Lee Strobel, a professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University who once professed to be an atheist when working as a journalist at the Chicago Tribune, says that a life changing experience, influenced by his wife's conversion to Christianity, led him to dedicate his life to Christ and to being an apologist for the faith.
Strobel has written a series of books, including The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith and The Case for Creator that explore various evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, the Christian faith and God as the Creator of the universe. His latest work, The Case for Grace, explores the transformative power of God's grace and its ability to change lives.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Strobel in which he talks about his time as an atheist and whether grace can be extended to congregations that deviate from Scripture. You can read Part 1 of CP's interview with Strobel here.
CP: When you were an atheist, were you solidified in your position, or did you just have a distaste for faith?
Strobel: I started out as a teenager just believing that the idea of an all loving, all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe was absurd and wasn't even worth my time to check out. I had an initial knee-jerk reaction against the idea of God. And then later was cemented in that belief through further study reading atheist authors and books. I became more solidified in why I didn't believe that God existed.
CP: So you were an atheist when you started your journey which your book, The Case for Christ, is based on?
Strobel: When I was a journalist at the Chicago Tribune as legal editor is when I began my investigation that took almost two years. But that was a personal investigation. I wasn't writing a book. I wasn't intending to ever publish anything on it. It was just my own curiosity propelled by my wife's transformation as a Christian that intrigued me. That was a year and nine months I spent using my background in journalism and law to investigate whether Christianity or any other religion was true.
CP: Do you think The Case for Grace can help people in the outside world understand why Christians believe what they believe about God's grace?
Strobel: I believe The Case for Grace can help people who are spiritually confused or who don't understand what Christians believe come to the point where they can not only understand it, but I hope open themselves up to the grace of God. So it's a book that I believe will encourage Christians and deepen their faith and their appreciation of God's grace. But my hope is that they'll pass it along to someone who is spiritually skeptical or confused who, through the book, might find grace in their own life.
CP: You have a lot of churches in America adopting beliefs that contradict Scripture. They still try to hold onto the concept of faith, but reject some of the traditional beliefs. Do you believe there's grace for these churches that intentionally veer away from the Bible?
Strobel: John 1: 12 says that as many have received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. So that forms an equation of what it means to become a true child of God. Believe plus receive equals become. And there are certain beliefs that make up mere Christianity. That core of [beliefs] I think are important for a person to come to an authentic faith in Christ.
But then we have to take a step of faith by receiving this gift of grace, forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus purchased on the cross by His death. Paying our sins as our substitute. When we believe and receive we become children of God. I think there are people who may not understand all the nuances of the Christian faith, but there are some fundamentals that I think we have to understand in order to connect with God on a meaningful level.
The word denomination and the word denominator are kind of related in the sense that yes, we have a lot of different denominations with a lot of different beliefs on peripheral issues. But to be a true Christian denomination we have to share core of beliefs that are clearly taught in Scripture and are fundamental to the faith. I think those that wander outside those fundamentals are wandering in dangerous territory. We can agree to disagree on some of the peripherals of the faith as long as we agree on the fundamentals.