“Just the facts, Ma'am,” was Captain Joe Friday's droll request in the 1950s detective series “Dragnet.” And it was facts – hard evidence – that swayed award-winning Chicago Tribune legal editor Lee Strobel. An avowed atheist, Strobel believed only what he could experience with his senses. “The only way to truth,” he said, “is through facts.” Verifiable facts, in Strobel's mind, offered protection against superstition and against tyranny.

 

How Conversion Threatened the Strobels' Marriage

Lee Strobel and his wife Leslie were deeply in love, but their marriage was tested after their daughter Alison experienced a life-threatening medical emergency in a local restaurant. Alfie Davis, a nurse who happened to be dining in the same restaurant, intervened and saved the choking child's life. As a Christian, Alfie believed that God had influenced her to be in that place at that time. Alfie's deep faith was an inspiration to Leslie Strobel, who began attending Alfie's Christian church and was eventually baptized. Lee, however, remained adamant in his rejection of God, and he resented Leslie's newfound faith.

The Strobels' dramatic story is told in “The Case for Christ,” a new film from Pure Flix Entertainment and Triple Horse Studios. Based on Strobel's autobiographical best-seller by the same name, the movie recounts Strobel's struggles along the path toward conversion.

The Strobels were on hand this week in Chicago for the premier of “The Case for Christ.” That they were still in love was evident in the way they shared the limelight and in the humorous stories they told – like the heartwarming story of their first meeting at the age of 14 and of how Leslie, charmed by her new friend, went home and told her mother that she'd met the boy she was going to marry.

For twenty-five years Lee Strobel has shared his story: how his wife's conversion had ripped at his heart and how he, a talented investigative journalist, had sought the advice of experts in the hope of convincing Leslie of her error. But each of the experts he interviewed brought him closer to accepting the truth of the Gospel:

The Evidence from Archeology - Strobel asked Fr. Jose Maria Marquez, a former archeologist turned Catholic priest, how we could be sure of the reliability of the gospel manuscripts. Father Marquez was convincing; he explained that while only 1,565 copies remain of Homer's Iliad, only seven manuscripts from the works of Plato and only five copies of anything by Aristotle, there are 5,843 preserved manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

Then why, Strobel asked, if Jesus was truly the Son of God, would He allow Himself to be crucified? Father Marquez responded simply: It was Love. “That,” said the priest, “is what got me out of the dirt and into the Church.”

The Evidence from Philosophy - Philosopher and Christian theologian William Lane Craig talked with Strobel by phone from Jerusalem. Dr. Craig proffered a simple formula: “God made us. We messed things up. Christ paid for our sins. It's as simple as that.”

The Evidence from Medicine - Dr. Roberta Waters, a medical doctor and an agnostic, insisted that the Resurrection could not be explained away by the “swoon theory,” which hypothesized that Jesus had passed out on the cross, been buried alive, then regained consciousness in the darkened tomb. Despite her lack of faith, Dr. Waters said of the swoon hypothesis, “It's rubbish.”

After months of research, Lee Strobel was finally convinced that it was his own stubbornness, not God's absence, that kept him from joining his wife and accepting Christ. “All right, God,” Lee said. “You win.”

For the last 25 years, Strobel has shared his faith as an author of more than 20 books, as a teaching pastor, as a television evangelist and commentator, as a speaker and as a college professor. “The Case for Christ” has sold more than 14,000 copies; and a more recent book, “The Case for Grace,” won the 2016 Nonfiction Book of the Year Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

“The Case for Christ” opened in theaters across America on April 7. It's a great film to buttress the faith of believers, to pique the interest of nonbelievers, and to start a conversation about the meaning of life.