Critique of Lee Strobel's

The Case For Christ

I've had a Christian writing to me recently, convinced that he can make a Christian out of me. His latest trump card was to urge me to read the recent book by Lee Strobel, a journalist, called The Case For Christ, published in 1998 by Zondervan. I refused to spend money to buy it, so he mailed me his copy, on loan. About half way through, I gave up, and mailed it back to him. I'll share my comments to him:

Dear Tim,

     Thanks again very much for giving me the chance to read Strobel's book. I apologize for taking so long to get it back to you, and also for being so slow in giving you a response.

     I'm afraid that I have to say that I was not only not convinced, I was not impressed. Even discounting the fact that he is writing in a journalistic style and for a popular, lay audience, I didn't think he came near to proving what he set out to prove. His book is meant for the already converted, or the gullible.

     I read the first half very carefully, and took detailed notes, and as I looked them over, I realized that all this ground had been covered in Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which I read several years ago. McDowell's book got a book-length critique at, and the objections to McDowell's Evidence are equally applicable to Strobel's Case. I therefore only skimmed the rest of the book.

     Strobel's technique of interviewing experts is all right, but he only reports his interviews with the experts on one side. He says that he "challenged" them, of course, with "tough questions," but again and again lets them off the hook, content with their assurance that they have adequately answered the "tough question." This is suspicious. Why didn't he present interviews with some of the experts who find fundamental flaws in the Christian evidence?

     I originally thought that I would write a detailed review of the book. But since it is really pretty much a rehash of McDowell, I will make only a few general comments here.

     The fundamental problems with the Christian evidence, as I have felt for a long time, and which Strobel does nothing to rebut, in my opinion, are:

     Ultimately, the Christian evidence is only circumstantial and hearsay. Such evidence can be disregarded in a court if there is any other natural, reasonable, possible explanation than the one which the party offering the circumstantial evidence proposes. And there is. With our knowledge of how religious movements begin and develop, how the human mind works (how hallucinations, self-hypnosis, brainwashing work), how urban legends begin and spread, how circumstances were in Jesus' time and place, one has no real difficulty in understanding how this Jewish teacher's life and death became the basis for a mystery religion quite unlike anything he foresaw, and how it "grew like Topsy." [see my article on Jesus for a discussion of this]

Best wishes,



Since writing the above, I have found a much more thorough and scholarly critique of Strobel's book, by Jeff Lowder, here. He has many of the same criticisms as I, but goes into much more detail. I recommend his critique highly.

Addendum 2

Since writing the above, I have been notified of still another excellent and even more thorough (book-length) review, by Earl Doherty, here.

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©  2001 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included


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