Lee Strobel, “The Case for Heaven: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for Life after Death”

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.  The 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 Heaven is another good book — not in the same league as the trilogy cited above, but still worth reading.  There are chapters on the near-universal human desire for immortality; evidence for consciousness after death — that is, a soul; near-death experiences; Chad Meister’s “apologetics pyramid”; what Heaven might be like; why Hell, alas, is plausible; and why reincarnation probably doesn’t.  As you can see, the book has a lot more about why the Christian concept of Heaven makes sense than about empirical evidence we have for its existence, so the book’s secondary title is perhaps a bit misleading.


Additional notes:

  • I was pleased to learn that I can claim Lee Strobel as a fellow Texan (265).
  • There are plenty of C.S. Lewis cites and quotes but, alas, none to Blaise Pascal.  Still, the more there is evidence for Heaven, the more powerful the arguments are for his Wager.  As Strobel says in his introduction (4-5), there’s no more important question than what happens to our eternal souls — and whether we have them — so how can we not wrestle with that question and, having answered it, order our lives here accordingly?
  • I sensed, perhaps, a lighter touch in this book than in some of Strobel’s others, and enjoyed his humor (e.g., 121-22 on there being dogs, but “of course” no cats, in Heaven) and willingness to acknowledge forgetting to bring a relevant book to one of his interviews (195).
  • I’ve noted on this blogsite elsewhere that, when it comes to near-death experiences and other miracles, it is not enough for materialists to show that some or most or even nearly all such claims are false:  They must show that they all are.  This point is likewise made in a couple of places in Strobel’s book (39, 54).
  • There’s research showing that, if you believe in an afterlife, you’re considerably less likely to die from suicide, drugs, or alcohol (12).
  • An expert interviewed notes that he’s never run across a near-death experience involving Hindu beliefs (58-59).
  • It’s common for people with near-death experiences to observe things when they are out of their bodies, and one study found them to be 92 percent correct (66).
  • The chapter on near-death experiences (chapter 3 at 71-72) concludes that, indeed, “the best explanation for the totality of the evidence  is that there is a postmortem existence of some sort.  After our brain stops working, after our heart stops beating, after the doctors declare us dead — we still live on.  Our consciousness survives.  We survive.”
  • In the interview with Chad Meister, there’s a very good discussion of the historicity of the Resurrection, and in it Strobel notes (93-94):  “What’s more [re this topic], we also have two strong nonbiblical sources who knew some of the eyewitnesses.  First, there’s Clement.  The early church father Irenaeus reports that Clement conversed with the apostles, and Tertullian says Clement was ordained by Peter himself.”  The passage continues:  “Second, there’s Polycarp.  Irenaeus says Polycarp was instructed by the apostles, and Tertullian confirms that John appointed Polycarp as a bishop.  Both Clement and Polycarp specifically confirm that it was the actual resurrection of Jesus that motivated the disciples.”
  • There were a couple of powerful passages toward the end.  There’s this (207-08):
“You know, when Becky was on her deathbed, I would read her passages from the Bible to soothe her spirit. Sometimes I’d open the Bible to Revelation 21.”
He glanced at the leather-clad black Bible on the round wooden desk where we sat. He picked it up and flipped to the opening words of that chapter, reading aloud:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
My eyes misted. Groothuis closed the book. “Becky and I found comfort in those words, not just because of what they promise, but because their promises are true,” he said. “This is not wishful thinking, make-believe, legend, or mythology. This is the glorious future that awaits all who put their trust in Christ.”
He paused a beat.
“Reincarnation? No, as I said, there’s no contest. Resurrection, Lee—that’s the beautiful and loving future that awaits us.
And I enjoyed the end of the book’s penultimate chapter, on the famous evangelist Luis Palau, featuring two non-nonsense comments — one by his mother and one by Luis himself.  In the first, his mother reacts to the the young Luis’s dilly-dallying about beginning his evangelism and his excuse that he is awaiting the Lord’s call (220-21, emphasis in original):  “The call?  The call?  The call went out two thousand years ago, Luis!  The Lord’s waiting for your answer!  You’re not waiting for his call!”  In the second, Strobel asks the dying Luis what advice he would send non-Christians from Heaven.  And Luis replies (221-22, emphasis again in original), “Don’t be stupid!”  In other words — and this to my mind hearkens to Pascal’s Wager — don’t turn your back on Heaven by rejecting God’s gift to us:
Sure — don’t be stupid!  Don’t pass up what God is offering out of his love and grace. Why embrace evil when goodness beckons? Why turn your back on heaven and choose hell?  Why expose yourself the the harmful side effects of a sinful life when you can follow God’s path or righteousness and healing?  Don’t miss the party that God has waiting for you in heaven!”