The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel's Story

The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel's Story
Side B Stories
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel's Story

Nov 10 2023 | 01:18:11

Episode 80 November 10, 2023 01:18:11

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Former atheist Lee Strobel investigated Christianity in order to disprove it, but surprisingly came to believe it was true based on the evidence.

Lee' Resources: 

  • The Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics:
  • Books:
    • Is God Real?
    • The Case for Christ
    • The Case for Faith
    • The Case for the Creator
    • The Case for Heaven
    • Spiritual Mismatch with Leslie Strobel
    • The Unexpected Adventure with Mark Mittleberg
    • many others

Resources mentioned by Lee:

  • Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists:  The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence
  • Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus
  • Norman Geisler, Roots of Evil
  • J.I. Packer, I Want to Be a Christian and Knowing God
  • Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict and More Than a Carpenter
  • John Stott, Basic Christianity
  • Frank Morrison, Who Moved the Stone?  
  • C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters
  • John Warwick Montgomery, Where is History Going: Essays in Support of the Historical Truth of Christ, The Is God Dead? Controversy, How Do We Know that There’s a God?
  • G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
  • Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica
  • Blaise Pascal, Pensees'
  • Francis Schaeffer, The God Who was There
  • Bertrand Russell, Why I'm Not a Christian

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: You. [00:00:02] Speaker B: I felt like if I were to maintain my atheism, I would have to swim upstream against this current of evidence, flowing the other direction. That's not logical. That's not safe. That doesn't make sense. The most logical thing is to swim in the direction the current is flowing, because that's the direction the truth is. [00:00:23] Speaker A: Pointing you hello and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to Cybe stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic but became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of our stories on our Sciby stories website at or our YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on our stories, on our Facebook page, on our YouTube channel, or directly to our email at [email protected] we always love hearing from you atheists are often resistant to change, especially towards belief in God and religion. Two thirds of those whom I studied had absolutely no intention or desire to change from their atheistic perspective. Usually something happens in their life that causes them to become open towards another point of view. Sometimes that openness to investigate is to disprove faith or belief in God, rather to embrace it. This can especially be the case when, as an atheist, someone they love, to whom they are married, was not once interested in the question of God, but then becomes a Christian. It can be tremendously upending to a relationship. What was once settled and familiar becomes questioned and estranged. Life becomes tense. Questions arise. Which view is true? Who is right? Who is wrong? How do we decide? Can we even go on like this? Our story today is one that is most likely familiar to many or even most of you. Lee Strobel was an investigative journalist whose top priority was finding facts and truth, and to use that to potentially disprove his wife's newfound faith. His search, though, through the evidence, led him to believe in God. I hope you'll come along to hear Lee's fascinating journey from atheism to belief. Welcome to Sidebar Stories Podcast. Lee, it's so great to have you with me today. [00:02:25] Speaker B: I'm so glad to be with you. I've got your book on the 50 atheists who became believers in Christ, and I can't wait to dig into it. It looks like a great scholarly and personal investigation, so thank you for doing that. [00:02:40] Speaker A: Oh, you're so welcome. And thanks for bringing that up. That's fantastic. As we're getting started, can you tell us a little bit about who you are now, maybe a little bit of your academic background, your career, and maybe a little bit about the books that you've written and your current book. [00:02:59] Speaker B: Sure. I have married for 51 years. That's maybe the most important thing, is my wife Leslie, and I met when we were 14 years old and got married when I was 20 and she was 19. In fact, we were so young, we couldn't drink champagne at our wedding, so we had champagne glasses filled with milk at our wedding. We have two children. One is a theology professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, and my daughter is a homeschooling expert and a novelist. She's had half a dozen novels that have been published, but my background is in journalism and law. Always wanted to be a journalist. I went to the University of Missouri to get my bachelor's degree in journalism. Later went to Yale Law School to get my Master of Studies in Law degree. And then I became legal editor of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, which is, of course, the largest paper between the coasts, and loved it. I have printers ink running through my blood. I loved journalism. I loved the big city excitement of being on a front row seat to history. So I enjoyed that very much. My wife was agnostic, I was an atheist, and we had a pretty happy marriage. And we'll get into, I guess, my story later about how that changed. So I have written a number of books. I think more than 40 books, probably the most well known, is the case for Christ. I've also written the case for faith, the case for miracles, a case for heaven, the case for a creator. My new book is called Is God Real? And that's going to be come out on October 31. And so I'm excited about that and its potential to reach spiritual seekers as well as deepen the faith of believers. So, by the biggest development in my life in the last couple of years is we started a center at Colorado Christian University. It's called the Lee Strobel center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics. And I gathered 40 PhDs in various disciplines of history, philosophy, science, and so forth. And we created 91 courses that are fully accredited and fully online. And so people can get a master's degree, they can get a bachelor's degree, or we have certificate courses for people that don't want a degree, but they'd like to take a course on Islam or on world religions or on the resurrection or on science and faith and so forth. And if you take five of those courses, by the way, they're very inexpensive. You do those online at your own pace, and you get a certificate kind of confirming that you've completed that study. It's not an academic degree for those, but it's a credential as well. And so we've got hundreds and hundreds of students who are part of our center, very excited about that and look forward to training a lot more people, especially of next generations, to be able to articulate their faith and defend it. We're not looking for ivory Tower academics. We're really looking for people who are going to put it into action. People like you who are doing podcasts and doing radio shows and writing books and sharing it across a backyard fence with a neighbor. I mean, people who actually use writing letters to the editor of the newspaper, whatever we want people who are really putting this into action. And those are the kind of graduates that we're beginning to graduate from our center. [00:06:28] Speaker A: Wow. I love that. What an extraordinary resource. And I hope this really does spark the interest of so many Christians and churches as well who are desperately in need of this kind of information and study and resource in order to practically engage with those in culture today. How wonderful. Thank you. And congratulations. [00:06:53] Speaker B: If people want more information, they can go to and access the information there. [00:06:59] Speaker A: Yeah, that's terrific. And we'll be sure to include that website in our episode notes so people can take a look and just go forward on that link. [00:07:08] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:07:08] Speaker A: All right, well, let's get started with your story again. A lot of people know your story, have seen your film the case for Christ. If you haven't, go see it, but it starts with you as obviously an atheist and an investigative journalist. And I would love to go even back behind that to