Probably the two most critical decisions of a person’s life are whom they choose to marry, and what they do with Jesus Christ. So much flows out of those two decisions.
That is at the crux of the movie The Case for Christ, based on Lee Strobel’s bestselling book of the same name. The audience follows Lee and his wife, Leslie, through the early years of their marriage and through their individual commitment to discover truth at a personal level. It is those pursuits that threaten to pull the relationship apart. (That story line draws from another book by the Strobels, Spiritual Mismatch.)
If you were to look for couples who were well matched early in marriage, Lee and Leslie Strobel would make the grade. They are committed to one another, and even their differences complement each other and smooth out each other’s rough edges. But it isn’t long before one difference arises that becomes seemingly irreconcilable: Christianity.
Early in their marriage, neither Lee nor Leslie have any interest in matters of faith. But after their young daughter is providentially spared from death, Leslie becomes more sensitive to spiritual matters, reviving something instilled in her as a little girl by her mother.
As she begins to understand God’s care for her in the details of her life, she gives control of her life to Christ and begins desiring a deeper relationship with Him.
Trying to disprove the resurrection
To Lee, a journalist who lived for objectivity, Leslie’s trusting faith is not only foolish, but also a threat—to their shared indifference toward God, and to their very relationship. To defend against both threats, he sets out on what would become a secret two-year project to disprove the central claims of Christianity. And he focuses his attacks on the pivotal event of those claims: the Resurrection of Jesus.
An award-winning investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Lee interviews one expert after another. He challenges them to defend alleged discrepancies within the scriptural accounts and to provide archaeological and scientific evidence that would expose the fantastic claim of someone being raised from death. Each new revelation from scholars challenges his atheistic assumptions. But instead of considering that the claims of Christianity might be true, he becomes more frustrated and more determined to preserve the beliefs upon which he built his life and family.
All this time, Leslie’s commitment to Christ grows, along with her desire for her husband to experience the same life-changing transformation. But her attempts to get Lee to hear the claims of Christ—leaving open Bibles around, asking him to come to church—only make him angrier. Fearing that Lee will make good on his threat to leave, she turns to her spiritual mentor, who tells her to focus on what she knows to be true from Scripture and to what she knows that God is doing in her heart, and then to live that out in her home.
Lee's faith in the evidence he has compiled through his countless interviews seems to be getting him nowhere in his attempt to disprove Christianity. All the while, he can't deny evidence of the positive change Leslie's newfound faith is making in her life.
Search for truth
In The Case for Christ, screenplay writer Brian Bird and director Jon Gunn weave together story lines of the marriage relationship, the search for truth, and the journey of faith. Two other interesting plot lines are also interwoven. The viewer gets a glimpse into Lee’s damaged relationship with his father, and follows Lee as he is trying to get to the bottom of a story involving a shooting, and its parallel to Lee’s personal journey to discover truth. All four story lines reveal that in spite of his focus on relying on facts, coming to the right conclusion is another matter.
The movie does a great job at making an apologetic for Christianity and the resurrection, but does it in a manner that is natural and honest. The way the movie is handled, Christian viewers will have more confidence to embrace their faith, but non-believers shouldn’t leave the theater feeling they were preached to.
According to Bird, Lee Strobel sees The Case for Christ film as a tremendous evangelistic opportunity. It meets skeptics with honesty where they are, but makes no apology for the solid claims of Scripture and the impact that a relationship with Christ has on individuals. Delivered through the emotional medium of film, it connects with both the mind and the heart of the moviegoer.
Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen play their characters well, both in their portrayals of the Strobels’ personal journeys of faith and in their interactions with each other. There are moments where the movie could slip into sappiness, but it stays on track to let the reader experience the emotional journey of each character—especially Lee—without getting lost in the technical defense of the Resurrection, or in an ethereal view of faith.
The movie is set for extensive release the weekend before Easter. Bird encourages Christians to see it opening weekend, and to invite their unbelieving friends to watch it with them during resurrection weekend to begin a dialogue about the evidence for both the historical facts and life-changing power behind the Christian faith.
The Case for Christ is based on the true story of award-winning investigative journalist Lee Strobel. When the avowed atheist applies his legal and investigative skills to disprove his wife's newfound faith, he's met with unexpected, life-altering results. Watch the trailer.
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