The Da Vinci Code:
-A Christian Response-
Five Preliminary Observations
By Dr. Ron Woodworth
Daniel Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, with over 50 million copies sold in 45 languages, just opened as a movie with the first weekend’s earnings of $77 million dollars in the United States and over $220 million worldwide. Like it or not you and I are now needing to respond to such a frontal assault, even though in fictional novel form, against a number of the foundations of the Christian faith. Some of the major attacks leveled by Brown are:
Foundational attacks to Christianity…
- There are earlier and more reliable gospel accounts than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, called the Gnostic gospels, which the Catholic church suppressed in order to retain religious and political power
- Jesus’ divinity was always in doubt until Constantine politically forced a vote at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD—prior to which time neither Jesus nor his disciples thought that he was anything more than a good man and mortal prophet
- Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene who was pregnant with Jesus’ daughter [later named Sarah] during the crucifixion—after which she fled eventually to Europe, and ultimately her descendants commingled with the royal line of the French kings
Tangentiali attacks aimed at the Roman Catholic Church and the nature and interpretation of Renaissance art…
- Leonardo Da Vinci was trying to give a secret code in his art work indicating that Mary was the Holy Grail–not the lost chalice from the Lord’s Supper, and that Jesus’ bloodline extended through her womb
- A Roman Catholic secret/shadow council and members of a religious order (Opus Dei) were out to kill every descendent of Jesus thereby assuring Da Vinci’s secret art code could never be deciphered and thereby confirmed
- A secret guardian order and ritual sex-cult called the Priory of Sion (of which Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton were allegedly a part!) were committed to protecting the secret of the Holy Grail (Mary and her offspring) until it/they could be eventually revealed to world
Five preliminary observations…
1. Daniel Brown ought to thank God that he lives in America.J For if Brown would have written about Muhammad like he did about Jesus…his life would be in serious jeopardy now by the more radical elements within Islam.ii
The Da Vinci Code as false prophesy…
2. I wonder if Brown realizes that the reason he is getting so much counter-attack from Christians is because the prophetic nature of his Code is being judged as false prophecy—hence spiritually he is being regarded as a false prophet. It’s amazing how many artistic people in our culture (beginning in Hollywood and the music industry) do not realize that their art work is being used by spiritually malevolent forces to communicate a contrary message to divinely revealed truth. For Brown his work is only a fictional novel, that, though he believes a number of the theories presented; the real intent of the book is simply that of a “positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith.”iii That’s code for I justify my work because it only asks questions. The problem is, Brown’s work doesn’t just ask questions, it makes assertions that have the effect of offending people of faith and stumbling people who are looking for faith—both things which are taught against in Scripture.iv In this regard, his work can legitimately fall under the category of blasphemy–in that he couches a critique of the biblical revelation of the Son of God in a literary form that he regards as protected by free-speech and intellectual honesty. As a result, I would never recommend a person needlessly expose themselves to such an insidious form of irreverence. Come to think of it, with all the blasphemous literature out today, I’m wondering if there shouldn’t be a new rating of “B” for blasphemy? SelahJv
Three things the charge of blasphemy does NOT mean…
The accusation of blasphemy does not mean that blasphemy is unforgivable for Jesus specifically offers forgiveness for all blasphemy—even that directed toward him (See Matthew 12:31-32). Nor does my argument about Brown’s commission of blasphemy imply that anyone needs to have animosity toward him. After all, most all of us were blasphemers, in some area, before we came to faith in Christ! In fact, if one reads his responses to his critics on his website it seems fairly obvious that Brown is completely ignorant of the nature of his offense. And though this ignorance doesn’t exonerate him from the transgression, it should give us some pause before we presume to cast the final stone of judgment. After all, Scripture is very clear that all final judgment and vengeance belong to the Lord alone.vi Thirdly, this charge of blasphemy does not indicate that all believers should ipso facto be banned from ever reviewing Brown’s writings, going to his movies, etc. For there are any number of Holy Spirit guided motivations why those who are more spiritually mature may, though cognizant as to the dangers, have reasons to review the material. For example, I reviewed Brown’s book and even saw the movie for two reasons: 1. in preparation to write this article. 2. as an experiential resource in my teaching about Gnosticism at a local community college where I lecture as an adjunct professor. Consider Galatians 6 in this regard…
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted [with sin]. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
In other words, the task of carrying one another’s burdens will oft’ times require that we help the struggling believer deal with serious issues of sin in their lives. Such sin would need to be confessed “in some detail” with those ministering in order to determine the depth of deliverance needed and the path of repentance to follow. In the process, we may find ourselves exposed to sinful words, attitudes, and actions that we would personally avoid in our own lives, but now find necessary to endure for the sake of restoring the offending believer. Such is the nature of spiritual ministry to the broken.
