Lee Strobel, Putting the Cart Before the Horse on Jesus Again
I’ve been reading through Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ on the recommendation of a reader who says its arguments are compelling. Indeed, she found the book so compelling that she followed its suggestion and became a Christian. But simply on the basis of logic so far, I’m repelled rather than attracted to Lee Strobel’s Case. As I’ve already discussed, Strobel rejects atheists’ appeals to authority and then uses them himself. He calls his book a “trial” but won’t let the other side present its case independently. He asks questions that already assume a particular answer.
I just encountered another logical cul-de-sac in the book. Strobel says to religious skeptics that they should take the question of Christ’s divinity seriously because the stakes are so high:
I do feel a strong obligation to urge you to make this a front-burner issue in your life. Don’t approach it casually or flippantly, because there’s a lot riding on your conclusion. As Michael Murphy aptly put it, “We ourselves — and not merely the truth claims — are at stake in the investigation.”
Strobel’s using circular logic again. There is only “a lot riding on your conclusion” — the fate of your eternal soul — if Strobel is correct and this Jesus Christ character is really your eternal savior. If Strobel is incorrect, then it’s all a debate about a fiction, the stakes couldn’t possibly be lower, and absolutely nothing is riding on the conclusion. For a religious skeptic, it is not established that the stakes are high — indeed, whether the stakes are high or not is the central question of the book. It makes no sense for Lee Strobel to declare that we should believe him when he says the stakes are high because the stakes are high. Until Strobel successfully makes his “Case for Christ,” it’s perfectly reasonable for a skeptic to treat his argument dispassionately. If Strobel wants us to get passionate about Jesus, he’ll have to make arguments that make sense.