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FIRST-PERSON: Da Vinci: Opportunity or ‘Othercott’?

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–When speaking publicly about “The Da Vinci Code,” I routinely make the point that the release of the movie presents the church with a golden opportunity for witness. In this I am joined by many others who have prepared helpful resources for dealing with the central claims of the book and movie.

Yet not everyone agrees that the church ought to use the release of the movie as a witnessing opportunity. In a recent column posted at ChristianityToday.com, Barbara Nicolosi — founder and director of Act One, an organization whose mission is to train committed Christian writers to work in the Hollywood film industry — calls on Christians to “othercott” (apologies for the verbal monstrosity!) The Da Vinci Code. Rather than boycott the movie (which according to Nicolosi would be to “throw away” one’s “vote”), she calls on Christians to go and see another movie released, “Over the Hedge,” by DreamWorks. Otherwise, we should simply ignore “The Da Vinci Code.”

Nicolosi cites four major reasons for this proposal:

(1) It makes her physically sick to hear people say bad things about the one she loves (Jesus). Why add to her pain?

(2) “The debate is all on hell’s terms,” but “[t]he climate of evangelism is not consistent with a posture of defiance and cynicism.”

(3) Dialoguing with people about “The Da Vinci Code” would be equivalent to debating with the devil, and “you don’t debate the Devil.”

(4) Most people in the churches don’t know their Bible well enough to enter into this kind of debate and so likely are to be swayed by opposing arguments.

“Othercott” or opportunity for Christian witness? What are we to make of Nicolosi’s proposal? Here’s my response:

(1) It makes me sick, too, to hear people blaspheme the name of Christ, but my advice would be, “Toughen up a little!” As Christians, we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, and that includes enduring abuse for His name. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

(2) The debate may be on hell’s territory, the world without Christ, but it need not be on hell’s terms. That’s what’s wrong with many of our churches — that the only evangelism in which they are willing to engage is done on their terms and on their premises. Jesus, on the other hand, went to where the people were and engaged them on their terms (example: the Samaritan woman in John 4), though he didn’t stop there. Taking them from where they were, he led them to the truth about Himself (he is the Savior of the world) and about themselves (they are sinners). Paul told Timothy to preach the Gospel “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). This means to share the Good News of Jesus Christ not only to those who are open but to be faithful to proclaim the Gospel whether or not people are receptive.

(3) Well, I don’t know about debating the devil, but I know that Jesus did do verbal combat with the devil at His temptation, matching (misused) Scripture with (appropriately used) Scripture. (One more thought: Did Jesus ignore the Pharisees?) Peter says that we should resist the devil, standing firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:9). Paul likewise calls on believers to put on God’s armor so that they can stand their ground against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10–17). He also says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). None of these verses sound like we ought to leave the playing field to the devil out of disgust or dismay that the name of Christ is being slandered.

(4) Are we to refrain from engagement with the enemy merely because our troops are ill-prepared? This may be reason to make sure we first prepare our troops before sending them into battle, but it can hardly be reason not to engage the enemy in the first place. In fact, many churches are equipping their members, and many resources are available.

I, for one, think the “othercott” is a really bad idea. Let’s take full advantage of the upcoming release of “The Da Vinci Code” as a witnessing opportunity and trust God to do His mighty work through us. Several friends and I plan to stand in the foyer of a movie theater. We will hand out booklets to those who go see the movie and seek to engage them in conversation, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
Andreas Köstenberger is founder of Biblical Foundations (www.biblicalfoundations.org) and professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. His booklet, “The Da Vinci Code: Is Christianity True?” can be ordered by calling Southeastern’s LifeWay store at 919-556-3481.

    About the Author

  • Andreas Köstenberger