the backstory of what even informed your atheism. So let's get started in your childhood. Lee, tell me about your home, where you grew up and was religion or God any part of that at all? [00:07:44] Speaker B: Yeah, my dad was a lawyer, graduated from Northwestern University. His dad was a butcher who came over from Germany before World War I. And my dad did not practice law, but he had his own independent insurance adjusting agency that he and another guy started. And it was quite successful. We were financially comfortable. We lived in the city of Chicago for a while, but then when I was maybe in kindergarten, we moved out to a suburb, Arlington Heights, which is about 30 miles northwest of Chicago. So it was a middle class, comfortable upbringing. Faith was not really much part of my childhood. My parents were part of a church. It was a Missouri Senate Lutheran church. They were very private about their faith. I never saw anybody reading a Bible, don't remember any spiritual conversations. We did kind of do a rope prayer at dinner time, but there wasn't a lot of evidence of faith in the household. My dad, though, was on the board of directors of the church because as an attorney, it's always nice to have someone trained at law to be part of a board of directors. But as I say, it was not a big influence on me. They did send me to classes in my middle school years, confirmation classes that are common in Lutheran churches. And I tolerated that because I did not have a good relationship with my dad. My dad was a good man in many ways, but I rubbed him the wrong way in a lot of ways as well. They had had three children in rapid succession and thought they were done having children and had big plans for travel and so forth. And then several years passed, and then all of a sudden, I came along, and it's kind of a surprise and not a good surprise to my dad. And so we never really developed a close relationship. We had a lot of tension. And so I tolerated the classes that they sent me to because I knew that I would incur my dad's wrath if I bucked the system. So I said what needed to be said and tolerated what needed to be tolerated. And as soon as I got into high school, the approach was, whatever you want to do. Do you want to go to church? Fine. Don't want to go to church? Fine. I mean, they just kind of said, it's up to you to decide what you want to do. And that's when I began my descent into atheism, so to speak. Actually, my middle school years and my high school years were the first of, I'd say, three steps that took me into atheism. [00:10:29] Speaker A: Okay, so you went through the motions of some sort of church or religious upbringing, but it sounds like it really didn't hit in a personal way with your family, your father, or with you. It was just emotions that you went through. And then, I presume, as soon as you were given the decision to go your own way, that sounds like that may have been the direction. Why don't you walk us through that? [00:10:56] Speaker B: Yeah. There were really kind of three steps that took me into atheism. The first one was in middle school when I was starting to attend these classes, and I started to ask the embarrassing questions that middle schoolers tend to ask, like, oh, gosh, if God exists, then why is the world a mess? Why do people suffer so much? Or why is he so hidden? Why does he make himself more apparent? Or how could God send people to hell if he loves them? And I found that My parents weren't really interested in discussing that. My teachers at the church were kind of put off by the fact that I kept bringing this kind of stuff up. And I concluded, oh, I get it. The reason nobody really wants to talk about this stuff is there are no good answers. And that was my first step toward atheism. My second step was in my freshman year in high school when I took a biology course and was taught that neodarwinism explains the origin and diversity of life. And I thought, oh, I get it. God's out of a job. He's unemployed. You don't need a creator if neo Darwinism can explain the origin and diversity of all life. So that was the second step, the third step, and that's when I became started to call myself an atheist, was in my high school years. And then what really cemented it was in college. I went to the University of Missouri, which has, of course, the first journalism school in the country, and I think the best journalism school. And I took a course on the historical Jesus that was taught by a skeptic. And I walked away from that course saying, oh, I get it. You can't trust what the Gospels tell you about Jesus. You can't trust anything the Bible tells you about Jesus. It's all myth and make believe and wishful thinking and so forth. And that was really the final nail in the coffin of my atheism. I lived a lifestyle that was consistent with my atheistic outlook, because I didn't say this out loud, but kind of the feeling I had in my heart was, okay, if there is no God, if there is no heaven, if there is no hell, if there is no judgment, if there is no ultimate accountability, then the most logical way to live life would be as a hedonist, just pursue pleasure. And that's what I did. So I lived a very drunken and profane and narcissistic, self absorbed, in some ways self destructive kind of a lifestyle. That was the lifestyle that I adopted. And it was entirely consistent with a belief that there is no ultimate accountability. [00:13:38] Speaker A: Right. Wow lot there. So early on when you were asking questions, There were no seeming substantive answers that were coming back your way as you again moving up. And then you're seeing an irreconcilability between science and faith or religion, and even into college, some questioning of the reliability of the text. And all of that through high school or college, did you ever find or encounter an informed or intelligent Christian to counter these opinions that you were drawing from the classroom and from others? [00:14:19] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a great question. My best friend in high school came from a family of skeptics. I'm guessing, looking back, his dad was an atheist, if not an atheist and agnostic. And that was sort of reflected in my friend's attitude as well. So he wasn't bringing anything to the table in terms of a faith. I did have a couple of people I knew in high school who were Christians and who were sincere about their faith, but we never really got into conversation about it. I just sort of shunned them because I thought it was silly and wasn't worth my time to really investigate. It just seemed the mere concept of an all loving, all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe was kind of crazy when you think about it that way. You go, well, that's nuts. It just wasn't worth my time to delve into it any further. And so none of my friends, I had a Jewish friend who was pretty serious about his faith, and I had a couple of friends who were believers. Interestingly, one of my friends wanted to go into journalism like I was going into journalism, and his fundamentalist Christian parents forbade him from doing that because they said that's too worldly. And so he ended up not going into journalism. I talked to him years later. It was the biggest regret of his life because that was really what he wanted to do with his life here I saw him wanting to take this path and his faith in Christianity deterring him. I thought that's just more evidence that this is not something that breathes life into people but narrows their options and opportunities. [00:16:05] Speaker A: Interesting. Plus, as I guess, an analytical thinker, obviously you had that kind of mind to pursue truth, and you were able to see that believing in a godless world brought you certain moral freedoms so that you were able to live in a way that you wanted to live. I wondered also, did you see the implications of other aspects of a naturalistic worldview? You knew what you were rejecting, but did you know fully what you were embracing other than the freedom that it brought to you? Did you see the end roads of some other implications of know? [00:16:49] Speaker B: I didn't really. I thought this was the path to take. I enjoyed it. I indulged in things that would have been forbidden to me had I been a follower of Jesus. And I kind of reveled in my lifestyle and didn't think of down the road implications of what that might bring. I was not an alcoholic in the sense that I had a chemical dependency on alcohol. But I used it. I was a friendly drunk, and I was the friendliest drunk in the bar. I would go in, I would get drunk, and I would buy pitchers of beer and go fill up everybody's glass for hours on hours and cost me a fortune. But I