Liking Da Vinci, Loving Jesus: confessions from a Christian fan of "The Code"

Unless you've living in a cave in Tora Bora you know that The Da Vinci Code movie opens this week. Early reviews have not been kind, but that hasn't deflated Leadership editorial coordinator Elizabeth Diffin's excitement. Elizabeth believes enjoying Dan Brown's novel is not contrary to her faith, and asserts that The Code has actually strengthened it.

I have a confession to make: I am a Christian and I liked The Da Vinci Code. At the risk of being called a heretic, I'll admit I'm a fan of the novel.

I read The Da Vinci Code last fall, and although it was recommended to me by a strong Christian friend, I can't claim any holy motivations for reading it. I was looking for an entertaining and quick read; Da Vinci fulfilled those needs. No, The Da Vinci Code is not a great work of literature. It obviously doesn't measure up to Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky. It's pop-fiction, an amusing book for when you're at the beach or working a slow bank window (as I was).

The thing is, The Da Vinci Code is fiction. Dan Brown's cryptic statements at the beginning of the book notwithstanding. It's right there on the cover in all caps: A NOVEL.

No one is trying to trick us into thinking it is true, any more than E.B. White tried to convince us that pigs can talk. That's the nature of fiction: you suspend reality for a couple of hours and experience another world. And I found Brown's world to be a great ride.

Personally, I give kudos to Brown. Not only did he write a hefty volume (a feat in-and-of itself), he wrote a book that millions of people bought, and it has been discussed in workplaces and gyms and coffee shops across the country. Now it's even being debated on CNN and at Christianity Today, of all places.

It's not that Brown came up with these ideas on his own. The Gnostic Gospels have been around since shortly after Matthew and Luke wrote theirs. Other books have already dealt with this controversial subject matter (such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the 1982 book whose authors recently had Dan Brown in a British court). Brown, I would argue, committed the very great sin of writing a book that a lot of people read. He didn't invent new ideas, or even a radical new take on an old idea. But since a lot of people read his book and discussed it, it became "dangerous."

The Da Vinci Code didn't rock my world much, to be quite honest. It had some interesting ideas ? Brown claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, in case you missed that ? and it taught me some things I didn't know. I had never heard of Opus Dei or the Cult of the Feminine in my pre-Da Vinci days. And even if Brown sensationalized them, which I'm sure he did for the sake of the plot, I was interested and able to do research and became more aware of the world. In the process, I reaffirmed my belief on certain topics, such as Christ's divinity. It took some thought and prayer, and yes, it took some questioning. But eventually I arrived at sound and better informed conclusions.

May 18, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 45 comments

jaggedpill

May 31, 2006  11:23pm

Honestly, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. When it comes down to it, most of us here are criticising Brown's faulty representation of history and his apparently poor writing skills - when what really should be the issue is whether it really questions our faith. I don't think it is wrong in any way to enjoy reading the book, and as mentioned by someone else earlier - if God will question you about spending time reading it, don't you think there will be so many other things He might question you about? Like you spending 2 hours watching Scary Movie 4, for example? There are so many things we do that are purely for entertainment. In the same way you can criticise Brown's writing, I can enjoy it too, if it's a question of linguistic expertise. And we cannot honestly believe that every book of fiction has its historical facts straight. Who has to believe what he writes? We talk as if Brown's Bible is his book, when really, its his piece of fiction. Fiction that, as mentioned, is so obviously based on twisted fact, that there should be no controversy at all. What we need is to get our facts straight, so we can quell controversy when it comes at us. If we all we this passionate over the plight of the impoverished and victims of war, perhaps we would show Christ's love through actions and not word wars. In the extreme, let's think about those who don't even have books.

