Try DaVinci Code on Google and you will get over 9 million hits. To be honest, I am already tired of this before the movie even comes out this weekend. But when I dug into the controversy I was fascinated.
I wanted to be intellectually honest when I am asked about the book. I know that Dan Brown will be fascinated with my critiques because I only need to sell another 39, 975,000 copies of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People to be dead even in sales with Brown. I just need everyone in my beloved home state of Ohio (Go Bucks!) to buy a copy. That will increase my tally by over 11 million. Then if every Longhorn in my adopted state of Texas buys just one solitary copy I will have a total of 34 million. To be honest, I will settle for that. I don’t have to be even with Mr.Brown. I am that selfless.
So here is my contribution to the DaVinci Over Load.
- It’s a good read. I suppose you don’t sell forty million copies of a bad read but this is truly a page turning thriller. At times the plot is a bit implausible but I enjoyed the book very much.
- It is fiction but the line is dangerously blurred. I found myself being inclined to believe certain outrageous claims because they were logically proclaimed by likable characters. But since I have a rather large stake in this whole following Jesus thing I made notes to go back and investigate many of the claims later.
- I feel encouraged that Christians are generally engaging the debate and not burning torches and demanding a boycott.
- I feel very encouraged that a novel and movie that promotes what is clearly heresy to many Christians is being civilly debated and discussed. Ask Salmon Rushdie about his experience with a similar fictional approach to faith.
- I was amazed at how glaring some of the errors were in Brown’s declaration of “facts”. One amazing goof is this statement at the very begining of the book. The heading of the page is FACT. And on that page this statement appears.
“The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization.”
Brown got one thing right. It is a real organization. But the Priory of Sion was founded in 1956! I have researched some things poorly over the years but plus or minus a millenium is not a very good standard. Dan Brown apparently accepted at face value some premises that have been proven false by scholars on all sides of the debate. The Priory of Sion was founded by Pierre Plantard and Andre Bonhomme a mere 857 years after the date Brown proclaimed as a fact. Then he adds the following “fact”.
“In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.”
What they discovered were forged documents placed there by Plantard. The more one does research the more one comes to value the simplicity of the website Wikipedia.org, which accurately summarized and corroborated hours of independent research.
Plantard began writing a manuscript and produced “parchments” (created by his friend, Philippe de Cherisey) that a local priest had supposedly discovered whilst renovating his church. These forged documents purportedly showed the survival of the Merovingian line of Frankish kings. Between 1961 and 1984 Plantard contrived a mythical pedigree of the Priory of Sion. This can be easily proved to be historical fiction because the various claims as found in the Priory Documents never existed before the early 1960s in any shape or form, and cannot be substantiated from the known historical records. Furthermore, letters in existence dating from the 1960s written by Pierre Plantard, Philippe de Cherisey and Gerard de Sede to each other confirm that the three were engaging in an out-and-out confidence trick, describing schemes on how to combat criticisms of their various allegations and how they would makeup new allegations to try and keep the whole thing going.
These were among the “facts” that Brown used as a foundation for his story. When the "Secret Files" were exposed as a forgery by French researchers and authors, Plantard acknowledged that the above mentioned list was a fraud. In 1989, however, he tried to make a comeback and revive the Priory of Sion by publishing a second list of Priory Grand Masters. Incredible! But wait, there is much more.
- I was interested in his take on the Council of Nicene. Brown got that mostly wrong as well. Fellow Crosswalk blogger Albert Mohler summarizes nicely the errors of Brown’s statements.
Constantine supposedly called the Council of Nicaea in 325 in order to invent the idea of Christ's divinity (and celibacy) and then turn out the heretics, thus burying the real story of Jesus (and Mary Magdalene) forever. "It's all about power," one character explains. That's why Constantine "upgraded Jesus' status."
And the Council of Nicaea? There, The DaVinci Code reveals, the Emperor led the bishops to declare Jesus as the Son of God by a vote. "A relatively close vote at that," the text elaborates. The real Council of Nicaea adopted a creed in order to reject the heretical teachings of one Arius, who taught that Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father. Brown weaves fact and fiction with such recklessness that the average reader will assume all these claims to be factual.
The Council of Nicaea did not "invent" the divinity of Jesus. This was already the declaration of the Church, claimed by Jesus himself and proclaimed by the apostles. The council boldly claimed this as the faith of the Church and named Arianism as a heresy and Arians as heretics. A close vote? Only two out of more than 300 bishops failed to sign the creed. Not exactly a cliff-hanger.
The Council was never convened for the purpose of deciding if Jesus was divine. At this point I could safely relegate the book into into it’s proper place on my bookshelves. Fiction. I could go on and on with other factual errors or interpretive stretches. Clearly this book should not be taken at face value on any historical claim. Do the research.
Why the title of “Thank you, Dan Brown”? Because, like most average human beings who are stumbling their way through this journey with Jesus, I had not taken the time to study these issues. Thanks to Mr.Brown I have spent a lot more time investigating early church history, the foundation of the Bible, and other critical issues brought to the forefront by The Da Vinci Code. Made me look, Dan! And I am comfortable with what I have found. So thank you Dan Brown!
Whether you decide to see the movie or not why not take the time to do a little investigation of your own. We read the following in Isaiah.
“Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
What a blessed relief to have that attitude among most of Christendom about these issues. God will use this movie and this book for His purpose. We just need to be informed and available.