Contend Earnestly: The Case for Faith: Lee Strobel

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Case for Faith: Lee Strobel

I want to show some grace here in this review so that I am not coming across as attacking the author or the participants that the author interviewed. I read The Case for Christ and very much enjoyed that book and thought it was done in a very tasteful manner, but this book left me shaking my head.

Lee Strobel unpacks this book just as he did with the Case for Christ, in that, he has 8 different questions that he would like answered and then goes and interviews 8 experts in those fields to answer those questions. The one thing I wish that he would have done is read some of the reviews and thoughts from readers and taken them to heart. The main complaint is that he just interviewed those who agreed with the Christian position and chose not to interact with those who were on the opposed side of the debate.
Although Strobel starts the book off on interviewing an atheist, Charles Templeton, this was the last time that he interviews anyone on the opposing side. Although, I do really like the way the book is set up with the interviewing process.

The questions that were to be raised in the book are the following:

1) If there's a loving God, why does this pain-wracked world groan under so much suffering and evil?

2) If the miracles of God contradict science, then how can any rational person believe that they're true?

3) If God is morally pure, how can he sanction the slaughter of innocent children as the Old Testament says he did?

4) If God cares about the people he created, how could he consign so many of them to an eternity of torture in hell just because they didn't believe the right things about him?

5) If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then what about the millions of people who have never heard of him?

6) If God really created the universe, why does the evidence of science compel so many to conclude that the unguided process of evolution accounts for life?

7) If God is the ultimate overseer of the church, why has it been rife with hypocrisy and brutality throughout the ages?

8) If I'm still plagued by doubts, then is it still possible to be a Christian?

Strobel, to answer these questions, goes to eight different men to help him answer these tough questions posed to the Christian faith. Some of those interviewed were Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Peter Kreeft, Ravi Zacharias, John Woodbridge and others.

We could always discuss the theological differences that I have between myself and the contributors, such as their views on libertarian free will, the views that hell is not a literal place with flames, the view that the big bang is true and God was the originator just 'tweaked' it to make it work, that God reacted to man and created hell, but it wasn't in His original plan, and so on. These are all things that contributed to a very poor discussion on the reason for faith. But, even above all these problems, Strobel forgets the biggest reason for faith in God and Jesus Christ: our sin.
Sin was completely left out of the discussion. This topic of us needing a Creator and Saviour to take our place of our sin was not in any of the discussions. The route that Strobel takes is more of a route in putting us in a court room. The atheists and agnostics as the prosecutors, God as the defendant and we are the jurors. We sit, listen, weigh the evidence and then choose who to follow. The problem is that this leaves God as a powerless being, ringing His hands, hoping we choose him. This is not faith! This is just choosing the lesser of the two evils, or the better of the two goods, depending on how you see it.

This book is really a bad attempt at presenting the true God. It really leans more towards Aristotlianism, where "reason governs us" instead of what we are told it should be: God and His word governs us. I am afraid that the bad theology presented here is not going to strengthen anyone's faith but in actuality, will make them rely on their intellect and thoughts on the issue. This is actually the reason that Strobel is able to bring in a Roman Catholic theologian (Peter Kreeft) and no have no issue with his thoughts on issues. Strobel really doesn't differentiate between the Catholics and Protestants but just merely continues to call them both "Christians." Ignoring the reformation or the Pope calling the Catholic church, "the only true church." (sidenote: I know this book was written before this declaration, but it was not a new declaration or something Protestants and Catholics didn't already know was the foundational thoughts of the Roman Catholic church)

Anyone who takes a long look at themselves will know that they change their minds on things all the time. They change their views on things all the time, so what is going to be different this time? The main proponent of faith was left out: Jesus Christ died for the sins of the people, the Holy Spirit gives them faith, calls them to His side, God justifies them with the blood of Christ, and perfects them until the day Christ returns. It is God's power that holds us, not our "weighing of evidence."
This is the reason I cannot recommend this book to anyone. It seems as though Strobel has placed God on the side of the road trying to "sell" His religion to people and hoping some will just choose Him. God is not a beggar.

