Tag Archives: Lee Strobel

Mainstream conservative news site reviews The Case for Christ movie

This review is from Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, a major conservative news and commentary web site.

Excerpt:

[T]he pursuit of evidence forms the core of the film’s narrative. In 1980, Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) finds his marriage and professional life turned upside-down when his wife Leslie (Erika Christiansen) converts from their shared atheism to Christianity. Convinced that his wife has been brainwashed by a cult — being just a couple of years removed from the Jonestown massacre — Strobel decides to apply his journalistic expertise to debunk the central core of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Can Strobel find an evidence-based argument to refute Christianity, or will he be forced to face his own biases and assumptions?

Given that this is explicitly a conversion story (and that Strobel’s book sold 14 million copies over the last two decades), that outcome isn’t exactly a mystery, but the film isn’t intended to be a mystery anyway. At its core, The Case for Christ is a love story on multiple levels rather than an exposition about evidentiary support for the Resurrection. The love Lee and Leslie have for each other becomes redemptive, but so too the terribly strained relationship that Lee has with his father, and that Lee also has with The Father.

I think the love story is fine, because it is an winsome invitation for people watching who are not yet Christians to take a look at the evidence. People today are really struggling in their relationships because they have kicked God out of their partner-selection and how they relate to their partners. Most people today conduct their relationships as functional atheists, including Christians. Atheism is the denial of objective purpose in the universe, and a denial that there is any design for human behavior, and human relationships like love and marriage. Everyone is floundering about in a sea of relativism, trying to use each other like commodities in order to scrape out some happiness without having to love anyone else self-sacrificially. The idea that loving others self-sacrificially could actually be what we were designed to do (as revealed in the example of Jesus) is intriguing. But since it goes against our natural self-centeredness, something other than desire and emotion is going to have to drive the search for a better way forward. That something is God himself, revealing his existence and his character to us through evidence in nature, and through the historical evidence around the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Evidence has the power to drive us against our own selfishness and hedonism, making us capable of loving others, and helping us to choose those who will love us like Jesus, because they love God first and foremost.

Morrissey concludes:

The production values match those of higher-level independent films. The casting of Vogel and Christiansen is especially successful, as they present a very realistic depiction of a young married couple in serious trouble. Faye Dunaway and Frankie Faison have smaller but notable roles, and the ever-estimable Robert Forster portrays Lee’s estranged father. Eight is Enough’s Grant Goodeve has a cameo, but veteran character actor Mike Pniewski’s turn as the Chicago Tribune’s religion editor might be the most memorable outside of the featured cast. The direction and cinematography are straightforward and not at all overdone, with no “shaky cam” usage to generate a false sense of style. The film does an excellent job of recalling the 1980-81 period without making the mistake of falling back into kitsch, opting instead for a look as realistic and nuanced as the film itself.

It all adds up to a compelling and very human story about love, redemption, faith, reason, and finding peace with all of them. With the emergence of Risen and The Case for Christ, the faith-based segment of the film market has come into its own. On the Hot Air scale, I’d give it a five:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

If Christianity is anything, Christianity needs to be a worldview – a picture of reality. It’s not a set of stories designed to make us feel good about our attempts to eek out pleasure by doing whatever we want. It’s not a community, nor even worship songs that make us have feelings. There has to be something objective that is incumbent on us whether we like it or not. The call of Christianity is to turn around and go in a different direction, re-prioritizing goals in our lives according to someone else’s leadership and example. That’s not going to be possible unless we really believe that this behavior is in line with the way the world really is. For those born and raised in a society infused with secularism, we are already confronted with widespread beliefs that challenge the existence of God and miracles like the resurrection. We have to do something to break out of those background beliefs that we just absorbed uncritically. We have to pursue truth and conform our worldview to the evidence so that the behaviors of a Christian become natural and normal, against our natural self-centered desires and feelings.

My hope is that a large number and people will watch this movie and understand the factual foundations of Christianity for the first time. Maybe they will finally see themselves as guilty or refusing to take a look at the evidence. The problem with unbelief is that it really is a willful closing of one’s eyes against reality, so that one can continue to be in control. To search for the evidence is to be open to changing our deepest desires to match reality. Something that no non-Christian in the history of the world has ever done.

