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‘Da Vinci Code’: Seeing is not believing

We admit it: We never dreamed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code would make it big when we first heard of it. After all, what could be more preposterous than his assertion that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were lovers and had a secret child? Nobody would swallow his absurd alchemy of fact and fiction. Yet, it became a runaway best seller.

The thought that reading the book mightshake a Christian’s faith or dishearten a seeker was — and is — troubling.Secretly, we hoped the book would just go away. That has not been the case.

More than 46 million copies of the bookhave sold, and the movie that opens today has generated enormous interest.

Despite Sony, the movie’s distributor,saying that the story is a work of fiction and a “thriller, not a religioustract,” it seems many people do believe Brown’s claims. Polls show 15 percentof Americans believe the novels’ claims, according to James Garlow inChristianity Today.

Like The Passion of the Christ and other Hollywoodfare, the movie has resuscitated the subjects of faith and Jesus Christ as hottopics. How should Christians respond?

For some of us, the response probablyshould be — don’t go to the movie. Don’t subject yourself to the disturbingquestions about our Lord’s divinity and integrity. The movie’s treatment ofJesus’ crucifixion and resurrection as political scams makes us physically ill.Staying home or going to another movie will leave these Christians with theirintegrity, whether or not it sends a message to Hollywood.

But for some of us, the response may beto go see the movie, preferably with an unbeliever. Why? Because of thediscussions coming out of the movie, when the focus will turn to the allegationsmade concerning the church and Jesus. Expect questions like the one a CNNanchor reportedly asked after an on-air interview: “I do not mean to be indelicate or crass, butdid Jesus have sex with Mary Magdalene?”

A shocking question! An offensive question!But, isn’t it likely that this is the kind of question friends and neighborswill ask Christians? They likely won’t ask, “What is the five-point plan ofsalvation?” Most of us probably could relate to the second question, but are weprepared for the first? Will we be left muttering something like “the Bibletells me so” or merely dismissing the movie as Satanic? Our responses willreveal a lot about our hearts, our minds and our recent prayers.

Was the divinity of Jesus nothing morethan a fabrication of a church council? Was Mary Magdalene really chosen tolead the church? Has a secret society conspired to keep Jesus’ bloodlineconcealed? Implicit in the fictional plot is the idea that fatal fallaciesexist in key Christian doctrines.

Perhaps the most chilling realizationis that most Christians may be woefully unprepared to handle the questions. Arewe prepared to explain who Jesus is and make the case for Christ as God’s son?Are we prepared to make the case for the inspiration and trustworthiness ofScripture? Despite the perils this Hollywoodthriller will present, don’t miss the fact that it also provides Christianswith an exceptional “teachable moment.”

But that moment will be wasted if wecan’t provide persuasive, salient answers. To do that, we suspect the majorityof us need to know far more about church history and theology. Confession time:Could it be that many of us won’t see the movie because we feel unprepared todeal with the attacks on Christ and Christian doctrines?

Our choices may boil down to this: Willwe ignore the challenges of our culture — whether from The Da Vinci Code orwhatever issue it may be? Disconnection from our culture comes with an awfulprice.

Or will we use Brown’s story toaccomplish something good in our own faith journey?

We hope Christians will decide toinvestigate the claims and become betterstudents of church history and theology so that we can confidently use theseunique opportunities to articulate the case for faith. Nothing is so powerfulas a true believer who is articulate, informed and willing to tell his or herown story.

People will be talking about The DaVinci Code for a while longer —and about our responses longer still. What will be our choice?

June 1, 2006

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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