Monday, May 01, 2006

Da Vinci Code Comments IV

In the Da Vinci Code, the author makes no mention of Protestant churches. His primary criticism is against Opus Dei and against the historical church which he refers to as the Roman Catholic Church. But many of the fictitious historical events surrounding the “formation” of Christianity which Brown invents are dated prior to the time the church was known as the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, the church in Constantinople became the Eastern Orthodox Church rather than the Roman Catholic Church. The events at the Council of Nicea are in no way attributable to the current Roman Catholic establishment. Instead, they date from a time when Christianity was not yet divided into western and eastern churches.

It is a bit ironic that Brown attacks the Roman Catholic Church for rejecting the sacred feminine. Historically, one of the problems Protestants have had with Rome is precisely the opposite. While the best sophisticated official Roman Catholic teaching will tell you that Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints, nevertheless, if you go to rural areas of the Philippines, Mexico, South American or the Caribbean you will discover that there are people who consider themselves Roman Catholic and who do in fact worship Mary and the saints without rebuke from their priests. In these cultures the worship of Mary has essentially been substituted for the worship of pagan goddesses. And so, one of the problems protestant Christians have had with Rome is that Rome has kept the “worship of the divine feminine” alive and well in the form of looking the other way when people worship Mary.

Of course the greatest historic divisions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have been over the areas the means of salvation, the proper focus of belief, and the hierarchy of authority. The Catholic Church has confused salvation with sanctification. In other words, it has confused the process by which God declares us righteous and reconciles us to Himself with the process of our actually becoming more holy in our life and thought. Protestants believe that salvation is by faith through grace. That God essentially gives us salvation as a gift based upon Jesus Christ suffering for sin in our place so that we no longer need to be punished for our sins. This is one reason why Protestants have constantly rejected the association of physical pain or the deliberate infliction of physical pain with holiness that is portrayed in the Da Vinci Code. Second, Protestants believe that the faith that we need to have in order to be saved is faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work upon the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His identity as the second person of the Trinity. By contrast, the Catholic Church has traditionally thought that the object of faith was the “teachings of the church.” In other words, to be saved you had to believe whatever the church teaches whether or not the church is teaching faith in Christ. The third dispute centers on authority. Protestants believe that the Bible is our authority and that God illuminates the minds of His people to make them able to understand His communication in the biblical text. Indeed, based upon the general revelation to all people, anyone can understand the Bible if they were but willing to do so. The problem is that our human sinfulness causes us to suppress and repress the clear meaning of scripture. By contrast, the Catholic Church has always taught that church tradition and the teachings of the church hierarchy were more important than the clear meaning of scripture. Instead, the church tended to see scripture as a document too dangerous for lay people or even trained priests to interpret outside of the discipline of the Vatican and its magisterium. These differences have practical application. For example, Protestants tend to believe that through the scripture and general revelation, all people have a basic understanding of morality and can apply that understanding to the facts around them without a hierarchy to tell them what to do. By contrast, as Horace Rice admits in his book, “Fifty Questions on the Natural Law,” the Catholic teaching has been that people need the ultimate authority of the teaching magisterium of the church to explain to them how they should actually live. Because the magisterium of the Catholic Church has been wrong about so many things, Protestants reject their authority and appeal instead to the Bible itself. The decentralized character of Protestantism has the advantage of preventing the centralized propagation and teaching of error. It has the disadvantage of leaving Protestantism divided and uncoordinated.

Many of these historical differences have been practically mitigated by the findings of the Vatican II Church Council. Vatican II encouraged Roman Catholics to read the bible and adopted some theological statements closer to Protestantism on many issues. Today you can find many Roman Catholics who read the bible and essentially believe most of what Protestants believe about salvation, faith, and even papal authority. In some areas, including American politics, Roman Catholics and protestant Christians have been able to work together for good. Certainly both should stand together against the slanders of Dan Brown’s book.


888 said...

Dan Brown needs to understand the prologue to John's Gospel.

Tony Robinson has demonstrated the ridiculousness of Dan Brown's postition in a UK documentary.


Dean McConnell said...


SO true. The New Testiment was all writen before 90 AD and clearly supports the divinity of Jesus. John chapter one is an excellent example of clear statements of the divinity of Jesus, as well as supporting Augustinian epistemology, the historicity of the Bible, and the humanity of Jesus in addition to his divinity.

I would be interested in seeing the UK documentary. Thanks for the information.