In this episode, what happens when an atheist begins to examine the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Lee Strobel describes his own journey from atheism to Christianity.
today on the johnny Karberg show. My guest is lee Strobel who graduated with a Master’s of study in law degree from Yale University and became the award winning legal editor of the Chicago tribune. An atheist turned christian lee left the tribune after 14 years and is now a new york times best selling author of over 20 award winning books. He wondered what evidence shows the most astonishing miracles that got his perform. So he began writing a book called the case for miracles and he did so by first inviting America’s foremost skeptic Michael Shermer to build his strongest case against miracles. Then lee began to dig out evidence, responding to charmers, arguments by interviewing experts, scholars, scientists and doctors in those fields. Li also commissioned a national scientific survey by the barna research group to ask american adults, have you ever had an experience you can only explain as being a miracle of God. Nearly two out of five U. S. Adults or 38% said they had such an experience. This means an astonishing 94,792,000 american adults are convinced God has performed at least one miracle for them personally Are also surveyed 1100 medical doctors who said they were convinced that miracles occurred today because they had patients who had less than six months to live, but after prayer were completely healed. But lee also wondered why does God heal some and not others to hear lead present the most astonishing miracles God has performed. That convinced tim that God’s miraculous activities today are both credible and astonishing, join us for this edition of the john Ekberg show. Welcome to our program. I’m john anchor. Bergen today, I’ve got the case for miracles by a former atheist. And when I say former atheist, I grew up in Chicago. He was the legal editor of the Chicago tribune, one of the biggest newspapers in the midwest. And he was known as a staunch atheist. And if I remember correctly lee that you were so staunch that you had models on your wall. Tell the folks a few of the models you had on the wall. Well, I’m kind of a skeptic by nature. I mean my degrees are in journalism and law. So you can imagine put those two things together kind of a jerk skeptic. But we used to pride ourselves at the tribune, uh, not to take anybody’s word at face value. We always tried to get at least two sources that confirm a back before we print it. So we have a sign in our newsroom that said, if your mother says she loves you, check it out. Maybe she’s lying. Got any proof, any evidence to back that up. And that’s okay. You want journalists to be skeptical, right? But my problem was my skepticism bubbled over into cynicism and it cemented me into my atheist telling the folks kind of what you did at the Chicago trip. I mean you were legal editor and as a legal editor what did you do? I covered the legal profession. I covered major trials, political corruption cases, um, crime syndicate cases. Um you exposed the big one? Yeah, I did a lot of the investigative work on the ford pinto case. I actually wrote a book about that. Um, and that was headlines all over the country. Um, so I did a lot of investigative reporting and one of my specialties was stories about people unfairly convicted of crimes and how I would try to show that they were innocent. And I did that in the case involving a guy who had been uh convicted of shooting a police officer and showed that the police officer actually shot himself with an illegal pen gun. And um, so that kind of rocked the city at the time. Yeah. And you grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, You married your high school sweetheart, She was an agnostic. You were, you know, staunch atheist, you had a great paying job and you’re busy as all get out and then uh, something happened, Tell the folks what happened. Leslie gave me the worst news any atheist husband could get. You gave me one day and said lee I’ve I made a big decision, I decided to become a follower of jesus christ, what happened to you. And I first word that went through my mind divorce, I was gonna walk out and actually I did something to show you how petty I was. She just planted a flower garden out back and I was so mad. It was time to mow the lawn. I went out and I moved down the entire flower garden just out of spite. Um yeah, I just thought this was the worst thing, was she gonna turn into some holy roller or something, you know? And um I didn’t want any part of it. Yeah. And folks, the reason we’re telling you this is because some of you are you’re just like this. Okay, so this is your story. That’s why I want you to hear this. All right. So you’re rolling along and you didn’t divorce Leslie because you did love her. But it came it was a close call there and tell us why you didn’t divorce her, but you didn’t change either? Well, there were a lot of positive changes uh in her character and values and the way she related to me and the Children over the months that followed her becoming a christian and and I found that winsome and I found it attractive and it kind of pulled me toward that towards faith a little bit. But then it was kind of a push and pull because on the other side, I wanted the old Leslie back. I want her life the way it used to be. And so I thought, well, golly um what if I were able to disprove Christianity? I could rescue her from this cult that she’s gotten involved in. I could get the old Leslie back and life would go back to the way I enjoyed it. And so I decided to take my journalism training, my legal training and systematically investigate. Is there any credibility to either Christianity or any other world religion? And that launched me on a nearly two year investigation? Yeah, this is what