Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith is really a great book to read if you’re just getting into atheist/Christian debates

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.

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  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

    The Case for Faith is also the only book in which Strobel interviews a non-believer. Of course he’s in his eighties and suffering from dementia, but Strobel is very proud of the fact that he got him to cry.

  • Robert

    The Case for Faith was instrumental in my own deconversion. This is the book I turned to at the beginning of my doubts, and it quickly increased them. The arguments were just so ridiculously bad! Since Christians left and right were praising this book, I was left with the impression that they had no good arguments to give.

    • Not A KU Fan

      Thats an interesting story. When I was on the fence, trying to be objective, I was given a copy of a book by John Loftus.

      He had had a terrible “crisis” they said.

      And then I read how this guy “deconverted” after getting caught cheating on his wife by screwing a co worker. He was bitter because his church didn’t pat him on the back for it.

      And then I read how he continued preaching after he no longer believed, so I realized he may have been lying about his “great faith” in the first place.

      And then I read that current Big Name Atheists like Barker and McBain also lied to their congregations.

      And I am left with the impression that they have no honest arguments.

      • David Hart

        The people that realize they are atheists while they are still working as preachers sometimes feel that they have no choice to continue for a while, if coming out and quitting their job would lead to financial ruin for them and their family. Sure, it isn’t scrupulously honest, but it is taking the ‘what will cause the least harm’ approach. And how many of them have continued in the pulpit when a secular job became available?

        If you decided you no longer believed in the job you did, would you seriously jump ship before you’d got a new job lined up and risk serious harm to your dependents?

        Yes, Barker and McBain lied to their congregations about a thing where they knew that telling the truth would cause a lot of pain all round, and they did so for a while before they felt they couldn’t go on like that. That doesn’t mean that their reasons for coming to disbelieve in gods were insincere. Why on earth would they be? They could, if they were happy with long-term dishonesty, have had a perfectly comfortable career for the rest of their working lives as preachers, but came out when they felt they had to.

        If you think that their reasons for not believing in gods don’t stand up, say why. You can’t just presume that their reasons are false because they happen to have spun people on for a short while in an effort to spare people anguish.

  • Alexander Johannesen

    All I can say is “me, too!” as I read it in my earlier days, and just couldn’t get past the fact that the apologetics are just so obviously bad, struggling with obvious stuff that I could probably defend better myself, and generally misrepresent what the critics are actually saying (even when the gist is correct).

    This is the best book for any doubting Thomas to read. It truly is both the best and the most awful apologetics book out there.

  • http://oddoklahoma.com Clayton Flesher

    Someone handed me a copy back in college, and I read it when I was having a crisis of faith period. I’ve told people for years that it was Lee Strobel I have to blame for setting me on the path toward atheism.

    • Not A KU Fan

      I credit Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian with diverting me from atheism.

      Remarkably superficial for someone who the the Atheist SuperStar of hid day, although he would probably have hedged and called himself agnostic.

      I thought, is that it?

  • MNb

    “holy crap fundamentalists are crazy”
    The orthodox-protestant family living three houses further in my street during my 20′s – I have moved, not they – sufficed for me.

    As for the sour cherry picking in the Bible I prefer the Skeptic Annotated Bible and the Evil Bible Home Page. The latter is over the top though.

  • Zak

    Strobel’s books remind me of a Hitchens quote. Something to the extent of “There is nothing to be refuted, just underlined. Yes, this is what they actually think!”

  • Not A KU Fan

    Strobel says he was an atheist who converted, but you don’t believe him.

    Loftus says he was a Christian who deconverted, but you do believe him.

    You are using a remarkable double standard.

    • Steven Carr

      In other words. John Loftus was a student of William Lane Craig, who now ducks debates with Loftus.

    • David Hart

      I think the point is that the idea that Strobel converted because of the evidence is unconvincing (because the evidence itself is so unconvincing). Would you take a Hindu at face value if they told you that they converted from Christianity to Hinduism because of the evidence?