[serialposts]I was excited when Dan asked me to be part of his latest group blogging project. His projects are always interesting, insightful and in many cases motivating. When he told me about the book that we would be reviewing, I wondered how a clinical case study would impact me. I like to think of myself as a thinker and potentially a do-er. Like kindling, I only need a spark. So what spark would The Case for Christmas provide me?
Chapter Two is the author’s attempt at deconstructing the New Testament’s historical documentation and aligning it with what is deemed archaeological acceptable. I guess that is the long way around the block in saying, does the scientific information match up with what the Bible says?
Strobel begins the chapter by relating a story of a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey McDonald. Yes, “The Jeffery McDonald” who was convicted of horrifically killing his entire family. McDonald had crafted a detailed alibi about being attacked by hippies and given himself some minor flesh wounds to help corroborate his story. When Strobel asked McDonald how he could be so calm, McDonald responded by saying “They’ll never convict me. I’m innocent, you know.” In reality McDonald was guilty. His alibi tumbled like a house of cards when put to the test of forensics and a crime lab. His story, while maintaining a veil of possibility could not withstand the scrutiny of science. McDonald’s credibility was lost. Strobel uses this anecdote as the leaping off point for his search for the truth of Christ’s birth. What details support the details of the story? Have the witnesses and documenters of these historical incidents built a reputation as being accurate and credible in other instances? Are the witnesses reliable? What evidence should support our reason to believe in these historians?
As the FBI uses their crime lab to find evidence supporting crime theories, Strobel consults with a series of experts in determining the accuracy of biblical information. Interestingly, what Strobel asks of these experts is not what can be confirmed by the evidence, but what cannot be confirmed. By assessing the limitations, we can take our first step in determining what information is historical and what is subjective and anecdotal. With each story and account of the life of Jesus, there are geographic details that can be vetted. By determining the credibility of these details, we can begin to determine the veracity of the person stating the information. If all the historical information checks out, the person chronicling the details should be more believable than someone who doesn’t have their facts straight. What credence can we put in those telling the story? I appreciate that Strobel is looking for experts with “scientific restraint” when working to verify location details. Where Christianity is built on faith, scientific research is based on the ability to verify an outcome. It’s about confirming data.
Strobel spends time with experts in confirming some of the things that any good detective would. OK, we are familiar with a census where people go door to door to gather statistical data, but a census where everyone was forced to travel back to their hometown to be counted? And this is what brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? Not likely, right? Well, according to archaelogists, that was previously a documented occurence. Luke, one of Jesus disciples was a noted historian of his day was also noted for the painstaking accuracy of his the geographic details that he noted in written accounts of the day. Details of his accounts are confirmed by scientists. As Strobel runs down a list of several events of the Jesus day, experts are able to confirm that there was a high likelihood that they either took place or that the details surrounding the events are provided by highly credible sources. Can we say with a high degree of likelihood that a child was born in a manger in Bethlehem? The Bible states it and science confirms that there are multiple events that can either be confirmed or would be considered consistent with the type of events occurring at that time.
As I read the chapter, I kept wondering how this related to me. At the end of the day how credible will my testimony be? Do people take heed when I speak? I think of some of the instances that are occurring in the media now. Tiger Woods tells the world nothing is happened. Science can tell us he crashed a car and will let us know how fast he was going and if he was drunk. His lies and indiscretions tell the rest of the story, impacting his family and likely costing him his marriage. Can we ever believe him again? Does he have any sort of credibility left? While this chapter may not have focused on credibility, it resounded with me. How will people regard my words? While science can lend a hand in determining the likelihood of events, personal credibility completes the equation. Maybe we all could use a gentle reminder that our words and actions create a legacy that remains long after we are gone. As we witness for Christ, will others view our life and it’s legacy consistent with what Jesus would have us do? What information would a scientist or detective researching our past come up with? Strobel has definitely given me pause for thought with this interesting book.