was the friendliest guy at the bar. But I wasn't thinking ahead. Where does this lead? [00:17:38] Speaker A: Okay. Yeah. So it sounds like you were enjoying life. You were a happy atheist, in a sense. [00:17:45] Speaker B: Yeah, I was. I was happy in my atheism. I will say that there was one other factor, I think, in my becoming an atheist, and that was my relationship with my dad. As I said, my dad was a good man, but I knew how to push his buttons, and I would lie to him. I would do things that he specifically told me not to do. And I remember on the eve of my high school graduation, which I ended up not going to because we had a blowout confrontation. And he looked at me and said, I don't have enough love for you to fill my little. You know, we had a tough relationship. [00:18:23] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:18:24] Speaker B: And if you look, know there's a famous book by Paul Vitz from New York University, psychologist on faith of the fatherless. It looks at famous atheists through history. Kemusart, Nietzsche, Freud, Fortier, Wells, ForJerbach, O'Hare. And all of them had a father with whom they had a terrible relationship with, or who died when they were young or divorced their mother when they were young. And of course, the implication is, subconsciously, you don't want to know about a heavenly Father if your earthly father has disappointed you or let you down or hurt you because you think it's just going to be worse. [00:19:01] Speaker A: Right? [00:19:02] Speaker B: And I think that was the background noise of my psyche in these early years, that because of the difficult relationship with my dad, I wasn't really interested in the concept of a heavenly Father. And it wasn't until I read C. S. Lewis, who know the way to get beyond that is to imagine what would the perfect father be like? Oh, well, everybody can imagine the perfect father. Oh, he would be warm and friendly, and he'd be your biggest cheerleader. He'd pull you up in his lap and give you a hug and cheer you on. That is a picture of your heavenly Father. He's not just a magnified version of your earthly father. And when I read that, that really helped get me past that psychological impediment to. [00:19:52] Speaker A: Yeah. Yeah. I'm thinking someone really needed to hear that. Lee, thank you for being transparent. You were. You were living life big and pursuing your know, your educational dreams and then moving towards investigative journalism. It sounds like during that time, as I guess you could, again, just a satisfied atheist, it sounds like you weren't looking for anything else. Didn't think you would probably be convinced of anything else. What did you think? The concept of God or Christians or Jesus or the Bible? What was all that? What was your perspective looking on? As an atheist? [00:20:39] Speaker B: I wasn't hostile toward the idea of God. I just thought, honestly, I thought it was absurd. I thought it was full of contradictions and illogical leaps of faith. And I didn't look down on people who are Christians. I just thought, well, if that's what they want to do, that's fine, but, Golly, I mean, I'm too smart for that. I'm a journalist. I'm 22 years old, and I got articles in the front page of the Chicago Tribune. My investigations led to the resignation of the Republican nominee for governor. At one point, I exposed bid rigging on all the major freeways in Chicago. I exposed the Ford Motor Company for its production of the subcompact car, the Pinto, which was a car that was designed in a way that made it a death trap and would explode when hit from behind in medium or low impact collision. So I'm used to investigating things and checking things out and sniffing out the problems with something and sniffing out the contradictions and the leaps of faith. And not that I took the time to delve particularly thoroughly into atheism, but it just seemed to be so logical and so rational and neo Darwinism explained, you don't need God, can't trust the Bible. There's no good answers to tough questions. What's the like? [00:22:19] Speaker A: Yeah. So Christianity at that point just wasn't even worthy of serious consideration. [00:22:26] Speaker B: That's a good way to. [00:22:27] Speaker A: Yeah. And it sounds like all these smart guys, they know what they're talking about and be with them because obviously, yeah, you're an investigative journalist, hard hitting truth seeker, all of those kinds of things, and. Wow, interesting. So move us along. And then in your story, I know you mentioned that you married, and you married young, actually. And so tell us, you mentioned that Leslie was an agnostic, so she was on board with you, I guess. You were living life together in this common view of reality, this common view of life without God. And perfectly fine with. [00:23:10] Speaker B: She was. I use the word agnostic. I'm not sure that's totally the perfect word. She just was kind of in spiritual neutral. [00:23:18] Speaker A: Okay. [00:23:19] Speaker B: She couldn't put the pieces together. Her mother was from Scotland, that she was a war bride, and she was a Presbyterian background, and she would sing hymns to Leslie when she was little, when she would put her to bed. She didn't go to church, really, as a child, mainly because her mother couldn't drive and her dad was an atheist and did not encourage his wife, Leslie's mother, to attend church. And so Leslie didn't really go to church hardly at all growing up. But I was a little more hardened against God, whereas she was just spiritually confused, spiritually neutral. It wasn't an urgent issue in her life. We were happy in our marriage, and it just didn't seem like anything she felt a great need to pursue. [00:24:12] Speaker A: So then what happened again? Both of you seemed rather settled and happy in your perspective. What changed that? [00:24:20] Speaker B: Well, it was a knock on the door. We moved into a condominium building in suburban Chicago, and a woman came by with a plate of homemade cookies. She lived downstairs with her husband, and she had with her, her daughter, who happened to be the same age as our daughter, and her name was Linda. She was a nurse, a Christian nurse. They were devout followers of Jesus in a very sincere and warm way. And Linda and Leslie became best friends. And Leslie would go over to her condo during the day when I was at work, and they'd have coffee and tea, and they would talk about spiritual matters. And Leslie, as I say, wasn't hostile. She was interested, especially because she saw an authentic faith in Linda and her husband. And Linda had a. It's interesting, you think people who have a spiritual gift of hospitality would keep perfect houses, and everything was in this place, but really, when you have a spiritual gift of hospitality, as she did, you don't care if there's dirty dishes in the sink. Your heart is to open your home to people because you love them and you love God. And that's how she was. And she was just very natural with her faith. She invited Leslie to go to church with her. I freaked out when she told me that she was going to go to church because I had to babysit the kids and, you know, go once, but I'm not going to get in the habit of babysitting the kids while you're in church. So she goes to church. She had a really good experience and began to ask questions and study the Bible with Linda during the day. They would pray together, and it took about, I don't know, maybe a year or so of her in this process. And she came to me one day, and actually, the scene in the movie is quite accurate, where she basically told me she'd become a follower of Jesus. And I thought this was the worst news I could get as an atheist. First word that went through my mind was divorce. [00:26:25] Speaker A: Oh, my. [00:26:26] Speaker B: I was going to walk out because I did not want to be married to a Christian. I didn't want to entangle my life into that. I thought she was going to turn into some holy roller. I thought our sex life was going to dry up. I had all these misconceptions about the faith. But then it was later that I realized that, well, two things happened, okay? One thing was a positive thing in the sense that I could see change. I knew her so well. We grew up together, and I could see subtle changes in her character and in her values and the way she related to me and the children. And it was Winsome and it was attractive, and it began to kind of pull me toward faith. But at the same time, I wanted the old Leslie back. I wanted our old life back. I want everything to be like it was. And so I thought, you know, if I could investigate Christianity and disprove the resurrection of Jesus, because even as an atheist, I understood that's