that school ‘many years ago’. So, for some reason, she was hanging around the school and keeping the board there despite having left the school long since and (most likely) being clearly out of its age range.
  • Mr Warren, despite being familiar enough with the skateboard to remember in detail what Mr Jenkins said about its history, somehow didn’t notice that it was being left in the shed every night during the time Lacey owned it. (Or, more worryingly, that a student was regularly entering the school shed, and also regularly carrying something out of the school shed.)
  • If Lacey knew that Lincoln had put it there, why did she wait for over two years before asking Mr Warren for it? Alternatively, if she didn’t know at the time but found out since then… how? Did she see it there? What is it with this school letting children poke around in a shed full of rusty tools? Why was she even there when, according to the timeline, she should already have left the school?

Sigh. Absolutely none of this plot makes any sense. I much prefer ridana’s version.

On the plus side, we’re nearly at the end of the chapter:

Jeffries is delighted that the cadets finally see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Well, that’s more than I do.

“Just like there was enough evidence in this mystery to figure out who owned the skateboard, there’s also enough evidence to figure out the truth about Jesus.”

An apt comparison; in both cases, Wallace/Jeffries has been giving the cadets the evidence he thinks appropriate, and holding back on evidence when he thinks it appropriate. But I still don’t see how there was enough evidence to figure out who owned the skateboard. I mean, Daniel didn’t ask Lacey about the skateboard because there were clues pointing to her; he asked her about the skateboard because she happened to be the one person he knew who’d been at that school at what the cadets thought was around the time the skateboard had been left there but which I’ve just worked out wasn’t the time the skateboard had been left there. And we still don’t know how Jeffries figured out who owned the skateboard.

Aarrrgghhhh. Since I know perfectly well that the answer to all of the above is ‘Wallace didn’t care about his plot beyond the point where it provided a handy vehicle to pass on his views to children’ I will shut up about it and get on with wrapping this up.

Jeffries gives the cadets one last summary of his reasons for believing the Jesus-story is true, complete with lists on the whiteboards that are basically just going over the same stuff that’s been done so I won’t bother repeating them here. Hannah exclaims “Wow, I guess we really did learn a lot about evidence!” (sigh). And Jeffries calls the cadets up to receive their certificates. This last is illustrated by a line drawing of Jeffries and a cadet holding a certificate with a ‘Congratulations Cadets’ sign in the background. Unfortunately the quality of the drawing is… pretty much on the level of the quality of the plot, which meant my daughter found it severely freaky.

“Don’t you mean ‘Congratulations, demons??” she broke in, indicating the figures in the pictures. “The eyes are different sizes! That face is going to haunt my nightmares! It’s like so simple, but so complicated. That does not work! Aaaaaaah!”

Personally, I thought it was one more piece of evidence that the rest of the class was in fact populated only by cardboard cutouts.

And that’s the end of this chapter, but not quite the end of the book yet; we still have some final bits. I hope to wrap them up in one further post, but we’ll see how it goes.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review: Chapter Eight, Part 2

My eleven-year-old daughter and I, both atheists, are reviewing J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. Links to all posts in the series are collected at the end of this introductory post.

I assumed a few things about this book as I went along, and one of them was that the final-chapter Solving Of The Skateboard Mystery would be done by actual detective work from the cadets. Sure, I wasn’t expecting Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, and I also figured Jeffries would probably have to guide them with some leading questions… but I did expect that resolution would come in some kind of ultimate burst of discovering and/or connecting clues to give the cadets the answer. Not only was this the one bit of any actual detective work that the cadets got to do, but there was still the matter of the witness statement that Jeffries – despite promptly ignoring it for the next fortnight – did stress the cadets should be closely analysing.

Well… here’s how it actually went down.

Jeffries tells the cadets that they’re going to ‘wrap up the mystery of the skateboard’. He opens the door. Ta-daaaa! Lacey walks in! Jeffries tells them ‘”As it turns out, Lacey is the key to solving our mystery.”‘ Insert Character suddenly realises that Daniel’s – and therefore Lacey’s – surname is Bolan, making Lacey’s initials LB, the initials they found on the skateboard. Insert Character yells out ‘”You owned the skateboard!”‘ Lacey agrees. Ta-da. Mystery solved.

