Are there any lessons to be learnt from the Da Vinci Code?
With the hit movie The Da Vinci Code’s release in May New College held a significant support raising event for its Centre for Apologetics, Scholarship and Education.
New College hosted a cocktails function entitled: Lessons from The Da Vinci Code: CASE's Vision for the Future. The function on campus at the University of NSW was attended by 65 guests. Guest speakers at the event were Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Robert Forsyth, CEO of Anglican Youthworks Al Stewart, CASE Director Dr Greg Clarke and New College Master Professor Trevor Cairney was MC and introduced the evening.
“CASE is an initiative that has a direct relationship to the mission of New College. The College has a long tradition of engaging with its residents, the campus and the wider community to discuss big issues of importance. The Da Vinci Code has supplied one of the best opportunities for Christians to actually talk to others about the place that faith has in life and its relationship to how we view and engage with the world. CASE through the activities of its Director, Greg Clarke and its many associates has been able to seize the opportunity. New College established and continues to partially fund CASE but we are seeking Christian individuals and groups’ including churches to take up the challenge to fund the Centre fully to ensure it has the resources to continue to operate and conduct its important work.” Prof Trevor Cairney commented.
“When I was appointed Director in August 2003, I don’t think the Master of New College or the Board expected that I would devote most of my time to discussion of a B-grade airport thriller. I have to date spoken at 30 locations across Australia to I estimate 5,000 listeners. The Da Vinci Code phenomenon just won’t go away,” Dr Clarke said. "I first read the novel because a New College student said it would put me out of a job, it has kept me in one. I have talked in candle-filled churches, on university campuses, on TV & radio, in board rooms, a Chinese restaurant, a yacht club and even a police headquarters!” .
As part of the evening Dr Clarke outlined some of the lessons that he had learned from the Da Vinci Code; lessons for CASE and apologetics in general:
1) There is still enormous public interest in Christianity; there is a high ‘Jesus’ index. We shouldn’t forget this and learn to be more confident and engaging about Jesus and his message.
2) People are very poorly informed about Christian doctrine, history and spirituality. As Bishop Forsyth said, we need places like CASE to inform, educate and equip Christians and non-believers.
3) Intellectual work in these areas is worth supporting. For example who would have thought that anyone was interested in the Gnostic gospels? I argue that we must support academics, scholars and researchers if you want to support Christian mission that is genuinely informed and intelligent.
4) We need to be realistic & creative about the pathways towards Christian engagement with society at:
A high level: university scene, small impact, but important and focused, and
A general level: pop culture, large impact but more diluted
The lesson here: we should do both.
In endorsing the work of CASE and the College in establishing it, Bishop Rob Forsyth commented, “We need a Christian think tank like CASE encouraging discussion within the community about big ideas and communicating Christian thinking in popular culture.”
Of course discussion of The Da Vinci Code continues with the film release, Dr Clarke is delivering a further 25 talks in ten cities across Australia. “Jesus never disappears from the public agenda and at the moment he’s written large – from the war in Iraq to the issue of church & state. There’s a high ‘Jesus index’ in all of these things. I’d rather have him on the agenda in all sorts of ways, even if it means Christians having to challenge and discuss things. It’s better than there being silence about Jesus. CASE will continue with the support of Christians to provide Christian thinking that makes sense in today’s world and of today’s world!” CASE is also involved in partnership with Anglican Media Sydney in the development of a website devoted entirely to The Da Vinci Code: www.challengingdavinci.com.
The movie's website:The Da Vinci Code.