the linchpin. That's the key to everything. I'd seen plenty of dead people as a journalist. I'd never seen any come back after three days. I thought, this is a no brainer to disprove the resurrection, right. So I thought if I could just do that, I could rescue her from this cult that she's gotten involved in. And so that was kind of the impetus. It was kind of a two pronged thing. I was being attracted and being repelled at the same time. And it was complicated. It wasn't simple. And so I decided to take my journalism training, take my legal training and investigate. That's what I did for a living. [00:27:59] Speaker A: Right. [00:28:00] Speaker B: And see what the evidence shows. And it launched me on what turned out to be almost two years of investigating the evidence. [00:28:08] Speaker A: Yes, a real approach. Avoidance, I guess. I Guess you wanted to know what was true. But again, the implications of what you find can make a difference for yourself personally, for your marriage, and for everything. So what did that investigative journalist journey look like when you're looking at something like the Resurrection? And I'm sure people are thinking, how in the world could you prove or disprove an event that happened 2000 years ago? [00:28:42] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I was not setting out to write a book. I was not setting out to write an article. I was just doing this for my own personal edification. But I was trained in this. And so back then, this is a number of years ago. This goes back to, what, 1980? There were not a lot of popular level resources out there on these topics. Today there's a proliferation of books and articles and movies and all kinds of stuff. So for somebody today that wanted to pursue this, it's a lot easier than me, because here I am going to libraries and museums and looking through microfilm, ordering books. I remember I went to, there was a book written by Simon Greenleaf, who was one of the early people at Harvard Law School in the 18 hundreds who really made Harvard, I think, what it is today, which is the second best law school after Yale. But he had written a book about the Gospels and the reliability of the eyewitnesses in terms of the resurrection. And so I remember going to a Chicago public library, and of course they didn't have that book. It was published, I don't know when, 18 890 or whatever. So I had to put in for an inner library loan. And I think it took three or four months for me to get that book. And they called me one day and said, we found your book from the University of Wisconsin. Library had it, and they give me this book and it's got rubber bands around it to hold it together. And I'm holding this book. And it was brilliant. And it really helped was it was arduous in a sense. I was trained to interview people. And so I remember I would pick up the. Remember I read something about Ignatius, who was an early church father, and he had said some things about the resurrection and about the deity of Jesus, supposedly. And so I remember picking up the phone and I'd found a scholar on Ignatius. He was at a secular university somewhere. And I called him up and said, hi, I'm Lee Strobel from the Chicago Tribune. Could I ask you a few questions about Ignatius? Oh, sure. He probably thought, and I left the impression that I was doing an article for the Tribune, which I wasn't. I was misleading there. But I asked him the questions and thanks a lot, and hung up. It was just natural for me. So I read a lot of books. I tried to talk to as many people as I could, in fact, because I knew we were going to do this interview, I actually made a list of some of the books that I read. [00:31:27] Speaker A: Yes. [00:31:28] Speaker B: Back then. So I don't know if that would be interesting. But here's some that came to mind. Bertrand Russell, of course, I read books by atheists as well. [00:31:36] Speaker A: Sure. [00:31:37] Speaker B: So I read why I'm not a Christian. I also read essays and Skepticism and on the philosophy of Science by him. Albert Schweitzer, on the quest of the historical Jesus. David Hume, of course, on Miracles. Albert Camus on Christian metaphysics. Norman Geisler. He wrote a book on Christian apologetics in 1976 that I read, and he wrote a book called Roots of Evil, dealing with some of those questions of evil and suffering. J. I. Packer. I want to be a Christian and knowing God. Josh McDowell, evidence that demands a verdict and more than a carpenter. Basic Christianity by John Stott, who moved the Stone, by Frank Morrison. Frank Morrison. He had a reputation of being a journalist in England who wrote a book. He was a skeptic, and he wrote a book about the resurrection and became a believer. As I investigated, I found he wasn't much of a journalist. He was actually in the advertising department of the newspaper. But the book was fascinating. In fact, there's a chapter in it called Something like the chapter that refused to be written or something like that, which was kind of his conclusion about the resurrection, anyway. Basic Christianity by John Stott. Testimony of the Four evangelists, as I mentioned, by Simon Greenleaf. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Screw tape. Letters by C. S. Lewis. I read some things by a guy named John Warwick Montgomery, who's got about 800 degrees and was a kind of an acerbic apologist back then. He's still around. He wrote a book in 69 called Where Is History Going? Essays in support of the historical truth of Christ. He wrote a book called the Is God Dead? Controversy. He wrote one called how do we know that there's a God? I read C. K. Chesterton, the Everlasting Man, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, Francis Schaeffer, the God who was there. I read the Quran. I read the Book of Mormon, and I read the Bible. So those are the ones that I can remember. And there are others that come to mind as part of my investigation. As I say today, there's just so many more resources available. [00:34:01] Speaker A: Right. What strikes me is that you were willing to look at different sides of the issue, not just one voice. It's not as if you were seeking to disprove and only read atheists or seeking to that you were willing to look at multiple. [00:34:19] Speaker B: You know, it's interesting. I was trained in those years in journalism where you looked at both sides of things. When I was an atheist and covering a lot of legal cases at the Chicago Tribune, there were a lot of cases on abortion. So I wrote a lot about abortion when I was an atheist at Chicago Tribune. If you read any of my articles on abortion, you would not be able to tell that I was pro abortion because I was taught in journalism, you tell both sides and you look at both sides. Today it's different, unfortunately. But back then we did that. And so that's what I did in my investigation. I realized I got to find the best atheists. Who are they? Well, Anthony Flu. I don't know if I mentioned Anthony Flu, but I read God and philosophy that he wrote and I did read the presumption of atheism, but I can't remember if that was before or after I became a believer way back then because that came out in the late 70s. So I wanted to read the atheists. I wanted to read the Christians. I wanted to get the best arguments on both sides and really draw conclusions that made sense. [00:35:26] Speaker A: I'd like to pause for a moment and tell you about an upcoming event from the CS Lewis Institute that you will not want to miss. Dr. Andy Bannister will be talking about how to have panic free conversations with others about Jesus. Through his brilliant humor and quick wit, Andy shares stories and proven strategies which will help you experience the joy of having conversations with others about what matters most. Why is it so difficult to talk about our faith in Jesus with our friends, colleagues and even family? If it's so important, what's stopping us from sharing the good news? Dr. Andy Bannister lived for years as an undercover Christian before deciding to try and tackle the fear, apprehension and anxiety of telling others about Jesus. Since then, he has been able to help thousands discover how to share their faith in thoughtful and gracious ways. Andy hails from England and is the director of Solos, an apologetics ministry which helps others communicate the Gospel and regularly addresses audience around the world of Christians and non Christians on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society. His talk will be drawn from his latest book entitled how to Talk About Jesus Without Looking like an Idiot, a panic free guide to having natural conversations about your faith. If you're interested in listening in, this online event