“The Case for Christ”—So Now It’s a MOVIE?!

“The Case for Christ”—So Now It’s a MOVIE?! April 8, 2017

The riveting story of award-winning, legally trained journalist Lee Strobel as told in the book The Case for Christ has become a series of books, which have together sold 14 million copies. Yesterday it opened as a movie, about which Lee Strobel said, “It’s been an incredible journey, not only to go from atheism to faith, but to see the raw reality of our lives played out on film. In the end, it’s our hope that everyone who sees it will take their own faith journey.”

If you’re a Christian who wants a pat on the head and you don’t need to think too hard about the arguments given, that might work. For everyone else, it’s an unsurprising journey from lack of God belief to Christian faith with a greatest hits collection of weak Christian arguments. It would’ve been a lot more engaging if they’d handed out Bingo cards of ridiculous Christian arguments.

Lee Strobel: award-winning journalist

The movie opens at the Chicago Tribune with Lee getting an award for investigative journalism into questions about the safety of the Ford Pinto. We learn the kind of guy he is when he says, “The only way to truth is through facts.”

His family life is blissful, but then at a restaurant, his little daughter chokes on a gumball. A nurse at the restaurant saves her. Afterwards, the nurse tells the wife that Jesus told her to be there that night. At home in bed, the daughter asks about Jesus, and we learn that the parents are atheists.

This event plants a seed in the wife’s mind. She later visits the nurse, and they talk about God. And then go to a church service together. The pastor says that we must listen for God’s whisper. He says, “Open your heart and take a chance.”

Clearly, not all the arguments are of the “just the facts” type.

After more church and a bit of praying, the wife admits to Lee that she’s now drawn to the Jesus thing. He gets offended and goes out to get drunk solo. Is his marriage at a crossroads?

The quest

Lee has two older mentors at the newspaper, an atheist and a Christian, and he discusses his concerns with each. The Christian mentor challenges Lee to investigate the Jesus story and points to a banner on the newsroom wall: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” He visits Gary Habermas, and we get the first of more than a dozen weak Christian apologetic arguments. I’ll summarize each argument that I noticed for completeness and for your amusement, but I won’t spend much time rebutting them. (I’ll put brief comments in italics after each one.)

☢ Atheist Gerd Lüdemann says that Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15 passage was written just three years after the event. (That’s debatable, but even so, it doesn’t mean much. More here.) ☢ Paul claims that 500 eyewitnesses saw the risen Christ. (Is that compelling evidence? Then why didn’t the gospels include it, too? More here.) ☢ There are nine sources for the crucifixion, some of them outside the Bible. (I haven’t studied this one. I hope to do so and write about it soon.) Lee gave people drinking poison Kool-Aid at Jonestown in 1978 as an example of people laying down their lives for stupid reasons. ☢ Habermas responds that those people didn’t drink poison for something they knew was a lie or hoax (That’s true, but very few atheists argue that the resurrection was a lie or a hoax! More here.)

Lee sets up an unused storeroom in the newspaper’s basement to organize his research into Jesus, like in a murder case. As he revisits it in subsequent scenes, we see the white board filling with claims and photos.

The plot thickens

And now, a subplot: a Chicago cop is shot, and a man named Hicks is charged with the crime. Lee investigates, and all the evidence points to his guilt . . . though it’s clear to us in the audience that there’s more to this story.

Lee interviews another Jesus expert, a priest this time, and we get more arguments. ☢ Historians have 5800 copies of Greek New Testament manuscripts, three times more than second-place Homer. The priest shows an illuminated page from Homer that was written 800 years after the original. (I wonder why the priest doesn’t make clear that 800 years is better than 90 percent of those Greek New Testament manuscripts. More here.) ☢ He also has a facsimile of P52, a papyrus scrap of John, which may have been copied just 30 years after the original. (If you actually care about textual criticism, you’ll find that Mormonism has far better evidence than Christianity. More here.) ☢ Finally, there’s the photo negative of the Shroud of Turin hung on the wall of the church. (You like old evidence? Then you’ll be interested to hear that the oldest well-documented reference to this shroud—which is just one of dozens from a time when relics were valuable properties—states that it is a forgery. More here.)

Lee is back in his underground lair to organize all this data. We increasingly see Lee’s quest in parallel with his wife studying the Bible. Back at home, he gets drunk. Tensions flare, and she asks Jesus for help.


See also: Response to Lee Strobel’s “Five E’s of Evidence”


Time to speak to a world-famous apologist

And now, a phone call with William Lane Craig and more evidence. ☢ Maybe the disciples went to the wrong tomb? (Not an argument that I make.) ☢ Lee notes that women weren’t reliable witnesses in Jewish culture. Craig responds with the Criterion of Embarrassment: why would you put something like that in unless it were true? This is evidence that they weren’t making up the story. (Here again, the only one proposing that the story was made up is you. Anyway, women at the tomb makes perfect sense. More here.) ☢ What about the contradictions in the accounts? Craig says that if there weren’t some contradictions, you’d suspect collusion and challenges him: “When is enough evidence enough evidence?” (I discuss contradictions in the resurrection accounts here.)

Lee’s questions are those of an amateur. That’s fine, since we all have to start somewhere, but every question is Lee’s own. He comes up with some good questions, but the Church has had 2000 years to paper over its embarrassing problems, so their riposte is often compelling. Where’s the atheist expert to interview? That expert would give Lee good responses to the Christian arguments and give him more questions to ask. Lee’s attack isn’t bad for a novice, but the average atheist blogger would make quick work of the Christian position.

Lee finds new data in the cop shooter case and writes a front page story that puts Hicks away for a long time. Clearly he’s a great investigator! It’s good we have him on our side to check out the Jesus story.

He placates his wife by going to church once, ☢ where the pastor talks about people turning away from the church simply because of bad experiences with the church, not because it’s not true. (Not an argument I make.)

Lee’s parents show up to see their new baby, and we discover that Lee has issues with his distant father.

Trouble at home

Things are going poorly on the marriage front. He confronts his wife: wouldn’t you want to know if it’s not true? She throws it back at him: Wouldn’t you?

Her nurse friend later references a verse from Ezekiel: “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Dear God, when are you going to make that conversion on Lee??

Back on the hunt, Lee visits a famous nonbelieving psychologist. He asks if the disciples could’ve been deluded by a group hallucination. ☢ Nope—she declares that group hallucinations don’t happen. (Not an argument that I make.) She asks about Lee’s father, and we learn more about that bad relationship. ☢ She ticks off famous atheists, all of whom had distant or abusive fathers. (This is Paul Vitz’s flabby argument, which simply cherry picks the data to come to a predetermined conclusion. For example, I wonder why she didn’t list C. S. Lewis, a famous Christian who also had a bad relationship with his father. More here.)

We again see Lee’s quest paralleled with the wife’s journey through the Bible and pray that this movie is stumbling to a close.

Tying up the loose ends

Hold the presses! Lee uncovers new evidence in Hicks case: the cop actually shot himself by accident with an illegal pen gun. It wasn’t Hicks! Shortly after, Hicks gets beaten up in prison (guards don’t do much to protect cop shooters), and Lee visits him in the hospital. Lee tells him that he didn’t see the truth. Hicks replies, “You didn’t want to see the truth.” Take that, atheists!

In what mercifully turns out to be his last interview, Lee asks a doctor about the swoon theory—that Jesus didn’t actually die but that he just fainted on the cross and revived in the tomb. ☢ Wrong again, the doctor tells him. The Roman executioners were very good at making sure the convicts were dead, and we get the obligatory journey through the agony of Jesus’s last day. (I never argue the swoon theory. I try to slap some sense into the resurrection story here and here.)

Remember that atheists-are-atheists-because-of-bad-father-figures hypothesis? We get closure on that one after Lee’s father dies. Lee discovers that the old man wasn’t so bad after all—he just had a hard time expressing his affection. Could Lee’s stoney heart be softening?

Lee’s at the end of his investigation, but what to do with it all? His atheist friend tells him that ☢ it’s a leap of faith either way. (Uh, no—it’s a leap of faith if you’re making a conclusion without evidence; more here. You should believe things only if there’s good evidence to do so. You don’t believe in unicorns, leprechauns, and fairies because there’s insufficient evidence, so why not follow the same approach for something far more important like God?) Inexplicably, ☢ Pascal’s Wager pops up in this conversation; that is, a bet on God is a huge win if you’re right and not a big deal if you’re wrong. (I rebut that here.)

And Lee is left to decide. Back in his man cave, he remembers what the priest had said: Jesus is love. This is the last straw, and he concludes, “All right, God—you win.”

He reconciles with his wife and says, “The evidence for your faith is more overwhelming than I could ever imagine.” They kneel, and he says the sinner’s prayer.

Three months later, justice has been done for Hicks. Lee pitches his conversion story to his editor: one man’s journey from skepticism to faith. The editor turns it down, but then his wife suggests that he write a book. In the final scene, Lee rolls paper into his typewriter and pecks out the words, “The Case for Christ.”

The End. Thank God.

(If you’re interested in how to respond to these ex-atheists with their poor arguments, I have a suggestion here.)


Here you are, a shitty teenage father who’s not even good at this,

and there is nothing this little girl could ever do to you in her entire life
that would make you want to kill her, let alone burn her forever,

and you’re worshipping a god who will burn your child forever
because she doesn’t get his name right
or thinks he has six arms
or doesn’t believe in him?
You have to be kidding me.
— Frank Shaeffer (Point of Inquiry 3/24/14 @ 30:40)


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  • Pofarmer

    Whoa, whoa, whoa.

    Lee getting an award for investigative journalism into questions about the safety of the Ford Pinto

    His claim to fame is an award he received in the ’70’s? Really?

    • Michael Neville

      Hey, I made my grammar school honor roll in both fourth and sixth grades. (Damn you, Mr. Lowery, for giving me a C in physical education in fifth grade.) If those weren’t significant achievements then what is? I’ve been coasting on those sixty year old achievements for the past sixty years. And you can’t take them away from me. NYAH! :b

    • Jim Jones

      Wasn’t the investigation done by Ralph Nader? And documented in Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed”?

      His award seems like another example of the media giving each other prizes like a class of little 2nd graders.

      • Nankay

        No, the Pinto was in the 70’s.”Unsafe…” was written in the mid 60’s.

      • Michael Neville

        Unsafe at Any Speed was about the Chevrolet Corvair, not the Ford Pinto.

        • Inquisitive Raven

          Actually, Unsafe at Any Speed about the state of automotive safety or lack thereof in the US at the time. Nader spent a lot of time on the Corvair because its failure mode was unique, but he also took aim at a lot of more widespread problems like door locks that weren’t adequately secure, lights that weren’t visible from the sides of the car, and steering wheel columns that could punch through a driver’s chest in an accident.

      • Pofarmer

        Unsafe at any speed was on the Chevrolet Corvair.

        • Jim Jones

          So Strobel just changed the car? Plenty to choose from.

          Definition of a bad day: driving on a highway with a Pinto in front of you and an Audi 5000 behind you.

        • RichardSRussell

          On Firestone 500s

    • Chuck Johnson

      Pofarmer:
      “His claim to fame is an award he received in the ’70’s? Really?”

      Chuck:
      He might have had a great enthusiasm for discovering the the truth back in the 70s.

      He didn’t become a Christian until the 90s.

  • That sounds like it has a lot of similarity to the book. Maybe goes into the back story more to make it a narrative rather than an apologetic text, but the book related each chapter back to some experience in his journalistic life.

    Honestly, I read the Case for Christ early on in my investigation of truth, and found it somewhat persuasive, but was sure there was something missing. Like you, I thought that just asking people on the side of Christianity wasn’t that good an investigation, so I asked the internet for a critique of the book, and it showed me why I was hesitant to accept it.

    From my review of the book:
    “The bad: He gives himself a persona of a tough, independent skeptic, out
    to ask the experts the tough questions. He repeatedly talks about
    challenging an interviewee, or quotes from the writings of skeptic X on
    the topic and asks his interviewee to respond. However, he is then very
    quick to agree with whatever explanation his interviewee has given.
    Too quick. In some places it felt like he abused that persona to say
    “That explanation made sense to me” to quiet reader doubts. The truth
    is, his experts are always biased towards belief, and so is he, but too
    often he chooses to try and conceal that.”

