Ignorance is Bucks

It's been said that sheep are so dumb they'll follow each other, single file, off a cliff. Well, that's what I expect to happen today as the DaVinci Code opens nationwide. The sound you'll hear this weekend will not only be the sound of turnstiles ticking like windmills, but dumb sheep bleating their way over the latest cliff.

It's been somewhat comforting (in a vindictive sense) to see the negative reviews pouring in. And then some.

No, I'm not gonna organize a picket or participate in any boycotts. Christianity has endured far greater persecution and controversy than some book or movie can generate. Decrees, Bible burnings, torture and martyrdom have watered our roots. As Phil Cooke put it:

But the fact is, the Christian faith has transformed Western Civilization. It defeated the Roman empire, created an atmosphere of learning and science throughout Europe, impacted our art, music, and literature. When William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the 1500's, it created an explosion of literacy that transformed the West. We often forget that Dr. Martin Luther King (a pastor) was driven by his Christian faith. So I have trouble believing a single book or movie will bring down the most important force for good for the last 2,000 years. The dogs may bark, but the train keeps on rolling.

Christians get too easily swayed and riled up about this kind of stuff. And I think I know why. This article in Wednesday's L.A. Times, entitled "Vatican Officials Grappling with Da Vinci Code," touches upon something I've been feeling for a long time

Father John Wauck, an American priest with the Opus Dei prelature, said "The Da Vinci Code" was laughable from start to finish, a comedy of errors that "defies serious reading." But the impact of the story is something else altogether. Wauck believes that the popular appeal of the book underscores the failure of the organized church to adequately educate its followers...

"The cultural phenomenon is very important and must be taken seriously," Wauck said. "It shows our ignorance over art, history, theology, scripture... and that's not Dan Brown's fault, that's our fault, the fault of the church, of priests and parents who aren't teaching the truth."

I think Father Wauck makes a great point. One of the reason films and books like the DaVinci Code create such a big ripple in the Church is because so many professing Christians are so ignorant and uninformed about their beliefs. Or as Wauck puts it "...the popular appeal of the book underscores the failure of the organized church to adequately educate its followers."

I have long felt that the average, Bible-believing Christian is ill-prepared to defend his or her beliefs in the marketplace of ideas. It's bumper sticker theology for many: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." Of course, ask them how they know God said it, and they'll probably shrug or retreat into less than convincing arguments of a more personal nature. Let's face it: The American Church is ignorant about "art, history, theology, scripture … and that's not Dan Brown's fault, that's our fault." Perhaps if we were more studious, more grounded in the basic tenets of the faith and the historical authenticity of the biblical documents, we'd be less flustered when critics roll out the next "earth-shattering news" or "debunking" of Christianity. Until then, we'd might as well join the flock in its brigade over yonder cliff.


siouxsiepoet said...

so what then in a convincing personal statement mike? how do we know God did what He did if not via personal relation?

someone i dearly love is going to a church where the sermons have been about the da vinci code. i cannot understand this. i'm sure it is every writer's dream, but what a waste of time. delusion. i've not read the book, but am mystifyed by the whole church as propaganda machine. marketing movies, leading discussion groups on books and movies. but maybe they are going with what the masses want, which is another frightening aspect to consider.

i love the pictures you put on your blog mike (i think my favorite was the little fuzzy brown guy you replaced, but the fuzzy guy made me smile).


ps my girl just stopped mid devotion and pointed out a percieved error in diction. we're breaking out strongs to figure this out. so i can explain it to her. kind of cool, eh?

Kelly Klepfer said...

If the average Christian put as much time and effort and attention into his or her relationships with others as he/she does in his/her relationship with Christ - they would likely be in a dismal marriage, with shallow friendships and with children they don't know anything about.

Entire families would sit around fastfood facilities each having individual conversations on their own cellphone or playing a hand held games while eating.

And this is called life? Hmmmm, Mike your comments are the tip of the iceburg.

Mike Duran said...

suz asked: "so what then in a convincing personal statement mike? how do we know God did what He did if not via personal relation?"

People can "validate" all kinds of weird things "via personal relation." Someone has a vision of Krishna, the angel Moroni descends and confirms that Christianity is wrong, an inner voice says "your wife is the devil." How can any of these be disputed if all personal revelations are valid?

