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The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Case for ... Series) Paperback – September 6, 2016
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About the Author
Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times bestselling author of more than forty books and curricula that have sold fourteen million copies. He was described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists.” He currently leads the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. He and Leslie have been married forty-eight years. Visit him at LeeStrobel.com.
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0310345863
- ISBN-13 : 978-0310345862
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.88 x 8.5 inches
- Item Weight : 10.7 ounces
- Publisher : Zondervan; Updated, Expanded edition (September 6, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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However, after reading this book, I can say the atheist narrative simply does not hold water with me. Strobel was clearly not trying to disprove Christianity here - not even to "give it a fair trial by weighing the evidence".
In the first chapter, he describes what began the journey - his wife converted to Christianity (much to his dismay), but then he noticed that she was becoming a better person. He says, “Instead, I was pleasantly surprised – even fascinated – by the fundamental changes in her character, her integrity, and her personal confidence ... I wanted to get to the bottom of what was prompting these subtle but significant shifts in my wife's attitudes". This is a great motivation to investigate the religion - but it is certainly not what the popular (and movie) narrative suggests - something like 'I set out to show her that Christianity is a sham'.
Secondly, every scholar Strobel interviews is a Christian, most seminary-educated and many actively working at a seminary. We know this from the pages of credentials Strobel gives us and his habit of asking every expert if their research has strengthened or reduced their faith (spoiler: all say strengthened). This is not to say Christians aren't good scholars (two of them are undeniably genuine experts in their fields - hailed by Christian and secular scholars), but I find it very hard to believe a committed atheist would forego all secular scholars and seek out only Christians for an objective look at the evidence. I suspect the purpose was to present the illusion that all biblical scholars are strengthened in their faith due to their research, which simply is not the case.
Thirdly, and most importantly for me, I do not feel Strobel gives skepticism the trial he claims to, nor the trial it deserves. He is content to accept vague and/or circular explanations (we should trust the disciples' word in the Bible because we have no reason not to - after all they wrote the Bible) and toward the middle and end of the book he is actually putting arguments for Christianity into the mouths of the experts (isn't it true that there is proof of the eclipse at the Crucifixion because a church historian quoted a lost text that talked about it?). He ignores major controversies outright and skirts legitimate problems about biblical authorship, biblical inconsistency, translation/transcription issues, etc. that any half-interested skeptic would know about and takes almost every assertion presented without question.
In the rare case that Strobel does raise a somewhat skeptical objection, he generally presents the most outrageous position a skeptic could take, setting up a strawman argument. An example of what I mean (obviously paraphrased for brevity):
Strobel: Are there non-Christian sources that support the story of Jesus as described in the Bible?
Expert: Yes (a generally cogent argument here)
Strobel: But wait, this author says that Jesus never even existed! What do you say to that?
Expert: We're confident Jesus existed because we have snippets of text that mention him in a Jewish religious book, a pair of Jewish/Roman histories, and a Roman letter.
Strobel: Clearly, there is overwhelming corroborative evidence that Jesus is the unique Son of God!
My problem with this is that the objection raised is extreme - *most* academics and people at large - including atheists - accept that a man named Jesus probably existed, they're just not sure that he was who Christians have claimed he was (God). Secondly, showing that a human being named Jesus very likely lived does not prove that he is divine, walked on water, or that any other unusual claim in the Bible is true. This is what the skeptical atheist should point out here. But by presenting the argument this way, he is waving off all legitimate opposition by deconstructing the least plausible of them all (and offering minimal scrutiny to the endeavor).
In sum, what all of these means to me is that Strobel is either greatly exaggerating his motivation/backstory (an atheist setting out to disprove Christianity) to create a more compelling apologetic, or he is terribly negligent as a skeptic in his investigation.
As such, I can only recommend this book to those seeking a confirmation of their active Christian faith. It will be extremely effective for those well-indoctrinated with the faith but starting to have doubts. It will be much less effective for one's skeptical atheist friend who they genuinely hope will be swayed by the overwhelming evidence and arguments in this book.
