Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
So They Do Listen in Hollywood...But Just a Little
05/19/2006 - James WhiteBack from seeing the matinee showing of The Da Vinci Code. First, the critics, as normal, don't watch the same movies I do. I am not a critic, but as far as I could tell, on the cinematic level, it was a well done film. Ian McKellen, that God-hating homosexual actor who rips up Bibles in his hotel rooms and thinks the Bible should have a "fiction" sticker in the front is stellar once again---he has that incredible ability to not be Ian McKellen playing X, but to be...Gandalf or Magneto or in this instance, Teabing. A tremendous talent for which he will have to give answer someday, to be sure. Hanks did seem a little, stiff, but that may be his understanding of what a Harvard professor would be like, I don't know.
Before discussing the surprising elements of the film, I should note that J.S. and I went to the first showing, so there were a number of...interesting folks in the theater. At one point, when Sophie lightly identifies Mary Magdalene as a "whore," and Teabing responds with disdain, I could hear a woman down front react with shock and horror at Sophie's statement. I wonder how many complete Grail followers we had in the theater today? It was hard to say.
OK, the biggest thing I was wondering about for over a year was this: how closely will the film follow the book, especially when the primary characters get to Teabing's home and the heart of the "grail story" is told? This is the section of the book that contains the vast majority of the lies and deception promulgated by Dan Brown. I was going to bring my mp3 recorder and catch both this scene and the one in the jet, but I forgot to bring it with me. But in any case, this was where I noted the greatest departure from the actual wording of Dan Brown's material. Clearly, Howard and others were not only aware of the criticisms of Brown's material, but evidently, they recognized a good portion of the criticism was perfectly valid. They could hardly take out the "Jesus was married and had a daughter" stuff. But there were statements in Brown's book that were not only missing in the film, they were completely re-worked. The entirety of the objectionable material from the discussion in the jet was removed from the corresponding section of the film.
For example, the idea that Christ was "made" deity by Constantine, so clearly a part of Brown's book, became a point of dispute in the film. That is, instead of both Teabing and Langdon working in harmony to present the grail legend to Sophie, in the film they actually end up arguing, Langdon taking a line that would voice at least a few of the refutations that have been offered of Brown's complete rewrite of history. Instead of speaking of the "deity of Christ" or referring to the church's "newly minted deity," Teabing refers to Christ's "immortality." And instead of all of Christ's followers believing He was just a man prior to Nicea, now "many" of His followers had that view, while others did not. Clearly, someone in Hollywood took the time to look into some of the more obvious errors in Brown's work and tried, without completely killing the book, to limit the damage.
So while some specific, glowing errors are absent, that is hardly enough to redeem the film. The central thesis, and its utterly a-historical nature, remains unchanged. If anything, the emphasis at the end was even stronger, with some women in tears at the end of the film, so moved by the story of "the Magdalene."
The presentation of the Roman Catholic Church, and Opus Dei in particular, was brutal. I mean, brutal. The hardest thing to watch was the self-flagellation scene with Silas at the beginning. Just horrible. There is nothing redeeming in any of the Roman Catholic characters at all. Of course, Rome did provide Brown with some of his ammunition. At one point Teabing very disdainfully throws a copy of Malleus Malleficarum to Langdon (the medieval Roman Catholic production laying out how to deal with witchcraft). It is pretty easy to find a lot of silly stuff coming from the Papacy during that period. But still. The idea that to destroy Rome is to bring freedom to the entire world is just a bit on the silly side. OK, it is way over on the silly side.
One thing is for certain: just as the book is designed to inculcate doubt about the veracity of the Bible and the entire Christian faith, the film moves that idea out of the printed page and presents it with compelling images on the screen. And given that our culture is made up primarily now of those who are visually oriented, used to "sound-bites" instead of lengthy periods of concentrated thought, and who are trained to disbelieve and think in the most muddied fashion, The Da Vinci Code will once again highlight the reality that the evangelistic task today must be apologetic from the start. We are seeking not only to proclaim the facts of the gospel anymore. No, now we must deal with the very existence of truth itself! Those who refuse to see that this is part and parcel of what it means to proclaim the good news in Western culture today are simply ignoring the reality all around them.
My Lectures on The Da Vinci Code
05/11/2006 - James WhiteWith the release of The Da Vinci Code right around the corner, a quick reminder of our resources is in order. For my 20+ part blog series, all in one file, on the book's many Biblical errors, click here. For the mp3's of my Auburn University lecture on Da Vinci (and my presentation on the resurrection for the faculty), click here. I also addressed the book over the course of three weeks in the Sunday School classes at PRBC, and those are available here.
