I’m a Lee Strobel fan, and would put his trilogy of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator near the top of my apologetics list. His book that is the subject of this post follows the same template as his others: The author makes an intelligent division of the relevant subtopics, and then visits and interviews a series of distinguished and impressive experts on them. Strobel is an ex-journalist specializing in legal matters as well as an ex-atheist, not a wide-eyed innocent, and he asks the tough questions and then lets the experts reply at length.
It’s an effective approach, and The Case for Miracles is another good book. It is organized as follows: Part 1 presents the case against miracles, through an interview with Dr. Michael Shermer, a science writer and the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine. Part 2 is an extended interview with Dr. Craig Keener, author of the two-volume book Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts and Miracles Today, among other works. In part 3, Strobel interviews Dr. Candy Gunther Brown on “The Science of Miracles” and missionary Tom Doyle on “Dreams and Visions.” Part 4, “The Most Spectacular Miracles,” focuses on the evidence that our world itself is miraculously created and fine-tuned (interviewing Dr. Michael Strauss), and on the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection (interviewing detective J. Warner Wallace). Part 5 has interviews with Dr. Roger Olsen on how many mainline Christians are rather embarrassed by recognizing miracles, and with Dr. Douglas Groothuis on the problem of prayed-for miracles not happening.
The book’s “Recommended Resources” is a useful collection (271-74), and is subdivided into Miracles, The Gospels and Resurrection, and Origin and Fine-Tuning of Our Universe and Planet.
Here are some specific notes that I took:
- All three chapters in part 2, “The Case for Miracles,” are devoted to interviewing Craig Keener about his important work documenting and corroborating miracles. Toward the end of the part, it’s noted that another author has concluded that the number of reported miracles has recently been dramatically increasing (116, quoting Jim Rutz’s book Megashift).
- Chapter 8 (“Dreams and Visions: An Interview with Missionary Tom Doyle”) is devoted almost entirely to the appearance of Christ to Muslims in dreams.
- The theme of chapter 12, “Embarrassed by the Supernatural: An Interview with Roger Olson,” is that a Christian should live like he expects, or at least will not be shocked by, miracles in his own life. But “the data shows [sic] that the greater a person’s education and income, the less likely to believe that God has supernaturally intervened in their life” (222).
- On the other hand, the book notes earlier (31, footnotes omitted):
Although skeptic Harriet Hall dismissed supernatural reports as being “more common from the uncivilized and uneducated,” a 2004 survey showed that 55 percent of US physicians have seen results in their patients that they would consider miraculous. That’s coming from highly educated professionals trained in medicine and working on the front lines of serving the sick and injured.
Three-quarters of the 1,100 doctors surveyed are convinced that miracles can occur today—a percentage that’s actually higher than that of the US population in general. So maybe it’s not surprising that six out of ten physicians said they pray for their patients individually.
- The book is more or less summarized on pages 261-63 (“Persuaded by the Evidence”) of the Conclusion chapter. See this link: https://readfrom.net/lee-strobel/page,23,300787-the_case_for_miracles.html
- The two chapters on “fine-tuning” conclude with an interesting section, “The Soul of the Artist,” from which these excerpts are taken:
I asked [physics professor Michael G.] Strauss, “If God is the most likely explanation for our universe and planet, then what can we logically deduce about him from the scientific evidence?”
“Several things. First,” he said, grabbing a finger as he went through each point, “he must be transcendent, because he exists apart from his creation. Second, he must be immaterial or spirit, since he existed before the physical world. Third, he must be timeless or eternal, since he existed before physical time was created. Fourth, he must be powerful, given the immense energy of the big bang. Fifth, he must be smart, given the fact that the big bang was not some chaotic event but was masterfully finely tuned. Sixth, he must be personal, because a decision had to be made to create. Seventh, he must be creative—I mean, just look at the wonders of the universe. And eighth, he must be caring, because he so purposefully crafted a habitat for us.”
“Still, how do we know this creator is the God of Christianity?” I asked.
“All the qualities we’ve elicited from the evidence are consistent with the God of the Bible,” he replied. “If there’s just one creator, then that rules out polytheism. Since he’s outside of creation, this rules out pantheism. The universe is not cyclical, which violates the tenets of Eastern religions. And the big bang contradicts ancient religious assumptions that the universe is static.”
“It is worth noting,” [astrophysicist Hugh] Ross said, “that Scripture speaks about the transcendent beginning of physical reality, including time itself (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15–17; Hebrews 11:3); about continual cosmic expansion, or ‘stretching out’ (Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 45:12; Jeremiah 10:12); about unchanging physical laws (Jeremiah 33:25), one of which is the pervasive law of decay (Ecclesiastes 1:3–11; Romans 8:20–22). These descriptions fly in the face of ancient, enduring, and prevailing assumptions about an eternal, static universe—until the twentieth century.”
- In the discussion of the Resurrection, there’s this interesting point (206): “Even more importantly, there isn’t a single ancient document or claim in which any of the eyewitnesses ever recanted their statement. Think about that for a minute. We have ancient accounts in which second-, third-, or fourth-generation Christians were forced to recant, but no record of an eyewitness ever disavowing their testimony. I think that helps establish the truthfulness of the eyewitnesses.”
Since, as the name of this blogsite indicates, my two favorite Christian apologists are Blaise Pascal and C.S. Lewis, I should note the latter’s book Miracles (cited, as you would expect, by Strobel here), and the fact that the presence — or even just likely presence or even just the quite possible presence — of miracles is highly relevant to his Wager. That is, miracles suggest God, and so they ought to be an additional push to choose to believe and, having made that choice, they are likewise a way to cultivate one’s faith. And remember that it doesn’t matter if some or most or even nearly all miracles might be explained away: So long as even one miracle is true, well, then that’s enough to point to a Miracle-Worker, is it not?
Finally, Strobel’s whole book is apparently online here: https://readfrom.net/lee-strobel/page,1,300787-the_case_for_miracles.html