will be held on Friday, November 10, 2023 at 08:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It is free, but you do need to register. Go to panicfree. Now back to our story. So as you were reading both sides and you were drawing some conclusions along the way, I presume that they were away from atheism and towards belief, I presume. What were some of those pivotal findings for you as an investigator that made you really step back and say, well, perhaps God is real or the resurrection did happen. What were some of those pivotal things that helped you move in another direction? [00:37:51] Speaker B: Well, it really was a cumulative case. It was piece after piece and things slowly began to, you know what it's like? It's kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle and you're putting the pieces together and you don't have the ultimate picture that you're supposed to come out with. You're just putting these pieces together and an image starts to form but you're not quite sure what it is. And the more pieces you put together, the better the image is. And when I got done, it was a portrait of Jesus, but I'm putting these pieces together and there were some key thought. You know, investigating the resurrection is pretty simple. Did Jesus live? Was he put to death and was he reliably encountered afterwards? I mean, there you go. Those are three historical issues. And what I loved about that is I'm a journalist, I like facts, I like evidence. I could look at philosophy and so forth, but give me facts, give me science, give me history. And so I thought, as I'm investigating the resurrection, that was largely the focus of where I was going. Not exclusively, but largely the focus. And a couple of things really were the final puzzle pieces for me. One of them is the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus to the point that they were willing to suffer deprivation and even death as a result of their belief that he had returned from the dead and thus proved he's the Son of God. Now as I looked into the disciples, I realized things got a little murky in terms of how some of them actually did die. But their willingness to die, their willingness to suffer is well established. I think there are seven ancient sources, six of them outside the Bible, that confirmed that the disciples lived lives of deprivation and suffering as a result of their proclamation that Jesus had risen. Why would they do that? Because here's the point. I started to think, well, so what if the disciples believed that Jesus resuRrected? People believe wacky things all the time. But then I realized, wait a minute, they were actually there. They weren't taught the resurrection by a Sunday school teacher 2000 years later. They were there. They were able to talk to the resurrected Jesus, they were able to touch him, they were able to eat with him. So they didn't just believe what happened. They knew the truth. They were there and knowing the truth, they were willing to die for it. Whether some of them did die for it, that's kind of irrelevant. Their willingness to die is well confirmed by seven ancient sources. And so I thought that's a difference between, say, a kamikaze pilot in World War II or more currently, a terrorist today that decides to crash an airplane into a building, kill a bunch of innocent people because he believes to the core of his soul, if he dies this way, he'll go to paradise to be with his God. And he believes it, and he's willing to die for it. So I thought, that doesn't tell me anything, but it does, because that terrorist doesn't know for sure that his faith is true. He just believes it. But the disciples were in a position to know for a fact, is this true or is it false? And knowing it was true, they were willing to suffer and willing to die for their proclamation that Jesus didn't just claim to be the Son of God, he backed it up by returning from the dead. That was kind of the final puzzle piece that went into the puzzle. But there were a lot of others that were part of the puzzle as well. Over time, as William Lane Craig says, it's not a chain in the sense that if you remove a link, the whole thing is no longer useful. It's more of, like, chain mail that the old knights would wear in the medieval times. That's interlocked. So it's a cumulative case. You can remove one of the facts. It doesn't destroy the case. I just found over time, and I spent a year and nine months doing this, and I was pretty intense on doing. I was spending a lot of time on it, sometimes the detriment of my career. But you know what it was like when I was a little kid, my parents gave me this punching. It's like a punching toy. It's a weighted inflatable clown. [00:42:50] Speaker A: Yes, I remember those. [00:42:52] Speaker B: Remember those. [00:42:52] Speaker A: I remember those. Yes. [00:42:54] Speaker B: And so you'd hit it and it would go back, but then it would come because it was weighted. It would come forward again, and you'd hit it again and come back. That's what it was like. The more I would try to hit Christianity and damage it and disprove it, it would bounce back, and it was a darnest thing because I thought it would be so easy to disprove it, and so I'd hit it with an objection, and it would go. It would come back up and dog gone it. There is a logical answer to this. There is a logical explanation. There are lines of evidence from history that support this. Science does not contradict. So it was a fascinating experience for me, I bet. [00:43:37] Speaker A: And you started putting those puzzle pieces together until you came up with, yes. The portrait of Jesus that was just hard to refuse him. [00:43:48] Speaker B: November the eigth of 1981, that was. [00:43:50] Speaker A: A date, as I'm thinking about Leslie through this period of time, because I know that there are people listening who have perhaps a spouse who doesn't believe. And I wondered how she was managing, or were there things that she was doing? Was she sitting back and just prayerful? Was she pushy? How was she responding that allowed you to do the work that you needed to do without, say, coercion or pressure? [00:44:28] Speaker B: That's a great question. And we actually wrote a book about that later to try to help people who are spiritually mismatched. It's called spiritual mismatch. And so we kind of draw from those experiences to help people who are in that position. A couple of things she found. One is she thought there was no hope for me because she knew me, and she knew I was hard headed, and she knew I was hard hearted. And she met some women at church, and she said, I don't have any hope for my husband. He's a legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He's never going to bend his knee to Jesus. And this one woman named Sylvia put her arm around Leslie's shoulder and pulled her to the side and said, oh, Leslie, no one is beyond hope. And she gave her a verse from the Old Testament that proved to be pivotal. Ezekiel 36 26, that says, moreover, I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And so Leslie took that verse. And virtually every day during that two years that I'm on this investigative journey, she's alone on her knees by herself, praying that prayer for me. And that, I think, was the most loving and the most effective thing that she did. The other thing she did, there were three relationships that she built into so that our marriage didn't fly apart because this was tough. I got so mad at her once for going to church that I literally kicked a hole through our living room wall. [00:46:07] Speaker A: Okay. [00:46:10] Speaker B: And then she wanted to give money to the church. So I remember what I said to her. I said, honey, it would be just as effective to take the cash and flush it down the toilet. [00:46:24] Speaker A: Yikes. [00:46:24] Speaker B: I mean, you might as well if you're going to give it to the church. So she literally got a part time job so she could tithe and give money to the church because she knew the church was the only thing that was going to reach me. And during this time, I was attending this church periodically with her, it was Willow Creek Community Church. I had weekend services designed for non church people. It was an outreach oriented church. It was great for me to learn and grow. So the three relationships she built into one, of course, was a relationship with God, because God, who was changing her in these winsome and attractive ways, that was drawing me toward faith. Secondly, she built a relationship with her mentor, Linda, because I discouraged her from going to church a lot and I didn't want to go into Bible studies. But she would meet with Linda during the day when I wasn't around. And Linda did