Sunday, August 08, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 104: Dan Brown strikes [out . . . ] again -- The Lost Symbol

Last week, I happened to visit a relative's shop, and saw in the Manager's Office, a copy of Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol (Bantam/Random House, 2009), 509 pp. 

A quick check with Wikipedia soon told me that the book ran up to the top of Amazon's charts when it come out in September (it's first-day sales made it "the fastest selling adult novel in history"), and it is apparently the first big bestseller where e-book sales have exceeded print sales. A movie deal is, as expected, in the works. 

A portent of things to come.

A glance at the opening pages suggests Mr Brown, sadly, has not really learned his lesson from the scathing corrective reviews of the notorious "FACT" page in his earlier The Da Vinci code. He has yet another "Fact" page at the front of the new novel, in which he claims that among other things "All rituals, science, artwork and monuments in this novel are real."

Ben Witherington, who wrote an early critical review, aptly noted on Brown's fact-challenged novels, that:
. . . We live in a Jesus haunted culture that is both Biblically iliiterate and at the same time is an entertainment culture. In this sort of environment which is increasingly less Christian,  anything can pass for truth or knowledge about Jesus or the Bible. 

When I did my book tour for the Gospel Code, one of the often recurring themes during the Q+A sessions was the question---- Do you mean to tell me Dan Brown is not giving us the facts about the Gospel, Gnostics, etc.?  I thought of writing up a chronicle of some of the naive reactions and questions I got and calling it 'Gullible's Travels'.   The reason and the need for a thorough critique of a novel like The Lost Symbol  is because it is offering up a Koolaide that, while quite [palatable] today, is by no means genuine communion wine from the Gospels . . .
(I strongly recommend reading the review [not a mere heads up like this blog post], The Lost Symbol and the Browning of American Religion.)

In this new book, Brown's rhetorical theme moves on from debunking the Catholic church, to transforming the popular understanding of key influences on the American Founding; plainly in order to promote the same gnosticising mystical view that characterised his earlier works.

So, Brown highlights the well-known fact of masonic involvement of key founding Fathers of the USA -- little did the Founders know the fire they were playing with [cf much more here], and promotes a notion of how thought has properties analogous to mass so if many minds come together on a given focal issue, it will exert a powerful mind force comparable to how grains of sand and rock add up to yield the gravitational force of a planet. Accordingly, in his whodunit- chase- the- mystery plotline, he highlights claimed occultic and pagan influences on the architecture of Washington DC and along the way tosses various zingers and snide dismissals at the Christian faith and its even more profound, widespread and powerful influence on the American founding and the rise of modern, constitutional, democratic self-government.

Witherington is telling on Brown's theological agenda and profound confusion regarding the Bible:
. . . consider the following supposed exegesis of Gen. 17.20 (p. 194) where we are told that the Genesis creation story tells us humankind is created in God's image and therefore this implies "that mankind was not created inferior to God". The speaker goes on to point to Luke 17.20 where we are told 'the Kingdom of God is within you."  In regard to the former, neither the Hebrew nor the Greek version of the phrase 'image of God' convey at all the notion of human equality with God.  Is the image of a ruler on a coin equal to the ruler himself? Of course not.  Is the image of the king on a seal, equal to the king himself? Of course not. For that matter is your image in the mirror of equal substance, power, reality to you?  Absolutely not.  

It is not the theological message of the Bible that "ye shall be as gods" despite Dan Brown's wishing it to be so.  That would be the message of the serpent, not the message of the Savior.  And this brings us to the core reason that Dan Brown wants to play fast and loose with the Biblical text--- he is a promoter of the idea of human self-apotheosis, of human beings having not merely divine potential but indeed a bit of divinity within them.  
Or, as Wikipedia's plot summary  -- and I suggest, generally speaking, it is a better investment to read this than to read the book -- culminates:
. . . As they descend the staircase [of the Washington Monument], Solomon tells Langdon that the word underground is a copy of the Bible, but explains that the "secrets hidden in plain sight" in the Bible all point to the belief that man is a part of God, and that out of many minds comes one, an at-one-ment. That this Word, this hidden-in-plain-view belief, is contained in all the major books of religion; while the masses look to one set of data in each of the holy books, enlightened men and women can see the encoded-in-plain-sight information in them all.
This is of course an utterly misleading perversion of the gospel and the scriptures.

By way of correction, let us look at John 1, John 3, Acts 17, 1 Cor 15, Col 1 and Heb 1, to strongly contrast the real core message of the Bible:
Jn 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it . . . .

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jn 3:13 [Jesus said] . . . No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him . . .  19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Ac 17: 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
1 Cor 15: 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Col 1: 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[f] your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been [openly] proclaimed to every creature under heaven . . .

Heb 1: 1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs . . . 
 Quite a refreshing contrast!

