Heading into Easter on last weekend’s box office top 10 list to secure an expanded release this weekend, the movie The Cast for Christ – which is based on the best-selling novel written by acclaimed Christian author Lee Strobel – received the highest reviews by moviegoers, who give it a rare “A+” CinemaScore rating … which is typically received by only two films per year.
After taking in nearly $4 million in receipts on its debut weekend, The Case for Christ will be viewed at hundreds of more theaters through Easter Sunday by audiences across the nation, according to the ex-atheist-turned-Christian author of the like-named book.
“Because of [a] strong opening weekend, Case for Christ movie now expanded to 500 more screens for Easter weekend!” Strobel tweeted last week. “Please spread the word.”
One of the nation’s leading movie sites announced last week that the Christian film held its own with Hollywood box office smashes – such as DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby ($26.3 million) in first, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast ($25 million) in second, Sony’s Smurfs: The Lost Village ($14 million) in third and New Line’s Going in Style ($12.5 million) in fourth – with The Case for Christ coming in 10th.
As anticipated below, the adapted film got a boost after its opening week once Palm Sunday receipts were registered, as the movie recorded a nearly $7 million box office total on Thursday going into its second weekend – with receipts expected to jump again with moviegoers flocking to the big screen on Easter Sunday.
“[The] weekend … featured a satisfactory opening for Pure Flix’s The Case for Christ, which could see its estimates receive a bump … as a result of it being Palm Sunday,” Box Office Mojo’s Brad Brevit reported before to total of last Sunday’s receipts were tallied.
According to critics at Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a “fresh” score, indicative of a 75-percent favorability rating, with audiences scoring it higher by nearly double digits to give it an 84-percent favorability rating.
Word to the skeptic
The movie – intended for believers and skeptics alike – challenges audiences on both intellectual and spiritual levels and takes moviegoers on the same journey Strobel took decades ago when he was an atheist playing devil’s advocate.
“The Case for Christ retells the story of how Strobel – a former investigative journalist – sets out to prove that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a sham, but after a journey of examining the evidence and wrestling with his inner self, comes to faith,” The Christian Post (CP) reports. “The plot follows Strobel, who is played by actor Mike Vogel, as he struggles to deal with his wife’s conversion to Christianity.”
It was tangible evidence that ignited Strobel’s skepticism in his own atheistic religious beliefs – an entrenched worldview that began taking its toll on his family.
“His wife, played by actress Erika Christensen, encourages her nonbelieving husband to turn to Christ – something he initially rejects – but is persuaded following his examination of the evidence, including the world-famous Shroud of Turin,” CP’s Stoyan Zaimov informed. “The movie presents a number of different struggles, including one between a father and a son, but focuses heavily on the stain on Strobel’s marriage.”
Soon, Strobel could no longer ignore the facts and buy into the lies that he was led to believe his entire life.
“Some of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus helped convince me – as an atheist journalist – that there is really truth behind the Christian claims,” Strobel told CP earlier this month. “We are living in a post truth era, where people are searching for solid ground – they’re looking for something to say, ‘This is true … I can rely on this.’”
He maintained that believing in Jesus Christ is not leap of faith at all – but an embracing of the facts – of trusting in tried and tested Truths that can only come from the one and only God of the universe.
“Christianity claims to be true – it says it’s not wishful thinking or make-believe or legends or mythology, but it’s based on actual historical evidence,” Strobel continued in the interview. “And I think these days young people especially are looking for something solid like that to put their trust in.”
Cure for the blind
Strobel shared the message of his book and the newly released movie in a piece he wrote this month titled “Why I am bullish on Christianity.”
“When atheists claim there is no evidence for Christianity, I disagree,” Strobel wrote on FoxNews.com on April 7. “When liberal theologians assert there are many paths to heaven, I object. When young people say God isn’t relevant in the 21st century, I beg to differ. When analysts predict the decline of the evangelical church, I roll my eyes.”
He recognizes today’s heavy opposition to his faith and biblical worldview, and invites the very skepticism he one dished out.
“Are my positions popular?” the former atheist posed. “Maybe not, but they flow out of convictions that have only grown stronger in the midst of the evolving religious landscape in America. I’ve seen the surveys. I’m aware of the rise of the so-called ‘nones,’ who profess no religious affiliation. And frankly, that doesn’t trouble me very much. Rather than claiming to be Christians, as many have done in years past, now these people are now willing to be more honest. Today it’s socially acceptable – in many places even desirable – to be a skeptic. ‘Atheist’ is no longer considered such a derogatory term.”
Strobel is actually glad that more people today are candid about their disbelief than they were in the past.
“The truth is that America was never as much of a ‘Christian nation’ as some historians wish it were,” he added. “There was a veneer of faith over the land. ‘Respectable’ people went to church. Now they don’t pretend anymore. That’s okay.”
He then visited the days of unbelief that once shrouded his life – and his wife’s.
“I was a scoffer once myself, before spiritual skepticism became trendy,” the Christian apologist recounted. “As a law-trained journalist at the Chicago Tribune, I didn’t have any patience for mythology, superstition or make-believe. ‘Just give me the facts’ was my motto. My wife was agnostic. Then one day, through the influence of a friend and a church, she met Jesus. The first word to come into my mind: divorce. As portrayed in The Case for Christ, the forthcoming movie based on our story, I set out to disprove her beliefs and rescue her from the cult of Christianity.”
The mounting evidence for Christ and his resurrection soon turned Strobel’s life upside-down.
“After nearly two years, the scales tipped,” he explained. “Having encountered the persuasive evidence for Christianity, I concluded it would have required more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a believer. I ended up taking a 60-percent pay cut to leave my journalism career and become a pastor. For 30 years now, I’ve watched the world from the vantage point of a pulpit…”
He says the days are becoming more desperate as humanity, which is finding that the pursuit and attainment of worldly ambitions and idols are empty and futile – and unable to find pure joy and fulfillment that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“More and more people [are] growing weary of our materialistic and celebrity-saturated culture – and instead finding exhilaration in Jesus,” Strobel pointed out. “The proliferation of ministries that help the hurting, feed the hungry, and replace despair with hope. Addicts rescued. Broken families put back together. Racial reconciliation. Selflessness displacing self-interest. While some churches are closing, many of those with a relevant and biblically faithful message aren’t just growing – they’re burgeoning.”
He ended by predicting that the denial of right and wrong – good and evil – promoted by America’s schools, media and entertainment industry will soon lose its war against God, His Church and the Bible.
“Let me share a little secret – in our increasingly chaotic world, the Christian message of truth and grace continues to resonate among people who are tired of the shifting sands of post-modern relativism,” Strobel concluded. “No doubt about it: count me among those who are optimistic about the future of the Church in America.”