So… I guess technically I was not completely wrong. After all, the Insert Character does have one ‘Aha, so that is what that clue means’ moment. But:

a) this happens only once Jeffries has literally put the answer slap bang in front of them, and

b) this happens only because Insert Character is friends with Daniel and thus knows the family’s surname.

So, none of the other cadets – you remember them, even though Wallace doesn’t? The children from other schools who are supposedly also in this class even though none of them ever, ever gets named or says anything? – had a look-in here. And it would have been so easy for Jeffries to do that differently; all he had to do was to start Lacey’s witness statement off with a ‘State your full name for the record’. Apart from anything else, surely getting the witness’s full details is normal practice for a witness statement?

But, nope. Didn’t happen.

Daniel wants to know why Lacey didn’t say anything earlier. I’d assumed that this was because she didn’t want her illicit skateboard-riding to get back to her mother. But… nope. Instead, we get this:

“Because Detective Jeffries told me not to,” she explains. “Once he solved it, he asked me to play along and let you guys try to figure it out on your own.[…]”

Where. To. Start.

1. I can quite understand that Jeffries would want the solving of this case to take a bit more effort than Daniel happening to examine the board at home and Lacey walking in and saying “Hey, that’s my old skateboard!”. However, this goes further; Lacey’s actually kept quiet about her involvement when explicitly asked if she knows anything about the board, to the point of downright deceptiveness. Her response when Daniel asked her about it was “I’ve seen it before… At least, I think I have.” The first statement was technically true, but the second one wasn’t; she knew perfectly well that she’d seen it, because she’d owned it.

Which means that the one bit of detective work the cadets got to do during this entire fake cadet class – solving the mystery – has been mucked up for them by Jeffries deliberately suppressing evidence. Heck… even if he didn’t want Lacey handing Daniel the solution on a plate, the obvious thing for him to do would have been to lead the class through analysing that damn witness statement and help them see what further questions to ask. It would have been great teaching and really interesting for the cadets. Bloody hell, Jeffries. You couldn’t even let your class have that much.

2. It’s disturbing that Lacey managed to lie to her brother so smoothly when he first asked her about the skateboard. Did Jeffries coach her in this?

3. How and when did Jeffries solve the case? He apparently managed it before Daniel first asked Lacey about the skateboard, and that happened between sessions 3 and 4, so he managed it fairly early on. And Jeffries would have had no obvious reason to ask Lacey; Daniel didn’t ask her because any clues had pointed to her at that stage, he asked her purely because she happened to be someone he knew who’d been at the school at around the right time. The other people the cadets have spoken to – the custodian and the person at the skateboard shop – didn’t mention anyone else coming round asking questions about the board (though, who knows, maybe Jeffries told them to keep quiet as well).

4. Did it not occur to Daniel at any point that, if he was looking for a girl who’d been at the school several years ago who had the initials ‘LB’, there was someone right there in his family who fitted the bill?

5. Could we all just take a minute to reflect on the irony of the fact that, within minutes of Jeffries assuring us that this clearly wasn’t a conspiracy, we find out that he was in fact conspiring with Lacey?

 

Sigh. Why am I even shocked by any of this? Jeffries told the cadets they’d discover the truth about the skateboard if they kept searching; but what he actually did was to give them the evidence he wanted, when he wanted to. I have no idea why I didn’t see that coming.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review: Chapter Eight, Part 1

My eleven-year-old daughter and I, both atheists, are reviewing J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. Links to all posts in the series are collected at the end of this introductory post.

Chapter 8: Resist Conspiracy Theories: Discover Why Lies Are Hard to Keep!

“Final chapter!” I announced to Katie. “What do you think of the book so far?”

“It’s a whole load of nonsense,” she told me.

I asked her what she expected to happen in the last chapter. “I presume that Jeffries is going to come up with some sort of nonsense, stretching the truth, ignoring huge issues, to make it seem like Christianity is true even though there are huge flaws in it?” she suggested.

So, subtle there, but I think if you read carefully between the lines you can spot a hint or two that my daughter was less than impressed with this book. What do you think?

Anyway… after this chapter there’s still an epilogue and a final section from Wallace pushing apologetics, so we’re not quite there yet, but this is the home stretch. As we go through, I’ll update my predictions for this chapter to see what I got right and what I got wrong.

