To date, it has sold 80 million copies, been translated into 44 languages, and been made into a major motion picture. It has also raised the ire of many. Whatever else may be said for or against Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, this much is certain: a lot of people paid attention to it.
I'll never forget watching readers react to Dan Brown's book on cable news shows, as his novel shot to blockbuster status. One reviewer's comments especially struck, as well as disturbed, me: "I always knew there was something wrong with Christianity," this young man said. "Now I know that the Christian faith is nothing more than an ancient ploy for power. It all makes sense now!" And even though countless rebuttals to Dan Brown's portrayal of Christianity have been published by both Christians and non-Christians alike, I can't help but wonder if that young man still believes that Dan Brown's novel actually makes honest intellectual sense of Christian history.
Such attacks on Christianity, of course, are nothing new. Christianity has sustained countless affronts from its countless enemies over what has been a nearly countless number of years. Even when Christianity was in its nascent stages in the first century, it was attacked. Indeed, the apostle Paul confronts one such attack in our reading for today from Colossians 2.
As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, the Christian church at Colossae had been infiltrated a proto-Gnostic heresy which taught that the incorporeal was inherently good while the physical was inherently evil. The goal of this proto-Gnosticism, then, became to escape the physical and rise to the spiritual. But Paul is not impressed or persuaded by this faith system, and he warns that the Colossian Christians should not be either:
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (verses 2-4,8)
Two words in these verses are especially notable. In verse 4, Paul warns his readers not to be persuaded by "fine-sounding arguments." The Greek word behind this phrase is pithanlogia, pithan meaning "persuasive" and logia meaning "speaking." Paul's admonishes the Colossian Christians not to be persuaded by false doctrine, no matter how pithy it might sound. The second word of note comes in verse 8 when Paul exhorts his readers: "See to it that no one takes you captive." The phrase "takes you captive" is regularly used to describe the taking of spoils in battle. Thus, those who are seeking to persuade the Colossians with their pithy arguments are really treating the Colossians as nothing more than spoils of war. They do not truly care about the Colossians. They merely want to conquer them and carry them into their heretical theological camp as prisoners of war, bound for hell.
Today, as in Paul's day, there are many "fine sounding arguments" which seek to persuade us away from true faith in Christ and into a false set of beliefs, like those presented in the Da Vinci Code. But remember that these false beliefs are nothing more than satanic tricks, meant to take you captive as a prisoner of hell's war against truth. Don't fall for it. Rather, "continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15).