April 30, 2006

Code

Posted in Religion at 9:00 pm by egalitaria

Da Vinci Code

A huge banner of it covers the entire wall of Midvalley Megamall, the largest shopping mall in South East Asia, facing the highway where thousands of cars travel everyday. Picture of Tom Hanks the protagonist in the fast-paced movie, on the poster. Dark and looming. Highly anticipated.

The movie is a hyped-up version of the book by Dan Brown, released a couple of years ago and labelled as "fiction". The book claims that Jesus had a secret affair with Mary Magdalene and fathered a child, whose lineage in Europe can be traced today. Too many articles have covered this already, so I'll just place my advertisement and get along with it:

When? Thursday, 4th May 2006, PJ EFC

What? Da Vinci Code Forum

Who? Dr Ng Kam Weng, Rev Wong Fong Yang (of Kairos Research Centre)

Why? Responding to the Da Vinci Code and the claims it makes…

Read an editorial by Dr Tan Soo Inn on this issue below.

eCOMMENTARY:  Who's Afraid of the Da Vinci Code Movie?

I am flabbergasted that some  Christian groups in Malaysia
and Singapore are calling for a ban on the screening of the
Da Vinci Code movie (DVC movie).
Why this hysteria?
Is the DVC movie the Antichrist or what?
(Hey, that's an idea for a book. The Antichrist is not a
person. It is actually a movie starring Tom Hanks. Do you
think it will sell?)

The church has experienced much more serious assaults and
survived. Why this hoopla over a movie?
When folks see Tom Hanks prancing around on the screen with
a beautiful heroine accompanied by an exciting soundtrack,
it should hit home that we are dealing with fiction here.
The DVC movie may be the best thing that happens to this
whole DVC phenomena where Christians are concerned.

The DVC book is just so-so. I think Dan Brown's Angels and
Demons is  a better written book. But the DVC phenomena took
off because of the book's claim to be true and its tapping
on our love for conspiracies. It also rode on feminist
sentiments and the fact that the history of the church is by
no means spotless.

The DVC book has already been pooh-poohed by any number of
reliable authorities. The continuing controversy only serves
to make Dan Brown a very, very rich man. It has also
provided Christians an excellent platform to talk about the
faith with folks who normally wouldn't give Christianity a
second look.

But does the DVC movie warrant the high profile we are
giving it?
Should we ask the government to ban the movie?

First off it is virtually impossible to stop people seeing a
movie if they really wanted to. They can download it online.
Friends will bring back copies from their travels. And in
Malaysia you can buy pirated DVDs of any movie you want.
Banning it will only increase people's curiosity and may
lead to even more interest in the show as people wonder what
the church has to hide and why the church is so frightened.

Secondly censorship is always a double edged weapon in the
fight for truth. Once you encourage the government
authorities to wield this weapon, there is no telling where
they will stop.
It might be a movie that offends the church today. It might
be a show deemed anti Islamic tomorrow or one deemed
dangerous to the social order. 

If we encourage the powers that be to wield the sword of
censorship, especially where ideas and concepts are
concerned, it might be a weapon used against the church
tomorrow. I'd rather take my chances with a society
committed to an open market for ideas. 

The bible says that we shouldn't be overcome by evil but to
overcome evil with good (Romans 12 : 21). The best antidote
to things like the DVC is to faithfully teach and model the
truth in our churches. Healthy churches where the truth is
both taught and experienced should be able to shrug off
attacks like the DVC.
And healthy churches should have enough credibility in
society to be trusted when they clarify false claims about
the faith.

Therein lies the problem.
Many churches today are not paying the price of teaching our
people biblical truth and teaching them how to think
biblically.
More concerned for rapid numerical growth, many churches
focus on methods and programmes. Pragmatism rules. “What
works” is the de facto battle cry taking precedence over
“what is true.”

The DVC phenomena has caught us with our pants down and now
we are scrambling to help our people fight off these
assaults on our faith.
And in our panic some of us do things like calling upon
government authorities to ban the movie.
History has shown that depending on government authorities
rather then getting our own act together has often been a
poor bargain for the church.

Perhaps we can thank the DVC phenomena as a God allowed
wake-up call to the church. In a post-modern connected
world, there will be many more DVC types up the road. We
can't be fighting fires all the time.

What is needed is to take seriously our task of teaching our
people the Scriptures so that they are both able to detect
error and to help explain to their non- Christian friends
the fallacy du jour (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

We also need to help our people to be able to reflect
biblically so that they are functioning with the “mind of
Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 16).
And we need to do that in ways that show the relevance of
the Word for daily life. 

Too often theology has been taught as an intellectual
scholastic exercise.
We need to help our people see biblical truth as something
that is part of the warp and woof of daily life. Not some
spiritual dogma removed from life.

I am glad for all the effort going into refuting the false
claims of the DVC. For example I am very proud of grass
roots apologetics initiatives rising up, like my Agora
friends in Malaysia and Singapore, who are working with more
established church groups to counter the false claims in the
DVC.  Agora Malaysia is also trying to produce DVC
countering materials in Chinese and Malay.
All this needs to be done.

But I can't see us putting the same kind of effort against
every popular fallacy that erupts in the entertainment
media. We will end up with a very reactive agenda. Some of
this will have to be done. But I'd rather the church be more
pro active and giving the appropriate attention to grounding
our people in the truth.

And lest we forget what is involved, this is no high school
debate.
We fight to protect the veracity of God's Word because, as
Peter said:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal
life.”
[John 6 : 68   TNIV]

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan

2 Comments

  1. Hedonese said,

    I have posted some Chinese resources on my blog too 🙂

  2. egalitaria said,

    ooh lotsa resources, waheey! thanks hedonese.


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