I wasn’t too hot about Dan Brown’s first book, “Digital
Fortress”. His latest offering, “The Da Vinci Code”
however, is a great read. It almost deserves the many
laudatory blurbs plastered all over the cover.
Here’s the one from fellow thriller writer Clive Cussler:
“Intrigue and menace mingle in one of the finest mysteries
I’ve ever read. An amazing tale with enigma piled on
secrets stacked on riddles.”
As an old fan of thrillers and ‘who-dun-its’, I am not
easily impressed. But I found myself enjoying the “Da Vinci
Code”. I was further impressed when Brown claims, “All
descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret
rituals in this novel are accurate.”
So why did I feel uneasy after reading the book?
Because of passages like these:
“The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood,
and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the
goddess, which of course has been lost, virtually
eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her
ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed
a threat to the predominantly male church, and so the
sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean.”
“Knights who were searching for the chalice were speaking
in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that
had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned
unbelievers and forbidden the pagan reverence for the
If these claims had been found in a religious tract I would
have laughed them away. Few would fail to see such claims
for what they were — theological and historical rubbish
mingled with hyperbole.
But these truth claims are found in an exciting thriller
aimed at the general public — the perfect Trojan horse.
More people read fiction than books on theology. And one
reads a thriller for relaxation. Your discernment guard is
The more engaging the story, the more the reader is
involved emotionally. And there has been enough real sexism
in history to make Brown’s statements on the ‘sacred
The ‘Da Vinci Code” reminded me yet again of the intimate
relationship between truth claims and the attractiveness of
the medium in which they are communicated.
In his book, “The Sermon Doctor”, Harry Farra reminds us:
“Given two speakers, one with great ideas and modest
delivery and the other with modest ideas and great
delivery, unfortunately the latter will almost always
surpass the former as a communicator.”
“…how you say what you want to say is very important is
very important to the success of your sayables. How you
deliver the goods affects how those goods will be
delivered. Do you want your gifts delivered in pretty paper
with ribbons and bows or in a brown lunch bag sullied with
dobs of tuna and smears of mayonnaise?”
Francis Schaeffer had earlier warned us about error
contained in good art and truth mired in bad art.
We are aesthetic beings. Which is why the Garden of Eden
had “every kind of tree pleasing to the eye and good for
food…” (Genesis 2:9 REB) In an unfallen world, truth and
beauty went together.
But we now live in a fallen world and there is no longer a
link between beauty and truth.
Trees pleasing to the eye may be poisonous. And things good
for us may be ugly.
What then are we to do?
First, it means that we can never let our spiritual guard
down. Every book, every movie, every painting, makes truth
claims. And the most dangerous claims may be found in the
most attractive art.
It presupposes that we know our Scripture well, well enough
to discern truth from error.
But there is another point to be made. I think the onus is
also on us who claim to know the truth, to respect the
aesthetic dimension in all we do.
Much of what is done by the church and by Christians is
mediocre at best. Just take a long hard look at our music,
our sermons, our design work in general.
It is not a choice between truth and beauty. Of course we
are committed to truth above all.
But if we are really committed to truth, then we must seek
to communicate that truth as best we can.
Indeed, may all the works of our hands seek to reunite
truth and beauty.
And that includes the writing of thrillers.
Which is why I really enjoy Jill Paton Walsh’s fleshing out
of unfinished Dorothy Sayers’ material. I thought the new
Lord Peter Wimsey novel, “A Presumption of Death”, an
enjoyable and satisfying read.
Now there is a great mystery under girded with a real
respect for truth and ethics.
It can be done.