Consider John 18:37:

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Exactly right. Jesus came to demonstrate the reality of God’s existence and his power as Creator by giving us a historical resurrection that we could investigate using the ordinary methods of doing history.

And we know that miracles like the resurrection are possible from the scientific evidence for a cosmic beginning, and for cosmic fine-tuning, as Romans 1 explains.

Romans 1:18-20:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,so that people are without excuse.

This is the way the world really is, and we have to adjust to reality, because of the evidence.

Let’s hope that God uses this movie to get a lot of people to re-think whether they have been pursuing truth the way they should be. It’s very tempting to forget evidence and just pursue pleasure, but we were not intended to do that by the God who made us and everything else.

Pastor Matt: How apologetics saved my faith

Here’s a must-read post from Pastor Matt Rawlings whose reading list I wrote about before.

Excerpt:

I became a Christian at 24 after a cancer diagnosis.  I had been an atheist for 10 years but came to God in desperation.  I left Capitol Hill (and politics altogether) to learn about Christianity.  I attended what many believed was a conservative seminary but had slowly slipped into liberalism by the time I arrived in 1999.  I was sold on “higher criticism” (or a skeptical approach to the historicity and inerrency of Scripture) and joined the then growing “Emergent Church” movement.  Within a few years, I was where Rob Bell is now–a soft universalist with a condescending attitude toward conservatives.  Yet, I was also spiritually dead and was struggling with depression.  I was quickly headed back to the atheism I had thought I had left behind while praying for my life.

During this time of personal struggle, my wife and I were helping a small church in Charleston, West Virginia.  When an elder learned my wife had a degree in micro-biology and had helped overseen a science program at Cornell, he asked her to meet with the youth group and answer their questions about science and the faith.  In preparation, she picked up the book The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel (Zondervan 2005).  She devoured the book and went on and on about wonderful it was and how I had to read it.  I resisted as the cover struck me as “fundamentalist nonsense.”  Yet, she persisted and it became clear that either I was going to read the book or spend a few nights on the couch!

I opened the book with a bad attitude.  After all, my seminary professors had told me that “apologetics is dead!” and that “Generation-X and -Y desired experience not ‘answers.’”  I was even more resistant when I saw the first few chapters take on evolution.  I was convinced Genesis 1-11 was all myth, Darwin had been proven correct and that only nutters questioned it.  But after reading Strobel’s interaction with Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, I realized I had no real counter argument to intelligent design.

Read the rest.

The Case for a Creator is one of my favorite apologetics books. I have read it once, but I’ve listened to the audio version TEN TIMES. This book more than any other is the perfect introduction to science apologetics for beginners. I really recommend the audio book as a companion to the print version.

When I read this post by Pastor Matt, I felt that his faith was not just castles built in the sky. A lot of pastors basically start by assuming (without any evidence) that the Bible is correct in everything it says, and then they start lecturing everyone else about what the Bible says without ever having done a moment of investigation into the evidence for or against what they are preaching about. They’ve never read anyone who disagrees with them, and they don’t know how to explain what they believe to anyone outside the church walls. I have to tell you that this is one of the the most uncomfortable feelings to have when you are not yet a Christian. You are in a building filled with people who don’t know whether what they believe is true. You are being lectured by a man who typically has no idea how to show others that what he is talking about is true, except for appealing to feelings. I don’t know about you, but that really makes me uncomfortable. I trust people more when I know they are good at something practical, like mechanical engineering, medicine, automobile mechanics, weight-lifting, nutrition or cooking. When you read outside the Bible, it’s basically treating Christianity like it’s a real area of knowledge. That makes me interested, because it means we are talking about something real, not just a personal preference or a subjective experience or a community custom.

Pastor Matt is different. He’s read tons of stuff outside the Bible, and he’s not presupposing anything when he preaches about God and Jesus. He’s got informed beliefs about this stuff. He’s authentic. And you can see the strength of his convictions by looking at what he’s read. He talks about his faith like we might talk about our professions. We have convictions about what we do that creates value for others because we know how to do it. When a pastor reads a lot on logic, philosophy, history and science, then he is able to know whether what he says he believes is really true or not out there in the real world. When I listen to my pastor and look at our church book store, I get very disappointed. It makes me wonder why I can’t go to a church like Pastor Matt’s church. Wouldn’t that be great? I would really fly out of bed on Sunday morning if I thought “what is he going to teach on this morning, that I can use at work on Monday morning?” I am always interested in hearing what someone else knows. I am one of those people who is always asking the dentist, the doctor, the mechanic, and the food preparers “how did you do that?” I even got the recipe for the cilantro-lime rice that Chipotle makes by asking the woman who was making my burrito bowl. How did you do it? I want to know how you know.

