Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, like JK Rowling's first Harry Potter and GP Taylor's Shadowmancer, is one of the great, unexpected best-sellers of British publishing history.
Unlike Taylor, whose book went on to sell 1.5 million copies, he didn't have to self-publish - but his less-than-optimistic publishers didn't bother with a hardback edition and only printed 10,000 copies to start with. To date, 2.9 million copies have scuttled off the UK's shelves.
Indeed, The Da Vinci Code's popularity, the potency of the story, and its assertions about the corrupt character of the Church, the unreliability of the New Testament and the idea of Jesus having a wife and children make it one of the great evangelistic springboards of our time.
One of the great evangelistic springboards of our time
Even a simple question such as "What did you think of it?" is likely to lead to a fruitful conversation about any or all of the above themes. How often a threat to the gospel can become a wonderful opportunity to share it.
The Code's success has also created a huge demand for Brown's previous books, particularly Angels and Demons - which has now sold around 1.5 million copies. Angels is essentially the same book and shares many of the features of The Code — a murder, a secret society, a mystery that can only be solved by an expert in symbology and a robust engagement with the Catholic Church.
Although Angels and Demons is much more positive about the Church than The Code, Brown does suggest that the cardinals of the Church consciously allow the world to believe in a miracle they know didn't happen. Ironically, he seems to applaud their' duplicity because it will, his characters believe, be spiritually edifying. It's a stance which, as LICC's Beyond the Fringe research shows, is surprisingly acceptable to many today. A nourishing myth is better than a demanding truth.
Most interesting, however, are the passages in which Brown explores the relationship between science and faith. He highlights brilliantly the achievements of science, its idolatrous status for some and the limits of what it can offer the human heart and soul.
Brown, his publishers now tell us, is the new black. But all that is brown is not black. And, as John reminds us, there is no depth of blackness that the light cannot penetrate. Let it shine.
Mark Greene, August 2005
Mark Greene is Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and a former Vice Principal and Lecturer in Communications at London School of Theology. He is the author of Thank God It's Monday (Scripture Union, 1994, revised edition 2001) and Christian Life & Work, a DVD resource pack for small groups wanting to explore the relationship between faith and work (LBC Productions).
Review Previously Published by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Reused here by kind permission.
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