    • Pofarmer

      Yep. Looking at other than the Christian answers is what did me in too. You don’t ever confirm a theory by just looking at the theory. You confirm a theory by seeing if evidence outside of it agrees.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Lee Strobel is what would come out if William Lane Craig had a love child with Inspector Clouseau.

    • Pofarmer

      That brings about mental images that are – disturbing.

      • Doubting Thomas

        The thought of them making out is so bumblingly awkward that it couldn’t help but be unintentionally hilarious.

    • Jim Jones

      Or with Barney Fife.

  • There are nine sources for the crucifixion.

    I thought I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist said ten. And then repeatedly waved the number around as if each instance was incontrovertable evidence. But anyway, the number doesn’t really matter. From an apologetics book I have more respect for: “They are not all of equal value, and some of them do not contribute very useful historical data.”

    You would know many of the sources: Ones like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, and Suetonius. The problem is that many of them say more about Christians at a later period and what they believed about Jesus than they say about Jesus. Even if Jesus had not existed historically (I suspect he did) Christians in Asia Minor or in Rome would have believed he existed because they had always been taught so.

    Some of the records talk about a supposed eclipse, and whether it was really the darkness at the crucifixion. But given all we have is a quote of a quote and someone’s interpretation that that really meant Jesus it’s hardly useful evidence…

    • Greg G.

      Some of the records talk about a supposed eclipse, and whether it was really the darkness at the crucifixion.

      The crucifixion is supposed to have happened during Passover, which happens at the full moon. It is impossible to have a solar eclipse at any time but the new moon.

      • I know. That always struck me as amusing (as did the “It must be deeply prophetic that Blood Moons line up with Jewish festivals set on full moon”). Plus, the darkness from an eclipse wouldn’t last for the several hours called for in scripture.

        But the Christian argument was that their source was incorrect in calling it an eclipse. Without that original source we have no good way of evaluating the claim. More at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thallus_(historian)

      • Chuck Johnson

        Greg:
        The crucifixion is supposed to have happened during Passover, which
        happens at the full moon. It is impossible to have a solar eclipse at
        any time but the new moon.

        Chuck:
        But wouldn’t that impossibility make it even more miraculous and wonderful ?

        “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

        • Michael Neville

          It’s a mystery!

        • Greg G.

          I was looking up to see how short an eclipse was compared to the hours in the gospels and found that there will be an eclipse across the US on August 21, from Charleston SC, to Memphis TN, and through Salem OR.

        • MR

          Technically it’s going the other direction. Already have my flight booked.

        • Greg G.

          Where are you going to watch it?

        • MR

          Nebraska

        • Greg G.

          I’m looking at the Nashville, TN area. They will have 2m 40s of totality near there and it’s the shortest drive.

        • RichardSRussell

          I’ve got cousins in Omaha who will put me up the night before the eclipse, so my wife and I can drive to a good-weather spot in the center of the path of totality the next day.

        • MR

          So far the plan is to fly into Omaha and head toward the Grand Island area. Maybe our paths will cross.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m lucky to live just outside, well 40 miles outside, to the east NE of Columbia mo which also happens to be in the zone of total eclipse. I may not get total where I live, but it will be close enough. Columbia is a town of 100,000 that is expecting to swell to 300,000 for the eclipse. I don’t personally want to be anywhere near that mess.

        • MR

          Original plan was to stay in Cape Girardeaux strike that, it would have been southwest of Jefferson City. Had a relative in a small town nearby. It’s getting near impossible to get a hotel along the path of totality. I say the thing to do is to drive out in some field somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and get away from the crowds. Maybe south of Fulton or near Ashland for you. http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/maps/states/MO_web.jpg

        • Pofarmer

          Our farm is actully right on the edge of the zone of Totality near Mexico, MO. if you want a place to camp or stay our place would be open. Don’t have great lodging but we have water and a toilet and shower.

        • MR

          Ah, thanks for the offer! Current plan is Nebraska, though, for other reasons.

          Responding to your addendum: Yeah, you’re right on the edge there, I’d say it would be worth it to venture a little more inland. Not everyday you get to experience something like that.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah. I can go due south, and get to, say, someplace like Mokane, and miss all the major population areas and traffic pretty easily. We’ll just see. I think our 4H club is wanting to do something as a group, so that might have an effect as well. I know I don’t want to get 4 or 5 carloads of adults and kids anywhere around Columbia, although the evil capitalist part of me would sure like to make some money off of this.

        • MR

          That reminds me, I need to pick up some more solar glasses.

        • Greg G.

          Are you a Cleveland Cavaliers fan? Their coach is from Mexico MO.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m not much of a pro sports fan at all. He and a guy named Cookie Belcher were, I think, step brothers,(whoops, cousins) and both went on to play pro ball. He was such a good player in our little town of Mexico, that he was actually recruited by other high schools, and wound up in Kansas city. I’ mean, not that they would pay family or anything like that. Overall though, it was probably a good move on the part of his mother, because it got him recognition and he was able to move on from there. He has been putting on a 4th of July fireworks display here in town in the, well “projects” for the last several years.

        • Pofarmer

          addendum. I’m sure all the major roads will be clogged. But we like to motorcycle and love back roads, so maybe we go a few miles south and find a place a little closer to true center. I guess it depends on how wound up we get.

          That’s wild. Our house is literally seconds over the line for totality.

        • dorcheat

          I am driving to Wyoming or western Nebraska with my daughter just to make sure to try my best to avoid clouds. The drier climate of these areas should be provide favorable viewing.

          It sure is hard to believe that 38 years has gone by since a total solar eclipse in the continental United States since February 26, 1979. The path of totality was only visible across northern Montana and northwest North Dakota on a very cold morning. I watched it as a sixth grade boy in northwest Minnesota at 95% totality.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7BEcRy3IUM

        • Chuck Johnson
        • The American Atheist conference is in Charleston this year, deliberately coincident with the eclipse.

          I plan on attending. Any/everyone: look me up if you’re there.

        • MR

          If you’re going to correct Memphis, please correct the order. Oregon first.

        • Greg G.

          I’m being geographic, not temporal.

        • MR

          Gah! Then fix your prepositions which imply a temporal order.

        • adam

          “”Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/38a372d179f379b51cdb5f1c227e4a5bd6dd543347d09566c2aedd943b72e754.jpg

        • Chuck Johnson

          The religionists call this a “Divine Mystery”.

          It goes by the name of “The problem of suffering” or “The problem of evil”.

        • adam

          ” but with God all things are possible.”

          But we all recognize it for what it is:

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3a2984cf4b45d492ea31da9c40a99aa5808c8a92c35b95adb415ba88cefbce0b.jpg

        • Chuck Johnson

          Jesus played the God card to amaze them all.

        • adam

          then Jesus failed.

          And keeps failing to this day.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The Jesus idea and the God idea have had successes.

        • adam
        • Chuck Johnson

          Not just in the Middle ages.
          The battles continue, in the Middle East, in Africa and not so long ago, George W. Bush used to get messages from God concerning Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”.

          It turned out that the two real weapons of mass destruction were named George and Saddam.

      • If you claim supernatural darkness, what’s one more miracle?

      • Aha! There’s no natural explanation, so that’s proof of magic–you admit it yourself!

        Checkmate, atheists!

    • It’s in my Big Pile of good ideas to follow up upon. Someday.

      And you’re right–so many of these sources say, “There are people called ‘Christians’ who follow some dude named ‘Jesus.'” Big deal. That does zilch for convincing me of the miracles.

    • wtfwjtd

      “There are nine sources for the crucifixion.”

      There’s an even bigger problem for apologists: Even if we are generous enough to grant these nine sources (that’s being mighty generous, IMO), there are still exactly 0–that’s zero–contemporary sources for the crucifixion. Even the biblical accounts aren’t even close to being contemporary.
      Suddenly, “historical record” is looking a lot weaker for the apologist.

      I mean, what’s the big deal about a crucifixion? So what if it actually happened? Rome crucified thousands of criminals, they all died–and stayed dead. If there really was a Jesus and he was one of these, we have no compelling reason to believe that he would have been any different.
      Besides,I thought the resurrection was supposed to be the big deal. And of course, for this, we have not the slightest physical or historical evidence–save a bunch of theologically-motivated stories written anonymously many decades (or more)after the supposed event takes place. That’s it!
      Pretty weak and flimsy “evidence” for such an extraordinary claim, in my book.

  • Tony D’Arcy

    Lee Strobel should have thanked the quick wits of the nurse in saving his kid’s life. or was that just a slimy way to introduce Jesus ? Hmm? Personally I have been fortunate in never believing in God especially the Christian one, as I know more about what is said of him. But for years I felt there might have been some memorable preacher/s at the time who later gave rise to the Jesus stories . Now I’m not so sure. The extra Biblical evidence for a historical Jesus, IMO, is pretty damn thin. If we believe there were 500 eye witnesses to the resurrection, then we also have to believe that the universe was created in 6 days and that Jonah lived in the belly of a ‘great fish’ for 3 days. As for Jesus and love, it was he the Holy Carpenter who threatens the likes of me with the lake of fire !

    Thank you, but no thank you !

  • Jim Jones

    If Christians believe the anonymous books of the bible why don’t they believe the visions of Joseph Smith and the words he wrote, as dictated by god (or whatever)?

    Aren’t they better? What about the visions of L Ron Hubbard?

  • Geoff Benson

    There never was any such person as Jesus, so his claimed resurrection is a red herring.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Geoff:
      “There never was any such person as Jesus, so his claimed resurrection is a red herring.”

      Chuck:
      There might have been a real, human Jesus at the core of such claims.
      Enthusiastic (or crazy) street preachers are not an unusual claim, these things were commonplace, and they still happen.

      But resurrections didn’t happen then because resurrections do not happen now.

      • Geoff Benson

        Yeah, there might have been a ‘real’ Jesus. Then again, maybe not.

        There certainly wasn’t a resurrection.

    • William

      The way I’d put it is, the story is so fictionalized and mythologized that, even if you assume there was a historical Jesus around which it was built, he’d bear almost no resemblance to the biblical version of him.

      Certainly “questions” like those above (“swoon theory”, etc.) start by giving far too much credence to the text. “What if Jesus didn’t really die when he was crucified?” is a silly question, when you should start by asking whether he existed at all, much less was crucified, much less survived it.

  • Michael Neville

    Rationalwiki has an article on Strobel. It ends with:

    It is perhaps fitting, given these “credentials”, that Strobel was hired as Professor of Christian Thought by Houston Baptist the-bible-is-literally-true “University” where he now works alongside “I’m a professional philosopher, no really”-William Lane Craig

    • Odd Jørgensen

      Is there a ph.d. in christian thought? Or is it just one of those made up on the spot word salads?

      • Michael Neville

        You can probably get one from Patriot Bible University, the people who gifted Kent Hovind a doctorate. Remember to begin your dissertation with: “Hello, my name is Odd Jørgensen.”

        • You start with a nice introduction, and the review committee is putty in your hands. “Dr. Dino” can tell you.

      • I saw that in the “Where are they now?” bits at the end. What is “Christian thought”??

  • epicurus

    Sounds like the movie is almost as cringeworthy as those wretched “God Is Dead” movies.

    • epicurus

      Oops that should read “God Is Not Dead”

      • RichardSRussell

        You should have access to an “edit” command right underneath your own comments.

        • epicurus

          You are right, It’s just my vanity because people who have already read the comment if they subscribe will not get a notice from Disqus and or email that I corrected it, but they will get a notice that I made a new comment to fix it. That probably means I take myself too seriously : -)

    • Having seen them both, I vote “God Is Not Dead” as more cringe worthy!

  • Reddish Brown

    You actually watched this cringer? You have the patience of Job.

    • The things I do for you guys!

      • Michael Neville

        When I grow up I want to be just like Bob.

  • epicurus

    A long time ago I read either Strobel’s Case for Christ or Case for The Resurrection (can’t remember which). I found it very irritating that he had his Christian experts explain the opposing view and then critique it. Since he plays up his law and court affiliations, he should be able to see that’s like a court trial having only one lawyer who argues his own side, then tells the judge what the prosecutor would say if he were there, and why the prosecutor would be wrong. That would probably be considered a sham trial.

