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The Case for Christ: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster | based on the autobiography 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel

Mike Vogel
Born: July 17, 1979
Abington, Pennsylvania, USA
Lee Strobel
Born: January 25, 1952
Birthplace: Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA
Erika Christensen
Born: August 19, 1982
Seattle, Washington, USA
Leslie Strobel
Born: abt 1952
I came to the conclusion ultimately that based on the avalanche of evidence that points so powerfully toward the truth of Christianity, it would have taken more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian. -Lee Strobel, Behind the Scenes of The Case for Christ

Questioning the Story:

How did Lee Strobel get his start as a journalist?

In exploring The Case for Christ true story, we learned that years before Lee Strobel began working at the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, the Arlington Heights, Illinois native edited and published his own four-page newspaper, the Arlington Bulletin, when he was just 13. The paper was delivered to 73 customers in the Stonegate subdivision where his family lived. It covered topics like bicycle news, state politics, local sports and weekly police reports. After high school, Strobel graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree and then from Yale Law School with a Master of Studies in Law degree.

Actor Mike Vogel and the real Lee Strobel on the set of The Case for Christ in 2016.

Did Lee Strobel really have an explosive encounter with his father on the eve of his high school graduation?

Yes. Like in the movie, Walter Strobel told his rebellious son, "I don't have enough love for you to fill my little finger." The real Lee Strobel and his wife Leslie were on The Case for Christ movie set the day the scene was shot. Robert Forster, who portrays Lee's father in the movie, came over after and put his hand on Lee's shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said, understanding how tough it must have been for Lee to see that moment reenacted.

When did Lee meet Leslie and when were they married?

In fact-checking The Case for Christ movie, we learned that Lee and Leslie met when they were 14 and married in 1972, after Lee's sophomore year in college. -The Case for Christ Facebook Page

Left: Leslie and Lee Strobel on their wedding day in 1972. Right: Their onscreen counterparts, played by actors Erika Christensen and Mike Vogel, share a smile together in the movie.

Did Lee Strobel really have an alcohol problem before he became a Christian?

Yes, he drank in excess regularly. In a Lee Strobel interview, he says that as an atheist, he had concluded that the best way to live his life was as a hedonist. "Just pursue pleasure, this is all you get in this world. So, that was my number one goal in life," says Strobel, "to bring maximum pleasure into my life. And so I lived a very immoral, and drunken, and profane, and narcissistic, really self-destructive kind of a life. That was my life."

Is the Strobels' neighbor in the movie, Alfie, based on a real person?

Yes. However, The Case for Christ true story reveals that the neighbor's name was Linda, not Alfie. Lee's wife Leslie met Linda after they moved into a condo outside of Chicago. Leslie and Linda became best friends and it was very natural for Linda to talk to Leslie about Jesus, since He was such a big part of Linda's life.

Actress L. Scott Caldwell (left) plays the neighbor, Alfie, in the movie. In real life, the Strobel's neighbor's name was Linda.

What made Lee Strobel want to disprove Christ?

Lee Strobel had always been a self-proclaimed atheist. "The mere concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving creator was absurd on the surface of it," Lee said. At one point, a neighbor named Linda (renamed Alfie in the movie) kept inviting Lee's wife Leslie to go to her church with her. In order to get the neighbor off her back, Leslie agreed to go. After attending Willow Creek Church, which then met at a movie theater, Leslie felt the experience had left an impression on her and she wanted to go back. "That experience with drama and contemporary music, when you were used to organ music, was so vastly different from anything I had experienced," she recalled. "It really marked me and made me want to go back."

Lee was having a hard time fathoming his wife's new interest. "I didn't want to be married to a Christian," he said. "I didn't sign up for this." He knew what he had to do. He'd go to church with her and make her see the reality of the "cult" that was sucking her in. On the mend from a hangover, Lee tagged along with his wife one Sunday morning. Following the sermon on "Basic Christianity," Lee felt inspired to use his journalistic skills to disprove it. That journey would take a year and nine months, with Lee eventually writing down the pros and cons of Christianity on a yellow legal pad. Like in the movie, it was during that time that his marriage to Leslie teetered on divorce.