not turn this into us versus Lee situation. It was a, hey, God loves Lee. You love Lee. We all love, you know, let's keep that in mind. He just is not as far along as you are yet, and that's okay. And she would pray with her, and Leslie would weep with her. So that mentor relationship was important. And then thirdly, she built a relationship with me because we were in danger of flying apart if ever. Our marriage in these 51 years was teetering on the edge. It was during this two years from time to time, when things would come to a head. I remember when she told me, I shouldn't tell you this, but when she told me she'd become a Christian, I was so mad, I stalked out of the house. And she had just planted a beautiful garden in the backyard, and I was mowing the lawn and I mowed down the entire garden. [00:48:19] Speaker A: Oh. As a gardener myself, that just makes my heart hurt right there. [00:48:24] Speaker B: Passive aggressive. But she knew we married each other because we love each other and we have commonality. So she said to herself, what do we like to do together? We like to go on bike rides together. Let's keep doing that. We'd like to go on little trips up to Wisconsin together. Let's keep doing that. And because she built these bridges to the things that we held in common and kept nurturing those things, it really prevented us from flying apart. So those three key relationship with God, with a mentor, and with her spouse were pivotal in our marriage staying together. [00:49:00] Speaker A: But she wasn't pressuring you, I presume, in any way. She knew you were on your own journey. [00:49:07] Speaker B: Yeah, but she would do things like, she would leave Christian books out on the coffee table, open to a certain page, and once she left a post it note on my shaving mirror saying, god loves you, and I do, too. Those were very counterproductive. Okay, that did not. Yeah, no, that wasn't good. But I could see that she was sincere. I loved her, and I knew she loved me, and she was intent on keeping the marriage and the family together. [00:49:43] Speaker A: Yeah, that's wonderful. So she was obviously watching you put some of these pieces together. You were putting some of the pieces together. Now, Lee, you know as well as I do there's a difference between intellectual ascent as something being true. And I know even your new book, is God real? There's that personal sensibility about the person of God and what that means. How did you make that shift? Once you understood intellectually as a journalist that this was true? How did that happen? [00:50:22] Speaker B: I felt kind of let down. When I sort of reached my verdict and realized that this is true, I thought, okay, am I done? I just spent two years of my life checking this stuff out. It's true. What do I do? Do I walk away? And Leslie pointed out a verse to me, John 112, that says, but as many as received him, to them, he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name. And in my analytical mind, I looked at that verse, and I realized it forms an equation of what it means to become a follower of Christ. Believe plus receive, equals become. [00:50:59] Speaker A: Okay? [00:51:00] Speaker B: So I said to her, what do I do? And she said, you need to receive this free gift of God's grace. You didn't earn it in this investigation. It's a free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus purchased on the cross when he died as your substitute to pay for all of your sins. And he offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of his grace. You need to receive it in a prayer of repentance and faith. And so I thought this is the most logical thing I could do. It's true. So, okay, I got on my knees and I poured out a confession of a lifetime of immorality that would curl your hair. And then I received complete and total forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And at that moment, I became a child of God. And I remember getting up off my knees and thinking, everything's going to change. My whole life is going to change. Because I realized, if this is true, and I've now embraced it as being true, I've now not only believe it, but I've received it. I said, jesus is who he claimed to be. His words are not just the advice of a motivational speaker. They are the words of God that I need to follow and take to heart. He's prescribed a way to live, and that's got to be the best way to live, because he created us, so he knows the best way to live. That's the path I need to pursue. And all of the logical implications of being a follower of Jesus kind of flooded into me. And as I say, it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made in my life. I didn't anguish over it because the evidence was so persuasive to me. I felt like if I were to maintain my atheism, I would have to swim upstream against this current of evidence flowing the other direction. That's not logical. That's not safe. That doesn't make sense. The most logical thing is to swim in the direction the current is flowing, because that's the direction the truth is. [00:52:59] Speaker A: Know, Lee, one thing that strikes me about your story, again, as an investigative journalist, you were searching for truth, but I can imagine. But in a sense, you didn't want it to be true. At the beginning, you were trying to disprove. But there was something that turned or changed to where truth became more important than your interior pushed back our heart against it. Did you sense palpably that kind of move towards openness that you really wanted to know whether it was true? [00:53:41] Speaker B: I remember her dragging me to church, and the title of the sermon that day was basic Christianity. And the pastor got up and basically gave a seeker oriented message for non believers, really, on what is Christianity and what is the grace of God? How do we become a Christian? I mean, it was all this basic stuff. And I remember walking out that day saying, okay, I don't believe it yet, but if this is true, this has huge implications for my life. And so I realized that this is more than just an exercise to liberate Leslie from a cult. This has implications for me. If this is true, I didn't believe it yet, but if this is true, it changes everything. And I remember that moment very poignantly. And I remember they showed a video. It wasn't a video back then. It was a film, I think, short little film. It was a claymation animation thing. And Here I am. I'm the sophisticated Yale Law School graduate, Chicago Tribune tough reporter, and I'm sitting there with my arms figuratively crossed over my chest, and they show this little cartoon, this claymation figure, this little guy, and he's trying to figure out how to please God, and he's offering God things. Here's my job. This is what I do. And he offers it up. And God's like, man, and he offers his hobbies up to God. God's not really interested, and he's offering all of these things, and he's getting so frustrated, and at the end, and the music is kind of swelling. And at the end, he comes this realization, and he reaches in and he takes out his heart and he lifts it up and he gives it to God. And God reaches out and he embraces him and he pulls him into his lap. And here this heavenly Father is embracing this figure. And I've got tears. I got tears in my eyes. Now, all these years later, I'm sitting there and it was like this film did an end run around my skepticism and got me from behind. [00:56:17] Speaker A: Yes. [00:56:18] Speaker B: So my heart began to get open because I began to see that this is more than just facts and figures and historical data and scientific stuff. This is a heart issue. And that moment when God embraces this clay figure and pulls him up into his lap, that was a threshold I crossed saying, not just, oh, I feel forced to do this because I want to liberate my wife, but I want to do this because I want to find the truth. If this is true, I need to know that God, if he's real. [00:57:00] Speaker A: Yeah. Especially considering what you told us at the beginning where you had a strained relationship with your father and you couldn't see a loving heavenly Father, but yet in this simplest way, the Lord showed you a different picture of what it could be like. [00:57:19] Speaker B: Yeah, it was a stupid little claymation. It's funny how God uses something like that to penetrate the heart of a skeptic. [00:57:30] Speaker A: Yeah. Amazing. So you knew that it had huge implications for your life. How did your life change after you believed? [00:57:40] Speaker B: Everything changed. My worldview, my philosophy, my atTitudes, my marriage, my parenting. I like to tell the story about my little daughter. She was five years old when I came to faith, and