I mentioned a few weeks ago that I spent two weekends in Cleveland, OH. I was the guest speaker at 707 -- a place where I would gladly speak as often as they'll have me. They've posted my second message online. You can listen here: ...Unless There's a Resurrection (audio)
Filtering by Category: The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code
I saw the movie Saturday evening. The theatre was about 80% capacity. I was surprised how many people brought their kids with them. There's stuff in the movie I wouldn't want my children to see. I didn't think it was very good. It was really long, and it felt like it ended three times. It just kept going and going and going. Ron Howard softened it a lot, and that made the story weaker, I think.
The movie wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very good, either.
Still, I spoke with some folks this weekend who went out and protested. They made signs about how The Da Vinci Code crucified Christ all over again. They handed out tracts to anyone who came close and shouted at people who stayed far away. I don't think they deterred anyone from seeing the movie -- it did more than $77 million over the weekend.
And it's still got me scratching my head over what a Christian response to this ought to look like. Most of the people who have talked to me about this have suggested what amounts to "religious" responses. But few of those people have suggested anything distinctively Christian.
A Christian is someone who has made a commitment to following Jesus, to imitating him in his thoughts and values and actions. So, when we ask what a Christian response to The Da Vinci Code should look like, we're really asking WWJDWDVC: What Would Jesus Do With The Da Vinci Code?
Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time imagining Jesus picketing or being so casual with the language of crucifixion. I have a hard time imagining him handing out tracts or shouting at people from a distance. Those tactics seem too meanspirited and impersonal for what I know of Jesus' character and personality.
So, what do you think? WWJDWDVC?
Boycott? "Other-cott"? Ignore it? Embrace it? Lots of folks are suggesting different responses to the release of Sony Pictures' The Da Vinci Code. Some will picket and protest; others will say we ought to thank Dan Brown. Millions will wait in line and pay their money today to see what all the hype is about. Millions will wait for the movie to come out on dvd. I wonder how many people stayed up until the wee hours of this morning trying to finish reading it before they go see it tonight!
There are plenty of Christians who think we're making more out of this than necessary. I've gotten email from folks saying, "It's just fiction!" That's naive and potentially dangerous -- especially in light of some of the research coming out. According to George Barna, 53% of American readers of the novel say the book has been helpful in their "personal spiritual growth and understanding". More than 2,000,000 Americans say the book has changed their belief system some. More than half of the readers in Great Britain say they are now more likely to believe Jesus was married and had a child than they were before they read the book.
So, whether it should or not, whether you believe it could or not, The Da Vinci Code is more than fiction. I agree with Time Magazine editors who say it's "moral influence".
As the Christian community and Christian individuals think through how we ought to respond, I want to challenge us to think clearly by asking a question:
What makes a response uniquely Christian?
If we boycott, "other-cott", ignore it or embrace it -- how are any of those distinctively Christian responses?
Just out of curiosity, how many of you are planning on seeing The Da Vinci Code this weekend? Why or why not?
Also, how many of you attend churches where there is some sort of response and/or equipping going on?
Someone recently asked me to expand on the idea that Christians should explore and research the claims made by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code so they could develop a "real faith". Here's what I mean by that. Faith requires a leap, but it's not a leap in the dark. God has left plenty of good, hard evidence for believing in things like his existence, the reliability of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. However, when many Christians are asked to explain why they believe what they believe, the response amounts to little more than "God said it; I believe it; that settles it."
In our world, that doesn't cut it.
When people ask, "How do you know God said it?" or "How do you know God didn't say something else?" the response is mostly blank stares and awkward silence.
Let me be clear: that is not faith; that is wishful thinking or blind naivete.
Real faith is believing in what you cannot see because of what you can see. Until I am willing to investigate the claims of Christianity I do not have a real faith of my own, and I am not being faithful to what God has called me to do:
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
Someone recently wrote me this: "The introduction to your book is quite powerful. You call Christian authors, artists, scientists, inventors and educators to rise up and create a powerful force of Christian influence. Why do you believe the Christian community's influence is so diluted?"
I think the influence of the Christian community is so diluted because most Christians tend to extremes, and there are two extremes to which Christians run when it comes to cultural engagement: (1) Total withdrawal; (2) Total immersion.
