His wife, Leslie, found a new faith in Jesus Christ and it was ruining his marriage. He decided that if he could prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead, he could free Leslie from “the cult” of Christianity.
“I saw Christianity as a cult, a mind-control of some sort, that was trying to lure her into a different world where I wasn’t welcome,” he said. “I thought I could disprove it in a weekend, but it took a year and nine months, in the end, to come to the opposite conclusion.”
Using his skills as an award-winning legal editor for The Chicago Tribune, Strobel launched an investigation into the historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. The results of his findings convinced him of the truth of the Holy Scripture.
“Everybody takes a leap of faith in one direction or the other…. We can’t know anything with absolute certainty short of two plus two equals four,” said Strobel, 65. “But the way I see faith, it’s a step we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing.”
A new film based Strobel’s 1998 Christian apologetics book, The Case for Christ, hits theatres April 7. It recounts Strobel’s journey researching the science, history and philosophy behind the most important event in Christianity.
In the film, Strobel (played by Mike Vogel) interviews scientists, historians and Christian apologists about evidence that supported the Resurrection. He examines witness accounts, early scriptural manuscripts, physical sciences of Jesus’ crucifixion and many other studies behind the story of Easter.
As he throws himself into his investigation, Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) finds her faith through her friendship with a nurse (played by L. Scott Caldwell) who invites her to attend a local church.
The film, Strobel said, is essentially about how God came into the lives of two very different people.
“By my nature, how God wired me up, I tend to be a person skeptical of things,” he said. “So I think, in my case, God used the evidence for the faith to open my eyes to the truth of who He is. Leslie on the other hand didn’t have that. I think she had an intuitive sense that God was there.”
When Leslie told him about her personal relationship with God, he couldn’t understand it. Their individual pursuits in learning about God put a strain in their marriage.
Strobel said that when Leslie talked about Jesus, in a way, it made him jealous. He felt like Leslie was pulling away from him and entering a world where he, as an atheist, was not welcome. He said it nearly led to divorce.
After almost two years of scrutinizing the evidence before him, Strobel looked at all he compiled and realized he couldn’t refute the conclusion.
Strobel was baptized on Nov. 8, 1981 at the age of 29. After 14 years as a journalist, he left the Tribune to become a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.
After The Case for Christ became a bestseller, he went on to write several books on apologetics, including The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator and The Case for the Real Jesus.
“I continue to grow and learn. There’s more and more evidence,” said Strobel.