My time away from reviewing books has not been a time away from reading them. Most of my reading has been non-fiction, though during a 4-week trip out West, I came equipped only with my Kindle and an urge for some fiction. Thus I came to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol excitedly, hoping to escape into a web of mystery and adventure. Like Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code before it, The Lost Symbol delivered on both accounts, bitterly flavored as well by its impossible biblical hermaneutics and blatant heresies. My review will move through the notes I took and underlinings I made throughout, minus all spoilers (I hope), though the three major “revelations” towards the end of the book were all pretty easy to guess early on.
In this novel, the villain, Mal’akh, is covered entirely in tattoos, believing that “the act of tattooing one’s skin was a transformative declaration of power, an announcement to the world: I am in control of my own flesh” (Loc.283). He is a villain living deep in the web of Masonry for the sake of accessing her greatest secret, the key to the Ancient Mysteries. “Masonry,” writes Brown, “is a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” (Loc.675), and thus a perfect system for Brown to pursue with his leading protagonist, the symbologist Robert Langdon. After Robert receives a call from his good and powerful friend, Peter Solomon, to give a speech in the D.C. Capitol Building, he discovers he’s instead been tricked into playing Mal’akh’s sinister game of unlocking the ancient secrets of Masonry before it’s too late.
Religiously, The Lost Symbol (again, like all of his Langdon novels) is horrendously askew. I imagine that Dan Brown has managed to offend nearly all belief systems in these books, while not surprisingly reserving his most poisonous statements and conclusions for the One True God, Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and God’s Holy Word. He rags against atonement, the inspiration of Scripture, Jesus’ divinity, God’s triune nature, and many other doctrines without which our world simply could not exist. Understandably this is a novel, a work of fiction, and perhaps a book that does not state Brown’s own philosophy of religion. These facts alone describe why I felt fine with enjoying it as a form of escapism. But if the backlash of The DaVinci Code has taught us anything, it’s that people are idiots and some will take these speculations of fiction and accept them as gospel truth. What a fallen world we live in, huh?
Midst the babble of false doctrine in The Lost Symbol, Brown does share a few nuggets of wisdom. I’ll take a short break from the religious discussion to share a few of my favorites: “Knowledge is a tool, and like all tools, its impact is in the hands of the user” (Loc.1439); “Google is not a synonym for research” (Loc.1885); and “Misunderstanding a culture’s symbols is a common root of prejudice” (Loc.2910).
Now back to the discussion at hand. One saving grace that Dan Brown has in his aversion to “religion” is that the majority of his anti-Christian views are spent against the Roman Catholic view of Christianity, a view that has for centuries skewed the true meaning of God’s Word and has replaced the precious and perfect work of Jesus with nothing more than a high demand on “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Oftentimes the weaknesses Brown alludes to in Christendom deal more with the traditions of Catholicism than with biblical doctrines themselves, though he still does attack many foundational doctrines of God’s Word. Regarding man’s supposed “deity,” for example, one of Brown’s characters states: “If we accept, as Genesis tells us that ‘God created man in His own image,’ then we must also accept what this implies, that mankind was not created inferior to God. In Luke 17:20 we’re told ‘The kingdom of God is within you’…[Christians do not consider themselves equal to God] because most Christians want it both ways. They want to proudly declare they are believers in the Bible and yet simply ignore those parts they find too difficult or too inconvenient to believe” (Loc.3588). While such blasphemy can be easily countered with the most basic Bible-reading skills (see for one easy example the writings of Isaiah in 29:15-16 and chapter 45; has the guy missed all those “WOE”s!?), the vast majority of Brown’s readers don’t own such skills and are easily swayed by these doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Here’s more of a taste of how he teaches such doctrine: “The only difference between you and God, is that you have forgotten you are divine” (Loc.8690); and “The Second Coming is the coming of man: the moment when mankind finally builds the temple of his mind” (Loc.8811).
Brown is certainly not the first to try and sell such horrendous teachings, for nearly every false religion tries as well to suggest the same, not because they all take part in differing pieces of the Truth, but because they’ve all taken equal part in the Grand Deception by the Great Deceiver. How so many people can miss this reality and fall prey to such heresies is abundantly clear in light of our sinful and spiritually dead state.
Rather than continuing on with more quotations from this fine author’s very poor Bible-reading skills, I’ll conclude with an interesting line of Masonic lore that is applicable to life in general and to the discussion at hand: “Time is a River…and books are boats. Many volumes start down that stream, only to be wrecked and lost without recall in its sands. Only a few, a very few, endure the test of time and live to bless the ages following” (Loc.8605). God’s Word certainly fits this bill, but only because God stated as much (Matthew 5:18; 24:35). But Dan Brown’s books? Well, as entertaining and mysterious as they are, they’ll eventually fall off into literary oblivion sooner or later like so many others. Let’s just hope and pray that they don’t drag too many poor souls with them along the way.