The Power of Grace, The Beauty of Story: A Conversation with Lee Strobel

The Case for Grace by Lee StrobelThe Book

Lee Strobel’s journey began in a book called The Case for Christ. What began as a project to refute the historicity of Christianity soon became a project that not just acknowledged, but accepted, the Christian story of redemption. Future books explored the person of Jesus, some philosophical issues within Christianity, and a scientific look at the evidence for a Creator. With every book, Strobel mounted evidence in favor for the Christian faith. But now he offers a new type of evidence: he calls some heart-witnesses to the stand. In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel examines the evidence of transformed lives to show the power that the Gospel has on those who follow it.

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Strobel 2014The Author

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty books and serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University.

Described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists,” Lee shared the Christian Book of the Year award in 2005 for a curriculum he co-authored with Garry Poole about the movie The Passion of the Christ. He also won Gold Medallions for The Case for Christ,The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator, all of which have been made into documentaries distributed by Lionsgate.

The Interview

Q: After four primary books (The Case for Christ, Faith, the Real Jesus, & a Creator) and a number of smaller books, you’ve finally come to this theme of the Evidence of Transformed Lives. Tell me, what power do you think this type of experiential evidence has on the overall case for the Christian faith?

I think it’s necessary but not sufficient. In other words, if God is real and Christianity is true, then you would expect to see the evidence of transformed lives in the followers of Christ. But that evidence, by itself, doesn’t seem to be enough to establish the case for Christianity in a compelling way. That’s why I believe that the data from science — particularly cosmology, physics, and DNA — and the facts of history — especially concerning the resurrection of Jesus — are essential in presenting a well-rounded case for Christ. That doesn’t diminish the power of the experiential case; it just recognizes that more is needed for a complete apologetic for the faith.

Q: It seems like this book is a natural progression of evidence following the previous three books. What was it that started the idea of this book? How did it come to fruition?

Ever since I became a Christian, I’ve been fascinated by stories of how God revolutionizes lives. I guess it stems from the fact that my own life as a hard-headed, heart-hearted atheist was so radically transformed by Christ. I’ve never lost my gratitude for that, and I’m consistently drawn to other stories of people who have undergone similar experiences. I wanted to write a book about God grace for many years, but I felt it was important first to establish more apologetic groundwork through my other writings. Also, this book discloses aspects of my spiritual journey that I’ve never publicly discussed before, and it took time before I felt I was ready to discuss those things.

Q: There are so many people with crazy conversion stories, stories that are irrefutable evidence of grace. How did you choose the people you interviewed for this book?

I’m an avid collector of personal testimonies. They come from a variety of sources. For example, I first heard about the orphan I interviewed for the book when I was listening to a radio program in my car several years ago. The story about the mass murderer in Cambodia started with an article in the New York Times. A few of the people I interviewed — including the drug addict turned pastor, the professor, and the disgraced preacher who nearly lost his marriage — are personal friends of mine. The father of the prodigal I describe is also a long-time friend.

Q: The story that hit me the hardest was the story of Stephanie Fast. My wife and I run an adoption fundraising organization, so we have seen children like Stephanie and this beautiful process of redemption firsthand. How did you learn of her story and what made you decide to include it in the book? 

I heard her being interviewed on the radio years ago, and I immediately knew I had to meet her and get to know her story in depth. Her experiences are such a great picture of God’s grace — not only does he offer forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift, but he also adopts us as his children. I saw parallels to my own story because, as she told me, there is such a thing as an orphan of the heart. Although I grew up with a father and mother, my difficult relationship with my dad had a profound impact on me — and, I believe, pushed me toward my early life of atheism.

Q: Like all good journalists, I’m certain you have reams of material on the cutting room floor. Is there any story or anecdote that didn’t make it in the final book but still left an impact on you?

Funny you should ask that! I was going to include a chapter about Louis Zamperini, who was the subject of the book and movie Unbroken. He had a compelling story of surviving horrific experiences in a prisoner of war camp during World War II and then coming to faith through a Billy Graham rally and ultimately forgiving his former tormenters. I spent a day with Louis in his home in the Los Angeles area. We had a wonderful conversation — but, in the end, I decided his story was too well known already because of the excellent book written about him. So I reluctantly decided not to use it. Still, I was personally enriched by spending time with him. He was an incredibly man and an incurable evangelist!

Q: The Case for Christ obviously involved a huge shift in your perception of Christianity. Was there anything in The Case for Grace that challenged you personally or changed the way you thought about grace?

I remember when I was in law school and would be facing my final exam in a class. I thought I had understood the material during the semester, but in the process of studying for the test I came to a deeper understanding of the topic. In a similar way, I’ve understood grace for a long time, and I personally experienced it on November 8, 1981, when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. I’ve told people about grace, studied scriptures about it, and preached on it. Yet in the process of writing the book, my understanding of grace went to a new level. And I hope readers find the same thing.

When he wanted to explain grace, Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. Stories can bring fresh insights and illumination. I believe that the progression of stories in this book — my own journey from atheism to faith as well as the stories of an orphan, a professor, a mass murderer, a drug addict, and others — shed fresh light on different facets of grace. I talk about some very personal issues in this book, especially concerning my relationship with my father and a health crisis I went through a few years ago, that I believe will help readers attain a new perspective on grace. In a way, this book is my life message. God is still in the life transformation business — and I want everyone to know that.

Q: What does God have in store next for Lee Strobel? Do you have another book in mind? Where does your ministry go from here?

I still have a few books I urgently want to write. They will complete the Case series that began with The Case for Christ. I’ve already started work on the next one. I also want to build into the next generation, which is why I’ve taken a position as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. I want to continue to preach and tell the world about God’s grace, which is why I’m now a Teaching Pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas and will continue to speak around the country. I want to help innovate new ways to reach America with God’s message of redemption and hope, which is why I helped start the Center for American Evangelism at Houston Baptist University. I want to invest in the next generation of my family, which is why I’m building into my four grandchildren. There’s so much to do, and I’m enjoying it all!

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Author: Josh Olds

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