It was nearly 25 years ago that a former Yale law student with an appetite for science and a yen for skepticism put Charles Darwin to the test.
Lee Strobel expected the father of evolutionary theory to pass with flying colors. Instead, Darwinism failed miserably.
And so began a new spiritual journey for Strobel, who until 1981 considered God to be a four-letter word. An avowed atheist at the time, Strobel thought Christianity was a buzzword for someone who checked their intelligence at the door.
Now, he thinks Christians should start checking into a new catch phrase: intelligent design.
"Scientists should be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it leads - even if it leads to a conclusion that makes some people uncomfortable," Strobel writes in his latest book, The Case for a Creator, which this year made The New York Times Best Seller List.
No doubt some people, particularly scientists, are uncomfortable with intelligent design, the idea that the universe - and life - began not out of nothing but from God. Intelligent design runs counter to Darwin's theory of evolution, which removes God from the equation. But despite increasing proof that Darwinism is damaged science, it remains the dominant theory taught in school classrooms around the country.
Strobel wants to see that changed, and is encouraged that action is beginning to happen.
"I've been tracking it a bit and it's all over the place," he said recently. "There are proposals and bills in different legislatures. People are concerned that the (science) textbooks are outdated or skew the evidence toward Darwinism. What people should be saying is, 'Let's teach the whole story of Darwinism and disclose the shortcomings of Darwinian theory, and let's be open to the possibility of a creative designer.'"
That possibility is a certainty to Strobel, a former legal editor of The Chicago Tribune who turned to Christ in 1981 after noticing that his wife, Leslie, seemed happier as a new Christian.
Quickly, he reached the conclusion that "if Jesus weren't real, I would need to worship the person who created the character. Jesus is so far beyond what I can comprehend," he said.
A self-professed skeptic, Strobel set out to put his faith to the test by attempting to prove that belief in God is "good science." He questioned and quizzed scientific scholars on the strength and weaknesses of both Darwinism and intelligent design, and came away with an almost ironic conclusion.
"In my opinion, it takes more faith to believe in Darwinism and its underlying premise of naturalism than to believe in a creative designer," he commented.
Strobel points out several "stretches" that need to be made when putting faith in Darwinism. Among them:
Nothing produces everything;
Non-life produces life;
Randomness produces fine-tuning
But perhaps the biggest stumbling block to Darwinism is the idea that consciousness can evolve from unconsciousness. In other words, a blob of lifeless matter can somehow awake into awareness.
Strobel does not dismiss evolution entirely, only its attempts to explain creation and its broad claim that even the most complex life forms began as primordial sludge.
"Evolution is fact, as long as its defined as the micro-evolutionary variations we see in the animal and plant world," he said.
Strobel is careful not to sound like someone who functions from the "Just Trust Jesus" mentality of faith that considers scientific study to be close to useless.
"What bothers me is when people define faith as anti-intellectual," he said. "I don't think that is the kind of faith the Bible talks about. The kind I want to express and experience is the faith that is consistent with the evidence of the world and what the Bible tells me and then to respond to that evidence in a rational step."
Furthermore, Strobel cites I Peter 3:15 as a verse that backs up his need to know how things work.
"We're to always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask to explain why we have the hope we do," he said. "So as Christians we need to be prepared to engage with our culture. Evidence of history points toward Jesus being the son of God, so we need to be prepared to share that with family members, friends, everyone."
Strobel said it's a mistake to assume that unbelievers will be saved only through an emotional transformation. He cites his own situation as evidence.
"When I realized, in light of all the evidence, that it would require more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian, that's when I encountered Jesus," he said. "Some people have an emotional experience. I had the rush of reason, the fulfillment of all I'd seen in my investigation."
From there, Strobel found the "praise experience" that others often begin with.
"As I looked at the world through intelligent design, it makes me more worshipful," he said. "I see the signature of God in the DNA in every cell, evidence of his existence. Part of the message is we need to love God with our mind, as the Bible tells us to, and part of that is learning and understanding how his creation points toward him.
"The heavens declare the handiworks of God. I think he gave us this world so we could do science, because when we do that it points us toward the creator."
Strobel can't stress enough his desire to see the world follow the facts to Jesus.
"You can't be afraid to follow the evidence where it leads," he said.
Of course, he believes all proof leads to God.
"The issue is where does the evidence point most conclusively?" he said. "To me, faith is taking a step in the same direction that the evidence is pointing."
So where does it point?
"Clearly to a creator," he said. "The evidence undergirds the teachings of the Bible. And it makes you more willing to take a stand for Biblical truth."
For more information, or to voice your opinion, visit Lee Strobel's website, www.caseforacreator.com
Read an excerpt from The Case for a Creator
You can purchase this book at Christianbook.com