I have a good friend of mine right now who is going through a tough time with her church. She keeps telling me that Sunday school is very emotional, and clearly designed to comfort people and make them feel “gooey” (her word). This is a woman who is on fire academically and is making tons of money in a summer job in her field. She just got a new scholarship, too. She keeps thinking that Sunday school is supposed to be the time to learn about difficult things and practical things. It’s causing her to really get bored with church and even to look for a new church. I think a lot of young people are tired of being entertained in church, and they would like to get their minds on some real knowledge about God and what he’s done in history and in nature. I’ll bet that Pastor Matt doesn’t have any problems packing his church with young people. Young people can tell when someone really knows what they are talking about, the same way that a dentist knows about teeth, or that a tax preparer knows about tax laws.

Pastor Matt: How apologetics saved my faith

Here’s a must-read post from Pastor Matt Rawlings whose reading list I wrote about before.

Excerpt:

I became a Christian at 24 after a cancer diagnosis.  I had been an atheist for 10 years but came to God in desperation.  I left Capitol Hill (and politics altogether) to learn about Christianity.  I attended what many believed was a conservative seminary but had slowly slipped into liberalism by the time I arrived in 1999.  I was sold on “higher criticism” (or a skeptical approach to the historicity and inerrency of Scripture) and joined the then growing “Emergent Church” movement.  Within a few years, I was where Rob Bell is now–a soft universalist with a condescending attitude toward conservatives.  Yet, I was also spiritually dead and was struggling with depression.  I was quickly headed back to the atheism I had thought I had left behind while praying for my life.

During this time of personal struggle, my wife and I were helping a small church in Charleston, West Virginia.  When an elder learned my wife had a degree in micro-biology and had helped overseen a science program at Cornell, he asked her to meet with the youth group and answer their questions about science and the faith.  In preparation, she picked up the book The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel (Zondervan 2005).  She devoured the book and went on and on about wonderful it was and how I had to read it.  I resisted as the cover struck me as “fundamentalist nonsense.”  Yet, she persisted and it became clear that either I was going to read the book or spend a few nights on the couch!

I opened the book with a bad attitude.  After all, my seminary professors had told me that “apologetics is dead!” and that “Generation-X and -Y desired experience not ‘answers.’”  I was even more resistant when I saw the first few chapters take on evolution.  I was convinced Genesis 1-11 was all myth, Darwin had been proven correct and that only nutters questioned it.  But after reading Strobel’s interaction with Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, I realized I had no real counter argument to intelligent design.

Read the rest.

The Case for a Creator is one of my favorite apologetics books. I have read it once, but I’ve listened to the audio version TEN TIMES. This book more than any other is the perfect introduction to science apologetics for beginners. I really recommend the audio book as a companion to the print version. I gave it to a friend of mine in Scotland who is from a very fundamentalist background, but she has been able to apply what’s in the book in conversations because she listens to the audio book while she drives.

When I read this post by Pastor Matt, I felt that his faith was not just castles built in the sky. A lot of pastors basically start by assuming (without any evidence) that the Bible is correct in everything it says, and then they start lecturing everyone else about what the Bible says without ever having done a moment of investigation into the evidence for or against what they are preaching about. They’ve never read anyone who disagrees with them, and they don’t know how to explain what they believe to anyone outside the church walls. I have to tell you that this is one of the the most uncomfortable feelings to have when you are not yet a Christian. You are in a building filled with people who don’t know whether what they believe is true. You are being lectured by a man who typically has no idea how to show others that what he is talking about is true, except for appealing to feelings. I don’t know about you, but that really makes me uncomfortable. I trust people more when I know they are good at something practical, like mechanical engineering, medicine, automobile mechanics, weight-lifting, nutrition or cooking. When you read outside the Bible, it’s basically treating Christianity like it’s a real area of knowledge. That makes me interested, because it means we are talking about something real, not just a personal preference or a subjective experience or a community custom.

