Back in mid-September, Dan Brown released his highly anticipated fifth book entitled The Lost Symbol. Wikipedia reports that 6.5 million copies were made for the first print, the most ever for the publisher, Random House. I just finished reading it a couple of weeks back and thought I would post some of my own thoughts on the book.
The Lost Symbol remains in the style of the previous four books by Dan Brown – suspenseful, page-turning, short chapters, all with a little twist to conclude. I actually quite like this modern style of writing, as I have noted elsewhere about my love for Grisham novels.
But, more than that, Brown is at it again taking left and right jabs at Christianity (as was done in both Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code). Really, I believe that his beef is more with the Roman Catholic church. But, as that seems to be his major interaction with Christianity, I suppose he sees himself as a self-appointed authority to reveal the holes and fallacies of Christianity in general.
The main character is once again Harvard professor, Robert Langdon. This time, the major plot is in the heart of Washington DC. Langdon has been called by his long-time friend, Peter Solomon, to come and give a speech on the symbolism found in the architecture of the buildings in the nation’s capital.
As with the two previous books, Langdon soon realises things are not as first supposed. He finds himself running around Washington DC this time, rather than Paris or Rome. Specifically, Langdon is trying to help decode one of the earliest religious secrets of mankind known as the Ancient Mysteries. Interestingly enough, the whole novel is wrapped around the spiritual concepts and teachings of Free Masonry. It is Langdon’s good friend, Peter Solomon, who stands in the highest order of the Masons, the 33rd degree, and, even more, he is the presently appointed Worshipful Master.
Again, the book does stand as a page turner (though some might disagree for dislike of this style). I must confess that I was interested in following the story, mainly to see what charge Dan Brown would next bring against Christianity. And I also wanted to see how the book ends.
Below are a few examples of some of the shots Brown takes at Christianity:
We read these words between main character, Robert Langdon, and the Director of the CIA’s Office of Security, Inoue Sato (a female):
Langdon nodded, “A very old myth. The secret of the Ancient Mysteries is pre-Christian, actually. Thousands of years old.”
“And yet it’s still around?” (words of Sato)
“As are many equally improbable beliefs.” Langdon often reminded his students that most modern religions included stories that did not hold up to scientific scrutiny: everything from Moses parting the Red Sea…to Joseph Smith using magic eyeglasses to translate that Book of Mormon from a series of gold plates he found buried in upstate New York. Wide acceptance of an idea is not proof of its validity.” (p79; Note: The ellipsis in this quote was actually in the text. Therefore, no text was left out from this quote.)
Interesting to compare this Biblical account with Joseph Smith’s unearthing of the Book of Mormon at the ripe old age of 14.
The next snippet comes from a scene with the villain of the story, Mal’akh:
Mal’akh gazed at the window, which displayed part of the church’s doctrinal statement: WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS BEGOTTEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY, AND IS BOTH TRUE MAN AND GOD.
Mal’akh smiled. Yes, Jesus is indeed both – man and God – but a virgin birth is not the prerequisite for divinity. That is not how it happens. (p110)
Now, some might not see a problem with such a statement above, though we can possibly see Brown as undercutting the virgin birth. But these words above make greater sense when considering this next selection from the book. The first words come from Warren Bellamy, close friend and Masonic brother of Peter Solomon:
“I can see your dilemma, Professor [Langdon]. However, both the Ancient Mysteries and Masonic philosophy celebrate the potentiality of God within each of us. Symbolically speaking, one could claim that anything within reach of an enlightened man…is within reach of God.”
Langdon felt unswayed by the wordplay.
“Even the Bible concurs,” Bellamy said. “If we accept, as Genesis tells us, that ‘God created man in his own image,’ then we also must accept what this implies – that mankind was not created inferior to God. In Luke 17:20 we are told, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.'”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know any Christians who consider themselves God’s equal.”
“Of course not,” Bellamy said, his tone hardening. “Because most Christians want it both ways. They want to be able to proudly declare they are believers in the Bible and yet simply ignore those parts they find too difficult or too inconvenient to believe.” (p194)
All I can say is, ‘Wow!’
And maybe you see the connection with the previous quote above. This text immediately above is claiming that God and man are basically alike, rather than man being inferior to their Creator. Thus, man is both human and divine. And, so connecting back to the second set of quoted words, we see that Brown could purport that Jesus is both human and divine, but only because He was simply like the rest of mankind.
Now, I’m not one that usually yells, ‘Antichrist!’ Matter of fact, I’ve briefly written and preached about the unhealthy emphasis on this stuff before. But, the references to antichrist in Scripture (found in John’s first and second epistles – 1 John 2:18-25; 4:1-6; 2 John 7) tell us what the spirit antichrist is all about: denying either the divinity or humanity of Jesus Christ.
I’d say Dan Brown is walking down that path. I would say this is dangerous territory. But let me also make very clear that I am not saying Dan Brown is THE antichrist. I am just saying he is partaking of the spirit of antichrist, since that is John’s emphasis in 1 John 4:1-3.
Now, he could do what was done when challenges came forth following the release of The DaVinci Code. He could simply remark that this is fiction and kind of laugh it off. But when he keeps producing novels, all with the pretty obvious intent of denigrating Christ and Christianity, then I think he is showing what he is all about. Again, this is dangerous.
By the end of the book, Brown has tied in Christianity with Gnosticism. And, the book’s conclusion is that all religious paths are really headed towards the same thing – knowledge and enlightenment. It’s all about discovering a kind of esoteric and hidden wisdom.
Of course, the mystery of Christ has been revealed in the gospel (Ephesians 3:1-13). But this is not some kind of gnostic understanding where the physical world is pointless and it’s all about some esoteric spiritual knowledge. This has been deemed heresy from the early days of the church.
Specifically, the mystery of the gospel is this, as Paul makes clear:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)
That is glorious news for me, and most of us, Gentiles by birth!
Yes, we, as Christians, are continually exploring the unending and infinite depths of our glorious God. And as a charismatic Christian, I believe the Spirit still speaks today, still reveals God’s heart to His people and the world today (though it would not contradict His previous revelation as summed up in Christ and the Scriptures). But Christianity is a far cry from Gnosticism.
I won’t give the ending away, for, as I stated above, there is a little twist to things. Any reader of Brown’s works could only expect such, quite like you can expect an M. Night Shyamalan movie to include a twist at the end.
I am not sure if Christian scholars and theologians will write a response to The Lost Symbol as they did with The DaVinci Code. I read Darrell Bock’s Breaking the DaVinci Code a few years back following my reading of The DaVinci Code. But I suppose there won’t be much response given to this book, outside of the Christian blogosphere (as I participate in it as well).
So, if you want, check out the book to know what Dan Brown has written this time. Who knows? A conversation could be brought up with another, as I am sure a few million are dipping into this book as well. It might present opportunities to engage in wise, yet gracious, conversation (Colossians 4:5-6). I leave it with you now.