all she had known the first five years of her life was a dad who was absent, angry. She was there when I kicked the hole through the wall in anger. My wife going to church, and she cried and ran to her room. I mean, the ugly truth is, back in those days when I was an atheist, if my daughter were playing with some toys in the living room and she heard me come home from work through the front door, her natural reaction was just to gather her toys and go in her room and shut the door. [00:58:27] Speaker A: Yes. [00:58:27] Speaker B: At least it's quiet in here. But she started on that day, November the eigth of 1981, when I put my trust in Christ. She started to watch something's changing with my dad, something's different with my dad, something's new with my dad. And it took about four or five months for her from her little perspective. She never investigated like I did, but she was watching something's happening with my dad. Something's different. And then finally, she came up to first her Sunday school teacher at church, and then up to Leslie, and she said, I want God to do for me what he's done for dad. And so at age five, she received God's grace and became a follower of Christ. And then my son, same thing. He came to faith at a young age, too, because he saw the difference God was making in his mom and his dad and his sister. Yes, he became a professor of theology. [00:59:20] Speaker A: Amazing. [00:59:21] Speaker B: Of all things, God changed our family. He saved our family. We were headed down a dangerous path. I can't imagine how things would have turned out if I had continued down the path I was on. So God rescued our family. And it got to the point where I wanted to be that one voice in the newsroom of a sincere, authentic follower of Jesus. Because when my eyes were opened up after I became a Christian, I looked around the newsroom. We had a thousand people in our newsroom back then. This is back in the days of big city journalism. [00:59:54] Speaker A: Yes. [00:59:54] Speaker B: I'm looking around, and I could identify four or five people who were Christians. Now, I'm sure there were others, but four or five who were evangelical believers, including the religion editor, Bruce Bursma, whose desk was next to mine and whose brother is now my editor at the Zondervan Publishing house, of all things. But anyway, I wanted to be a voice in journalism for Christ. And I stayed in journalism for several years after I became a believer. But then I felt a distinct leading by God to leave all that behind, to take a 60% pay cut, and to join the staff of a local church where I could use the best hours of my day to share Jesus with others. And it was a pretty easy decision because I felt so strongly that this is what God wanted me to do, the path he wanted me to mean. I cashed in all my years at the Chicago Tribune and walked away. And I'm so glad I did, because I look back and I think of what I would have missed if I would have said, nah, I'm secure in my. I can be in the newsroom and just be a Christian. And nothing wrong with that. But that wasn't what God had for. So in following him, and by the way, I was able to lead my atheist father in law to faith. Basically, on his deathbed, his last coach and conversation before he died, he received Christ. So it was all worth it for that. [01:01:29] Speaker A: What a blessing. [01:01:30] Speaker B: So it's been a great adventure. In fact, Mark Middleberg and I wrote a book called the Unexpected Adventure. And it's all about the adventures we've had as followers of Jesus. And I look back, I said, man, as tough as it's been, we lived on canned tuna fish in a shack for 20 years because we had no money, we had nothing. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything. It's been the joy of my life. [01:01:54] Speaker A: We've been all so blessed. Lee, I can't tell you how many stories, whether in my doctoral research or even on these podcasts. In fact, the last person I interviewed talked about the influence of your great. [01:02:07] Speaker B: I love that. [01:02:07] Speaker A: Yes, over and over and over again, your name has come up as someone. You did the hard work. [01:02:17] Speaker B: You know what it's like. I'll use a quick analogy. So I'm a big Cubs fan. So in Wrigley Field, sometimes a guy will hit a ball and it'll be a pop up and it'll go to center field and it'll be easily caught. Other times, he'll hit the ball. He didn't hit the ball any harder. He hits the ball and the wind of Chicago takes it over the fence for a home run. That's how I feel about the books that I write, especially the case for Christ. I hit the ball. I wrote the book, but the Holy Spirit has taken it so far beyond what I ever anticipated. I feel like a third party hearing the stories about it because it wasn't me. I really feel God has done something that I didn't do, and he's the. [01:03:11] Speaker A: One that deserves the glory. Yes. He's just taken your obedience and multiplied it a million fold. Amazing. As a former atheist, and you probably deal with a lot of atheists these days are those who just reject and they'll just say there is no evidence for God. Now, of course, I'm sitting in front of you, and you looked at a lot of evidence and reason and that it's rational to believe and all of these things, but yet people will reject or dismiss out of hand and won't even look at the evidence or whatever. So how would you respond to someone who says there's no evidence for God? [01:03:54] Speaker B: Yeah, and I've had people tell me that, and my response to that is, with all due respect, that is the one statement that nobody can really make. You can say, I don't think the evidence is strong enough or I'm not convinced by the evidence, but to say there's no evidence, that just flies in the face of reality because there is evidence. Now, you may not find it persuasive but have you really looked into it? Have you really investigated it? There was a woman who was a PhD or, no, a medical doctor who wrote an article for Skeptic magazine, and she said, what would it take for me to believe? And she said, well, that a miracle, that there's a God who did a miracle. She said, well, if a chicken learned to read and then became a grandmaster at Chess, maybe I'd begin to believe that God had done a miracle. And I go, wait a minute. Let's not ratchet the skepticism unreasonably high. We all have a level of skepticism, and I encourage people who are not believers to say, where is your level of. Is it reasonable? Is your level of skepticism at a reasonable level? Or is it that I need to have a chicken become a grandmaster at chess before I believe that a miracle has taken place? I want to say, what is the evidence and where does it point? It points in a direction, and I use an analogy of a current on a river or something like that. There are about 20 lines of evidence that I think point toward the truth of Christianity. And as we look at those, those point in a direction. Now, there are some objections that are good objections, like, if there is a God, why is there suffering? [01:05:42] Speaker A: Right? [01:05:43] Speaker B: If there is a God, why is he so hidden? And so, in my new book, is God real? I deal with those questions because those are probably the two biggest right now in culture. And I would encourage people to say, do you have any hesitations because of something in your life that you just don't want to give up? And that if God is real, it means that I have to forfeit this area of my life, this pattern of sin, for instance, that I don't want to give up because I enjoy it, is there something like that that's kind of keeping you from doing a more objective analysis of what the evidence is? But I think the one thing that nobody can really say is there is no evidence. We all have to concede there is some evidence. Now, whether you find it persuasive, that's another issue. Let's explore it and do a thorough job and then come to a verdict in your case for Christ. [01:06:42] Speaker A: Yeah, I think that's wisdom there, and just practically reasonable, to be honest. So, as we are coming to a close here, but again, you are the foremost expert, I think, in the world on these questions, especially since you have such a heart for what you call practical apologetics. If there is a skeptic who's listening to you today, and they were curious as to a next step. Now, it's really hard because you don't know them individually, but generally speaking, if someone was curious and they were open minded enough to seek after truth, what would you encourage a skeptic to do? [01:07:30] Speaker B: I would encourage them to do what I did and just keep an open mind, make it a front burner issue in your life, and decide at