Raise your hand if you’ve ever read an apologetics textbook or sat in an apologetics lecture and thought, “Wow, this would make a great movie!” Yeah, me either. Because apologetics is logical argument, it’s rhetoric, it’s persuasive speech. Its place is on the stage of a lecture hall in a debate between famous atheists and theologians, right?
Well, what if the movie did have apologetics at its core, but it was wrapped in a compelling true story about one man’s faith journey? With solid writing, well-rounded imperfect characters, and great acting? You might, just might, not feel like you were being lectured at. You might, just might, be intrigued and want to know more.
The Case for Christ definitely had the potential to feel preachy — woven into the story is basically every main point of an Apologetics 101 class — but to me, it really didn’t. Perhaps a skeptic would feel differently, but, for me, the frame story of an investigative journalist going on a quest to disprove Christianity to his recently converted wife really worked. The academic material felt as natural in this story as forensic science does in an episode of Law & Order. Between his interviews of experts and his wife’s more experiential, more relational journey, I think the film related a pretty realistic picture of all of the layers of a person’s journey from unbelief to faith. And it really, really helped that it was based on a true story.
Three years ago, when I reviewed God’s Not Dead, I said that I was hoping it would be a powerful story that I could share with friends who are struggling with their faith or seeking God, or even atheist friends and family. I think I now finally found that film.
The Case for Christ succeeded where God’s Not Dead failed. Both movies attempted to present a logical argument for faith within a compelling frame story. But while God’s Not Dead came off as a flat, hokey story with unrealistic one-dimensional characters, The Case for Christ had a much better, more realistic story with authentic compelling characters, and exponentially better acting. At the same time, it packed more apologetics into a two-hour feature film that I honestly could have ever imagined.
I’ve already talked to a few friends about watching it and letting me know what they think. Do I think this movie or Lee Strobel’s book (or any other book or movie for that matter) will convince all my skeptic friends to believe in Jesus? Of course not. But I think it’s a good discussion starter. I’ll let God worry about the rest.