This morning I saw this tweet and quickly responded, ‘April Fools’ jokes work better when they’re not as obvious!’
Well, the joke’s on me because it wasn’t a joke. It’s a real review by two of my favorite podcasters. So, I was pranked, accidentally!
Why do I share this? Well, I think it’s important to soundly critique this book. Not only is it clearly apologetical but it’s misleading. When I read The Case for Christ in my early twenties I was wowed. I thought Strobel was a hard-headed skeptic who had done these interviews from that position who had in-turn been convinced of the accuracy of the Gospels. This isn’t the case. Strobel had been an active Christian (even a pastor!) for sometime prior to working on this book. Whether Strobel intended to mislead is not for me to say…but he did and the book does.
To the point about being apologetics: it’s written as if the scholars being interviewed represent the guild. They’re not. They represented evangelical Christianity. This doesn’t mean they can’t be correct about a lot. It just means the book was misleading to my twenty-something mind. This podcast episode does a good job of exposing the over-simplifications and outright errors of this book.
So, it wasn’t a joke, but I’m glad I checked because it’s probably a more in-depth evaluation of the book than it ever deserved!
3 Replies to “A review of Lee Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’”
Back when Strobel was first getting lots of attention, I decided to read “The Case for Christ”. From what I’d heard, I sensed it might become a popular work. I imagine he took inspiration from “Who Moved the Stone?” of earlier years, and it’s popularity, and modeled his approach similarly… or after other supposedly history-based books on “Christian Evidences” (apologetics).
I had enough experience with this approach and its arguments, having used many of them myself in earlier years, that I was not “snowed” by any means, but realized many non-studious people or trusting souls genuinely seeking, would likely be.
So I thought, right away, it was a detrimental book. But even I basically trusted his personal story and its claims. Later I read about what you’re sharing and realized his approach was not only misguided but also, apparently, dishonest. (If so, to me, entirely discredited.)
Aside from that aspect, people should better understand that the widely lauded “historical evidence” and “eyewitness testimony” approach to bolstering faith itself ignores key historical data, and misunderstands the nature of ancient oral/literary forms, including the Gospels and Acts.
As I point out in an article on Jesus’ ascension at https://SpiritLifeQuest.com, a key point is that only Paul, among definitely known NT authors, could and briefly did speak about direct encounters with the living Jesus…. as visionary experience. Jesus’ direct disciples might have been able to leave us such accounts, especially if Jesus had bodily form after dying, but apparently they didn’t put anything into writing. Nor were their experiences recounted by anyone for a good 40 to 60 years, AFTER their base in Jerusalem and the Temple (where they still worshiped, per Acts) were destroyed. (Not a good way to pass along “historical” information.)
Sorry, I didn’t proofread adequately, so the link is wrong… should be https://SpirituallifeQuest.com.
It’s interesting that so many Christians need their narratives and theology to be verifiable in the same way that we might see in a good work of modern journalism or a scientific journal. We’re just not going to get that from the ancients—whether their writings are scripture or not. These texts have value if we allow them to be what they are.