gets to me. The fact is you you meticulously went after it, you were determined to destroy it. You not only read, but the fact is you went around and asked some of the the most brilliant people in the country and you interviewed them. Tell us how you wrote the case for christ. We were talking about the case for miracles. But the case for christ was the first one. And the fact that tell us how you did it. Well in my investigation I was used to investigate anything that’s what I did as a journalist. So for me to pick up the phone and call some and ask them questions. Was just part of my life to do document research and go in the microfilm back then and look at old documents and so forth. Was something I was accustomed to. So at the time I did my investigation. I I wasn’t planning to write a book. I was I was doing it for my own edification for my own knowledge and try to sort all this out. Um later after I became a christian, I went back and Leslie suggested I write a book about this, so I kind of retrace those steps and did formal interviews with some of these people so I can get it on the record tape, record it and get it all accurate and so forth. But the bottom line is I researched for a year and nine months trying to look at the minutia of the resurrection, especially of jesus, was this guy, jesus, was he for real? And do we have historical records? We have evidence. Can I trust that evidence? And you wanted to really know it, was this something that really happened Exactly? And even as an atheist, I recognize everything hinges on the resurrection because anybody can claim to be God, Jesus clearly made that claim, I mean at one point he got up for a group and he said I and the father are one and the word one there in the greek is not masculine, it’s neuter, which means jesus was not saying I am the father of the same person, he was saying I am the father of the same thing or one in nature one essence and the audience got it, they picked up stones to kill him because they said you you’re just a man and you’re claiming to be God. So he could, you could claim to be God, I could claim to be God, But if Jesus claimed to be God died and then three days later rose from the dead, I realized that’s pretty good confirmation. Another stories you found out that, you know, guy lets down through the roof in Mark Chapter two and all of a sudden he’s, he’s doing this right in front of the religious leaders who were against Jesus right from the beginning. And uh instead of jesus saying, hey, you’re healed buddy, he said your sins are forgiven. And the whole room went, oh, you can’t say that there’s only one that can forgive sins and that’s God alone. And so jesus knowing what they said, he asked him a question, he said, which is easier to say to you, your sins are forgiven or get up and walk. And if you’re saying this guy’s a phony okay, the easiest thing to say would be hey, your sins are forgiven. See that because nobody can see sins being forgiven. But if you say, hey buddy, you that have never walked, take your bed up and just get out of here and that’s what the guy did. He took up his bed and he walked out of there and they had nothing to say after that. Exactly. So you have these, these accounts and as I researched the gospels, these ancient biographies of jesus, I came to the conclusion that they were written very close to the events, they record the routed, an eyewitness testimony. They’ve been passed along in a reliable way through the centuries. I mean they bore the earmarks of accuracy. They’re confirmed by archaeology and outside testimony at various points. So I came to conclude that the documents that make up the new testament are reliable in terms of what they tell me about Jesus First Corinthians 15 is one of those hallmark ones. Yeah, well, the first thing I did, I looked at four things. First one was was jesus really dead. And you know, even the Journal of the American Medical Association carried an investigation into the death of jesus and they concluded clearly the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead even before the wound to his side was inflicted. So even the atheist scholar GERD Ludeman says it’s indisputable that jesus was dead. But then secondly, as you point out, we have a report of the resurrection that comes virtually immediately after it took place. Not a long time later after legend has developed and contaminated the account. Um and how do we know that? Well, we know that saul of Tarsus, a hater of christians. Um 123 years after the death of jesus is on the road to Damascus boom, he has this encounter with the risen christ, he becomes the apostle paul immediately goes into Damascus and he meets with some apostles, many people believe this is when he was given this, as you say, this cradle statement of the early Church based on eyewitness testimony that says that name. People and groups of people 500 at once as a matter of fact saw the resurrected Jesus and many people believe this is when he was given that creed, some people say it may have been three years later when he met with two people named in the creed as eye witnesses to the resurrection James and Peter. Uh he met with him for 15 days and it would be logical they would pass this along. But either way, this means within 1 to 6 years after the death of jesus. This cradle statement based on eyewitness accounts, is already in existence and therefore the beliefs that make up that creed go back even earlier virtually to the cross itself. And so one of the greatest historians in this area, James D G Dunn said, we can be entirely confident this was formulated as a creed within me months of jesus death. That’s right. One guy from Oxford just came out and said it might have been within weeks, Yes, and that means it goes right straight back to the guys that were in Jerusalem that we saw all this stuff happening, you know what I