Sep 27, 2010

Overrated books part 3

An atheist once told me that he felt religion was a personal matter and no one should hold your spiritual matters against you. Wise words I felt and I've never forgotten them.

I had what one may call a 'crisis of faith' for a long period of time after reading the scriptures for the third time. Years ago someone gave me a copy of 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel to help answer questions I had about the gospel record. Before that I found the evidence to corroborate the New Testament writers to be sorely lacking and I questioned if Jesus even existed as a historical person much less a spiritual one. In her handing me this book I imagine it was to answer my queries and to be more secure in my walk with God.

Lee Strobel is a legal journalist who attempts to make the case that the gospel records are accurate and are corroborated by historical evidence. He claimed to be a skeptic at the time of his investigation, but early into the book he states otherwise. I'm not sure which is true.

Strobel interviews many apologetic scholars about the biblical accounts, but he never once sits down to talk with anyone who doesn't fit his world view. There are no secular historians or anything of the like. Early in the book you'll find him speaking to experts who claim the gospel authors are at best anonymous, which raises a red flag about his theory that it's all true. We know Mark, the first writer, was written at least 40 years after Christ's death, because he mentions the destruction of the second Jewish temple, and quite possibly couldn't have been around to witness the events, but he fails to mention any of this.

He goes on to give all sorts of anecdotal evidence of Christ's accounts, but no where does he find a contemporary who documented any of his events such as birth, Sermon on the Mount, miraculous healings, crucifixion, or resurrection. None of his experts bring forth any evidence of the slaughter of the innocents by Herod, which one would assume would be somewhere in the historical record.

All of his interviews lead nowhere but to assume the testimony of Christ's existence is heresay. This would never hold up in court, but Strobel thinks otherwise for reasons I don't understand. Is he lying to his readers? I mean he knows a judge would never allow a defense to not cross examine a claim, but the author seems to believe that shouldn't matter. He never interviews a single member of the Jesus Seminar, nor does he even give any challenges to his own hypothesis. The gospels are accurate because he believes it to be so and his so called evidence should be proof enough that Jesus is the son of God.

Strobel did write a compelling book as it's easy to read and digest, but one can't help but think he's preaching to the choir. The faithful will never question his investigation as that would complicate their spiritual walk. People who want a serious query into Christ existing as a historical figure will find it frustrating that they wasted their time on such obvious propaganda.

Around the same time my father read the book and found it to be proof enough of Christ's existence. We sat down and talked about it and I told him my problems with the claims in Strobel's writings. He didn't have an answer for a single one, but it never shook his already strong faith.

After I finished it I laid my copy to rest and wondered about the apologetic movement for a bit. One thing they seem to never grasp is if someone needs evidence to back up their spiritual views how strong is their faith to begin with? That question lingered for a spell, but brought me to a conclusion neither I nor the girl who gave me the book expected; the bible is not a historical document. It's simply a salvation story and something that was always intended to be taken upon by belief. Those who state otherwise are misguided at best.

"The market Strobel's book was written for, is clear: it is written for the Christian evangelical market. It is really preaching to the choir; it is so blatantly one-sided that I can't imagine any thinking skeptic being taken in by it, and I'm sure that Strobel realized that. But he's not selling the book to skeptics. He's selling it to Christians who either want to reinforce their faith, or think they're going to convince their skeptic friends with it." - Scott Bidstrup

No comments: