Former Atheist and Christian-convert Lee Strobel visited Oklahoma Christian University Monday as part of the McGaw Lecture Series to share the evidence of Christianity he compiled during his personal faith journey. During Strobel’s time on campus, he delivered a chapel lesson, spoke at a student luncheon and delivered a lecture entitled “Surprised by Truth.”
Strobel worked as a journalist for 14 years and appeared on multiple television networks including Fox News and PBS. He also hosted the television show “Faith Under Fire,” which was a platform for Christians and skeptics to debate topics relating to Christianity.
At the student luncheon geared toward honors, Bible and journalism students, Strobel discussed some of his responsibilities following the publication of his book, “The Case for Christ.”
According to Strobel, he volunteered at a church and answered questions from people about Christianity. He said to evangelize individuals in the 21st century, Christians must use reasoned arguments or justifications—otherwise known as apologetics. Strobel said scholars claimed young people would not care about the apologetics of religion. However, individuals aged 16-24 were the most loyal readers of his book.
Strobel said citizens in the communities he visits often ask for help or clarification with their faith-based questions. He said there have been great strides made in academia, faith-representative philosophy departments and debates.
“Creating a safe place in a relationship, respecting their opinions, validating them as human beings, listening more than talking and helping them get past points holding them up spiritually,” Strobel said. “In this day of skepticism, I see an opportunity for the Church of Christ.”
Strobel spoke in Oklahoma Christian’s Hardeman Auditorium yesterday evening, where he detailed his faith story and the logical conclusions which led him to ultimately believe in God. He began by outlining his initial certainty of God’s inexistence.
“I thought that God didn’t create people, but people created God,” Strobel said. “Why? Because they were afraid of death. So they made up this idea of Heaven, afterlife to make themselves feel better about dying. That’s what I thought. To me, just the mere concept of an all-loving, and all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe—come on, it’s crazy.”
Strobel said his background in journalism and law made him a skeptical person. He said every piece of information should be backed up by multiple people before it can be considered a fact, no matter the context. However, Strobel said this mindset led him to live an immoral life.
“The downside was, my skepticism bubbled over into cynicism and it cemented me in my atheism,” Strobel said. “Because I had no belief in God, I really lacked a moral framework for my life. I’m not saying all atheists think this way, I’m just saying I tend to be a logical person, I tend to be a rational person. So I just thought it through rationally. I said, ‘Wait a minute. If there is no God, if there is no Heaven, if there is no hell, if there is not judgment, if there is no ultimate accountability, then the most logical way to live my life would be as a hedonist—someone who just pursued pleasure—and that’s what I did.”
According to Strobel, during his time of unbelief, his wife began studying the Bible and eventually converted to Christianity. He said their differing views on divinity put a strain on their marriage and started him on his journey to disprove and discredit the Christian faith.
“As Leslie began to change—as she became a follower of Jesus who lived a more holy life—a lot of these changes were winsome to me and attractive to me, and they pulled me toward God,” Strobel said. “At the same time, I wanted the old Leslie back. I wanted the old days back. I thought, ‘You know what, if I could just disprove Christianity, then I could rescue her from this cult that she got involved in.’”
Strobel said he realized he would have to disprove the resurrection of Jesus, as it is the foundation and key component of the Christian faith. He said his time of research turned into a two-year, in-depth exploration of the validity of the resurrection—eventually leading to his conversion to Christianity. Strobel used four words to summarize the evidence of Christ and His resurrection—execution, early, empty and eyewitnesses—which he then explained in-depth.
Following his conversion, Strobel said his relationship with his wife and children was renewed and his life was completely transformed into one of hope and love. He said his children came to faith at a young age and have kept God at the center of their personal and professional lives, even into adulthood.
“Friends, God rescued our family, he saved our marriage—Leslie and I, as John mentioned, just celebrated 45 years of marriage together,” Strobel said. “He changed my son, He changed my daughter, He changed me, He changed Leslie, and that’s my story.”
Senior Haley Robinson said she has enjoyed attending the McGaw lectures since her freshman year at Oklahoma Christian, but Strobel’s lecture was particularly impactful. She said she believes his ideas will stick with her even after she leaves college.
“I very much enjoyed how honest he was and how open he was because we can look at God academically and we absolutely should, but at the same time the power is in the personal stories that we all carry about our experience coming to Him,” Robinson said.
Senior Peter Miller said Strobel’s lecture engaged him more than the lectures of past speakers in the McGaw series. He said Strobel’s message utilized a more personal, approachable style, and less of an academic style.
“I enjoyed how he wove [the lecture] into his own story, just to show that he wasn’t just pursuing research,” Miller said. “He wasn’t trying to change his life, but it ended up changing his life. I think that was really interesting to me to hear the different stories of why he believes.”