Two decades ago, Christians took a stand against Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. When a draft of the script was made public, protestors compelled Paramount to abandon the project, and when Universal produced the movie a few years later, in 1988, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright offered the studio some $10 million to buy the movie and destroy it. And then, when the film was released, Christians staged a number of boycotts and pickets outside theatres—a noisy tactic some believers now regret.

But today, churches are taking a different approach to controversial films, including The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard's film adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller, which releases May 19. Pastors, scholars and teachers are writing books, preparing sermon series and Sunday school lessons, and creating websites devoted to "engaging" this pop-cultural artifact as part of an ongoing "dialogue."

Michael Licona, director of apologetics and interfaith evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, created a 65-minute video lecture (available here) to foster discussion about some of the book's claims. He remembers telling people to avoid The Last Temptation, but he says he would definitely not take that approach now.

"I think we made a mistake back then," Licona 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—and I think that has hurt us as Christians.

"If you look at Acts 17, Paul was very 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 ...

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