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My Problem with the works of Lee Strobel

By Ben Love ~

Okay, so, I have recently "come out," if you will, about being an atheist. This has been shocking to many of my friends because for so long I was heavily involved with evangelical Christianity. I have other blogs on here about my journey from belief to disbelief, which you can read if you want, or not if you don't want [shrugs], but what I want to talk about here is a pattern of messages I have received in response.

To date, 13 different people have recommended to me that I check out the work of Lee Strobel, proclaiming that by doing so I will see the error of my ways.

Let me state emphatically, once and for all, that I have done so, and done so exhaustively. During the course my research, I read everything Lee Strobel wrote, some of it more than once.

I know my Christian friends will consider this the height of sacrilege, but since they feel so free to force him on me, I shall force my views of him right back. The fact is, Lee is a very clever man, and his books are amazing writing, but his work disqualifies itself.

Let me explain.

The books of Lee Strobel present themselves as fair representations of an open-minded attempt to weigh the evidence for and against the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the validity of Christianity's claims, and the case for faith. The truth is that these books are anything but. Lee Strobel is a man who conducted his own research in the late 70s and early 80s and who, after concluding his research, became a Christian. Contrary to what most people think, however, these books are not an account of that research. These were written much later, after the fact, after Lee had already formed a bias on these matters. So what really happened here is that Lee Strobel had already decided what kind of books he wanted to write, what the message would be, what the conclusions would be, and what their final bias would be. He then went out and interviewed experts to support his pre-established bias.

Notice that Lee Strobel did not interview atheists, non-Christians, or experts who supported a differing stance (well, to be fair, out of the 50+ interviewees in his books, maybe 2 or 3 are not Christians, but this is hardly a fair weighing of facts). He hand-picked those well-known scholars who he knew ahead of time would support the message he was already determined to convey. And then, during the interviews, he asks questions which seem, on the surface, to be genuinely fair-minded, but which upon closer inspection, are leading questions, questions cleverly designed to lead the conversation toward a pre-determined conclusion without seeming to do so.

There were other questions Lee could have asked, ones that didn't lead the interview. There were other scholars and experts Lee could have interviewed, ones with just as many impressive credentials but who come to very different conclusions about these matters. But he didn't waste his time on them because he already knew they would not substantiate his aim. Thus, we must observe the following: anyone can gather a room full of like-minded individuals who can pontificatingly support his stance with convincing assertions, but this is hardly critical thinking. It's not even responsible reporting (Strobel, who for years was a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, should know better---he does know better). What it actually is, pure and simple, is propaganda designed to strengthen your faith. And that's fine, but when he masquerades this as open-minded, critical thinking which then, amazingly enough, reaches the same conclusions he has, honest people who want the truth are swayed in the direction of his bias. That is the very definition of propaganda.

Thus, to the fair-minded inquisitor of truth, the books of Lee Strobel are best to be avoided. They are useful only for strengthening faith if that is what you already possess, but if it is unbiased truth you seek, there are better tools at your disposal.

I don't expect Christians to support me on this, but sometimes you can see things differently from the outside than you can on the inside. And yes, you can make the case that you see things differently on the inside than you do on the outside, but don't forget, I was on the inside for ten years. I've seen the view from both vantage points now, and I know which one is truly objective and which one is circular, that is, confirming itself with it's own confirmations.

Anyone could make this claim: "Bigfoot exists because Bigfoot wrote me a letter telling me he exists, and I have experts who have examined this letter and determined that Bigfoot really did write it (yes, true, there are other experts who examined the letter and thought it was totally bogus, but I won't tell you about them)."

But how many can make this claim: "I wanted so bad to believe in Bigfoot; I even did for a little while...but when I was honest with myself, I really had no way of knowing that Bigfoot actually did write this letter. The likeliest scenario, based on what I know about the observable world and the regularity of history, is that someone probably wrote this letter themselves, claiming to be Bigfoot. Even though it hurts to admit this, I really have no true justification to believe in Bigfoot."

Truth is not what you want, truth is what is, and you must go where the evidence leads, otherwise all you're really doing is padding your own comfortable ass.