Shai Reads The Case for Christ
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18-02-2017, 01:05 PM
Shai Reads The Case for Christ
The other day, a friend asked if I had seen the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. We discussed it, and remarked how both of us had the book, though neither of us had ever bothered to read it. Thus, we've agreed to go through it, one atheist, and one Catholic, reading this guy's reasons for becoming an Evangelical Christian. Hope no one minds, but wanted to maybe share my thought processes as we went through the book, as well as solicit opinions on each chapter?

Introduction

This part of the book is actually quite fascinating to me, given my field. Strobel discusses how open and shut a case is about a man named Dixon, who had a history of violent behavior and a prior conviction for a shooting, shooting an officer who responded to a fight between he and his girlfriend where he had a gun. When other cops arrived, the officer had been shot non-fatally and said Dixon shot him, there were powder burns on the officer's uniform which indicated a close range shooting, and Dixon's gun which was found some feet away in the grass (presumably thrown) was missing one bullet of the same caliber (a .22 round) as the bullet found inside of the officer.

After he's sentenced and pleads guilty though, new evidence emerges. Supposedly the officer had been showing off a pen gun at a party; an illegal weapon that fires a .22 caliber round and looks like a pen. When the officer's uniform is re-examined, the burn marks seem to be coming from inside his pocket and downward. When the crime scene is re-examined, there's a chip in the cement in front of the door of the girlfriend's house, where it seemed Dixon had shot downward into the cement to scare her, which would account for his missing bullet, but not also for the injury of the officer. A closer look at his record shows that his prior shooting charge was overturned on appeal after the prosecutor withheld evidence. And finally, an interview with Dixon has him admit he lied to take a plea deal, a year in prison instead of facing 20+ if he took it to court and lost; he'd already served 362 days in jail before that in association with the trial, so a plea deal let him out in 3 days with time served.

What looked like a bog standard case was anything but, and Dixon eventually won a lawsuit for his wrongful conviction by the police.

His bit that follows "From Dixon to Jesus" is rather so-so and brief. If anything it sets the stage for his claimed skepticism being less skepticism and more apathy. He obviously never looked into anything he claimed from the way he words things, though one would assume that he's going to use that as a "strength" in the book to show that when you do examine the evidence, you do have to believe. Of course he mentions his wife changing for the better after becoming Christian and then as he tells us to judge for ourselves, who is the first group of people he slams? Why if it's my profession, on page 15. Wouldn't want to make it through the introduction without some variation of the Evangelical refrain of how the evil liberal atheist college professors will destroy people's faith.

Chapter One: The Eyewitness Evidence

We're on page 20, and he gives a touching account of eyewitness testimony convicting a murderer. Then goes on to begin speaking about how good it must be through the mists of time for the Gospels. Lee, can I call you Lee? Eyewitness testimony, while common at trial, is notoriously unreliable. You fail to acknowledge this fact at all. This already is a big strike against you and the case you're trying to make, because it shows the extreme level of bias in your work.

"I was searching for an expert who wouldn't gloss over the nuances..." (p. 21) you mean like you are already? Also on this page, he tries to make a ribbing to prove his skeptic cred, and falls flat, about how the expert he interviews thinks the Cubs will win the World Series in his lifetime. Well, it's 19 years after publication of this book and they did Lee. They did.

Anyhow, Strobel is interviewing Dr. Craig Bloomberg, a respected pastor and author who graduated from a rather prestigious seminary program, however the arguments are falling rather flat, especially at p. 26 where he says, "the gospels are anonymous" and then goes on to treat them as if they aren't. And does some truly breathtaking mental gymnastics to justify that. Then there's the utter rejection of the Q hypothesis as only a hypothesis, when in fact it's the most generally accepted theory in Biblical scholarship regarding the Synoptic Gospels. Also what's with slamming Karen Armstrong's A History of God and not interviewing her for a rebuttal? Is this going to be a theme of this book?

Page 32-33, are we really going with a Holocaust analogy and Holocaust denial based on many anti-Holocaust works being done by Jewish people? Seriously Strobel and Bloomberg? You're going the Holocaust route before the end of Chapter One? Also the idea that the Gospels were written still within the lifetime of some who would have seen Jesus is accurate, but what is inaccurate is that they're saying there were not detractors who said it wasn't true. When in fact, the opposite was the case. Also Bloomberg is bringing up how Paul's letters predates the Gospels and just continues blithely onward, as if this isn't a point worth discussing in the slightest.

These deliberation questions are entirely leading and don't lead to actually engaging in some level of critical thinking in the chapter. Also a brief bibliography at the end of the chapter has suggested readings for further evidence, but seems to not want to include Karen Armstrong's A History of God, despite taking potshots at her throughout.

