[52 in 52]

This week's book ended up being The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel.

I have to admit, this book could not have come at a better time.

Let me start by discussing how I ended up reading this book, even though it wasn't on the list.

Lately I'd been feeling a bit distant from God. I was going through the motions of reading my devotional, meditating, and going to mass weekly. But my heart just wasn't there anymore. It wasn't really anywhere, to be honest.

So I decided to skip further down the list and read David Platt's Radical. It seemed like a good choice: Platt's premise was providing American Christians a way to escape the lukewarm faith that seems so prevalent in our country. I liked that idea. I also liked that I didn't have to pay since I had bought the book on my original Kindle over a year ago and had just never gotten around to reading it.

Please do not read this book. Please. Within one chapter it became painfully obvious that Platt was only attempting to grab a bit of then self-help market for himself. Platt attempts to confuse the reader into accepting his premise as being Christ's. For example, Platt flat out states that the reader must accept Christ's statements as being true without hearing them first at the end of the first chapter. However, throughout the first chapter Platt repeatedly alludes to the fact that he is speaking on behalf of Christ. And that just bothered me.  So I set Platt's book aside and looked for something else.

I settled on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And wonderful is the perfect word for it. I loved what I read of it. It may not be deep or philosophical. It may not be flowy perfect prose. But it's delightful.

Then on Monday I wanted to take a bath using my new bath soak. I had gotten a new Kindle for Christmas. There was NO way I was taking that bad boy in the bathtub. I picked up a book from the shelf at random, expecting to just read it when I bathed and not count it as part of my 52. I can't help myself. I have a reading problem.

But then something unexpected happened: I got totally sucked into the book. I sat in the tub until I turned into a raisin, the water became cold, and thirst finally forced me to close the book and get out of the tub. From that moment on, Oz was forgotten.

Strobel has a very different premise than many other Christian authors. A former investigative journalist and atheist, Strobel is a recent convert to Christianity. Strobel laid out what he called the Big Eight: the eight biggest intellectual oppositions to the Christian faith. The big eight are:

  1. Since evil and suffering exist, a loving God cannot. 
  2. Since miracles contradict science, they cannot be true.
  3. Evolution explains life, so God isn't needed.
  4. God isn't worthy of worship if He kills innocent children.
  5. It's offensive to claim Jesus is the only way to God.
  6. A loving God would never torture people in hell.
  7. Church history is littered with oppression and violence.
  8. I still have doubts so I can't be a Christian.

As an intellectual myself, I've struggled with all of those questions. Let me clarify: I don't mean intellectual in a superior, arrogant way. I mean it in the way that I used to cry on the last day of school because I didn't want it to end. What can I say,  I've always loved to learn and I've always been quite curious. So I wondered about all of these things. However, I never really acknowledged my questions because deep in my heart I fully believed that Question 8 was true, even though I knew in my head that that wasn't true.

I think this quote perfectly sums up Strobel's approach to answering all 8 questions:

"For me, having lived much of my life as an atheist, the last thing I want is a naive faith built on a paper-thin foundation of wishful thinking or make-believe. I need a faith that's consistent with reason, not contradictory to it; I want beliefs that are grounded in reality, not detached from it. I need to find out the once and for all whether the Christian faith can stand up to scrutiny."

Although my time as a skeptic was quite brief (only a year or two), I completely agree with Strobel. Lately, I've been trying to convince myself that reason and faith didn't go together, nor did reality and God. But like Strobel, try as I might, I'm just not wired that way. Law school didn't help the matter either; it took my natural intellectual curiosity and reasoning and sharpened them. The truth is, I would never ever get any closer to Christ if I continued to deny the way He made me. And while I used to believe that probing and questioning flew in the face of God, I now freely admit I'm a bit more like Thomas than any other disciple. (For those unfamiliar with the story: when Christ rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles, Thomas didn't believe that Christ was who He said He was. Thomas wanted to see and touch the wounds himself before he'd believe. In response, Jesus encouraged him to do just that and stick his fingers in the nail holes in His hands and feet and the spear wound in His side.)

Strobel doesn't answer the questions himself. Instead, he puts his journalist skills to use and interviews some of the foremost scholars on all of the issues raised. Each question is answered via an interview with a different PhD-holding, award-winning, multiple book-publishing scholar. And as someone who places a high value on education, hearing from people like that somehow made the arguments infinitely more credible than if Strobel had just answered the questions himself.

I'll be honest, I still have questions. I'm not 100% sold on some of the answers provided in the book. But that's a good thing. Reading this book is driving me to study my faith further, to ask more questions, and seek more passionately. The distance I felt in my heart earlier this week has been replaced by a hunger to know more.

Regardless of your religious viewpoint, I encourage you to read this book if you're even the least bit curious about any of the questions listed. Strobel does a very good job of delving into the issues in an un-biased, even-handed manner.

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