Q: Is it true that the Crusades in the Middle Ages were conducted by the church, in part, to hide information about Mary Magdalene? (The Da Vinci Code, page 254)
A: That statement alone by Dan Brown might be the greatest example of the twisting of historical reality. The Crusades were caused by the tremendous advancement of Muslim armies moving from Saudi Arabia northward across the Holy Lands towards Constantinople, (present day Istanbul) Turkey.
During much of the history of Christianity, the church has been divided East and West – East centering in Constantinople, and West centering in Rome. With the imminent threat of Muslim armies, the patriarch, or leader, of the Eastern church contacted Pope Urban II in Rome and appealed for armies to come and help them defend themselves from the murderous armies of Islam. Pope Urban’s preaching inspired people to join the cause. The Crusades consisted of eight military expeditions designed to defend some areas and recapture other areas, specifically, the Holy Land. The crusades, which took place from 1095 to 1291 are undoubtedly, one of the most bizarre detours the church ever took, which resulted in removing the church far from it’s most fundamental goals. Urban’s preaching inspired far more zeal than it did common sense.
However, when looking at the Crusades, we need to have “perspective.”
To the extent that the Crusades consisted of people trying to defend homes and families, it was a legitimate cause.
To the extent the Crusaders themselves became murders of innocent persons, it was a pathetic cause.
The Crusades, however, had nothing to do with some conspiratorial plot to obliterate a theory regarding Mary Magdalene as Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code. Mary Magdalene was the least of their concerns. That is truly a concoction in the mind of author, Dan Brown.
Q: Is The Da Vince Code correct when it states that the church punishes those that unveil its lies? (The Da Vinci Code, page 407)
A: Once again The Da Vinci Code shows a lack of understanding what the church is. The church doesn’t have the capacity to keep a lie hidden. The church ultimately is under God. He is truth – and is the revealer of truth. Biblical history reveals that God may permit deception and dishonesty for a season – but not for long. God chooses to reveal it. God will protect the humble- that is, those who acknowledge their failures and their sins before Him. But God has a way of revealing the sins of those who try to hide them.
We have present day examples of this principle in action. Who would have thought that two hundred years after he lived, newspaper articles would discuss Thomas Jefferson’s black mistress. Who would have thought forty years after he was assassinated, that stories of President Kennedy’s involvement with an intern would make the front pages to such a point that the then intern – now in her late fifties and living in New York City – would have to come forward and acknowledge that she was a part of that affair.
The principle is straightforward: what is not confesed, will be revealed. The church couldn’t punish people for unveiling its lies if it tried. God is bigger than the church. In time, He reveals lies, even if they were committed by “the Church.” Like the Broadway musical title, “your arms are too short to box with God.”
Q: Dan Brown would have you believe, in The Da Vinci Code, that the church is a sinister organization, trying to mask all its sins and weakness. Dan Brown is wrong.
A: Allow me to illustrate this in our own church. I’m a pastor of a church in San Diego. We have fourteen pastors on the staff of our church. When I’m interviewing a person about joining our church staff, I want that person to know, right up front, the “warts” of our church. I want them to know the strengths and the weaknesses.
I want them to know my personal weaknesses. In fact, as a part of the interview process, I ask that potential candidate to meet privately with the one pastor on staff that knows me the best and ask him this question, “What is the hardest thing about working with Jim Garlow?” Why do I do that? The answer is simple. The new pastor will eventually know these things anyway. Why should we hide them? He might as well know it right up front before he considers whether to join our staff.
And such it is with the church at large. It is not – and never has been a perfect organization. It is flawed. As flawed as the people who comprise the church. But it is not so “conspiratorial” as Dan Brown would have us believe in The Da Vinci Code. Imperfect? Yes. Sinister? No. Not the true church.
Q: Is it true, as Dan Brown maintains, that “mankind’s use of sex to commune directly with God pose a serious threat to the Catholic power base” by leaving “the church out of the loop, undermining (the churches) self-proclaimed status as the sole conduit to God.” (The Da Vinci Code, page 309)
A: Both Protestants and Catholics – as Christians – affirm the power of the sanctity of sexual expression within marriage. Authentic followers of Jesus Christ and followers of the Bible do not perceive sexual expression as a way to pre-empt the church and its authority. In contrast, the church – following the Scripture – sanctions and sanctifies the role of sexual expression (within marriage), as demonstrated by the value placed on the marriage ceremony itself. (See chapter 2 on Sexuality)
Q: Is it true that people are leaving the Catholic Church because “the doctrine has become a buffet line”? Is it true that “third century law… cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ”? Is it true that “the rules are not workable in today’s society?” (The Da Vinci Code, page 416)
A: Without a doubt, many people have left the Catholic Church in almost every part of the world, especially Latin America. However, in spite of that fact, the Catholic Church still remains extremely strong globally.
