Monday, April 17, 2017

The Case for Christ [2017]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Christianity Today (K. McLenithan) review (J.W. Kennedy) review

The Case for Christ [2017] (directed by Jon Gunn, screenplay by Brian Bird based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Lee Strobel [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]), I have to admit, I came to with some ... fear.

While I'm at a parish where I may now actually use Strobel's book for a still in the works "Rocket Scientists Faith Discussion Group" (yes, I've literally buried _three_ different elderly rocket scientists - aerospace engineers (veterans of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs - since coming out to Orange County, CA to my new assignment ;-), the _vast majority_ of the thousands of parishioners who I've worked with over the last 20 years _don't_ need any proof of the Resurrection.  It's a living reality to them day to day: How else can one get the strength to put aside alcohol, to stop yelling (or even beating) one's spouse or kids (and _start_ to put family / loved ones first again ... rather than "chasing trophies" of any manner of kinds) or get over Losses (again of a plethora of kinds)?

Rising from the Put/Hammered-down / Dismissed as Dead, is a surprisingly common experience for most of us.  That Jesus would to do it FOR REAL is a Testament that God truly understands what life in this still quite Fallen world is like and his desire to assure us that NOTHING / NO ONE of this world will have the final word over any of us, that that final word truly belongs to God who made and loves us all (incidentally a beautiful reflection on God's love for each and everyone of us is given in another Christian based movie The Shack [2017] that came out at the beginning of Lent this year, with the current film coming out to close it out). 

But then is all this just a nice "pipe dream"?  This is what former Chicago Tribune investigative reporter and (as a result of his conversion in the process) later Chicago-area Willow Creek Megachurch Pastor Lee Strobel (played in the film by Mike Vogel) sought to do -- prove one-way-or-another whether all this a bunch of nonsense.   And it's clear that when he began this project he was firmly hoping to prove to his wife (played in the film by Erika Christensen) that _her_ new found faith (as a result of a near family tragedy) was silly, distracting and even threatening their marriage.

Obviously, he came to a different conclusion.  He did so in a quite sober manner that should give the educated person at least some pause.  He noted that the ancient attestations, yes, in the New Testament are numerous (more than 5000 ancient copies of the NT are existent -- for context that's more than 4x as many as the Iliad, the next most numerously available text from the ancient mid-East -- and the oldest fragments of the NT go back to only a few decades from the event).  He noted fairly significant details in these ancient attestations -- notably that ALL the NT accounts of Christ's Resurrection have WOMEN encountering the Risen Christ first (if the story was invented, this detail would not serve the inventor's interest, as women's testimony was almost universally considered "unreliable" in the ancient mideast (and really up to only recent times).  Finally, he noted that Jesus would have almost certainly have died on the Cross (a possible explanation of a "fake Resurrection" would have been that he had not have actually died).  But even an Journal of the AMA article on the matter argued that assuming that Jesus was crucified, he would have had to have died -- from asphyxiation (following the other injuries of his ordeal, notably his flogging).  So ...

... if nothing else, it should make people think.

Again, I'm not necessarily sure that this is the best way to argue for Christianity, BUT IT DOES NOT HURT that there are serious people like Strobel seeking to argue the case.

Excellent film.

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