LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
This line from Dan Brown’s novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” is an illustration of why the 2003 book/2006 movie is so controversial. The fact that Brown’s tale is the best-selling adult novel of all time — with more than 40 million copies sold — as well as a blockbuster film indicates why Christians find themselves encountering the scandalous beliefs of this story.
The Da Vinci Code is a murder mystery. The victim is the curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Before dying, he leaves a series of clues about a secret allegedly suppressed by the church since the time of Jesus. The curator is the leader of a small, clandestine society that has protected this secret through history. One of the purported members of this ancient group was Leonardo Da Vinci who, according to this protective band, embedded aspects of this secret in his artwork for the initiated to see. From this comes the title, “The Da Vinci Code.” As the primary characters pursue the clues left by the murder victim, author Dan Brown uses the story to convey his beliefs that, among other things, the Bible is a corrupt, human document, that Jesus is not God, that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and produced a child, that Mary Magdalene is a goddess to be worshipped, and that sex should be seen — as in pagan religions — as a means of experiencing God.
The phenomenal popularity of Brown’s vehicle for this anti-Christian message will provide believers with many opportunities to discuss the book/movie in light of the Bible. So here’s a list of questions to use with those who read the book or see the movie:
1. If, as “The Da Vinci Code says,” Jesus is not God — despite all the wonderful things which “The Da Vinci Code” agrees were said and done by Jesus — then what did Mary Magdalene do to qualify as goddess and become worthy of the worship commended by “The Da Vinci Code?”
2. If, as “The Da Vinci Code” asserts, the biblical claims about the deity of Christ are unreliable, why does “The Da Vinci Code” maintain that the good things recorded in the Bible about Mary Magdalene are reliable?
3. If, as the book acknowledges, the alleged sexual activity between Jesus and Mary Magdalene disqualifies Jesus’ claims to divinity, why doesn’t it disqualify Mary Magdalene from being goddess?
4. Why should we worship the dead (for even those who worship Mary Magdalene acknowledge that she is dead)?
5. If, as “The Da Vinci Code” assures, Jesus was married (“It’s a matter of historical record”) and His apostles knew it, why didn’t the Apostle Paul ever appeal to Jesus’ example when he wrote about marriage, especially when he defended (in 1 Corinthians 9:5) a minister’s right to marry based upon the example of “the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas [that is, Peter],” when Jesus would have been the greatest example of all?
6. When “The Da Vinci Code” claims that “the early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex…. in the temple,” why didn’t the author mention how inconsistent this was with God’s Seventh Commandment (“You shall not commit adultery,” Exodus 20:14), which was given before the Jews even had a tabernacle or temple for worship?
7. Is the kind of ritual sex associated with worship (as advocated in “The Da Vinci Code”) really an exaltation of women, or is it a pandering to the lusts of men condoned by their religion?
8. Since both secular and Christian historians agree that “The Da Vinci Code” is wrong about things such as the practice of ritualistic sexual activity in the temple, the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple housing God’s “powerful female equal,” the events at the Council of Nicea related to the divinity of Jesus, the process by which the 27 books of the New Testament came to be accepted as Scripture, the activity of Constantine in church history, etc., do you think author Dan Brown is simply ignorant of the biblical and historical facts, or that he is intentionally misleading his readers?
9. For any who think there might be some degree of truth on both sides, do you realize that biblical Christianity — including the New Testament declaration that Jesus is God (John 1:1, etc.) — and the goddess worship of “The Da Vinci Code” are mutually exclusive, and that there is no possible middle ground between them?
10. Upon which will you base your hope for eternity?
“The Da Vinci Code” is founded upon the belief that there is a “spark of divinity that man can only achieve through union with the sacred feminine.” In other words, all the problems that exist because of alienation from God can be overcome by our own efforts. There is no need for repentance according to this view, for all we need we can “achieve through [sexual] union with the sacred feminine.”
But the Bible declares that our hearts are desperately wicked. We are self-centered, go our own way in life and live to indulge our own desires. Contrary to Dan Brown’s theology, the Bible says that our greatest need is not for us to do something, but for something to be done for us. In His love and mercy, God did for us what we could never do for ourselves: He sent His Son to rescue us from eternal punishment for our sins. Jesus lived the perfect life that only God-in-the-flesh could live. On the cross, Jesus offered Himself to His Father as a sinless substitute in exchange for people who deserved God’s righteous judgment. Then God raised Jesus to life to signify that He had accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death. God offers all the benefits and blessings earned by Jesus to anyone who will turn from living his or her own way and believe that only Jesus’ life and death can make them right with God.
Will you rely upon God to accept you because of what you do to reach up to God, or will you rely upon what God has done through Jesus to reach down to us?
Don Whitney is associate professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He is the author of several books, including “Simplify Your Spiritual Life” (NavPress, 2003). This article and many others can be downloaded as free bulletin inserts at his website, www.BiblicalSpirituality.org.