The Da Vinci Code

Issues, Etc. Transcript
Transcript of May 4, 2004 Broadcast
Guest - Dr. Rich Abanes, author, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code

with host Todd Wilken

WILKEN:  Greetings, and welcome to Issues, Etc.  I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for tuning us in.

Walk in to any bookstore in America or, for that matter, outside the United States as well, probably the first book that will meet your eye — put up there front — because it's selling and it's going to continue to sell:  The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  What is this book about?  Why is it so popular?  And what image of Christendom, the Christian faith, Jesus and His disciples, does this piece of, well, fiction, present?  Why are so many people reading this?  I had someone ask me this just this evening before I came on the air.  Why are so many people reading this fiction as though it weren't fiction, as though it were history, and as though it were true?  The book is called The Da Vinci Code.  We're going to be doing a review of this book with Rich Abanes during this hour of Issues, Etc. 

Feel free to join us if you've read the book or if you haven't.  1-800-730-2727.  Also, if you have a question or a comment as well, you can post that at our Web site on our forum:  Under the "What's New" section, you'll find the Issues, Etc. Forum waiting for your questions and your comments on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

We're going to be talking with Rich Abanes.  He's director of The Religious Information Center based in Southern California.  He's author of numerous books, including his latest titled The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code.  Rich, welcome back to Issues, Etc.

ABANES:  Hey!  It's always nice to be on this show!  It's one of my favorites. 

WILKEN:  I'm glad to hear it, Rich.  Let's begin by a brief synopsis.  If you were writing a review — a brief synopsis of the plot of The Da Vinci Code — for those of our listeners who have not read it.

ABANES:  Well, The Da Vinci Code, it's a fascinating story, really, and it all revolves around an individual who is sort of on an adventure seeking the truth about the historic origins of Christianity.  And what basically it talks about is that Christianity was started indeed by a man named Jesus, but this Jesus is a very different kind of Jesus than we were all told he was.  In fact, it is the biggest cover-up that world has ever known is what Christianity is today because the real Jesus, supposedly, was married to the well-known Mary Magdalene, who he actually hand-picked to lead his church after his death, and that she had to flee Jerusalem because the other disciples were jealous of her because they were very misogynistic and they wanted to be the male leaders of this new church.  So she fled to, of all places, France, where she was protected and her daughter — her daughter that she sired with Jesus Christ — grew up, and they eventually had a whole lineage that intermarried with French royal blood and actually formed the Merovingian bloodline in France.  And this whole secret was actually guarded over by a very powerful ultra-secret group called the Priory of Sion.  And the Knights Templar worked for the Priory of Sion to guard all the documents that proved the truth about Jesus Christ.  And this is basically the whole backdrop of The Da Vinci Code.

WILKEN:  Now, you have written a critique and, of course, this hour with you is going to be spent largely in critique point by point of some of the claims made by The Da Vinci Code.  Anything positive before we begin about Dan Brown's novel?

ABANES:  Well, yeah.  I mean, you know, Dan Brown's a talented guy!  I found myself very much enjoying it as a piece of fiction insofar as it's well written.  It's got a lot of plot twists and turns, very interesting characters and, you know, there are aspects of it that are very exciting, characters that you can sort of really kinda get interested in because a couple of them are so strange.  You know, you're kinda wondering what's going on.  And I think from that standpoint it's a fine book that somebody wants to read.  But, unfortunately, what we're having is people believing it as truth and true history.

WILKEN:  Why is that?  Before we get into the major weakness of this, why is it, do you think, that so many who pick up this book and read it, read it although it is listed as fiction, as though it were not fiction?

ABANES:  Well, you know, I hate to say this, but it's really basically because Dan Brown is telling everybody that it's historical fact.  Page one of the book actually before it starts, it says, "Fact:  All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."  And then in another interview that he did, he actually went beyond that and said, "All the history, artwork, ancient documents, and secret rituals are accurate, including the hidden codes revealed in some of Da Vinci's most famous paintings."  And so, you know, it's Brown himself who's saying this, and he actually believes it!  I mean, the guy from what I have seen really does believe that this is the history of Christianity, and it has been picked up by all scores of media — you know, USA Today, Counter Culture Magazine, Pop  They're all saying this book is fact-based and historical.  So, it's no wonder that people are being led down this road.

