On May 19, Columbia Pictures will release The Da Vinci Code — a movie based on the controversial novel by Dan Brown that challenges some of the most basic truths of the Christian faith.
In response to the movie, pastors will undoubtedly receive questions about the life of Jesus, the reliability of the four Gospels, and whether Jesus is truly God. To field these questions, pastors will need to know the plot of the movie and to what resources they can turn for reliable information on the issues raised in The Da Vinci Code.
Brown's novel, on which the movie is based, opens with the curator of the Louvre found murdered. Paris police call Harvard professor Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu to interpret a strange symbol left on the victim's body. As they investigate, Langdon and Neveu realize that the crime is linked to the legendary search for the Holy Grail.
When Neveu warns Langdon that he is the prime suspect in the murder investigation, the pair flees from police as they simultaneously attempt to crack the case.
Langdon and Neveu meet Holy Grail fanatic Sir Leigh Teabing, who tells them about an understanding of Jesus different from the New Testament's account. He says that the Holy Grail is actually the remains of Jesus' wife who bore His child.
Despite what everyone has been taught, Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a daughter, Teabing says. After Jesus' crucifixion, Mary and her daughter went to France where they established the Merovingian line of French royalty. This dynasty, according to The Da Vinci Code, continues today in a mysterious organization known as the Priory of Sion. Members of the Priory of Sion supposedly include Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo.
Teabing and Langdon tell Neveu that the records of the true story of Jesus are guarded and shrouded in mystery. The real story about Mary and Jesus, they say, has been preserved in hidden codes and symbols in order to avoid the wrath of the Catholic Church.
Leonardo da Vinci knew the real story about Jesus, we are told, and used his painting The Last Supper to give hidden clues.
As the main characters continue their investigation, they learn that a powerful Catholic organization called Opus Dei is prepared to use any means necessary to keep the true story of Jesus from coming out. If the secrets are revealed, we are told, Christianity, as we know it, will be exposed as a fraud built on centuries of lies.
The danger of The Da Vinci Code is that the book's author says all his claims about Jesus are true.
In a November 3, 2003 interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Brown said, "I began as a skeptic. As I started researching The Da Vinci Code, I really thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and Holy Blood and all of that. I became a believer."
Author Erwin Lutzer rightly points out, "This book is a direct attack against Jesus Christ, the church, and those of us who are His followers and call Him Savior and Lord."
The Da Vinci Deception
by Erwin W. Lutzer
The Da Vinci Deception is a brief, lay-level treatment of the central questions raised by The Da Vinci Code. Lutzer, who pastors The Moody Church in Chicago, debunks the movie's false claims by answering questions such as: Did the Roman emperor Constantine invent the deity of Christ? Did the Council of Nicea in 325 determine which books should be in the New Testament? Who determined which books would make up the New Testament? Was Mary Magdalene married to Jesus? Was Opus Dei charged with destroying the Priory of Sion to suppress secrets about the real Jesus?
This is a helpful resource for pastors who are unfamiliar with the movie or the book and need a detailed plot summary. The book is divided into small chapters that present the issues in easy-to-understand ways. Published by Tyndale House Publishers for $14.99. Also available is a multimedia pack for $24.99. The pack includes one copy of The Da Vinci Deception book, a DVD-ROM with seven sessions led by Dr. Lutzer, and Leader's Guide with reproducible handouts. Great for small group study, Sunday School, or whole church events.
Breaking the Da Vinci Code
by Darrell L. Bock
Breaking the Da Vinci Code examines the New Testament along with other ancient documents to investigate the key questions of The Da Vinci Code. Bock, who is a New Testament Scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary, shows that Jesus was not married to Mary Magdalene and that the New Testament gives a reliable account of Jesus' life. Bock also shows how Brown's ideas derive from liberal biblical scholarship that seeks to undermine Christianity and impose a feminist agenda on Jesus.
More technical than some other resources, Breaking the Da Vinci Code analyzes numerous documents from the first three centuries after Christ to show that the Bible's testimony is correct. The book also helps pastors understand how the movie is related to current attacks on Christianity in the academic world. From Nelson Books for $19.99.
Exploring the Da Vinci Code
by Lee Strobel and Gary Poole
Exploring the Da Vinci Code investigates the claims made by The Da Vinci Code movie by interviewing four experts in the fields of biblical studies and history: Mark Strauss, Scot McKnight, Kathy McReynolds, and Paul Maier. Available to supplement the book is a DVD and discussion guide for small groups. From Zondervan for $4.99.