Closing thoughts for the Introduction and Chapter One; Strobel is a far easier read than Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola was, when reading Caught in the Pulpit before this. However, he's also writing to the lowest common denominator as an audience, with a lower general reading level. He's also not trying to be precise and relatively academic in his approach, he's in this to try and sway the hearts and minds of those who would pick up a book like this as part of their church reading group. The fact it took me longer to type this post than to go through the first 40 or so pages of this book are an indictment of the caliber of his writing.

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18-02-2017, 03:03 PM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
So far I'm with you, this was a bad book in every way possible.

As uninterested as I am in Lee Strobel's take on credulity, it is interesting to see a theist take it apart.

As you were. Drinking Beverage

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

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18-02-2017, 03:29 PM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
Too bad it shows itself untrustworthy right from the beginning.

I would like to suggest you and your catholic friend next read Nick Tosches', Under Tiberius. It's beautifully written and a quick read.

I'd like to know what others make of it - atheists and believers. Shy

I'd also like to see both books compared to each other. Wink

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18-02-2017, 06:32 PM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
Kim, will definitely put it on my "To read" list! Though, in this case, she's the atheist and I'm the Catholic. And agreed; I feel like the knowledge I have from a professional perspective will have a bigger impact on how I view this as biased, than my faith perspective will.

Evenheathen, taking it apart doesn't seem like it will be...difficult. Trying not to read ahead on my friend, as we've not discussed it yet, but this thing is so low level in its writing that it wouldn't be inconceivable that a few hours in the bathtub would knock most of it out.

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18-02-2017, 08:15 PM (This post was last modified: 19-02-2017 03:38 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
I present Lee "the quack journalist" Stroebel, with a case with far far far better evidence than he can claim he has for his event.

These events occurred in what is now, one of the United States of America.
The Governor of the state in question became involved.
A court was established.
Witnesses were carefully examined and cross-examined, by the best experts of the day.
Evidence was gathered.
Many people confessed in public to the officials of the court.
The entire proceeding was documented with thousands of sworn affidavits, court documents, interviews and related proceedings.
Sufficient evidence was established by intelligent men and women of good faith, that the declarations of the witnesses were true, and that these declarations should in all reasonableness result in the established legal consequences that reasonable good adult men and women thought were perfectly legitimate.

What evidence did they have that the assertions concerning what they said they saw and were convinced of were really true ?

1. Hundreds if not thousands of people were involved in concluding that what they said they saw and concluded was actually true.
2. The witnesses provided sworn testimony in court, sworn affidavits which we can look at today, and affirmed they were completely utterly convinced that what they were saying was totally completely true.
3. The witnesses came from all social strata, and every diverse background, including the most highly educated of the day.
4. These witnesses included judges, magistrates, the governor of the state, and family members of those about whom the assertions were made.
5. Many involved had much to lose if the assertions were to be found true. The consequences would impact many in very personal ways, if found to be true, thus had no conflict of interest, or reasin to lie. Many could lose beloved spouses and family members and friends about whom they cared a great deal.
6. The proceedings were thorough, exhaustive investigations. They deliberately gathered evidence. They made every effort to sort out truth from fallacy. They went to every possible length to actually discern the facts.
7. There are numerous artifacts from the time, and many documents from the proceedings we can review in person today.
8. These proceedings happened, not 2000 years ago, but a mere few hundred years ago. The literacy rate was far far higher than in ancient Israel.
9. For claimed events from 2000 years ago, there are no actual original documents of any kind. None at all. Only copies from centuries later.
10. For the events in question we have sworn documented court testimony, not just word of mouth transmission.
11. A truck full of documents from the proceedings exists at the University of Virginia Library. You can go see the testimony of the eye-witnesses for yourself, today.
12. By any measure or method, the quantity and quality of the evidence for the events in question FAR FAR FAR outweigh the quality, quantity, and reliability of the evidence for the events in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
13. Anyone who claims they have good evidence today to support belief in Jesus, his death, and resurrection, or any miracle thought to have happened surrounding a man named Jesus, IF they are in any way a consistent, honest, logical and reasonably thoughtful person, they MUST also accept :

that of the 250 people accused, 19 women in Salem Massachusetts, including Sarah Goode, and Rebekah Nurse, ........ The Witches of Salem Massachusetts, really were actually witches, and were justly condemned and executed for performing demon magic.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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19-02-2017, 07:22 AM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
I think Strobel is one of the most annoyingly dishonest apologists, even by the low standards set by the profession.

