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Lee Strobel: The Case for Miracles

Not content to dismantle Hume’s outdated treatise on miracles, Strobel next targets the veracity and reliability of the STEP research referenced earlier by Shermer. To do this he interviews Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, professor of religious studies at Indiana University. Brown is an interesting choice, as she shares, “I do not assume the existence or nonexistence of a deity or other superhuman forces…What I argue is that people’s religious beliefs often have real world effects than can be studied empirically.” (p. 124). While Craig Keener was clearly coming from a pro-miracle, Christian perspective, Brown is used as a counterweight in an attempt to remain neutral and open to where the evidence might lead.

As often is the case, there are two sides to every story and the story of STEP is no exception. Brown undermines the conclusiveness of the STEP research by noting that there have been other professional and peer-reviewed studies that have shown that prayer does increase better outcomes among sick patients. The holes in the STEP research began to show when it is pointed out by Brown that most of the participants would not be considered believing Christians who believed in a personal God and in the possibility of miracles. “In the end, does the study tell us anything that’s helpful?” asks Strobel. “Well,” replies Brown, “it is instructive on how not to conduct a study of Christian prayer” (p. 131).

The Case for Miracles is a highly accessible read, which makes a compelling case for the existence and continuance of miracles today.

Another fascinating chapter is an interview with Tom Doyle, who has been a missionary to the Middle East for over twenty-six years. Miraculous occurrences seem far more common in parts of the world that are not under the spell of Western secularism. There have been many Muslims in the Middle East reporting direct experiences with Jesus Christ, often communicating through vivid dreams and visions. This reviewer has also encountered the same phenomena among the Muslims in Indonesia while doing short-term missionary work.

While much of the authors work so far functions as an apologetic for the existence and reality of miracles, the third part of the book takes a grander scale examining the origins of the universe and the fine-tuning of life. Strobel then returns to the veracity of Jesus’ resurrection and the reliability of the gospels and eyewitness testimony. At this point in the book, one begins to wonder if the scope is too ambitious with the author trying to cover too many bases.

One of the most touching and poignant chapters is one of the final entitled, “When Miracles Don’t Happen.” Dr. Douglas R. Groothuis, a renowned Christian apologist and philosopher, shares his heartbreaking story of dealing with his wife’s struggles with fibromyalgia and her slide into dementia. “Have we prayed for relief from her pain? Continually. Have we beseeched God for healing? Often and fervently. Have we seen any improvement? Quite the opposite” (p. 235). This last chapter, before Strobel asks us to draw a verdict, is a stark reminder that, while miracles may be real, many prayers seemingly go unanswered and that there is a profound mystery as to why God acts as He does.

The Case for Miracles is a highly accessible read, which makes a compelling case for the existence and continuance of miracles today. If you consider yourself a cessationist, this book will be a challenge to your theology in a healthy and robust way. For doubters, skeptics, agnostics and atheists, this will also be a challenging debate. From a skeptical point of view, it would have been healthier and more objective to have a few more voices from the side of Michael Shermer, who questions the credibility of miracles. Strobel, however, is ultimately trying to make a convincing apologetic for miracles and in that endeavor, he succeeds admirably.

Reviewed by Daniel Snape

 

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2018

About the Author: Daniel P. Snape, D.Min (Boston University School of Theology), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Senior Pastor of Community Congregational Church, Billerica, Massachusetts. He also works and ministers as a chaplain in the Boston area. Facebook.

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