Book Review: The Case for Christ By Lee Strobel

There are pretty much two books, that have been recommended to me over and over.  That’s Mere Christianity By C.S. Lewis and this book The Case for Christ By Lee Strobel.  I just ordered Mere Christianity so that book review will probably be posted in a little bit. Lee Strobel has been highly recommended because he was a former atheist now turned Christian.  Strobel took an investigative style approach to christianity and sought out leading christian scholars to get his questions answered.  He interviewed heavy hitters like: William Lane Craig, Bruce Metzger, J.P. Moreland, Craig Bloomberg, Gary Habermas, and many others, etc.

He has written other books like the Case for Faith, and the Case for the Creator, but for anyone who would want a snapshot of the book you can watch his trailer on YouTube here.

Pros:  Surprisingly, the Book actually got better the more I read it.  The most impressive thing about The Case for Christ was its selection of Christian Scholars.  I was impressed, because in my own personal studies of questioning and doubting my faith these were some of the same guys I read articles from.  Especially William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland who were probably the two most influential on me.  He even had the late Bruce Metzger who is respected by both secular and christian scholars.

The breakdown of the book is sectioned into three parts, 1) The Record;  with a focus on historical manuscript evidence, textual criticism and Archeology.  2) Analyzing Jesus;  Analyzing the profile of Jesus and the Christ.  3) Researching the Resurrection.  The last section on the resurrection was hands down the most interesting and informative.  It really opened my eyes and mind, with my favorite Chapter being Chapter 12-The Evidence for the Missing Body.  Dr. Craig provided a very compelling argument for the events surrounding Jesus’ death and tomb.  Then capped it off with a very thought-provoking question; especially for those skeptics who believe Jesus may have existed but that Jesus was not who he said he was.

“There was nobody who was claiming that the tomb still contained Jesus’ body.  The question always was, ‘What happened to the body?’(The Case for Christ, Pg. 297)

Cons:  Even though there were parts I enjoyed, there were equally as much parts that made me want to pull my hair out; mainly the first section, because this is what I was most familiar with and spent so much personal time studying.  It started on pg. 26 of the book, when the Christian Scholar Dr. Craig Bloomberg stating in the beginning, that “It’s important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the gospels are written anonymous.”  However even in knowing that; he still believes they written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which is a belief only repeated on the basis of church tradition.  Furthermore, when pressured with the question of certainty on authorship he implores Lazy Logic and responds with…”So to answer your question, there would not have been any reason to attribute authorship to these three less respected people if it weren’t true.”(Pg. 27)  Pretty much he is saying in argument, ‘Who else could of wrote it?’

This is not the only section where Lazy Logic is implored, but it also used in the reconciling of the discrepant bible difficulties of the Genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.  Instead of concluding with sound reason, Lazy Logic is used in saying it could have possibly been that one genealogy is Joseph’s and the other Mary’s.  Or that one is a legal genealogy and the other is a biological genealogy.

In addition to that, all of the extra-biblical historical accounts referenced in the Case for Christ are not eyewitness accounts.  Not only that, the Gospels themselves are not even consider eyewitness accounts.  They are not considered eyewitness accounts because 1.They are written some 30-50 years after Jesus died.  2.The literary style does not reflect an eyewitness account because it was written in third-person.

The reason I am being so nit-picky on this section, is because I have personally spent so much time studying and reading about early christian history and textual criticism, that to give a very lazy answer is unsettling.  I personally think the first part of the book should have been retitled: Introduction to Early Christian History, because that is what it was; An Introduction.

Final Thought:  Lastly, probably the biggest folly to the book was its own skepticism.  Given that he was the only skeptic in the book and he interviewed only Christian scholars and no atheist/skeptic scholars; one begins to question the unbiased journalistic investigation.  Nonetheless, I would highly recommend the book for anyone who is interested in this topic because he it is probably the most deep and thorough theological and archaeological christian book on this topic, but if you have many tough skeptical questions the Case for Christ may still leave you with a lot of unanswered questions.  Because the book will only go so deep.