Brian Flemming and Debating
05/10/2006 - James WhiteWhen I was speaking in London earlier this year I played a few sections from The God Who Wasn't There, the film produced by Brian Flemming. I did so because the work is such an excellent example of leaps of irrationality, confident presentations of falsehoods as facts, and simply bad argumentation---and yet, it is so representative of the kind of "scholarship" we encounter in the mainstream media all the time. Even the lay-audiences chuckle at much of what is said in the film, as any believer who has taken the time to do even a little reading can see through much of its rhetoric.
So today I'm sent a link to an article by centuri0n wherein he discusses Brian Flemming's requirements for "debate." When I first read what he posted I figured this was a joke. centuri0n is known for attempting to be humorous. I know, since he was once a regular in my chat channel, until he got famous and someone put his picture on a coffee mug. Now he's way too famous for us little folks anymore. Well, I follow the links (had to repair them, but hey, he's famous, not techy) and no...it isn't a joke.
Brian Flemming ends his film giving us a glorious example of why theology matters: he goes into the chapel where he went to school, and points the camera at three different spots in the chapel where he was "saved," where he "gave his life to Jesus." He then turns the camera, inserts himself in the frame, and denies the Holy Spirit. I guess that was meant to have some kind of impact or something.
I recall mentioning to an audience at Auburn University that I sort of doubted Flemming would be available for serious scholarly debates anytime soon since it is so painfully obvious he has simply ransacked the folks out underneath the left field bleachers looking for his "scholars" to help him defend his apostasy and attack the faith he never truly entered. So when I saw his own blog article laying out conditions for "debating" him, I read on. He provides a "statement of belief" that anyone must sign if he is going to take them seriously. Here it is:
I believe it is possible that Jesus did not exist.Now, the patent absurdity of such a document hardly needs demonstration. At least one line doesn't even make sense ("I believe that any claim can be part of Christian tradition and also be false." What?). But obviously, the whole point is that to sign such a document means you already agree with Flemming and hence, why would you want to debate him? It would be like my making Shabir Ally sign a statement agreeing to the Athanasian Creed before I would consider him "worthy" of debate. Absurd, of course.
I believe there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ that dates to the time of his alleged life.
I believe there are no written eyewitness accounts of the existence of Jesus Christ.
I believe the names of the Gospels were added well after their composition, and there is no good reason to believe that these names correspond to the original writers.
I believe there is no good reason to believe that any of the Gospels were written by disciples of Jesus Christ, or that any eyewitnesses to Jesus were involved in their composition.
I believe the Bible is not infallible.
I believe it is common for religious cults to make things up.
I believe it is common for religions to influence each other, and for young religions to be derived from older religions.
I believe that any claim can be part of Christian tradition and also be false.
I believe that no figures such as "God" or "The Holy Spirit" or "Satan" performed any supernatural actions that had any significant effect upon the formation of early Christianity.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct.
And so you have to wonder, is this just a big joke? That is surely possible. No rational person could post such a thing with any level of seriousness. However, the blog entry continues:
If you are unable to sign the Statement, we cannot talk any further, for one or both of the following reasons:I suppose this, too, could be part of the joke, but it sure doesn't sound like it. And if this is actually meant to be taken seriously, we have the equivalent of a King James Only Fundamentalist demanding that I sign the statement of faith of Pete Ruckman's Church prior to debating me. Utter irrationality, total nonsense, complete melt-down on any level at all. Now, given how horrific Flemming's film is, we really shouldn't be overly surprised, but it is still an amazing thing to observe.
1) You are not familiar enough with the facts to be ready for a meaningful discussion at this time.
2) Your capacity to understand the facts is so compromised by your religious ideology that a conversation with you would be pointless.
I will say this: I would actually suspend my normal parameters and debate Flemming if he was actually willing to stand before an audience in a truly scholarly debate. Though he is not a scholar, he is at least "published" in a sense (i.e., his film), and hence the encounter would be useful to a wider audience. But I won't hold my breath.
Uber Fast Debate Note
05/08/2006 - James WhiteJust a quick note before I hit the sack. Thank you to everyone who prayed. The Lord blessed greatly. I honestly can't see how the debate could have gone any better...well, aside from my accidentally turning my tablet pc off for a moment during my rebuttal period anyway. But the response from the students, staff, just about everyone, has been tremendously positive. I was going to try to pull a picture of Shabir Ally and myself off of my camera and post it...but I'm just too tired. Suffice it to say that once again, the Lord has been most faithful. Oh, and we had at least 2,500 in attendance! It was great! Largest live audience I think we've ever had, and we did a three-camera shoot, so the DVD's should be great! An all-around great evening, so once again, praise to our Lord and many thanks to all of you who prayed for the event. More tomorrow when I get back home.