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The Case for Christ movie: A review

I read The Case for Christ soon after it appeared in print in 1998. Its author, Lee Strobel, chases down the biggest story in history. In the words of the book’s subtitle, it is “a journalist’s personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus.”

The former atheist and legal editor of the Chicago Tribune sets out to answer the ageless question, “Is there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God?” Strobel cross-examines 12 experts with doctorates from such institutions as Cambridge and Princeton who are recognized authorities in their chosen fields. By page 270, Strobel reaches his own personal conclusion: “the case for Christ is conclusive.”

The Case for Christ has since sold over five million copies and become a cottage industry of sorts, with spinoffs as diverse as audio and video versions, student and graduate editions, kids’ curriculum, and even The Case for Christ Study Bible. Now, The Case for Christ Movie Edition is available.

The movie hit the theatres on 7 April. This PG production, which runs 112 minutes, is directed by Jonathan M. Gunn and includes in its cast Mike Vogel and Erica Christensen (as Lee and Leslie Strobel, respectively), Faye Dunaway and Robert Forster.

I was invited to preview The Case for Christ movie for this publication. Of course, watching a movie is a decidedly different experience from reading a book. Because a movie summarizes a book, much of the content will not be included. Nor does the viewer have to imagine scenes, as they are there for all to see. Perhaps it would be beneficial to read Strobel’s book, then follow it with a viewing of the movie. It would provide greater context for the onscreen experience.

A friend of mine, who is the author of many books, stated that a good writer takes his readers on a journey. If this is the case, then The Case for Christ is a good book-cum-movie.

The focus is on Strobel’s journey from atheism to theism. His wife, Leslie, had announced in 1979 that she had become a Christian.

“Eventually,” Lee writes, “I wanted to get to the bottom of what was prompting...subtle but significant shifts in my wife’s attitudes, so I launched an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding the case for Christianity.” His is a riveting quest, both in the book and movie, as he makes a compelling case which “began to point toward the unthinkable.”

Predictably, audience reaction to this faith-based movie has been varied.

On the positive side, Matt Brown (www.thinke.org) gives four reasons why we should see the movie. First, it is iconic and unforgettable. Second, it helps us see the logic behind our faith. Third, it gives us a long view of what God can do in a person’s life. Finally, it will have our friends and neighbours talking.

At the other end of the spectrum, film critic Joe Leydon (@joeleydon) suggests that The Case for Christ “sporadically errs on the side of sentimentality and simplification.”

There may well be something to be said about the movie’s simplification. The apostle Paul informed the church at Corinth, “when I came to you...my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5, NASB).

So, Leydon adds, “the movie likely will impress even dedicated nonbelievers with its willingness to place as much emphasis on empirical evidence as on blind faith.”

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Following a 35-year career as an ordained minister, Burton K. Janes is now a freelance editor, writer and online instructor. He lives in Newfoundland where he maintains his own blog burtonkjanes.com

  • ksed11

    Christianity is founded on historical events that can be investigated. Any case for Christianity (whether by book or film or whatever) should be welcome.