IVP: The Da Vinci Question is actually the result of a sermon. Why did you decide to do a sermon on this topic, and what was the response to the content?
James: It was actually the result of a two-part series I did that explored the person of Mary Magdalene and the claims of Dan Brown’s novel. The reason for the series was the overwhelming popularity of the book, its claims to be based on fact, and the large number of church attenders—not only at my church, but at churches throughout the United States—who were taking the book at face value without realizing how spurious the assertions were. The response was overwhelming—people were so grateful that the issue was being dealt with head-on, that historic Christian faith had nothing to fear from such claims and that the overwhelming weight of evidence was behind the reliability of Scripture.
IVP: What did you hope to convey in the sermon, and now in the booklet?
James: First, that the Bible has been faithfully preserved; second, that what has been preserved is accurate and historically reliable; and third, that the claims suggested by Brown in The Da Vinci Code—namely that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and the mother of his child, and that the church invented the deity of Jesus—is without substance. Christians should know the truth, the facts, the evidence and the history. The Da Vinci Question attempts to put that forward in a very accessible, quick read that can be given to anyone who has read the book or seen the movie.
IVP: What do you think is the most dangerous assumption in The Da Vinci Code? How do you respond?
James: The most dangerous assumption, I believe, is that the biblical materials upon which the Christian faith bases its knowledge of Christ are completely unreliable, and from that assumption, the leap is made to a Jesus who was anything but divine. It is not the historicity of Jesus that is under attack, but the historical record of the life, teaching and claims of Christ as presented in Scripture. The response I give in The Da Vinci Question is, of course, to reveal how reliable the biblical record is, and how dubious the claims suggested by Brown in The Da Vinci Code really are.
IVP: Why does The Da Vinci Code deserve to be evaluated?
James: It would be tempting to write such things off as too ludicrous to be bothered about. I once read an interview of film director Oliver Stone when he was facing criticism for the distortions and factual errors in his films, particularly the faux documentary exposé on the Kennedy assassination, JFK. In a lecture at American University, he said that films shouldn’t be the end-all for what is true. “[People] have a responsibility to read a book,” he said, and then added that “[nobody] is going to sit through a three-hour movie and say, ‘That’s that.’ ”
He’s wrong. That is exactly what countless numbers of people do. And when the redefinition of the life and teaching of Jesus is at hand, it is more alarming than ever.
If you are a pastor, you simply must speak to this. If you are one of the millions who have read the book, or will see the movie, you simply must think about this, remembering the words of the apostle Paul:
“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! . . . I want you to know . . . that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:7-8, 11-12 NIV).