I read Dan Brown's bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, last week in preparation for the movie's release. As a novelist, Brown is certainly no Stephen King. He discloses plot points to the reader in a contrived and mistimed way, with some anticlimactic revelations at the very end that actually undermine the importance of the heroes' search. However, I doubt very many people will be turned away by Brown's flat characters or shaky handling of flashbacks. The reason to read The Da Vinci Code is because you want to guage, or take a position on, the accusations Brown levels against Christ and the Church.
John 21:25 tells us this: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Just as Christians sometimes stretch the plain reading of a verse in an effort to nail down Christ's supposed vegetarian or anti-alcoholic teachings, the secular reader sometimes daydreams that those other books would legitimize his unscriptural beliefs.
Without giving spoilers, I can say that Brown's own attempt to fill those gaps in the record is an offensive one, but not one that Christians should find convincing or even particularly disturbing. The Christ he paints is a good man with a permissive, vaguely 1960s-vintage doctrine and no pretensions to Godhood-- in other words, he makes the argument scorned in the famous C.S. Lewis quote:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-- on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg-- or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.
With this puny motor powering his accusations, Brown lands only weak blows. The internet is full of exhaustive, point-by-point takedowns of his work, both from theological and secular historical viewpoints. (For instance, the Focus on the Family take is here.) Over the next few posts, I hope to give some practical defenses against his brand of skepticism and revisionism.