Left: Leslie and Lee Strobel in 1972, the year they were married. Right: Actors Erika Christensen and Mike Vogel share an embrace as the couple in the movie.

Did Lee really have a violent temper before he found God?

Yes. At times he did. In the movie, we see Lee (Mike Vogel) drinking and break a vase during an argument with his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen). The real Lee Strobel also once kicked a hole in the living room wall during an argument with his wife, a moment that his young daughter Alison witnessed. In a Lee Strobel interview, he says the ugliest detail about him is that he came home drunk and angry so often that his daughter would immediately gather her toys and go to her room when he walked in the door after work.

He said that he harbored a lot of anger and rage, but didn't know why. He later figured out that it was because he was always after maximum pleasure but nothing lived up to the hype, and he always felt let down.

The real Lee Strobel (left) in the years prior to the movie's release and actor Mike Vogel (right) depicting Strobel in the early 1980s in the movie.

How did Lee Strobel go about disproving Christianity?

Similar to what is seen in The Case for Christ movie, the true story reveals that Strobel interviewed 13 well-respected authorities for historical evidence on the existence of Jesus. In his bestselling book, he explored questions like, can evidence for Jesus be found outside the Bible? Are there any grounds to believe the resurrection actually took place? How much trust should we put in what is stated in the New Testament? -The Case for Christ book

The movie is based on Lee Strobel's bestselling 1998 autobiography of the same name.

What did Lee Strobel discover in his attempt to debunk Christianity?

"I became personally convinced that based on the historical evidence of the Resurrection, that this is actually true," Strobel said.

Did he really leave journalism to go and work for the church?

Yes. After becoming an award-winning investigative journalist who was promoted to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune, Lee left journalism in 1987, taking a 60 percent pay cut to work as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. He eventually became the host of the PAX TV program Faith Under Fire, in addition to writing numerous faith-based books and appearing as an inspirational speaker. His most notable book is his bestselling autobiography The Case for Christ, which chronicles his transformation from an atheist into a believer and provides the basis for the movie.

Top: The Chicago Tribune newsroom in 1980. Bottom: The newsroom is recreated for The Case for Christ movie.

Did Lee Strobel ever make amends with his father in real life?

No. However, he did attempt to make peace at his father's funeral. He stood over his dad's casket after he requested that the parlor be cleared. "I managed to whisper the words I desperately wished I had spoken so many years earlier: I'm sorry, Dad." Lee apologized for the ways he had disrespected his father, lied to him, and rebelled against him through the years. He expressed sorrow for being ungrateful and for the bitterness he had let possess his heart. There was no way his father could reply, but years later, after finding Christ, he believes that his father heard his words.

Does Lee Strobel think the movie is accurate?

"I'd say 80, 85 percent of the film comes right out of our lives," says Lee. "In fact, there are some scenes that we get emotional about because this is ripped from our lives. This is like a transcript." He cites the scene where his character freaks out when his wife tells him that she became a Christian and also the scene in the car when he tells her he can't remain married to a believer. Lee does acknowledge that the film had to be condensed in certain areas since the real investigation took a year and nine months. He also says that certain characters were composites. -Pure Talk Lee and Leslie Strobel Interview

Actress Erika Christensen and her real-life counterpart Leslie Strobel stand next to her husband Lee Strobel and his onscreen counterpart Mike Vogel.

Does the real Lee Strobel appear in the movie?

Yes. In fact-checking The Case for Christ movie, we discovered that Lee Strobel appears as an extra in a scene in the newsroom of the paper.

Lee Strobel Interviews & Related Videos

Learn more about The Case for Christ true story by watching a Lee Strobel speech where he retells his story. Then watch a Lee and Leslie Strobel interview and a behind-the-scenes look at the movie.

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