James Dixon became a free man after being wrongly convicted because former Chicago Tribune reporter Lee Strobel tenaciously dug deep into what seemed like an open-and-shut case of a cop being shot during a scuffle on the Windy City’s South Side.
Strobel is also the main character in a new movie opening Friday entitled “The Case for Christ.” The subtitle is “an atheist’s journey to Christianity.” Strobel is the former atheist and his story takes him from being a classic newsroom skeptic to his place today as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Church near Chicago.
Is “The Case for Christ” worth seeing? Being an investigative journalist, not a movie critic, I won’t presume to encourage or discourage anybody from shelling out their hard-earned dollars on a flick that I haven’t seen. But judging by the preview, “The Case for Christ” appears to be nothing like the usual cheesy productions of this genre.
What I can tell you with confidence, though, is that if the movie is as credible as Strobel’s book with the same title, a lot of the people walking out of the theaters Friday and thereafter will have experienced something they won’t soon forget.
Strobel’s book is a comprehensive and compelling treatment of the evidence for and against the resurrection of Christ not unlike the Josh McDowell classic, “More Than A Carpenter,” that prompted my comments in this space last week regarding the Muslim professor in Florida.
Highly recommended here as an example of the value of the book is the “Medical Evidence” chapter in which Strobel confronts the familiar theory that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, but rather passed out, then later revived in the coolness of the grave, rolled the stone away from the tomb’s door and escaped unnoticed by the Roman Guards or anybody else.
Millions of Muslims have believed a version of this “swoon theory,” which is included in the Koran. The theory has also appeared perennially in popular culture in, for example, books like “The Open Tomb: Why and How Jesus Faked His Death and Resurrection” by David Mirsch in 2011.
But three of the multiple reasons Strobel cites from the medical evidence make it clear that 12 aliens from a planet revolving around Alpha Centauri will present themselves on the White House lawn demanding to see President Trump before there will be credible proof that Jesus didn’t die on that cross.
- First, there is the matter of hypovolemic shock that Jesus would have suffered from the flogging he received before being nailed to the cross. The Romans used a whip with metal balls and sharp pieces of bone. The balls inflicted deep contusions and bruises, while the bones ripped apart flesh, muscle and sinew.
“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts,” Strobel quotes Dr. Alexander Metherell, a medical expert who formerly taught at the University of California and consulted for the National Institutes for Health.
“The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks and the back of the legs. It was just terrible … many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified,” Metherell said.
The hypovolemic shock was caused by massive loss of blood. Jesus’ heart would have started racing trying to pump blood that was no longer in his veins, his blood pressure plunged, causing fainting and collapse, his kidneys stopped functioning and he became insanely thirsty.
- Second, according to Metherell, crucifixion was an incredibly cruel, agonizingly slow way to die. The five-to-seven-inch spikes would have been driven into his wrists – not the traditional palms of his hands – which would crush the median nerve, causing “absolutely unbearable” pain; “in fact, it was literally beyond words to describe, they had to invent a new word, excruciating.” A similar effect resulted when the spikes were driven into Jesus’ feet.
- Third, and worst of all, was the death by the asphyxiation and cardiac arrest caused by hanging on the cross. Metherell explained to Strobel that “the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position, so, basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet, so the tension on the muscles would be eased.
“In doing so, the spike would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in … this would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.”
That a Roman soldier plunged a spear into Jesus’ side, up to his heart, simply removed any possible chance that he would still be alive when his body was taken down from the cross.
Strobel says in his book that, after interviewing Metherell, he kept coming back to the question of why Jesus walked into the situation he knew would result in his death. Christians have believed for 2,000 years that he did it because of his love for his followers.
That’s the conclusion Strobel ultimately reached. We’ll soon see how well his journey is translated to the silver screen in “The Case For Christ.”
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and chief of its Investigative Group. Follow Mark on Twitter.