Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Getting Ready for The Da Vinci Code

A couple of summers ago I read The Da Vinci Code at the request of my family primarily. I read the book while on vacation in Hawaii and I was captivated by the story. As I read the book, I did encounter some things that I found far fetched and other things that I blatantly disagreed with. However, I read the book for the enjoyment of the story rather than its historical content. After all, I was under the impression that it was fiction.

After reading the book and had several people ask me questions about some of the content in the book. Most of the people were disturbed, but others were captivated by the new ideas. I realized that although the novel was fiction, its readers were quickly turning it into reality. I had some knowledge of the events the book was claiming, but I decided to read a couple of books on the subject matter, namely The Gospel Code by Ben Witherington and Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell Brock. I found both books insightful and they reaffirmed my convictions as I read through the book.

In reading these books, I did find something troubling. Both Witherington and Brock quoted Dan Brown as saying that “if he had been asked to write a piece of nonfiction on these things, he would change nothing about what he claimed in the novel.” The reason I find this troubling is that while I find the book interesting and intriguing as fiction, I find it equally troubling as nonfiction. Over the next several blogs I want to talk about three claims that the DaVinci Code makes about the Christian faith. I will be drawing material out of both The Gospel Code and Breaking the Da Vinci Code. I would recommend that anyone who is interested in this topic to read both these books.

Before addressing the issues brought up by Dan Brown (and others before him) I want to echo something in Brian McLaren’s new book The Secrete Message of Jesus

But many people seem to share my hunch that neither a formulaic religious approach nor a materialistic secular approach has it all nailed down. Think of all the people who in recent years have read (or seen) The Da Vinci Code – not just as a popular page turner but as an experience in shared frustration with the status quo, male dominated, cover-up-prone Christian religion. Why is the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown’s book more interesting, more attractive, and more intriguing to these people than the standard version of Jesus they hear about from churches? Why would they be disappointed to find that Brown’s version of Jesus has been largely discredited as fanciful and inaccurate, leaving only the church’s conventional version? Is it possible that even though Brown’s fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church’s conventional versions of Jesus may not do him justice?

I think McLaren is saying something that the church needs to wake up to. I know in recent years I have become disillusioned by popular Christianity. I think the world wants the real Jesus to stand up. I pray that we as a church learn a valuable lesson from the Da Vinci Code. The church has the greatest gift and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the most radical thing that we can read. The church must relearn how to engage a hurting world with the truth of the gospel in a way that is not shallow or abusive. We need to understand why Jesus and the Bible truly do matter.

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