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Film review: ‘The Case for Christ’

The Case for Christ wasn’t what I hoped it would be, but on consideration, I don’t think such a thing is possible. I liked it anyway. I think it’s one of the better Christian films I’ve seen.

Granted, that’s a low bar. But this is pretty good, within its limitations.

If you don’t know already, it’s the story of how Lee Strobel, hotshot young Chicago Tribune reporter, came to write the famous book of the same title.

In 1980, Strobel’s daughter’s life is saved by a nurse who gives the credit to Jesus, who (she says) told her to be there at just that place and time.

Lee’s wife is intrigued by the woman’s faith, and befriends her. She goes to church with her, and is drawn into the fellowship.

For Lee, this is a major betrayal. He’s a confirmed atheist who refuses to believe anything not based on reason (though his resistance to faith, we will learn, also has other, more emotional roots). Fearing that he’s losing his family, he sets about writing a book to prove, once and for all, that the Resurrection never happened.

And you know how that turns out.

The acting is excellent, the script good. I particularly liked the recreation of the world of 1980, as Lee fusses with his long hair and depends on a pager to keep in touch with his wife. The filmmakers may not have recreated the period perfectly, but it’s pretty much how I remember it.

The problem with the film is that it’s kind of a mixed offering. The book it’s based on is an attempt to do a dispassionate, rational examination of the relevant evidence. You can’t really do that in a feature film – you’d have to make it a documentary longer than anyone would sit through. So the focus has been changed from the objective logical argument to the subjective lives of Lee Strobel and his friends and family. That’s certainly appropriate – it’s what a feature film does – but it’s a different thing from the book. If you’re looking for proof of the Resurrection, you’ll need to read the book. The movie is not that.

But it’s good. A superior film in the low-rent neighborhood that is Christian cinema. No doubt there are people out there for whom The Case for Christ will be just the thing they need to see.