Brown here -- sadly, again -- proves the principle that if you willfully disbelieve something that you should be able to know is true and well-warranted, it is because you have already committed yourself to believe something else that you should not. For, selective hyper-skepticism directed at the gospel is ALWAYS linked to selective hyper-credulity about something else.

In short, unless you are sufficiently informed and grounded in the Scriptures, Brown's writings are liable to confuse and mislead you. So, we should warn people to avoid it -- and we certainly should not help to spread it or finance it by buying it or watching the upcoming movie.

Instead, let us expose it and correct its errors, using it as an opportunity to help people learn about the sound foundation of the Gospel, the Scriptures and the Christian Faith "once for all delivered unto the saints" that was founded on these pivotal truths.

If you want some e-Book reading, I strongly recommend getting free downloads of e-Sword or The Word, and loading up on some of the many free resources for these packages.

If you want some solid reading by a truly eloquent and original writer, why not look at G K Chesterton's works in these formats? (And even his Father Brown mysteries are quite entertaining.)
And if you have a few cents to spend, instead of buying the misleading novel or tickets to see the upcoming movie version, why not support the men who have sacrificed to make these packages freely available to all for just a download? END

PS: Please observe that, strictly, this is a heads up, not a book review.

PPS: Text of Finney's testimony on why he left free masonry:

 Since Mr Brown has seen fit to give prominence to Free Masonry and to his views on its role in the American founding era, it is in order to give wide circulation to a different take on that institution by a leading Evangelist of the C19, who was himself a former mason. Namely, the well known revivalist, Charles G Finney.

Why I Left Freemasonry
By Charles G. Finney, D.D.

When I was converted to Christ I had belonged to the Masonic Lodge in Adams, New York, about four years. During the struggle of conviction of sin through which I passed, I do not recollect that the question of Freemasonry ever occurred to my mind.

New Views of Lodgism

But soon after my conversion, the evening came for attendance upon the Lodge, and I went. They, of course, were aware that I had become a Christian and the Master called upon me to open the Lodge with prayer. I did so, and poured out my heart to the Lord for blessings upon the Lodge. I observed that it created considerable excitement. The evening passed away, and at the close of the Lodge I was asked to pray again. I did so, and retired much depressed in spirit. I soon found that I was completely converted from Freemasonry to Christ, and that I could have no fellowship with any of the proceedings of the Lodge. Its oaths appeared to me to be monstrously profane and barbarous.

At that time I did not know how much I had been imposed upon by many of the pretensions of Masonry. But, upon reflection and examination, a severe struggle and earnest prayer, I found I could not consistently remain with them. My new life instinctively and irresistibly recoiled from any fellowship with what I now regarded as "the unfruitful works of darkness."

Quietly Withdrawing Membership

Without consulting anyone, I finally went to the Lodge and requested my discharge. My mind was made up. Withdraw from them I must -- with their consent if I might; without this consent if I must. Of this I said nothing; but somehow it came to be known that I had withdrawn.

They therefore planned a Masonic festival and sent a committee to me, requesting me to deliver an oration on that occasion. I quietly declined to do so, informing the committee that I could not conscientiously, in any wise, do what would show my approval of the institution, or sympathy with it. However, for the time, and for years afterward I remained silent, and said nothing against Masonry; though I had then so well considered the matter as to regard my Masonic oaths as utterly null and void. But from that time I never allowed myself to be recognized as a Freemason anywhere.

Beginning a Public Testimony

This was a few years before the revelations of Freemasonry by Captain William Morgan were published. When that book was published, I was asked if it was a true revelation of Freemasonry. I replied that it was so far as I knew anything about it, and that as nearly as I could recollect, it was a verbatim revelation of the first three degrees as I had myself taken them. I frankly acknowledged that that which had been published was a true account of the institution, and a true expose' of their oaths, principles and proceedings. After I had considered it more thoroughly, I was more perfectly convinced that I had no right to adhere to the institution, or appear to do so; and that I was bound, whenever the occasion came, to speak my mind freely in regard to it, and to renounce the horrid oaths that I had taken.

Masonic Oaths Procured by Fraud

I found that in taking these oaths I had been grossly deceived and imposed upon. I had been led to suppose that there were some very important secrets to be communicated to me; but in this I found myself entirely disappointed. Indeed I came to the deliberate conclusion that my oaths had been procured by fraud and misrepresentations; that the institution was in no respect what I had been informed it was; and as I have had the means of examining it more thoroughly, it has become more and more irresistibly plain to me that Masonry is highly dangerous to the State, and in every way injurious to the Church of Christ.

Features of an Anti-Christ

Judging from unquestionable evidences, how can we fail to pronounce Freemasonry an unchristian institution? We can see that its morality is unchristian. Its oath-bound secrecy is unchristian. The administration and taking of its oaths are unchristian and a violation of the positive command of Christ. And Masonic oaths pledge its members to some of the most unlawful and unchristian things:
1. To conceal each other's crimes.