One contributor said this: "God sends no one to heaven and He sends no one to hell" Although I agree that sin is what sends people to hell, it is not true that God doesn't send anyone to heaven. He is the only power that is able to send people to heaven.

It seems as though this book missed some key verses in the Bible:

For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
2 Corinthians 13:4

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:44

Most important Paul lays out the importance of the Gospel, not secular reasoning or secular evidence for the case for faith:

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:2-5


Daniel Taylor said...

"Anyone who takes a long look at themselves will know that they change their minds on things all the time. They change their views on things all the time, so what is going to be different this time?"
This is why the Catholic Church is so important, it provides guidance so we don't have to rely on our ever changing perception of things.

Seth McBee said...

I hope that you aren't serious with this comment.

The Roman Catholic Church changes its mind more than a politician.

One day they are kissing the Koran and the next they condemn those of that same religion. History is not on the side of the RCC as far as unity of mind or thought on perception of things.

Daniel Taylor said...

I am completely serious. The official teaching of the Church is an excellent resource and does not change it's mind. I think you are highly exaggerating your examples of the Church changing it's mind, I don't know what you are basing it off of. There are different sects of Islam that are polar opposite of each other, so it isn't contradictory to support one while disagree with another.

Seth McBee said...

I am not going to give you a history lesson. I would simply tell you to read the Council of Trent and then ask your priest if he believes each and every one of these to be true. Even the Pope doesn't believe all of these.

Also, quickly, when they voted on ex cathedra, it wasn't even a unanimous dicision. Which, of course, us protestants find a little funny.

Daniel Taylor said...

Ex Cathedra is the key, my local priest is not infallible, neither is the pope, except for when he speaks Ex Cathedra. There have been relatively few instances when Ex Cathedra has actually been used. The Holy Spirit has kept the official teaching of the Church safe, despite imperfect Popes, Bishops, priests, and lay people. You are correct that the practice of many Catholics is not consistent with the teaching. Even the Pope is not free from sin, but God has and is preserving the Catholic Church.

Seth McBee said...

No God said that He will preserve His word, and His church...notice there is no use of the term Catholic.

I find it interesting as I speak to Catholics they continue to speak about THE church but miss the point of the Greek term ekklesia which is the gathering of called out ones or elect. Not some Catholic only version of it.

You also say that your priest is not perfect, so how do you know that he, or any priest or council of priests are telling you the truth?

Let me go ahead and answer that like a good protestant:

Sola Scriptura

We are to continue to understand that we are not ruled by councils, priests and pastors, although they help us in guidance, but we are only ruled by one thing: God's word.

Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, and like a hammer which shatters a rock?
Jeremiah 23:29

But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.
Luke 16:17

Yet we are told that we are not to trust our own hearts:

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26

The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

If I can't trust my own heart, I am not going to trust another's over the word of truth. We see this happening even as Paul himself taught the people:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
Acts 17:11

I am not saying that teachers and preachers are not necessary, for I am one, but to rely on them to be the only messengers of God's truth is utterly ridiculous and dangerous.

We must test everything to the Scriptures for they are what is holy, not man, they are what is truthful, not man, they are what is pure and undefiled, not man.

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
1 Thessalonians 5:21

Anonymous said...

Seth, I would follow 'bible alone' but these words are not in the Bible. This is in fact a concept that is a 'tradition of men'. Sure, scripture is inspired and profitable for correction but nowhere does it say'bible alone'.