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kvallinga

May 29, 2006  1:03pm

This is quite the discussion. I read about the Da Vinci controversy last summer from various different sources, and decided I likely wouldn't read the book. However, my local librarian, a non-believer, said that the book was, and I quote "wow!" So I read it. Why? So I could find some common ground with her. (I work in a Christian environment, my neighbours are Christians, my Children attend a Christian school, and my friends are Christians. I need to work at it to connect with unbelievers!) As a believer, the premise of the book was hard to read. I hate to hear or see my Saviour shamed, or defamed. My faith is not bound up in myth or lies. It is the only Truth! However, as a novel, well, I like a good conspiracy theory!!! God was gracious to me at Christmas time, by having someone give me The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Most of the answers I needed to answer Dan Brown's lies are in that book. I was also able to recommend it to my librarian. Has she read it? I don't know. But, I was able to meet her where she is, and for that, I thank the Lord for The DaVinci Code. I also thank the Lord for DVC, because, even in my very orthodox church, many believers are concerned about the attacks on our faith by the popular culture. DVC is only one of recent novels. I am able to share with them what I have learned, and suggest books to them to read so that they will be better prepared to stand. Paul tells us to always have an answer for our faith. The world doesn't listen anymore to "Well the Bible says..." We need answers to why we believe the Bible and thus God. I think God's telling us it's time that we engaged the culture instead of avoiding it! Other books to help challenge our thinking and defending our faith: Reasonable Faith- William Lane Craig Case for Christ- Lee Strobel Listen to evangelist Ravi Zacharrias visit the web site for Stand to Reason It's time, folks!

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Allan Bendert

May 26, 2006  11:11am

I too found the book to be a page turner. I was not bothered by the statements about Jesus and Mary or Constantine. I enjoy what if books and that was what Dan Brown wrote in my opinion. I feel the book is a good conversation starter for people truly seeking. I saw the movie and found it a little long but not bad. I also enjoy historical fiction and I feel this genre could fit right into that!

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Ryan

May 25, 2006  8:58am

"I had never heard of Opus Dei or the Cult of the Feminine in my pre-Da Vinci days. And even if Brown sensationalized them, which I'm sure he did for the sake of the plot, I was interested and able to do research and became more aware of the world." I sincerely hope that you are not using Dan Brown's novel as your source for such "research". If you were to research the Priory of Sion, you'd find that they were a completely fabricated organization, whose history and members were made-up by some French guy in the mid 1900s. I'm not scared of what's in the book, per se, I'm simply scared that people will not look to other sources before assuming truth from within the fiction.

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Kelvin

May 24, 2006  9:48pm

BROWN'S RUSE? Taking my cue from Jim, but a question for all... Jim said " ...And Dan Brown himself is so deluded as to actually believe that his book is 'well-researched' and stands on good historical footing." It is true that very little research is needed to realize the palpable weaknesses and gross inaccuracies in Brown's account. This got me thinking: either Brown is deluded (as Jim suggests) or he is out to play a trick on the main group of anticipated respondents to his work: Christians. Maybe Brown has set us up, confident that we would indeed respond by bashing his book, by going to unnecessarily great lengths to rigorously point out what are really palpable inaccuracies in his book, by erecting misleading dichotomies of fact and fiction, by observing an unhealthy diet of prrof-texting, and the like... In responding too defensively, taking ourselves far too seriously, manifesting a lack of knowledge of the human dimension of our historical heritage, and exhibiting some measure of narrow-mindedness, hate and intolerance along the way, have we played into Brown's hands? Should anyone pay any attention to such a group of people? Do important characteristics like humility and love appear to be in somewhat short supply, if not missing altogether, in the way we have responded? I wonder...

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anne edwards

May 24, 2006  2:54am

I read the book last Sunday as I was traveling. It's been sitting on my shelf for a year and a half waiting for me to get around to it. I've never been one to race into the big phenomena... As a novel I found it well, to be honest, sort of ho-hum. I don't know what all the hype is about. There are much better authors out there. As a mystery story it was fairly transparent as to who was the bad guy, what was going to happen next, and they all lived happily ever after. Plus, if the author really, truly thinks that all those events could have happened in the space of 24 hrs. he takes himself entirely too seriously. I don't live in the States, and in the Catholic nation where I live, peole have swallowed this book hook, line and sinker as being THE truth, so this was one of my motivations for reading the book. The word "novel" doesn't mean fiction to them for some reason. Granted, we're not talking about the intellectually elite of this country; who knows what they think? But the average person here is always looking for the next big thing to believe in, and they're quite happy to reject the claims of Jesus, whom they have known about all their lives. Mostly because they've never had a personal relationship with him. And ANYthing to prove that the Catholic Church has lied to them all their lives has to be good. (Which it has... but not necessarily in the ways Dan Brown portrays.) I'll go see the movie too, since my non-believing friends are all talking about it; it gives me a way to understand where they're coming from. To say that I won't go see it makes me sound snooty and "holier than thou" in this culture, which burns my bridges before I can cross them. Paul and Jesus understood well the cultures where they lived and used what they knew to talk to people about truth, so I figure I ought to do the same.

