Perhaps the most effective and moving stories that hit the box-office were the ones that touched the hearts of its intended audiences and the human soul; but the upcoming Christian drama film ‘The Case for Christ’ directed by Jon Gunn and is based on a true story that inspired the 1998 book of the same title written by former atheist and award-winning investigative journalist Lee Patrick Strobel—will soon hit the Philippine theaters on April 7, which is just in time for the Lenten Season.
Lent, is it the only time that most people or Filipinos get to commemorate the life, passion and death of Jesus Christ? Frankly, yes, me being a nominal Catholic myself who came to know Christ in 1992 and have backslid, faltered many times in my faith and but I must say—my relationship with my God is still there. Yes, people may view me being ‘tough’, being ‘frank’ or see me negatively—but through this film—it has also allowed me confront of who I have become after my conversion and when I backslid; and perhaps on how I even intellectualized His Word as well.
Intellectualizing the Truth and Not Having Faith in God, alone?
Like the struggles of Strobel, I too, had questioned (though not entirely since I have Christian foundations while growing up) some points about how God runs His way. In Isaiah 55:8 (NAB), the scriptures say: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.”
It was quite ironic that while Leslie, Strobel’s wife was devouring the Word of God—he was out there trying to build his case against Christ. Take not—I use the word ‘against’ and not the conjunction ‘for’.
Strobel, in his pursuit to disprove the existence of Christ to his wife Leslie; after he had conducted his own research by interviewing thirteen evangelical Christian scholars Craig Blomberg, Bruce Metzger, Edwin Yamauchi, John McRay, Gregory Boyd, Ben Witherington III, Gary Collins, D.A. Carson, Louis Lapides, Alexander Metherell, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and J. P. Moreland—he gave up and realized that it was pointless to compete and try to intellectualize what the Bible has presented. All the scholars defended their views regarding the historical reliability of the New Testament.
There was one scene and that was actually the second scene where it struck me and to most people who found themselves in desperate moments—they just surrendered themselves and allowed God to move in their lives.
A Film that Doesn’t Need Any Heavy-Drama Scenes.
The former model-turned-actor Mike Vogel essayed the character of Lee Strobel effectively. Aside from that scene where he looked into the image of Christ that was imprinted by a piece of linen when he the Savior was buried for many centuries—there were two other scenes that proved to be moving enough to let me shed tears.
First, the scene where Strobel discovered how his dead was so proud of him (when he saw all the articles he wrote as a journalist were neatly compiled in a photo album) in spite of their strained relationship between each other. Like him, I, too had really quite a similar relationship with my father; but through God’s grace—I was able to forgive and accept his shortcomings just like how God has forgiven and continue to love me again and again.
The other scene was that when Strobel admitted to his wife that he was not totally being honest toward her. Together as they bent their knees—they prayed. And that was the beginning of the couple’s journey to greater service in spreading the gospel of Christ.
‘The Case for Christ’ is a classic example that a story need not be ‘formulaic’ and peppered with heavy-drama scenes. The spiritual intervention painted in this true-to-life screenplay is enough to make this stirring and disturbing in a way that it would serve as a wake-up call for the moviegoers.
Philippines is dubbed as the fourth largest Christian country in the world with about 90% of its population being adherents and is one of the two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia. So what point am I exactly trying to drive at here? It is that being tagged as such and based on an article written on christianministriesintl.org, it differentiates religion from Christianity: “Religions are about human attempts to make our lives right with God, through our good works, sacrifices, rituals, and money. However, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is about God entering human history to graciously save men and women through His Son Jesus Christ. It is only by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and submitting to his Lordship that we will be saved.”
In scriptures, as presented in the film, Christianity is defined as: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,* so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
To some, it may be deem as ‘blind’ admiration or simply putting faith in something that is not concrete—but miracles, everyday miracles have proven many times over the existence of God on this earth and in the universe.
Playing as Lee’s wife—Leslie is Erika Christensen with Faye Dunaway as Dr. Roberta Waters, Robert Forster as Walter Strobel, Lee’s late father; L Scott Caldwell as Alfie Davis; Frankie Faison as Joe Dubois; Jordan Cox as Bill Hybels; Mike Pniewski as Kenny London; Judd Lormand as Joe Koblinsky; Kevin Sizemore as Dr. Gary Habermas; and Tom Nowicki as Dr. Alexander Metherell.
‘The Case for Christ’ is not entirely something that I could say that I mirror the struggles of the lead character in the story, but I am sure that this has also reminded me that once—I have questioned God’s very existence and also saw how God moved in my life as I have conversed with Him, each day.