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An Atheist Reads The Case for Christ: Introduction 
Friday, January 6th, 2012 | 12:27 pm [case for christ, video, vlog]
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An Atheist Reads The Case for Christ


The James Dixon Story

  • Dixon, violent and with a rap sheet, is convicted of shooting a Chicago police sergeant, Richard Scanlon, only to be exonerated when the evidence is re-examined and it is proven that Scanlon actually accidentally shot himself with an unregistered pen gun and framed Dixon to avoid getting in trouble. Dixon had confessed to the crime as part of a plea bargain to gain a release with time served rather than risk a conviction and a harsh sentence.
  • Strobel shares the story of Dixon to illustrate how conclusions can be challenged and overthrown, and also to establish his bona fides as a guy who can look at evidence objectively and find the truth. But he tells us more than he means to.
    • First, he displays his grating faux-novelistic style by writing scenes in dialogue form that would be better if simply summarized. For example, he relates the reason for the innocent Dixon’s false confession this way:

Finally I put the crucial question to Dixon: “If you were innocent, why in the world did you plead guilty?”

Dixon sighed. “It was a plea bargain,” he said . . . “They said if I pleaded guilty, they would sentence me to one year in prison. I’d already spent 362 days in jail waiting for my trial. All I had to do was admit I did it and I’d go home in a few days. . . .”

“And so,” I said, “you admitted doing something that you didn’t do.”

Dixon nodded. “That’s right.”

The dialogue is dull and expository, reveals nothing about either person talking, and is almost certainly a paraphrase of their actual conversation. There is no reason to write this way, unless your aim is to make your writing as annoying and amateurish as possible.

  • Second, at the end of the Dixon story, Strobel writes, “Where there had been inconsistencies or gaps, I naively glossed them over. . . . Finally I allowed the evidence to lead me to the truth, regardless of whether it fit my original presuppositions.” The first sentence is precisely the sort of thinking employed by Christian apologists, including Strobel himself throughout this book; the second is the sort of thinking that has led many people to atheism.

From Dixon to Jesus

  • Strobel claims he once considered himself an atheist. I doubt this claim. He defines his former atheism by recounting the sort of questions he would ask: “How could there be a loving God if he consigned people to hell just for not believing in Him? How could miracles contravene the basic laws of nature? Didn’t evolution satisfactorily explain how life originated? Doesn’t scientific reasoning dispel belief in the supernatural?”
    • The problem of hell is a question of the nature of God; it is not evidence against God’s existence. The question presumes there is a God.
    • The question should not be “how could miracles happen?” but rather “is there any reason to believe miracles ever happen?”
    • Evolutionary theory is not concerned with the origin of life, but with the development of life, the descent of modern organisms from common ancestors. Strobel is either ignorant of this, or deliberately asking a misleading question. Neither possibility helps his credibility.
    • Scientific reasoning shows us that phenomena can be explained without resorting to the supernatural. It doesn’t disprove the supernatural (in general — it can and does disprove specific supernatural claims) so much as render it unnecessary. A subtle distinction, but one Strobel ought to make if he wants to be taken seriously.
  • He pleads ignorance about Jesus, claiming he thought Jesus had never actually claimed to be divine, as if a person claiming to be a god has any bearing on whether or not they actually are one.
  • He cites as his primary motivation for maintaining his skepticism and ignoring inconsistencies he detected in the evidence against Christianity (he never deals with other faiths), “a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus.”
    • The idea of atheists being in moral rebellion against God, of secretly accepting God’s existence but outwardly denying it to avoid having to follow his rules, is a religious slander. I have never heard of an atheist ever describing her- or himself in this way. Atheists are not motivated to defy a god they believe to be imaginary. If Strobel had ever actually been one, he would understand this. Instead of being an avowed atheist, I suspect Strobel was actually someone who had not given religion much thought one way or the other.
  • Strobel cites his wife’s conversion to Christianity as the impetus for his original investigation and ultimately his own conversion. He claims he noticed changes in his wife’s character after she became a Christian: “fundamental changes in her character, her integrity, and her personal confidence.” Is he suggesting the woman he married was a person of low character and integrity before she became a Christian? Is this another swipe at atheists?