WILKEN:  Rich, what's its major weakness?  A single point?

ABANES:  A single point?  I'd have to sum it up as saying nearly everything in it that has anything to do with history is just wrong.  Sandra Meisel of Crisis Magazine, for example, said it very well when she said, "So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions when Brown stumbles despite himself on the truth."  And that's very accurate.  Everything's just wrong!

WILKEN:  Why is Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code so popular?

ABANES:  Well, I think, you know, as you look at the book, it is very, very hard—hardened against—Roman Catholicism.  It takes a big swipe at Roman Catholicism and Christianity in general, and I think Brown is sort of riding this anti-Roman Catholic wave because of, you know, some of these horrible revelations we've been getting in recent years about priestly misconduct within the Catholic Church and some, you know, terrible things that we're all aware of.  And people are angry!  People are upset by this, and he just fit right in perfectly with, you know, what people are feeling.  And also if you look at his book, it is very much geared toward women insofar as it's elevation of goddess worship and the feminine and all of this.  So, he's riding some very popular waves of thought right now.

WILKEN:  All right.  Let's talk about this book as not only a novel of fiction that plays into a conspiracy theory but a furthering of that conspiracy theory.  Again, the theory itself that's being forth here, and where does this idea that Christendom as we know it from history is a farce or a cover-up for the truth, where does this come from?

ABANES:  Well, it comes from a number of places, but I think the easiest place for your listeners to sort of get a handle on it is to look to a book that was very popular, well, maybe even 20 years ago now, it was called Holy Blood, Holy Grail.  And this was sort of the first popular treatment of this whole idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and they had children, and there was this line of, you know, divine lineage that's come down to us even today, and this is where this whole thing sort of took off.  And it fell out of, you know, favor.  It stopped being popular until Brown sort of rekindled interest in it through this book, and he sort of pulled into it this whole idea that Leonardo Da Vinci was part of this Priory of Sion.  That's sort of a new twist that we're seeing on it, is this whole ancient secret society called the Priory of Sion that supposedly watched over this secret for all these years.  And, you know, come to find out, in France everybody knows that this whole Priory of Sion was nothing but a bogus front organization started in the 60s by a con man.  It's staggering to sort of think about this, but it's the truth!

WILKEN:  And yet Dan Brown believes that the Priory of Sion is an ancient order basically set up to guard the true secret of Christianity, that it is a goddess worship religion as Jesus would've intended it, rather than Jesus as the Savior of sinners through His death and resurrection?

ABANES:  Yeah, absolutely!  He does.  He, in fact, quotes from — by name — various, you know, supposedly mysterious documents that list Leonardo Da Vinci and Boticelli and the Sir Issac Newton as the head of this organization, and that these secret documents were found in the libraries of France, you know, in old dusty bins and things like this. 

Well, the actual documents that he's quoting from are forgeries that were placed in those libraries by this French con man that I referred to, named Pierre Plantard who's now deceased.  But he started this whole thing back in the 60s because he himself viewed himself as a descendant of kings and an occult master.  So he and his buddies started forging these papers, you know, and putting them in the libraries and stuff, and this is what Dan Brown's quoting from!

WILKEN:  Rich Abanes is our guest.  We're talking about The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  Rich is director of The Religious Information Center based in Southern California.  He's authored numerous books, including his latest titled The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code.  Join us with a question or a comment on Dan Brown's novel:  1-800-730-2727.

When we come back — as well as appealing to forgeries, there's also in The Da Vinci Code an awful lot of what philosophers call "an appeal to diffuse authority" — that is, simply saying "historians say" or "art historians have noted" — things like that in Dan Brown's novel.  We're gonna talk about that.  And, what about these Gnostic writings, these Gnostic Gospels that, according to Dan Brown's read of Christianity and history, are the real gospels?  The ones that we have in the Canon of the New Testament are the forgeries.  We'll talk about that when we come back.


WILKEN:  Folks, I'm looking at the

Web site for The New York Times — their books section — best-seller list right there at the top, and it's been there for months.  Under hardcover fiction:  The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  That's the subject for this hour of Issues, Etc.  Rich Abanes is our guest.  He's director of The Religious Information Center based in Southern California.  His latest book, titled, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code.