It’s the last session of the cadet academy aka Bible class, and Jason ‘has spent the entire week thinking about what Jeffries said’. Foolishly, I thought for a moment this meant that he’d realised it was their last chance to solve the skateboard mystery that everyone else seems to have stopped caring about and that he’d spent the week thinking over something Jeffries said on the subject in hopes of figuring things out. I know, I know, I’m naive sometimes.

Jason has actually, of course, spent the entire week thinking about what Jeffries has said about Jesus. At the beginning of the session, before Jeffries has come in, he tells the others he still has his doubts because he wonders if the disciples who wrote about Jesus were ‘all just lying’.

Dr Sarah’s prediction accuracy tally, two paragraphs in:

  • Apostles’ Conspiracy Theory Strawman Argument: check
  • Skateboard-to-apologetics segue: nope. Wallace has actually changed things up a bit in the final chapter and decided just to plunge straight in with the apologetics.

So, the running total is one right, one wrong, and three remaining to be seen.

Back to the chapter. We have a grey insert box defining the word ‘conspiracy’ and telling us that successful conspiracies are ‘incredibly hard to pull off’. “If you think you know about a successful conspiracy, it wasn’t successful! If it had been, you wouldn’t know about it!” Wallace tells us.

“That, or there’s a chance that it was actually completely successful but you’re actually from a different time period and it bamboozled the people of that time period but you’re from a different time period so it hasn’t bamboozled you,” Katie pointed out. Which was kind of irrelevant with regards to Christianity, which I don’t believe to have been a conspiracy at all, but I didn’t bother getting into that one as I just wanted to push on through.

Insert Character, faced with Jason’s doubts, replies “But remember what Jeffries said about the fact that the disciples didn’t have a good reason to lie? Why would they all choose to suffer like they did if they were only lying?”

Hah! And, to emphasise this, I’m just going to skip ahead and quote Jeffries from a bit later in the chapter:

“Worse yet, they suffered like we described a few weeks ago. They were under incredible pressure to change their story, but they never did.[…]”

Hah! What did I tell you? Well, all right, technically what I told you was that the line would be ‘they died for their beliefs and never recanted’, but this is close enough. Dr Sarah’s prediction tally, three paragraphs in: Two right, one wrong. Not bad going.

Anyway, back to where we were… in comes Jeffries, ‘holding a stack of graduation certificates’. A stack? Just how many were there of the nameless, wordless other class members who didn’t get to be part of the plot at all? Quite a lot, apparently, unless the stack is because Jeffries wrote these graduation certificates on stone tablets. I feel sorry for the other cadets, condemned by the plot to week after week of sitting voicelessly while Jeffries lectured on evangelism and the few people for whom Wallace bothered to think of names lapped it all up.

And – surprise, surprise – Jeffries’ planned subject for the day is also an explanation of why Christianity wasn’t just a big conspiracy. Convenient, that, isn’t it?

“I’m confident he was listening in. Which he really should not be doing,” Katie told me. She might have a point.

We do in fact have a brief skateboard-to-apologetics bit inserted at this point, but not the one I was expecting; Jeffries asks the cadets how they know there was ever a skateboard mystery at all. How do they know it wasn’t all a big conspiracy cooked up by the custodian, the owner of the skateboard shop, and Lacey? Well, because that wouldn’t make any sense, that’s why. Ding ding ding! So now you can see why Christianity wasn’t all just a big conspiracy on the part of the apostles! And Wallace/Jeffries proceeds to give an explanation of what’s needed for a successful conspiracy theory that probably would have interested me if I hadn’t been all ‘strawman, bored now’ about it. I might go back to it some time if I’m having to deal with a ‘scientists are all conspiring to put autism in vaccines’ theory or whatever.

Oh, and we get this:

“[…]Remember what Hannah said a few weeks ago? There were five hundred people who said they saw Jesus all at one time.”

Er, no. There’s a claim in one of Paul’s letters, in what might be a formal creed, that Jesus appeared to ‘more than five hundred people’, but we have no details at all of what this ‘appearance’ involved, and it’s not mentioned in any of the other accounts of the resurrection appearances.

