April 30, 2006
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
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