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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Big Seven - Introduction & Part 1: Lee Strobel

Introduction

This is the first in a biweekly series on seven of the biggest names in modern Christian thought: Lee Strobel, Matt Slick, S. Michael Houdman, Ray Comfort, William Lane Craig, Ken Ham, and Josh McDowell. These are people who are not only strong voices in the Evangelical Christian movement and Christian apologetics, but who also have had a strong influence on me. Some of them you may have heard of, others may be a little more obscure than others. However, I believe that each of them has contributed greatly to helping spread the gospel  and discerning truths from falsehoods. The collective wisdom of these seven great men has been insurmountable in shaping my core beliefs, and I now humbly embark on this series for the purpose of their commemoration.

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I must confess, of all the people who will be covered in this series, Lee Strobel is the first and foremost among them all (thus far) in my ever-continuing study of God's word. He is also the only one I have ever met face-to-face. I remember him coming to our church a few years ago, and I actually got to meet him and shake his hand. My words turned to nothing as I completely geeked out. I finally managed to string together a coherent enough sentence in order to ask him to sign my copy of The Case for Christ. He happily did so. He seemed like a nice guy.

Before he became a Christian, however, Lee Strobel was, by his own admission, a self-absorbed drunkard who lived only for his own self-gratification. His background as an investigative journalist brought him in front of a lot of different people, some good, some bad. But he didn't think much of God or Christianity, believing that he knew all the answers. That is, until his wife became a Christian. Mr. Strobel was at first bemused at his wife's conversion, but later began to notice how she changed her behavior, and found her change in behavior "winsome." So, when his wife invited him to church for, he went with her, notepad in hand, totally prepared to utterly dissect and roast the sermon.

He was in for a surprise.

The long and short of it is that Mr. Strobel got thinking about the big questions about Christianity. How could the Bible be thought to be true? Wasn't it full of contradictions? Who was Jesus? Did he really claim to be God? Was he out of his mind? Did evolution explain away the need for any kind of religion anyway? These answers were suddenly brought to the forefront of Mr. Strobel's mind, and he used his skills as an investigative journalist to embark on a quest to use  to find the answers. He found his answers, and his personal quest to find those answers, culminating in his conversion to Christianity, are recorded in The Case for Christ, published in 1998. That fine tome was followed up by several other similarly named and structured books, such as The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for the Real Jesus. He has also published several other books related to apologetics, such as What Jesus Would Say, God's Outrageous Claims, and a foray into crime fiction, The Ambition. I look forward to reading the first and the last of these latter three.

Lee Strobel is the first Christian author whose apologetics books I ever read. I fondly remember my fifth grade Sunday School teacher, Mr. Don Joss, giving me a copy of The Case for Christ for Kids, a little, eighty-six page book which I cherish today as a prized possession. (On a side note, I can't seem to find my autographed copy of The Case for Christ in my house. It's probably tucked away on a shelf somewhere, but I wish I could find it so I could show it off to my friends.) That engrossing little book got me interested in seriously studying my faith, so much so that it eventually lead me to read the adult versions of Mr. Strobel's books. Those, in turn, eventually led me to combine my love of Mr. Strobel's work with my love of the works of C.S. Lewis, leading me to read The Screwtape Letters. The rest is history, but it can all be traced back to Mr. Joss and that little green-and-white, eighty-six page book. To go on a brief tangent, I am as much indebted to Mr. Joss (and to my parents) as I am to Mr. Strobel in regards to becoming serious about my faith.

Of the books that Mr. Strobel has written that I have thus far read, my favorite of them is probably The Case for Faith. I will always have a special place in my heart for The Case for Christ, as it was the first one I read, and it appeals to my personal preference for facts, information, and logical investigation. The Case for Faith, however, resonates with me because it seeks out to answer hard-hitting philosophical questions in an in-depth manner, such as why a loving God could send people to Hell, or why there can't be more than one way to heaven. Granted, the answers presented within aren't quite as good as answers presented in certain other books, but it's still a darn good read, and I like it. In addition, Mr. Strobel's writing style is very engaging, and that aspect of his work makes me all the more eager to read The Ambition. I think it would be fun to see his take on a crime story.

Lee Strobel has had a profound influence on my knowledge of both the Bible and my faith, not to mention my personal philosophy. He was willing to seek out and ask hard hitting questions from the best representatives available, including thrice consulting William Lane Craig, a preeminent figure in modern apologetics who will be discussed later in this series. His example is one that should be followed by seekers everywhere. It's because of Lee Strobel and people like him, such as J. Warner Wallace, that I became such an avid student of the holy scriptures. The only thing I disagree with Mr. Strobel on is related to a point made by William Lane Craig concerning the Big Bang. (More on that in our installment on Ken Ham.) But on the whole, I humbly give his work the praise that it so richly deserves. I also would direct interested readers to check out the trio of documentaries based on his three main works, The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator.

Image courtesy of thechristianclinic.org