Like many readers, I came to read this book partly in response to the public outcry it received from Evangelicals across the country. The debate reached its apex while I was still in college—at a very conservative Christian school—so I was determined to venture into those unknown waters of “thinking for myself” and “exercising spiritual discernment” which that overprotective school had otherwise dammed me from. At that time, I loved the book as much for its mystery and suspense as for its being a means of rebellion that wasn’t so serious as to threaten me with expulsion. Now older and far less cynical/rebellious, I can take a fresh look at the novel (still a pleasant thriller) and respond more honestly.
The gist of the novel’s sacrilege is that Leonardo DiVinci held a secret passed down through the ages that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were fond of trysts, and eventually bore children whose very existence would threaten the cause of Christianity (for the sins of Jesus would shine badly on his followers’ claims that he was also God) and the power and spread of the Church. As a result, DaVinci hid his knowledge for safe-keeping through the ages inside his works of art. The most famous example is The Last Supper in which DaVinci “hid” a loving Mary Magdalene resting her head upon Jesus’ shoulder.
Regarding the sacrilege, I certainly agree that anything which challenges the deity of Christ is spiritually destructive, no matter its packaging. Absolutely so. After all, Jesus’ being the only Son of God is the cornerstone which every single false religion has sought to destroy. Nevertheless, The DaVinci Code—not the first to ever commercialize heresy—is merely a novel, so I was bit surprised at the backlash it received. Because fiction that sells itself as such is not to be taken so seriously, why did the Christian world become so angrily fearful? Even more so, why would the Evangelical world take such a strong stand against a fiction whose main target appeared to be more the Catholic Church and its structure and theology than Christian theology in general?
I found it hard to understand the backlash this book received not simply because it’s fiction, but also because it chronicles the supposed beliefs of an artist from centuries ago. The book says a lot about DiVinci and his own messed up life, but he was an artist, so his antics should not have surprised us. The fact that one imaginative, twisted individual believed a thing (or was at least purported to have believed a thing) does not necessitate that we should truly take his quirks as dangerous threats to the Truth of Christ or his Church.
If anything, we could view the spiritual impact of such entertainment as a cleansing for the Church. After all, the people most swayed by these stories were those who naturally put more stock in a contemporary novel than in the timeless Truth of God’s Word. Yes, we need to guard sheep against wolves, but while in one sense this requires over-protection, in another, far more important sense, it requires teaching them to fight these ideological battles for themselves. Churches need to care less about warning their people against every little danger out there and start teaching them basic, biblical discernment. If they’ve got discernment, then this book is nothing more than a thrilling novel with an almost joke-plot. It’s entertaining and intriguing, but for anyone with sense, it’s certainly nothing to get all worked up about.
With all that said, I must consider if I would let my own teenagers read this book. Considering the language and violence, perhaps not, and this would be an instance of the over-protection part of my job. But considering the spiritual plot of it all, absolutely I would. I know that my children are growing up under teaching that prepares them to make wise decisions in life based upon proper spiritual discernment, and if they exercise this discernment, then they will not be swayed by a silly novelist like Dan Brown to doubt the eternal Truth of Almighty God. I have no fears of that.