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Lee Strobel

The Case For Christ

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1998

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The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, originally published in 1998, follows Strobel’s nonfiction, journalistic investigation into the claims of Christianity. Strobel is both a journalist and a lawyer—he earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Yale before joining the Chicago Tribune as a legal affairs editor. But when his wife, Leslie, becomes a Christian, Strobel launches into an “all-out investigation into the facts surrounding the case for Christianity” (16). He applies what he has learned as an investigative journalist and a lawyer to determine whether “there [is] any credible evidence to back up” (18)the Bible’s assertions about the existence of God and the salvation of mankind through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

In order to do this, Strobel decides to interview a dozen experts in Christian theology to better understand the Bible, its teachings, the life of Christ, and whether any of those things are believable. To do this, he splits the book into three major sections. The first part, which contains Chapters 1 through 6, is titled “Examining the Record.” In these chapters, he interviews academics who have a variety of backgrounds, but they all comment on one thing: whether the Bible is a verifiable text. Each chapter in this section—and throughout the entirely of the book—follows a specific structure. Strobel opens with a short anecdote from his time in the legal system, then spends the overwhelming majority of the chapter in conversation with his chosen expert. A short conclusion at the end of each chapter lets Strobel sum up the expert’s argument while sometimes offering his own interpretation and/or verification of the facts.

The first part of the book opens with two interviews with Dr. Craig Blomberg, who addresses Strobel’s concerns about whether the gospels—which are the four books that serve as Jesus’s biography—can be trusted. The third chapter focuses on how well the Bible has been preserved, and whether the book Christians use today has been altered from its original forms. The fourth chapter features an interview with Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, a professor who focuses on Christian history. He shows Strobel how non-Christian (i.e. secular) texts mention Jesus, his miracles, and his crucifixion in much the same way as the Bible; Yamauchi argues that this serves as corroboration for the Bible’s veracity. In his fifth chapter, Strobel speaks with Dr. John McRay, an archaeologist. While McRay explains that “spiritual truths cannot be proved or disproved by archaeological discoveries” (127), he does state that the archaeological record verifies both locations and events that appear in the Bible. Finally, Strobel concludes the first part of The Case for Christ by interviewing Dr. Gregory Boyd, who provides “rebuttal evidence” (147). He tackles some of the counterarguments given by the Jesus Seminar—a group of fringe Christian theologians—that challenge the legitimacy of the Bible.

The second part of The Case for Christ is titled “Analyzing Jesus” and encompasses Chapters 7 through 10. In this section, Strobel turns his investigation to Jesus’s life and claims. He walks through four key questions. The first is whether Jesus actually believed himself to be the Son of God, and he turns to Dr. Ben Witherington III to find some answers. Once Strobel is convinced Jesus believed in his own divine origins, he begins to wonder whether Jesus was crazy. His interview with Dr. Gary Collins convinces him otherwise, especially when Strobel reads the gospels himself and finds “no sign of dementia, delusions, or paranoia” (206). This prompts yet another question: if Jesus thought he was God, did he embody the attributes of God? If not, it would be easy to conclude that Jesus was just a charismatic man. But Dr. Donald Carson convinces him otherwise, which prompts Strobel to wonder whether Jesus actually fulfilled the Jewish prophesies of the Messiah. To answer this question, Strobel visits with Louis Lapides, a Jewish man who converted to Christianity after his own spiritual journey. Much of this interview is Lapides’s testimony—or conversion story—but he also tells Strobel that “so convincing were the fulfilled prophecies” that he started telling everyone that “Jesus was the Messiah” (242-43).

The third, and final, section of Strobel’s investigation switches from the life of Jesus to his death. Part 3, titled “Researching the Resurrection,” tackles the fundamental Christian idea that Jesus was killed, resurrected, and then eventually raised back up to heaven. Strobel starts by speaking with Dr. Alexander Metherell, a medical doctor who has researched the crucifixion. Metherell explains that there is no conceivable way that Jesus survived the crucifixion, and he walks Strobel through the medical realities of suffering such a brutal death. Strobel then turns to Dr. William Craig, who provides a mixture of historical and textual evidence to prove that Jesus’s body disappeared from the tomb. Craig also tackles the contradictions in the gospels that muddy the waters, concluding “that there is a historical core to this story that is reliable and can be depended upon, however conflicting the secondary details might be” (289). Next, Strobel wants to understand whether Jesus was truly seen alive after the cross, or if his body was just missing. Dr. Gary Habermas uses the creed, or formal statement of Christian beliefs, found in 1 Corinthians as the backbone of his argument and explains that Jesus was not only seen by hundreds of people, he ate with them, spoke to them, and touched them as well. In his last chapter, Strobel once again returns to the idea of corroborating evidence that he introduces in Chapter 2. He wants to determine whether the resurrection is substantiated outside of the Bible, so he speaks with Dr. J. P. Moreland. Moreland provides five examples that support the idea of a real resurrection, including a mass conversion of Jewish skeptics shortly after Jesus’s death and the rapid emergence of the early Christian church.

Strobel ends The Case for Christ with a conclusion that does two things. First, it sums up the arguments from each chapter in a few paragraphs in order to collect the most important proof in one place. Second, he walks the readers through his own conversion from atheism to Christianity. He explains that after “a personal investigation that spanned more than six hundred days” (361), he concluded that the evidence in favor of Christianity was much more convincing than the evidence for atheism. On November 8, 1981, Strobel officially converts to Christianity in what he calls “the pivotal event of [his] entire life” (365). The last part of the conclusion does two things. First, it outlines the steps a reader should take if he—like Strobel—has been convinced of Christianity’s validity. Second, it speaks to readers who have not been convinced. Strobel encourages skeptics to research “additional answers from well-respected experts” before coming to their final conclusion, and he gives them his “sincere encouragement” as they “continue in their spiritual quest” (366). Strobel ends his book with one last assertion: that whatever the reader concludes about Christianity and Jesus, the decision will be one of the most important of their life. 

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By Lee Strobel