Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Now that the movie is out and seemingly doing well at the box office, permit me one more observation about the book and the movie. It is interesting, though; that the critics are panning it and my friends who have seen the movie say it is tiresome.
Dr. Jim Garlow visited us (Christ's Church of the Valley) for a presentation on Dan Brown’s controversial work. Garlow holds a Ph.D. in Church History and he knows his stuff. The problem I saw during his presentation is that those hearing him without a Church History background received a lot of information in a short time. It was like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant.
Garlow pointed out that the book left many believers confused and some abandoned the faith because of it. He contended the movie could do greater damage. While I haven’t yet seen the movie, I think he’s right. In spite of the fact that some of the overtly anti-Christian rhetoric is toned down, enough subtle information comes across that can do a lot of damage.
Why do I think it can do so much damage? It is because most Christians are as historically illiterate as they are biblically illiterate. That’s not true just of the man and woman in the pew! Many church leaders hardly know more than the average Christian. All too many endured Church History in college and seminary thinking it was all about the theology of a bunch of dead guys. The man or woman in the pew endured courses in Western Civilization. They all too often slept through the boring lectures on the uniting of the Roman Empire under Constantine. As a result, they are at the mercy of every Tom, Dick, and Harry who turns Constantine into history’s “bad guy.” Writers like Dan Brown do pseudo-history and blatantly lie about Constantine and the Council of Nicaea and no one is the wiser. Brown can lie about the beginnings of Opus Dei because no one cares when it was actually founded. He can lie about the Templars because only a few know who or what they were. Adolf Hitler said, “If you tell a lie big enough and often enough it will be believed.”
I appreciated the fact that Garlow took the position that the book and the movie present a myriad of opportunities for Christians to “give a reason for the hope that lies within them” (1 Peter 3:15). But … you have to understand the reason for the hope! Somewhere somehow someone has to absorb some biblical and historical content in order to be able to share the truth when confronted with lies.
Oh, by the way! I’m convinced that most of our troubles in this country worsened when we stopped teaching history in the public schools. Contemporary “Social Studies” programs instill a mediocre – if that – understanding of who settled his continent, why it was settled, and how our country came to be. At North Canton (OH) Hoover High School which is one of the top schools in northeast Ohio, only advanced placement students took more than a rudimentary introduction to history. According to the school superintendent, “It just doesn’t seem to fit a program designed to help a young person make a living.”
Philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” We – the church and the nation – are reaping what we’ve sown!