Monday, May 01, 2006

The Da Vinci Code, part 1

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.


Anonymous said...

When I read the DaVinci Code, after all the months of hype by various media and all the shuddering among Christians, I was certainly expecting something more. As literature this book is pretty lame, though any story with a large albino monk does grab your attention. As an attack on my Christian beliefs I found it shooting rubber bullets. And as a woman of faith I found Dan Brown's ideas silly and insulting. To imply that Mary M's worth - or any woman's worth- comes from her luck to marry well is so last century! As writer Sandra Miasel says abut this book, "Don't get your facts from fiction. Don't base your spiritual life on a badly written novel."

dan Brown's

Pastor Nick said...

Well, I have to disagree with Ross on one point- I thought the book was well-written! I'll admit, I don't read a ton of fiction, other than the occassional Lord of the Rings type fantasy, but this book is a page turner!

An intriguing idea that Browne brings up is a fourth option in the whole "liar, lunatic, or Lord" debate, and that is the idea that the story of Jesus is legend. What this implies is that what we have now is only a vastly diminished account of what really occurred. As much as some anti-Christian writers would like, the idea of Christ as a legend doesn't carry much weight. We have more reliable and accurate accounts of Christ and the early church than of any Greek philosopher or early Roman historian.

Next week in church, I'll spend a few minutes on the DaVinic Code, and how I would recommend we respond to friends and family who see the movie and have questions.

Pastor Nick