COLUMBIA — Lee Strobel always had a nose for news, but he had no idea his journalistic instinct would send him on a two-year spiritual investigation that would turn into the biggest story he’s ever written.
Strobel, an MU alumnus and New York Times best-selling author, will discuss his journey from atheism to Christianity in two talks this week. “I’m going to talk about my motivations for that journey,” he said. “A lot of people can relate to my reluctance to buy into Christianity without investigating it first.”
After graduating from the journalism school in 1974, Strobel, 55, went to work at the Chicago Tribune. At that time, he said, spiritual matters were not on his radar.
“Succeeding in journalism was my god,” he said.
Strobel went to Yale law school, and after graduating in 1979, returned to the Chicago Tribune as legal editor.
Lee’s spiritual journey began when his wife, Leslie Strobel, befriended a Christian woman and began attending Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. After Leslie became a Christian in 1979, Lee said he noticed that she was more forgiving and related to him and their children in a more heartfelt way.
“I tried to become a witness to Lee by showing him what God was doing in my life,” his wife said.
At his wife’s request, Lee Strobel went to Willlow Creek one night. “The pastor spoke about the essential beliefs of Christianity, including the idea that forgiveness is a free gift and that all humans need to be reconciled to God,” Strobel said.
“I was still an atheist when I left that night,” he said, “but if what the pastor said was true, it held huge implications for my life.”
That message sent Strobel on what he thought would be an investigation that he could complete in a weekend. But, he ended up traveling across the country to talk to numerous religious scholars. Attempting to be unbiased and objective, he said he was prepared to follow the facts where they took him.
“On one level, I didn’t want there to be a God,” Strobel said. “I lived a life that was contrary to the teachings of Jesus, and I didn’t want to be held accountable.”
He was apprehensive when he began his investigation and thought that an all-powerful God was a ridiculous idea and that the Bible was composed of primitive writings. As Strobel began his research, his “presuppositions, one by one, fell by the wayside.”
“In light of the avalanche of evidence, I realized it would take more faith for me to not believe in God than to believe in God,” Strobel said.
About two years after beginning his investigation, on Nov. 8, 1981, Strobel “prayed to receive Jesus as his forgiver and leader.”
Strobel’s investigation became the basis for his best-selling book, “The Case for Christ.”
Nathan Tiemeyer, assistant pastor at The Crossing Church, praised Strobel’s work. “Lee does a great job of presenting a case based on historical evidence that Jesus was who he said he was,” Tiemeyer said.
Strobel said he hopes sharing his story will send people on their own journey to find out who Jesus is.
“I hope they make a decision based on knowing all sides of the issue,” he said. “There is no aspect of my life that has not been fundamentally turned upside down with the claim that Jesus was who he said he was.”
Strobel’s visit this week marks the first time he’s been back to Columbia since leaving in 1984. From 1982 to 1984, Strobel was managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Strobel has written nearly 20 books, including “The Case for Faith,” and his most recent, “The Case for the Real Jesus.”