 

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
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18 Responses to Book Review: The Case for Christ By Lee Strobel

  1. ... Zoe ~ says:

    This book is one of the books I read while still a Christian and I was hopeful that I could use it as an evangelistic tool. At the time I read the book, a young man was staying with us. He was 19 years old at the time. Also the son of a former preacher and the grandson of a world-wide evangelist. At the time he was not a Christian and I had hopes that this book would save him. I encouraged him to read one of the chapters. Can’t remember which one. The next morning he told me he did not read the recommended chapter. He read another. Then he asked me a question and left me speechless. I could not answer him. The book did not answer him. (I do not remember the question.) I went on to read The Case For Faith and by that time both books left me empty. Nothing here. That was the sense. Nothing that could help me hold on to Christ or my faith. I’ve long since moved on from apologetic discussions and the need to bother with them but I do remember they were an important part of my life at one time.

  2. Nate says:

    This is pretty much how I felt after reading The Case for Faith. Nice job on your review.

    One thing that’s always bugged me about the empty tomb argument is that they assume Jesus and his followers were so important to everyone else at the time. They ask why people didn’t argue with them about the tomb, or present Jesus’ body, etc. Yet do we do this with people who think Elvis is still alive? Or JFK? Do we open up their tombs just to show a few conspiracy theorists that they’re wrong? We usually dismiss them and don’t worry ourselves with it too much. I think it’s the same thing with Jesus and the early Christians. They were a small sect, and most people seemed to regard them as wackos. I imagine it was only after the gospels had been circulating for a number of years that anyone might have been interested enough to look into the matter more closely. But by then, several decades had passed. There may not have been much of anyone left who had any idea where the tomb was.

  3. unklee says:

    G’day M, I think I agree with much of your review also. The scholars are impressive and the arguments are good, but the sceptical side is only presented second hand. But ….

    1. If I recall correctly, scholars believe that the names of the authors were not included in the actual text, but the scroll was labelled. If so, then this doesn’t prove the named authors are correct, but it lends weight to that idea. Maurice Casey, whose book on Jesus I am currently reading, accepts the traditional authors are probably correct (perhaps Matthew wrote some original stuff and someone else the final version, perhaps not).

    2. All scholars now agree that the literary form of the gospels is biography ( a quite distinct form in the ancient world), and these would not have need to be written in first person even if the author was an eyewitness.

    3. Nate, the difference between Jesus and Elvis or JFK is that no-one is persecuting and killing Elvis & JFK conspiricists, but they were certainly looking to discredit the christians.

    AS you rightly say, the book is a source of good in formation, but incomplete.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Actually, Unklee, the biggest difference between Elvis, JFK and Jesus is Jesus probably wouldn’t get a gig in Vegas and I doubt Marilyn Monroe would have laid him.

    • Nate says:

      3. Nate, the difference between Jesus and Elvis or JFK is that no-one is persecuting and killing Elvis & JFK conspiricists, but they were certainly looking to discredit the christians.

      Good point. However, from what I’ve gathered, the persecution against Christians wasn’t really an issue until long after Jesus’ death.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Nate, the difference between Jesus and Elvis or JFK is that no-one is persecuting and killing Elvis & JFK conspiricists, but they were certainly looking to discredit the christians.

      Smile..even a casual glance through the average history book will clearly show how much persecutions the Christians did themselves.
      They were pretty good at wiping out their own. ‘Proper’ Christians love to forget sects like the Albigeneses. “Oh, that was history”.

  4. I was wondering if you were going to mention this?

    “Given that he was the only skeptic in the book and he interviewed only Christian scholars and no atheist/skeptic scholars; one begins to question the unbiased journalistic investigation.”

