I finished reading The DaVinci Code the other day. Having recently read the Patrick O'Brien (Jack Aubrey, British Navy) series and having delved into some genuine literature lately (Dickens, Dumas, Austen), I will say that Dan Brown's writing style leaves a great deal to be desired. There's not much in the way of character development, etc. I, for one, get annoyed at the "cliffhanger" chapter endings. Having said that, some thoughts about the content of the book have been mulling around in my pastoral mind, and I thought I'd preserve them here in cyberspace.
The "real" premise for this fictional book is this: Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene, and they had a child together. Since Jesus was actually an aristocratic born heir to the Jewish throne, His real mission was to restore the king (Himself) in Israel. Jesus and Mary's bloodline passed its way down through history in the Merovingian kings of France and still exists today.
Let me state clearly that that's all just baloney. Aside from being blasphemous, it's just silly. Repeatedly in the book, the notion is presented that whatever else Jesus is, He's not a Savior. His teaching is the basis for our living good lives, and that's the big deal, not His dying for sinners to save them from God's wrath against sin. That's just more works righteousness. The big emphasis is on the so called "sacred feminine" which has been obscured and covered up by the Church. In short, the religion espoused in Dan Brown's novel is a mixture of gnostic teaching (secret knowledge) and paganism (which was chock full of feminine worship, fertility rites, and all that).
I certainly have nothing to contribute to the laying out of the facts or the debunking of the factual errors of the book or its real life inspirations (Holy Blood, Holy Grail and others). For a good job of that, go here. What I do want to do is examine two Scriptural ideas which are, in my own view, neglected in the whole discussion, and which refute the DaVinci nonsense theologically rather than just apologetically.
The first is the notion of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene. This is not possible because Jesus already has a Bride: the holy Christian Church. This is stated clearly in Revelation 21:2. The church is the Bride of Christ. She was born, as Eve was, from His side. The blood and water which flowed from His side, giving us the elements of His holy Sacraments, are a picture of Christ bringing forth His Bride from His side. Notice that Christ even leaves His mother behind, as Genesis states a man shall do (Gen. 2:24; He leaves her care to the Apostle John and the ministry of the Church). That the Lord has long considered His people as a Bride is testified by Ezekiel in great detail (Ezek. 16:1ff). St. Paul makes a most beautiful statement of this connection between marriage and the church in Ephesians 5.
Dan Brown portrays the "true church" of the "sacred feminine" as a dirty secret covered up by a misogynist (woman-hating) Roman Catholic Church. There is no doubt that the Scriptures have been used to justify the ill-treatment of women just as much as to justify slavery, Hitler, the Crusades, and whatever else one fancies. All that aside, the right teaching of Christ and His church actually exalts women. Not in an idolatrous sense of some "sacred feminine," which is worshipped in a pagan fertility cult. Rather, we see in the way that Christ loves the church, "by giving Himself for her, a ransom, so that she might be pure, spotless and holy through her washing," the example for men in loving their wives. In a certain sense, men are commanded to "put their wives on a pedestal." Not an idol-like pedestal, but, rather, to love them as themselves, and in this way: even to giving their lives for them. In this way Christ loves the church.
All this would not be true if Christ were married to Mary Magdalene. Then the Church would not be His Bride. There would be no marriage feast of the Lamb to which we look forward. We would have no perfect example of how a husband should love a wife. In fact, we have the opposite: a Jesus who marries Mary and then abandons her by getting Himself killed trying to fulfill some wild politcal ambition!
The other idea that I haven't heard anything about is this: if Christ has earthly children, then we are not children of God. The Scriptures teach clearly that we are Sons of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus speaks of this birth as one "from above, by water and the Spirit." St. Paul makes this point repeatedly in his epistle to the Galatians: We are all sons of Abraham (and God) through faith in Christ Jesus. Because Jesus is the Son of God (in His Divine Nature), we, through our union with Him in Holy Baptism, are made sons of God in our human nature. We have been restored to what Adam was. (St. Luke calls Adam the Son of God in his genealogy). St. John says, "Behold what manner of the love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 1:1-3). The manner of God's love is that He calls us His children in Christ. If the Lord had simply had earthly kids, that would not have been the manner of God's love, but a self-centered love on Christ's part, for then He would not have come to bring sonship for all, but only for His own children.
I realize that the whole DaVinci Code idea rests on certain assumptions about Christ: that He was not true God, that He didn't exercise His power in performing miracles, that He didn't rise from the dead, and in fact probably didn't even die on the cross. (This last is the argument of the Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors). The other two wrong assumptions that Dan Brown uses are (1) that Christianity was really a diverse blend of various religious elements, and that it was the "Orthodox" who won out and silenced everyone else; and (2) that Christianity is just a step along the whole evolution-of-religion ladder. It just absorbed, adapted, and changed other religions by which it was influenced. These are foolish notions of human "wisdom" that have been around a long time and have been thoroughly refuted elsewhere.
Finally, it bothers me to see so many Christians getting all worked up over these blasphemies as if we must somehow protect Christ from any smear campaigns that get waged against Him. If that were the case, He would have let Peter fight for Him in the Garden or appeared Himself to the Pharisees after He rose from the dead. It's no surprise that the Devil has worked out a clever "shadow church" of intrigue and conspiracy to continually draw people away from the Truth. Yet faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes through the preaching of the preachers that Christ sends (Rom. 10). Those who are inclined to believe that the DaVinci Code is true are the same people who are un-inclined to read and hear and believe what the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels tell us. Pastors certainly have to be ready to answer the kinds of historical questions the DaVinci Code will raise. More than that, however, we need to be ready to show why such a Jesus as the one the DaVinci code pushes is not a Jesus who saves us from our sins. The real Jesus is the One who has indeed taken a Bride, His holy Church, and who has, by His death and resurrection, and the delivery of that salvation in the means of grace, made us children of our heavenly Father. +SDG+
The Reverend Mark Buetow, STM is the former pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in New Orleans. He is currently awaiting a Call. Check out his blog here.