Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, by Lee Strobel

This is supposedly the tale of a skeptic investigating the historical evidence of the existence of Christ. While Strobel may have been a skeptic at one point in his life, he clearly isn’t now. The story is that of a non-believer using investigative journalism to prove or disprove the story of Christ (although the outcome is never in doubt). The author used to be a reporter covering courtrooms and the style is very reminiscent of your favorite courtroom drama. Or to be more accurate, the prosecution side of a courtroom drama—there is no rebuttal so the presentation is entirely one sided. Like any good lawyer, several opposing factors are discussed (such as gospels excluded from the Bible containing contradictory evidence) but never in any serious detail. The reader is supposed to walk away convinced that an objective truth stating that Jesus Christ is the son of God has been established beyond any doubt, but the lack of any believable counterarguments make it impossible to accept this.

I found that while clearly biased the book effectively supports the argument that a man named Jesus existed and was the leader of a revolutionary faith. The author does a good job of examining historical and archaeological contexts and making the case that Jesus was not a myth. The problem comes when the subject of faith arises; because much of the New Testament can be shown to be historically accurate, we are expected to believe that it all is. While an interesting read, I still wasn’t convinced to make this leap.

I finished this a few weeks ago, but have been fairly busy and just now getting around to discussing it. When I read a book, I try and keep a set of Post-It® Flags at hand to mark passages I might discuss in this forum. Interestingly, I found that of the dozen or so flags I used while reading, virtually none of the marked passages still held much interest to me. Some excerpts I’d marked were flat out unbelievable (such as an argument that canon had no relationship to church politics) while others were simply silly (the implication that this book doesn’t have a theological agenda). The only section that still had any impact was the conclusion. The reader is told that a person can’t think of Jesus as simply a great moral teacher, but must believe that either he is the Son of God or a lunatic. I find this an extremely odd assertion for a text that is supposedly trying to present a balanced message; I think this could have been much more effective as a tool for modifying beliefs if the “evidence” had been simply presented, with the conclusions left to the reader. If I’m forced to choose between only dogma and dementia, this book did nothing to sway my beliefs towards the former.

First Sentence:
When I first met shy and soft-spoken Leo Carter, he was a seventeen-year-old veteran of Chicago’s grittiest neighborhood.

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