A quick note: When I first read this claim, I assumed Paul must be making it up. After all, this is the same Paul who seemed quite happy to misrepresent himself to potential converts if he thought it would win them over. A few years ago, I started thinking about it a different way; was there any event in the early church that might have genuinely been misinterpreted as a mass appearance, as rumours grew? There was, I rapidly realised; Acts 2 tells the story of a huge public sermon leading to mass conversion among the audience. The standards for what counted as an ‘appearance’ don’t seem to have been that high (from Luke’s description of Paul’s conversion, it seems Paul didn’t even see Jesus in his road-to-Damascus moment), so it’s quite plausible that an event at which a large crowd of people experienced some sort of religious ecstasy could have been interpreted, by eager members of the early church, as Jesus ‘appearing’ in some form to them to cause this ecstasy. So I now suspect that the ‘more than five hundred’ story actually refers to the Pentecostal sermon described in Acts 2. At any rate, that sounds a lot more plausible than the idea that there was a genuine mass vision of a resurrected Jesus which, for some reason, absolutely none of the other NT authors consider worth mentioning.

“And how could all these people stay in touch with each other to get their stories lined up, especially since they were scattered all over the Roman Empire?”

I have to wonder whether Wallace really believes that this mention of ‘more than five hundred people’ was only made after the purported five hundred had each individually been carefully interviewed, the interview records compared for consistency, and the process then repeated some time later to see whether anyone was willing to crack and confess to it all being a conspiracy. That is, after all, what he seems to be implying here. Who does Wallace believe would have been tracking down these people, checking their stories, and using any inconsistencies to blow the roof off the Christianity story? Who does he think would have bothered? People who didn’t believe in the early church’s claims wouldn’t have joined it, and authorities who suspected them of breaking laws or creating a public disturbance would have arrested and tried them on those suspicions; who does Wallace think would have been going to enormous effort to debunk it?

(Side note: Also, why does Wallace think the ‘five hundred’ would have ‘scattered all over the Roman empire’? That’s quite an assumption to make about a group of people about whom we know nothing. He honestly seems to be inventing this stuff as it suits him.)

Jason says that maybe the disciples managed a successful conspiracy because they were good friends and that helped them stick to their story, and Wallace/Jeffries comes up with the rather odd claim that this wouldn’t apply to Matthew, because, apparently, he wasn’t their friend:

“He wasn’t raised around the other disciples and wasn’t their friend when he met Jesus. Instead, he was a tax collector named Levi, disliked by the others.[…]”

So… anyone know of anything to support the idea that Matthew, whatever his status when he first met the disciples, didn’t become friends with them in the supposedly three years that they all lived and journeyed and strove towards a common goal together? Or is this another place where Wallace seems to have just invented stuff? I mean, yeah, I don’t believe in the conspiracy theory anyway, but this is a weird argument. But it did set Katie off on another thought; she thinks that Jesus would have pushed them into being friends whether they wanted to or not.

“‘You’re all worshipping me so you should all be friends in peace! Even though I’m going to bully you into believing in me so I’m secretly a huge jerk!'” she hypothesised. “Jesus is really a huge jerk, though, isn’t he?”

And on that note, I will break this post here and return for the next part of the chapter, in which the skateboard mystery finally, and underwhelmingly, gets solved. If you’re on the edge of your seats… well, don’t be, it’s soooo not gonna be worth it.

Upcoming projects

A quick recap: Over a year ago, after reading and loving several blogs which do chapter-by-chapter reviews/deconstructions/snarks of problematic books, I decided it would be interesting to try one of these for myself. As you know if you’ve been here regularly, the one I chose was J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity For Kids, which I decided to review jointly with my daughter. It was great; for all the frustration I had along the way, I still had a grand old time ripping into the flaws. It absolutely confirmed my opinion that this (book deconstructions in general, not deconstructions of apologetics books specifically) is now what I want to keep doing as the main focus of this blog for the future.

This, as you might have noticed, raises a question; since I have nearly finished CCCFK, what will I be reviewing next? I had in fact decided a while back on The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, but then a couple of things came along to bump that off the top slot.

Firstly, one of my favourite booksnarkers – Jenny Trout, who snarks problematic romance fiction – is also about to start a new book. After a close-fought vote (she’d put the decision to her readership), the winning book was Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, a book of which I had not previously heard but which is apparently a romance in the ‘male love interest displays aggressive controlling behaviour to the point of downright abusiveness, plot paints this as wonderfully romantic’ genre* previously popularised by Twilight/50 Shades. Ohhhh, Jenny is going to do such a good job of taking this apart. I look forward to it.

