Adventists Answer DA VINCI Challenges

BY NATHAN BROWN, editor of the South Pacific edition of Signs of the Times
and the South Pacific Division Record
nswering the release of the cinematic adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, two major Adventist organizations are fielding the questions and challenges posed by the bestselling book and blockbuster movie.
The Code is a five-part docudrama DVD series produced by the Adventist Media Center in Wahroonga, New South Wales, and The Da Vinci Decode is a new book published by Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, Victoria. Both projects have been sponsored by the Australian Union Conference and form part of an evangelistic strategy to take advantage of the opportunities of renewed interest in the story of Jesus created by The Da Vinci Code.
Executive producer for The Code DVD series and seminar, Australian Union’s chief financial officer Kingsley Wood says that “the Australian Union Conference was contacted by the Greater Sydney Conference with a suggestion that the union produce some resources to respond to the claims made in Brown’s book. Unfortunately, it has been taken as fact by many who have read the book, and no doubt the movie will be even more influential in sabotaging fundamental elements of the Christian faith. The impetus for the project was originally the brainchild of New South Wales Adventist pastor Grenville Kent, and the union was very happy to commission the project.”
According to Kent, who coauthored the The Da Vinci Decode, his motivation for writing the book was an overheard conversation. “One day on the street I heard one council worker say to another, ‘Are you still a Christian? Haven’t you read The Da Vinci Code?’ That motivated me.”
“I know of young Adventists who’ve stopped coming to church after reading it,” he comments. “A girl from my church had a university friend tell her to read The Da Vinci Code and she’d get over her silly Christian faith. And [coauthor Philip Rodionoff, an Adventist physician] has taken seminars on this, and had Christians ask worriedly whether the book’s claims are true.”
Geoff Youlden, presenter of The Code, concurs: “The Da Vinci Code may be a work of fiction but it potentially changed the way millions of people perceive the Bible and Jesus Christ. It has also brought religious discussion back into everyday conversation, and people are interested in knowing the truth about the characters they have read about.”
Both resources focus on the central claims of Dan Brown’s novel: the divinity and history of Jesus, the origins of the Bible, and the status of women in Christian belief.
The Code production crew, with presenters Leah McLeod and Geoff Youlden, visited key sites from The Da Vinci Code story. “We also visited the locations of the Gnostic gospels in Egypt and the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel,” says Adventist Media Center’s series producer Behren Schulz. “And we interviewed historians, archaeologists, professors, scientists, and Bible scholars.
The Code production crew includes (from left) James Lounsbury, Anthony Jennings, Leah McLeod, and Behren Schulz.  [Courtesy of South Pacific Division] 
“The series mixes documentary with drama,” he explains. “Woven into each of the five episodes is the story of a young woman on a quest to discover the truth about her own mysterious origins, demonstrating humanity’s insatiable desire ‘to know.’”
“It’s not time to hide our heads in our hymnbooks and ignore it,” explains Kent. “It’s time to do a 1 Peter 3:15—to ‘give a reason for the faith’ that is in us, ‘with gentleness and respect.’ I feel good that God is turning a potential attack on Christianity into a chance to retell the story of Jesus for a new generation.”
“We don’t slam the novel,” he says. “We use it as an opportunity to affirm the positives of Jesus: that He was real, witnessed by independent historians, predicted (with superhuman accuracy) by prophecy, and that His teachings (in the original form) are amazing.”
Kent says working with the material of his book has been faith-affirming for him personally. “Looking closely again at the story of Jesus, I was impressed by how tight and logical the evidence is, and inspired and humbled and encouraged by what an attractive personality He is,” he reflects. “I felt like a jeweler who gets to work with diamonds.”
Kent says his church is running a seminar on The Da Vinci Code in a café near the cinemas in Castle Hill, New South Wales, “so we’ll use our book as a giveaway,” he adds.

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