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New Testament Professor, Westminster Seminary, Escondido, CA
Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary; Th.D., Harvard Divinity School; M.Div., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
The Da Vinci Code has been a New York Times bestseller for the 56 weeks. More than 7.6 million copies have been sold, and there's a movie based on the book being discussed in Hollywood to be produced by Ron Howard. The author, Dan Brown, claims that the book is a work of fiction but that the theories discussed in his book have merit. The Da Vinci Code is purported to be a thriller that indicates Christianity was founded on a cover-up and that the church has been conspiring for years to hide evidence that Jesus was a mere mortal. Fearing that this best-selling novel may be sowing doubt about basic Christian beliefs, churches, clergy, and Bible scholars are rushing to rebut it. Brown also asserts that Leonardo da Vinci imbedded clues in his art that, when discovered and correctly interpreted, would reveal the truth about Christ.
Much of the fascination with The Da Vinci Code is due to the archaeological discoveries of the Gnostic gospels. These texts are anti-biblical and were written by early Christians whose beliefs departed from the Gospels in the New Testament. They clearly contradict Christianity, which, for today's society, provides a liberating religious option. One can be a "new" Christian who keeps the best of both worlds. The plot of Brown's novel is a twist on the ancient search for the Holy Grail. It denies the divinity of Jesus, and even suggests that Jesus and Mary had a sexual relationship that produced children. For many, these notions are new and startling, but more than anything, the novel is introducing readers in our postmodern society to some of the debates that have gripped scholars of Christian history for decades.
OLD BATTLE, NEW CULTURE
Peter says there's nothing new about this twist on Christianity, but there has been no other attack like this novel that discredits Jesus, the Bible, and basic Christian doctrine. He believes it's time to separate fact from fiction. "It's naïve to dismiss the significant influence that this neo-pagan worldview is having on the media, education, and politics," says Peter. "Beliefs do impact how we live and the choices we make."
Peter says that Brown's novel was written from a religious ideology and is not a neutral fictional tale. "We refer at times to da Vinci's code, but for the most part, we call it Brown's code, for we believe Mr. Brown is the original source of this code, not Leonardo," says Peter. "It is a propaganda piece for a religious worldview," he says.
The real significance of the book is its clear intention to undermine the very foundation of biblical faith and to establish in its place an opposing religious system. If Brown were simply making up a plotline and including far-fetched fantasy, then Peter says a response would not be necessary. But Brown maintains that all he has written is real. "There is a reason Brown wants to stress his work is factual. He wants you to come away with a new mindset," says Peter. Brown questions all traditional historical fact claiming that the church wrote much of history.
Society's problem with the message of the Bible forces people to reinterpret or rewrite history. In Brown's "new" version of history, power hungry bishops with political aims take over the church and create a Bible in the image of their personal theological choices. The Da Vinci Code uses a fictional structure to get its own message across. While seeming to advocate a search for truth at any price, its real goal is to erode one of the fundamental characteristics of the Christian faith - belief that the original message of the Gospel is the unique, inspired word from God.
When searching the truth, Peter says be careful to ask questions that increase discernment, not that feed skepticism. Use guides of the novel and have a Bible handy for research. (At the end of Peter's book, there is a reader's guide to The Da Vinci Code.)
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