LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–“Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown may have fictional characters Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveu, and Sir Leigh Teabing unraveling a fictional 2,000-year-old conspiracy theory –- involving Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church -– that claims to threaten the foundations of the Christian faith.
But Christian apologist Josh McDowell has recently released his own book, which depicts a trio of honest seekers named Chris, Matt, and Andrea who follow the Code trail to inspect the evidence for themselves in “The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers.”
In conversational style, McDowell wrote the 128-page paperback book to answer the claims waged against the historic Christian faith in Brown’s best-selling novel. McDowell had heard of its effects on believers and seekers alike.
“One pastor said, ‘Josh, I lost two of my friends to The Da Vinci Code. A father told me, ‘I lost my son to The Da Vinci Code,” McDowell said during a recent phone interview. “A mother e-mailed me and said, ‘My 17-year-old son Stephen was brought up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, was in a marvelous youth group, and a year ago he read The Da Vinci Code and walked away from the faith.'”
Brown’s book, McDowell said, reinforces people’s skepticism because it is presented as being based on historical facts, documents and artifacts. A movie based on Brown’s novel will be released in theaters May 19.
“Even though the book itself is fiction, Dan Brown claims it is historical,” he said. “On NBC and ABC, he flatly came out and said everything in it is historical. USA Today came out and said it’s a factual story. Almost everyone is claiming it is factual.”
But McDowell said a simple review of church history –- a subject many people do not know much about -– quickly separates fact from fiction.
“Why would they need to be informed in church history?” he asked. “Most of the attacks in the past have come against the Scriptures themselves. But these are against church history.”
Local churches and pastors, McDowell said, have a responsibility to teach their congregations the truth of church history in order to counter the errors espoused as facts in the Code.
Through his Quest book, McDowell offers much help in that area, providing extensive bibliographic references at the end of each chapter to document the journey college students Chris, Matt and Andrea take through church history to uncover the truth.
It also gives readers an opportunity to eavesdrop on the trio’s discussions, which, according to McDowell, are based on real-life conversations. In the process, readers observe examples of conversational apologetics at work.
In “The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers,” McDowell sends the three friends on a hunt for truth from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory, researching and discussing everything from the Priory of Sion, Opus Dei, and the Knights Templar to the Gnostic gospels, the canonization of Scripture, whether or not Jesus was married, and evidence for the resurrection.
Faced with the reality of the truth they have uncovered and the claims of Jesus, the three must choose whether Jesus was a liar, lunatic, or Lord -– a concept based on C.S. Lewis’s argument in “Mere Christianity.”
McDowell said he wrote the book to be “short, easily readable, and affordable.”
McDowell believes the theatrical version of “The Da Vinci Code” could provide a bigger opportunity for witnessing than Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” did in 2004.
“I truly believe it [The Da Vinci Code] has given us one of the most wonderful opportunities and greatest platforms to present in a positive way the claims of Christ and the truth of the Christian faith,” McDowell said. “But we need to be positive, we need to be winsome and we need to be wholesome.
“We have a chance to take a public, contemporary and controversial issue and use them to build the faith of our children, men, and women, if we do it in a positive way. It’s easy to do it.”
That means, he said, simply dealing with the conspiracies and sharing truth.
Although McDowell does not advise anyone to read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code book,” he does warn that others will be reading it and asking questions. “The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers” provides the storyline for the novel.
In addition to the Quest book, McDowell’s ministry and Campus Crusade for Christ are offering a 20-page, full-color mini-magazine, which is designed to be a discussion starter for a small group or one-on-one interactions; a free, 30-page downloadable Da Vinci Quest study guide; and a Web site of resources and links.
“The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers” is available online at www.Josh.org and www.DaVinciQuest.org. This article originally appeared in Rick Warren’s Ministry ToolBox, online at www.pastors.com/rwmt. Copyright 2006. Used by permission. All rights reserved.