Leonard: Questioning Jesus as an alcoholic atheist
“My 5-year-old daughter used to pick up her toys and go to her room when she heard my car pull into the garage. She was scared of me.”
Those were some sobering words that Lee Strobel shared on a Friday night earlier this month in Battle Mountain High School’s auditorium.
“I was a drunk but was somehow able to keep my professional life intact. I even led a team that won the top award for investigative reporting in Illinois,” Strobel said.
Lee had no idea what lurked around the next corner of his life.
“One day my wife told me that she had become a Christian. One of my first thoughts revolved around divorce.”
Deciding to put his Yale law degree and investigative journalism skills to the test, with the hopes of convincing his wife that Jesus and Christianity should not be taken seriously, Lee spent the next two years interviewing as many scholars around the world as possible looking for any evidence from science, history, archaeology, biography and eyewitnesses. He wanted to see if the Bible could be trusted, if any first-century historians wrote about Jesus, and ultimately if the resurrection of Jesus had enough evidence that it could stand up in a court of law today. For someone who got his law degree from Yale and who had won awards in investigative journalism, this was the right guy for the task.
“After two years I had all of the evidence I needed and was more than shocked. I had to follow where the evidence led, whether I liked it or not.”
His conclusion was that Jesus did actually rise from the dead, just as he had claimed he would. And if he did, that brings along with it a few other things: namely, that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and that he is the son of God.
The rest is history: Lee wrote a book about his research called “The Case for Christ” and then a few years ago a movie was released by the same name. “Follow the evidence” was what he urged everyone to do, especially if they were a skeptic like he had once been.
Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century philosopher, mathematician and physicist, came up with the following argument, known as Pascal’s wager: Since the evidence points in the direction of Jesus being God’s son, people have everything to gain and nothing to lose by following that evidence. Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in hell).
This fall I am putting together two groups to discuss some of the main issues that people wrestle with regarding the Christian faith. One will meet on Monday nights where my wife and I are inviting a group of “skeptics” over for dinner. Over the course of four Monday nights, after we all eat dinner together, everyone will throw out their questions, problems, hindrances and thoughts about religion, God, Jesus, Christianity, etc.
The other will meet at The Basement in the Riverwalk for lunch. Toward the end of each, I’ll give a short response from the Christian point of view and somewhere in the middle of all of that, we’ll watch a session from a short film series called “Alpha” that really helps to get the dialogue going. The organization I work with, Search, has been doing this for over 40 years and the vast majority of people, regardless of their beliefs, have loved the conversations and friendships they formed while in the group.
I’ve found out that our culture has pretty much stopped talking about faith and God but when the topic comes up people are enthralled by it. If this interests you, I’d love to invite you to us for one of the groups. Also, if you have a friend that would be interested, bring them along. Our house isn’t huge but we can always make room for more (until we can’t … then we’ll have a fun “problem” to solve). Simply shoot an e-mail to email@example.com and I’ll get you the rest of the info.
Having spent years as a Chaplain in the Vail Valley I can assure you that it’s good to ask those hard questions about faith before the bottom falls out of your life (ie before you end up in the ER or at a funeral). All too often that’s what it takes to get people thinking. I promise that it will be fun and that the food will be good! So carve out the time by putting it on your calendar. Also, consider befriending me on facebook for some occasional, similar content.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.