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A Christian response to Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'
June 05, 2006
By R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, Southern Seminary
Since its release in 2003, more than 40 million hardback copies of "The Da Vinci Code" have been sold. Six million paperback copies also are now in circulation, and May 19, a major Hollywood movie was released.
In both the book and the movie, the central character is one who does not actually appear in either, and that is Jesus Christ. Because of that, many of our friends and neighbors are going to be talking about who Jesus is and why He came. Many of our neighbors are going to be seeing, perhaps for the first time, an explanation about who Jesus is and why He matters, and our great concern is that the entire story presented in this movie is a lie.
Authored by Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code" is a conspiracy story. It is a mystery suspense thriller, and Americans love mystery suspense thrillers. What makes this story different, however, is that the conspiracy theory that lies at the heart of the book's plotline has to do with the Gospel. What drives the action of the story is the argument that the church's traditional teachings about Jesus are all a fraud. Instead of revealing who Jesus really was and what he really did, the book argues, the church buried the truth in an intentional conspiracy, claimed that Jesus was divine and said that He had come to save sinners from their sin.
Beginning in chapter 55, Brown gets to the very heart of the story when the central character begins to reveal to another character the truth about the conspiracy. Consider what the character Leigh Teabing says: "The Bible is a product of man, my dear, not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds, man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times and it has evolved through countless translations, editions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book."
Now if that is true, then we are reading a kind of committee report when we open Scripture. But it is not true. This is one of those insidious statements that makes sense to sinners, because in effect, that one paragraph has just declared that we do not have to take the Bible as the Word of God. It is just a human document, says the book.
Brown writes at length about the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Here is the central passage: "'Many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon. The date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and of course the divinity of Jesus.' 'I don't follow, his divinity?' 'My dear,' Teabing declared, 'until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless, a mortal.' 'Not the Son of God?' 'Right,' Teabing said. 'Jesus's establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea.'"
Brown's history of the Council of Nicea is completely misleading. The true story of Nicea, therefore, was not that the leaders of the church came together to declare Jesus divine, but that they came together to guard against heresy and to proclaim the truth as it had been handed to them by the apostles. Essentially, Brown wants you to believe, or at least he has written a novel to suggest, that Christianity is based upon a huge lie, which is that the original historical truth about this mortal prophet was buried by the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. in order to bolster the power of his own regime. Thus, Christians throughout the ages have been engaged in an exercise of mass delusion — until now, of course.
So how do we answer this? First, we must remind ourselves of some basic truths concerning how Christianity came to be. One of the book's claims is that until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the church believed that Jesus was just a mortal prophet. There could not be a bigger historical lie. Consider John 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men." Nothing could be clearer than this, and it is the very heart of the Gospel. If we misunderstand who Jesus is, we cannot possibly understand anything else about the Gospel itself.
It is not important that Christians either see this movie or read this book. But it is important that we be armed with enough knowledge of the storyline so that when our neighbors, friends, coworkers and family members begin talking about this, we can say, "Well, no, I am not shocked to hear that. The church has heard this kind of thing before. I am not shocked to hear that, because there have been efforts in the very beginning of Christianity to subvert the truth with a lie. Even in the New Testament, Paul himself was warning against false gospels."
In fact, Scripture tells us there are many who will prefer a lie to the truth, even a lie that is easily dismissible, even a lie that is transparently false, even a lie that is so undocumented that it simply falls under the weight of its own audacity. There are persons who would rather believe a lie packaged in a glittery Hollywood movie than the truth so plainly revealed in the Word of God.