Some Christians have seen how damaged and broken society has become, and they retreat. They move to monastaries or Christian communes. There's even a group of folks encouraging Christians to move to South Carolina. There's another plan to build a Christian city in the state of Florida. The idea is based on a gross misinterpretation of Revelation 18:4.
When we withdraw from the world like that, we lose any influence we may have. We think we're doing it because we love God. But God calls us to go into the world -- to "snatch some people out of the fire" is how Jude's letter puts it. Well, it's awful hard to snatch people out of the fire if you're plan is to avoid burning buildings altogether. How will people know about God and his love for them if we don't get in there and rub shoulders with them, showing them the love of God in action? It's a good thing God didn't treat us the way we sometimes treat our neighbors.
But there's an opposite end of the spectrum that says, "Let's get in there and act just like everybody else. If I have to get drunk at a party to share the gospel with someone, I'm willing to do that."
The first extreme is salt that refuses to get out of the shaker. The second extreme is salt that loses its distinctive flavor. Neither one is any use.
Jesus calls us to go into the world -- not to be shaped by the world -- but to be salt and light in an otherwise dark and flavorless place.
I've got this event coming up called The Da Vinci Code Project. Two organizations (Priority Associates and Vertical Reality) are partnering on this and have asked me to be their guest speaker for the night. On Wednesday, May 24, they're renting out a theatre for a private showing of The Da Vinci Code. I'll speak during the movie for those who just want to hear but don't want to see. Then, I'll speak after the movie for those who want to process what they've just seen a little. Tickets are ridiculously reasonable ($8 for just the talk; $15 for the movie plus talk), and you can get them here:
Tickets are selling pretty quickly, so you should act quickly to secure your tickets.
In a comment yesterday, Billc said: "I loved the book. I was not drawn to it because of anything spiritual. I just love a good mystery and it certainly was that. I have read each of Dan Brownâ€™s books and have liked them all. It is weird to me that so many people have taken it as a â€˜new truthâ€™."
This brings us to our second question: Isn't it just fiction?
That's probably the one I've heard the most. Why are Christians getting so worked up about this? It's just fiction!
I'll say this, The Da Vinci Code is fiction, but it's not just fiction. It's fiction with a point. It's fiction with a perspective. It is a story after all, and stories have power.
For example, little kids know you don't cry and scream for help unless there's a real emergency because people might not believe you when something really bad happens if you've sounded a false alarm before. How do small children learn such a big lesson? Because of a story about a boy who cried "wolf!".
Stories shape us -- the tortoise and the hare, the grasshopper and the ant, the wise man and the foolish man (now try to get that song out of your head!) -- these are more than just stories. These stories capture our imagination and shape our sense of identity, our morals and values.
Here's what's especially dangerous: the more compelling a story is, the more susceptible we are to the truth claims embedded within that story. Can you think of an example of a gripping story that conveyed a moral truth you would ordinarily have disagreed with but found yourself questioning as a result of the story?
So, I did a radio interview last night with my good friend John Young. He's very good at what he does -- anticipates well -- picks up on things quickly. It felt more like a conversation than an interview -- except he kept saying such nice things about me it made my teeth hurt! The folks at Jakasa Promotions (specifically Jacqueline Cromartie) have done a really good job of getting the word out about The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code -- sending out press releases with excerpts from the book and suggested questions for interviewers to ask. It's a good thing I got the list of questions before my interview last night so I could prepare. Some of the questions are a little difficult to answer right off the top of your head!
I've had several ministers and pastors ask me for ideas on how to prepare their church for the release of the movie. So, I figured I could go through and answer some of the pressing questions here on my blog for you. I'll also refer to books and other materials you might find helpful in preparing the folks in your church for the kinds of questions that might surface as a result of the movie.
Question 1: With the release of the movie, The Da Vinci Code, your book has a timely message. What would you say is the most important message of The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code: The Truth Behind the Writings of Dan Brown?
Answer: People write what they write, do what they do and say what they say because they believe what they believe. We could poke holes in what Dan Brown has written all day long; lots of folks have done that and done that very well. Most of the debunking books out there focus on what Dan Brown gets wrong. Very few people seem to be asking why Dan Brown gets it wrong. In other words, it may be more beneficial for us to ask what Dan Brown believes that prompts him to write what he writes. And what does out society believe that prompts us to read something like The Da Vinci Code and be so willing to jettison 2,000 years of history and tradition on the basis of one man's book?
