After I came out as an atheist decades ago, a good and well-meaning friend of mine suggested that I read Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ. I was not enthused about this prospect, having slogged through Josh McDowell’s heavily footnoted apologetics, the book from Hell , but I read it. While being a better read than McDowell, the book fell into the same pit as McDowell’s in that it tried to substitute personal opinion for actual evidence. First, let me give some background on the book that this movie is based on. Strobel interviews ONLY Christians in his book. This is like interviewing only people from Boston to determine America’s favorite baseball team. Here is an example of what I am talking about. The first person interviewed is Craig Bloomberg, from the Denver Seminary. An objective authority, right? Get a load of doctrinal statement that all faculty and trustees are required to sign each year:
“We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God, inerrant in the original writings, complete as the revelation of God’s will for salvation, and the supreme and final authority in all matters to which they speak.”
Pretty objective, eh? Herein lies the problem with the entirety of Strobel’s book. He appeals to authority, but only to the authority of those who are believers. This approach to journalism or investigative reporting is hardly objective, but totally circular and just dripping with Special Pleading. Here again we have apologists shooting an arrow into the wall and painting a bull’s eye around it. Bloomberg, with the loyalty oath that he signs, identifies himself as a Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian who believes in the inerrancy of The Bible.
Now, we have the film, The Case For Christ. Christian produced cinema has had an abysmal track record, being savaged by believers and non-believers alike, and justifiably so. One of the most glaring was Saving Christmas, with Kirk Cameron going public and blaming the universally scathing reviews as being an internet Satanic plot by pagans, haters, atheists, weeaboos and Reddit trolls, to unfairly ruin his fine movie. Of course, this outcry just brought out the fury of the internet, and the movie was immediately pummeled into its rightful place, an IMDB rating of 1.6 ,and rated the #2 worst movies of all time. Other examples are God’s Not Dead and even worse, God’s Not Dead 2 which were also railed by the critics. The Case For Christ opened this week, and even though it is doing OK at the box office, the reviews are sparse and predictable. It seems like the trend is to give this movie a big pass, for merely not being horrible. Well, we’ll just see about that.
Now I just have to actually go and watch this…this… thing… [Well, I’m back.] The movie has been watched. I started to give this review some sort of lame head-fake of how I really enjoyed it and was uplifted, etc, but no, I don’t have the energy for that right now. I sat there the entire two hours, watched The Case For Christ, and only walked away with a somnolent butt. There were about 25 people in the audience, most of them Seniors, and all of them save my friend and I, obviously devout Christians. I had hoped for some sort of a scene or ruckus, but there were no Satanist there to mock, and no Pentecostals to roll down the aisles while babbling incoherently in strange tongues. There was only the 1 hour and 52 minutes of watching this boring and pedestrian film, while listening to the other 23 people quietly “oh and ah” over the predictably lame bullet points phoned in by this boring ordeal. I swear, it reminded me of an old “Amos ‘N Andy” laugh track, the audience reaction was that annoying.
I suppose I must review the actual movie, since I went to the trouble to pay for it and watch it. The effort was nothing like the book at all, but more resembled a numbed-down soap opera that pulled every manipulative string in the book. Lee Strobel was an award-winning journalist, and an atheist who was happily married to his pregnant and also atheist wife, Leslie. After a unnerving choking incident at a restaurant with their young daughter, their lives were changed forever when a nurse (Alfie, The Magical Negro) just happened to be on the scene and saved Alison, their daughter. Alfie immediately began to Praise Jesus and this is where all the trouble began. Alfie swooped in on a vulnerable Leslie, got her to attend Church and to become another annoying believer. Lee Strobel was not amused, and for the balance of the movie Strobel was portrayed as a jerk while he supposedly sought the truth about God, Jesus and The Resurrection. He interviewed Professors, Archaeologists turned Priests, Psychologists, and a Medical Doctor, all of who provided so-called evidence. If you’ve read the book, or know the story, you know what happened. It’s how it happened that will occupy the balance of this review.
O.K., I’m tired of being nice, just bollocks on this movie. If this is the best of the Christian genre, then I don’t know how anyone who is not a drooling, brain-dead Fundie could ever sit through the earlier, more preachy Christian movies. Just like Strobel’s book, this movie relies heavily and conveniently on only interviewing those who support the conclusion, complete a plethora of pathetic logical fallacies. The movie also repeatedly resorts to manipulation, emotional blackmail and appeal to emotion to make the case.
*** Warning -LOGICAL FALLACIES GALORE- Warning***
- Circular Reasoning
- Assuming Facts not in evidence
- Argument from Hearsay
- Argument from Antiquity
- Special Pleading
- Appeal to Authority
- Appeal to Emotion
- False Cause Fallacy
- Straw Man Fallacy
These are just a few of the logical fallacies that are invoked in the movie, but rather than making this review tl;dr, I’ll try to summarize some of the arguments presented by the experts. The most glaring of the fallacies was the second one. After assuming that there actually were 500 corroborating eyewitnesses to the resurrection, Strobel spends most of his time trying to support arguments of why 500 people couldn’t be wrong or couldn’t possibly all suffer from the same hallucination. This assumption that there were 500 witnesses is just circular reasoning with the premise identical to the conclusion. One of the most glaringly deficient arguments was the Catholic Priest who, when confronted with the reality that Islam did not accept the Christ, argued that since Christianity was older, it was more credible than Islam (Argument from Antiquity)! WTF! What about then the hundreds of religions that are older than Christianity? Silence! This is also Special Pleading, folks.
All of the evidence presented is hearsay, every single bit of it, and 2,000 year old hearsay at that. Special Pleading and Appeal to Authority (especially biased authority) is evident throughout the movie as there were attempts to link unrelated archaeological findings to the claims of the resurrection. Here is an analogy. Premise: King Kong existed. Evidence: We found archaeological remains of the Empire State Building. Conclusion? King Kong existed and was killed on the Empire State Building. They used the same type of flawed logic for the resurrection of Christ. The final expert interviewed was the worst, a Medical Doctor, impressively looking into microscopes while he spewed logical nonsense like a busted shit pipe. Again, we have assuming facts not in evidence along with the False Cause Fallacy. The doctor graphically explained how and why no one makes it out of a crucifixion alive, while concluding that this was sufficient evidence that Jesus was resurrected. He even pulled out an article from JAMA to support his claims! Conveniently lost in this logical circus were the unevidenced claims that Jesus existed, Jesus was crucified and Jesus rose from the dead.
O.K., this movie was a mess. The only decent acting came from Mike Vogel who adequately portrayed the harried and harassed Strobel. Everyone else just was just sleep-walking through their predictable parts, and Erika Christensen as Strobel’s wife was particularly annoying and unconvincing. I have to mention poor Faye Dunaway who was one of the so-called experts. She was so senile and botox-faced that she could not even look at the camera properly or speak her lines coherently. It’s no surprise that she shit all over the Oscars, poor thing. Robert Forster (the great Max Cherry in Jackie Brown) played in an inexplicable bit part as Strobel’s estranged father and was quickly killed off to heap even more guilt on the hapless Strobel.
The Case For Christ was just another cheap-shot Christian Movie, designed to attract the already Twice-Born Believers near the Easter Season. I don’t know what happened to Strobel IRL, but in the movie he was driven to his knees not by evidence, but by emotional manipulation and blackmail. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to see this movie, atheist, skeptic or Believer. Like I alluded to earlier, the only redeeming quality to this movie is that it is not horrible like the other movies in the genre. My advice? Avoid.