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Twenty years ago, Christian protesters compelled Paramount to abandon Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. When Universal produced the movie a few years later, Bill Bright offered the studio $10 million to buy the movie and destroy it.

But today, many churches are taking a different approach to a controversial film. Leading up to The Da Vinci Code-Ron Howard's film adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller-pastors and scholars are writing books, preparing sermon series, and creating websites devoted to "engaging" this pop-cultural phenomenon.

Michael Licona, director of apologetics and interfaith evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, created a 65-minute video lecture to foster discussion about some of the book's claims. He remembers telling people to avoid The Last Temptation.

"I think we made a mistake back then," he says. "I think we communicated that we're not interested in having critical discussions-that if you mention Jesus in a negative way, we're just going to pick up our ball and go home.

"If you look at Acts 17, Paul was familiar with the secular poets, because he quoted them. When he spoke to the philosophers at Athens, he never quoted the Scriptures; he quoted their own poets. And if we're going to relate to nonbelievers as Christians, we need to be familiar with what's coming out, movies and books."

In addition to the many Da Vinci Code-related books filling Christian bookstores, several resources have sprung up online. More than 40 commentators representing Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches have written critical essays for TheDaVinciDialogue.com, a website sponsored by Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind The Da Vinci Code.

However, some observers ...

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June 2006

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