    • wtfwjtd

      “That would probably be considered a sham trial.”

      That’s because it would be a sham trial. It would have as much credibility as Gen. Burkhalter in Hogan’s Heros, when the General tells Col. Klink–“Klink, you will have a fair trial, after which you will be shot”….

      • Michael Neville

        Or 19th Century Texas justice: “Give ’em a fair and impartial trial then hang the guilty bastards.”

  • Chuck Johnson

    “Habermas responds that those people didn’t drink poison for something they knew was a lie or hoax. . . ”

    Chuck:
    Could be.
    Drinking the poison was enforced at gunpoint. – – – Some tried to escape.

    • epicurus

      I always say maybe they (disciples) died because they thought they were dying for continuing Jesus’ message of the coming kingdom. Maybe the resurrection thing didn’t come up if a Roman solider didnt give them a chance to talk before killing them.

      • Chuck Johnson

        If the disciples had the same thoughts of eternal life that modern Christians do, then the martyr’s death had two fantastic benefits.

        One is that the martyr then goes to heaven and enjoys paradise forever.

        Two is that the exaample of martyrdom inspires onlookers and everyone else who hears the “good news” to become believers and enjoy paradise for themselves.

        Ancient Roman polytheism could not compete with such a fantastic payoff for belief. – – – And so, polytheism faded away and Christianity took over Western civilization.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Ancient Roman polytheism could not compete with such a fantastic payoff for belief. – – – And so, polytheism faded away and Christianity took over Western civilization.”

          Hmm, that’s an interesting thought. Especially among a population that has a huge wealth imbalance, and a fairly short life expectancy, I’d say you just might be on to something there.

  • Mr. A

    How come Lee didn’t talk to more atheists in the movie to get thier perspectives? And wait, how was this guy an atheist in the first place if he doesn’t know any of our arguments?

    • Geoff Benson

      He never was an atheist.

      • Mr. A

        But, but the movie says he was! And movies never lie!

        • Geoff Benson

          Good point!

        • Kodie

          If he didn’t believe in god, he was an atheist. You don’t have to be an educated atheist to disbelieve in god.

        • Geoff Benson

          Hm…

    • Inquisitive Raven

      He might have been brought up areligious and never really learned the kind of critical thinking needed to evaluate religion We will probably be seeing more people like that as people leave religion and start raising their own kids.

    • Just being an atheist does not make you a critical thinker about everything. A lot of people are just brought up without belief in God, and never think much about it (until like Strobel something brings this up). It’s not really surprising how they’re convinced by arguments atheists who have studied more of the issue don’t buy.

      • Mr. A

        Right, but see, I’m talking about why he didn’t try to see, in this case, both sides of the issue. The movie just portrays him going after christian advice, hardly ever any atheistic ones.

        • So am I. That’s my answer-being an atheist does not mean being a critical thinker. Although you’d think investigative journalists would do better.

        • G.Shelley

          The clue is in the title “the case for Christ”
          Not the case for and against.

        • Quite so, but it still conflicts with that whole “award winning journalist” shtick.

        • G.Shelley

          I may be being overly cynical here, but I suspect he is noticing people don’t notice the discrepancy between “I’m a great skeptical investigative journalist who asked about the evidence for Jesus” and “I only asked a small subsection of scholars with a very narrow theological view and didn’t see if there were any responses or refutations to their arguments’

        • I imagine a kind of evolution here. The ex-atheists whose story doesn’t fit what people are looking for doesn’t get any attention. And you’re right, this little quibble we have with Strobel’s story doesn’t register with his audience.

          This gets back to the question, What good is apologetics? Is it to gain new converts? Or is it primarily to keep existing Christians content that they needn’t be intellectually embarrassed by their faith?

        • Kodie

          When you let theists define what atheism is, that’s probably what happens. They warn about it at church and develop prejudices that spread like rumors. They say – atheists are victims of satan, atheists want to be god, atheists deny god exists (implying god obviously exists), atheists are weak people who don’t want to obey god, atheists are prone to vice and self-destruction (like theist aren’t addicts!). They say in atheism, life has no meaning, you have no morality, you can’t tell right from wrong, you don’t give to charity, and you become loud and obnoxious and insensitive about your proclamations against god (again, like that’s not a projection of theism or a sense of threat on what they perceive as their territory).

          Atheists also want to take away your joy, your 1st amendment rights, your crosses, banners, emblems, slogans, prayers, songs, greetings and other religious traditions our culture has often put up with bled into courts, schools, money, public land, government practices, laws, and even “preventing” private corporations (such as Starbucks) from catering solely to their interests and making Christmas generic, and even “preventing” private corporations from denying public citizens equal accommodation. Atheists also want to take over the public schools and force children to deny creationism.

          According to the propaganda, we’re dangerous to society, and you don’t want to be one. We never shut up all the time talking about no god, no god, no god, but we deny all the shitty “evidence” they have been fooled to go along with.

          So really, they define (and are far more vocal and viral than we are) what people will think an atheist is or is like. Why would a journalist actually want to talk to us?

        • TLC

          Exactly. I’m a former reporter. It’s no wonder the editor rejected this one-sided story. If he was that great of a journalist, he would have investigated AND presented the atheist side of the story. And left it up to his audience to decide.

        • msm16

          Does anyone see the similarities between GIRAT Buck from “Left Behind” and fantasy reporter Strobel.

        • One of the great tragedies in my life is that I haven’t seen any of the Left Behind movies.

          If I actually cared, I could remedy that rather easily … so I guess I don’t care.

        • Mike

          Two words: Nicholas Cage

        • Dang–why didn’t you say so??

        • Kodie

          He didn’t consider there might be more to atheism than just not believing in god. I mean, there is and there isn’t, but I’m assuming he was attracted to religious thought but didn’t suspect other atheists might have more substantial reasons and arguments against the god claims. As a journalist or a law scholar, that’d be, how shall we say, bad at his job. Now that he couldn’t possibly avoid not knowing any better, he doesn’t seem all that embarrassed to have approached his quest in such a biased way. I imagine that he’s just satisfied with his conclusion, and wouldn’t you be the same way? I mean, if you forgot to check a bunch of things (in just about any context), and you got a happy outcome, you wouldn’t go back over those details you overlooked on the first pass to make sure you couldn’t be even more satisfied, would you?

      • primenumbers

        Given we all tend to suffer from confirmation bias, it’s the rare person that has the ability to go and seek out disconfirming evidence for a proposition they hold. Typically if an atheist wishes to “check out” Christianity, they’d go to atheist authors writing criticism of Christianity.

        Anyone who has enough self-knowledge to try to avoid some confirmation bias will still check out sources that would confirm the pre-conceived belief, but would also then seek out disconfirming evidence too. In this case an atheist would read scholarly criticism of Christianity, but also seek our Christian authors too, to hear their side of things.

        What I can’t see, psychologically, is a bright articulate atheist (and Strobel is bright and articulate) only checking out Christianity via Christian authors and sources, and never even fact checking what they’re telling. We know Strobel didn’t fact check because of some of the whoppers he propagates in his books.

        What we’re left with as a plausible explanation is Strobel was always a Christian, although he lacked a strong conviction or belief, and he engaged in confirmation bias and only checked in with Christian sources, and didn’t bother fact-checking them. Later he rationalized his earlier lack of strong belief as atheism, and that’s also why he describes atheism in the same terms as Christian apologists do rather than like how atheists describe atheism.

        • If he was an atheist who wanted to believe, that would also explain his behavior. Given that his wife converted before him, it seems possible there was some incentive. People are critical and clear-thinking, but not others sadly. Also some atheists believe or embody the criticisms.

        • primenumbers

          How would that explain the pretence of critical enquiry though? Unless he was already angling for a gig as an apologist and building up his own conversion myth?

        • If he wanted Christianity to be true, this makes sense. What you say is possible as well.

    • The psychologist is supposedly an agnostic or atheist, but she’s interviewed for her psychological expertise, not to help out the atheist side of the story. So yes, your concern is on target.

      Tangent: Paul was a pretty serious Christian hater in his early days … but we know this from Paul! How can we be certain that he didn’t embellish his youthful wickedness to highlight his humility (“I’m the worst of sinners!”) and that you can be really far gone but still be saved by Jesus. It’s not inconceivable that Stroble also embellished his wicked atheism.

      • epicurus

        That’s what I’ve wondered, and I think it was even Gary Habermas who said it sure would be nice if we had some kind of documentation that Paul was actually affiliated with a synagogue or official Jewish body and given responsibility to hunt down Christians.

        • msm16

          When I was in Catholic school, raised an atheist so Catholic school was like being forced to live in the zoo, Paul always screamed con-artist to me.

          Innocent me: Father why is Paul telling people to do things Jesus said not to?

          Father: Shut your dirty sinner mouth that’s why!

          I also always love when Christians try to use the letter Pliny to Trajan to justify pretty much anything. It reads less like “MUHAHAHHA​ we will hunt them all down and kill them in the worst ways imaginable, because we hate the o e true god that much!” And more “Umm uhh boss? What do you want me to do with these crazy people throwing themselves at me demanding I torture them to death?” I kind of feel like Pliny was an overworked shift manager at Denny’s dealing with shady types.

          Anyone who knows any Roman history knows that, aside from sacrifices to the emperor, which were more along the lines of a loyalty oath, the Romans didn’t give two drops of garum what gods you worshipped.

        • epicurus

          Yes, the way Pliny and Tacitus get tossed about by apologists is pretty annoying. From what I’ve read, the Romans were mainly concerned that if you didn’t pay some kind of lip service to some of the important gods, then society was at risk of the gods wrath, which meant disease, drought, famine etc which would of course affect everybody. For Christians to run around saying saying those gods didn’t exist put everyone in peril. But it wasn’t that Christians weren’t allowed to worship whatever gods they wanted, including Jesus. That’s how I understand the problem.
          Ok, I’ve got to ask, sorry – if you were being raised as an atheist (I infer that means your parents were raising you that way), why did they send you to a Catholic school? Were you in a rural area and it was the only school around?

        • msm16

          Second first, then the worst!

          My parents are semi-lapsed Unitarian Universalists. So basically I was raised with the idea, “God might or might not, perhaps, be a thing. We don’t know, but be nice to everyone, because all people are deserving of respect. Plus there are coffee and muffins afterwards (but not in an afterlife way*).”

          I went to public school and everything was copacetic, until we moved to a rural county. Then, me being a smallmale/latebloomer/bookworm was labeled as a “fag” by the local good Christian boys, who took it upon themselves to teach me error of my, non-existent, “faggoty” ways.

          The Catholics were actually pretty cool for the most part. I found Theology class interesting. Plus me the Muslim, four atheists, and the two Jews got to sit and watch in the bleachers as everyone else got Jesus and Juice.

          *The “coffee and muffins” might be audited out if the subcommittee on “muffins and coffee” finds lacking funds.

          The Christian objection to Emperor sacrifice is a bit silly. It was less a deific “sacrifice” than a deceleration of loyalty. The Roman state was, in many ways, similar to the Soviet Union (minus the faux communism). It was a state that enforced the economic status quo of the “haves and have nots,” and “deified” the Emperor as the arbiter of this state. The deification was not one of “OMG this guy is actually a divine being or principle.” But more like “We are making sacrifices to the platonic ideal of the Emperor as the guardian of the status quo.”

        • epicurus

          semi lapsed unitarians – wow.
          I think it was Vespasian who joked on his death bed ” I think I’m becoming a god”

        • msm16

          I like to think Vespasian asked random courtiers to pull his finger.

        • Awkward.

          Do you get killed for laughing? Or do you get killed for not laughing?

        • msm16

          I think, judging by what we know of him, Vespasian would be disappointed if you didn’t pull his finger, but he probably wouldn’t kill you if you didn’t… probably.

        • epicurus

          hah hah, ya, that too.

      • MR

        And how many times have we heard here, “I used to be an atheist just like you!” Then why do you seem to have so much trouble understanding the atheist perspective? Why doesn’t Strobel get that we can see right through his piss poor arguments?

