Lionsgate // 2007 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 27th, 2007
A journalist's personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus.
Journalist-turned-author-turned-evangelist Lee Strobel brings his popular book The Case for Christ to the digital world. Strobel, a one-time committed atheist, set out to investigate the claims and history of Jesus Christ over twenty years ago, and came away a convert to Christianity. He eventually applied his reporting talents to further dissecting Christ's orthodoxy and this translated into a series of books tied together with the theme of expert testimony, focuses on various tenets of the Christian faith.
Full disclosure. I am a Christian of the Evangelical persuasion, so I attacked this release from a different perspective than a non-believer. That being said I will try and determine the value of the disc to the doubting or disbelieving population, to which, honestly, the disc is geared to in the first place.
The Case for Christ is primarily an evangelism tool, built to appeal to the base of folks who may be nagged by some practical issues with the reliability of scripture, the historicity of Christ and other intellectual impasses. Woven throughout the program is Strobel's own testimony, supplemented with his wife's, which becomes the propulsion for the human-centered evangelism.
But the film is also an introduction to apologetics (the pragmatic defense of Christianity), useful to folks just learning to articulate a cohesive defense of their faith, and in that end, it's encouraging to see. This intellectual honesty and engagement of the Christian tradition on thinking terms has largely been trumped by rampant emotionalism in American Christianity, and if believers adopted a way to rationally explain their faith, the Western Christian movement would be better for it. However, this is truly an entry-level piece, and tougher questions -- and there are much, much tougher questions -- will require something deeper than what's offered on this disc. In the end, if it gets Christians to do some grassroots scholarship on their own, I think Strobel and company will be happy.
The DVD is put together in a chapter format, with major issues of Christ broken down in segments (e.g., His claim to divinity, the historical accuracy of the Gospels, the Resurrection). Again, boilerplate stuff for folks who've been at this thing for a while, but there is still value to be had here and nuggets of fact popped up that surprised me. "Expert witnesses" (professors, theologians, researchers, preachers) are brought in to offer insight on the respective themes, and the filmmakers did well to choose these guys, articulate, learned scholars with clout.
So the substance is there, but I'm not digging the stylistic presentation. It's all very slick, laden with visual effects and spiked with a sweeping score. The introduction of the experts is especially amusing, with each guy receiving a intro much like the opening titles of a sitcom: candid shots of them doing things like walking under the trees and playing with their dog and then bam, they turn around dramatically and smile at the camera and their name pops up with the flair of a Superbowl opening. This thematic presentation is very much like most other modern evangelical videos I've seen, and frankly, it's mixture of sterility and wannabe-hipness just rubbed me kind of the wrong way.
But in the end, it's all about transmitting the message and The Case for Christ does it well. The testimonies are heartfelt and the arguments are compelling. It is crafted as an introductory course for noobs, so Christians tangling with more advanced issues may not get as much out of this. At the same time those of you not interested in Christianity may consider this as a helpful tool for opponents to get a sense of what the major minds in Christianity are thinking.
Lots of extras on this disc, including testimonies from the featured experts, a lengthy "Uniqueness of Jesus" featurette, "Prophecies on the Passion," which cross-reference the Old Testament foretelling of the Messiah, a sampling of the film's score, previews and additional study resources. On the technical side, the 2.0 stereo mix is adequate and the subtitles are nice, but the non-anamorphic widescreen is a disappointment. Surely the Lord of Hosts deserves better than fake widescreen.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Uniqueness of Jesus" Feature
* "Prophecies of the Passion" Feature
* Study Resources
* Movie Score
* Official Site