Furthermore, all Prostestants believe in the Pope although they are unaware. Anyone who believes the 27 books of the New Testament does so because the Council of Carthage said so and the Pope ratified the conclusion of the Bishops. Seems strange that a Prostestant believes in the Council of Carthage but not Council of Trent. It is illogical, just like Prostestantism- based on my experience, my interpretation, my understanding of the culture. Surely the early Christians would have a better interpretation than any modern scholar,especially given that most were Greek-speaking and lived in the culture and some were even the disciples of the Apostles. I dare you to check your beliefs with that of the Christians in 1st to 5th centuries. You will find them to be Catholic beliefs not Prostestant 'traditions of men'. To know history is to cease to be Prostestant.

Remember that the Church is the "pillar and foundation of the truth' 1 Tm 3:15.

You also might want to check out another 'tradition of men'- contraception. Even modern Jews say it is wrong based on the Onan account in Genesis. In fact, even Calvin and Luther and all denominations up until 1930 taught that it was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hey Seth

Do you believe that Mary had other children?


Seth McBee said...


Your history on the how the books of the Bible were canonized is pretty weak history my friend. By the time councils started to try and form the canon, most had already spoken to the fact on which ones were in fact, breathed by God. The council just put forth what was already known.

As far as your usage of "church" it is always interesting to note that Catholics try and establish that this means one Church, as in Rome, instead of how the Greek term is actually used, which is mostly used in one of two ways:

1. Universal Church (which means catholic, little c) of all believers

2. The local assembly of those that are redeemed

This is how the term is used, especially in the founding of the church, which is in Acts

The reason we don't believe in what was said at Trent is because it is comical at best what went down there. It was a reply to Luther challenging them on their traditions of men, so they had to make something formal to cover their tracks.

Rome loves to make up their own history instead of relying on what the Bible actually says. Do Protestants do the same thing sometimes? Yes. But Rome has a funny way of showing their history.

Seth McBee said...

Yes. I believe that Mary had other children.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

Matthew 13:55

Anonymous said...

Hey Seth

Jews, like many cultures today, use the word 'brothers' to refer to cousins.

All I ask is for you to look up the following passages and this will clearly show that these so called brothers of Jesus are not blood brothers but are in fact cousins.

Mk 15:40 Q: Who are James and Joses? A: Sons of another Mary, Mary of Clophas

Lk 6:16 Q: Who is Judas? A: Son of James

Lk 6:15 Q: Who is James? A: He is the son of Alphaeus

Mt 20:20 Q: Who are James the Greater and John’s parents? A: They are the sons of Zebedee with a mother other than our Blessed Mother Mary.

If you have arrived at the same answers above then it becomes clear how Mk 6:3 (and Mtt 13:55) is to be interpreted.

Furthermore, we should ask how the early Christians dealt with this issue. In about 380, Helvidius suggested that the "brethren" were the children born of Mary and Joseph after Jesus. Jerome declared this as a "novel, wicked, and daring affront to the faith of the whole world." In his 'On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary'.

Again, to know history is to cease to be Protestant.

With regards to the Catholic use of the term 'Church'. Surely you can see that the New Testament writers are trying to maintain unity of belief. Unity of an oral tradition which pre-dates the NT Scriptures. 'One faith, one baptism, one Lord of all'. I simply don't understand how a Protestant can believe that JC came to earth and started these united communities (what I would call the Church) and then for 1500 years allow them to teach the wrong way to salvation. For 1500 years to have read a false canon of scripture. Even Protestant scripture scholars aknowledge that the early Christians and for 1500 years used the 42 books of the Old Testament.

On what authority does Martin Luther and others take 7 books out of the Bible. If you suggest that their are errors in these books I suggest you make the same effort as you do with the other books in the Bible to prove that they do not contain errors. Afterall, that is what many claim about the Bible itself.

The Greek and Russian Orthodox split in 1054 and their beliefs match up the same as mine, apart from recognising the primacy of the pope.

Furthermore, you did not respond to the issue that that the Catholic Churches teaching againist contraception is a Biblical teaching that is over 3000 years old and one that ALL the Protestant reformers agreed with and one that ALL denominations taught until 1930.


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