As most of you doubtlessly know, Lee Strobel has a new movie out, “The Case for Christ,” which is based on his blockbuster book with the same title. This movie is fabulous.
I began my search for Christ as a believer in God but not necessarily in the God of the Bible. But my friend Lee was even further from God. He was an outright atheist. This movie shows how Lee was on a mission to disprove Christianity’s truth claims and bring his recently converted wife to her senses and ended up being slayed by the evidence.
Lee was an awarding-winning legal journalist at the Chicago Tribune and thought Christianity to be a myth, and he thought his wife, Leslie, was cheating on him by chasing after Christ. He was married to her, not some fictional being created by weak, needy people.
Frustrated, Lee shared his problem with certain colleagues and asked for their advice. He was beside himself as his wife sank deeper and deeper into this Christian vortex. His friends told him to be patient — that things would work out.
Lee decided to put his investigative skills to work and began his research, which included interviewing some of the most respected theologians to investigate their claims. But he also researched liberal scholarship and that of atheists and agnostics. He thought he could knock out this little task inside of a weekend but got more than he’d bargained for. He was shocked to discover that the conservative Christian scholars were thoughtful, intelligent people who were well aware of the skeptics’ arguments against Christianity. He threw everything at them, challenging them, often provocatively — but respectfully.
Some two years — not two days — later, he found himself losing the battle because he had discovered that it would require more faith to maintain his atheism than to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. He had difficulty conceding defeat, but he finally decided that a good jury must render a verdict, and he surrendered to his intellectual honesty — and then to Jesus Christ.
His research led him to historical evidence and consideration of cosmology, physics, biochemistry, genetics and human consciousness.
What about the New Testament manuscripts? Surely, our existing copies, what few remain, are unreliable. To the contrary, he discovered that the manuscript evidence for Christianity is abundant. There are more copies of the New Testament than any other ancient document, including the classics whose authenticity we don’t give a second thought. We have but a handful of copies of most ancient documents, compared with almost 6,000 copies of the New Testament. A notable exception is Homer’s “Iliad,” but the number of copies pales in comparison with those we possess of the New Testament.
Surely, there was a major time gap between the existing New Testament copies and the original writings. Here again, Lee’s hopes were dashed.
What about the New Testament writers? Weren’t they just self-serving zealots whose kooky view about Jesus happened to prevail over competing versions of the story? No. What is fiction is this idea that there were seriously competing versions of the story of Jesus during the first century that were vying for prominence. Moreover, the essential propositions of the Gospels were circulating in verbal form just years after Jesus’ death. It wasn’t until the second century that Gnosticism seriously reared its head, and even when it did, it was no competition for the Gospels.
Try as he might, Lee could not find a chink in Christianity’s armor. He was drowning in the sea of evidence but still resisted. He kept hoping that he would achieve some breakthrough and get his beloved wife back. But it was not to happen.
He didn’t have an earth-shattering epiphany. Rather, it was the cumulative weight of the evidence that tipped the scales for him. But the linchpin was the Resurrection. This makes sense, because it wasn’t until the disciples encountered Jesus in his bodily form after his death that they finally gave their lives to him. At that point, they were transformed from cowardly skeptics to bold advocates for Christ who gave their lives to spread his good news.
It also makes sense because even the Apostle Paul tells us that if the Resurrection didn’t occur, then Christians are to be pitied the most among people. They would die in their sins for a falsehood. But then, the Resurrection did occur, and because of it, we, too, can be resurrected to eternal life with Jesus Christ.
Through Lee’s agonizing two-year quest, Leslie remained patient, loving and, most of all, busy in prayer, asking that Lee’s resistance would give way to his rational faculties and to the Holy Spirit.
The moment he tells his wife is probably the climax of the movie — extremely touching, moving and real. And it was eminently gratifying to watch this on-screen.
I can’t say enough good things about this highly realistic movie. It’s not corny or preachy as, sadly, some Christian movies are. The actors portraying Lee and Leslie are real and convincing.
I would encourage every one of you — believers and nonbelievers — to go see this movie. You will witness the power of God touching the heart of a genuinely wonderful human being — Lee Strobel, who has since used his gifts to spread the Word like few other people I know. Bless Lee and Leslie Strobel for this tremendous film and for their work to spread the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.