However, at the same time we are helping others we should be careful to guard against temptation ourselves. It’s like, in the process of doing surgery, the surgeon take care not to cut themselves thus exposing him or herself to disease. Or, in the process of putting out a fire, the fireman may be in danger of falling through the burning roof thus seriously injuring him or herself. Each profession (or calling) has its inherent liabilities and dangers that should be known and carefully navigated through in the course of fulfilling one’s assigned task.
The point is: we may need to endure the exposure of some measure of human depravity in the process of seeking to touch those human beings Jesus died to save. I’m sure when Jesus was left alone with the woman caught in the act of adultery that the awkwardness of the shameful moment was overcome by the power of God’s forgiveness (John 8:9-11). Now this does not mean that we should run around cavorting with adulterers and blasphemers, but if we are never willing to get close enough to fallen humanity, how will they ever be redeemed?vii
A host of other speculations abound…
3. The fanciful speculation about Jesus being married is actually similar to the eastern mystic assertion that Jesus actually went to India (in his teens and twenty’s) in order to study Hinduism and Buddhismviii prior to his return to Palestine in time for his baptism and public ministry. The “fact” of Jesus’ life in India explains why he had such profound understanding of spirituality that, they say, often intersects with eastern religious assumptions. Or are you aware of the Mormon claim that after Jesus’ resurrection he actually visited North America, where the lost tribes of Israel had wandered.ix Or how about the claim that Jesus actually did miracles while as a small child–much to the delight of his playmates?!x
Or are you aware that there are eight (8) predominate theories regarding Jesus’ resurrectionxi including (1) the swoon theory—Jesus didn’t die but only swooned or fainted on the cross, thereafter being revived by the coolness of the tomb and pungency of the embalming spices, (2) the fraud or theft theory—the disciples actually stole the body of Jesus and lied about his being resurrected, (3) the spirit theory—only Jesus’ spirit returned from the grave, (4) the mistake theory—the women actually inadvertently went to the wrong empty tomb, etc. etc.
Had enough theories for now? Suffice it to say, theories have abounded and will continue to abound—especially around the more intriguing figure of human history, Jesus the Christ. But the truth remains: Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who was sent to earth to accomplish the redemption of the human race by his death, burial, and resurrection. His gracious gift of eternal life is now available for all who come in faith—kneeling before him as Lord of all.xii
The Da Vinci Code and the Bible Code…
4. I’m sad to say, but The Da Vinci Code also reminds me of the erroneous Bible Code,xiii which so many prophecy and creation-science preachers paraded on Christian television during the 1990’s. Briefly, the Bible Code promotes the concept that the Bible contains prophecies which are hidden by a special code, discernable only by super computers who can analyze clusters of words and phrases with certain intervals between each letter. I have personally seen the Bible Code people on TV actually praising one another that their own names and the names of their ministries were detected in Bible prophecy through the use of just such a code. Such a false scheme of biblical interpretation was finally debunked by (in addition to theologians) mathematicians and other scientists who demonstrated that such codes “could be extracted from any book of similar length”—even in English!xiv Though I would never level an accusation of blasphemy against the inventors of the Bible Code, never-the-less their over-zealous naivety has again diminished the credibility of the Bible and Body of Christ by such fanciful “scientific” speculations as they tried to assert. Frankly, the Bible doesn’t require or rest on the verification of science to prove the truth it claims to reveal—for in the final analysis, as wonderful as science is, faith will always be the essential and ultimate element in human certitude. Or as C.S. Lewis has insightfully observed,
“To a believer, no further proof is necessary,
To a disbeliever no further proof is sufficient.”
The Da Vinci Code as Modern Conspiratorial Gnosticism…
5. My final preliminary remark is that The Da Vinci Code strikes me as an example “MCG,” which is code for “Modern Conspiratorial Gnosticism.” This is probably because I regularly deal with Gnostic literature and theories in a section of a course I teach at a community college about the religious and philosophical antecedentsxv of the New Testament. And, since Gnosticism was a philosophy that was beginning to take shape in the 1st century I need to address it often in my course on the New Testament.