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19-02-2017, 08:48 AM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
(19-02-2017 07:22 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  I think Strobel is one of the most annoyingly dishonest apologists, even by the low standards set by the profession.

Agreed. I count him, McDowell, and Johnson as the lowest of the low.

Part of the reason my siblings no longer speak to me (and for quite some time, neither did my parents) is because I was given several Strobel books of the The Case for ____ series, McDowell's book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and one by Johnson, Darwin on Trial.

I was about to finish my biochem degree, at the time, and had just realized (and told people I knew, including my family) that I was an atheist. The family said that I was not being honest in my evaluation of the family religion, and said that I needed to read those books, and then I would know The Truth™. So I did.

Johnson's book in particular made me angry enough, with its blatant distortions of both scientific methodologies and the known facts about evolution, that I went through and read each of those books, page by page, making corrections in the margins and/or adding footnote markers for a running reference/correction guide that I put in one of my unused spiral-notebooks.

I then returned those books to the family, including my carefully-recorded notes (which I wish now that I had kept), and asked them to read the books themselves, in light of my notes.

You'd think I had poisoned my grandmother or something, so violent were the reactions. And all because I did as they said, and encouraged them to put as much work into (actually) understanding the material as I did. Sad

To Shai: I applaud you for what you're doing, truly. Just be careful. There are doors in there, if you are an intellectually honest person, that are painful to open. I'm not talking about the truth or falsity of the religion, but of the way you will be forever changed by seeing how bad the arguments that prop up this faith (in the minds of people you love and whom you think love you for who you are) really turn out to be.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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19-02-2017, 11:50 AM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
(19-02-2017 08:48 AM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  I then returned those books to the family, including my carefully-recorded notes (which I wish now that I had kept), and asked them to read the books themselves, in light of my notes.

Silly boy.... you were supposed to READ the books, not THINK about them.

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19-02-2017, 12:47 PM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
Apologists love their faulty analogies.

Trying to prove events which aren't even known to be possible (resurrections and such) is nothing like trying to prove perfectly normal events in a court case. We already know all the events that are being put forward there are possible, and so we don't need to establish that first.

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19-02-2017, 03:52 PM
RE: Shai Reads The Case for Christ
(19-02-2017 08:48 AM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  
(19-02-2017 07:22 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  I think Strobel is one of the most annoyingly dishonest apologists, even by the low standards set by the profession.

Agreed. I count him, McDowell, and Johnson as the lowest of the low.

Part of the reason my siblings no longer speak to me (and for quite some time, neither did my parents) is because I was given several Strobel books of the The Case for ____ series, McDowell's book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and one by Johnson, Darwin on Trial.

I was about to finish my biochem degree, at the time, and had just realized (and told people I knew, including my family) that I was an atheist. The family said that I was not being honest in my evaluation of the family religion, and said that I needed to read those books, and then I would know The Truth™. So I did.

Johnson's book in particular made me angry enough, with its blatant distortions of both scientific methodologies and the known facts about evolution, that I went through and read each of those books, page by page, making corrections in the margins and/or adding footnote markers for a running reference/correction guide that I put in one of my unused spiral-notebooks.

I then returned those books to the family, including my carefully-recorded notes (which I wish now that I had kept), and asked them to read the books themselves, in light of my notes.

You'd think I had poisoned my grandmother or something, so violent were the reactions. And all because I did as they said, and encouraged them to put as much work into (actually) understanding the material as I did. Sad

To Shai: I applaud you for what you're doing, truly. Just be careful. There are doors in there, if you are an intellectually honest person, that are painful to open. I'm not talking about the truth or falsity of the religion, but of the way you will be forever changed by seeing how bad the arguments that prop up this faith (in the minds of people you love and whom you think love you for who you are) really turn out to be.

True shame you didn't keep the notes, could've made an excellent book! Not a bestseller, because you're appealing against the bestsellers, but still. And thanks RS, I do appreciate your warning there. Smile It's interesting, because I'm no stranger to Apologetics works, but tend not to read the Evangelical ones.* However, your point is a very...good (I wanted a better word but failed to come up with it) one, given the shoddy arguments and such. Partially for that reason, no one I know of the Evangelical strain, realize I'm reading through CfC.

*Offhand on my bookshelf: Rome Sweet Home; A Father Who Keeps His Promises; Hail, Holy Queen; Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace; Swear to God: The Power and Promise of the Sacraments; Lord Have Mercy; Thrill of the Chaste; Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots; Catholicism and Fundamentalism; The Everlasting Man; and Answering the New Atheism...which is a waste of money and filled with so many basic errors.

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