Now, if you'd like to find out more about Rich's new book, go to our Web site:  Click on the "Links with Regular Guests" link, and you'll find a direct link to Rich Abanes and The Religious Information Center.  The title of the book to look for:  The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code.  Our call-in number:  1-800-730-2727.

Rich, there is, as you note early in your critique of The Da Vinci Code, also an appeal to diffuse authority, that is, a lot of references to "historians say," "religious historians," "academics."  What do we make of this?  What is this hiding, if anything?

ABANES:  Well, he, you know, throughout his book, he sort of mixes in with his fictional story these references to, you know, all this documentation and all of these "facts" about Jesus and Mary and all this.  And he always says things like, "According to religious historians," "according to scores of historians."  He refers to "historical evidence," "all academics."  And what's really interesting, though, is that he actually lists several of the sources that are supposedly, you know, by these well-known historians and things.  And when you come right down to it and you actually look at these sources, none of them — none of them — are, in fact, historians!  They're people who are involved in mysticism, in religious experience, one is a television producer, another couple are involved in UFOlogy and studies of the paranormal.  And these are his historians!  I mean, it's amazing, but it gives people who don't know better the idea that he really is referring to historians.

WILKEN:  Would the reader of the book casually reading through the novel have any idea of who these people are beyond —   unless they did the research into the people he claims?

ABANES:  No, no, absolutely not.  I mean, ‘cuz he just says it so relentlessly throughout the book.  You know, you repeat something — if it's a lie — enough times and all of a sudden it becomes the truth, and that's exactly what he does.  He just hits you again and again and again and again that all this stuff is just beyond a doubt true. 

In fact, I was at the Post Office the other day, and I heard a woman telling the person across the counter that they've got to read The Da Vinci Code because, "boy, it just really shakes up what you were always taught to believe, and there's just no arguing with it because it's all fact, and it's all proved, and everybody — all the historians agree!"  I couldn't believe I was hearing that.

WILKEN:  Let's talk about the role of Gnostic writings — ancient Gnostic writings — historians and archeologists call them Pseudepigrapha — false writings, like the Gospel of Thomas and other Gnostic Gospels.  What does Dan Brown — what claims does he make in the book about these writings?

ABANES:  Well, first of all, he says that the Gospels we have that talk about the life of Jesus are completely unreliable, they're bogus, they've been edited, re-edited, changed, you can't trust them at all.  So, what he does is he appeals to something called these Gnostic Gospels, and he claims that these Gnostic Gospels were actually written earlier than the Gospels we have in our Bible today and, therefore, they are more reliable.  And one of the things he gets from these Gnostic Gospels is supposedly this idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.  He says that's what the Gnostic Gospels says.  He claims that they show Jesus put Mary in charge of His church.  And now, we can stop right there, because already there are so many mistakes you don't know where to begin. 

 First of all, we know — and scholars agree — even secular scholars; not just Christians — it is agreed that these Gnostic Gospels were actually written after the Gospels that we have in our Bible.  Moreover, Brown even misrepresents what they say.  None of them — the Gospel of Phillip, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas — none of them say that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene!  You know, and he often also tries to make Christianity the bad guy by, you know, making Christianity look sexist and misogynistic and all this stuff, when in reality, it's the Gnostic Gospels that taught flesh is evil and, in fact, one of the Gospels actually teaches that marital relations — within the context of marriage — actually defiled a woman and made her impure!  So, the Gnostics are really the bad guys here!

WILKEN:  And we're talking here about the Gnostic — this is an ancient heresy that has infected not only Christianity but Judaism and other religions as well.  Give us a brief rundown of that error.

ABANES:  Well, Gnosticism is, as you say, a sort of a very, very old sort of heresy.  We don't really know where it came from, how it came to be, but basically it boils down to receiving salvation — for lack of a better term — by knowledge or gnosis.  A higher knowledge that is supposed to be divine truth that are revealed to us, and part of these truths indicate that salvation is sort of a liberation of the soul from the body, a freeing of the inner spirit because matter is intrinsically evil.  And, you know, Gnosticism, it's a very wide and complex belief system, but basically it preached two different gods — a good god and a bad god — and the bad god actually is the one of the Old Testament, and we are trying to get past this fleshly world through knowledge and the way that we get that is through the redeemer Jesus who is not really a man.  He was not really in the flesh.  He was sort of a spiritual being that came to impart knowledge to us.  And that sort of is broken down.  Like I said, it's a very complex system, but, you know, this is what Dan Brown is putting forth.

