Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane); more often, he doesn't address objections the critics do make (e.g., the unreliability of human memory, that non-Christian historians do not provide any independent confirmation for the deity of Jesus, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in the truth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story.Because I criticized Strobel for failing to interviewing any critics of Evangelical apologetics, I have been asked whether I believe that all Christian apologists (or, more broadly, whether all advocates for any given viewpoint about any subject) must present both sides.
For the record, I have never believed and do not presently believe that advocates for a particular position on a controversial issue must present both sides. If someone wants to write a book for, say, a particular position on abortion, I don't think they are under any obligation to present the arguments against their position in their book. Of course, they may choose to address such arguments, but they are under no obligation to do so.
So why, then, did I criticize Lee Strobel for failing to interviewing critics of Evangelical apologetics? After all, isn't the title of Strobel's book The Case for Christ, not The Case against Christ? As I explained very clearly in a follow-up article on the Secular Web, "Strobel's book is promoted as the work of a professional journalist."If The Case for Christ had not been promoted as the work of a professional journalist, I never would have expected Strobel to meet minimum journalistic standards and I never would have criticized him for failing to interview critics of his position.
So, again, I don't expect Christian apologists (or any advocates for any controversial position) to include the case against their position. With that said, I can think of two cases where I think it is appropriate to criticize a writer for failing to include the other side. First, if the writer claims to have presented both sides and fails to do so, then I think it is appropriate to point that out. Although Strobel does consider objections to the arguments for Christianity he discusses, those objections are not representative of the best objections that critics of those arguments have presented. Again, Strobel sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics; more often, he doesn't address objections the critics do make. For that reason, I place Strobel into this first category where it is appropriate to criticize a writer for failing to include the other side (in the sense just described).
Second, if the writer makes an inductive argument for a conclusion but the premises of the argument do not embody all available relevant evidence, it is equally appropriate to point that out. Remember that the conclusion of an inductive argument does not have a 100% probability conditional upon the premises of the argument. (In other words, inductive arguments are invalid.) Rather, the premises of a logically correct inductive argument make the conclusion highly probable. Inductive arguments that fail to embody all of the available evidence relevant to their conclusion are not logically correct arguments. Again, I think it is always legitimate to criticize logically incorrect arguments.
That I do not expect Christian apologists to present the case against their positions can be clearly seen from the other reviews I've written of other Christian apologetics books:
- In my 1999 review of Ravi Zacharias's book, Can Man Live Without God?, I did not accuse Zacharias of failing to meet some mythical requirement that all authors at all times must present both sides. I did point out that Zacharias makes things easy for himself by, for example, suggesting there is a vast secular conspiracy to discredit theism because it smacks of "moral constraint" but neglecting the possibility that atheists are atheists because of good arguments for atheism, arguments Zacharias never discusses. (In other words, there is available evidence that is relevant to the conclusion of Zacharias's inductive argument about a secular conspiracy, evidence not included within the premises of Zacharias's argument.) But, again, I never criticized Zacharias for failing to present both sides as such.
- A very similar observation could be made regarding my 2001 review of Josh McDowell's New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, where I wrote, "McDowell has no obligation whatsoever to communicate with me or to answer our critique. But he cannot claim that his book has been "fully updated" when he ignores a direct and comprehensive rebuttal to it." The criticism here is not that McDowell failed to include our critique. Rather, the criticism is that McDowell claimed his book was "fully updated" when it ignored a critique. Not only I did not criticize McDowell in that review for failing to present both sides as such, but I explicitly stated that he has "no obligation whatsoever" to present both sides as such.