Also available from Zondervan for $19.95, Discussing the Da Vinci Code Curriculum Kit: Examining the Issues Raised by the Book and Movie by Lee Strobel and Gary Poole. Includes DVD interviews with noted experts and discussion guides for four sessions.
The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answer
by Josh McDowell
In an easy-to-read style, Josh McDowell draws on the mountains of historical evidence and skillfully separates fact from fallacy to present unassailable truths that readers can depend on to be rock solid. A free study guide is included. This electronic supplement is a three-session study guide designed for use in small group settings, Sunday school, and youth groups. Available online at www.josh.davinciquest.org. for $3.95.
Outreach Toolkit: Redeeming The Da Vinci Code
Created through a collaboration with Josh McDowell, Probe Ministries, Evantell, and Campus Crusade for Christ. The Toolkit includes:
Declaring the Truth Video Series (1): This two-session series combines proven sharing principles with specific instruction of how to move from any of the assertions of The Da Vinci Code into a confident, clear presentation of the gospel. Each video session is hosted by R. Larry Moyer and features interviews with well-known Christian leaders as well as laypeople who are learning to share their faith effectively.
• Session 1: Proven Principles for Sharing Your Faith (20 minutes)
• Session 2: Moving From The Da Vinci Code to a True Knowledge of Jesus (20 minutes)
The series includes Declaring the Truth DVD, Leaders Guide, and Reproducible Student Guide to facilitate introductory exercises and follow up discussion questions for your group.
Da Vinci Pocket Guide (50): Concise description of twenty assertions from The Da Vinci Code with side-by-side comparison to accurate historical findings. Small enough to slip into a Bible, purse, or pocket. Comprehensive enough to respond to most questions raised by the novel and movie.
Knowing the Truth Tract (50): Specifically designed to aid you in moving through a clear presentation of the gospel. Ideal to give to some one who is still asking questions but wants to know the significance of finding the answers.
Companion Guide Mini-Magazine (1): This twenty-page, full-color, mini-magazine is ideal to give to Seekers and Skeptics as a timely discussion starter.
The Outreach Toolkit is available online at www.josh.davinciquest.org for $30.00. For more information, call 866-252-5424.
The Da Vinci Code Deception
This sixty-minute DVD investigative documentary is based on Lutzer and Bock's books on The Da Vinci Code and Cracking Da Vinci's Code by James Garlow and Peter Jones. The Da Vinci Code Deception includes interviews with the book authors as well as some of the world's leading experts in the fields of archeology, theology, art history, philosophy, and science.
Also included on the DVD are downloadable resources for pastors and teachers and two hours of bonus features. The resources include lessons for middle school students, high school students, and adults; a sermon outline for pastors; and fill-in-the-blank listener guides. From Grizzly Adams Productions for $19.95.
The Da Vinci Factor for Youth
by Josh McDowell
May 19, 2006 may well be the beginning of one of the most controversial periods the Church has faced in years. On May 19, The Da Vinci Code movie will be released in theatres across the country. Even the solid Christian will find it challenging to distinguish fact from fiction. If left unequipped, this movie could turn seekers into skeptics and undermine the faith of believers. Our young people are even more at risk. I say that because currently the majority of our kids' beliefs are already critically distorted.
From Bad to Worse
It's not that the majority of our churched young people aren't interested in spiritual things and don't want a relationship with God. They do. But they hold distorted views about God, truth, the Bible, and what it actually means to be a true follower of Christ. Consider, for example, what our churched kids do and do not believe:
• Sixty-three percent don't believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God;
• Eighty-one percent believe all truth is relative to the individual and his/her circumstances;
• Fifty-one percent don't believe Jesus rose from the dead;
• Sixty-five percent don't believe Satan is a real entity.
Much of what they believe about Christ, truth, and the Bible comes from a view they have gleaned from the world around them. And when they are exposed to the distortions about Christ and the Bible from The Da Vinci Code movie, their already distorted views will go from bad to worse.
What Can We Do?
The Da Vinci Code book and movie provide a golden opportunity for every family to address some critical and foundational beliefs about Christ and his Word. Questions will be raised and we as parents have an opportunity to be equipped ourselves and equip our young people with clear and correct answers.
I've prepared a number of resources specifically designed to answer young people's questions concerning The Da Vinci Code.
My prayer is that together we can seize the immediate opportunities God has given us regarding The Da Vinci Code. And for the long-term? Let's ground our young people upon the true foundations of the faith so they can stand strong in a godless culture.
Josh McDowell, founder of Josh McDowell Ministry, is an internationally known speaker and author whose most recent book The Last Christian Generation was released in March 2006.
Visit www.davinciquest.org for downloadable tools and printed resources.