The Lost Symbol – Some Thoughts
Dan Brown’s latest novel is probably his worst. It could also turn out to be his most dangerous. What I mean by “his worst” is that from a fiction novel standpoint the story is a bit canned, the plot a bit too transparent, and the characters surprisingly flat. I say “surprisingly” because I actually enjoyed his previous four books, including the two previous Robert Langdon novels, Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. Read as fiction, they were interesting stories! This latest offering, however, reads like a Mad Lib of The DaVinci Code – the same basic plot line with different religions, character names and adjectives thrown in. So in that sense it is his worst.
It is also, I believe, Browns most dangerous offering to date. We all remember the flurry of controversy that erupted short years ago when Brown had his protagonists discover that DaVinci’s code pointed to Christ’s marriage and lineage. This thesis – a conspiracy by the Church to cover up Christ’s union with Mary Magadalene and his resultant royal bloodline that ran down through the centuries to the present day – provoked sermons, articles and even book length rebuttals. And rightly so! My fear is that The Lost Symbol will slip by with no such reaction because it seems to center around Masonic lore rather than the Person of Christ and the authority of His Word. In short, its primary thesis doesn’t seem “scandalous” enough. But in fact, while The Lost Symbol does not have a lightening rod like a married Jesus at the center of its plot, the main message of the book is devastatingly at odds with biblical Christianity.
- It talks of man needing to look within himself to find salvation (to become god!) rather than standing in need of a Savior from outside himself.
- It holds up the Christian Scriptures alongside the sacred books and mystical writings of every other religion to suggest that those who are truly enlightened see the sameness in their message(s).
- The God (Architect, whatever you call Him) who is there and who we should worship is not the God of the Christians, or the Buddhists, or exclusively the God of any religion, but is in fact the “corporate consciousness” of the human race.
Here is a small taste of The Lost Symbol’s theology found in a “teaching section” toward the end of the book:
“Robert, you and I both know that the ancients would be horrified if they saw how their teachings have been perverted [meaning, taken as literal truth about God rather than allegorical symbolism pointing toward the great potential in the mind of man]…how religion has established itself as a tollbooth to heaven…We’ve lost the Word, and yet its true meaning is still within reach, right before our eyes. It exists in all the enduring texts, from the Bible to the Bhagavad Gita to the Koran and beyond. All of these texts are revered upon the altars of Freemasonry because Masons understand what the world seems to have forgotten…that each of these texts, in its own way, is quietly whispering the exact same message.” Peter’s voice welled with emotion. “Know ye not that ye are gods?” Peter lowered his voice to a whisper. “The Buddah said, ‘You are God yourself.’ Jesus taught that ‘the kingdom of God was within you’ and even promised us ‘The works I do, you can do…and greater.’ Even the first antipope – Hippolytus of Rome – quote the same message, first uttered by the gnostic teacher Monoimus: ‘ Abandon the search for God…instead take yourself as the starting place'” (492).
The reason I think the message of this book will not provoke the same outcry that greeted The DaVinci Code is because it meshes so well with the way so many people already think! This is not to say they are familiar with the symbols and rituals that drive the story. Rather it is to say that this way of thinking – that enlightened minds hold great power, hold the key to the future, and that this enlightenment comes by waking up to the fact that we don’t need God and His exclusive self-revelation in the Person of His only Son and in His Scriptures because we have phenomenal power and untapped potential within ourselves – will be taken in stride by many who read it. In a world (and increasingly in a church?!) where the appeal of spirituality is growing while the appeal of doctrine and truth is waning, the words in these character’s mouths could very well be coming out of our own.
When I finished this book I opened the Gospels and read these words of Jesus with a new attention:
- Whoever does not honor the Son [for who He is as God, as the Son of God, and as the only Savior of the world] does not honor the Father who sent him (Jn. 5:23).
- I know you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me (Jn. 5:42).
- You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also (Jn. 8:19).
- I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also (Jn. 14:6).
- The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me (Lk. 10:16).
- Whoever receives me receives him who sent me (Matt. 10:40).
The Word of God recorded in the word of God makes it unflinchingly and undeniably clear that what you do with Jesus is the litmus test that determines what you do with God. And that “God” is to be known specifically and personally as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t relate to God without relating to Jesus. If you receive, love, honor and know the Son then you receive, love, honor and know the Father who sent him. If you reject the Son then you do not receive, love, honor or know the Father, but in fact reject Him. This is the unique supremacy of Jesus Christ in our salvation that is denied in every possible way by Brown’s latest book – which is itself only an articulation of what many already believe, and believe must be the case if we are to find hope and peace in this religiously diverse world. Exclusive claims about “your” God have to go. Inclusive claims about enlightened humans becoming their only hope will stay and grow.
Against this prevailing sentiment stands the clear words of Christ and the “lost” symbol of his cross! Contrary to the conclusions drawn in Brown’s book, it is not a mishmash of religious symbols drawn together from across history that show us the way to hope. It is the single, stark symbol of a bloody cross that alone opens the way to God! May we seek it, find it, embrace it, and share it with a zeal that would put Robert Langdon to shame!