WILKEN:  Now, Rich, before we go to this break, explain the grand claim that Dan Brown makes about the origins of what he considers to be the cover-up in the person of the emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

ABANES:  Well, he for some reason really targeted poor ol' Constantine.  He basically says that it's Constantine who collated the Bible, and it is Constantine who got his henchmen and his followers to vote that Jesus was divine, and it was at that point that everybody started worshipping Jesus as divine.  And that's the turning point according to Dan Brown.  And, again, of course, we know from history and scholars agree — even non-Christian — that Constantine did not collate the Bible, and that there was no vote about the Divinity of Jesus.  In fact, as far back as, you know, Thomas in the Gospel of John, we have him calling "Jesus, my Lord and my God," and we have quotes from many of the Early Church Fathers referring to Jesus as God!  So, again, he's wrong!

WILKEN:  Rich Abanes is our guest.  Folks, if you enjoy discussions like we're having during this hour with Rich on The Da Vinci Code, you need to get the next edition of the Issues, Etc. Journal.  I've written an article therein titled "Mere Monotheism."  Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God?  That's the question I'm going at in that article.  The answer from Scripture is an unequivocal no!  Well, how does Scripture lay out the case?  That's part of the article, "Mere Monotheism."

Now, if you enjoy Issues, Etc., the radio program, I know you'll enjoy the Issues, Etc. Journal.  You can receive a complimentary free copy of the Issues, Etc. Journal by calling our resource line.  Now, call this during the break:  1-800-737-0172.  We're coming up on a break.  It's your opportunity to call.  And ask to receive an Issues, Etc. Journal.  We'll send you an absolutely free copy.

When we come back, more conversation with Rich Abanes on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  We'll talk about Mary Magdalene.  Was Mary Magdalene the bride of Jesus?  Were they married?  Did they have children?  Did they move to France?  We'll answer all of those questions and those claims put forth by The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown when we come back from this break, as well as take your phone calls, your questions, and your comments.  1-800-730-2727.  Or, if you prefer, you can post a question or a comment at our Issues, Etc. Forum.  It's at our Web site:  Click on the "What's New" section, scroll down, and you'll find the Issues, Etc. Forum waiting there for you.

We're also gonna talk about these — as time permits — these entities that Dan Brown says are complicitous in this grand 2,000 year cover-up:  the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar.  What are they really?  We'll talk about that a little bit later.


WILKEN:  Next week on Issues, Etc., we're going to be talking about working moms.  Mother's Day it will be!  Suzanne Venker, author of the book, 7 Myths of Working Mothers, will be our guest.  Should women plan their careers around motherhood, or should they plan motherhood around their careers?  Has the working-mother trend hurt American culture and American society?  We'll talk about it next week on Issues, Etc. with Suzanne Venker.

Now, if you'd like to know what we'll be discussing for the rest of May and into the month of June, check out our Web site:  While you're there, be sure to find out more about our new Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for May.  It's called Why I Am a Lutheran — Jesus at the Center.  It's written by Issues, Etc. regular guest, Pastor Daniel Preus.  Why does Jesus say to His opponents, "You search the Scriptures because therein you believe you will find eternal life.  These are testifying of Me"?  Why is it that being a Lutheran is about Jesus, ultimately?  This book answers that question.  You can browse before you buy. is our Web site.  Under the "What's New" section, you'll find the book Why I Am a Lutheran.  The cost is $12.99, plus shipping and handling.  Or you can call Concordia Publishing House weekdays during regular business hours:  1-800-325-3040.  When you call, make sure you mention Issues, Etc. and our Book of the Month for May:  Why I Am a Lutheran — Jesus at the Center by Pastor Daniel Preus.

We're talking about The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  Rich Abanes is our guest.  Rich, let's talk about Mary Magdalene, the church, and whether or not Christianity was, in fact, originally some form of goddess worship.  This isn't the first time people have proposed something like this.  Dan Brown is not original in his theory, is he?

