NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“The Da Vinci Code” will be released May 19 in theaters nationwide, and apologist Lee Strobel believes churches must be ready to answer pointed questions about the Christian faith.
The movie, based on a popular Dan Brown novel that has sold more than 40 million copies, casts doubt on a number of key tenets of Christianity, including the deity of Christ and the reliability of the Bible. The movie’s claims are refuted easily, Strobel says, but Christians first must be equipped.
“This is more than a book and a movie. It’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s a cultural tsunami,” Strobel, one of the evangelical world’s leading defenders of the faith, told Baptist Press. “… If you read the book, the assertions made about Christian history are made in such a way that they certainly come off as being true. People are believing this stuff.”
Strobel and Willow Creek Community Church’s Garry Poole are the coauthors of a book, “Exploring the Da Vinci Code” (Zondervan, $4.99 suggested retail) and creators of a DVD-driven curriculum, “Discussing the Da Vinci Code” (Zondervan, $19.99) available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.LifeWayStores.com. LifeWay, in fact, is carrying more than 10 different Da Vinci Code resources by various authors. (A list follows this story.)
Strobel said he knows of one pastor who had a man tell him after reading Brown’s book, “I’ll never step foot in a church again because now I know the truth.” Strobel himself said he has met people “who have been short-circuited in their faith” because of the book.
But knowledge of the Bible is not sufficient to answer some of the questions the book raises, he said. For instance, The Da Vinci Code casts doubt on how the New Testament itself was compiled and implies that other documents were just as worthy of inclusion into the Bible. The book also argues that the deity of Christ essentially was invented in the fourth century.
“People think, ‘Well, if you know your Bible, then this book won’t affect you.’ That’s not true, because a lot of the allegations deal with church history,” Strobel said. “They deal with classic history and ancient history. Consequently, a person can know their Bible but still be confused by the allegations in the book.”
The book is a murder mystery set in modern-day Europe. While searching for the murderer, the story’s two central characters also uncover what is said to be long-held secret — mainly, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that many of the claims of Christianity are false. Tom Hanks plays the lead character. According to a story synopsis on the movie’s website, the clues from the murder “point to a covert religious organization that will stop at nothing to protect a secret that threatens to overturn 2,000 years of accepted dogma.”
“Dan Brown claims that it’s more than fiction,” Strobel said. “He told Elizabeth Vargas of ABC … that he started out as a skeptic, but after his research he became a believer in the central claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child.”
But a basic knowledge of church history shows that the book’s claims are false:
— There is no evidence — inside or outside the New Testament — that Jesus was married. In fact, the Apostle Paul writes at length about marriage and doesn’t mention Christ — which presumably would have been a good argument for being married if Jesus was married. The Da Vinci Code asserts that the person presumed to be the Apostle John in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper” actually was Mary Magdalene. But Da Vinci’s own notes and sketches identity the person as John.
— The 27 books of the New Testament were affirmed as Scripture based primarily on their ties to an apostle, as well as their impact on the church and their internal qualities. The four Gospels were written within 50 years of Christ’s resurrection and accepted by the church as divinely inspired. But the texts that The Da Vinci Code promotes in fact are not Christian documents and were rejected by early Christians as heretical.
— The Da Vinci Code asserts that Christ’s deity was not embraced by the church until A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicea. But the New Testament — all of which was written more than 200 years before Nicea — claims Jesus was God. In addition, the early church fathers, including Ignatius in 105 and Clement in 150, said Jesus was God.
— The Priory of Sion, a “European secret society” which the book claims included such notables as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci, was founded in 1956, and not 1099 as the book says. Also, the documents that serve as the basis of the story — the Les Dossiers Secrets — are known forgeries.
Confusion among Christians over The Da Vinci Code, Strobel said, points to the need of churches to “ground their own people in what they believe and why they believe it.”
“As churches do that, what pastors are finding is that people are fascinated by this stuff,” said Strobel, whose website, www.LeeStrobel.com, includes more than 30 free video clips refuting the book’s major claims. “I talked to one pastor who said, ‘I feel like I’m getting away with murder. I walk off the platform, and I’ve just taught about church history and people love it.’ … I think people are hungry for the truth and hungry to know about their history.”
Nothing in recent history — not even the 1988 movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” — has caused as much controversy as The Da Vinci Code, Strobel said.
“I can’t think of another phenomenon that’s been quite like this — that so cunningly mixes fact and fiction into a brew that has poisoned so many people,” he said.
Among the resources carried by LifeWay:
BOOKS/BOOKS ON CD
— “Breaking The Da Vinci Code,” Darrell Bock (Thomas Nelson, paperback, suggested retail $13.99; hardback; $19.99; Oasis, book on CD, $25.99).
— “Exploring The Da Vinci Code,” Lee Strobel & Garry Poole (Zondervan, paperback, $4.99).
— “The Da Vinci Deception,” Erwin Lutzer (Tyndale, hardback, $14.99; paperback, $6.99; book on CD, $19.99).
— “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code,” James Garlow & Peter Jones (Cook, paperback, $14.99; mass market paperback, $3.99; Brilliance, book on CD, $24.95).
— “The Da Vinci CodeBreaker,” James Garlow (Bethany House, paperback, $9.99).
— “The Gospel According to The Da Vinci Code,” Kenneth Boa & John Alan Turner (Broadman & Holman, paperback, $13.99).
— “The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code,” Richard Abanes (Harvest House, paperback, $7.99).
— “The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?” Hank Hanegraaff & Paul Maier (Tyndale, paperback, $5.99).
— “Discussing The Da Vinci Code” (includes DVD, book & discussion guide), Lee Strobel & Garry Poole (Zondervan, $19.99).
— “The Da Vinci Deception,” (includes DVD-ROM, book & discussion guide), Erwin Lutzer (Tyndale, $24.99).
— “The Da Vinci Code Deception,” (Grizzly Adams, $19.95).