2. To deliver each other from difficulty, whether right or wrong.

3. To unduly favor Masonry in political action and in business matters.

4. Its members are sworn to retaliate and persecute unto death the violators of Masonic obligations.

5. Freemasonry knows no mercy, and swears its candidates to avenge violations of Masonic obligations unto death.

6. Its oaths are profane, taking the Name of God in vain.

7. The penalties of these oaths are barbarous, even savage.

8. Its teachings are false and profane.

9. Its designs are partial and selfish.

10. Its ceremonies are a mixture of puerility and profanity.

11. Its religion is false.

12. It professes to save men on other conditions than those revealed in the Gospel of Christ.

13. It is wholly an enormous falsehood.

14. It is a swindle, obtaining money from its members under false pretenses.

15. It refuses all examinations, and veils itself under a mantle of oath-bound secrecy.

16. It is virtual conspiracy against both Church and State.
Some Fair Conclusions

No one, therefore, has ever undertaken to defend Freemasonry as judged by the above. Freemasons themselves do not pretend that their institution as revealed in reliable books, and by some of their own testimony, is compatible with Christianity. So it must follow that,

First, the Christian Church should have no fellowship with Freemasonry; and those who adhere intelligently and determinately to such an institution have no right to be in the Christian Church. We pronounce this judgment sorrowfully, but solemnly.

Second, should the question be asked, "What shall be done with the great number of professed Christians who are Freemasons?" I answer, let them have nothing more to do with it. Let it be distinctly pressed upon their consciences that all Masons, above the first two Degrees, have solemnly sworn to conceal each other's crimes, murder and treason alone excepted; and that all above the sixth Degree have sworn to espouse each other's cause, and to deliver them from any difficulty, whether right or wrong.

Third, if they have taken those Degrees where they have sworn to persecute unto death those who violate their Masonic obligations, let them be asked whether they really intend to do any such thing. Let them be distinctly asked whether they intend to aid and abet the administration and taking of these oaths. Or if they still intend to countenance the false and hypocritical teachings of Masonry. Or if they mean to countenance the profanity of their ceremonies, and the partiality of their sworn practice. If so, surely they should not be allowed their place in the Christian Church.

Fourth, can a man who has taken, and still adheres to the Master's oath to conceal any secret crime of a brother of that Degree, murder and treason excepted, be a safe man with whom to entrust any public office? Can he be trusted as a witness, as a juror, or with any office connected with the administration of justice?

Fifth, can a man who has taken, and still adheres to, the oath of the Royal Arch Mason be trusted to public office? He swears to espouse the cause of a companion of this Degree when involved in any difficulty, so far as to extricate him, whether he be right or wrong. He swears to conceal his crimes, MURDER AND TREASON NOT EXCEPTED. Is such a man bound by such an oath to be trusted with office? Ought he to be accepted as a witness or juror when another Freemason is a party in the case? Ought he to be trusted with the office of Judge, or Justice of the Peace, or as a Sheriff, Constable, Marshal or any other office?

What Is Your Answer?

I appeal to your conscience in the sight of God, for an honest answer to these three questions:
1. Is any man who is under a most solemn oath to kill all who violate any part of Masonic oaths, a fit person to be at large among men?

2. Ought Freemasons of this stamp to be fellowshipped in the Christian Church?

3. Do you believe that the sins of Masonic oaths are forgiven only to those who repent? And that we do not repent of those sins to which we still adhere? And that adherence makes us also partaker of other men's sins?
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from ALL sin." "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (I John 1:17; 3:3).


Ilíon said...

"... For, selective hyper-skepticism directed at the gospel is ALWAYS linked to selective hyper-credulity about something else."

I never thought of it in those terms, but once the thought is made known to one, it's so obviously true.

GEM of The Kairos Initiative said...


That was fast!

If you disbelieve what you should accept, it is necessarily, in part because you have swallowed something else that you should not have accepted.

Yet another self-evident truth . . . y'know, those things that hit you between the eyes once you understand.

The kind of truths that our skeptical friends so desperately try to assure us do not exist.

BTW, what is the impact that this latest Brown product is having in the US?


Ilíon said...

Beats me ... I hadn't heard of it before your post.

GEM of The Kairos Initiative said...

Ookay, though it was a NYT no 1 fiction bestseller. Something like 1 mn first day sales. IIRC. [Beats me why people would rush to buy a largely formulaic book from someone notorious for slanders and gross errors of fact.] G

Ilíon said...

I'm not real plugged into pop culture.

And, as I understand it, those sales wouldn't be sales to individual end-customers, but rather bulk sales to (mostly chain) bookstores.