The Case for Christ (2017)

B+ SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

The atheists and nonbelievers in The Case for Christ don’t have horns and tails, or even mustaches for twirling. They aren’t out to crush believers into dust or banish their beliefs from respectable society.

The believers aren’t persecuted, marginalized victims, but capable, respected professionals in fields ranging from medical science and health care to archaeology, New Testament studies, philosophy, journalism and more. The conflict turns on faith and unbelief, but believers and unbelievers aren’t cast as natural enemies.

In other words, The Case for Christ is far from the paranoid, agonistic world of the two God’s Not Dead films, for which Pure Flix Entertainment is best known.

Directed by Jon Gunn. Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, L. Scott Caldwell, Brett Rice, Frankie Faison, Haley Rosenwasser, Renell Gibbs, Faye Dunaway. Pure Flix.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value

+3

Age Appropriateness

Kids & Up*

MPAA Rating

PG

Caveat Spectator

Minor thematic elements including medical description of crucifixion; a mildly rude expression.

Producers Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis and Pure Flix CEO Michael Scott collaborated on all three films — and Lee Strobel, the protagonist of The Case for Christ, cameoed as himself in God’s Not Dead 2. Yet The Case for Christ is the furthest thing from a God’s Not Dead 3.

The differences start with the real-life story behind The Case for Christ, Strobel’s conversion story from atheism to Christianity. Where the God’s Not Dead films offer lurid distillations of fundamentalist urban legends, The Case for Christ is about real people — at least, about as much as an average fact-based Hollywood drama.

Both leads are likable and engaging; Christensen is particularly good in a tricky role, a character whose conversion comes early in the story, who then has to explain and defend what she has experienced and struggle with uncertainty in the aftermath.

Strobel was a wunderkind investigative journalist and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune who started working in a newsroom at age 15 and published his first book while still in his 20s (based on his award-winning reporting on the 1980 Indiana v. Ford trial). Around the same time, he was shocked when agnostic wife Leslie, then pregnant with their second child, converted to Christianity following a crisis involving their first child, Alison. Spurred by her conversion, Lee set out to investigate the evidence for Christianity.

Strobel’s investigation persuaded him of the credibility of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. In 1981 he became a Christian, and he eventually left journalism to become a pastor and a writer of Christian books. His 1998 best-seller, The Case for Christ, offers a first-person account of his journey, including interviews with Christian scholars; it also touches on other events in his life at the time, including a story he wrote about a convicted cop-shooter whose story turned out to be quite different than it seemed.

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