*I assume that, whatever the TV Tropes name is, it’s snappier.

Anyway, the point of this is that, while buying my second-hand copy for the read-along, I noticed that McGuire has written a parallel novel – Walking Disaster – which tells the same story from the POV of the love interest. And I suddenly thought “Hey! Why don’t I try writing a review of ‘Walking Disaster’ to run in parallel with Jenny’s review?”

The answer to that rhetorical question, in case you were wondering, is that a) I will probably hate the book and must be mad to want to review it, b) it’s taken me over a year to review seven chapters of the current book so when do I think I’m going to find time for this one, and c) the author apparently has a reputation for getting nasty towards anyone who critiques her books at all. So, there you go, really no reasons to worry about this plan at all. I AM IN.

And then, before I’d even got round to writing this post, R. G. Price – a Jesus mythicist not to be confused with other Jesus mythicist Robert Price, and author of Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed – turned up to join in with all the recent Jesus mythicism discussion that’s been going on on my blog lately, and promptly offered me a free copy of his book. And I said, hey, yeah, totally up for a free copy and by the way why don’t I do a chapter-by-chapter review of it for you? And he agreed.

And so there you go. Two upcoming book reviews on possibly the most different subjects ever. I’m excited! I have no idea when I’ll manage to do any of this (actually, yes, I do; in time when I should be preparing for Christmas and catching up with my admin work, that’s when) but I’m still excited. This is going to be fun!

A quick word on some practical points: Because I’m collaborating with someone else for my CCCFK review, I’ve had to read it in chunks of a chapter or two at a time, writing the review on each chapter only after reading the whole chapter. I won’t of course need to do that for these reviews, so my current plan for ‘Walking Disaster’ is to write my review as I read it. (The only part of it I’ve read so far is the bit that’s available on the Amazon look-inside feature; the rest, I’ll aim to write up as I go along.) This should be interesting; I’ll see how it works out.

For ‘Deciphering the Gospels’, I’m planning to take completely the opposite approach. I want to give the arguments a fair assessment, so my plan (assuming R. G. Price is good with this) is to read the whole thing first before going back to the beginning to start the review, so that I don’t waste anyone’s time raising questions that turn out to be answered later on in the book

Meanwhile, of course, there is still CCCFK to finish. I have now read through to the end with Katie, so I’m all set to head down the home stretch with that one. So, my-plan-and-I-do-have-one will be a) finish CCCFK, b) start on Walking Disaster, and c) start the review of Deciphering the Gospels once I’ve read it. I do hope some of you guys choose to come along for the ride and chime in with your thoughts as we go. Looking forward to it.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids: Chapter Seven

My eleven-year-old* daughter and I, both atheists, are reviewing J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. Links to all posts in the series are collected at the end of this introductory post.

*Yes, she has had an age upgrade. Yes, this means I have now been doing this review for over a year.

Chapter Seven: Separate Artifacts from Evidence: Clean Up Your Crime Scene!

So, you know how at the end of my review of the last chapter I pointed out what a bad idea it would be to finish that session without discussing the statement Lacey gave? And how I suspected this was exactly what Wallace/Jeffries was going to do, but as it wasn’t specified that the session ended at that chapter ending, I was prepared to give Jeffries the benefit of the doubt?

Turns out that not only did that session indeed end, but Jeffries shows zero interest in going over the statement this week either. Having told the children how important it is to hang on every word in a statement if you want to get those cases solved, he is now quite happy to leave the details of Lacey’s statement to get fuzzier in the cadet’s minds for an entire fortnight while he keeps going with Bible class. Priorities, and all that.

Oh – and it’s just occurred to me that the children also show zero interest in discussing Lacey’s statement any further. Even though – as Wallace points out in the opening words of the chapter – there are only two weeks left of the course, they show no apparent concern over the fact that they’re all completely ignoring an important lead while their window of opportunity for closing this case as a group is rapidly closing. I guess this is one of these books where the characters all secretly know that they’re in a book where everything’s going to get wrapped up in the final chapter.