If you want a 'fair trial', read The Case for Christ alongside a truly skeptical perspective (I personally like Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, by Bart Ehrman) and determine what you believe. My guess is that your conclusion will be the same as where you started, but at least you will have given multiple perspectives a chance.
For me, the most infuriating argument is the claim that the large number of serving Christian manuscripts relative to the other ancient writing is somehow a point in favor of accuracy. They somehow failed to mention that the 4th century Christian establishment conveniently burned everybody else's book - as well as other Christian writings that didn't conform to their newly (4th century) established orthodoxies. Of course there are more surviving Christian manuscripts - you burned everything else. Homer wrote 12 epic poems - only have the Iliad and the Odessey survived. The entire works of Epicurus, the recipient of much Christian slander, were reduced to a few fragments.
If Christ really was what modern Christians say he was, why didn't he leave us an undeniably reliable record? Theologians can't answer that question, and without answering it, they have no case. After all, God is omniscient and omnipotent. Surely he could have figured out how to leave an unambiguous record of his only son's years on Earth.
The really great thing about Lee's "investigation" was that he set out to prove that his wife, who became a believer, and all the rest of us, were caught up in a huge scam. Experts in the fields where Lee's questions could be addressed were engaged in this quest. This book is not fiction!
Also, the movie, if you see it, does a great job of summarizing the whole investigation, and you get to "meet" those who were called on to fully answer Lee's questions, and they are not actors.
Top reviews from other countries
Okay, there was some information that I didn't know about some historical sources, and a few moments where I paused for thought and even re-evaluated what I thought I knew (e.g. the common mantra that the gospels were written many decades after Jesus' alleged death). However, Strobel (who is supposed to be a hard-nosed investigative journalist who delves into the details) seems to be the most easily-convinced man in history. By the middle of the book he's talking about God as if it's a given that God exists.
The interviewees are clearly experts in the their fields, but they spew an enormous amount of conjecture. 95% of their source of knowledge is from the gospels - they do a good job of spinning their assertions that everything in the gospels is 100% reliable (even though the many contradictions are discussed at length) but personally I was left with the same doubts as before... if the gospels are based on a story which has been hugely embellished and exaggerated, and borrows elements from other mythical stories, then all of their arguments crumble without much prodding.
Ultimately it's quite a boring read... by the time you get to the 8th interviewee and - guess what - he's a God-believing Biblical studies PhD too, you know how the conversation is going to proceed and what Strobel's conclusion will be.
Even though he tries to argue against it, I would of liked to see a bit more oposition against the case.
I would recommend this book for anyone who is looking to Christianity as well as any Christian who wants to learn how much evidence there is for the case of Jesus's resurrection.
4 stars for the job of putting all the evidence together And making it easy to read.
It’s factual, presents real proof and any skeptic would be hard pushed to argue with provable facts. Easy to digest and really fascinating. I bought this second-have copy for my partner who is mostly skeptical of the stories in the bible.
Whether you are already a Christian, a skeptic, curious or want answers I can’t recommend it enough.
The author also cites the Quran in a hostile way to suggest that the Quran is less reliable since it denies historical reality. Actually this is not true. Competent Quranic scholars will tell you that the verse in question appears in the context of a rebuttal to certain jews who claimed to have killed Jesus ( see Nasr ‘The Study Quran et al on this point). Nor are Ahmadiya ‘muslims’ considered orthodox by either the Sunnis or the Shia.
A further example of this prejudice is seen when it is claimed that Muhammad produced no sign to motivate belief in himself. Once again, this is not the case according to traditional accounts. Apart from the Quran itself ( which requires knowledge of Arabic to appreciate), Muhammad also performed a number of miracles, many similar to Jesus.
Strobel would have done better to stick to the religion he has studied rather than the one he clearly hasn’t.