The fact is, Christianity is built first upon solid historical evidences -- the creation event, the Jewish people, prophetic accuracy, the historical Jesus (He really lived, died and was resurrected) and the reliability of the biblical documents -- before it becomes "personalized." Personal experiences must have an objective plumbline, or else every experience is valid (including the voice that says my wife is a devil). It is these "objectives evidences" which I believe most Christians are sorely unable to defend. Great questions, suz!

Janet Rubin said...

Mike, I agree with your post. Here is another approach though. My pastor just preached two weeks on the DaVinci Code but it was an evangelistic thing. We put an add on our radio station announcing the mini-series that would explore the issues being confused in the book. Basically, Joe said, "HEy, I read the book because everywhere I went, people were reading it and I wanted to see what it was about. The book was fun, full of adventure, art, history, intrique... but it was fiction." His message was simply, "Let's answer the questions arising among people like 'who was Mary Magdalene? Was Jesus married? Is the church hiding something? Are there lost books of the Bible?' Then he answered them. The point was not so we could go to work and tell everyone how wrong they are, but so we could talk intelligently about a popular book. It's a great way to share the gospel! We don't need to be freaked out or scared by the whole thing, but see it as another opportunity.

clew said...

Hi Mike -

As I was telling a friend of mine the other day, in a vacuum I don't have a problem with the concept of the book, as a work of fiction. I love a good twisted angle story, I can't help myself.

It does bug me that many take DVC as documentary. But the truth of the matter is that people who don't want to believe in the doctrine of Christianity will latch on to anything they can that says differently or discredits the scripture and believe it as fact.

But - that's just how it is. I for one don't lose much sleep over this movie coming out. I don't think it's any more or less a threat to sensibility at large than anything else. Let's just hope for the other direction to be prusued as well - perhaps many will become curious enough to do their own research and will discover the truth because of it.

God bless ~

P.S. I'd like to link you on my blog - cool with you?

J. Mark Bertrand said...

Ironically enough, this whole Da Vinci thing has worked out pretty well for the church. Not that people haven't been led astray, etc., but did you ever try to teach church history to Christians before 2003? It simply couldn't be done. I remember rambling on about canonicity to a room full of glazed eyes and dumbfounded expressions, students who were utterly bored about this ancient history. Now people seem to be voluntarily "boning up" on the subject, because they feel they have to. The Da Vinci Code has been our Soviet Union for the past couple of years. In the long run we might end up with more Christians who know their own history than we had before. Who would have thought?

siouxsiepoet said...

okay, we believe the creation event is fact, the documents legit, that His word is His word because it is His Word. but try selling that bill of goods to a nonChristian. i think the more "endearing" approach, precious though it may be, is to say, my life was crap before. now it is still crap but heavenly bound crap. (not the prettiest faith arguement, granted, but you see where i'm going).

the folks don't care about apologetics. out on the street i've never once influenced a soul with my vast biblical knowledge. but i can talk to them about their fear, or doubt, and win their hearts in friendship.

again, eating unapproved oranges.

one unsaved person once was vascillating, in church no less, and i said to her, listen, the Creator of the Universe has just taken up your case. she converted. but that was IN church. would that argument work out? i don't know.


Mike Duran said...

Great comments folks! Janet, Kelly and Mark, thanks for taking time to add your thoughts. Clew, I'd love to be added to your eclectic list'o links. Go for it!

suz, you're right, people aren't won over by head knowledge. But neither are they compelled to believe by ignorance and naivette. While changed lives are a tremendous evidence of the power and validity of the Gospel, they are inadequate to sustain a long-term defense. Why? Scientology transforms lives. Neo-paganism transforms lives. Buddhism transforms lives. Does a life transformed by an unbiblical belief system validate that belief system? If so, then Christianity is far from unique.

Consider that the defining tenets of Christianity are rooted in historical events -- namely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the apostle Paul suggested that if Christ was not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Therefore, it is a linchpin to our beliefs. If there's no evidence for the resurrection -- and I emphasize evidence -- we're screwed. Faith is not purely a matter of "heart" or "personal revelation." It must be grounded in fact or else it is presumption.