Apart from that whole glaring problem… well, I found this chapter pretty uninteresting. It’s the chapter on how we shouldn’t worry about the problem of textual changes in the gospels over time, and it really doesn’t work well here. Well, not that it would have worked well anywhere considering that we have the perennial problem that this was originally meant to be a Police Cadet Academy course and not a Bible class, but it makes even less sense for it to be in this bit of the book, when narratively we should be ramping up skateboard investigation suspense. I did have some fun reading it to Katie in a hyped-up dramatic tone and wisecracking the whole time – which she also enjoyed – but, as far as this review is concerned, I’m just going to shoot on through this as fast as I can.

So… At the beginning of the chapter, Jason takes the skateboard home and examines it. He finds a squiggly white line on the top edge which nobody noticed before despite the fact that all the cadets made a detailed examination of the skateboard back in Chapter Two and have been looking at it every bloody week since then. He gets excited about this in case it’s an Important Clue, but at the meeting next week Daniel tells them he thinks it’s just a drip from the cans of white paint that were sitting next to the board in the shed. There is a joke about Hannah calling the mark a ‘squiggly’ and the Insert Character wisecracking ‘I missed the class on squiggly evidence’, which would possibly have worked better if these poor kids had been having any classes on any evidence instead of just getting a Bible course, but, as it is, just felt sort of poignant to me.

On that same note, Jeffries tells them that every time he enters a crime scene he expects to find two different kinds of objects, dun-dun-DUUUNNNNN, and everyone leans eagerly forward because they’ve been ‘waiting for Jeffries to share something about a real crime scene’, and, oh dear sweet innocence and naiveté, JEFFRIES IS NEVER GOING TO TELL YOU THINGS ABOUT REAL CRIME SCENES. THIS IS NOT A REAL CADET COURSE. YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO. Anyway, the two kinds of objects are ‘evidence’ and ‘artifacts’; the things that are related to the case, and the things that aren’t but are nevertheless related to what Wallace wants to tell his readers about the Bible this week. OK, so the last bit was my interpretation.

Entirely irrelevant side note: In medical school we got taught about artefacts on histological slides (and, yes, that’s how we spell it, I guess it’s another of those British-vs-American spellings) and so the medical school’s drama group was called Artefacts as a medical pun. So this chapter did have the benefit of triggering some fond memories of the fun we had there.

Back to CCCFK. Jeffries uses the ‘artifacts’ thing as his cue to explain to the cadets about how there are also artifacts in the Gospels caused by people making mistakes as they copied things out, but, hey, kids, not to worry, none of the changes are important and the scholars can aaaaaalways figure out what the original said. No, Jeffries does not tell them that scholars now believe that these changes include the addition of the story of the woman taken in adultery and the story of the resurrection appearances in Mark, neither of which I would describe as unimportant changes. No, Jeffries does not invite the children to consider the implications of the fact that two stories now thought probably not to be authentic were assumed to be authentic for centuries until gospel scholars read some older manuscripts; he does not point out that this means it’s possible that some of the stories we now think are authentic might turn out, if we ever find any even earlier manuscripts, to also be later additions. And no, Jeffries does not mention the fact that even the very oldest complete manuscripts we have are from hundreds of years after the gospels were written and even the oldest fragments we have are from a few decades after, allowing a substantial window of opportunity in which such changes could have happened. But then, we all knew he wasn’t going to tell the cadets any of that, didn’t we?

Jeffries illustrates the way scholars figure things out by writing three different versions of a sentence in which different letters are missing/changed in such a way that it isn’t possible to figure out the meaning from reading any individual one of them but, by looking at the bits we have in all three, it’s possible to figure out what the sentence said. So, there you go, we did get one bit that was interesting. Unfortunately he then describes this on the next page as ‘two inaccurate copies’ when it was actually three, so, whoops, but I deleted my initial snark about that; it’s surprisingly easy for errors like that to creep in during successive edits and then get missed on proofreading. But, hey, Wallace, something for you to change if you ever write an updated edition.

We also get this:

“Well, scholars and Bible experts have thousands of ancient copies of the Bible documents to compare to one another—more ancient copies than any other book in history. It’s an amazing collection of early documents.[…]”

“Do you know where those thousands of copies come from?” I asked Katie.

“No.” (Which is fair enough, since she’s eleven years old and I asked it as a rhetorical question.)

“They come from monks in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times who copied the Bible out thousands of times. So they’re not ‘early documents’. They’re from hundreds of years after the Bible was written.”