call that, my business john newsflash, you know, also eyewitness reports, exactly, I mean that is powerful, powerful and so many people have come to faith in jesus christ based on that first Corinthians 15 passage and then I looked at was the tomb empty and I found that even the enemies of jesus admitted it was empty, they conceded it was empty, how, Because when the disciples began proclaiming that jesus had risen, what the opponent said was what they didn’t say was baloney go open the tomb, you’ll find the body. They didn’t say that what they said was oh well um the disciples stole the body, That’s a cover story, that’s like a student coming up to a teacher and saying the dog ate my homework. You know, he’s admitting he doesn’t have the homework, he’s just saying the dog ate my homework, it’s the same thing, they’re conceding implicitly that the tomb was empty and then finally, another powerful category of evidence, eyewitnesses. We have nine sources Confirming and corroborating the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus nine ancient sources inside and outside the new testament, confirming and corroborated their conviction that they encountered the risen Christ. That is an avalanche of historical data. You know, one of the guys who I used to admire um was a man who was renowned as the most successful defense attorney who ever lived. He was knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth. He was a member of the Supreme Court of his land and he was a skeptic about the resurrection, but he did what I did. He took his legal training and investigating historical record and john I will recite to you one sentence he wrote that summarized his conclusion, he said, I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of jesus christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof, which leaves absolutely no room for doubt that Sir Lionel Le coup and he ended up spending the rest of his life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. That is true that Jesus returned from the dead, He proved he’s the son of God. Yeah, Now you’re listening and you’re reading all of this, you’re interviewing people and the fact is it’s piling up, piling up, piling up, you’re still an atheist. Yeah, I am. So where’s it going? You know, it came down to november the eighth of 1981 and I said, you know what a good juror reaches a verdict the evidence was in after two years of researching this stuff, the evidence was in, I needed to reach a verdict. So I sat down with all the documents and all the papers and all the books and I I started to just review them all and go through all this stuff and then I stopped and I sat back and I said, wait a minute. In light of the avalanche of evidence that points so powerfully toward the truth of Christianity. I realized it would take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a christian. In other words, it was like the scales just went and that’s when I reached my verdict in the case for christ, that based on the evidence, I was convinced that jesus didn’t just claim to be the son of God. He backed up that claim by returning from the dead. And then I thought, am I done, is that it. And then Leslie pointed out a verse to me john 1 12 says but as many as received him to them, he gave the right to become Children of God. Even to those who believe in his name. And I called the faith formula if you take the active verbs out of that verse and forms an equation of what it means to become a child of God. Believe plus receive equals become. So I said, okay, I got I believe based on the data of history. I believe it’s true, but that’s not enough. I had to receive receive what receive this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that jesus purchased for me on the cross when he died as my substitute to pay for all of my sin. And when I would receive that gift in a simple prayer of repentance and faith, I would become a child of God. So I got on my knees and I poured out a confession of a lifetime of immorality, john that would absolutely curl your hair. And at that moment I received complete and total forgiveness through jesus christ and I became a child of God. Oh! She burst into tears and she threw her arms around my neck and she said, I almost gave up on you 1000 times. She said, when I was a new christian, I met some women at church and she said, I told him about you and I said, I don’t know any hope for my husband. He is a hard headed, hard hearted legal editor in the Chicago tribune. He’s never gonna bend his knee to jesus. And this one elderly woman by the name of Silvia put her arm around Leslie’s shoulder and pulled her to the side said, oh Leslie, No one is beyond hope. And she gave reverse in the Old Testament Ezekiel 36 26. This is moreover, I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit within you, I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And what I didn’t know at the time was that this whole two years and I’m on this investigative journey every day on her knees in private. Leslie prayed that prayer for me. She prayed that verse for me. She didn’t give up on me. She, I never knew that at the time, I would have freaked out. I would have gotten mad at her. But I found out later, she told me I’ve been praying for you for two years at first from Ezekiel and she told me God is gonna change your heart and he’s gonna change your mind. And he did, God changed my values. He changed my character, he changed my morality, changed my attitude, she changed my priorities. He changed my relationships, changed my marriage changed my parenting and I go down the list over time, over time um my life changed for the good. Yeah, but you’re the boss down there at the legal editor of the Chicago tribune when you came in and told them what they say, you know, they were polite, oh isn’t that interesting? Oh good for you, you know? And I heard