Q&A

It's Personal: Lee and Leslie Strobel on "The Case for Christ"

The changes in Leslie led Lee to investigate Christianity to refute it.

When Lee Strobel’s wife Leslie accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, Lee was angry, upset, confused, even jealous. This staunch atheist and experienced journalist was compelled to investigate the Christian faith to uncover the irrational nature of faith. His thorough research and exploration finally brought him to see Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The soon to be released movie “The Case for Christ” charts his odyssey. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Strobel that will appear in full in the August edition of the “War Cry.” The full interview includes his account of how The Salvation Army was one of the “links in the chain that led me to faith.”

WC: Why were you an atheist?

Lee Strobel: On the one hand, I had a lot of intellectual objections to Christianity. I thought that an almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe was absurd. I was reinforced by the books of Bertrand Russell and Anthony Flew and other famous atheists. But, there were also underlying emotional and psychological reasons as well as moral reasons. Rarely is it purely intellectual that a person becomes an atheist. 

Famous atheists throughout history—Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche, Freud, Voltaire, Welch, Feuerbach, O'Hair—each had a father who died when they were young, or had a terrible relationship with, or who had abandoned their family when the children were young. The implication is, "Why would you want to know a heavenly Father, if your earthy father has disappointed or hurt you?" I had a very difficult relationship with my father. The Case for Christ movie portrays that. That may have been something that nudged me towards atheism.

There's usually a moral issue involved. Frankly, I was happy in my sin. I was a happy drunk. I was the most gregarious guy in the bar who bought pitchers of beer for everyone. It cost me a fortune. I got drunk and enjoyed it. I reveled in my sin and didn't want to come out of it.

WC: What was your first surprise?

LS: When I was a little kid I had an inflatable clown punching bag weighted on the bottom. You would hit it and it would fall backwards then it would spring back up. I thought Christianity would be one punch, one weekend, and I could falsify it. But it was like hitting that punching bag that you'd hit it and it would fall back, then it would pop up. Hit it again and it popped back up. I was shocked that I couldn't disprove Christianity in a weekend. I was stunned every time I attacked that Christianity came up with a new fact or new evidence. I thought the idea of evidence in faith were totally contrary, that faith was believing in something even though you know in your heart it can't be true. I didn’t realize that true biblical faith is a step we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing which is logical and rational.

WC: If facts don't support atheism, why do atheists persistent?

LS: Some of them have authentic, legitimate questions that really hang them up. They don't feel they've yet gotten the sufficient answer. I understand that. There are some tough questions. A philosopher friend, said, "Skeptics have some legitimate questions like 'Why does a loving God let pain and suffering in the world?'" That's probably one of their best objections. But we've got at least 20 categories of evidence that point powerfully and persuasively toward the truth of the faith. You put them on a scale and weigh them out and say, "Yes, there are some legitimate questions that atheists have and maybe they just haven't yet found the right answer." As with me, there are emotional undercurrents to the reason they're an atheist. There are often moral issues involved. Perhaps, their refusal to open their eyes to the evidence is a reflection of not wanting to give up the life that they're living and/or the wounds of a past, the father that disappointed them and they're reluctant to know a heavenly Father might hurt them more. I think there are more issues than just the intellectual going on.

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