Summary: The book conflicts with history and Scripture at several important points: 1. The nature of Jesus Christ. 2. The nature of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. 3. The nature of Scripture. 4. The nature of the church.
I received an interesting phone call a few weeks ago. The woman on the other end explained that she presently lived in another state, but she and her husband were planning to move to Mount Vernon. She wanted to know about our church to see if she would feel welcome here. She said, “I am a very spiritual person. I have a very close relationship with Jesus, but I also have a strong attraction to Buddha and his teachings, as well as Hinduism. I like to study various religions and benefit from all their teachings. I am very much into spiritual things.” This is a growing trend in our culture: People who are attracted to spirituality, but who do not want to subscribe to any settled specifics, especially in regard to Christianity.
I assured her that she would be very welcome here, and I hope she comes. But when she does, I trust that she will eventually understand that Christianity is not a smorgasbord of religious ideas, and that Jesus is not just one among many religious figures. Jesus is unique in the history of the world, and his teachings complete our spiritual understanding and provide everything necessary in order for us to know God and live for him. Jesus is not one religious leader along the path of spirituality, he is the end of faith. Ben Witherington, in his excellent book on this subject The Gospel Code, states: “Western culture is a Jesus-haunted culture, and yet one that is largely biblically illiterate.” And therein lies the problem. We have an affinity for Jesus, but we do not understand his claim of being the universal and exclusive Savior of the world. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). We hear those words, but don’t take seriously the exclusive nature of Jesus’ claims. The reason The Da Vinci Code, and similar books and films, have the potential for being very misleading to the general American public is that we are disinterested in truth and ignorant of the teachings of Scripture.
Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code is well written and full of suspense. If you take the book for what it is, a fiction thriller, then it is great reading. After all, it is now the best-selling fiction book of all time. I am sure the film which comes out this month will be equally entertaining. The problem is that many people will read the book, or see the film, will be overwhelmed with all the questions and assertions thrown at them, and not know where historical fact ends and the book’s fiction begins. Many will take it as serious historical research, and mistakenly believe it gives the real story behind the New Testament, the church, and the character of Jesus.
Dan Brown begins his book with a page titled “FACT,” which says that not only is there a Priory of Sion and a Catholic sect known as Opus Dei, but that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Historian Dr. Paul Maier, at Western Michigan University, disagrees. He says, “Detailing all the errors, misinterpretations, deceptions, distortions, and outright falsehoods in The Da Vinci Code makes one wonder whether Brown’s manuscript ever underwent editorial scrutiny or fact-checking.” But whether or not Dan Brown actually intended for people to take the book as historical fact or not, the reality is that many people are taking it as “gospel truth”. And this provides us with an excellent opportunity to review the basic tenets of our faith.
Much of the material from the book is taken from another book (whose authors recently sued Dan Brown) called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the theme and message of the books are essentially the same. The inside flap of the book cover of Holy Blood, Holy Grail asks these questions:
• Is the traditional, accepted view of the life of Christ in some way incomplete?
• Is it possible Christ did not die on the cross?
• Is it possible Jesus was married, a father, and that his bloodline still exists?
• Is it possible that parchments found in the South of France a century ago reveal one of the best-kept secrets of Christendom?
• Is it possible that these parchments contain the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Grail?
At one point, Teabing, one of the main characters of the Da Vinci Code asserts that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
So what is The Da Vinci Code saying? What is the story line? In a nutshell, the story begins in France where the lead character, Robert Langdon, from Harvard University is visiting as a guest lecturer. The French Police come to his hotel and take him to the Louvre Museum to assist in the investigation of a murder which has taken place in its silent, after-hour halls. The murder is an attempt to conceal a secret that has been held by a clandestine society since the days of Christ. Before his brutal murder, Jacques Sauniere, the museum’s chief curator, leaves a variety of clues around the gallery where he has locked himself in trying to escape his killer. His body lies in a symbolic pose beneath da Vinci’s painting of Mona Lisa. Langdon does not realize that he is actually a suspect in the murder. He narrowly escapes with the help of the beautiful police cryptographer Sophie Neveu (whose name means “New Wisdom”). It turns out that the murdered Sauniere is not only Sophie’s estranged Grandfather, but he is also the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion — a clandestine society with a secret, which, if revealed, would destroy the Christian church as we know it. Langdon and Neveu find several puzzling codes at the murder scene, all of which form a treasure map to the fabled Holy Grail. Their flight from the police takes them through France and England, and several centuries of history. During their quest, Langdon lectures Sophie about the fallacies of Christianity and the Bible, as well as the evils of the church.