James L. Garlow. The Da Vinci Codebreaker. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2006.
“In one sense, The Da Vinci Code has done Christianity and the Bible a great favor, sparking questions believers should have been asking and answering long before reading about ‘the code.’ If people will seriously examine the historical data, they will know what they believe and why they believe it.”
So writes Dr. James Garlow in the preface of his concise and easy-to-use new reference tool, The Da Vinci Codebreaker.
As American evangelical Christianity continues to broaden and stretch, the need for solid depth in a biblical foundation becomes more apparent. That some Christian believers would shrink in doubt and embarrassment before the dubious conspiratorial rantings of a best-selling novel is the latest and clearest example.
The roadside placards outside churches today are filled with evidence of opportunities to use the new book and film to address some of the neglected foundations of the faith for seekers and saints alike. For those Christians that may or may not hear such sermons or seminars, there is a handy, new tool you may want to keep at hand.
Garlow, a pastor and theologian who regularly defends the faith on his daily radio commentary and on national cable television programs, with the able help of author Timothy Paul Jones and artist April Williams, ably dismantles Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in a manner that is widely accessible to everyday Christians.
With all respect for his able storytelling, Garlow questions Brown’s agenda in producing a novel that he describes as “fact-ion,” a skilled effort at interweaving elements of fact into a compelling fictional story “in such a way that the uninitiated cannot distinguish between them.”
The Da Vinci Codebreaker is not a chapter-by-chapter thematic account of fallacies and heresies but an alphabetical glossary of people, places, and ideas that fill the backstory of Brown’s novel. Garlow presents each item with a brief summary of pertinent facts in a clear and accurate historical context.
The author often contrasts quotes taken directly from The Da Vinci Code with well-established evidence that shows the extremely tenuous and fraudulent basis on which Brown’s pseudo-theology is so fragilely constructed.
All the major names show up in Garlow’s glossary and are cross-referenced to other related terms, leading the reader logically in a direction that will satisfy his curiosity about a particular aspect or theme. A search for “Mary Magdalene” – whom Brown alleges that Jesus married – yields four paragraphs of discussion on the character’s appearance in the Bible, the view of her through the history of Christendom, and her thematic role in The Da Vinci Code.
At the end of the entry are cross-references for the tribe of Benjamin, two of the apocryphal gospels used to frame Brown’s account, and Jewish marriage. A look at all of these entries will introduce the reader to the Essenes, Nag Hammadi, and Gnosticism, among others. And so the search continues.
Curious to know more about these terms, but without the time and expertise to conduct your own research? Pick up a copy of Garlow’s The Da Vinci Code and get a more systematic understanding of the fallacies that pervade Brown’s best-selling novel and the solid rock of historical truth underpinning the reliable accounts of Scripture.
St. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has admonished those who make up the body of Christ to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15).
The Da Vinci Codebreaker is one such small weapon in the spiritual arsenal, one that will occupy a spot in the reference library of this reviewer for years to come. While the fad of “the code” may soon fade away, the knowledge the book contains to help fellow Christians defend the faith and impact the lives of others will last a lot longer.
Ben DeGrow, M.A., Husband, Father, Church Leader, Student of Scripture
Thanks to Stacy Harp at Active Christian Media for the opportunity to read and comment on this book. No remuneration was paid for this review.