I took a much needed break from my research and writing cave this afternoon and went to see the The Case for Christ, which is based upon the best-selling book by Lee Strobel. The film tells the story of Strobel’s journey from committed atheism to Christianity, detailing (in much shorter form) the months-long investigation he carried out by reading widely and interviewing atheist, agnostic, and Christian scholars.
I must say up front that I get nervous when I hear about new Christian films. Some of them are so cheesy and poorly-acted that they’re an embarrassment, quite honestly. But, I had heard impressive praise from friends for the Strobel film (and he is, after all, my colleague 🙂 ), so I made a plan to see it at the theater.
**This is an honest review!**
I’m not going to rehash the plot–from the trailer you can get a great idea of the content. Instead, I’d like to comment upon why I think this is a beautifully-made film and one believers should support with ticket purchases and recommendations.
- The acting is excellent. Crucially, the actors who portray Lee and his wife Leslie did an outstanding job. What was a delightful surprise was that the secondary characters were every bit as believable and endearing. Alfie, the woman who shares Christ with Leslie early in the film, was my favorite, but the Christian in Lee’s office at the Chicago Tribune was a close second (he was hilarious).
- The portrayals of the various real-life scholars were compelling. The conversations Lee has with them are, by necessity, condensed down into a few main points, but this is handled very well. I think someone not knowledgeable in apologetics would be encouraged to learn more. The actor cast as a 1980 William Lane Craig was great.
- Skeptics are portrayed with the utmost dignity. The main atheist in the film, one of Lee’s older, father-figure friends, is intelligent and well-read. Lee goes to him for skepticism reinforcement from time to time. The agnostic psychology professor was presented as a thoughtful and elegant lady.
- I can tell you, as a child of the 80s, the set, costumes, hairstyles, and cars (!!) were spot-on. I spied an original Home Interiors owl print that my mom had in our house when I was in elementary school. 😀
- No Christianese!!! Thank you, Lord! Even the conversion prayer (which I was worried about) felt authentic; it wasn’t the mechanical, repeat-after-me “sinner’s prayer.”
- The deep humanity. You see the main character in his best and worst moments. Emotional scenes–especially those showing marital conflict–are realistic, not over-the-top. I love that the film makes clear that Lee’s atheism was about more than a perceived lack of convincing evidence for Christianity while not diminishing the fact that the actual evidence was a major factor in his conversion.
- Non-cheesy, chuckle-worthy humor in just the right spots.
- Realistic in terms of not shying away from themes such as over-indulgence in alcohol, slightly edgy language (not profanity), etc.
- Ecumenical (hooray!). One of the experts Lee visits is a Roman Catholic priest and former archaeologist who really knows his stuff about ancient manuscripts. However, it made me laugh when the priest pulled, from the dusty shelves of his church office library, the original P-52 fragment. Ha!! (I don’t think he calls it that, but the shape of that fragment is so iconic, there’s no doubt that’s what the filmmakers used.) One funny thing I noticed is that when the priest gives the count for surviving New Testament manuscripts, he uses the current total, which I’m pretty sure is significantly higher than the total was in 1980.
- Lee Strobel himself makes a brief cameo. See if you can spot him. 🙂
Go see it! Well worth your time. I’ll definitely be purchasing the Blu-ray when it becomes available.