ABANES:  No, he's not.  What he is original on, however, is the way he's trying to prove it.  I gotta say, I'm a little shocked because what he's doing, he's just flat out misquoting things, changing things.  He quotes from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary.  Readily available that anybody can check it out, and he just makes up what it says.  With regard to Mary Magdalene he says that, you know, it clearly states that Jesus was married to Mary.  He says the Gospel of Philip clearly says that Jesus ordained Mary to take over the church for Him.  And all anyone has to do is go look at it, which is what I did, and the actual segment that Brown quotes from the Gospel of Philip has nothing to do with taking over the church!  It simply has to do with the meaning and value of sacraments.  And he will take these things and take little snippets out of it, insert it into his book, and then tell you what it means when, in reality — in context — it means something totally different.  So, what's odd is how he's trying to prove it.  It's amazing.  None of this is true!

WILKEN:  One would think if you're writing fiction, you would feel at liberty as an author — in fiction — to appeal to a non-existent source.  If you really just want to write a good story, it would be more compelling than rather appealing to actually existing ancient sources and misquoting them!

ABANES:  Yes, I mean, that's what I would do.  If I were writing a novel like this, I would say there was new gospel of maybe, you know, Jesus Himself that was found.  Or a gospel of Barabas — you know, something like this that was found and we get this new information.  You know, it's all make-believe.  But he's actually, you know, making it seem like these real things say all of this stuff.  And it's just not true!  Like I said, when you're reading his book, you almost don't know where to begin.  You can't flip the book open to a page and not find something historically that's false in it.

WILKEN:  Now, you talked before about the Priory of Sion, and you said it's really a rather recent bogus organization started by a Frenchman.  You mentioned him before.  What about the Knights Templar?  People see these names — both these names bandied about in books and on the Internet and they think, "Well, Dan Brown must be appealing in his explanation, so these things must be the most likely."  What is really the Knights Templar?

ABANES:  Well, you know, the Knights Templar was a military order that was founded in the Middle Ages, and basically it was founded by a couple of knights around, I think, early 1100s.  And their mission was to guard pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.  And that's, you know, what they did.  And there was a time because they were so — the pilgrims were so grateful — that gifts were given to the Knights Templar, and they eventually became very, very wealthy, and the French king basically wanted that wealth — Philip — because France was sort of bankrupt at the time.  And at some point he actually, you know, tried to round them all up and destroy the order and kill all the knights so that he could take their wealth.

Well, Dan Brown takes this little kernel of truth and twists it into this whole huge conspiracy that involves the Vatican and the Knights Templar guarding these secret documents that talk about Mary and Jesus and, you know, instead of it being in real history Philip causing all this to happen, he changes it to the Pope and the big bad Catholic Church that wanted to destroy the truth, and so they tried to kill all the knights.  Even when he talks about the Knights Templar, the dates that things happened, how things happened — again, all wrong.  It's not the way it went down.  So, it's unfortunate.  I mean, part of his whole historical survey of things like the Knights Templar and especially things like the witch hunts in Europe, it makes — it just always points the finger to the big bad Christians or the big bad church and how horrible and terrible it is.  There's certainly a consistent theme.

WILKEN:  One thing before we go to the phones to our listeners and their questions and comments, the role of the art of Leonardo Da Vinci in Dan Brown's novel.  What does he suppose was going on there, and how do you evaluate it?

ABANES:  I think this is probably the most absurd and ludicrous part of The Da Vinci Code, where he's actually claiming that Leonardo Da Vinci was the grand master of this Priory of Sion which, by the way, during Da Vinci's time didn't even exist.  And Da Vinci actually hid codes and symbols within paintings such as the Last Supper, the Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks — that point to Da Vinci's belief in the goddess and this whole Mary Magdalene thing.  I take quite a lengthy place here in my book to refute all of that.  Any art historian will look at this stuff that Brown says and, you know, call it for what it is, which is basically preposterous. 

WILKEN:  We're coming to you live this Sunday.  It's May 2.  If you have a question or a comment on The Da Vinci Code, call now:  1-800-730-2727.  We're talking with Rich Abanes.

