- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The release Friday of the film version of Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code,” and its prophesied status as a “blockbuster,” once more brings to the forefront a story line that is a frontal assault upon the central truths of the Christian message.

In the course of his story, Mr. Brown enables his readers to “discover” that the doctrine of the deity of Christ emerged, four centuries after his death, as a result of the political invention of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who aimed to create a new religious power he could control.

Far from being divine, Jesus, according to “The Da Vinci Code,” was human, which was proved by his marriage and his siring an heir whose line continues to the present. Also “exposed” is the carefully concealed historical fact that the church had its origin in a battle between the sexes: Jesus’ intent, Mr. Brown writes, was for his followers to be led by his daughter after his crucifixion. This desire, however, was thwarted by the ambition and design of Peter, who was determined to impress male dominance upon any future church.

The Bible and the Gospel each come in for considerable reinterpretation in “The Da Vinci Code” and ultimately are seen as further creations of the devious Constantine.

A startling reality to emerge amidst the controversy that surrounds the book is that our society, one of the most sophisticated in history, can be so gullible. The book’s content is a cocktail in which some basic historical facts are blended with considerably more half-truths, and mixed up with substantial amounts of author-acknowledged “make-believe.”

Yet the public not only continues to buy “The Da Vinci Code,” but some repeat as “fact” its content, using the book’s assertions to challenge orthodox Christian belief. The deliberate gullibility of a society that wants to believe and promulgate acknowledged and exposed fabrication raises profound questions about the nature of faith today. Many people, it seems, are looking for a new form of religious faith, and want a spirituality that has removed the dogma of the past. To gain this, they are willing to affirm the manifestly untrue and assert the demonstrably absurd.

Mr. Brown seems to have tapped into this “spirit of the age” and become an apologist for a form of Christianity that embraces and integrates many of the motifs of modernity — such as an absence of absolutes — while reinventing history.

He draws upon and blends ancient symbols of pre-Christian mystical religions and traditions. When his heroes arrive at Rosslyn Chapel, they discover it is filled with a plethora of symbols, including Masonic seals, mystical pentacles, pyramids and plants. The shrine is dedicated to “all faiths … to all traditions … and above all, to nature and the goddess.” Thus spirituality is conjoined with nature and the feminine to form the substance of a new Christian religion absent any of its historic dogmas.

By rejecting the historic content of Christianity and replacing it with a mythology, Mr. Brown is not simply weaving another story with which to entertain weary travelers; he is constantly and deliberately assaulting the historic understanding of Jesus Christ, demeaning His person and denying His divinity. His is a serious attempt to discredit Christianity and belittle the institution of the church.

Mr. Brown portrays the church’s leaders as prejudiced, self-serving deceivers, ignoring the fact all the disciples died martyr’s deaths. If his reinterpretation were to be believed, they would have died knowing they sacrificed themselves for a lie. Few are willing to die for the truth; who willingly dies for what he knows to be a lie?

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul warned exactly this sort of assault upon the Christian faith would take place. He understood that, though all people know deep in their being there is a Creator God to whom they are ultimately responsible, apart from grace and because of their own pride, they refuse to honor Him as God. Instead, they exchange “the truth about God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.”

The ultimate blasphemy, then, is to reject the real God incarnate in Jesus Christ, as historic Christianity affirms. Humanity may devise and worship tame “lesser gods” who may satisfy their longing for spirituality, but they do so at the expense of truth.

“The Da Vinci Code” is far from harmless. Under the guise of fiction, it attempts to rewrite history, refashion Christianity and reinvent the truth. That our society embraces fiction as fact is not only sad but profoundly frightening. There is an inevitable moral consequence when truth is replaced by the lie.

Our culture already bears the indelible battle scars of the decline of accepted values built upon truth. With their passing, moral ambiguity and uncertainty, both personal and public, must increase. The release of “The Da Vinci Code” movie can only intensify that confusion.

Robert Norris is senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.

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