- (Photo: Patrick Greene)
- (Photo: Liberty University)
Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel had no reason to believe in God for most of his life as a skeptic and self-proclaimed atheist, he writes in his best-selling book, The Case for Christ, published 14 years ago.
That's why when The Christian Post asked him on Thursday about his reaction to our exclusive story about atheist activist Patrick Greene and his transformation to become a Christian, Strobel was able to give trusted insight. Once an atheist, he has become one of the leading defenders of Christianity through books, lectures, and as co-founder of The Institute at Cherry Hills in Colorado.
Although Strobel said he did not want to comment on Greene specifically because he does not know him personally, he did say that "nobody is beyond the reach of the Gospel."
"I do know plenty of atheists, agnostics and skeptics who have become Christians through the years," he wrote in an email exchange with CP. "In fact, several of my friends were once strong atheists but are now committed followers of Jesus."
Late last year, Greene came alongside a national atheist group that was threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, if the county didn't remove a Nativity scene from its courthouse lawn. Now, after experiencing the kindness of Christians who gave donations to help with his failing eyesight, the former atheist says he's not only a Christian, but he also wants to become a pastor.
Like Greene, Strobel was on the same page with his thoughts on Jesus Christ before becoming a Christian.
"As far as I was concerned, the case was closed," Strobel wrote in the introduction of his book, The Case for Christ. "There was enough proof for me to rest with the conclusion that the divinity of Jesus was nothing more than the fanciful invention of superstitious people … Or so I thought."
In his book, Strobel used his skills as a legal affairs journalist to look at "numerous categories of proof" in laying out a case for the existence of Christ, with the reader being asked to take on the "role of a juror."
The Christian Post asked Strobel some additional questions having to do with Greene's journey from atheist to Christian.
CP: You were an atheist once. How is it possible for an atheist to become a Christian?
Strobel: I've seen atheists become Christians after they decided to honestly pursue the evidence of science and history wherever it took them, regardless of whether it ended up contradicting their deeply held beliefs.
Last month, I met a former prosecutor who read my book The Case for Christ at the request of a friend and then spent five years delving into the historical evidence for Jesus before he concluded Jesus is, indeed, the unique Son of God who proved it by returning from the dead. I know an atheist engineer here in Colorado who spent two years doing the same thing. Both are now strong Christians.
Look what happened to Dr. Antony Flew, one of the most famous atheists in the world and author of The Presumption of Atheism. He shocked everyone several years ago by announcing he had been wrong and that he now believed in God. I was so stunned that I arranged to personally interview him about it – and I found him to be lucid, articulate and intellectually formidable.
He later explained in his book There Is a God: "I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe's intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science."
Though Flew didn't make the final step into Christianity as far as I'm aware, many other skeptics have. And although I can't comment on the specific individual in your article, I have seen many cases where the kindness of Christians has served to open up a skeptic's heart and make him or her more willing to consider the validity of Christianity.
The good news is that nobody – not even a person who professes atheism – is beyond the reach of the Gospel.
CP: Can an atheist, such as Greene once was, convert to Christianity quickly? Was he really an atheist to begin with?
Strobel: I don't know enough about this individual to make any kind of assessment in his case. However, I've seen skeptics become believers in very short periods of time. Evel Knievel, the daredevil motorcyclist, felt God speaking to his heart on a beach in Florida and then read The Case for Christ. He was radically transformed into a devout Christian. It was inspiring! The first time he told the story of his conversion publicly, hundreds of people came forward to receive Christ.
God can touch a heart in an instant. Saul of Tarsus wasn't an atheist but he was certainly a strong skeptic about Christianity – in fact, he was persecuting Christians. Yet one encounter on the road to Damascus changed him into Paul, the great apostle and missionary.
In contrast, sometimes the process takes years as the skeptic systematically investigates science and history and gets answers to the "spiritual sticking points" that are hanging him up. For example, it took me almost two years to go on that journey, using my journalism and legal backgrounds to get answers to the questions that I found troublesome.
CP: What would you say to skeptics in light of the story about Greene?
I'd say that this Easter season is the perfect time to pray what I call the skeptic's prayer:
"God, I don't believe you're there – in fact, I'm convinced you're not – but if you are, I really do want to know you."
If their skepticism is justified and God doesn't exist, they've only wasted a few seconds of their life. But if they're mistaken and God is real, then a sincere prayer like that can open the door to a great adventure of discovering him.