Let's go to the phones.  Up first, Bud calling from Memphis, Mo.  He's listening on KLTE.  Bud, welcome to Issues, Etc.

BUD:  Hi, guys, how are you?

WILKEN:  Very well.

BUD:  I just — first of all, wanted you to know I really enjoy listening to both of you.  This is the first time I've ever called in a radio show.  Getting right to it, I've got two questions actually.  One is an issue.  The other is probably an etc.  But in the divinity deception that we're talkin' about here, what — my wife asked me — we're both believers and she asked me — she said to me that she — after all that Christ had done for us on the cross, that she didn't think that she would really have a problem if, in fact, Christ had been married.  And so she said, "What do you think?"  Well, I gave her my answer, but I just wondered what you thought.

WILKEN:  All right.  And you had a second question there, Bud?

BUD:  Yeah, the second one has to do with cremation of believers.

WILKEN:  Let's deal with the first one if we can.  And, Bud, thank you very much for your questions as well.

Rich, okay.  As we said, one of the premises of Dan Brown's novel is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.  If this were actually so, what difference would it make?  Can someone consistently believe what the New Testament says of Jesus Christ and at least that detail of what Dan Brown claims about Jesus?

ABANES:  Well, you know, I would be very, very hard pressed to think that somebody would be able to hold to those two lines of thought.  You might want to — I could not hear that caller very well; it was very soft, and so I'm kind of in the dark as to what exactly he was saying about this.

WILKEN:  Well, he wondered whether or not — and this was an occasion by a conversation with his wife — whether — she said, "Well, I believe what Jesus did for me at the cross, and so what difference does it make if He was married.  I could believe He was married, or maybe I don't.  But it doesn't make much difference.  How would you respond?

ABANES:  Well, you know, first of all we have to the Bible for what it says.  And we don't have anything in Scripture that talks about Jesus being married.  Also, that would be very odd since Christ was not just a man!  This is one thing we have to remember.  Christ was not just a man.  He was the God-man — 100 percent God, 100 percent man.  And He also stated in Scripture in the New Testament that His purpose for coming was not to get married, not to have children.  His purpose was to come and die for the sins of humanity.  He also said that His purpose was to come and preach the Kingdom of God.  So this is what we have to go on.  So I would say that it would be very difficult to then start inserting in here, "Well" — as Dan Brown says "he must've been married because that's such a natural thing to do."  Well, maybe it is a natural thing to do, but Jesus was not only natural but supernatural.  So, I think there would be a problem with that.

WILKEN:  A real quick call before we go to this break.  Ryan in Minneapolis is listening on KKMS.  Ryan, we've got one minute before we go to our break.

RYAN:  Hi, I was just curious.  Do you see any sort of organized agenda to undermine Christianity?  I just noticed that when you check in to some of the Web sites, like if you look up "religious symbology" there — very professionally done Web sites that sort of support this misleading view that Brown poses.  And I'll take your answer, thanks.

WILKEN:  Thank you very much, Ryan.  When we come back from this break, we'll get Rich Abanes' answer to that question about whether or not Dan Brown's — well, let's see if we can get a starting to that answer here.  With only about a minute here, Rich, is Dan Brown's novel part of a larger conspiracy? 

ABANES:  Well, you know what?  I don't know!  That's my honest answer.  I do have to confess that as I was reading through all of this, I kept thinking to myself, "I wonder if Dan Brown's part of this bizarre sort of Priory of Sion that does exist over in France that's sort of an underground cultish-type movement to spread this theory."  I just don't know.

WILKEN:  When we come back, more of your phone calls on The Da Vinci Code.  We're talking with Rich Abanes.

Folks, why not give a tape of this two-hour discussion with Rich Abanes on The Da Vinci Code to a relative or a neighbor or a co-worker who's recently read the book?  All you have to do is contact a local Lutheran church that sponsors Issues, Etc., and they'll send you a free cassette recording of this two-hour conversation.  Get a pen and a piece of paper ready, because you should hear an announcement with a phone number and a mailing address for that local Lutheran church that sponsors Issues, Etc. right after the Issues, Etc. closed theme.