        I was still a believer when I read Case for Christ. As I recall, he seemed to base all his arguments on if the Bible is true then the things it says about Christ must be true. Well, d’uh. It was almost like a bait and switch. The problem was, far from convince me the Bible was true, it actually brought to my attention problems with Christianity that I hadn’t considered before. It left those questions unresolved, sleight of handed that the Bible is true, and then wanted to base everything else on that tenuous assumption. I should be thankful because it helped push me out’ the nest.

        It’s really just a panacea for Christians to bolster themselves against atheist arguments (they just need to read ‘Case for Christ’) and to throw at Christians beginning to doubt. Which is what happened to me, ‘cept it backfired.

        • Yep. If I became a Christian for intellectual reasons, I would either hide from my past public life out of embarrassment (possible) or I would publicly dismantle the intellectual arguments for atheism. Since no one ever does that, my theory is that it never happens. All the “ex-atheists” convert for emotional reasons (that’s fine, just don’t lie to me) and then whip up pseudo-intellectual justifications.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/10/i-used-to-be-an-atheist-just-like-you-2/

          I was still a believer when I read Case for Christ. As I recall, he seemed to base all his arguments on if the Bible is true then the things it says about Christ must be true. Well, d’uh.

          I see a lot of “If God exists” stated precisely in those words. If God exists . . . then the Christian message is fantastic or objective morality exists or you’d better watch your back. Do they never see the problem?

          If I just won the Powerball lottery . . . wow—I’ve got a lot of planning to do! What am I gonna do with all that lovely money?

          The problem was, far from convince me the Bible was true, it actually brought to my attention problems with Christianity that I hadn’t considered before.

          This is a fascinating area for me. I never got into apologetics beyond the most childish level until I was already an atheist and figuring out these arguments and objections on my own. Is there more to be said for what it’s like for you now to look back on your Christian past and analyze the thinking that kept you there?

        • wtfwjtd

          “Is there more to be said for what it’s like for you now to look back on your Christian past and analyze the thinking that kept you there?”

          Yes, there is. As a former Christian, I had a very close relationship with my dad, who was a fervent believer his whole life (which blows away some other nonsense arguments theists propose about atheists always having estranged fathers, but I digress). I would like to point out, it was likely because of my close relationship with my father that I stayed a believer for as long as I did. Before he died around 7 years ago, I had long since abandoned organized religion as phony and inauthentic. I still called myself a Christian, however.
          I t wasn’t until after his death that I began to take a more serious look at the underpinnings of the Christian belief system itself–not just its internal inconsistencies, but its actual historical basis as well. That’s when I began to realize that there were big problems with its extraordinary claims, specifically, that there was a decided lack of evidence for them, and even scant evidence that Jesus existed at all. It just didn’t add up.

          So, I can well understand how and why people believe in Christianity, or at least express belief, for emotional and familial reasons. Sometimes it’s a powerful and difficult thing to overcome, and many aren’t ready to be shunned from their tribe because they can’t buy into the religion that they grew up with.

        • Interesting insights, thanks.

        • Greg G.

          If I just won the Powerball lottery . . . wow—I’ve got a lot of planning to do! What am I gonna do with all that lovely money?

          I would be willing to let you take my advice.

        • MR

          Is there more to be said for what it’s like for you now to look back on your Christian past and analyze the thinking that kept you there?

          I think not thinking about it is what kept me there. It’s not that I was steeped in apologetics. The people that I love and trust are all some form of Christian, or at least believe in God, most people around us believe in some form of God. It’s part of our culture. I simply believed by default. We’re steeped in God belief from birth on, and continued belief is simply inertia. Everyone–the vast majority of people, anyway–believes, so of course I believed.

          Sure the idea of no God was out there, but you know, it wasn’t so much that I thought about it. That there was a God was simply a given.

          A number of factors ultimately helped break the spell of belief. First, science was not demonized for me while I was still religious (thank you Grandma M); I moved away from a highly charged religious atmosphere, so wasn’t continually conditioned; I was exposed to other cultures, religions and politics; I learned to apply critical thinking to navigate the foreign ideas I was being exposed to, which naturally led to applying critical thinking to other areas of my life, including religion; as a result I began to see the hypocrisy in religious people, my own peeps included, and the manipulation of religious (and political) leaders. [edit: Strobel as one example; and the Truth Project was a big one for me.] That led me to seek God more closely in His Word since I realized that people could not necessarily be trusted; a strong faith did not necessarily mean access to truth. An interest in history and ancient literature coupled with an honest reading of the Bible ultimately crumbled that last pillar of my belief. (I think of my belief as having rested on three pillars: the church community, the church leaders and the Bible.) Basically the three pillars undermined themselves.

          Just as a side note, it’s not that science made me doubt religion. I always carried this idea that science and God’s Word would eventually converge; it was simply a matter of science catching up to, and us having a clearer interpretation of, the Bible. The breakdown there was, actually knowing what science said helped me to see that religious leaders were misrepresenting science, and at times were outright lying about what science said. Clearly they felt threatened by it. But if you have to misrepresent and lie about your perceived opponent, you probably don’t have truth and goodness on your side. Science may or may not have it right, but if you’re using such tactics I know you’re wrong! [Similarly, Strobel twisted critical thinking so as to break it.]

        • Those who advocate apologetics urge parents to inoculate their children against the heathen atheism that they will encounter in college or the real world, but it’s a tricky issue. The more they say, “And you must believe X,” the less critical thinking it is, which should become apparent when they do some actual critical thinking.

          [edit: Strobel as one example; and the Truth Project was a big one for me.]

          I’d never heard of The Truth Project. It looks like a home version of the very project I’m doing right now, the Alpha Course.

          a strong faith did not necessarily mean access to truth.

          And it’s not like the Christian can just hunker down and ignore critical thinking, knowing that his views are correct. He’s bombarded by other denominations and worldly attractions that he needs to have sharp wits to avoid.

          if you have to misrepresent and lie about your perceived opponent, you probably don’t have truth and goodness on your side. Science may or may not have it right, but if you’re using such tactics I know you’re wrong!

          Bingo.

        • MR

          Is there a breakdown of the topics? The Truth Project is kind of an inoculation against various things the world might throw at you. Topics include philosophy, ethics, science, history, government…. I think it’s something you would be interested in. They used to do seminars, but I don’t see any mention of seminars on their site now. You probably have a lot on your plate, but if you’re ever interested, I’d be happy to share my DVDs with you. I’ve always wanted to go through them and do a rebuttal, but I likely wouldn’t get around to it for a long time. I do wish they still had seminars, I’d like to see how they’ve evolved. It might be interesting to check out if there is a group in my area.

        • I assume you’re asking about Alpha? The main link is https://alphausa.org/. The list of topics is below. (The “Weekend talks” are seen together in the all-day retreat.) I wonder if they do the Truth Project in a similar way—a group viewing, followed by discussion, one topic per week.

          Thanks for the offer of a loan of the DVDs. I’ll keep that in mind.

          Episode 1: Is there more to life than this?
          Episode 2: Who is Jesus?
          Episode 3: Why did Jesus die?
          Episode 4: How can I have faith?
          Episode 5 : How and why should I pray?
          Episode 6: How and why should I read the Bible?
          Episode 7: How does God guide us?
          Episode 8: Who is the Holy Spirit? (Weekend talk 1)
          Episode 9: What does the Holy Spirit do? (Weekend talk 2)
          Episode 10: How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit? (Weekend talk 3)
          Episode 11: How can I make the most of the rest of my life? (Weekend talk 4)
          Episode 12: How can I resist evil?
          Episode 13: Why and how should I tell others?
          Episode 14: Does God heal today?
          Episode 15: What about the church?

        • MR

          Probably a similar format, but when I went it was a two-day seminar, and you could buy the DVDs. It seems to have evolved into these groups now where you can train to be a leader of a group.

        • RichardSRussell

          IOW, a classic pyramid scheme. Only without the inconvenience of actually having to deliver a bottle of hairspray or set of steak knives to get the suckers started.

        • MR

          Yes, that’s very much what it is. I think the seminars were just to kind of jump start things, and once they got that process started they can build from there.

        • Halbe

          Interesting: in typical Christian gritter fashion both Truth Project and Alpha boast about how important their material is for people, families and society, and then they charge insane amounts for their dvd’s and stuff (who the hell does dvd’s in 2017 anyway!?). If they were really concerned about “transforming society” they would of course make the material available as a free download…

        • mfm420

          yeah. that’s something that’s bugged me for years. if guys like joel osteen, rick warren, etc.. want to make sure their books are seen by the masses, why charge for them? (i mean, you can put them on amazon, charge nothing or maybe 99 cents. after all, if these books and stuff are so “life changing” and “will lead you to god”, why bother with money?)

          those 2 i mentioned, btw have a combined net worth of over $40 million dollars, one would think that by now, “god” has blessed them enough to not have to charge to get the message out

        • That reminds me of Rick Warren talking about how fat his parishioners had gotten (he noticed when he had to dunk them in the baptismal pool). And he was getting so himself.

          So he got some experts to help create a diet. And his congregation lost a quarter of a million pounds. And it was all free!

          Kidding! No, he charged for books and DVDs and workbooks and cookbooks and so on. Praise the Lord and pass the credit card.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/05/christian-book-of-the-year-a-diet-book-rick-warren/

        • If they were really concerned about “transforming society” they would of
          course make the material available as a free download…

          Never mind, that’s all covered: “The labourer is worthy of his hire”.

        • So Jesus, faith, and prayer all come before the Bible?
          Are they still allowed to cite the Bible in those episodes?

        • Good questions. I don’t remember. I see your point–it does make sense to establish the Bible as authoritative first to establish a foundation. On the other hand, I imagine they want to grab the willing mind with the punch line, in case they drop out after a few sessions.

        • Philmonomer

          FWIW, I’m 5 weeks into the 8 week Alpha Course (it’s condensed) at the National Cathedral (retreat was last weekend–I didn’t go).

          At some point, I’ll try to put some thoughts together.

        • Yes, please share a summary of your reaction/thoughts when convenient.

        • Philmonomer

          So, the Alpha course. This course was 8 weeks (rather than the usual/planned, 15 weeks, I believe), so some weeks they tried to cover 2 sessions, and other sessions were left for the retreat. I attended all 8 weeks, but not the retreat.

          I did not know much about Alpha going in. I thought that there would be dinner, followed by presentations (on Christian apologetics), ending with time for feedback/questions. Or maybe questions throughout the presentation. I was completely oblivious to the small group component.

          Here’s what actually happened (as I think you know):

          1) Dinner was from approximately 6:45 to 7:30 (you were encouraged to sit with your small group).
          2) Presentation was from approximately 7:30 to 8:00-8:15.
          3) Small groups were from approximately 8:15 to 9. We ended promptly at 9.

          I think there were probably somewhere around 12 groups of about 10 people. It was unclear because most people didn’t make it every week, which means that people were always missing. A few people came the first night and then didn’t come back. We probably averaged 6-8 people each week in our group.

          I attended at the National Cathedral in Washington DC.

          I came home from the first night saying “That was the single most ‘Washington DC’ thing I’ve ever done in my life.” On the first night I learned that, in my group, there was a former Secretary of the Navy. Also, someone in my group had just finished interviewing 3 of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. I was essentially tasked with saying something interesting about my job. Yikes. I don’t think I delivered. (Things calmed down after the first night.)

          Here are some notes/general thoughts:

          1) The whole thing was much less evangelical than I expected. The vibe was pretty liberal. It was fairly clear that they were ok with gay, and with women in ministry. While they used the Alpha book (a red book), they often skipped over parts, or sometimes ditched the Alpha presentation altogether (there were 3 different presenters who rotated over the 8 weeks). One of the presenters specifically said that Jesus wasn’t the only way to spiritual truth (but Jesus was the best way).

          2) My small group was much less devote than I expected. There were a few who seemed to be “all in” on Jesus, but several others who seemed to be sincerely unsure. I was upfront that I wasn’t a Christian. Everyone was ok with that. One session I asked how many people really thought that Jesus had risen from the dead. That lead to an interesting discussion about “Truth v. Facts.” A couple people said unequivocally that Jesus rose from the dead. Most seemed to believe that facts weren’t as important as Truth. Christianity/Jesus held truth. The actual resurrection, as a fact, wasn’t important.

