May 19th lurks just around the corner and I have just returned from yet another Da Vinci Code seminar, this one in Burlington, N.C. a town of about 50,000. 2,000 of them turned out for the event! The anticipation, angst, excitement about this movie is palpable. My prediction is that it will eclipse all other previous movies in sales including Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, perhaps in short order. And in fact the church is trying to respond to the book and the whole Da Vinci phenomena, but its response is piecemeal and inadequate. We need to do a better and more concerted job of ramping up for the impact.
While in N.C. I was privy to a conversation between Andy Griffith and the man who once played his son on the Andy Griffith show--- Ron Howard (aka Opie!). Griffith, who is a commited Christian made clear to Opie over dinner he was not best pleased about this movie but that he was a Christian and he still loved him. There was that balance of mercy and critique we should all strive for.
How then can we best get ready for the blitzkrieg that is coming? My suggestion is that the church has a teaching moment and it needs to do its homework on the Da Vinci Code issues and be prepared to give a reason for the hope within them. This is why I have written the Gospel Code ,and of course more than a dozen others have written critique books-- the best of which is Darrell Bock's in terms of dealing with the actual Gnostic materials.
My wisdom about preparation for the impact of all this is as follows:
1) if you are a mature Christian well grounded in your faith and you haven't read the novel and don't really know the issues, then read it.
2) Read as well one or two of the critique books on the novel;
3) Have Sunday school lessons on the issues in the novel--- ranging from, when did the church first believe Jesus was the divine Son of God, to when was the canon formed, to what should we think of Gnosticism, to was Jesus married, and does it matter in terms of Christian doctrine?
4) Have special seminars on these subjects
5) provide congregations with hand outs or guides to read the novel by.
6) Preachers should offer topical messages of relevance on the subject.
7) Get ready for next year-- the sequel novel will be out sometime in 2007.
Lest you think this is much ado about nothing, I would remind you of a few facts:
1) This novel sold 43 million in hardcopy--- a record.
2) the paperback which came out in March has already sold 6 million.
3) in 2004 this novel outsold the Bible in America.
We are at a crossroads in our culture when it comes to the issue of the waning influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition on this culture. Our culture has a taste now for new answers to old questions. We must be read to give a reason for the hope that is within us in a winsome fashion and explain why these new answers and revisionist history about Jesus and the early church can't hold a candle to the old answers about 'the old, old story'.