Judging for Yourself

  • Here Strobel reveals for the first time how disingenuous is his purpose for writing the book.
    • He claims to be writing for the skeptics in the audience: “Maybe you too have been basing your spiritual outlook on the evidence you’ve observed around you or gleaned long ago from college professors, family members, or friends. But . . . If you were to dig deeper — to confront your preconceptions and systematically seek out proof — what would you find?”
    • To seek out proof suggests that a conclusion has already been drawn. But Strobel also claims that his aim is to be objective. Additionally, he describes his investigation as a “spiritual journey.” This is not the rigorous objectivity of someone hoping to persuade skeptics to his position. This is the inviting, reassuring glad-handing of the apologist.
    • A minor point, but note that Strobel takes repeated indirect swipes at college professors, convicting them along with family members, friends, and his own selfishly immoral lifestyle, for his former rejection of Christianity, only to then tout the academic credentials of those he interviews in the book: “I’ll take you along as I interview thirteen leading scholars and authorities who have impeccable academic credentials.” He also touts his own education at Yale Law School. So scholars who encourage skepticism of Christianity are not to be trusted, but those who argue in its favor are? Not only inconsistent and hypocritical, but, again, not the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a serious work aiming to persuade.

Next time: Chapter 1: The Eyewitness Evidence: Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?

Monday, February 27th, 2012 | 09:16 am (UTC) - His wife's newfound religiousity prompted his investigation
I had heard of this book for several years before stumbling across a documentary version on Netflix starring Strobel himself. You might want to check it out if you haven't seen it yet, but from what I can tell it mirrors the book. I honestly turned it off after it became apparent that his objective investigation was prompted by extremely personal, emotional, and subjective interests, namely problems in his marriage.

After several minutes of talk about the importance of objectivity and evidence, Strobel proceeded to explain his investigation was prompted by the fact his wife had recently begun to attend church again and that she went through a very a personal conversion experience. He then explains (he tells you this openly) how it began to create problems in their home and strain their marriage. This is what pushed Strobel to begin his investigation and on the same coin stopped me from watching his supposedly objective search for Jesus.

I saw you included this in your notes, so obviously Strobel mentions it in the introduction to the book as well, but I missed it in your video. I think it was a very important thing to mention. More than just the swipe at atheism (which was a good point you made in your notes), this was the most telling evidence (lol) of Strobel's subjective purpose to find the divinity of Jesus no matter what. What? You and your wife were having trouble over religious ideas and after your rethought it you agreed with her, which put an end to your marriage problems? Shocking. It's a good thing you didn't find that Jesus wasn't divine. Then you're life and everything you care about would have been ruined. Strobel had such a personal investment in finding the divinity of Jesus that his investigation was flawed from the start. His everyday life, his marriage, his happiness, basically everything the defines Strobel existence depended on his convincing himself to believe in Jesus and to share his wife's convictions. Otherwise his life would have never been the same again.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean his conclusions are false, but it does raise a massive red flag. I thought it was something that should have taken precedence over some other things you mentioned.

I just found on your youtube channel tonight (through the 10 Commandments vs Bill of Rights video, nice job on that one too). I like your stuff. It is all very well thought out and well presented. I'm going to watch the rest of your Case for Christ videos later and explore your archives for more topics as well. Good stuff all around.
Monday, February 27th, 2012 | 02:06 pm (UTC) - Re: His wife's newfound religiousity prompted his investigation
He's open about his wife's newfound religious fervor being the motivation for his investigation in the book, as well. I think I may have glossed over it in the video, but I agree, it doesn't speak well for his objectivity.

I'm familiar with the film version of the book. I've watched about the first 30 minutes and plan to watch the whole thing at some point. Strobel's voice and overall presentation make it difficult to get through; I find him no better a presenter than a writer. If I can think of anything to say about it that I don't cover in the book series, I might do a video about it.

Thanks for watching my stuff! Glad you find it of some interest. Comment any time something's on your mind.

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 | 01:44 am (UTC)
When I was reading this book originally, I felt something was up with Strobel's claims of atheism and how his wife's conversion. Then one day when I was cleaning up the place I found out I had another book of Strobel's titled "Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry an Mary" (it came out in 1993 btw.) In the opening chapter of the book, Strobel talks about how as a chile he was raised Lutheran and hated church and such. While it doesn't definitively prove that wasn't ever an atheist, he does give the idea that he was more of a lapsed Christian who returned to his faith when necessary to do so, and pretty much demolishes his credibility as objective (which he does on his quite well.) Anyhow, I really like these videos and they've helped me be able to examine the book more objectively then strobel could have and I even do my own video series of the book on YouTube (I'm a true spiritual skeptic.) So thanks for the videos. Brady M
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 | 04:57 pm (UTC) - Thank you

I am the black sheep (as I type that I suddenly hate that term...) in my religious family and was just told to go read "Case for Christ" to show solid evidence for God's existence. Thanks to having this playlist on YouTube I was confidently able to reply to each of my family's points from the book.

Keep up the excellent work, Brother.
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