people say behind my back hey, a struggle became a jesus freak, you know? But but it’s not gonna last. Yeah, it’s not gonna lie last. But you know, I would expect them to be skeptical because of the life I had lived. I was a drunk, you know here I was winning awards for investigative reporting, that’s what the world saw, what they didn’t see was the other side, which means me literally drunk in the snow in an alley on saturday night. Um so I can understand how they would say Strobel has found jesus really? And I remember one editor one day it was a very busy day and I prayed to God that day, I said God this is gonna be a tough day, I need your help, help me hold it together. And he did and my editor came up to me afterwards and said Strobel um man, you really, you impressed me today, you really held it together and then he said what’s this Christianity thing to you because he knew I’d become a christian and I said do you really want to know? And he said yeah, so we went into his office and we closed the door And for 45 minutes in the most inept way probably any christian has ever shared his faith and I’m trained to do this. I just told him what happened, I told him my story and I told him the evidence, I told him I got it changed my life and I walked out of that meeting and it was like my entire life up until that moment was a movie that was in black and white on eight millimeter with scratchy sound And that 45 minutes was like Dobie stereo colour and I said I want to spend the rest of my life doing that. I want to tell people there is hope, there is redemption, there is eternal life, it is available through Jesus as a gift of his grace. What better way to spend my life than just drag as many people to heaven with me as I can. Our statistics in our country are saying about 20% of our youth are turning toward atheism or five out of 10 in Europe eight out of 10 in Scandinavian countries. We’ve got a few minutes left you came to christ by investigating the evidence. Talk to them, you got a few minutes and then say a prayer for them if some of them would like to come into that relationship and no God and no other sins are forgiven have God’s power to change their life. They can’t do it by themselves. I want you to say a prayer that they might say with you if you’re a skeptic, if you’re an atheist, you know what? I’ve been there, I understand that and I’ve come to conclude after years of research now that it is a bankrupt philosophy, it is, there is no hope, there is no justice, there’s no eternal life in that worldview. And the key to it is it’s not true, it’s not true. And I would encourage you if you’re a skeptic, check it out yourself, investigate the evidence. All my books are free at local libraries. Um there are other resources out there, john anchor berg show is a great resource, check it out yourself. But you know what some of you were thinking this resonates with me. I know this is true, something is telling me I need this, I need jesus in my life, I need him to change my attitudes and my worldview and my relationships and my uh philosophy and so, and if that’s you, if you want to take that step, let me just offer a prayer. Just pray this prayer with me. Just say Lord jesus as best I can. I do believe that you are the son of God you proved it by returning from the dead and I confess that I’m a sinner, I may not be as bad as that struggle guy was, but I’ve sinned, I’ve fallen short. I know that and I want to turn from that and right now I wanna reach out in repentance and faith and receive your free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. Thank you for going to the cross to pay the penalty I deserved. So I don’t have to, I want to receive you. Lord Jesus, as my for giver and as my leader, take over my life, lead me and at the end of my life, fling open the doors of heaven so we can spend eternity together. I pray this in your name, jesus folks. I’m glad that you joined us today, Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody’s coming to the father but through me folks, he is the only way to come and you can go to almost any bookstore, any online source look up lee Strobel and you’ll see a ton of his books, some of the best books you have ever read that. Just chuck full with evidence And I’m so glad that you joined us today and I hope that you’ll stay tuned. I got a final word for you in just a moment. Stay tuned, john will be right back, Jesus said he came to seek and to save those who are lost. He says it was because God so loved the world. He loved you so much that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. You see, jesus came into the world to pay for your sins. He died on the cross and then he rose again so that you can be completely forgiven and spend eternity with him. This isn’t something that you can earn through your own good works. He offers it to you as a free gift which you can receive through putting your faith in him. If you would like to do this right now by asking jesus to be your savior, I invite you to join me in this simple prayer. Just say, dear God, thank you for loving me. I know I’m a sinner. I ask for your forgiveness right now. I believe that jesus is your son and that he died for all my sins on the cross. I also believe that you raised him from the dead and right now I want to trust him as my savior and follow him as my Lord from this day forward, please give me the strength to live for you. I ask this in jesus name, amen. You know folks, one day I said a prayer just like that and if you prayed this today, I want you to know what God promises to do for you. The bible says who so ever shall call upon the name of the Lord, that’s you. If you just prayed this prayer and if you did, I want you to see what God says, he will do, he says shall be say, that’s what God does. He promises to save you. 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