Personal journey that questions faith

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The Case for Christ. 2017, drama. Triple Horse Studios/Pure Flix Entertainment

Spoiler warning: biographical accounts of atheists who come to have faith in God can easily become predictable and preachy.

But to the credit of those behind the cinematic retelling of Lee Strobel’s story they avoid this, crafting a refreshingly honest and personal journey.

Lee, a sceptical Chicago Tribune crime reporter in the 1980s, has the life he has always dreamt of — a rewarding career and happy home life with wife Leslie and their children.

Then, to his dismay, Leslie starts to show a growing interest in faith and spirituality after their daughter is saved from near death through the timely intervention of an off-duty nurse.

His daughter’s bedside question about who Jesus Christ is sets the stage for the film.

As Leslie begins to describe him as a great man, Lee interrupts and says he is just another fairytale in a list of fairytales his daughter has heard.

“We’re atheists — we believe in what we can see and touch,” he says.

From there, there is a building tension in the marriage as Leslie commits to her newfound faith and Lee grows increasingly resentful and strident in his opposition.

Unknown to Leslie, Lee has a plan to turn her round — to interview experts in fields such as medicine, psychology and ancient history about Christianity.

He hopes his research will yield compelling evidence to show it is all a sham.

Facts point to truth, he says, and are our weapon against ignorance, superstition and tyranny.

Lee poses hard questions about the faith:

* What evidence is there that Jesus died on the cross?

* Could he have survived, appeared to his disciples and then set up a resurrection myth?

* What evidence is there that the disciples are telling the truth?

* Could their accounts have been fabricated, at the time or afterwards?

* Could they have been victims of mass hallucination, brainwashing or mind control — like in Jonestown, Guyana?

* What evidence is there that the New Testament manuscripts are credible?

* What about the “contradictions” in the gospel narrative?

If Lee — and audiences — are hoping for watertight answers to conclusively prove their positions, they’ll be disappointed.

As an atheist friend admits to an increasingly frustrated Lee in the movie, believe in God or don’t believe in God, either way takes a leap of faith.

And as Leslie says, the question what if Christianity isn’t true has a counterpoint: what if it is true?

A sign hanging in the Tribune office poses a challenge to audiences: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out”.

Not into faith movies?

Check it out.

* The Case for Christ is currently screening in Australian cinemas. Check local guides for session times.

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