We're talking with Rich Abanes, director of The Religious Information Center based in Southern California, and author of book—his latest book, in fact, titled, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code — a critique of Dan Brown's, The  Da Vinci Code.  Stay with us.


WILKEN:  If you'd like to receive a complimentary copy of our Issues, Etc. Journal, or if you'd like to know how to contact our guest in this hour, Rich Abanes and The Religious Information Center, or if you'd like to help us defend the faith and teach the truth by joining the Issues, Etc. Reformation Club — it's our new monthly donor program — the Issues, Etc. Reformation Club — call our resource line:  1-800-737-0172.  Or you can always write us at Issues, Etc., P.O. Box 9360, St. Louis, MO 63117.

David is calling from Berkeley, Calif.  He listens on KFAX.  David, thank you for waiting, and welcome to Issues, Etc.

DAVID:  Yeah, thank you.  I was just wondering, has anybody been able to challenge Dan Brown in person?  Anybody from the Christian community or with Christian authority to these refutations?

WILKEN:  David, thank you very much.

DAVID:  I'll take my answer off the air.  Thank you.

WILKEN:  Thanks, David.  Rich?

ABANES:  Yeah, not that I know of.  In fact, the last thing I heard, there's a New York Times article out on some of these books that are coming out against Dan Brown's.  And he's not taking anymore interviews.  But I certainly would have a standing, open challenge to talk to him publicly wherever and whenever he'd like.  I think that'd be great.

WILKEN:  I've interviewed several people on our weekday program — in particular, some Roman Catholics who — it's become something of a cottage industry now, at least to answer questions and do a bit of apologetics in response to the issues raised by Dan Brown's novel among Roman Catholics.  You could see why they would have an interest in at least exposing the errors that are found there as well.

ABANES:  Absolutely.

WILKEN:  Dustin is calling from St. Louis.  Dustin, welcome to Issues, Etc.

DUSTIN:  Hi, how you doing?  Quick comments.  First of all, I hope everybody talking about this book has read all four of his books for the simple fact that he uses a technique in his books that blemishes the truth and the fiction part to where you don't know what's fact and, you know, what's fiction.  So, people, yeah, they're gonna go run off now with this new religion they found from this book, ‘cuz they don't really know what they're reading.

WILKEN:  Do you have a question there as well, Dustin?

DUSTIN:  And just another comment.  I don't think — I think everybody's missing the entire point of his book.  His book is not about truth — all these facts.  The point is, don't take everything for face value, and it all boils down to your personal relationship with Christ one-on-one because there's a lot of people out there that have issues with the church, ‘cuz it's not perfect, and I think he actually explains that in the latter half of his book.

WILKEN:  Dustin, thank you for your call.  And Dustin is listening here in St. Louis on KSIV.

Let's deal, first of all, with his characterization — Dustin's characterization — of how Dan Brown kind of tones the truth — twists the truth — in his novels.  And then respond to his question there.  Is this novel really about just questioning what you see on the surface, and that it's really all about your personal relationship with Jesus?

ABANES:  Well, with the first thing, I would say, you know, Dan Brown's other novels are all very conspiratorial, you know, dealing with things that are in a similar vein — you know, hidden secrets and things like that.  And he does play loose with the truth in those as well.  So it is his style.  However, the problem is, is that unlike with the other novels, he is actually — and this sort of dovetails into the second comment that this listener's made — unlike the other novels, Brown himself is actually making it a whole lot more than just, you know, don't take everything at face-value type message in his book.  He's actually saying, "All the history, artwork, documents, rituals, in the novel are accurate, as are the hidden codes revealed in some of Da Vinci's most famous paintings."  Now, I'm sorry, but all of the history is not true in his book.  And nor are the hidden codes he reveals true in his book.  So we're going beyond — above and beyond — him just writing something that has a message of just, "Hey, you know, don't take everything at face value.  Look at things."  He's going beyond that.  He is putting forth an absolute series of teachings that he himself personally believes.

WILKEN:  1-800-730-2727.  Let's talk with Aaron.  He's listening in Washington, D.C., on WAVA.  Aaron, welcome to Issues, Etc.