          3) People were more accommodating than I expected–I was probably more accommodating than I expected. For example, I didn’t press people on their beliefs on resurrection. (Personally, I think if you don’t believe Jesus, actually, physically, rose from the dead, you probably aren’t really a Christian. But I didn’t press that. Maybe I could/should have. As a nonchristian, it would have seemed weird to tell people they weren’t Christian. Although I guess I could have made it about me.) That said, I was 100 percent upfront about who I was, what I believed, and where I was coming from. I found that people in my small group were respectful. I think they thought I brought a valuable perspective (Indeed, I’d argue that I did bring a valuable perspective–i.e. Truth.)

          4) All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. The people were friendly, and I was in a good group. I tried to put “stones in their shoes,” not in any sort of aggressive way, but through relaying my experience, my thoughts, and my opinions. For example, I brought up things like Mormons (saying things like “Aren’t they saying/doing the same thing? “); no evidence that prayer works–they hadn’t heard of the Templeton study; that I’ve seen no evidence of a God “guiding my life”‘ etc. I’d like to think I was successful.

          5) I wish there was more of a chance to interact with the presenters. Especially one of them–the hard-core Alpha presenter, the one who most stuck to the script, and the one who brought Alpha to the Cathedral. (The other two presenters were the priest for the Cathedral and the Bishop). The one guy had a bit of an air of a showman to him. He did the session on “Healing/Miracles.” It didn’t go over that well in our small group–at least for a few of us. It seemed pretty Peter Popoff-like. Not that the presenter was doing healings, but he had stories of healing that seemed well, unbelievable.

          That’s what I’ve got (for now).

        • I’m doing the Alpha course, too (for the third or fourth time). I think we have 2 more nights to go. This time, it’s at a Catholic church. My previous times, it’s been at Protestant churches, which somehow seem to be a better fit. It is indeed a rather liberal presentation, but the Holy Spirit thing (getting engulfed by the Holy Spirit is the focus of the retreat) strikes me as not being very Catholic.

          Your group is very different from mine. We have maybe half that number, but my table has 6-8 people each time. The people are nice but much more ordinary than yours—not a complaint, just an observation.

          I always have a provocative question or two that I try to slip in. One problem is that I don’t want it to give a lecture, and I realize that this is their thing rather than mine. It’d be unfair to shanghai it. The other is anyone who responds to my point often acknowledges it without addressing it and then moves on. (“Yes, that is indeed a fatal blow to Christianity, but the part that I really like is how Jesus was nice to animals,” to approving murmurs from the others.) Maybe if the others were more mature apologetically, I’d have something to push against.

          You didn’t have the videos with Nicky? Alpha just rolled out a new set of videos in the last year, much more professional than the previous ones (which were good quality, but they were just of Nicky lecturing in a chapel).

          Yes, I also like that Alpha is welcoming to atheists. Indeed, it would be a good dose of reality if each table to an atheist once during the course to ask the tough questions. I volunteer.

        • I can understand starting by giving a reason to study: Is there more to life than this?
          And I can understanding introducing Jesus, and putting the Christ in Christianity.
          But putting faith and prayer before the Bible or any kind of tangible evidence seems an odd decision.

          I’m sure when we had similar courses we established the Bible much earlier. And even then I asked awkward questions like “How can you establish the Bible as a whole, in our current, Protestant canon, rather than just showing evidence for a few of the many books?”

        • Tor

          Okay, I’ve never seen anyone else talk about The Truth Project, because I had a similar experience. The college group at a local church went through the entire Truth Project one summer, and it’s so fervently, blatantly trying to earnestly convince you “No really this is totally SCIENCE guys” that it actually made me aware of the ways I was being manipulated and lied to. The worst was the episode on evolution, in which they tried to argue that “Science has already decided what it believes and is searching for answers to justify it” and even in my devout brain I thought, “…but…isn’t that what’s happening right here, right in this episode? Nothing will change our minds on the truth of God, so aren’t we the ones searching for evidence to justify conclusions we already hold?”

          The Truth Project didn’t really have anything to do with my deconversion, but it did cause me to have my first glimpse at a magician who had accidentally shown some of the seams of the magic tricks.

        • MR

          “No really this is totally SCIENCE guys”

          That was how it was presented to me. “Oh, you’ll love it, there’s so much science!” Then they totally misrepresented the science. I remember them completely twisting the Second Law of Thermodynamics and I’m looking around at everyone thinking, “Did you learn nothing in high school! This is total BS!” And some ridiculous, feel-good nature montage propaganda. WTF? Are we children? And that snake Ravi Zacharias! How do they not see he is a total con artist?

          I followed through with the DVDs, though I’m not sure I watched every single one. I remember one statement in which Del Tackett said something like, “If ‘x’ verse in the Bible isn’t wrong (and it was some obscure passage), then Christianity must be wrong. Then he went on to jump through such hoops so as to justify the verse that I thought, “If someone tried these tactics on him, he’d totally see right through it!” It just kept going downhill from there.

          Good to meet a fellow ex-TPer. 😉

        • Tor

          I think I missed the first and maybe the second “lesson” because I joined the college group after they already started.

          The worst was the episode about the nuclear family being part of God’s created order, and trying to draw comparisons around Father-Holy Spirit-Son with Father-Mother-Child.

          I say it’s the worst because I simultaneously was raised in a Christian family *and* in a really fucked up, abusive family, and here was an entire episode about how “the created order” was God’s perfect design and if it got messed up, well, there’s no hope it’s broken forever. They interviewed a bunch of different people of various beliefs and some who also had really messed up families and I have no clue if the people who were being interviewed realized that they were being used as examples for a bunch of sheltered conservative types to point to and say, “wow, look at all these examples of how if you don’t ascribe to our beliefs, your life is awful.” It felt really uncomfortable and exploitative, and it was the first moment that I saw first hand that all of the promises of faith being about hope and restoration were so easily tossed away by people who wanted to believe that there was only one right way to live, and the only way to do that was to decide that everyone else’s life was worth less.

          I deconverted on more personal notions of reality — there’s only so long you can stay in a faith constantly talking about people like you like you don’t exist with the church walls, and only so long you can hear how they conceptualize your life to make their faith work before the cognitive dissonance breaks you.

          The Truth Project was such a strange thing, because it was attempting to turn apologetics into classroom-level science, but there is no way to say “Father-Holy Spirit-Son” = “Father-Mother-Child” = SCIENCE without it sounding like your scrambling to make it all work together. In a way, my faith would have stayed stronger had it simply been the old way we dealt with it which was to say “God is right so science is wrong” rather than attempting to turn our beliefs into something we could examine. Because then I just like the Christian faith was so solidly, assuredly true, I could throw any question at it, study anything I wanted, and of course it would hold up every time, right? Whoops.

        • MR

          …by people who wanted to believe that there was only one right way to live, and the only way to do that was to decide that everyone else’s life was worth less.

          That’s an interesting perspective Tor. We certainly see a lot of that smugness here. I had a girl who came to the door a few months ago who tried that smug condescension on me. “Well, I hope you find happiness….” As if I couldn’t have a happy life without God.

          The Truth Project was such a strange thing…

          For me it was somewhat surreal that they were up there saying, “We’re really, really smart. We’re so smart we’re even smarter than the scientists. You can trust us and you can’t trust them.” But for anyone who knew even basic science, their spiel was obviously a lie. They even brought up a few things I wasn’t familiar with, but that seemed suspect. I looked them up later, and they were absolutely misleading statements. It’s stunning to think that they would/could so blatantly misrepresent science, secure in the knowledge that no one was going to question them, no one was going to challenge them. That to me is frightening.

          This wasn’t a project seeking truth.

        • Kodie

          I have to admit, I didn’t learn the 2nd law of thermodynamics in school. I might have. I mean if I think about Newton’s stuff, it might be pretty familiar, but if I went to some religious seminar where they claimed something defied Newton’s 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – I might believe them. I went to public school, I know I learned stuff. I was allowed to quit science after 10th grade, so never learned physics (or chemistry).

          The way I would resist this bullshit, I mean, my experience of growing up, was to question the source, and religions are selling the bible. When I was a kid, I would say, they weren’t so much (at least as far as I can tell) trying to displace science with their science-looking stuff complete with illustrations and terminology. But I like to think I’m equipped to detect the bullshit just from the way I was brought up.

        • MR

          Don’t get me wrong, if they had gotten up there and said, who here remembers the second law of thermodynamics? My hand would not have shot up.

          But because this was supposed to be a lesson in science, they were kind enough to explain that in a closed system under the second law of thermodynamics chaos increases as energy dissipates within the system. That rang some bells as in the recesses of my mind I could hear my science teacher, Mrs. D, discussing the classic example that one learns about when one learns about the second law of thermal dynamics: the Earth. Meanwhile,on stage, the Truth Project leader also evoked the earth: “How, can the second law of thermodynamics be true if right here on earth we don’t see increased chaos, rather everywhere we see organization and life and flourishing?”

          Mrs D would have been proud because I still remembered the answer. The problem was, they weren’t looking for an answer. Instead we were treated to a feel-good nature video montage of flowers opening, frogs jumping about in ponds, colts frolicking in the sun…. ” All the while, I’m waiting for them to finish: “Because the earth isn’t a closed system and gets its energy from the sun.” I mean, that’s the first thing they tell you when you learn about the second law of thermodynamics and closed systems! The earth isn’t a closed system. How could they possibly leave that part out?

          So, while I’m waiting for them to finish the explanation, everyone around me is shaking their heads over how stupid those evil scientists are. Surely, I wasn’t the only one who had learned this? I mean, I went to some Podunk school in a tiny town in middle America with a class of 25. You’re telling me no one in Phoenix, Arizona knew this?

          And really, it wasn’t even about the audience not knowing or remembering this fact. It was that there is no way that whoever put together this presentation could not have known that the earth wasn’t a closed system. I mean, that’s the classic example! The sun provides energy to the earth. Without the sun, the earth would die and your precious chaos would increase. But they’re up there telling us, “I have a PhD and I’m really smart and I’m here to tell you that those scientists are wrong.” You have a Phd, you researched the second law of thermodynamics, you use the earth as an example, but don’t know this very basic fact? I don’t think so.

          It was a clear case of deceit. And they want me to believe that they hold the moral high ground. Phht.

        • Dangitbobby

          I don’t know his experience, but I too was a christian when I read case for christ.

          I was actually disappointed, even as a christian. It all seemed really weak to me. I was sold a book on intellectual evidence for christianity. What I got was a book that talked to a bunch of people who had opinions of christianity, mostly all positive.

          Blech.

        • It’s great to hear that thoughtful Christians can see through it, even though they’re motivated to buy Strobel’s claims.

        • Otto

          >>>”I used to be an atheist just like you!”

          But the fact that his ‘atheism’ is now personally refuted is only a testament to other atheists in deception. He is trying to make himself out as a modern day Doubting Thomas to his fellow Christians…’Hey guys, I was an atheist but I looked closely at all the evidence and you are completely correct in your convictions! No need to look any further, no need to check out their arguments. I was on that side and they got nuthin! You all are good…’

        • MR

          That’s exactly how I perceived it too. Inoculation against atheism.

        • Susan

          Which is what happened to me, ‘cept it backfired.

          The problem there being that you actually read it.

          Apologetics is mostly the barbed wire at the edge of the compound.

          That it turns out to be made of candy floss is only a problem for the few who make it that far.

        • Kodie

          I would call anyone an atheist who does not believe any god or god exists. When they say “I used to be an atheist just like you”, they mean that they used to be the kind of atheist their own religion defines. I am not going to say they aren’t really atheists, but it’s an obnoxious profile I listed elsewhere in the thread, and because they believe what their church says, they assume all atheists are like they say they are. I would even say, you could be brought up Christian, and early indoctrinated, start gravitating toward their definition of atheism as a teen/young adult rebellious phase or discovery, or whatever you want to call it. Rather than seeking out other atheists, like I think mature theists on the edge of deconversion* do, they’re going to find the prostitutes and drugs and whatever seems like fun. So, when they grow up and go back to their religion, they did used to be an atheist just like they think, because they’ve always been told, we all are. Just think of all the Christians that come here and tell us what we already think, and are just plain wrong, that no matter what anyone says, they persist in not trusting the testimony of an atheist vs. their church authorities.

