faith and culture
Angels & Demons and the Christian Faith
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com - Contrary to popular belief, Harvard professor Robert Langdon’s exploits did not begin in The Da Vinci Code. His first adventure is detailed in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, which director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks are bringing to the big screen this Friday, May 15.
Long before the movie releases nationwide, Brown took readers on a thrilling treasure hunt through modern-day Rome as Langdon desperately works to stop a clandestine threat against the Vatican. The story follows this symbologist as he encounters the reality of a secret society he has once thought extinct called the Illuminati. Men of science formed this alliance in opposition of the persecution the Catholic Church brought upon them. A series of gruesome events, suggests the Illuminati are very much alive, and ready to savor retribution for the Church’s past wrongs.
The Existence of God
Although Brown’s story in Angels and Demons is centered on the Vatican, it may come as a surprise to some the length at which some of the characters discuss heavily debated issues, such as Creation vs. Evolution and the purpose of the church in today’s society. The most stirring and though-provoking is captured when Professor Langdon and Dr. Vittoria Vetra are dialoguing about the very existence of God.
The two scientific minded characters are on a plane for Rome to warn Vatican City about a catastrophic threat against them.
Vittoria was watching him. “Do you believe in God, Mr. Langdon?”
The question startled him…. Although he studied religion for years, Langdon was not a religious man. He respected the power of faith, the benevolence of churches, the strength religion gave so many people…and yet, for him, the intellectual suspension of disbelief that was imperative if one were truly going to “believe” had always proved too big an obstacle for his academic mind. “I want to believe,” he heard himself say. (Pg. 136)
As she digs for a deeper response, the tables are turned. Her response, like those of so many academics, she is reluctant to accept that God is as depicted in the Christian Bible.
“As a scientist and a daughter of a Catholic priest, what do you think of religion?”
Vittoria paused, brushing a lock of hair from her eyes. “Religion is like language or dress. We gravitate toward the practices with which we were raised. In the end, though, we are all proclaiming the same thing. That life has meaning. That we are grateful for the power that created us.” (Pg. 138)
“And God?” he asked. “Do you believe in God?”
Vittoria was silent for a long time. “Science tells me God must exist. My mind tells me that I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I am not meant to.” (Pg. 138)
In the story, Vetra goes on to explain that she believes Native Americans “got it right.” That God is Mother Earth. Her faith is misguided, yet her acknowledgement of God is on track.
Dan Brown, a Man of Faith?
The disinclination both characters show to accept one True God as fact stems from Brown’s personal faith. When asked if he was a Christian, Dan Brown posted this reply on his official Web site.
Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress (The Da Vinci Code Q & A).
Brown’s spiritual quest led him to this personal faith conclusion, albeit incomplete. This confession seems to indicate he is still seeking Truth. Authentic enlightenment is discovered when you realize that God not only exists, but that there is only one way to Him.
Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me." John 14:6 (The Message)
Despite Brown’s reluctance to accept the validity of the Bible and the basic tenants of the Christian faith, his books open a worldwide discussion on God’s existence, as intended. The Da Vinci Code continues to be Brown’s most controversial novel. According to him, his stories aren’t meant to isolate or offend people of faith. He put it this way.
It is important to remember that a reader does not have to agree with every word in the novel to use the book as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith.
That is one fact on which we can agree.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as a producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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