Based on the book written by Lee Strobel, “The Case For Christ” pensively digs into Lee’s elaborate journey and bold attempt to disprove the legitimacy of the gospel claims that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Along the way, he faces the reality of witnessing his wife seemingly transformed by her newfound faith—and, ultimately, he discovers a truth beyond his wildest expectations.
“The Case for Christ” is long overdue, and was incredibly refreshing to see on the big screen.
THE DEPTH OF SKEPTICISM
One of my personally favorite aspects of “The Case For Christ” was the relevant and very real skepticism. As a previous atheist myself, this entire film was extremely relatable as it pervasively and heavily questioned the roots and foundation of Christianity: Did Jesus raise from the dead? How can we know? Did Jesus even actually die?
What tops off the heaviness in the film like icing on the cake is that it answers every last question with such refreshing perspectives and scientifically founded research by the world’s most renowned scientists, skeptics, and writers (obviously portrayed by actors here). No stone is left unturned—even in the sense that the pinnacle of all questions for the skeptic, “How much evidence is enough?” is given the time and space to breathe.
NOT TAKING SIDES
I appreciated this film’s ability to take belief in Christ as seriously as it took atheism, giving both points of view equal weight without trying to take sides. This approach allows the viewer to watch, observe, contemplate, and ultimately face the very difficult question: “What do you believe?”
While the film’s finale does have an answer for the main character (since this film is based on a true story and the events have already unfolded), it still leaves room for the viewer to decide for themselves what makes more sense, and which direction they would rather take the questions and answers. What is admirable about such a Christian film like this, and what is truly powerful in the end, is how this film’s message is not “Believe! Faith the right answer!” Rather, it is, “These are the facts, the evidence, and the answers to these questions. Now, what do you make of it?” In other words, by no means does this film try to claim that one way is right and the other wrong. There is simply, “If you don’t agree, how do you explain it, then?” For me, as an audience member, that gave the film stats for being confident enough not to need to be trying to prove itself.
A CHRISTIAN FILM THAT DOESN’T FEEL FORCED
Every conversation in this movie has a strong, welcoming sense of realism to it. There are the atheists and the believers, but Jon Gunn places careful weight into each scene of dialogue, balancing a story based on true events and grounding the conversations inspired by a man’s journey through controversy and doubt, surrounded by facts pointing in an unexpected direction and the egocentric tenacity to be right before being open-minded.
There have been several films that have tried to include the message of Jesus but awkwardly end up portraying evangelism as forced and overplayed. Sometimes the “evangelism scenes” have been so obvious as to be cringeworthy as the viewer sinks in his or her seat trying to escape the awkwardness of a camera centered on an actor’s face clearly reading dialogue that didn’t come from their mouthes first. In “The Case For Christ,” these issues are refreshingly replaced with genuine emotion and authentic angst. Here, believers do not produce cringeworthy moments. These scenes, back-to-back, are so natural as to be inviting. Each scene seems to point to the next without trying to hold your hand or convince you of anything. The script speaks for itself, and it does so flawlessly.
Once more I will add how atheism in this film is given the space to speak skepticism and scrutiny into the most scandalized and controversial story in human history—and, important to note, this is not done by making the unbeliever to be the “bad guy,” but simply as another curious character in the story.
Lee faces challenges of his own as his friends oppose his rigidity while he journeys to discover answers to the most difficult and straining Christian questions. What is so riveting about witnessing these questions unfold into deeper, more challenging questions and equally satisfying discoveries throughout the movie is how we are invited to intimately take part in these difficult conversations—drawn in by their relatability and firm grounding. Reason being, we would be asking the same questions if we had never honestly or intentionally pursued the answers of such a heavily influenced faith before, and we would be just as skeptical if we started off without any answers. Mike Vogel portrays this doubt and skepticism so naturally that it is a heart-wrenching, mind-bending experience to follow him through his story, realizing there’s no way around the facts; this helps the viewer both empathize with his frustration, while simultaneously and incorrigibly feeling inspired by the results.
