DA VINCI CODE
Going back to my recent holiday, I managed to read The Da Vinci Code. I hadn't realised how controversial it was but while away I heard that Westminster Abbey which of course is mentionedin the book, is giving out information to 'correct' Dan Brown's book.
What did I make of it? Well, firstly I found it an excellent story and it was hard to put it down. Indeed my children kept complaining at the family grump reading at the meal table etc. To be honest it grabbed at me as much as any novel I have read for some time.
But what of the book as it relates to matters of faith? Her goes with just a few quick thoughts;
1/. I found the book correct in drawing attention to the wrongs done by Christians. I hadn't realised that five million people have been killed on spurious charges of withcraft. However, I struggled with the idea that persecution wa in the first place a cynical exercise by the Christians to suppress the delightful pagans. The truth is that prior to Constantine, pagan Rome had carried out intermittent vicious persecutions against the Christians. A climax to this came with Diocletian's great Persecution which began in 295 CE. Nothing in the century that followed Constantine's 'conversion' comes close to matching the brutality of Diocletian's acolytes. Remember, also that pagan Rome was a brutal empire.
2/. Constantine did not decide what should be in the canon of Scripture. The process was well under way before his Milvian Bridge 'conversion.' Certain books were already being seen as authoritative. Furthermore, the concept of the Divinity of Christ did not begin with Constantine. It is hinted at strongly in the Gospel narratives which probably date back to the first century CE. In the years following, there were strains between the Atiocheans and the Alexandrians as to how to understand the Humanity and Divinity of Christ. Constantine certainly encouraged a resolution of such disputes but he did not personally dictate the outcome and that outcome at Nicaea owes much to three centuries of theological wrangling prior to Constantine. The idea expressed in the book that the 'Divinity of Christ' was some sort of conspiracy by Constantine does not bear scrutiny.
3/. The story of Jesus marrying Mary Magdelene is of course an old one. I see no evidence that it happened. Personally it would be no problem to me if it did. I have many sins of which I am aware but quite frankly my enjopyment of sexual intimacy with my wife is in my view not a sin. I think that the guilt trip on sexuality in much of the church is a negative matter but I think Brown along with other Holy Grail writers, is enjoying a bit of unsubstantiated sensationalism.
I am all to aware of many faults in Christian history. I question whether the 'conversion' of Constantine was a good thing as it seems to have implicated the church into power structures that have dented the message proclaimed in Galilee. I appreciate that Constantine was a ruthless ruler who murdered both his wife and his son. However, this does not make every conspiracy theory right.
My conclusion is that The Da Vinci Code is a great novel but not to be taken too seriously as theology. What is worse, its misrepresentations almost made me feel sorry for Opus Dei - almost!