I feel odd saying this, but another thing I remembered when thinking about how Martin Luther was made out to be a hero when I was in school is where I did learn about Luther’s antisemitism from: Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith.
Lee Strobel, for those who don’t know, is a Christian apologist who does a Josh McDowell-like shtick of claiming to have been converted to Christianity by the evidence. His books, starting with The Case for Christ, play up the fact that he was a journalist before he made it big as a Christian apologist. He says… well, let me just quote from the back cover:
A seasoned journalist chases down the biggest story in history–is there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of god?
Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools like Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis who are recognized authorities in their own fields.
Strobel challenges them with questions like: How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?
Strobel’s tough, point-blank questions make this Gold Medallion-winning book read like a captivating, fast-paced novel. But it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.
What will your verdict be in The Case for Christ?
Countless readers who didn’t pay enough attention to the word “retracing” there have come away with the false impression that The Case for Christ actually tells the story of Strobel’s own conversion. What actually seems to have happened is that Strobel’s wife converted, she got him to start coming to church with her, and then he started reading up on Christian apologetics.
But Strobel helps along the false impression of his books, talking about how skeptical he was as he lobs softball questions in interviews that happened long after his conversion. The Case for Christ has been justly ripped to shreds because of this, and also because while Strobel pretends his treatment is journalistic, he only ever interviews people on one side of the debate. Even the lone chapter dedicated to giving the “rebuttal” is dedicated to interviewing an evangelical scholar who dismisses liberal Biblical scholars as fringe.
The Case for Faith continues in a similar vein, with Strobel playing up his supposed skepticism to an unbelievable degree. The Case for Faith, though, is a little different in that instead of Evidence that Demands a Verdict style apologetics, it deals with objections to (evangelical) Christianity. And it’s really hard to softball those interview questions. William Lane Craig does have a funny way of sometimes rebutting objections while keeping them secret from his more naive audience members, but Strobel didn’t seem to have mastered that trick.
The result is a fairly good introduction to objections to Christianity, filled with rebuttals that struggle to defend the indefensible while often making the problem worse. In addition to teaching me about Luther’s antisemitism, for example, it helped me learn where all the awful parts of the Old Testament are. In fact, looking back on it, I think The Case for Faith may have been one of the big things that, early in my life as an atheist, made me go holy crap fundamentalists are crazy and can’t be ignored as a distortion of Christianity.
If you’ve been reading atheist literature for awhile, The Case for Faith will probably just make you cringe, but if you’re a newbie, go ahead and pick it up. I strongly recommend it.