Those are the primary questions we try to answer in The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code: The Truth Behind the Writings of Dan Brown.
Now, I have a question for you: Why do you think so many people are drawn to the spirituality of books like The Da Vinci Code?
I'm not always good at asking people for help. I prefer to do things myself -- even if it means I mess things up in the process. But I'm learning humility lately, and I'm learning to ask for help when I think it's appropriate. So...here goes. I am thrilled at the success of the book that's been recently released. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE DA VINCI CODE has sold several thousand copies, and I'm absolutely thrilled about that.
But I think more people could benefit from the message we deliver in this book.
So, here's what I'm asking: If you've read the book and think it's worthwhile, would you consider going by Amazon.com and Christianbook.com and writing a customer review? I sure would appreciate it.
Today I have two important things happening. First, the Grow Up Conference is starting at North Point Community Church. About 2,500 people who work with children's ministry, youth ministry and family ministry will be arriving from all over the world. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of people I haven't seen in a while. I'll spend some time at The reThink Group's booth, and I'll teach a class Thursday. I'm also teaching a class tonight at the North Atlanta Church of Christ about THE DA VINCI CODE. Many of you have sent me email asking me questions about the book and questions about the Christian faith that the book inspired. I'll do my best to answer several of those questions and prepare folks for the conversations that are sure to arise in the coming weeks.
I'll head out of town on Friday for Panama City, FL. I'll spend some time there with the Palo Alto Church of Christ. I'm taking the family with me, so it'll be a busy weekend.
I say all this to say: I could use your prayers. These are busy times with the release of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE DA VINCI CODE and the launch of Faith 2.0. While I'm not the type to suspect a demon behind every bush, I do know that we live in a fallen world where there is an enemy on the loose who is determined to pry people away from God. I feel especially susceptible these days to confusion, frustration and fear.
It's easy to forget to do something simple...like pray.
I have been asked by an organization here in Atlanta to participate in a really great event. They are going to rent out a theatre for a private showing of THE DA VINCI CODE on Wednesday, May 24, and I am going to speak immediately afterwards for about 40 minutes. Those of you in the Atlanta area who are interested can register here: http://www.priorityassociates.org/Atlanta/web/L2.asp?SID=1&CID=117
Space is limited to (I think) the first 250 folks, so you might want to register soon.
Are you ready? The Da Vinci Code movie opens in three weeks, and some churches are trying to get folks ready for the watercooler conversations that are sure to happen on Monday, May 22.
I'm interested. Is your church doing anything? Sermon series? Small groups? Classes? Resource center?
Let me know.
Two things today, and I'll probably post something more about Israel's shepherds in the time of Jesus later. First, Chuck Colson's Breaktpoint Commentary featured our book today. You can read it here:
I actually saw the book in a bookstore this afternoon. It's pretty exciting to see it like that!
Second, the website is almost all the way up now. Go check it out, and let me know what you think:
The people who published my book THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE DA VINCI CODE wrote a nice article about it here: "New B&H Book Sets Record Straight on Worldview Behind The DaVinci Code"
And thanks to all the folks who ordered pre-release copies, they have had to print more. But that's what they do, right?
Also, here's my first embarrassing story about being an author. I've had several people ask me to autograph copies of the book for them. And, like most Christian authors, I figured I was supposed to sign my name and write some Bible verse under my name. Very classy.
The problem is there are two books in the Bible I always confuse: 1 & 2 Peter. I honestly cannot tell one from the other -- it's a mental block or something. So, the verse I wanted to write under my name is the verse where Peter says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). I figured that would be a good fit for this particular book.
Unfortunately, what I actually wrote under my name was not 1 Peter 3:15 but 2 Peter 3:15.
I imagine there were several confused people who went home and looked up the following: "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him."
The UPS man brought me an advance copy of The Gospel According to the Da Vinci Code today. That means it's ready to ship for those of you who have ordered copies online. I understand that they're being shipped to bookstores this week, so look for them to hit the shelves soon.
Also, Lifeway has published an excerpt from the Introduction on their website so you can get a better understanding of what we're trying to accomplish with the book.
I'm taking speaking invitations now but am booking up pretty quickly. If you're interested, contact me through this website for now. Soon we'll be moving everything over to the Faith 2.0 website (probably the blog too).
