To see how Strobel’s experts stand up when exposed to real scrutiny, I would recommend "Monkey Girl" by Edward Humes. This fascinating book recounts Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District where Judge John E. Jones (a Bush appointee) correctly identified the pseudo-science of intelligent design as a religious doctrine. Most of the Discovery Institute's scientists chickened out by withdrawing as expert witnesses rather than face real cross-examination in open court. The only one with the guts to appear was Michael Behe who was unable to explain why he has never done the research that he thought would convince the skeptical scientific community of the validity of his theory of “irreducible complexity.” The book also describes the persuasive and overwhelming testimony and evidence offered for the scientific theory of evolution by scientists who were not only credentialed, but tenured at leading research universities and published in peer reviewed journals as well.
I have been amusing myself recently by politely pointing out to evangelical bloggers that Strobel’s pretended skepticism is belied by the fact that he only interviews conservative Christian scholars (not counting eighty-three-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer Charles Templeton in "The Case for Faith"). At Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee, Kevin Bussey insisted that Strobel “does a good job of presenting both sides” of the debate about the historical reliability of the New Testament in his new book “The Case for the Real Jesus.” I was curious how he knew that Strobel had done a good job, so I asked him whether he had ever read any books by Bart Ehrman, Dominic Crossan or John Shelby Spong. He responded that he had “no reason to read them” because they “were not reputable.” Obviously, Kevin does not know whether Strobel has fairly presented positions other than his own.
I am not denying that I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people whose opinions agree with my own, but I always like to check and see what criticisms their opponents might offer. After reading (and enjoying) "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman, I searched conservative Christian web sites to find out what they thought of him as a scholar. Contrary to Kevin’s assertion, it turns out that his expertise in scriptural manuscript history and linguistics is acknowledged by many evangelicals although they disagree with the conclusions he draws from the historical record. The nice thing about checking sources like this is that it helps me avoid being made to look stupid in debates.
Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, never seem to feel any need to verify their sources. Before the "Culture Campaign" cut off commenting, I had several discussions about the current thinking of the scientific community on whether homosexuality is a choice. When I cited the American Psychiatric Association's rejection of reparative therapy, one of the bloggers challenged me to look at the work of Dr. Robert Spitzer whose findings, he claimed, were being ignored by the APA. It turned out that Spitzer had interviewed 200 self-proclaimed "ex-homosexuals" who had been referred to him by clinics that practiced reparative therapy. Spitzer concluded that some had successfully changed their sexual orientation. Since Spitzer did not interview anyone who stayed gay, his study had nothing to say about the likelihood of success or the potential harm when the therapy fails. It turned out that other researchers had done so and found that reparative therapy had a high failure rate and often caused harm to those who failed. So it turned out that Spitzer’s research did not give the APA any reason to change its position. The blogger confessed that he really did not remember much about Spitzer's researh (other than his belief that it proved the evangelical position).
When confronted with the fact that their position is not really supported by objective evidence, evangelicals often switch to a claim that both sides of the debate are really just matters of opinion or faith. The blogger who directed me to Dr. Spitzer insisted that he was sure the research that supported the APA was biased. A blogger with whom I was discussing “The Case for Christ” insisted that our whole economy is just a matter of faith. Of course, creationists always claim that scientists’ belief in the theory of evolution is just as much faith as their belief in the book of Genesis. Relativism is supposedly one of the greatest evils promoted by secularism, but evangelicals have no qualms about resorting to it when it suits their purposes.
I have much more respect for Christians like Billy Graham than I could ever have for the likes of Hennigraf and Strobel. When faced with the doubts that his friend and fellow evangelist Charles Templeton developed when studying modern scriptural scholarship, Graham decided to go with faith.
"Chuck, look, I haven't a good enough mind to settle these questions," Graham finally declared. "The finest minds in the world have looked and come down on both sides." Graham concluded that "I don't have the time, the inclination or the set of mind to pursue them. I found that if I say 'The Bible says' and 'God says,' I get results. I have decided I'm not going to wrestle with these questions any longer."Maybe Graham did not have much intellectual curiosity, but at least he had the intellectual integrity to admit the basis for his beliefs.