AARON:  Thank you.  I guess I really just have more of a comment than I do a question.  I read Dan Brown's book.  I loved it.  And when I was finished reading, I took it as fiction.  And I don't understand.  I'm a Christian, and I know where my faith lies.  And I don't understand what the controversy is, I guess — why everybody is so concerned.  I mean, it says inside the front flap that it's fiction.

WILKEN:  Aaron, thank you very much.  Now through the break up there, if I could just restate very briefly, he says he read it; he evaluated it as fiction; he doesn't see why everyone's so upset about it.  Respond if you would, Rich.

ABANES:  I think if he could take it as fiction and enjoy it and have his faith rooted and grounded, that is wonderful!  I'm glad he was able to enjoy a good work of fiction.  The problem is, not everybody is like him!  As I mentioned earlier, there was a woman in the Post Office I heard who said she absolutely believed what it says and that it's incontrovertible.  There are other Internet sites.  All you have to do is go to some of the Dan Brown fan sites.  I have a couple of quotes here.  One poster on the Internet said, "This book is awesome and confirms many things for me."  Another person wrote, "A huge amount of information in it is accurate and that pretty much all of the historical facts are real."

Now, when they're saying all of the historical facts, we're talking about things like how the Bible was formed, Constantine's role in the Church, the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, Jesus — whether He was called Divine by His apostles or not, the Virgin birth—we're dealing with Leonardo Da Vinci and whether he was or was not a part of this goddess worshipping group.  I mean, people are believing this, and that's what the problem is!

WILKEN:  Finally, before we wrap up this hour, Rich, what picture of Jesus emerges?  If one takes seriously, according to the claims of Dan Brown within and outside the novel — the fiction — which he now claims to be truth, if one takes that seriously, what picture of Jesus emerges, and how is that in contrast with the picture that Scripture presents of our Savior?

ABANES:  Well, we have in the Dan Brown book, an extremely — extremely — human Jesus.  But that's only half the story.  We have a Jesus who is a goddess worshipping pagan.  And Dan Brown even mentions some ritualistic sexual acts in his novel and makes reference to these two authors named Picknett and Prince who actually portray Jesus and Mary Magdalene as not even being married but Mary Magdalene actually being this pagan priestess who sort of initiated Jesus into the joys of — I hate to say this — orgasmic spirituality.

WILKEN:  One minute here, Rich.

ABANES:  And this is the kind of Jesus that Brown is alluding to, not the perfect God-man of Scripture — not the One who died for our sins — not the One who came to preach the Kingdom.  He's dealing with an extremely human-based, sinful, sin-filled, sensual, deeply, deeply based individual.

WILKEN:  Folks, we'll continue to take your phone calls on The Da Vinci Code live in the next hour on Issues, Etc.  Our call-in number — call during this break:  1-800-730-2727.  We have a few phone lines open for your questions and your comments.  And you can't stay on the line to hear the response to your question or comment.  Or as always, you can post your question or comment on the Issues, Etc. Forum: is our Web site.  Under the "What's New" section, you'll find the forum and you'll also find several resources, articles, on The Da Vinci Code.  Now, you won't be able to listen to this next hour on the radio; it's only on the Internet.  If you want to listen, go to our Web site:  Click on the Worldwide KFUO logo:  We are coming to you live this Sunday evening.  It's May 2.  Write this number down.  Call us during this break.  The best callers with a question or a comment for Rich Abanes on The Da Vinci Code will receive a free copy of his new book called The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code

It is fiction.  If it's taken as fiction — fine.  Light reading, summer reading, beach book — whatever you want to make it — as long as you understand it to be wholly and entirely fictional — fanciful.  It is when the author claims that it's not fiction but truth, not fancy but history, that we run into some problems.  And it wouldn't be of really any note except that when people read this book, they get confused too.  Is this really the history?  Is this really the Jesus that I should be thinking about, believing in, rather than the One that the Bible delivers to me?

Make no mistake about it, the contrast couldn't be clearer between the Jesus in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Jesus in the New Testament and in all of Scripture.  He is our God, our Savior, God in human flesh, a perfect life lived without sin — lived for you and for me, sinners.  A perfect death — died for you and for me, sinners.  Raised from the dead.  No fancy, no fiction there.  That is the real Jesus!      

I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for listening to Issues, Etc.

The Rev. Todd Wilken is the host of Issues, Etc.

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