This is Part 2 of the ongoing Lee-Strobel-answers-your-questions series.
Previous parts can be found here.
You’ve essentially said before that you interviewed only Christian scholars/apologists in your books because you were asking questions in the shoes of a skeptic and you wanted to know the Christian explanation to certain questions. Weren’t there many questions you may not have thought of that other skeptics could have asked? In other words, wouldn’t it have been a wise move to take the Christian responses back to secular scholars who could’ve proposed counter-arguments you did not think of? Would it be problematic to your reading audience if your books had more diverse dialogue (multiple viewpoints)?
Thanks for your question and the opportunity to explain the methodology of The Case for Christ. As the subtitle indicates (“A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus”), this book is about my own spiritual journey. As I explained in the introduction, this book was my effort to retrace and expand upon my original investigation in print form. As I explained earlier, this original investigation included extensive research of all sides of these issues. For the book, I decided to ask Christian experts the questions that had stood between me and God, and I left it to the reader to decide whether their answers were reasonable and compelling.
When a scholar offered an answer to one of my questions, many times I would come back at him with my own further objections. Often, these follow-up questions were informed by my reading of skeptics through the years. Indeed, I had studied the writings of enough atheists and liberal scholars during my original investigation to know what they would most likely say in response to the scholar. If the skeptics had a good point, I would try to raise it; if I thought their responses to this particular issue were weak, or that the answer was pretty obvious, or that this exchange would take me into a side issue, I didn’t. Did I cover every possible objection? No, I didn’t, and I couldn’t. Naturally, there are good questions that didn’t get addressed. But keep in mind that The Case for Christ is merely an introductory work on this topic; each line of questioning could have gone on and on. Each chapter easily could be an entire book in itself. As it is, I was pushing the limits of a popular-level work; the mass market edition is about 400 pages in length.
I didn’t want to get into an endless loop of expert versus expert. After all, you can find a Ph.D. to say virtually anything. That’s why I didn’t just ask these scholars for their opinions; instead, I pressed them on why they believe what they believe. I challenged them to present facts and explanations that could be evaluated by the reader. As I said in the book’s conclusion:
… maybe questions still linger for you. Perhaps I didn’t address the objection that’s uppermost in your mind. Fair enough. However, I trust that the amount of information reported in these pages will at least have convinced you that it’s reasonable — in fact, imperative — to continue your investigation.
I went on to encourage readers to thoroughly and systematically pursue answers to whatever spiritual sticking point they have — in fact, to make this a front-burner issue in their life.
Of course, I could have used a different approach to the book. For instance, I could have used a debate format that would have featured multiple viewpoints, going back and forth between opposing experts. However, there already were (and today are more) books like this. For example, Christian scholar Gary Habermas and then-atheist Antony Flew published their 1985 debate on the resurrection (an encounter, by the way, that four of five judges from a wide spectrum of views and persuasions said Habermas won, with the remaining judge calling it a draw) and Christian J. P. Moreland and atheist Kai Nielsen published their debate on the existence of God in 1993. [Hemant’s note: Those books can be found here and here.]
I encourage Christians and skeptics to read or attend debates like these. Christian scholar William Lane Craig has several transcripts of his debates with prominent atheists on his web site, www.reasonablefaith.org. My television show Faith Under Fire was based on a debate format, where I invited such atheists as Richard Carrier, Michael Shermer, Tim Callahan and Edward Tabash to debate such Christian apologists as Craig, Habermas and Moreland. We’ve even produced a curriculum using tapes of these debates, so that small groups of skeptics and Christians can sit down together, hear both sides of these issues, and have a healthy interaction in which they can offer their own perspectives and opinions. Clearly, I don’t think Christians have anything to fear in the marketplace of ideas.
However, I wanted my book to deal with the pursuit of my own questions and concerns, believing that they reflect the basic issues most people have. In the end, I think I did cover the topics fairly well, considering how generally weak the critiques of the book have been.
By the way, I did interview a noted skeptic for my book The Case for Faith. I extensively quoted Canada’s most famous agnostic, Charles Templeton, author of Farewell to God, about why he abandoned his Christian faith and became a critic of Christianity. (As I described, Templeton broke into tears when he told me how much he missed Jesus. I still get chills when I listen to the recording of that exchange.)
Templeton ended up raising the very same objections to Christianity that originally took me down the path toward atheism. However, in the remainder of the book I confronted Christian scholars with these issues and in my view they offered rational and compelling answers. Again, I left it to each reader to come to his or her own conclusions. Obviously, each person is free to make up his or her own mind. Seems to me that’s fair.