Book Review, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Normally I wouldn’t bother to read an evangelical minister’s book, because they all kind of say the same thing -- most of which I learned years ago while studying to become a minister -- and because a lot of the modern evangelicals mix politics with what they’re putting forth as Christianity.
In the U.S., politics is a secular affair. The United States is not nor ever was a “Christian country,” as too many of these evangelicals claim.
But Strobel’s book dealt with archaeology, ancient writings that were not by early Christians, and other sciences.* These studies show a lot of evidences for Jesus’ story being historically accurate. They contain evidences from outside the evangelical or other religious box.
One of the reasons I left the ministry around 1970 was I couldn’t find the modern clergyman’s role anywhere in the Bible. I remember on Monday mornings asking myself what the minister was supposed to do on that and the other weekdays. No answer was forthcoming from the Scriptures, and, in fact, I didn’t even find professional clergy mentioned in the Bible.
My understanding is that some early bishops, the word which actually is the same Greek word as “elder” and later carried other connotations such as priest, minister, preacher, began to find ways to collect money from those in their churches to give themselves a paycheck. That has led to today’s culture of the professional clergyman.
Another reason for my leaving the ministry was my own cynicism. I viewed myself and other clergy through the eyes of those in our towns and general areas who did not call themselves Christian. This gave me a new understanding of the New Testament’s admonition that those who don’t work won’t eat. That’s because the entire group of “called out saints” in each town were ordinary people, working at ordinary occupations. And the elders in those groups likewise worked for a living in ways other than asking the church to support them.
But I never doubted the Bible’s description of the church. It’s just not the same as the modern religious institution.
Strobel’s book strengthens my faith in biblical Christianity.
Strobel’s returning to original manuscript language, everyday Greek in the case of the New Testament writers, also clears up a number of misconceptions about Jesus and Who He was -- and is.
“Think of the story of Jesus walking on the water, found in Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-52,” Strobel writes, quoting a scholar he was interviewing. “Most English translations hide the Greek by quoting Jesus as saying, ‘Fear not, it is I.’ Actually, the Greek literally says, ‘Fear not, I am.’ Those last two words are identical to what Jesus said in John 8:58, when he took upon himself the divine name ‘I AM,’ which is the way God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. So Jesus is revealing himself as the one who has the same divine power over nature as Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.”
My understanding of the word “Yahweh,” named “Jehovah” by modern Christians is that it means “The One Who is forever,” or the One Who was before the beginning of creation and Who is still with us and always will be.
The Greek and Hebrew languages make many of the “boring” sections of the Bible exciting.
Jesus wasn’t just in the boat; He was the One Who always was and always will be. That’s what the disciples heard Him say when they saw him walking on the water during a storm. That’s great practical life stuff for me. Whatever trouble or storm I’m going through at any time, Jesus is that always-living One Who will see me through.
As he did those disciples in the boat.
Strobel also wrote about such things once called fiction by liberal theologians or those other than theologians who’s game plan was to discredit the Bible as being truthful. He writes about so-called contradictions involving geography, which turned out through archaeology to make sense after all. He writes of places said by those out to do the Bible story in as fiction that were later found, also via archaeology.
In short, Strobel in a sense makes fools of those attempting to make fools of those who believe the biblical accounts, including those of Jesus as the second person of the Godhead.
Yup, according to Strobel, Jesus was not a fast-talking salesman out to sell -- well, no one is quite sure what it was He might have been trying to sell.
I thought his final paragraph was great, maybe because it was a quote of C.S. Lewis, a British theologian and professor who actually made the Bible seem true and Jesus Who He said he was.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we may not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic...or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
I have known a couple of real Christian teachers over the years, one live and in person by the name of Dr. Bruce Morgan, and the other by his writings, the late C.S. Lewis.
Most of the rest were spewers of hot air, repeaters of another’s laws of living in the name of Christianity, but not real Christian teachers.
By God, that’s what I believe. And The Case for Christ makes a good case.
Believe it or not.
*At www.hotbooksale.com, Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ: A Journalists’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus can be purchased for $4.63. You don’t have to find an old copy of this 1970s book at your recycling center, as I did at ours. I saw nine other of Strobel’s books at that site priced from $2.06 to $21.92.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012