Where Are the Skeptics When You Need Them?

It’s good to know Tom Hanks, star of the new movie The Da Vinci Code, isn’t being pestered by his fellow worshipers:

The press also applauded Hanks when he was asked if he had been under any pressure by the Greek Orthodox community, of which he and his wife Rita Wilson are members. No, absolutely not, he replied. My heritage and that of my wife communicates that our sins have been taken away, not our brains.

I view this film as I would any number of films, he continued, as a great opportunity to discuss and to perhaps clarify one’s own feelings about their place in the universe and the cosmos and the mind of God. This was just one of a great many pieces of fiction that could spur, I think, a better understanding of that for the individual.

I’m not sure how a mystery thriller is supposed to be “a great opportunity to discuss and to perhaps clarify one’s own feelings about their place in the universe and the cosmos and the mind of God,” but then again I’m among the half-dozen people that haven’t read the book or seen the movie.

What I have observed is a disproportionate amount of skepticism directed at orthodox Christianity, something Joseph Loconte addressed in today’s OpinionJournal (HT: SharperIron). I think he’s right: let’s spread the skepticism around.

[C. S.] Lewis, I suspect, would also point out that theories about massive coverups presented in fanciful works such as “The Da Vinci Code” ignore an elephant-sized fact: There are any number of people and events in the Bible that are frankly embarrassing to believers. Recall, for example, that the family tree of the Messiah includes a prostitute (Rahab), a king who commits adultery and murder (David) and another king who leads his nation headlong into religious idolatry (Manasseh). Yet the earliest Christians failed to excise these characters from their story.

The first “conspiracy theory” about Jesus, in fact, actually appears in the Gospel of Matthew. After the crucifixion, religious leaders ask Pontius Pilate to post a guard at the tomb of Jesus because they suspect his disciples “may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.” Why keep a story about a possible conspiracy lodged at the heart of your sacred text if you’re determined to cover up a deception about the credibility of that text?

Here is the real harm of these modern conspiracy theories: They may appeal to our emotions, but they violate our common sense. They reject reason, just as surely as they reject revelation. “I do not wish to reduce the skeptical element in your minds,” Lewis explained. “I am only suggesting that it need not be reserved exclusively for the New Testament and the Creeds. Try doubting something else.”

Sounds like good advice to moviegoers this week–for the skeptics as well as the faithful.

2 Comments

  1. I also have not read the book or seen the movie (though I plan to see the film in the near future). Thanks Austin for the quotes; they’re quite helpful and insightful.

    Certainly, I am no fan of heresy or of films that erode or demean our faith in the eyes of the world. Nevertheless, I think this film presents an incredible opportunity for believers. There really are people out there that do and will believe this fiction. Sure, some will use it to justify their unbelief.

    But there will also be some who will become genuinely curious. Though I do not support the film per se, I think many Christians have ignored the opportunities and focused only on the problems the movie presents.

    ‘Satan invites us to preach in hell. Is that a trap? Or our greatest opportunity so far?’

  2. Hmmmm..

    You are forgetting two other family scandals:

    Incest: Judah and Tamar

    Marrraige to a Gentile: Boaz and RRuth

    Rahab, Ruth, Tamar and Bathsheba are the only women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. It is as if the author was TRYING to call attention to the fact that these were “marriages” that should not have been according to the Law of the Moses. Also Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba were Gentiles.

    I think that this shows through the thread of history, God’s plan of redemption for the Gentiles and the most base sinners.

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