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Thursday, April 13, 2006

The DaVinci Code: A Pastor’s Perspective

The DaVinci Code: A Pastor’s Perspective

By Pastors Dan Ledford and Matt Mitchell

Everybody loves a conspiracy; or at least talking about one. The upcoming movie release of Dan Brown’s best-seller The DaVinci Code will raise conspiracy talk to a fever pitch. Many have already given a detailed breakdown of the errors and misleading “facts” presented by Brown – and will continue to do so (see the SGM recommended resources in this issue).

We seek to give a pastor’s perspective – we want to fulfill our call “to equip the saints” (Ephesians 4:12) with an appropriate response when someone asks, “What do you think about The DaVinci Code?”

We offer you this perspective now and will provide a follow-up perspective after the movie’s release.

Let us first suggest that we should be careful not to give the two true but less-helpful responses – the most common of which is an angry: “It’s heresy!” While this is true (It really is heresy!), the problem is that whenever you are responding to controversy/conspiracy, the more flustered you are, the more convinced the skeptic is of the conspiracy. You may find that the exclamation, “It’s heresy!” is followed by the skeptic saying, “I thought you would say that.”

The other less-helpful response would be answering the question with a long, involved speech that breaks down the details of each point of the faulty logic and ludicrous historical claims of The DaVinci Code. Unfortunately, the post-modern mind operates on sound bytes and is likely to stop listening after the first sentence of our response. Our first sentence, therefore, must cause the questioner to seek a second sentence, and then a third…

We need to avoid these true but less-helpful responses. We’d rather people not walk away from us rolling their eyes and muttering, “I figured you would say that.” or “Sheesh – I didn’t ask for a lecture.”

So how should Bible-believing, Christ-centered, Church-loving pastors and parishioners respond to the proposals of Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code?

The best initial response may be along the lines of, “The book’s suggestions are so ridiculous that they would be laughable if so many people weren't being taken in by them.” Or maybe, “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail is closer to the truth!” Or simply, “The DaVinci Code is good fiction; but it is just that – fiction. The problem is that the fiction is portrayed as fact.”

The facts are that Jesus was never married to Mary Magdalene (or anyone else for that matter) and the canonical books of the Bible were accepted by Christians long before the Council of Nicea – anyone who says otherwise has never accurately studied history. For example, the historian Eusebius – pulling from eyewitness accounts – reports that Christians had almost universal agreement on the canon, distinct from the heretical writings (cf. Eusebius’ The History of the Church. III, 25). Eusebius published this work in 324 A.D. before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Dan Brown’s flawed understanding of Christianity is typical of the post-modern, humanistic, pluralistic culture in which we live. On his website, Dan Brown answers the question, “Are you a Christian?” with a “Yes,” but goes on to say, “By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.”

G.K. Chesterton once said that the purpose of an open mind, like that of an open mouth, was to close it on something solid. Dan Brown doesn’t think that there is any truth meaty enough to clamp onto.

This kind of rampant subjectivism produces faulty interpretation and logic. For example, many skeptics who suggest that Jesus never rose from the dead but that his body was stolen are also willing to believe that Jesus was married and raised a family. Did he do this from the grave?

It might also be worth pointing out that the grail itself is not that important. The Bible doesn’t draw attention to it. Focus on the grail is indicative of sinful idolatry. Christians do not worship a cup. We worship the Triune God who became incarnate in Jesus the Christ.

Finally, we must not get overly alarmed at the attack on Christianity. Getting attacked is what we are famous for! Jesus Himself was mocked and ridiculed, but that didn’t stop Him, nor will it stop His Kingdom. God is not in danger from The DaVinci Code and neither is his Hades-beating church (cf. Matthew 16:11). Don't worry that the sky is falling.

While we do not need to take The DaVinci Code seriously, we ought to take people’s acceptance of it seriously. We ought to be concerned for those who doubt the truth about Christ. The Bible repeatedly warns us of false teachers because of the way they corrupt souls (Matthew 7:15; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1 1 John 4:1). A recent, unscientific CNN.com poll reported that 66% of respondents “think the theme of The DaVinci Code that the church hid a secret marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is highly credible or possible” and only 34% responded that it is “highly unlikely.” People are actually believing these lies. We need to care for the truth and care for people’s eternal souls.

Let’s embrace this book and movie as an opportunity to lift up and study the primary source of truth – God’s Word contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Let’s embrace this media-induced moment as an opportunity to pray for the Gospel to be heard and received. Let’s also embrace the advent of The Da Vinci Code as an opportunity to examine our own hearts for the unbiblical “lies” we are tempted to believe ourselves.

Let’s not be like everybody else. Let’s not love a conspiracy.

[My co-author, Dan Ledford, is the pastor of the Curwensville Presbyterian Church (PC-USA). This article was "reprinted" with permission from the March-April 2006 issue of SGM Magazine. To subscribe, inquire by email at sgmmagazine@atlanticbbn.net. Yearly subscriptions cost $6.00.]

2 comments:

..many skeptics who suggest that Jesus never rose from the dead but that his body was stolen are also willing to believe that Jesus was married and raised a family. Did he do this from the grave?

My assumption is that people who believe this statement do not believe Jesus died as a young man but lived, got married had children and then died as an old man. Much like in The Last Temptation of Christ.

I am thankful for blogs like yours. I totally agree that we need to embrace it as a witnessing tool. I find the arguments presented in the book as so easy for us who know the truth to debate against.

And as you say the most harmful part of the book is the author is presenting it as fact.

Keep the faith my Brother. You are not alone

It is true that intellectual skeptics do not believe that Jesus died as a young man. I had in mind those "unthinking" skeptics who are especially susceptible to conspiracy theories.

My pastoral heart is especially keen on the kind of skeptic who jumps on every bandwagon they find without realizing that they are usually on two (or more) contradicting bandwagons at the same time. Very postmodern.

Thanks for the comment - which allowed for some additional clarification.