Very briefly, Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis literally meaning “to know”) was a derivative of Plato’s dualistic contrast between the invisible world of ideas and visible world of matter. Going beyond Plato, the Gnostics took dualism one step further to argue that all matter was evil and only pure spirit was good. From this foundation, two opposite modes of conduct emerged: 1. asceticism, or the intentional suppression of bodily passions such as food, sleep, and sex in an attempt to become more spiritual, and 2. sensualism/libertinism, or the wholesale indulgence of bodily passions because of the relative unimportance of anything physical.
To the Gnostics you needed the kind of superior knowledge they had to offer in order to gain spiritual immortality. Like Buddhism before it, Gnosticism maintained that the problem of man was really ignorance not sin. Hence, when the Christian gospel began to be preached, the Gnostics, though impressed enough with the person and doctrine of Jesus Christ to become “Christians,” never-the-less maintained a decided preference away the need for “forgiveness of sin” AND from God becoming physically incarnated (lit. “in flesh”) in Jesus Christ.
Rather they taught that Jesus only appeared to be physical, or else that Christ and Jesus were separate—with the spirit of Christ coming upon Jesus, the mortal man, at his baptism and departing from Jesus before the crucifixion. The resurrection then would have been gnostically understood as the spirit of Christ, not Jesus the man, actually rising from the dead. [Sounds like another theory to meJ]
Furthermore, in place of needing forgiveness of sins for salvation, the Gnostics emphasized the acquiring of true spiritual knowledge of “secret doctrines and passwords by which at death one’s departing spirit could elude hostile demonic guardians of the planets and stars on its flight from earth to heaven.”xvi
This kind of Gnostic preoccupation with secret doctrines, passwords, Jesus mortality vs. divinity, codes guarding protected knowledge, sexual ritual as evidence of true spirituality, etc. is replete within the text of The Da Vinci Code—and hence is why I see it as a rebirth of Gnosticism in the modern genre of fictional novel literature….That is unless perhaps I’ve just discovered a code that breaks the Da Vinci Code itself?!
We’ll see next time in The Da Vinci Code: A Christian Response Part 2
“[Beware for] Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist…Anyone who…does not continue in the teaching of [and about] Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you [in any form—physical or literary] and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your home lest you participate [and become polluted] by his evil work.”
(2 John 7-11)
May we all continue to live in the grace and truth that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,
[i] Tangential means “a little outside of the central focus.” In this case the frontal attacks against the Christian faith can in a certain sense be separated from peripheral assaults leveled against a particular church (vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Church), or Renaissance art. In other words, my task is not fundamentally to defend Roman Catholicism, which did not fully evolve until the 5th century, or prescribe how art out should be interpreted in the 14th -17th century.
[iii] The Da Vinci Code Official Website of Dan Brown under the FAQ section
[iv] 1 Corinthians 10:32 & Matthew 18:6 which mandate that believers be sensitive not to cause offense to others—especially to those who are “little ones” (young in faith) in or about to enter God’s kingdom.
[v] Selah is a biblical word used in the Book of Psalms meaning to “pause and think calmly about that.”
[vi] James 4:12 & Romans 12:19-21…Romans suggests that since it is God’s task to bring the wrath of his own judgment, then our task is to love our enemies so that they might be saved from such a just though terrible judgment.
[vii] See Matthew 11:18-19 about Jesus being accused of being a friend or sinners. This friendliness with sinners does not imply that Jesus was enjoying sinful entertainment with transgressors, rather that he would engage those who were regarded as sinners in real life conversation-situations without being perceived as spiritually aloof, or possessing a “holier-than-thou” demeanor.
[ix] See an official website of the Mormon Church @ http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/c/CHURCHJESUSLATTER.html last sentence of paragraph on History
[x] “Miracles reported of the apostles, on the other hand, abound, as we have seen. So do miracles of the period in Jesus’ life not covered in the canonical gospels, his childhood.” [p.175, Jesus and the Disciples as Miracle Workers in the Apocryphal New Testament, by Paul Achtemeier, in Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (ed), UNotreDame:1976.] Source:http://www.christian-thinktank.com/mq10.html
[xii] See John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5; Romans 10:9-11; Philippians 2:5-11
[xiii] “The Bible Code was originally a book by Michael Drosnin which promoted the concept that the Bible contains prophecies which are hidden by a special code. This belief became popular during the 1990s, but collapsed when it was found that similar codes could be extracted from any book of similar length.” Source:http://www.religioustolerance.org/gl_b.htm
[xv] An antecedent is “something which comes before.” In this case Gnosticism a philosophy and religious ideology that was shaping just prior to the New Testament and hence contributing to the context from which the historical events of the New Testament took place.
[xvi] A Survey of the New Testament 4th edition, by Robert H. Gundry, p. 50.