Lee Strobel is a prize-winning journalist, popular apologist, and author of more than 20 books, including the bestseller The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. In his new book, The Case for Hope, Strobel expounds on what hope is, why it matters, and where we can find it.
Why did you write a book about hope?
We live in a time when there’s a lot of confusion, moral uncertainty, and turmoil. I think people are looking for an anchor. The Bible talks about hope as an anchor for the soul, which goes beyond just wishful thinking, blind optimism, and hopeful dreams. Hope in and of itself doesn’t have any power, but it has real power to make a difference when we link it to a powerful God.
So what is hope and can you give me more information as to the source of it?
Hope in the Bible is different than hope that the Denver Broncos are going to win a game or hope that your stock market standing is going to go up. In the Bible, hope is the confident expectation that God will fulfill the promises that He’s made to his followers. I often think of Hebrews 10:23 that says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful.”
If God exists, if Jesus is who he claimed to be, if Christianity is true, then we can have hope that God will fulfill the promises He’s made to us: promises to guide our lives, change us, transform our values and our character, open the door of heaven someday, and cause good to emerge from difficult situations in our lives.
In previous books, you’ve defended the case for a Creator, grace, and other topics. How does hope stack up to these weighty defenses?
My previous books dealt a lot with evidential issues like evidential science for God, evidential history for Jesus, whether He is who He claimed to be, and so forth. Yet, in the Bible, hope is linked to evidence, or more specifically, the resurrection of Jesus. First Peter 1:3-4 says, “In His great mercy, God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
So the passage suggests that our hope is linked to the fact that Jesus in time and space actually did return from the dead, going back to an apologetic issues. If Jesus really did return from the dead, then several things are true:
- First, that He is who he claimed to be, the unique son of God.
- Second, that he loves us so much that he was willing to do to redeem us from the sins that are taking us in another direction.
- And then, third, that as he returned from the dead, so we too will someday. He opens the door of heaven for us.
If those things are true, if the resurrection actually occurred, then we get this living hope. I think the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is clear and compelling and when I have doubts or questions, I frequently go back to that evidence and remind myself that this is not based on wishful thinking or mythology or legend or blind optimism. It’s built on an actual historical event that I believe we have a strong case for.
I know that you weren’t always a believer yourself. The chapter about your testimony was especially powerful. Could you tell me about the role of hope in your life?
I was an atheist for much of my life, and it was my wife’s conversion to Christianity that over time intrigued me because I saw positive changes in her character and values. I decided to use my legal and journalism backgrounds and look at it rationally and see if there was any evidence for any world religion, but especially Christianity.
I spent two years of my life investigating the evidence and became convinced on November the 8th of 1981 that, in light of the evidence for the truth of the Christian faith, it would take more faith to maintain my atheism than become a Christian. That tipped the scales decisively in the direction of faith was when I turned away from a very sinful life and received forgiveness and launched on a new adventure as a follower of Jesus.
That has brought me tremendous hope through crises, the death of parents and in-laws, and health crises with my wife and myself. I keep going back to the foundational fact that we do have an anchor: Hebrews 6:19 says we have “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” That hope anchors us to the truth of Christianity.
Who did you have in mind when you wrote The Case for Hope?
I had two people in mind. First are followers of Jesus who periodically need a fresh breath of air and sort of a new wind in their sails in terms of their faith. I hope it’s a book that will encourage them and renew their hope.
But really, my greatest hope is that they will pass it on to somebody else who is maybe not a follower of Jesus, but is spiritually curious, and can decide for themselves whether or not there can be an anchor for the soul from Christ, as Hebrews says. I’m an incurable evangelist; I’m really passionate about helping people encounter and be transformed by Jesus, and I’m hoping that the book tells that.
Address the reader who believes he or she is too deep in their sin to have hope. Can anyone be beyond hope?
No, I don’t think anybody can be beyond hope. What God did is take the very worst thing that could ever happen in the history of the universe, which is deicide, the death of God on the cross, and turn it into the very best thing that could ever happen in the universe, which is the opening of heaven to those who follow him.
So if God could take the very worst thing that could ever occur and turn it into the very best thing that could ever occur, then we can have confidence that He can transform the circumstances of our lives. So I don’t think anybody’s beyond hope. I think anyone who authentically opens up their heart and mind to Jesus will find redemption, will find compassion, love, acceptance, and adoption.
Let’s say — another example — I was finding my hope in something else, something worldly and not of God, but I felt satisfied by that. What would you say to me?
I think people will oftentimes anchor themselves through hope to something that really has no power. Just having wishful thinking and hoping something is true doesn’t make it true. I can hope to be a player in the NBA, but I have a vertical leap in millimeters. When I blow out my birthday candles and hope that I have good health for another year, it doesn’t guarantee that I will. It’s important that we anchor our hope to something that does have power, making our anchor firm and secure, as Hebrews says, and allowing us to draw on the power of God.
Psalm 29 talks about God’s power in very grand ways as David describes this storm coming in off the Mediterranean onto the desert. He talks about the power of God to shape the desert and flatten the oaks, but then at the end there’s this surprise ending where he turns it around to say that the Lord gives strength to His people.
God is not the power hoarding God; He is a power-sharing God, and I believe those who come to Him in repentance and faith and receive this new birth will receive strength. He’ll absolve them of their past and then He’ll assure them of their future, and those are the two very things that we need the most.
You’ve written The Case for Faith and now The Case for Hope. I can’t help but think of the Bible verse, which I believe is in the book, which mentions faith, hope, and love. So being that the “greatest of these is love,” can we expect that your next book will be The Case for Love?
You know, that would be a great one. I think, though, that the theme of love is woven through all of my books. The love of God is demonstrated for us through his son Jesus who came into this world, suffered, died, was resurrected from the dead, and offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of His grace to anyone and everyone who comes to Him in repentance and faith. I think that theme of love is woven all through apologetics and the evidence for God. As the Bible says, God is love, and as we present the case for Christ, the case from science and history for God, we’re building the case for love.
I can’t help but ask — I heard that you’re in the sequel to God’s Not Dead. In the first film, a student takes on his intimidating atheist professor and defends Christianity and he even quotes you in his presentation. How did you become involved and what is your role in the upcoming film?
Oh, that’s a funny question. I got a phone call from the people who produce God’s Not Dead — I’d known some of them from a long time ago. They asked me to appear in the new movie to play myself as an expert witness in a court case that concerns whether or not Jesus really existed. We filmed it a couple weeks ago at Little Rock in a courthouse and it was a lot of fun.
So the plot of the God’s Not Dead sequel involves a teacher who gets in trouble by talking about Jesus in a public classroom and — I don’t want to give away too much of the plot — but she ends up being sued and her livelihood is in jeopardy. I testify in the court case as myself, professor at Houston Baptist University and author of more than 20 books, as an expert on whether Jesus really existed.
I think the sequel is going to be even more popular than the original because it deals with issues of freedom of expression, worship, and religion in the United States, which are hot topics right now.
Lastly, is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would like to add?
There’s a speech several years ago by Chuck Colson, Christian statesman, who said, “Where is the hope?” I think the hope is there and His name is Jesus.
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