THE BEST LOVE STORY
The love story here is unlike any other we’ve seen before. An atheistic couple becomes traumatized when their daughter almost chokes to death before their eyes, and when a random Samaritan comes to their aid, their lives change forever. Lee’s wife (portrayed beautifully by Erika Christensen) is the first to feel the effects of the miracle and cannot let go of what has embraced her heart through the unthinkable. Her spirit is moved and transformed, and soon enough she is seeing everything differently through the eyes of a faith she never thought she would have given a second thought to.
What’s beautiful is the way this transformation plays into her marriage with Lee, and their daughter. Throughout the movie, this marriage relationship is the framework for the story. As Lee chases the answers to the controversy of a resurrected Messiah to prove once and for all how hokey it is—his marriage is directly impacted by both his tenacity to be right, and his wife’s oppositional desire to draw him into the love that she has discovered by faith in the transcendent God of the Bible she reads. Experiencing their scenes together as their story unfolds is extremely moving, inspiring, heart-breaking, full of substance, and absent of any wasted time. Their marriage is portrayed with the realistically problematic characteristics of a couple experiencing the stress of disagreement and change, and simultaneously the desire to not lose one another no matter the cost. Truly, as a born-again Christian myself, watching this relationship on-screen brought tears to my eyes more than once as I carefully considered the reality behind every line spoken, every motive and every hope of each character, delicately and passionately moved for both of them to grow closer and not farther apart.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS MOVIE
Whether or not you are a Christ-follower matters not with regards to whether you should see this movie or not. By the time this movie ended and the credits rolled, I felt very grateful for the experience because I didn’t feel as though I was favored by the movie for being a Christian, and I didn’t get the impression that atheists were targeted or shoved into the corner and given some kind of speech or pep talk. This film speaks candidly, informatively, open-mindedly, and factually with evidence that has been retrieved regarding the resurrection, and the best part of this movie is the delivery: There is no preaching here. Yes, there are multiple scenes which take place in a church building, but these scenes are used in context. Rather than being “those scenes with the preacher,” these scenes are used for the purpose of motivation; we come to understand the lead characters on deeper level by seeing them interact with different environments as they try to discover more about this “Jesus” they have been introduced to through others.
I love how human this movie is, so down to Earth. There is nothing about this film that tries to be more than it is organically. This film is open-minded and simultaneously well-informed—so much so that the only debate is between the viewer and him/herself.
This film is rated PG, and just about all of the rating lends itself to the subject matter and thematic material associated with it. The rating is not so much referring to any viscerally inappropriate content. There are some hand-drawn images of the crucifixion and examples of various aspects of the flogging, and while they are not gratuitous, they do imply, unambiguously, what happened to Jesus in the last 12 hours of his life. Be discerning of whether or not your child can or should handle viewing images of crucifixion-related events–even if they are not portrayed with actors and gruesome effects/makeup. These images are, of course, brief enough that you could cover your child’s eyes and not have them miss several minutes worth of the film. There is also a scene of domestic drama late in the film which, for its own right, is certainly something to be mindful of for children who are sensitive to altercation. But, to be clear, there is no graphic violence, nor any obscene language. Lastly, there is a hospital visit scene in which a prisoner’s face is shown after a beating, and it may be slightly unsettling for young children. Again, please use your own discernment with regards to your child’s sensitivity. Other than these details, the film does not contain anything so inappropriate that a child would need to be shielded.
Overall, I give “The Case For Christ” a 5/5. There is story, character development, great writing, and fantastic delivery on all fronts. This film will challenge, inspire, and inquire that you question further anything you don’t understand. The film motivates us not to leave anything unfinished. Lee Strobel went to the end of his rope trying to prove the resurrection was a hoax, and ultimately, he was shocked to discover a different set of answers. That doesn’t mean you will as well, but it does mean that when we search for the answers, and if the answers themselves don’t seem strong enough, we can ask ourselves, “How much evidence is enough?” Even an atheist must take a leap of faith to believe there is nothing to believe.
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