I'm pretty overwhelmed at the response I've received so far. It's pretty amazing, and it's confirmation that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing for now.
A lot of hype and money was generated over the idea that Christians would be able to engage their pre-Christian friends and neighbors in spiritual ways with movies like THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST or NARNIA. But what if the greatest opportunity to have meaningful conversations will be after May 19, when Ron Howard's movie version of THE DA VINCI CODE hits the big screen? It's certainly going to generate a fair amount of dialogue at the water cooler. But are the people in your church prepared to have those conversations? Do they know how to respond when someone begins to push at the foundations of their faith in a way that honors both God and the person asking the questions?
I am terrible at self-promotion, but I have added a link on the side of the page to my book THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE DA VINCI CODE. Though it's not scheduled for release until May 1, you can pre-order it now from Amazon.com or from Lifeway.com or Christianbook.com. (It's a surreal experience for me to open up the Broadman & Holman catalogue that just arrived and see my picture -- page 6 if you get it). I've also added a link to the article I wrote in the fall of 2003 that kind of started my interest in Dan Brown's worldview in the first place.
I'm going to be doing a series of seminars promoting the book this spring. The plan would be for me to come into a city, do a booksigning, do a radio interview and lead a one-day seminar equipping people to respond to the challenges presented in the upcoming movie with equal parts truth and grace. If you're interested in hosting one, leave me a comment or send me an email, and we'll see if we can work something out.
Just returned home from Phoenix where I had a great time with the folks at the Gateway Church of Christ. They're super-excited about creating an environment where kids and parents can come together to learn the same thing. They're making bold strides toward ending the dysfunctional cycle of parent-church-child relationships that currently exists in most churches. They're implementing changes and starting to really think strategically about things. I can't wait to see how things develop for them in the next few months. By the way, if you're ever in Phoenix, go eat at Pizza Bianco. They don't have a website as far as I know. And the wait is ridiculous, but it might be the best pizza in America. I'm not kidding.
For those of you who have asked, my knee is still swollen, and I still don't have full range of motion. But it doesn't hurt anymore. That's probably good and bad at the same time. I'm sure a doctor will tell me all about it -- when I finally get around to visiting one.
I went with my friend and co-worker Jeff Sandstrom, and we laughed ourselves silly. I love having a good travelling partner.
I'm tired and will get back to talking about stress and other things. For now, I do have a question for you. It's a question that was actually sent to me in an email, so here's the body of that email. I eagerly await your ideas:
"Can you ask [this] question on your blog? Is it possible that Rick Warren's book and Mel Gibson's movie were going to trigger a national revival? Rick Warren said he thought it would when he started holding his 'MegaConferences.' Did Dan Brown's book [The Da Vinci Code] have anything to do with thwarting their efforts?"
Well, what do you think?
Dan Brown is right about one thing: there was a culture war going on in the early church between those who accented Jesus' divinity and those who stressed his humanity. There were extremists on both sides; Dan Brown merely sides with the extremists who stressed Jesus' humanity to the exclusion of his deity. And, while that same culture war may still be going on in 2005, perhaps it's not entirely fair to blame it all on Constantine. In the Nicene Creed, Jesus is understood as both fully human and fully divine. Some have trouble with that paradox. Others take the paradox itself as evidence of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Forty years after the Council of Nicaea, in 367, the highly influential bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, delivered an Easter sermon in which he endorsed the writings that make up the New Testament as we know it today. To eliminate potential confusion, Athanasius wanted other books with other teachings destroyed.
"But someone," writes Elaine Pagels, speculating specifically about the monks of a monastery in Upper Egypt, "gathered dozens of the books that Athanasius wanted to burn, removed them from the monastery library, sealed them in a heavy, six-foot jar and, intending to hide them, buried them in a nearby hillside near Nag Hammadi," where they were unearthed in 1945, providing fodder for conspiracy theorists in general and Dan Brown's novel in particular.
In a real sense, however, Brown's novel only underscores the wisdom of Irenaeus. Pagels defines a Gnostic as "one who knows." She suggests Irenaeus and other early church leaders "used the term derisively to refer to those they dismissed as people claiming to 'know it all.'" At the core of Dan Brown's novel is the conviction that folks like Leonardo Da Vinci, Robert Langdon and Elaine Pagels know things about God that lesser people cannot know, matters kept secret from common Christians like us who are not "in the gnosis."