I Went to the Movies Today by Pastor John Samson
"Everything in The Da Vinci Code is wrong, except Paris is in France; London is in England and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures. All else is fabrication." - Sandra Miesel, coauthor of The Da Vinci Hoax.
"Don't they have editors at Doubleday in New York; don't they have fact checkers? Put it this way: there is not one ranking scholar in the entire world who supports what Dan Brown has done with history." - Dr. Paul Maier, coauthor of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?
"Perhaps not since the third century â€” when Arius used prose and verse to spread his antichrist heresies â€” has popular culture been more thoroughly seduced by â€œdoctrines of demonsâ€ dressed up in the guise of literature." - Promotional Material for The Da Vinci Delusion (DVD) by Dr. D. James Kennedy
I went to the movies today and saw the Da Vinci Code. I would not recommend that everyone see it, but as a pastor, I felt it was my duty to do so. I had prepared the flock that I serve by speaking about the Dan Brown book, bringing in my friend, Dr. James White, an expert in church history and apologetics, to speak on the issue to the Church (back in January). I bought copies of the May 2006 edition of Tabletalk magazine (from Ligonier Ministries) for each family (as it is devoted to debunking the many falsehoods the book churns out). I felt I also had to see the movie for myself so that I would know exactly what was being communicated to people. I want to be armed and ready to serve my neighbor who will see it, and perhaps may ask me why I still believe the Bible when, in his eyes, Dan Brown has once and for all debunked the claims of Christianity. I also want to serve those under my care who will no doubt see the movie and become troubled by the many false and outlandish claims they hear. Again, I do not suggest that everyone should go and see the Da Vinci Code. Not at all. But I felt I just had to.
Dan Brown's book is one of the best ever selling books of all time (more than 40 million sold), next to the Bible, yet in our visual age, the impact of the movie may perhaps be even greater than the book. I've no doubt that many will simply take the movie's false claims as "Gospel" and not check out the facts. Its strange to use the word "Gospel" in this context, because it is the true Gospel of Christ which the book and the movie seeks to destroy. (Just try for a moment to imagine the complete uproar that would ensue if a movie of this nature was made about Mohammed and the Quran).
All who hate the true Gospel will find much comfort in this movie. The heart of unregenerate man hates God and His gospel with a vengeance, and this movie will cause many to at least try to still the voice of their consciences. Yet it does provide us as Christians with a marvellous opportunity to share the truth with people. In many ways, the movie can actually become a great witnessing tool.
I didn't go to the movie alone. I went with my friend Dr. James White. After the movie we had lunch and discussed the movie together...
It was interesting for me to see how a pastor (that's me), and an elder and an apologist (that's James White) viewed the movie. What was clear was that we were very much on the same page. We agreed that whereas in years gone by, we as Christian ministers could simply say "the Bible says..." and never be questioned. Now the times have changed. That is even more the case now that this movie has been released. Every preacher needs to be able to defend his faith and answer the many questions that people will ask. Therefore, more than ever before, I believe that every preacher should be a student of apologetics and be ready with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope we have in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15)
I've just noticed that James has written a short article on his blog, and so I'll finish this entry by including his insightful comments. Dr. White writes:
Back from seeing the matinee showing of The Da Vinci Code. First, the critics, as normal, don't watch the same movies I do. I am not a critic, but as far as I could tell, on the cinematic level, it was a well done film. Ian McKellen, that God-hating homosexual actor who rips up Bibles in his hotel rooms and thinks the Bible should have a "fiction" sticker in the front is stellar once again---he has that incredible ability to not be Ian McKellen playing X, but to be...Gandolf or Magneto or in this instance, Teabing. A tremendous talent for which he will have to give answer someday, to be sure. Hanks did seem a little, stiff, but that may be his understanding of what a Harvard professor would be like, I don't know.
Before discussing the surprising elements of the film, I should note that J.S. and I went to the first showing, so there were a number of...interesting folks in the theater. At one point, when Sophie lightly identifies Mary Magdalene as a "whore," and Teabing responds with disdain, I could hear a woman down front react with shock and horror at Sophie's statement. I wonder how many complete Grail followers we had in the theater today? It was hard to say.
OK, the biggest thing I was wondering about for over a year was this: how closely will the film follow the book, especially when the primary characters get to Teabing's home and the heart of the "grail story" is told? This is the section of the book that contains the vast majority of the lies and deception promulgated by Dan Brown. I was going to bring my mp3 recorder and catch both this scene and the one in the jet, but I forgot to bring it with me. But in any case, this was where I noted the greatest departure from the actual wording of Dan Brown's material. Clearly, Howard and others were not only aware of the criticisms of Brown's material, but evidently, they recognized a good portion of the criticism was perfectly valid. They could hardly take out the "Jesus was married and had a daughter" stuff. But there were statements in Brown's book that were not only missing in the film, they were completely re-worked. The entirety of the objectionable material from the discussion in the jet was removed from the corresponding section of the film.
For example, the idea that Christ was "made" deity by Constantine, so clearly a part of Brown's book, became a point of dispute in the film. That is, instead of both Teabing and Langdon working in harmony to present the grail legend to Sophie, in the film they actually end up arguing, Langdon taking a line that would voice at least a few of the refutations that have been offered of Brown's complete rewrite of history. Instead of speaking of the "deity of Christ" or referring to the church's "newly minted deity," Teabing refers to Christ's "immortality." And instead of all of Christ's followers believing He was just a man prior to Nicea, now "many" of His followers had that view, while others did not. Clearly, someone in Hollywood took the time to look into some of the more obvious errors in Brown's work and tried, without completely killing the book, to limit the damage.
So while some specific, glowing errors are absent, that is hardly enough to redeem the film. The central thesis, and its utterly a-historical nature, remains unchanged. If anything, the emphasis at the end was even stronger, with some women in tears at the end of the film, so moved by the story of "the Magdalene."
The presentation of the Roman Catholic Church, and Opus Dei in particular, was brutal. I mean, brutal. The hardest thing to watch was the self-flagellation scene with Silas at the beginning. Just horrible. There is nothing redeeming in any of the Roman Catholic characters at all. Of course, Rome did provide Brown with some of his ammunition. At one point Teabing very disdainfully throws a copy of Malleus Malleficarum to Langdon (the medieval Roman Catholic production laying out how to deal with witchcraft). It is pretty easy to find a lot of silly stuff coming from the Papacy during that period. But still. The idea that to destroy Rome is to bring freedom to the entire world is just a bit on the silly side. OK, it is way over on the silly side.
One thing is for certain: just as the book is designed to inculcate doubt about the veracity of the Bible and the entire Christian faith, the film moves that idea out of the printed page and presents it with compelling images on the screen. And given that our culture is made up primarily now of those who are visually oriented, used to "sound-bites" instead of lengthy periods of concentrated thought, and who are trained to disbelieve and think in the most muddied fashion, The Da Vinci Code will once again highlight the reality that the evangelistic task today must be apologetic from the start. We are seeking not only to proclaim the facts of the gospel anymore. No, now we must deal with the very existence of truth itself! Those who refuse to see that this is part and parcel of what it means to proclaim the good news in Western culture today are simply ignoring the reality all around them.