I was interviewed on TV a couple of hours ago on the Death Penalty and the Da Vinci Code. I did quite well, I think, on the the Death Penalty issue but I was on the defensive on the Da Vinci Code. The host threw a number of unexpected punches and I sometimes had to duck, but sometimes the punches hit their mark and I appeared at times disoriented and groggy. What happened was we didn't get to discuss the Da Vinci Code that much. The host steered the interview to the issue of whether I would encourage or discourage people from seeing the movie. I said there were a number of options and that Christians sincerely differ on what to do. Personally I was inclined towards discouraging people from seeing the movie but I clarified that the best I could do was probably inform people that the movie was about lies and distortions about the Christian faith, show them the evidence for that, and leave it to them to make up their minds to see the movie or not. I said my approach was that of persuasion not coercion. I'm not trying to prevent anyone, but I think I have the right to inform people of what they're in for. The host then questioned the attitude of most defenders of the faith (which means me, in the immediate context!) of closing their minds immediately to anything new that comes up which threatens the established faith – the attitude, he said, which immediately looks for flaws instead of being open to the possibility that we're dealing with something that's true. I wasn't prepared for that turn of events. I thought the interview would be about discussing what the Da Vinci Code was all about and not about so-called attitudes of religious defenders. Anyway, I explained that I wasn't against people making up their own minds, their right to weigh evidence for themselves, but we do have credible "fore-warnings" available to us. We already know what the movie will be about, and we can already make decisions based on that knowledge. Besides, I did read up and study the matter based on available resources, and the historical distortions were just there. It's not that I was intent on finding them beforehand, they're there because Dan Brown put them there and not I. And these historical distortions are significant and crucial and we have a right, as people of faith, to respond to them and tell people about them.
I wrapped up, during the time given me for my final say, in this way: this looks like a clash between intellectual liberty and the pre-commitments of faith. But no one's absolutely neutral; we all have our presuppositions. Nevertheless many of us didn't arrive at our faith lightly: we've done the hard work of studying what our faith is all about. And it's a legitimate framework to use in evaluating issues like this. It's not about being close-minded at all, it's not about dismissing and condemning something beforehand. It's about already having a fund of hard-earned knowledge and background, with which to evaluate something like the Da Vinci Code. And we don't skip the hard work of fairly evaluating the other side according to its merits. That, however, does not require that you give up what you already know beforehand, like make your mind a blank slate, before you can engage in the process of evaluation in a fair and legitimate manner.
My wife thinks I was too meek. Over-all she felt I did OK, but she thought I sounded unconvincing at times. Maybe that's because I couldn't make up my mind about whether we should watch the movie or not. But I felt the question re: close-mindedness was a tough one. I do think I'm open-minded but I do have faith commitments which are precious and true and act as sensors to warn me that incoming information is suspect. Is it illegitimate to have these faith-commitments? Do you have to temporarily jettison your faith commitments in order to fairly evaluate an opposing view if you want to be entitled to being called fair and open-minded? I guess I already know the answer to my own questions, but I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.