When the talents of Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and noted director, Ron Howard, become a team for a new motion picture you can be assured that the movie going public will take notice. The soon to be released movie “The Da Vinci Code” is the latest project for these Hollywood favorites. Many are familiar with the bestselling book by the same name which was authored by Dan Brown.
Dan Brown became well known, not only for his several fictional books, but also for his outspoken criticism of the historic Christian church. Brown believes the motif of his fiction is factual. That is why he refers to The Da Vinci Code as historical fiction. Literally millions of people around the world have read the book and soon many more will see the motion picture.
What are Christians to make of all this attention given to a perspective which actually serves to be an assault on the basic tenets of faith? Various books by Christian authors have been released seeking to answer that question. Although I am not an authority in the field of apologetics or defending the faith theologically, I would venture a response in terms of evangelism. In these days of fixation on this ancient alternative to the Christian faith presented in the book and most likely in the motion picture, I think we should pause and ask ourselves how we can use this occasion as an evangelistic opportunity.
In 1 Peter 3:15-18, the apostle offers us an evangelistic template for a faithful response to the chaos and confusion which popular culture can create for Christians. In this brief passage the apostle demonstrates the kind of spiritual maturity we need to exemplify as we seek to contend for the faith. Consider this wise counsel with me.
First, the apostle Peter reminds us of our responsibility to the Savior. In the New King James Version it reads “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Many of the contemporary versions translate “sanctify” as “set apart.” The challenge Simon Peter is setting forth is for individuals to be assured of their relationship to the Lord before they venture into the arena of defending the faith. This may appear to be a “no brainer,” but some well intentioned people try to communicate their message before they process it personally. When Jesus is truly Lord and you are following His leadership, then you are prepared to offer a testimony concerning the walk of faith.
The second challenge the apostle offers relates to others. Peter reminds us to respect the seekers. I am not particularly fond of the word “seekers,” although I think on spiritual and intellectual levels people often are on a search for the truth. Many times we see them seeking truth in all the wrong places. In our day, there is a culture of Oprah-like thinking and feeling which leads people on a wild goose chase for the truth. The Da Vinci Code falls into this category.
Yet, Peter reminds us to communicate with “meekness and fear” or as some translations read with “gentleness and respect.”
In my first pastorate I had a guest preacher who exercised a Rambo-like approach to evangelism. We visited a young man who needed to make a profession of faith. After the preacher friend made the gospel presentation, the young man rejected the appeal to pray to receive Christ. This angered my friend, and he responded with “Young man, you are going straight to Hell.” I believe people who die without Christ spend eternity in Hell, but I do not think that was the best approach to this unbeliever. I was never able to gain another audience with him. “Speaking truth in love” is the preferred way of evangelistic ministry. This opens doors for other opportunities to present the gospel.
The third scriptural challenge from the apostle is also a salient reminder. In verses 17 and 18, Simon Peter calls for us to remember our reason for service: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” The reason we serve the Lord is out of grateful obedience, not because we want to be a success. When this motivation is personified, then the unbelieving world will take notice. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and they perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Our sense of mission comes from Jesus Christ our Lord, and we would do well to remember that fact. Those who seek to undermine Him and the faith have always been on the scene. The early Gnostics, among others, were bent on destroying the message, but this has not stopped the truth from becoming known throughout the ages.
Essentially, The Da Vinci Code seeks to subvert the truth about Jesus. If He is not the Lord, then, as Josh McDowell and C. S. Lewis have said, he is a liar or a lunatic. In my own mind, Brown’s contention that Jesus and Mary Magdalene have a child and the blood line being the Holy Grail presents “Where are descendants?” With all the interest in genealogy wouldn’t there be literally thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people tracing their roots to this blood line?
Yes, The Da Vinci Code challenges the biblical and historic teaching about Jesus, but it also seeks to undermine the Bible as the truth. From the standpoint of Brown, the Bible is the fabrication of the church which excluded some very suspicious and spurious non-canonical works which are basically Gnostic in nature. To Dan Brown the church is a fraud, and it is littered with a history of secret societies seeking to conceal the truth. His in-this-regard bias has not been hidden in his writings or in the speeches he has made since becoming well known.
As you can imagine I believe the best and most truthful movie about Jesus is “The Passion of The Christ.” The Da Vinci Code is pure fiction and in my opinion not very good fiction. However, I believe we should seize this opportunity to be intentionally evangelistic. In the midst of furor over a movie we can point people to the Master. “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.”