I suppose people can choose to believe the earth is flat... but they must do so amidst overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Likewise, people can choose to reject the claims of Christianity, but it is our job to articulate those claims with skill and vigor. Of course, we cannot force people to believe by simply touting the facts. But the inability to articulate those facts will most surely persuade no one.

siouxsiepoet said...

mike, in an effort not to pirate your blog, i've blogged my further thoughts on this.



Praying for your Prodigal said...

Great points! My friends and I have had very interesting conversations of late, spurred by the topic of The DaVinci Code. Although many of them are home-grown Catholics--they are discovering they knew very little facts about their faith. This is a great opportunity for each of us to fine-tune our beliefs and know why we believe what we believe!


Bonnie Calhoun said...

Great post Mike...I came over from Gina's Novel Journey.

You are so right on with your assessment.

This is clearly labeled as a work of fiction. Why anyone would choose to believe the facts in a novel, is beyond my mental abilities.

It just goes to show how many straws people will grasp rather than believe the Word of God.

clew said...

You're linked :)

Mirtika said...

We forget how powerful works of fiction can be. Voltaire. Beecher Stowe. Solzhenitsyn. I remember people who were philosopically changed by reading books such as ATLAS SHRUGGED and SIDDARTHA. And don't think that the rise of sympathetic stories of gay life in gay fiction hasn't helped propel the success of the "gay agenda."

Fiction can change minds. Some books are not just fiction.

I just read yesterday that of readers of TDVC, 60% say they believe Jesus had children with Mary Magdalene. Of those who hadn't read the book, 30% said they believed the same thing. Are people predisposed to believe it the ones reading the book? Or is the book by serving up fiction as if it were fact changing minds?

I'm prone to believe there are people who will read it, think, "Well, this is researched!" and consider it legitimate. You don't have to have Nobel level prose to have a story that convinces people of a lie. I knew a college-educated gal, the daughter of two professors, who thought the PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION was fact. One can be educated and still able to be persuaded that lie is truth, obviously.

I suspect TDVC is doing just that, and since it's attacking a basic fact, a central truth, of Christianity, there should be sermons, there should be debates and rebuttals. Who knows what person in that congregation has fallen for the big fib?

Christianity is a mind-soul-spirit-body religion. It's not just about showing love. Show all the love you want, but if you don't at some point say, "This is who Jesus is. This is what Jesus did. This is the situation you're in. This is what you need to do," then the person you shower love on will just as easily die unevangelized.

Love is a commandment. But make disciples is, too. And disciples are "learners". No learning, no discipling going on.


Ame said...

Great comments. Our pastor preached last week on the ways people "connect" to God in worship - He made us all different. And He is able to draw us to Him in individual and personal and intimate ways ... VERY cool!

Mike, I like your arguments and agree with you, but the intellectual approach would never have worked on me ... however I know of those who would never come to God without it. That's what I love about God ... He meets us where we are ... as we are.

The way this book and movie play out in history will be interesting to watch and look back on ... God's Word WILL last forever and even thrive in the face of adversity! Always has; always will.

Mike Duran said...

You guys are awesome! Thanks Diane, Bonnie, Mir and Ame for adding your insights. I want to make sure you all understand I do not believe evangelism is an issue of the head, but of the heart. suz was gracious enough to make some comments on this subject at her blog, and we dialogued a bit more over there. Make sure to check it out.

While I see "hard evangelism" -- fact-based, academic-type noodling -- a necessary component to an effective witness, in most cases "heart issues" underlie everything. In fact, I've come to believe that intellectual opposition to Christianity usually has its roots in personal pain and existential angst. It's easier to object to Christianity on "intellectual" grounds than admit we are angry, lonely, bitter and spiritually bankrupt. It's not an either/or proposition: The Christian evangelist must be able to crack the bone of arguement. But underneath the "rib cage" of opposition is a heart that beats. Hacksaws and hammers don't work here; this surgery requires a deft touch, a keen eye and the sharpest of blades.

Heather Smith said...

I agree completely, Mike. If you are a Christian in word alone, you're gonna fall right over that cliff. Christianity is a relationship with God. A relationship where He wants to teach us things, where He has major plans for us. But a relationship is two sided, we must talk to Him and allow Him to talk to us. We must read His Word so we can know the plans He has for us. Maybe if we read a little more of God's Word we'd follow the right Shepherd once in a while, and we'd avoid the cliffs!

Vicki said...

Not much to add here, as you've made an excellent point, Mike, as well as your readers.