A BIBLICAL RESPONSE
The Gospel According to Dan Brown
By Jeff Dunn & Craig Bubeck
A Hurricane Named Da Vinci
Storm? What storm?
On August 29, 2005, one of the most powerful storms ever
recorded struck the Gulf Coast of the United States just east of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina devastated large parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, leaving close to two thousand people dead, hundreds missing, and hundreds of thousands homeless. While warnings had been posted several days before the hurricane made landfall, many of those who died chose to ride out the storm
in their homes, thinking it really wouldn’t be all that bad. Their
choice was the wrong one.
Today another storm has struck, not just in America, but all over the planet. It wasn’t forecast on The Weather Channel. CNN didn’t have crews onshore to announce its arrival. But it is deadly nonetheless. And Dan Brown’s best-selling novels are at the storm’s leading edge.
The storm we’re talking about is spiritual in nature, which gives it eternal importance. This storm threatens to sweep away all who are not firmly anchored, those whose lives are built on sand rather than bedrock. The winds in this storm howl, “The true Jesus isn’t the Jesus you think he is,” “The ancient texts are the work of men with political motives,” and “There are secrets the church is hiding from you.”
Many people won’t recognize this cultural phenomenon as a storm. In their little neck of the woods, it still might seem like a refreshing breeze at first, something to be enjoyed and sought after—just like the minutes before Katrina hit, when the sea was calm and people were relaxing in their homes.
And then they died.
A spiritual storm is coming your way, and it’s inevitable. At the eye of this storm is this message: What the church has taught you about Jesus is wrong.
Perhaps you’ve been chasing this storm for some time, even reveling in it. Along with Brown, you may think it really began some seventeen hundred years ago when Nicene Council Christians hijacked the real Jesus and followers were swept away by the fantastic notion that he was actually God. To you, the world is finally coming to grips with reality—and embracing an authentic spirituality. You might argue that in the scope of the past two thousand years of church history, what we know as Christianity has merely been the eye of the storm—a calm of false hope for a few centuries—and now the other edge is bearing down on contemporary culture.
Others would like to think they do believe in biblical Christianity. But this recent Dan Brown wave … well, it’s powerful. Many who call themselves Christians but are not anchored in their faith will be swept away. In fact, many, after reading The Da Vinci Code and Brown’s other books, have already been washed off their sandy foundations.
And finally, some grounded Christians are just now realizing a storm has hit but still don’t know what it’s all about. Maybe this book is even tapping you on the shoulder and drawing your attention to what’s going on outside the relatively secure walls of your church. You don’t particularly want to go running outside out into the thick of it, but it’s starting to worry you. You’re wondering if you should batten down the hatches of your church or
The Gospel According to Dan Brown is a call for you to check your moorings. On which gospel are you anchored? Which gospel will your kids embrace? Are you prepared for this spiritual storm that is even now at your personal shore?
A Force to Be Reckoned With
A few years ago, Dan Brown was a relatively unknown author who had three works of fiction in print at the end of 2002—Digital Fortress, Angels & Demons, and Deception Point. None had sold more than a few thousand copies. But Jason Kaufman, Brown’s editor at Doubleday, felt there was something special about the author’s fourth manuscript.
Kaufman convinced his marketing team to take a chance and send out ten thousand advance copies of The Da Vinci Code. The gamble paid off. After its release in March 2003, The Da Vinci Code immediately soared to the top of major best-seller lists, where it has remained for nearly three years. By the beginning of 2006, more than twenty-five million hardcover copies of The Da Vinci Code were in print worldwide, ironically putting it in direct competition with another all-time best seller: the Bible.
The publishers of Brown’s other novels rushed to rerelease his earlier works in both paperback and hardcover to take advantage of his success. For a while, Brown even pulled off the unthinkable: His books occupied the top four slots on the Sunday Times best-seller list at the same time. And that was before the illustrated versions of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were released.
Nearly two dozen books written to debunk The Da Vinci Code followed.
(We were the editors of one such book—Cracking Da Vinci’s Code by James L. Garlow and Peter Jones—which to date has sold nearly half a million copies.) Several nonfiction books have also been written to support Brown’s claims. Bookstores have even devoted entire sections to Brown and his theories. In May 2006, The Da Vinci Code was released as a big-screen movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. Brown’s fifth novel has not even been published, but several books already have been written to solve its mysteries.
There is no question that Dan Brown has become an industry unto himself, a powerful marketing force to be reckoned with.
What’s in a Gospel?
Is there more to Brown’s fiction than just a story? Do we really believe he’s preaching a gospel? And what do we mean by “gospel,” anyway?
When Christians speak of gospel, they usually mean one of two traditional senses of the word: the gospel as truth and the gospel as story. The first sense is that “good-news” truth (John 3:16), which proclaims God loves us, and if we believe in his uniquely begotten son, Jesus Christ, we’ll have eternal life. That’s the Truth of all truths as far as Christians are concerned.
Even so, this ultimate good-news truth is generally not what your friend means when he or she declares, with right hand raised, “I swear; it’s the gospel truth!” Ironically, it isn’t the “good news” sense of the word gospel but rather the “truth” sense that our culture has adopted. (After all, your friend with raised hand might be bearing the bad tidings that the one-of-a-kind antique you just bought at an expensive store is going on sale at Kmart.) Our society has attached “gospel” to a wide array of truth messages, some more true than others.
Allusions to this factoid-type of gospel pop up regularly in our culture, often with the formula “the gospel according to [fill in your favorite sage].” A quick Web search reveals literally hundreds of book titles that play on this theme: The Gospel According to Peanuts, The Gospel According to Disney, The Gospel According to Harry Potter, … The Simpsons, … Tolkien, … Tony Soprano, … Superheroes, … Oprah, …Zen—and many more.
And now we have The Gospel According to Dan Brown.
All these books borrow from the original Christian claim to absolute, irrefutable truth—some good-humoredly, some cynically, some even with a promise of good news, and some with comparably zealous claims of spiritual truth. But all are not so subtly alluding to Christianity’s gospel message with its claim to the ultimate goodnews truth.
When we titled this book The Gospel According to Dan Brown, we took that into consideration. Brown presents a message he believes is true—truer, in fact, than that claimed by mainstream Christianity. And he has declared his commitment to spreading his gospel. We’ll examine that gospel in depth in subsequent chapters, comparing and contrasting the Bible’s claims of gospel truth with Dan Brown’s, and we’ll get down to the basics of what we mean by “truth” for that matter.
The second meaning of the word gospel is not as widely known, but it’s still dear to the hearts of Christians. It’s the gospel as story—the “old, old story” that forms the very foundation of the Christian faith. The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are actually called Gospels. That’s because these historical narratives—the gospel stories—are the vehicles for the good-news message of Jesus Christ. Without the gospel stories, the message is meaningless, because the message at its heart is the story. You can’t call yourself a Christian if your belief in God isn’t fundamentally informed by the greatest of all stories: the gospel of Jesus, the Christ.
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Jeff Dunn is Sr. Acquistitions Editor for RiverOak Publishing. He has written numerous books, including Taminig a Liger: Unexpected Spiritual Lessons from Napoleon Dynamit (NavPress). He lives with his wife and children in Tulsa.
Craig Bubeck, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Victor Books, is also an adjunct professor of literature and rhetoric for Colorado Christian University. He received his graduate degree in English and creative writing from Binghamton University and his undergraduate degree from Wheaton College. He has also served as theological editor for Scripture Press. He lives with his wife and four children in Colorado Springs.
© Cook Communications Ministries. Used with permission.
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