    Doesn’t scream “objective”, does it? :)

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I would say the book goes deeper than most. But not deep or skeptical enough

      • Yes, I would agree that it goes deeper than most, but it’s hardly objective. It misrepresents many things and it fails to mention many others. This is a book that, like you, was repeatedly recommended by my faithful friends. He’s not a biblical scholar and his journalistic integrity has been questioned numerous times. As an example, he uses the “archeological evidence” of a known charlatan (Verdaman), which has been repeatedly discredited as false, and which Verdaman refuses to produce – I’m speaking about the “Quirinius Coins”. Strobel has been called out numerous times as well, but you will notice that these coins still appear in his writing.

        Biblical scholarship is big boy stuff. It’s not something anyone can just pick up and run with. It takes years and years of research to understand the context of the data. I’m sorry, but this guy is just a face for modern apologetics.

  5. aynway says:

    Philosophical arguments are satisfying for some, I guess, but as John Locke has made abundantly clear, philosophical arguments are meaningless if they don’t correspond to reality. Or, as I like to say, “EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE!”

    • unklee says:

      But evidence is involved in supporting the premises of a philosophical argument. For example the argument from design (fine-tuning) is based on the best scientific evidence from cosmologists. Far from being opposed, logic and evidence go hand in hand. A philosophical argument is a way to connect and develop evidence.

      • Arkenaten says:

        “Far from being opposed, logic and evidence go hand in hand. A philosophical argument is a way to connect and develop evidence.”

        Interesting. Logic dictates that it is impossible for a human being, following death, to come back to life. and certainly not after three days.
        There is no evidence of this ever occurring.
        And yet….you believe that because someone with an evangelical ( and very likely corrupt) motive wrote that it DID happen around 2000 years you will cheerfully suspend all logic, all commonsense and happily go to your eventual death holding on to such a preposterous assertion?

        Most odd.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      And this is the exact reason I have generally stayed away from philosophical arguments. Because we live in a real world. And when arguments become TOO philosophically abstract they become vague and meaningless. In my opinion the greatest downfall of philosophy is the methodical and conceptual applicability of taking philosophy from Abstract to real world practicality.

      This is why most of my post on the subject of god deal with the bible and not the classical Christian philosophical arguments of god.

      Because they way I see it is also from the ignostic perspective. That until God is positively defined, then really there is no conversation. And the god of the Bible is positively defined.

  6. Daniel S. says:

    I found The Case for Christ to be well-written, but extremely disappointing in regards to evidence. A Christian friend lent it to me when I admitted that I was having a crisis of faith. For the record, I’m fairly certain Strobel was not a skeptic when he wrote this book. In the first few pages, he mentions that he is re-tracing his steps in the journey that took him to Christianity. All of these interviews with Christian apologists seem to have taken place after he became a Christian.

    One of the most glaring problems I had with the book is relatively small, but I think is a microcosm of the issue with Strobel’s book as a whole. It concerns his attempt at answering the contradiction regarding the Census of Quirinius and the Nativity (was Jesus born in the reign of Herod the Great, as Matthew says, or around the Census of Quirinius ten years later as in Luke?). I’m pretty sure it was in the chapter “Scientific Evidence,” where John McRay is interviewed. The book references a coin from the Roman period, discovered by Jerry Vardaman, with “micrographic letters” allegedly indicating that Quirnius and Herod were contemporaries after all. From what I could find, the evidence for the coin was never published, and the coins Vardaman found had no miniscule letters telling us anything about Jesus, Herod, or Quirinius. It was effectively a hoax, and Strobel has never taken this bit out of his books. A little bit of research would have shown that the biggest contradiction in the Nativity stories was not resolved by a coin, and still stands as a substantial objection to the full historicity of the gospel accounts. I feel that encapsulates the Case for Christ. A lot of thought-provoking possibilities, but little to no evidence to support them. It really does seem to have been written for those who are looking to confirm what they already believe.
    Good review, looking forward to more posts about Mere Christianity.

  7. exrelayman says:

    Nice brief review. A more extensive critical review, should any care to check it out, is here:
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/strobel.html
    Want greater depth? Robert Price’s book, The Case Against the Case for Christ.

  8. Pingback: Book Review: The Case for Christ By Lee Strobel | The BitterSweet … | ChristianBookBarn.com

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