Summary: There are many ways we can respond as believers to the cultural phenomenon that is the Da Vinci Code.
The Da Vinci Con
Making the most of it
May 14, 2006
Last week, Jim Garrett equipped us to crack the code. The code, as in the Da Vinci Code, turns out to be the Da Vinci Con. If you were wondering what’s actually true in this book, as well as in the movie that’s going to be released this coming Friday, May 19, we could look at the response of one Bible scholar who’s been asked that question several times in the last few years, as this book has gained momentum and popularity.
People often ask, "How much of The Da Vinci Code is true?" I wearily answer that Paris is in France, London is in England, and Leonardo da Vinci painted pictures.
Other than that….
Well, the reality might not be quite that bad. For example, in the story, the author also presents the French as sort of snooty, the Louvre as a museum with many priceless objects of art, and England as a place where there’s lots of fog.
It reminds me of what our missionary Randy Harrison used to say. Now let me preface this by saying that the Harrisons spent about a dozen years in France as missionaries, before going to their current post, another French-speaking nation, Burkina Faso. They have a deep love for the French people. But he used to say that many people think the French are rude. He said, “it’s not that the French are rude, they just hate you.”
Back to the facts in the Da Vinci Code. Most objective people, having done the research and investigated the history, know that this is a book full of factual errors. It’s so full of errors that there’s scarcely an historian alive who would affirm that many of the so-called facts in this book are true.
And that’s not just Christians, either. I got the title of this morning’s message from, of all places, a New York Times article about the book, where they called the book The Da Vinci Con.
Now, I don’t know if you realize this or not, but the New York Times is hardly a defender of our faith.
Another article I read said:
When it comes to the facts presented in the novel, the jury is not out -- they never even made it to court, at least not in the world of academic scholarship.
This same article quotes an authority on historical theology named John Thompson, who says looking for errors in the Da Vinci Code is like “shooting fish in a barrel.” So that’s what Jim got to do in last week’s message, and he left a lot of dead fish for us to ponder.
Thompson said, "Some pages have so many errors you don’t know where to start. You get compounded errors. It is wrong in so many layers it leaves one speechless."
Of course the problem isn’t that academics are being fooled by the novel - it’s that less informed readers are. The vast majority of readers apparently lack the tools or the desire to separate fact from fiction.
That is why Christians must be prepared to answer clearly in responding to the errors in this book. Hopefully we were equipped to do that with last week’s message.
Now, normally errors wouldn’t be a huge problem for a novel, or any fictional story in any form, such as a movie or television program. After all – it’s supposed to be pretend.
Except with the Da Vinci Code, there’s one big problem, as Jim noted last week. The first page of the book says that the book is based on fact. The by-now very wealthy author of the book, Dan Brown, is either the consummate marketer, or a very deceived man.
He’s the consummate marketer if he realizes that controversy sells, and he has been generating controversy for the sake of controversy, knowing that by getting people talking about the story, he’ll sell more books.
In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, Brown was asked "How much of this is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred?" Brown’s reply was unequivocal: "Absolutely all of it."
If that’s a purposeful strategy on his part, it’s a very successful one. The book has sold more than 40 million copies, making it one of the most widely read books of all time. The movie being released this week will only fuel the sales of the book, in addition to exposing a lot of non-readers to the story and its falsehoods.
After all, two of our favorite good guys, star Tom Hanks, and director Ron Howard, are the big names associated with this movie. For goodness sakes, Ron as a little boy was Opie Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show. And as a teenager, he was Richie Cunningham on Happy Days! He’s hard not to like.