the outset when the evidence is in, you'll reach a verdict. And then there are so many good resources out there, and you can get all my books for free at any local library. So my new book I would recommend is God Real? Because I found out that 200 times a second, around the clock, someone on planet Earth is typing into a computer search engine. The question basically, is God real? And so based on that, I wrote this new book called Is God Real? And it includes interviews with leading philosophers and scientists with degrees from Cambridge and major universities that lay out a case that I think is worthy of your consideration. In the end, it's your verdict, but I think it's worth your time to check it out and then ideal with these questions of suffering and the hiddenness of God and then reach a verdict. And maybe that's just to wet your appetite. There's other things. I'd encourage you to read books by skeptics as well, but ultimately, it's a decision that you have to make, but your willingness to do it. Pretend you're a journalist trained in the old school. I'm going to look at both sides and I'm going to call a ball a ball and a strike a strike and just let the game unfold. That's all I ask of people. [01:09:07] Speaker A: Yes, well, I think that that, again, is just the invitation and whether or not someone is willing to take up the challenge, like you say, sometimes they are willing and sometimes not. But I also appreciate your mandate to come to a verdict. I think sometimes people can sit in a place of not wanting to make a decision, or that is too difficult. [01:09:38] Speaker B: I think make that choice up front, say, I'm going to check this out, and when the evidence is in one way or the other, I'm going to reach a verdict. I think that's helpful. [01:09:48] Speaker A: Yeah. Wonderful. So then let's turn our attention to Christians who are trying to practically engage, of course, thinking of Linda, who was an amazing example of what it might look like to engage someone. I mean, both of you, she didn't have any idea who you were or what your beliefs were, and she stepped in and created relationship and shared her faith with Leslie, and then the rest is history. But how can we best either prepare or engage with those who don't believe? [01:10:30] Speaker B: I think to respect people, to love them as Jesus loved them, as people made in God's image, to try to get away from this us versus them mentality and say, we're all in this together. We're all in this world together, and to care enough to sit down and have a conversation. Here's the question I like to ask, and I've changed through the years as culture has changed. But the question I always used to ask someone I would engage in, it says, let me just ask you one thing. If you could ask God any one question and you knew he'd give you an answer right now, what would you ask him? And I used to ask that of skeptics because it helped crystallize what their objections are. But nowadays, I don't stop there. So I'll ask that question, and eight times out of ten, the answer is something along the lines of, why does a loving God allow suffering? I mean, that's very, very common response. And instead of then giving a five point sermon on why God allows suffering, I ask a follow up question. And the follow up question is, of all the possible questions in the universe, why did you choose that one? And now it gets down to the heart. Because they'll say, because my wife was just diagnosed with cancer, and I want to know, if there's a God, why would he allow that? Or, we lost a child in childbirth five years ago. Where was God when that happened? Now we're getting to the real issues. So I want to get, yes, apologetics. Evidence for the faith is important, but the heart is important. And it's ultimately where decisions, whether we want to admit it or not, are generally made. I want to diagnose what is the impediment? What is the obstacle? And a lot of times, what that person needs is not, as I said, a five point sermon on why God allows suffering. He needs someone who's going to be Jesus to them, who's going to put their armor on their shoulder and is going to sit with them and is going to cry with them and is going to commiserate with them and empathize with, you know, it's not the words, it's the actions. It's the empathy. It's the love of Christ that they feel that we care enough about them to resonate with whatever it is. That's the impediment between them and God. So I like that follow up question. What's the number one question you would ask God? But then why did you ask that question? And I found that in my conversations with skeptics to be very helpful. Sometimes it is just an intellectual issue, but many times, there's emotional issues behind it, like there was with me, with my father. [01:13:31] Speaker A: Right. [01:13:31] Speaker B: And we need to delve into those as well. [01:13:36] Speaker A: I think that's, again, as someone who feels like you're singing my song, in terms of that we are more than just rational creatures, and we believe things and reject others for more than just rational reasons. And you are bringing forward the apologetic of love and hospitality and being there and demonstrating who Christ is, who God is. And then, of course, backing that up with reason and for good reason. [01:14:14] Speaker B: It's all part of being salt and light. [01:14:17] Speaker A: Yes. [01:14:20] Speaker B: I always see myself not as an apologetics, but as an evangelist. My prayer, my hope, my dream is to help people find a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They'll change their life in eternity. That's what I'm about. A lot of times, I use apologetics because the evidence reached me in a lot of ways and it can reach others. But I don't want to get into arguments that take us down all kinds of paths that don't really amount to anything. I want to deal with the obstacles that are in a person's way through evidence, through logic, through reason, through philosophy and science and history. Yes, that's great. But ultimately, as you say, it's a decision of the heart to receive grace, and that's what I want to help facilitate. [01:15:13] Speaker A: Yes. That's amazing. Lee, this has been such a joy and a privilege, really, to sit down across from you, to really hear you fill in some of the backstory of some of the things that we may not have known about you. [01:15:29] Speaker B: I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed it. [01:15:31] Speaker A: Yeah. I think another thing that, and I know you were probably just a joyful person before coming to Christ, but when I think about someone like you and we were talking how you just open yourself up, if you're sitting in an airport, you'll tweet, come talk to me. And I love that about you. You have such an infectious joy. It is contagious. [01:15:58] Speaker B: That's very kind. [01:15:59] Speaker A: I'm sure people say, well, I may not believe that, but he's got something incredible. And that I want that meeting someone like you would make me think that someone would want it to be true. [01:16:14] Speaker B: That's very kind. That makes my day. [01:16:16] Speaker A: Thank you. It's very sweet. Is there anything else we need to add before we close? [01:16:21] Speaker B: I've really enjoyed it. I feel jealous because the dissertation that you did and really analyzing atheists who've come to faith, I thought, man, I wish I'd thought of that. I would love to have done that. I appreciate what you're doing. It's so important to have academics that study these things and probe them and ask tough questions and ask probing. And as I say, my son's a theology professor, so I get that world and I appreciate it. It's important. [01:16:56] Speaker A: Again, what a joy to have you on, Lee, and I hope that this touches so many lives. I appreciate your coming on. [01:17:04] Speaker B: Thank you. My pleasure. [01:17:06] Speaker A: Thanks for tuning into cybers to hear Lee Strobel's story. You can find out more about his book is God Real? His center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics, as well as recommended resources from the episode. In our episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email. Again, that's [email protected] also, if you're a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former atheist with questions, please contact us and we'll get you connected. This podcast is produced through the C. S. Lewis Institute with the wonderful help of our producer, Ashley Decker, our audio engineer, Mark Rosara, and our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate review and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

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