          So, our interactions never trigger them to think “what else is my church lying to me about?” but instead, that we’re working for satan and trying to seem like normal people in order to trap theists. That’s how I feel anyway.

          *I tend to think former believers who start to doubt god, especially in the age of internet, because of how bad I’ve heard that feels, might start, like you did, trying to re-engage in some dedicated way, that just does more damage to their faith than helps, or even the social occasions and the sermons, you can’t stop the unraveling. Seems to be the group that honestly seeks to find out more about atheism from actual atheist.

      • Joe

        On the podcast Oh No! Ross and Carrie., when they infiltrate Scientology, they noted that almost all the converts they met had a story of a ‘wayward’ past. “Oh yeah man, I did lots of drugs before I found Scientology.”

        When pressed, they could rarely be specific? “What drugs?”. “You know, drugs.”

        It was almost as if they were exaggerating their pasts in light of what they’ve learnt from Scientology is “bad”. In reality, they probably took prescription painkillers once. To help after surgery or something.

      • Kevin K

        Humblebrag.

    • mfm420

      my guesses would be;

      1. he never bothered to contact more than a few atheists (or any of the top people who tend to be considered at the top of the “atheist movement”, i.e. dawkins, harris, etc…)

      2. if he did, those people refused to talk to him and be a part of this (since look how many times christians use out of context quotes, shots, etc. prime example would be the ben stein movie, Expelled. lied to guys like dawkins about what the movie was, then made sure every shot of them was as if they were pure evil, while the christians always had good lighting, etc..)

      i would suspect that a guy like stobel wouldn’t let them film him asking questions, etc.. so if they were used out of context they could expose his lies (at least, if i were a top atheist, i’d refuse to talk to him without being able to record the whole conversation)

      just my 2 cents

  • Herald Newman

    The thing I’ve always hated about Strobel is that he presents himself as a skeptic, yet he never acts as if he is one. To anybody who’s actually a skeptic, he’s a total phony.

    I keep wanting him to say “I’m not really a skeptic, I just play one for Christian audiences.”

    • Kodie

      That’s fair. I mean, if you can advertise yourself to … non-professionals, by having a lofty type of profession, especially since they are conditioned to respect authorities, then you can fake it and they can never tell the difference. You speak with the air of authority, you sound like you know what you’re talking about, you appear to have done a thorough job of your investigation, and concluded that Christianity is correct. Are believers going to point out the mistakes? No, it checks out. Totally.

  • Other psychologists do say group hallucinations (due to the power of suggestion) are possible, but as you say that isn’t necessary as an explanation.

    I don’t agree with the “atheism is the result of daddy issues” hypothesis any more than you, but C. S. Lewis is a bad example, since he was like Lee a self-declared atheist before his conversion.

    • epicurus

      I’ve met and read too many people over my life who casually say they are an atheist but really just mean – they don’t go to church, find religion too boring to think about, or don’t think the Christian version of God exists, – to just assume they actually believe in no supernatural world at all in any shape or form. So it would be interesting to know what Strobel meant -not now, but back in the 70s or whenever it was that he called himself an atheist.

      • That’s possible yes, since so many are unaware of what “atheist” means. At least in Lewis’s case, though, it seems he was in fact an atheist (from what I’ve read of his writings). “Supernatural” beliefs are also compatible-some of the more “New Age” atheists certainly have them for instance. I don’t know about Strobel though.

    • That’s true, but I guess it depends on Vitz’s hypothesis–maybe I’m reading it wrong. I figured it was “if you have a bad father, you’ll wind up an atheist.” In the movie, the psychologist listed four famous names (Nietzsche being the only one I remember, I think) for which this was true. In that case, both Strobel and Lewis become counterexamples.

      Do you have another version of his hypothesis?

      • Yes, that is his hypothesis, but since Lewis and Strobel claim to have become atheists (with paternal estrangement) they qualify. It doesn’t say they can never become theists so far as I know. Vitz himself claims to have gone form atheist to theist (I don’t know whether he talks about his own father though).

  • Brian K

    The shroud of turin is particularly ridiculous to me. Youre telling me that an extremely sweedish looking jesus left that perfectly symmetrical, non blurred image in that sheet?

    • Michael Neville

      The thing that shoots down the Shroud of Turin for me is that the oldest document which mentions it says that it’s a forgery and the authorities know who the forger is.

      • Susan

        The thing that shoots down the Shroud of Turin for me is that the oldest document which mentions it says that it’s a forgery and the authorities know who the forger is.

        Party Pooper.

      • The fact that there was a busy market in “true relics,” shrouds included, is also worrisome for anyone who takes the Shroud seriously.

        • msm16

          There were enough fragments of the true cross in Constantinople to build Noah’s ark, and enough Lance’s of Longinus to field an army.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Jesus is perfect.
      Why wouldn’t His image be perfect ?

    • BudPillsbury

      But waitaminute…Jesus wasn’t white…….WHAT????

      😉

  • Ficino

    I think in perhaps many conversions that involve grappling with “the case for Christ” or reaching a verdict that the “evidence … demands,” the person has psychological reasons for wanting what the religion promises. Then the intellect does the work of neutralizing objections to belief.

    adding: it’s not unknown for the psychological reasons to boil down to feelings for someone meaningful to the searcher, like a boyfriend or wife …

    • epicurus

      I watched a Josh McDowell biography/dramatization and while there was an element of his going to libraries and researching his “evidence,” there was a much, much greater emphasis on how he was “mad at God” and at the end there was a scene with him playing himself where he basically says it wasn’t the evidence that got him, it was getting right with God and getting his heart right to accept God’s love.
      That pretty much plays right into so many Christian’s belief that people are atheists and in fact just plain not a Christian for emotional reasons, not intellectual or evidential reasons. Of course telling them a Mormon or Muslim will say the same thing about them falls on deaf ears

      • Yep, you atheists are just too proud to bend the knee. Either that, or you just like sinnin’ too much.

      • Kevin K

        I have never-ever met an atheist who was “mad at god”. That’s edging close to the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy, but in my experience, such a person just doesn’t exist.

        • epicurus

          Trying to persuade many Christians that atheists and non Christians are not in fact mad at God is made more difficult by the various places in the Bible, both old and new testament, where it declares that they basically are in fact, made at God. That they don’t want to believe because of pride, rebellion etc. Randal Rauser – a Christian seminary prof. who has a blog that some people here are probably familiar with, has book called “Is The Atheist My Neighbor?” That I think does a fairly good job of dealing with this idea and showing how that interpretation of the Bible is not necessarily a good one. Unfortunately, the book seemed to be mostly ignored by most evangelical christians. Not surprising I suppose. Who wants to give up a nice comfortable way to dismiss others who disagree with you that has become embedded in your belief system.

        • Kevin K

          Funny, since the whole point of the Good Samaritan parable was to define “who is my neighbor”. With the answer being “the one who was kind”.

        • epicurus

          You can be as kind as you want to people and still be mad at God, I suppose the thinking would go. And there are lots of ways to be mad at God, from anger that he let a loved one die for no reason, which means you are questioning God’s reasons, to the catch all rebellion idea – that God’s holiness is so overpowering that we feel convicted and want to get away from that conviction. RC Sproul has a book dedicated to that whole idea (If there is a God why are there atheists?). It’s a painful read, and not because he’s right.

        • Kevin K

          The rebellion idea is the worst of the worst apologetics. Because it’s so mind-numbingly idiot. In order to buy into this meme, you have to go along with the following statements.

          1. There is a god.
          2. Atheists know there is a god.
          3. Atheists know there is a god who will judge them after death.
          4. Atheists know there is a god who will judge them after death and make their eternal post-death experience unpleasant.
          5. Despite knowing 1-4, with absolute certainty, atheists do not wish to follow the rules set forth by this god. Particularly the rules about masturbation and other non-approved uses of genitalia.
          6. Therefore, despite knowing 1-4 with absolute certainty, atheists will declare there is no god in order that they can break these rule. Even though they know for a fact this will consign them to eternal torture after death.

          What is wrong with these people?

        • epicurus

          This will be evident to many here, but other religions will say that Christians are suppressing the truth inside their hearts due to pride or rebellion when confronted with the truths of the Koran or Book of Mormon. When I bring this up during conversations I’ve had with some Christians, all I’ve ever got was either a shrug of the shoulders or a “that’s why we have to use history and logic to show they are wrong” type answer, which would be fine, except they often ignore the same argument against themselves. It’s a vicious circle.

        • Kodie

          Every single one of a theist’s answers to criticism of belief covers a small hole. When you ask a different question, sometimes they have to move the patch to another hole. They never seem to notice they don’t have a full story, they are focused only on making a good answer to just that question.

        • Kodie

          But god stays hidden, because if he could not be denied, it would force everyone to become robots and remove free will.

  • wtfwjtd

    Holy Smokes! I could barely make it through “Case for Christ”, what a snooze fest. I guess I’ve found (another) cure for insomnia–actually watch this piece of crap! Who knew?
    Seriously, thanks for wading through this and writing a review Bob. I guess the whole premise is to take on the mantle of a serious investigative reporter to give cover to the weak,flimsy arguments in support of his (predetermined) conclusions. If the guy would have just said that he came around to believing because he wanted to make his wife happy, I could have cut him a lot more slack. As it is though, his dis ingenuousness at what he finds to be “convincing evidence” makes me question his credibility on pretty much everything else.
    Or maybe, it’s just another great illustration of how humans can be tough-minded and skeptical about some things–but when it comes to personal belief, we somehow bypass that skeptical process and refuse to see that we are actually allowing ourselves to believe what amounts to nonsense. Too bad.

    • yes, exactly. It’s the hypocrisy that bothers me. Don’t tell me you’re going to do an objective investigation when all you want to do is cobble together the best pro-Christian argument you can, with your conclusion decided from the beginning.

      • Dangitbobby

        If Strobel was honest, he would’ve looked at as many religions as he could, and started his investigations by critically analyzing them. Instead, he asked a few christian bible scholars, read a few bible verses, got the feels and went “REAL!”.

        • Raging Bee

          I went that route, and gave up at Mithraism when I realized that all of those religions had much the same actual wisdom and compassion at the core of their doctrines, and I wasn’t learning anything new, just looking for the next ecstatic wondrous revelation.

    • epicurus

      Imagine Strobel’s distain towards a Mormon apologist who followed the same route as Strobel, except went to Mormon history and theology profs at BYU to give him his expert evidence and proof. Suddenly Strobel’s critical thinking skills would kick right in, but he’d probably never be able to see his own hypocrisy.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yes! This isn’t a hypothetical, I’ve known many former Christian associates who fit just this description. They could tell you exactly why Mormonism was a cult, and why Joseph Smith was a fake, and do it pretty convincingly. Their same arguments, however, applied perfectly to their own belief system, but they would never admit as much. Critiquing beliefs was only for the other guy, and not for them, which is usually how most people of faith operate.

        • Dangitbobby

          Bringing up that they have the same evidence that a hindu or GASP muslim… usually shuts them up.

          I’ve actually found it easier to debate a christian by mirroring their apologetical arguments, except for another religion entirely not christian. Nothing will frustrate them faster, because they don’t offer anything more rational than a muslim or hindu would.

        • Raging Bee

          Normally they fall back on “But the Bible makes a very unique claim that no other religion makes, and that means you can’t compare our superstition with any other!” I’ve heard that a lot, though I can’t remember what the super-special unique earth-shattering claim is…

        • Pofarmer

          Jesus!

        • Raging Bee

          No, no, no, I think it was something ABOUT Jesus…

        • epicurus

          This idea of a double standard of critique is near to my heart, as it played a large role in my own deconversion. I wanted to know what I believed as a Christian was true, but when I heard people talking about the problems with “Cults” or reasons why our own religion was true, I would always think to myself that many of the problems of others applied to us, and that many of the reasons to believe ours could also apply to the other religions/cults. I’m sure you can imagine the level of enthusiasm others in my church had for this way of thinking.