Katie highlighted the words ‘thousands of ancient copies’ in my Kindle app, clicked ‘Add Note’, and typed in ‘NOPE!’

And we also get one of those grey insert boxes about Bible quotes, this one asking what God compares his words to in Matthew 4:4. The answer is ‘Bread’, in case you’re wondering. “Why is he comparing his words to bread?” Katie asked. “I only compare mine to mushrooms!” So, there you are, that was Katie’s one comment on the chapter. (And, no, she does not actually compare her words to mushrooms. She just likes saying ‘mushrooms’ a lot. Along with ‘potatoes’, ‘cheese’, ‘jalapeños’, and ‘chickeeeeeeen’.)

Anyway, the sentence that Jeffries gave Jason to figure out is ‘If Jason is a good detective, he will stand!’ and Jason figures this out and stands up and everyone applauds, and it turns out Jeffries chose this sentence for SYMBOLISM (and indoctrination), as the chapter then ends with Jeffries telling the cadets that they can be ‘sure enough about the words in this Bible to take a stand for Jesus’.

And, there you go, we have finished the penultimate chapter! I am so pleased to have gotten through a chapter this quickly. And to be this close to finishing the book. Since it’s this close to the end, I’m going to come up with predictions for the final chapter:

Things I expect to happen in the final chapter:

  • As I previously mentioned, Daniel’s sister Lacey will be revealed as the skateboard owner. (Apart from the clues in her witness statement, she’s also almost the only other character who’s shown up in the entire book, so it’s pretty much a ‘Murder At My Friend Harry’s’ literary situation here.)
  • I looked at the contents list and the title of the final chapter is ‘Resist Conspiracy Theories – Discover Why Lies Are Hard to Keep!’ so I think it’s fair to guess that the apologetics topic for this chapter will be the Demolishment Of The Apostles’ Conspiracy Theory Strawman Argument. (For those not familiar with apologetics, this is the one about how the apostles wouldn’t have just made the whole thing up, so obviously it must all be true because apparently the only possible two alternatives are ‘someone deliberately invented this story’ and ‘this story’s true’.)
  • Following on from the above, we will get the ‘they died for their beliefs and never recanted!’ line, because, despite there being little evidence that most of the disciples died for their beliefs and none that recanting would have saved them, this argument always shows up in the Apostles’ Conspiracy Theory Strawman Argument (which I think I might shorten to ACTSA). In fact, Wallace used it a few chapters back. Betcha we get it again.
  • The inevitable skateboard-to-apologetics segue will consist of the cadets finding out that Lincoln was helping Lacey keep her skateboard ownership secret from her skateboard-disapproving mother and Jeffries using their discovery of this secret as an example of how Lies Are Hard To Keep and thus all the non-existent people who think the resurrection was a hoax cooked up by the disciples are wrong.
  • My daughter will randomly utter at least one of the words ‘mushrooms’, ‘potatoes’, ‘cheese’ ‘jalapeños’, or ‘chicken’ at some point while we’re reading it.

Things that I regretfully do not expect to happen in the final chapter, although it would be really cool if they did:

  • An outraged parent storming into the class demanding to know why the police station is running an illicit evangelising class under the guise of a police cadet class.
  • The cadets turning up for their final class and finding that Jeffries has been suspended for running said evangelising course illicitly on police time and property (Lies Are Hard to Keep, Jeffries!) and that the other police officers, contrite about not having spotted what he was up to, have put together a really good class on actual police work for the cadets’ final session.
  • Any of the cadets calling Jeffries out on any of the misleading information he gives them.
  • Anyone apart from Jason, Daniel, Hannah or Insert Character getting any lines. (Seriously, Wallace… you’re barely giving them any sort of characterisation anyway and it’s not like they’re actors who have to be paid extra if they get speaking parts. Could you not have thrown in some more names along the way so that we could feel like this was a class instead of four people plus a bunch of cardboard cutouts standing around the walls?)

A thing I hope doesn’t happen in the final chapter

  • The cadets all falling on their knees and being led by Jeffries through a tearful and impassioned rendition of the Sinner’s Prayer. That would feel seriously awkward to read.

Well, we will soon find out! I might be able to go through the final chapter with Katie tonight. Are you excited? I’m excited.