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National apologist: Prepare, leverage
‘The Da Vinci Code’ dialog to share truth

GALLATIN, Tenn. (BP)–Christians should take advantage of the opportunity paid for by Hollywood to engage the culture about the Bible, Mike Licona, a leading expert in defending Christianity, said.

Licona, director of apologetics and interfaith evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, encouraged members of College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., on April 26, not to miss being part of the ongoing national discussion about the book and what looks to be an even greater dialogue about the Da Vinci Code film.

The Da Vinci Code movie is scheduled for release in theaters across the United States on May 19. It stands to build on the popularity of Dan Brown’s fictional thriller, which has sold more than 40 million hardback copies worldwide. Brown’s plot builds around a number of Gnostic claims about Jesus, including that He married Mary Magdalene and sired children whose descendents walk among us today, and questions Christ’s divinity and the truthfulness of the Bible.

Licona said he wished the movie had not been made but nevertheless it can bring some benefits.

“What it is doing,” Licona said, “is it’s bringing religious matters to the forefront. People are open to discussing these matters now — stuff which you had to just pry out of them before.”

Licona identified five basic contentions Brown asserts about Christianity:

— the Bible we have today was compiled by the Roman emperor Constantine, accepting some books and banishing others supposedly more reliable and earlier dated.

— the Bible evolved through countless translations, editions and revisions so that what we have today barely reflects what was originally written.

— Christianity borrowed its major doctrines from pagan religions of its day (e.g. Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus rose from the dead, He was born of a virgin).

— that Jesus was not thought of as the Son of God until just prior to the Council of Nicea in the year A.D. 325, and it was voted on by the Council of Nicea, which passed this doctrine by a very narrow margin.

— that Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper and another document provides clues that Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene and they fostered children together.

Using the claim that Jesus was not thought of as the Son of God until a narrow vote at the Council of Nicea, Licona offered how some preparation to discuss Brown’s claims will provide Christians with a chance to refute false assertions while presenting the truth in a way that may lead a person to Jesus.

“I want to take you to a hymn that’s written in Philippians chapter 2, verses 6-11, written around the year [A.D.] 60,” he said.

“It says, ‘Although Jesus existed in the form of God, He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’

This ancient hymn shows what early Christians thought about the nature of Christ, Licona said:

— They acknowledged Jesus existed in the essence, nature and form of God and He exchanged that for the essence, form and role of a slave.

— Christians were using Isaiah 45 (“There is no other God but me … And to me, every knee will bow and every tongue confess), which applies to Yahweh, and applied it to Jesus, clearly saying they think He’s God.

— They call Jesus Christ, “Lord,” an Old Testament term used to signify Yahweh.

“This is strong stuff,” Licona summarized. “Jesus existed in the form of God. He’s given the title or name that is above every name — Lord. And to Him the only God, no other God but Him, every knee bow and every tongue confess. It’s clear. Jesus is God.”

Licona pointed out that the historical authenticity — accepted by New Testament scholars, even atheistic ones — of this hymn shows that Christ’s identity as God and the Son of God was established among Christians at least prior to A.D. 60, well before the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 and any purported vote.

Licona feels that the release of this film may be providential for lifting up the name of Jesus among this generation.

“‘The Passion of The Christ’ by Mel Gibson just tilled the ground and drew up some interest,” he said.

“Now what is happening with the Da Vinci Code is just going through and watering the ground and these sprouts are coming back up. People are having questions now. They want to discuss it; they might even be in a hostile manner but they are still showing interest in these things and it provides an opportunity for us to get into meaningful discussions with our non-believing colleagues and friends.”
— “The Da Vinci Code Seminar Video,” http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.749325/apps/s/content.asp?ct=932151.
— “The Da Vinci Code Essentials Video Segment,” http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.749325/apps/s/content.asp?ct=1587247.
— “Exploring the Da Vinci Code with Mike Licona” DVD, http://risenjesus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=110
— http://4truth.net
— http://risenjesus.com

    About the Author

  • Will Hall