Attending my second faith-based film in as many weeks, the Christian sermons espoused in last week’s “The Shack” and now “The Case for Christ” are both profound and interesting, yet take starkly different paths towards one’s belief in Jesus Christ. Whereas “The Shack” invoked an exuberating out-of-body experience that sparked a father’s mind and soul to change, “The Case for Christ” is a leaner, more methodical, and circumstantial investigation by a naysayer that culminates in his ability to believe, receive, and be with Christ.
Following the true-life story of investigative reporter Lee Strobel and his 1998 book by the same name, “The Case for Christ” examines the historical hard evidence left behind Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. A self-proclaimed and proud atheist working as a beat reporter at the Chicago Tribune, Strobel merrily assigns himself the task of disproving and debunking Christianity—all in the hopes of eye-poking his wife’s renewed faith and shutting down a coworker’s religion.
The film’s most intriguing parts are also the scenes which were skimmed over way too quickly. Strobel’s interviews with experts on the manuscripts illustrating Jesus’ last few days is fascinating and compelling. Likewise, the physical evidence presented on the medical front—which uses today’s medicine to help explain what witnesses described as Jesus was staked to the cross—marks the movie’s hardest-hitting moment.
Despite leaving viewers wanting a deeper dive into the physical and written evidence, or perhaps more testimony from those in authority, the film instead unleashes on Strobel’s other struggles; his marriage, a botched newspaper story, and his strained relationship with his father. On each of these issues, Strobel comes up on the wrong end of the truth and compassion. His 0-3 mean streak leaves him (and us) wondering if he’s also wrong about Christ?
“The Case for Christ” is a dialogue-heavy film that many will find a slow and arduous undertaking. More about the atheist than the Son of God. Believers will enjoy the medical research and written facts proclaiming Jesus’ surrender and resurrection. The notion of people being in the right spot at the right time due to coincidence or something Higher is thought-provoking and something we can all relate to.
Skeptics will embrace Strobel’s initial edginess and disdain for Biblical explanations and readings. Too many holes in Christianity’s historic timeline coupled with conflicting testimony by 500 witnesses leave swaths of wiggle-room for Strobel and moviegoers to hedge their bets on Jesus. But to cover our eyes to the possibility is to shroud the facts from view.
In the end, all that’s left for us is faith. Faith in something that allows us to replace coincidence with the idea of help from God. To believe enough to receive Him into our lives. Lee Strobel’s story was meant for a larger audience than his newspaper. He had a time and place to be elsewhere. He had other things to do. And people to reach.
“The Case for Christ” is rated PG for thematic elements, including medical descriptions of the crucifixion and incidental smoking. Its running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.
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