The following review is free of significant spoilers.

The book The Case for Christ has been instrumental for me. I was born into a Christian family and grew up going to church. The faith never really felt like a logical thing for me, never really felt like something that I believed, as opposed to something merely transferred to me. It was just something I believed, and that went relatively unquestioned. If my faith underwent targeted scrutiny, it would have likely fallen.

When the time came for me to go to college, moving several hours away from my family, church was not a priority for me. Even though I had located the church just off campus I would have attended if I wanted to, I never went. At the beginning of my senior year, for reasons that I honestly don’t completely know, I decided to consider church again. I fell in with a nearby church group that met on campus, small but spiritually healthy. As the months went on, though, I became troubled. How could I share my beliefs if I couldn’t even convince myself they were true?

Enter The Case for Christ. With my Christian mentor and another friend, we read through the book together, which was very eye-opening for me. For the first time, it was possible for me to feel fairly confident in talking to other people about what I believed. Using the resurrection of Christ as a focal point (and rightly so!), the book features Lee Strobel as he interviews many big names in Christian theology, history, and philosophy to find answers to the big questions surrounding Jesus (particularly His death and resurrection) in an attempt to get to the truth about Jesus. Lee’s background as a Chicago Tribune journalist helped him in his search. Questions like ‘Did Jesus really die on the cross?’, ‘How do we know that the Bible has survived 2,000 years without significant changes in the text?’, and ‘How do we know that Jesus’s disciples didn’t just lie about the wondrous things they saw?’ are all answered in the book, plus many more. The book is on our Recommended Resources page for a reason, and if I can recommend only one book to a skeptic (besides the Bible!), The Case for Christ would be it.

All that goes to show the high expectations I had for the movie. Many would agree most book-based films pale in comparison to the books they’re based on. Fortunately, I’m relieved to say that for what it is, The Case for Christ delivers. I say ‘for what it is’ because it is not a direct translation of the book to the big screen. That would come out more like a documentary instead of something you’d see in the theaters, and furthermore, that documentary already exists (a more documentary-focused film on The Case for Christ was made a decade ago).

Instead, the 2017 movie more dramatically shows the life of Lee Strobel (played by Mark Vogel) as his life takes a serious turn when his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) suddenly professes faith in Jesus. The announcement threatens to tear apart their marriage, as Lee believes Christianity to be false and has a hard time tolerating it entering his family. Lee, growing confident that he can disprove Christianity with facts, embarks on a months-long journey to interview various people on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

From a casual moviegoing perspective, I feel the movie strikes it just right with the balance between throwing facts at the viewer and Lee’s own personal journey. I’m someone who enjoys a bit of thought during a movie, though, so it might not ring true for everyone. The movie features scenes which are basically chapters from the book (each chapter being an interview with someone about a specific topic related to Jesus) condensed to a few minutes each. These scenes are not dragged out, and do a great job saying what they need to say in a brief span of time while still retaining apologetic oomph. Lee’s intellectual journey feels real and has significant weight, and so does his floundering relationship with Leslie, who tries to live out her faith with the help of a mentor by loving her husband even though he causes her significant emotional pain, not knowing that Lee is wrestling with faith in his own way (one of the things I didn’t know, which was confirmed in the Q&A afterwards on the Fathom Events night, was that Lee was doing these interviews secretly at the time).

There’s also a nice subplot about Lee doing an investigation for the newspaper which reveals to him the importance of truth and not simply being satisfied with the first reasonable-sounding solution that he reaches. I don’t want to spoil much of that, but it does a nice job of tying in to the main plot without loudly announcing that it does so. I also appreciate the other moments in Lee’s life that make it on-screen as well (such as Lee’s relationship with his father), and that the scriptwriters DIDN’T make a big fuss in explicitly pointing everything back to Lee’s journey or moralizing every single thing, although the implications are there to be found. I think it paradoxically makes everything in the movie more impactful. It’s certainly a more realistic movie. In the Fathom Events live interview with some of the actors, crew, and the Strobels themselves, they revealed that about 80-85% of the movie is directly based on things that actually happened. The crew took care to make this an authentic movie, and it shows in the final product.

The only drawback that I see with the movie is that it actually seems to exclude the basic story of Christ. There’s a scene in the movie where Lee asks a pastor why Christ didn’t simply save Himself from death. The pastor simply replies ‘love’. At that point, those who do not know the story of Christ might be puzzled, asking ‘What does love have to do with that?’. It doesn’t seem like their question is answered within the movie. Of course, not every question about life, the universe, and everything is going to be answered in one movie. The good news is that the film can easily spark further discussion or a desire to search for other facts. After all, one of the great advantages skeptics today have over Lee Strobel in the 80s is the internet. And hey, we have an article for that!

To sum up, The Case for Christ is a fantastic film. I feel that it’s the best Christian movie I’ve seen insofar as being relatable to skeptics. It likely wouldn’t alienate a non-believing friend apart from the caveat in the above paragraph. Christians would find this a compelling movie, full of knowledge and heart, and either a great introduction to apologetics or a succinct refresher depending on their knowledge level.

– Brian