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.
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.
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.
Like many popular sensations, from Titanic to Twilight, from Dan Brown to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, The Shack is easy to rip apart if one has a mind to.
Possibly the best and most cinematic sequence in Hillsong – Let Hope Rise is a montage that strikingly captures how the music of the Australian Evangelical church-based praise band Hillsong United touches, and unites, people all around the world.
Greater has three surprises, which is three more than most faith-based films, particularly of the inspirational sports-movie variety.
On paper, and sometimes even on screen, there’s some promise and potential in this remake of Ben-Hur.
The recent beatification of Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until his assassination in 1980, has drawn new attention to the gap between public perception and reality regarding this popular but controverted figure in El Salvador’s turbulent history. For those interested in beginning to understand who Blessed Archbishop Romero really was, the Christopher Award–winning 1989 film Romero, starring Raúl Juliá, isn’t a bad place to start.
Mirroring its populist tale pitting a devout young undergraduate against Kevin Sorbo’s hostile philosophy professor, the faith-based hit indie God’s Not Dead sharply divided enthusiastic faith audiences and scoffing critics.
A faith-based romantic drama with a country music milieu, The Song is couched as a contemporary reimagining of the life of King Solomon, son of David.
I took two minutes to talk about this one, and still got in less than half of what bothered me about it.
After ten years, Jesus is back on the big screen. Was it worth the wait? Son of God: my “Reel Faith” review.
For Greater Glory tells a story of religious freedom and oppression that is far too little known, and that would be important and worthwhile at any time, but is strikingly apropos in our cultural moment.
For Greater Glory in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.
Coming on the heels of Fireproof, Courageous is the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures, and it’s another step forward for the church-based film company … While the film’s church-based roots and the tendency toward didactic, schematic storytelling are still in evidence, Courageous is their most ambitious and watchable film to date.
The 13th Day is the best movie ever made about Fátima — the most beautiful and effective, as well as one of the most historically accurate.
The title reflects the supporting role of John Newton, played with gusto by Albert Finney, as a penitent ex-slave ship captain, now a mentor of sorts to Wilberforce as well as the writer of the beloved American hymn. (“A wretch like me,” Newton was not afraid to call himself in the original lyrics, with a biographical and theological honesty too direct for the revisionist vandals of hymnody responsible for many missalettes and hymnbooks.)
For Verástegui — a former boy-band and telenovela heartthrob known to Latino fans as “the Mexican Brad Pitt” — the mission is simple. “Hollywood doesn’t belong to the studios,” he recently told Decent Films. “Hollywood belongs to God. And we need to take it back. And that’s what I’m trying to do, by example first, trying my best every day to be involved in projects that will inspire people to use their talents to do something positive for the world.”
In the end, Bella has something to challenge everyone, pro-life or otherwise. For pro-lifers, the inspiring ending represents a call to love of neighbor. It isn’t enough just to oppose abortion: We are called to love those in need with the love of Christ, potentially at a cost to ourselves. For those who favor abortion, the ending represents a challenge to recognize that life is a beautiful and precious gift even in far from ideal circumstances, and the choice to embrace life, even when it involves great sacrifice, is also beautiful.
Christians lamenting the state of Hollywood sometimes flippantly comment that this or that Bible story “would make a great movie — intrigue, sex, violence, spectacle, etc.” This, though, is not a recipe for a great movie, but for a mediocre one. The story of Esther could certainly be made into a great film. One Night with the King is not that film. In some ways, it’s not even that story.
With fans of its two genres, especially in the Bible Belt, Facing the Giants will doubtless be a success. To reach a broader audience, though, the filmmakers will have to scrap their playbook and learn a whole new set of rules.
“Ordinary girl. Extraordinary soul” is the tagline of Thérèse, Catholic actor-director Leonardo Defilippis’s reverent, uplifting, straightforward biopic of the Little Flower. Of the tagline’s two clauses, the film’s special burden seems to be the first part, “ordinary girl.”
“A good compromise choice” is how one observer describes the 1977 appointment of Oscar Romero (Raul Julia) — a conservative, orthodox, apolitical bishop of a small rural diocese — to the archbishopric of San Salvador. By the time Archbishop Romero’s tempestuous three-year tenure comes to its violent end, “compromise” is a word no one will ever again think of in connection with him.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.