Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.--C.S. Lewis
After a tragedy is averted, Leslie Strobel (Erika Christensen) begins attending Bill Hybel’s church with Alfie Davis (L. Scott Campbell) to the frustration of her husband and best friend, Lee (Mike Vogel). The anger that the atheistic Lee feels at this betrayal is made palpable by Vogel’s performance, as he quickly begins to devote his time to meeting with experts about Christianity. Lee is convinced that he will be able to find evidence that proves Leslie’s faith is in something unrealistic, cult-like even, holding to the words of his mentor, Ray Nelson (Brett Rice), that “the only way to truth is through facts.” This is the dramatic conflict of The Case for Christ.
The Case for Christ shares the dramatic story of one Award-winning journalist’s quest to disprove Christianity by exploring the historical Jesus. But more than simply following the series of interviews that Lee Strobel laid out in the expose of the same name in 1998, the cinematic version proves to be a love story, as it incorporates the book that Strobel wrote with his wife, Leslie, called Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage in 2002. Directed by Jonathan Gunn (Mercy Streets) and written by Brian Bird (Captive), the film is more than an argument for the risen Christ - it’s an example of how the power of God can transform the human heart.
From the very beginning, the audience can see Lee’s focus on truth, whether it’s theological (“we believe in what is real, what we can see and touch,”) while Leslie’s burgeoning faith allows for heart and feelings to enter the fray (“I’m trying to say that I felt something that made me feel more real than anything I’ve ever felt in my life”). What The Case for Christ does artfully is allow us to see that Lee and Leslie both have an argument that forces them into conflict with each other without making either of them a straw dummy to be dismissed easily.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.--James 5:16
Interwoven with the ‘case’ of Jesus’ resurrection and the romance of the Strobels is a court case that Lee pursues on the behest of his editor, Joe Dubois (another stellar actor, Frankie Faison). Here, in the midst of talking to experts like psychiatrist Dr. Roberta Waters (Faye Dunaway) and medical expert Dr. Alexander Metherell (Tom Nowicki), Lee has his faith in what he can see challenged through the criminal proceedings and his own ‘take’ on what happened.
While the majority of the film is exposition and dialogue, Gunn and Bird have crafted the narrative in a way that keeps it moving, and powerful, turning aside from ‘simple’ Christian themes to show the complicated transition of Lee from atheism to belief. There are no simple fixes, though, reflecting the reality of real-life transformation. Leslie prays Ezekiel 36:26 but it doesn’t change Lee’s heart for years; Leslie convinces Lee to go to church but the words of the sermon and the musical worship don’t suddenly transform him; Lee’s complicated relationship with his father proves the depths that family system theory impacts our beliefs about religion and relationships.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”--Ezekiel 36:26
To put this directly: The Case for Christ proves to be as starkly poetic as Strobel’s book, and as eloquent in representing a journey to faith as any film I’ve ever seen. With powerful performances, strong dialogue, and a compelling real-life story, the film will encourage believers and (hopefully) challenge those considering the facts to see what’s really there, and not just what they think they see.