Some people, who leave the Catholic Church, do leave because they don’t like the rules of the Catholic Church. In that sense, Dan Brown is correct. However, in his non-historical way, he refers to the wrong rules; he refers to rules in the 3rd century. Most of the rules that people find objectionable came in the Catholic theology many years after the third century. The Catholic Church, in terms of being truly a Roman Catholic Church did not exist until the end of the sixth century. Most of the “rules” that Brown finds so objectionable came 1,000 years after the 3rd century. His “timing” is “off.”
Most of the people who are leaving the Catholic Church are leaving for the exact opposite reason that Dan Brown thinks they are leaving. In Latin America, where the hemorrhaging from the Catholic Church has been particularly profound for several decades, people are leaving because of the liberalism in the church, not due to its conservative views. Latin American Catholics are abandoning their faith for a more vigorous and authentic expression of it. The Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian movements in South America (and some other parts of the world) have experienced explosive growth – with most of the new converts coming from Roman Catholicism. Contrary to Dan Brown’s thesis, most Catholics leave, not because their church is too conservative, but because their church- in some parts of the world- has become too liberal or too stagnated in its expressions of worship.
Q: Is it true, as The Da Vinci Code states, that the church embraces a “transitional period called the ‘end of days?'” (The Da Vinci Code, page 268)
A: The church most assuredly believes in a culmination of history, calling it by various names. This culmination of history, in contrast to The Da Vinci Code, is not the ending of Christianity. It is the launching of the full fledged rein and rule of Christ Himself.
The Bible states that the day will come when every person will state with their own tongue that Jesus truly is Lord and that every knee will bow to Him and acknowledge that He is, in fact, the Messiah, the Christ, the son of God himself. Yes, Dan Brown is right; the church does believe a culmination of all history. But that history is precisely the opposite of what Dan Brown portrays it. It will not be the defeat of the message of Christ – but it will be the grand exaltation of it.
Q: Is it true that the Jewish tetragrammaton, YHWH is a sacred name for God and is derived from Jehovah, and androgynous physical union between the masculine jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, havah? (The Da Vinci Code, page 309)
A: Dan Brown mixes truth with fiction at this point. Let’s sort this one out. The four letters YHWH are known as the tretragrammaton – which means “four letters” in Greek. YHWH are the consonants that form the word Yahweh which is the name for God. Yahweh appears over 6,800 times in the Old Testament Hebrew Bible. It is from the infinitive meaning “to be.” In other words, it conveys the sense of one who “is.” The word Yahweh simply refers to the God who already is. It is incorrectly pronounced “Jehovah” in English. But a correct pronunciation is Yahweh.
Why is it mispronounced? Succinctly stated, early Hebrew had only consonants and no vowels. In the Middle Ages the vowels of another word – Adonai, another name for God – were added to YHWH. Though the history of the term is long and difficult to sort out, one thing is certain: it did not represent some “male-female union” resulting in androgyny, as Dan Brown would have us believe. It has the meaning of “to be” or “is” – meaning, in effect, the “self sufficient one” or “eternal one.”
How does one “name” God? How is God called in the Old Testament? God is someone without beginning, without ending. Thus He is described in the present tense. Moses had an encounter with God in the second book in the Bible, Exodus, Chapter 2, verses 13 and 14. Moses raised the question as to what God’s name is and God responds, “I Am that I am”, or “I am who I am”. In other words, He’s a God named “I Am”. He doesn’t have a past tense. He doesn’t have a future tense. He’s the God who always is. He is a God whose name means “the one who always is.” If He was anything less than that, He wouldn’t be God. God by definition is one who always “is.”
Dan Brown is correct that God in neither male nor female. He is correct if he is saying that God contains all the best qualities of masculinity, and all the best qualities of feminity, but that does not make Him some androgynous “hybrid.”
Q: Is it true that in the Jewish tradition Solomon’s Temple was seen as housing not only God but his powerful equal Shekinah – a female god? (The Da Vinci Code, page 309)
A: Biblical history has no reference to a female goddess named Shekinah. The Hebrew word shekinah does not appear in the Hebrew Old Testament. Shekinah, which technically means “residence” or “dwelling,” in later Jewish writings refers to the “glory” of God. Glory is a difficult word to define. It basically means the overwhelming sense of God’s presence. Shekinah – in biblical history – was not a female goddess. Shekinah was simply an evidence or manifestation of the presence of the living God. Linguistically speaking it is a feminine noun. Many languages have feminine and masculine words. As any linguist knows, gender is not tied to sexual reality.