          A great example, I think, is when I went to a lecture by Walter Martin (Time Warp!! anyone remember him?). His book “Kingdom of The Cults” was quite respected in evangelical circles, and he prided himself on his degree in Philosophy and his critical skills.
          At the end of the lecture of him bashing every non evangelical belief system, was the audience question period, and a guy came to the mic and asked how when he had many different groups of people knocking on his door telling him they had the truth, how he could really know which system was true.
          Martin’s answer, and he actually stood up and yelled this, was that “Christianity has been around long before these cults showed up, and it will be around long after they were gone.” Thunderous applause. The poor guy just seem to shrivel and sat down.

      • I’m always amazed (or delighted) when apologists need to use critical thinking skills, and, sure enough, they can cut through bullshit just like any of us would. How they can switch it on and off without seeing the problem is beyond me.

        I wrote about one such instance below (search for the “A rare moment of insight” section):

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/04/is-life-absurd-without-god-a-reply-to-wlcs-influential-article-william-lane-craig-reasonable-faith-3-of-3/

        • epicurus

          Thanks, Craig is a disappointment – so much potential. If his girlfriend who converted him or at least was a big influence, had been a happy smiling Mormon, he’d probably be considered one of the great Mormon apologists today.

        • Pofarmer

          so much potential

          You’d have to convince me of that.

        • epicurus

          He’s got the academic credentials, and he’s a good speaker and has the logical skills to make good arguments – It’s a good package. That he allows that to be subordinate to his faith, is what wastes the potential he has, in my opinion.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, yes, he subordinates everything to his apologetics. I haven’t seen where he really has much of anything more potential than that. He’s published very little of any actual academic content, and then it’s still tinged by his apologetics.

        • epicurus

          I’ve heard that he has produced lots of academic content, however, the acadmic content he’s published may just be in evangelical publications, I’m not sure, which then becomes suspect as they tend to be their own world, and not respected by secular religious scholars. Ack! You’re putting me in the position now of defending Craig. Dammit! My own fault I guess. 🙂

        • Pofarmer

          Don’t make me go look up his publications.(said with stern face.)

          It actually might be mildly interesting.

          I know that Sean Carroll isn’t interested in any of his output whatsoever.

    • Martin M

      atheism is nonsense! You can NOT prove God does NOT exist! and do NOt say you can not see him because I see no evolution anywhere either! evolution is falsely claimed to have happened! But where is the evidence ?? ONLY In museums controlled by people who is controlling what is viewed!

      • Greg G.

        Evidence is also in the ground where anybody could find it.

      • Joe

        evolution is falsely claimed to have happened! But where is the evidence ??

        I’d ask the same question of God.

      • Otto

        I love it when Christians are threatened by evolution….

      • Michael Neville

        Sorry, this discussion is about a movie which uses poor arguments and logical fallacies to make its point. If you want to discuss evolution then go to a biology blog.

      • Right–you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. No one here thinks otherwise. And yet we’re still atheists–we have no god belief. You think there’s a god? Then give us evidence to convince us.

        Evolution is the scientific consensus. Deal with it.

        Unless you have a doctorate in biology, you have no platform on which to stand from which to reject it.

      • Dangitbobby

        You want to see evidence of evolution? Go look real close in the mirror. You have a “third eyelid” that is a vestige, not used for anything but tear drainage. It’s a leftover from our ancient, common ancestors.

        Also, 50% of your genetic makeup is the same as a banana tree.

        Evolutionary theory predicted how bacteria would react to antibiotics over time, before bacterial resistance was a thing. That prediction came true.

        There has been several observed plants and animals that have undergone speciation. Google American goatsbeard, or Tragopogon. From the wiki article “One new species, Tragopogon miscellus, is a tetraploid hybrid of T. dubius and T. pratensis. The other species, Tragopogon mirus, is also an allopolyploid, but its ancestors were T. dubius and T. porrifolius”.

        Guess what? That new species of plant cannot mate with it’s common ancestor anymore – the very definition of evolution.

        So, several examples that have nothing to do with “museums”.

        • My favorite example is nylon-eating bacteria (search “nylonase”). Nylon didn’t exist until the 1930s.

      • RichardSRussell

        Look at the word “atheism” broken down into its component parts — “a-” (without), “-theos-” (god), and “-ism” (belief) — and you get “without god belief”. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean “denies that gods exist” or “can prove gods don’t exist”. It only means “doesn’t have a belief in god”. You know, the way every single human being on Earth starts out and continues until the brainwashing sets in.

      • Lark62

        You cannot prove Bigfoot does not exist.
        You cannot prove talking trees do not exist.
        You cannot prove invisible flying unicorns are not making out on your bedroom ceiling.
        You cannot prove Yahweh exists.

        The number of things that cannot be proven is infinite.

        That is why rational people discard claims made without evidence.

      • Kevin K

        Here’s your challenge. I say that Hinduism is correct, and Brahma exists.

        If you can prove to me that Brahma doesn’t exist, then we can take the next step. Which would be to prove that Zeus doesn’t exist (a god who was far more popular than Yahweh 2000 years ago). And then you can prove Osiris doesn’t exist. And then you can prove Quetzalcoatl doesn’t exist. And on and on until we get to the last god, which will be Yahweh.

        And every single argument you’ve used to prove all those other gods don’t exist — those are the arguments we’ll use with regard to Yahweh.

        Oh, BTW. Quotes from holy books don’t count as “proof”.

      • Raging Bee

        Well, that’s still more evidence for evolution than you have for your silly-assed little god.

        And yes, for all practical purposes, we HAVE proven the non-existence of gods, just as we’ve proven the non-existence of zombies, vampires, werewolves, and invisible pink unicorns. There’s never been sufficient evidence that any of those creatures exist, there’s no valid science that hints they might exist, and those who claim they do have been shown to have little or no credibility; therefore we plan our days, and our lives, without having to worry about being attacked by vampires, or hitting invisible pink unicorns when we’re driving at speed on highways. As it is with mythical beasts, so it is with gods.

        • wtfwjtd

          In this case, clearly, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

        • Raging Bee

          And for all practical purposes, CONSISTENT absence of evidence, and CONSISTENT inability of believers to even agree on the nature of their gods, and CONSISTENT dishonesty and irrationality on the part of so many believers, is PROOF of absence. None of that lot have squat, and they can’t even agree on which version of god we’re not supposed to be able to disprove.

      • adam
      • BlackMamba44
    • Lark62

      “I guess I’ve found (another) cure for insomnia”

      Look at the bright side. It is guaranteed not to be habit forming.

      • Mike

        “It is guaranteed not to be habit forming.”

        Unless, you find it so convincing that you join a convent and become a nun.

  • G.Shelley

    I knew the arguments were terrible – I’ve read a couple of refutations, though anyone with even a little knowledge can do it themselves, so I always assumed Strobel was a pretend atheist. I never thought that anyone could actually be convinced by such weak arguments. Guess I was wrong

    • The choice that leaps out–Strobel’s an idiot and can’t see that his evidence sucks–is hard to buy. I think it’s likelier that he simply believes for emotional reasons, and these “arguments” are just a smokescreen so he can (try to) preserve some intellectual integrity.

      • One of the important “proofs” he uses at the end of “A Case for Christ” (and probably expands on in some of his other books) is his own changed life: how he got rid of most of his anger, etc. as a result of accepting Jesus.

        To which I respond that giving yourself higher ideals can help you live a better life, whether or not Jesus is currently watching you (or even existed).

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Not to mention that as men age and their testosterone levels drop, they naturally tend toward being less prone to get angry without a reason. So, congratulations, Strobel, Jesus changed you by letting you age naturally. Wowee. It’s a miracle.

        • G.Shelley

          CS Lewis addresss this in “mere Christianity” If Jesus changes people, how come Christians are not perfect (obviously not part of the Chick tract theological arm of Christianity).
          He argued that it was a slow process of improvement, but that a Christian would be a better person with Jesus working them than if not

        • I’d agree that if a person is working with better principles they will probably end up a better person. That doesn’t require Jesus to be around today supervising the process.

        • G.Shelley

          I guess, but how do we even tell? “He’s a bit better than he would be otherwise?”
          “Yeah, he murdered 10 people, but if he wasn’t a Christian, I’ll bet it would have been 11”

        • Ah, but Christians are perfect!

          1 John 5:18 “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

          1 John 3:6 “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”

          1 John 3:9 “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

          (Of course, there’s still the No True Scotsman problem.)

        • G.Shelley

          Thanks. I’d wondered where Chick Tracts get the idea that as soon as someone accepts Jesus, the Sin Demons are banished and they are no longer gay/pedophiles/addicted to drugs/angry etc (or whatever sin the particular tract is focusing on)

      • DrewTwoFish

        I think many people work backwards. Most, though, probably don’t even examine the reasons for their belief.

        • Lark62

          I disagree. I know lots of people who carefully examined the claims of multiple religions and weighed the validity of every major holy book before inviting jesus into their heart at age 5.

          /s

        • DrewTwoFish

          Of course there are some but do you honestly think that MOST people do that? I think it’s pretty safe to say that most most accept the validity of their particular holy book because of tradition and relationships. I certainly know people whose confidence in Christianity’s claims was cemented by books like Strobel’s but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they didn’t spend much if any time looking at OPPOSING texts. (Sorry for the capitals but italics aren’t available to me in this setting.)

          I get it. It’s not that hard to understand. Someone you know and trust passes on this set of beliefs that is important to them. It’s only natural that one would give that special credence. I did. And it was relationships that kept me tethered to Xianity as long as I was.

        • Lark62

          Gotcha. Re-read my post, noting the snark indicator.

        • DrewTwoFish

          LOL. I must read more carefully.

        • G.Shelley

          I thought the “at the age of 5” rendered the snark indicator unnecessary

        • Lark62

          I sometimes read posts too quickly myself.

        • G.Shelley

          That is easy. I have written posts that were so obviously dripping with sarcasm that I didn’t think anyone could take them seriously and had people think I meant them.
          Still, I think if someone is so enraged they miss the “age of 5”, the “snark indicator” probably won’t register either

        • Greg G.

          It is hard to do obvious snark toward religion when there are sincere believers who will argue even weirder things are fact.

      • RichardSRussell

        “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”

        —Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptic Society, Why People Believe Weird Things (2002)

      • G.Shelley

        That makes sense, but then why the book? The movie I am sure isn’t meant to convince people, just to make Christians feel good, like the vast majority of Christian movies, but was the motivation for the book really just to give believers who weren’t willing to investigate the feeling that they actually had looked into it and had their beliefs confirmed? Or was it ever intended to be able to persuade people?
        Rhetorical question to an extent, because there is no way we can really look inside his head and see his motivations, but I do wonder

        • Reading the conclusion (which he calls “The verdict of history”), I think it is unquestionable that he thinks he has a rock solid case, and that he expects readers to agree with him. Josh McDowell was similar. Take this section:

          I’ll admit it: I was ambushed by the amount and quality of the evidence that Jesus is the unique Son of God. As I sat at my desk that Sunday afternoon, I shook my head in amazement. I had seen defendants carted off to the death chamber on much less convincing proof! The cumulative facts and data pointed unmistakably toward a conclusion that I wasn’t entirely comfortable in reaching.

          And that he wants readers to follow:

          Resolve that you’ll reach a verdict when you’ve gathered a sufficient amount of information, knowing that you’ll never have full resolution of every single issue. You may even want to whisper a prayer to the God who you’re not sure exists, asking him to guide you to the truth about him.

          I do feel a strong obligation to urge you to make this a front-burner issue in your life. Don’t approach it casually or flippantly, because there’s a lot riding on your conclusion.

          I don’t see anything to suggest he’s putting on a show – he takes it seriously (including using such fun debating tricks as threatening readers with dying in their sins if he is right about Jesus and they don’t accept him).

        • I agree that these authors aren’t lying, though I do wonder if some of the bravado is meant to bolster their own faith.

          The image comes to mind of a positive feedback loop, where one person says he’s confident that Jesus exists, and then the other says he’s really confident, and the first says he’s certain, and so on.