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Roy

May 23, 2006  8:12pm

II John verse 7 says, " For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (NASB, read also I John 4:2, 3). The denial that Christ came "in the flesh" is well-known to be a central teaching of so-called "Christian" gnosticism. In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown insists that the Gnostic "gospels" that preach this "identity marker of the antichrist" should have been accepted by the Church. My friend, the early Church did not tolerate the Gnostics, gnosticism, or their "gospels", because they recognized them for exactly what they were: the activity of THE ENEMY of Christ. One reason why there are so extremely few surviving gnostic writings is that the orthodox early Church universally condemned and destroyed them. They did not indulge themselves in them. There is excellent reason to believe that the early Church was closer (not just chronologically) to the Mind and Heart of our Lord than the modern church. When we enthusiastically expose ourselves to things they hated and destroyed, it is high time for us to "test ourselves to see if we are in the faith."

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Patrick

May 23, 2006  4:37pm

Really, I'm with Gregg here. There are intelligent discussions of history and faith to be had, this isn't one of them, and not worth getting worked up over. In the same way I wouldn't see porn as a good entry to a discussion on the Christian view of sexuality. There are just plain other ways to have similar conversations. My aversion to seeing this movie has nothing to do with being against freedom of thought or whatever. I plain just don't want to support blasphemy financially. And Brown does blaspheme, with his whole passage on the name of God shockingly bold. Why would I give him money? I did read the book, but only because I borrowed it from my sister-in-law. And maybe I'll see the movie the same way. But I won't pay for a ticket, because I don't want in any way to financially support anyone who believes in idolatry if I can help it. Christians died in defiance of that which Brown celebrates. That means something to me and how I use my wallet. This isn't about freedom of thought or encouraging dialogue. For me this is about standing with my brothers and sisters who sizzled on the griddles because they wouldn't make a wee offering to the gods, gods who Brown would have us celebrate. I'm not afraid of it at all, but neither will I give it any support whatsoever.

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MugabePastor

May 23, 2006  4:02pm

As a Christian pastor in San Francisco, I spend a lot of time with people who self-identify as "spiritual" and give Jesus high marks, but who don't like the organized Christian church very much. So far, their reactions to the DaVinci Code are running the gamut from "entertaining novel" to "poorly written novel." None of the seekers I know report believing that Dan Brown is presenting an accurate alternative to the Bible; they think he has written a novel. Most of my "seeking" friends and aquaintances think the defensive, angry, fearful response from "The Church" is because the novel shines a light on gender inequalities and the 2,000 year history of men in power squelching dissent, telling other people how to believe and punishing those who didn't submit to their human systems. My take on all of this? I read the book because members of my congregation were asking me about it. I read the Harry Potter books for the same reason. The novel didn't threaten either my belief in Christ or my sense of his divine nature. It did remind me of how often those who claim to know Him (calling Lord, Lord!) have distorted His message, though. And, it is sparked great conversations with people wanting to discover the real Jesus. Praise God for that.

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Bo

May 23, 2006  3:25pm

I must confess that I am little non plussed when someone says that they enjoy The DaVinci Code and also love Jesus Christ. I picked up the novel so that I would be informed about the controversy. Since I had heard what a page turner it is, I actually expected to have a good, entertaining read even if I disagreed with the ideas. I ended up returning the book half finished two weeks late to the library. It was no page turner for me. It really was not the ideas about Jesus that turned me off. I became too disgusted with the mishandling of truth and the blatant promotion of pagan religion. I cannot find any enjoyment in fiction that promotes ideas and attitudes toward truth that undermine and oppose the gospel.

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