Pastor Matt is different. He’s read tons of stuff outside the Bible, and he’s not presupposing anything when he preaches about God and Jesus. He’s got informed beliefs about this stuff. He’s authentic. And you can see the strength of his convictions by looking at what he’s read. He talks about his faith like we might talk about our professions. We have convictions about what we do that creates value for others because we know how to do it. When a pastor reads a lot on logic, philosophy, history and science, then he is able to know whether what he says he believes is really true or not out there in the real world. When I listen to my pastor and look at our church book store, I get very disappointed. It makes me wonder why I can’t go to a church like Pastor Matt’s church. Wouldn’t that be great? I would really fly out of bed on Sunday morning if I thought “what is he going to teach on this morning, that I can use at work on Monday morning?” I am always interested in hearing what someone else knows. I am one of those people who is always asking the dentist, the doctor, the mechanic, and the food preparers “how did you do that?” I even got the recipe for the cilantro-lime rice that Chipotle makes by asking the woman who was making my burrito bowl. How did you do it? I want to know how you know.

I have a good friend of mine right now who is going through a tough time with her church. She keeps telling me that Sunday school is very emotional, and clearly designed to comfort people and make them feel “gooey” (her word). This is a woman who is on fire academically and is making tons of money in a summer job in her field. She just got a new scholarship, too. She keeps thinking that Sunday school is supposed to be the time to learn about difficult things and practical things. It’s causing her to really get bored with church and even to look for a new church. I think a lot of young people are tired of being entertained in church, and they would like to get their minds on some real knowledge about God and what he’s done in history and in nature. I’ll bet that Pastor Matt doesn’t have any problems packing his church with young people. Young people can tell when someone really knows what they are talking about, the same way that a dentist knows about teeth, or that a tax preparer knows about tax laws.

By the way, J. Warner Wallace had something to say about what he taught kids when he was a youth pastor in his latest podcast. I think it’s relevant to this post.

Lee Strobel: why does God allow tragedy and suffering?

I found MP3 audio, video and a full transcript of Lee Strobel’s sermon on suffering at Apologetics 315.

Strobel has 5 points in his sermon:

  • God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  • Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  • The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  • Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.
  • We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

Here’s one of them:

Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good. He does this by fulfilling His promise inRomans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following Him.

The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph, who went through terrible suffering, being sold into slavery by his brothers, unfairly accused of a crime and falsely imprisoned. Finally, after a dozen years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.
This is what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” And if you’re committed to God, He promises that He can and will take whatever pain you’re experiencing and draw something good from it.

You might say, “No, he can’t in my circumstance. The harm was too great, the damage was too extreme, the depth of my suffering has been too much. No, in my case there’s no way God can cause any good to emerge.”

But if you doubt God’s promise, listen to what a wise man said to me when I was researching my book The Case for Faith: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide, or the death of God on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?

He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him – He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we trust and follow Him.

Click through for links to the audio and video, as well as a PDF of the full transcript.

I wrote a post on the problem of evil recently which surveys more academic responses to the problem of evil.

Lee Strobel: why does God allow tragedy and suffering?

I found MP3 audio, video and a full transcript of Lee Strobel’s sermon on suffering at Apologetics 315.

Strobel has 5 points in his sermon:

  • God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  • Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  • The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  • Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.
  • We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

Here’s one of them:

Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good. He does this by fulfilling His promise inRomans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following Him.

The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph, who went through terrible suffering, being sold into slavery by his brothers, unfairly accused of a crime and falsely imprisoned. Finally, after a dozen years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.
This is what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” And if you’re committed to God, He promises that He can and will take whatever pain you’re experiencing and draw something good from it.

You might say, “No, he can’t in my circumstance. The harm was too great, the damage was too extreme, the depth of my suffering has been too much. No, in my case there’s no way God can cause any good to emerge.”

But if you doubt God’s promise, listen to what a wise man said to me when I was researching my book The Case for Faith: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide, or the death of God on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?

He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him – He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we trust and follow Him.

Click through for links to the audio and video, as well as a PDF of the full transcript.

I wrote a post on the problem of evil recently which surveys more academic responses to the problem of evil.