        • That makes sense.
          The way many of the key apologists quote each other (Habermas, Craig, Strobel, etc.), particularly around there being no other explanation than the resurrection, really sounds like a feedback loop (or an echo chamber).

    • Martin M

      so now you doubt that a person who says he is an atheist is really an atheist! That is ridicules and silly!

      • G.Shelley

        I doubt that any person could be convinced by such poor arguments. I am sure no rational person could be

      • That’s not what GS said.

        The apologetic arguments suck. If they convinced him, then he might well have had no god belief (he was an atheist), but he wasn’t a well-informed atheist.

      • Dangitbobby

        He was likely an atheist. But just because he was an atheist doesn’t mean he was a skeptic or had performed any critical analysis of religion.

        I know a few atheists in real life. Several are atheists because they never bothered to think about it and simply don’t care. I would say Strobel fell into that category.

        • Pofarmer

          I think in reading about Strobel, that he was more of a hedonist, and, for some reason, that get’s equated with atheism.

        • wtfwjtd

          And the thing I’ve always wondered is, what’s wrong with a little hedonism? It’s like anything fun or enjoyable has to be immoral and sinful, in the fundamentalist culture. Ugh, what miserable existence, been there, done that.

          And yet, they just can’t seem to understand why people are leaving it in droves.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s a power level. First you decree that humanity is generally bad and immoral (orriginal sin) and come up with a bunch of proscriptions to remedy that. Obviously, if man is normally bad, anything enjoyable is also bad, and an affront to the creator deity, so musty be avoided.

        • Raging Bee

          …by religious bigots looking to reinforce their stereotypes.

      • RichardSRussell

        Ever hear of people who were actually gay who had to pretend they were straight? Or light-skinned black people passing for white? Or girls dressing up like boys so they could join the navy? Bet you think all those are “ridiculous and silly” too, don’t you?

      • Pofarmer

        The problem is, in Christian apologetic circles, this is a very common thing. Captain Cassidy at Roll to Disbelieve has written on it quite a bit.

      • Raging Bee

        …says the guy who can’t even spell “ridiculous.”

        • Kevin K

          Spring break at Liberty University, obviously.

        • Raging Bee

          Or maybe this is how he gets a decent grade before spring break.

        • Kevin K

          Which class? Apologetics 101? Or Ranting at Atheists 140?

        • Raging Bee

          There’s a difference?

        • Kevin K

          Yes, you need to pass Apologetics 101 to move on to Apologetics 201. Have to pass all four Apologetics classes to get your degree.

          Ranting at Atheists is an elective. Like bowling when I went to college. It’s an “easy A”.

    • primenumbers

      I doubt you’re wrong though.

  • epicurus

    Robert M Price has pretty good book refuting Strobel’s book. Price also knows many of the people Strobel talks too and provides some insight into their history. I read it when it first came out but didn’t take any notes, so can’t give any examples.
    https://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-Christ-Testament-Reverend-ebook/dp/B00J0OPUZM/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

  • Sophia Sadek

    I am not so sure that Gerd Lüdemann qualifies as an atheist.

    • Good catch, but I’m unable to find anything definite. Wikipedia categorizes him in with the “German agnostics.” If you can find something reliable, I’ll change it as necessary.

      • Sophia Sadek

        He comes across to me as an aspiring Christian theologian. That is not something that an atheist would do.

        • bamboodread

          I still love you Sophia Sadek!!!

    • Pofarmer

      Gerd Ludemann actually get’s listed as a Jesus Mythicist. How was he used in the movie?

      • He was cited as an atheist-ish authority as in, “Even Gerd Ludemann thinks that Paul’s creed in 1 Cor. 15 dates to within 3 years of the resurrection, for Pete’s sake!!!”

  • Martin M

    I saw the movie and it is awesome!

    • Otto

      I bet you liked Caddyshack 2….

    • Michael Neville

      Even better than The Phantom Menace?

    • Tell us more. I found the apologetics arguments very weak. How about you?

    • Peter_J88
    • RichardSRussell

      awesome (adj.) 1590s, “profoundly reverential,” from awe (n.) + -some (1). Meaning “inspiring awe or dread” is from 1670s; weakened colloquial sense of “impressive, very good” is recorded by 1961 and was in vogue from after c. 1980.

    • G.Shelley

      In what way?
      Well acted? Believable characters? Realistic plot? Good use of dramatic tension?

    • Rob Cahill

      Judging by past posts from Martin M I don’t think he’s playing with a full deck.

  • Pofarmer

    I see Easter has brought the usual dumbass avalanche.

  • Kevin K

    …so, the nonbelieving psychologist — and a FAMOUS PSYCHOLOGIST™ at that — declares that all atheists have “daddy issues”?

    If that isn’t a McGuffin, I don’t know what is.

    • Raging Bee

      …and atheism is an indicator of “daddy issues,” therefore tautology, right?

      • Annerdr

        But I love my father, and he’s very kind and loving in return. So is that my “daddy issue”? That we have a good relationship?

        • Raging Bee

          Sounds like a weak father. So yes, there’s your daddy issue. QED

        • Annerdr

          Good point. He’s 85. He’s not particularly strong, although he still lifts weights some and walks as far as his 1 1/2 lungs will let him.

        • Raging Bee

          Was he cutting back on standard American meat and starches and eating more veggies instead, like a new-age sap? That’d be strike two.

        • Annerdr

          No, my parents don’t expect or want to prolong their lives any further. They eat chili dogs and pastrami sandwiches and fruit/vegetables only when someone makes it for them.

        • Raging Bee

          Either that, or you’re not really an atheist, you’re secretly angry at God.

        • msm16

          God broke my roller-skates!!!! But papa fixed them! <3 papa!

          (Seriously my father fixed my roller blades many times, which makes him better than God in my book.)

        • Kevin K

          Depends. Does he love you in return only when mommy isn’t around?

        • Annerdr

          Ha!

  • Hrafn

    How many of these ‘experts’ were actually in Chicago at the time of Strobel’s purported conversion? This whole “Case” gives the suspicion that it is an ex post facto ‘reimagining’/rationalisation, to make his original conversion appear more intellectually-based and less knee-jerk.

    • I have yet to see a conversion that isn’t either (1) emotion-based (rather than intellectual) or (2) coming from an atheist who was unfamiliar with the atheist or Christian arguments. Based on the movie, I’m guessing both in the case of Strobel.

      • Kevin K

        And again, I kick myself for not having saved several research papers from the sociology literature that I had accumulated with regard to conversion experiences. As I recall, you’re right. They definitely happen, but they’re usually dramatic and very fast, rather than a slow exploration of the “facts” and reasoning yourself into belief.

        What do you make of Francis Collins and his “frozen waterfall”? I’ve always thought it too precious by half — but if true, it would be the exception that proves the rule.

        • Yes, I’ve heard of Collins’ frozen waterfall. I wonder if he ever feels embarrassed if he has to tell that story in a mixed crowd (that is, Christians and skeptics).

          It seems like an emotional conversion to me. I don’t see it testing the rule at all.

        • Kevin K

          I read his book (while standing, in a Barnes and Noble; it didn’t take that long). The way he describes it is that he decided “rationally” there was a god, but then had to decide which religion he should be.

          While he was pondering this momentous decision — which religion out of thousands — he came across the frozen waterfall, and decided based on that imagery that he should become a Christian.

          (sarcasm on) Him being surrounded by Christians and Christianity had nothing to do with it, I’m sure. (sarcasm off)

          There’s also the issue of the fact that he chose Christianity because the frozen waterfall represented the Trinity. Well, if he were so un-versed in religion, how in the world would he be so familiar with the Trinity?

          I’m sure he believes every word of this tale — but when I was 12, I was convinced I could leave my body and fly around. (I had a lot of those dreams — I miss them; flying was fun.)

        • He was puzzling religions and sees the waterfall. It was just a coincidence. The waterfall was particularly meaningful because what he happened to be thinking of.

          All of us have had similar coincidences. I give the Creator of the Universe© credit for being able to make his message clearer than that.

        • Kevin K

          I think Kahneman calls this the “availability heuristic”. Though I’ll have to go back into his writings to confirm.

          Good stuff, Kahneman.

        • Pofarmer

          Like Strobel, Collins wife was already Christian, so I imagine that there was pressure to convert and it would make life easier. My own wife is at Stations of the Cross right now, but I don’t see the whole conversion thing happening anytime soon.

        • Widuran

          Actually many men do not convert to Christianity due to their wives in fact it is the other way round if husbands are christians the wives follow. Stats prove this

        • Pofarmer

          Talking specific instances, not generally, but would be interested to see “stats”.

  • Herald Newman

    Does anybody know how much of the movie is supposed to be based on actual events? Can anybody confirm that Lee’s daughter choked on a gumball and was saved by a nurse who had Jesus tell her go to a different restaurant?

    I really have my suspicions that this event is a fabrication, meant to be a plot device, rather than being “based on actual events.”

    • Kevin K

      Yeah, it’s the classic script-writing trope of “The Cavalry”. They arrive just in time to save the day.

    • The rough outline matches what I’ve heard him say elsewhere, but all I’d heard was that his wife went on some sort of spiritual quest and decided to become a Christian. I can imagine that if it was some sort of vague longing that pushed her, that’s not the best from a plot standpoint. I could easily see the gumball incident as a Hollywood embellishment.

      • Lerk!

        I only got through part of the book because it was so clearly full of embellished memories! Nearly every paragraph contained minute details that he could not possibly have remembered about how the person folded their arms, or looked at him with a twinkle in their eye before sitting down, or some such. Sure, a person might remember some of that, but it was with every interview, and many such details per interview.

        The fact that he only interviewed people whom he knew would try to convince him that it was real says to me that he really, really wanted to believe it going in. From what you say here about the story as portrayed in the movie, the drama going on in his household might very well have gotten him to the point of wishing for miracles.

  • Pofarmer

    she declares that group hallucinations don’t happen.

    Maybe not hallucinations per se, but group delusions certainly do. Look at the “miracle of the sun” at Fatima, for instance.

    • Herald Newman

      It is really surprising that people start seeing weird things when they stare at the sun?

    • great point

    • primenumbers

      If science says group hallucinations don’t happen that’s fine, as long as you accept that science also says men never come back from the dead three days later. If swoon theory is impossible, then coming back from the dead is more impossible. But of course a Christian apologist would never make fallacious arguments, lie or engage in wanton confirmation bias, would they?

    • D Rieder

      I’m for some dreams that might have occurred days, weeks or even years after Christ’s death the transformed into real life events.

      No “group hallucinations” explanation needed. All someone needed to do was to have had a dream that they were at an event where Christ appeared and in that dream there were hundreds of onlookers. That dream gets told and repeated and with multiple tellings, the onlookers transform into witnesses until Paul hears of it. And by that time, the part of the story that it was a dream is forgotten and it becomes a real event. Furthermore no one can, or even wants to, check who those “witnesses” might have been. Since there are other dream accounts of a risen savior floating around…a dream about Jesus walking with a couple of people on a road, a dream about Jesus appearing to some people in a room this fits in nicely. And Paul himself believes Christ appeared to him in a dream so he’s not going to dig too deeply about whether some account is true or not.

  • Mark Landes

    “where the pastor talks about people turning away from the church simply because of bad experiences with the church, not because it’s not true.” A FAVORITE xtian straw-man argument.

  • Dago Red

    This story of Strobel’s is just another real life example of how modern Christian thought has simply become interchangeable with the pompous and arrogant attitudes found in the noble classes of old-world Europe who, too, thought they were the pinnacle of humanity. Hans Christian Anderson wrote “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to criticize these upper classes, but its amazing today how well this story works as an unintended satirical metaphor of modern Christian apologetics too — with Christianity itself being a stand it for the Emperor and Strobel’s ‘case’ representing the magical clothes that only Christians are able to find compelling. Strobel, perhaps along with Josh McDowell, are perfectly represented in this fable as the two weaver’s who explain that their “case” and “evidence” remain invisible to those who are unfit, stupid, or incompetent…when all along there is simply nothing either of them presents that even a child would find the least bit compelling.

  • Widuran

    The article starts of ok but ends poorly. But this is a biography