Summary: This message was written to help Christians see how they can leverage The Da Vinci Code book and movie for evangelism.
Leveraging the Da Vinci Code
By Lee Strobel
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This message was written to help Christians see how they can leverage The Da Vinci Code book and movie for evangelism. The message was immediately preceded by the promotional trailer from the Discussing the Da Vinci Code DVD, available from www.LeeStrobel.com.
As you can see by the video, I went to Europe along with Garry Poole to personally investigate the allegations against Christianity contained in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, which is going to premiere as a movie on May 19. One of the most interesting things we encountered was two polar opposite attitudes toward the book by two different churches.
The first church is historic Westminster Abby in London, which is the scene of a climactic scene in the book. Director Ron Howard asked permission to film the movie inside the Abby, but the officials there turned him down cold.
They said the novel is filled with “factual errors” and is “theologically unsound” and therefore they weren’t going to open their doors for the film.
And a lot of Christians in America are reacting the same way – let’s protest the film, let’s ignore it and hope it goes away, let’s boycott it and maybe picket it.
Friends, I can totally understand that attitude, because my initial reaction to reading the book was anger and indignation.
After all, the novel says that everything we’ve been told about Jesus is wrong; that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had a child named Sarah; that the four Gospels in the New Testament are unreliable; and, most seriously, that Jesus was a mere human being who never claimed to be God, but who was deified in the fourth century by the Roman Emperor Constantine for his own nefarious purposes.
These are outrageous accusations that cut to the core of Christianity – and which cannot withstand scrutiny. And yet because Dan Brown cleverly blends fact with fiction, many people think these allegations are true. One out of every three Canadians who have read the book actually believes there are descendants of Jesus walking among us today.
According to pollster George Barna, over half of American readers – 53 percent – said the book has been helpful in their “personal spiritual growth and understanding.”
I saw the impact the book can have up close. A woman became a Christian and then asked me and Mark Mittelberg to share Christ with her boyfriend, who’s one of the most famous Muslims in America. We met with him a couple of times and thought we were making some progress.
But then she called Mark one day all upset. “Something terrible has happened,” she said. “He read The Da Vinci Code and said, ‘This confirms all my worst suspicions about Christianity.’” From then on, he hasn’t been receptive to the Gospel.
One Da Vinci Code reader said to a pastor friend of mine: “I will never again set foot into a church, because now I know the real story.”
So there’s good reason to be upset that people are buying the book’s premise that Christianity is a fraud. Even so, I’m not so sure that protesting the movie or hoping it will go away is the right approach for Christians to take.
The second church Garry and I visited was Lincoln Cathedral, which is a two-hour train ride north of London. After being turned away from Westminster Abby, Ron Howard went there in the hopes he could transform the interior of this ancient church into a replica of the Abby for his movie.
Cathedral officials were just as critical of Brown’s book as the Abby officials were. They called it “speculative and far-fetched” and even heretical in places. But then they said something very interesting: “The book claims that the church has suppressed important facts about Jesus. The way to counter this accusation is to be open about the facts and welcome vigorous debate.”
They decided to let Howard inside to film. Whether that was the right choice or not is debatable, but I do agree with their basic point, which is that dialogue and engagement are much more productive than protesting and picketing.
Consider what happened in Acts 17 when the Apostle Paul traveled to Athens – once the center of classical antiquity and home of such famous philosophers as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. By this point, Athens was resting on its laurels a bit, but it was still an intellectual capital, sort of like a major university town today. And it was a city dedicated to idol worship. In fact, Athens had more statues of gods and goddesses than all the other cities of the day combined.
So in walks Paul. Was he repulsed by what he saw? Absolutely! Verse 16 says he was “greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” I bet part of him didn’t want to just picket and protest – he probably wanted to smash a few statues before lunch!