Saturday, February 11, 2006

Plugging the Commenter's Work

We seem to have picked up comments from an author (Carl Olson) at Ignatius Press. Since I happen to be the happy owner of several of their volumes (despite my continuing status as an evangelical "separated brethren" type), I'm going to make it easy for those interested in reading further about the controversy over The Da Vinci Code by clicking here.

I haven't read Dan Brown's blockbuster and probably won't. I'm in the camp that thinks we're looking at a marketing sensation because the central thesis of the book has not been a recognized serious controversy in the scholarship as far as I know. If someone knows otherwise, please feel free to lay it out in comments to this thread.

13 comments:

Carl E. Olson said...

Thank you, Mr. Baker, for the kind link to the excerpts from our book. I don't think that juxtaposing "marketing sensation" over against "scholarship" gets to the bottom of the most serious problem with Dan Brown's novel, which is the amazing amount of positive acclaim it has received from readers and members of the MSM who think its central claims — Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, the Bible is hogwash, the "gnostic gospels" are historically accurate and pro-feminist, and Leonardo da Vinci's paintings are filled with exciting heterodox ciphers — are not only compelling, but obviously true.

While more and more scholars have weighed in on what I call "The Coded Craziness," I think that most academics think all of this uproar is beneath them. In one sense, they are correct: the claims of the novel and its author (who stands by them) are ludicrous in light of reputable scholarship. But the fact is simply this: the average reader doesn't live in the ivory tower and doesn't shape his world view based on reputable scholarship, but on a mish-mash of television, pop music, lousy novels, People magazine, and so forth.

I would further suggest that we are dealing with a cultural phenomenon, which may have started as a marketing phenomenon, but now goes far beyond that because so many readers have taken the novel's historical and theological claims to heart. For more about all of this, might I suggest an article I wrote titled "The 'It's Just Fiction!' Doctrine: Reading Too Little Into The Da Vinci Code," which addresses a number of criticisms that I've received from various fans of The Da Vinci Code, especially the common retort: "It's just fiction!"

Carl E. Olson said...

BTW, speaking of scholars, I should point out that our book has been endorsed by folks including Dr. Philip Jenkins (Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University), Dr. Darrell L. Bock (professor of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary), Marvin Olasky (Professor, The University of Texas at Austin), James Hitchcock (Professor of History, St. Louis University), and Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, who holds advanced degrees in philosophy and theology. I would also point out that a growing number of high schools, colleges, and universities are using The Da Vinci Code as a required text in classes — not English classes (since the novel is poorly written), but in religious studies, theology, and history classes. No joke.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Protocols of the Elders of the Vatican.

Did y'all know we Catholics don't just take communion, we actually eat human flesh?

True story.

Hunter Baker said...

"I would also point out that a growing number of high schools, colleges, and universities are using The Da Vinci Code as a required text in classes — not English classes (since the novel is poorly written), but in religious studies, theology, and history classes. No joke."

Now that is disturbing. I suppose you're right in what you say about the silliness of the whole thing relative to the scholarship not being the key issue.

Hunter Baker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Evanston said...

Much thanks to Mr. Olson on his work. A small group at my church reviewed Da Vinci Deception by Erwin Lutzer. Not only are such studies of use versus Dan Brown's hogwash, but also for general apologetics. We know the World will always generate new attacks against Christ, since opposers will take fantastic leaps to believe that the Bible is false. The enthusiastic reception of Da Vinci Code follows Peter Jennings et al uncritical acceptance of the Jesus Seminar, and no doubt we will see more crazed attacks in the future. Thankfully God uses these to strengthen our faith as we get further in to His Word. I will read Mr. Olson's "It's Just Fiction..." article and hope others do the same.

S. T. Karnick said...

By the way, Carl is a great guy. It's great that you've stopped by for a visit, Carl. Best w's!

Hunter Baker said...

Evanston, I'm glad you bring up the Jesus Seminar. I'm going to post an interview where N.T. Wright talks about the brief phenomenon of the J.S. in the near future.

Carl E. Olson said...

Thanks, Sam, for the kind words. I wish I could visit The Reform Club on a more regular basis since it's an excellent blog. Thanks for your great NRO article on recent prog music. I'm currently enjoying music by Little Atlas, a group I'd not heard of prior to your article.

Tlaloc said...

"I would also point out that a growing number of high schools, colleges, and universities are using The Da Vinci Code as a required text in classes — not English classes (since the novel is poorly written), but in religious studies, theology, and history classes. No joke."

Do we have documentation of that? I'd find that pretty disturbing since the book is overtly a piece of fiction.

Carl E. Olson said...

Some examples:

http://witcombe.sbc.edu/davincicode/contents-schedule.html

http://www.discoveryseminars.ucr.edu/faculty.php?content=courses/f/davincicode.htm

http://newbattleabbeycollege.co.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=9

http://www.education.ex.ac.uk/dll/details.php?code=DLV01

http://www.hartsem.edu/academic/courses/fall2004/ws689.htm

http://www.ferglib.org/ferg/youth_link/SumReadListStam2004.htm

http://www.christchurchschool.org/campus/library/summer.asp

Tlaloc said...

okay that seems a bit different. I thought you were indicating that the Da Vinci Code was being used as an actual textbook. Rather most of these seem to be a case of people using the books popularity to draw people into the actual fields fo study and then to critically examine aspects of the book.

Just as a genetics class might choose to look at the book Jurassic Park and examine how feasible the science in it is. That doesn't bother me other than of course a slight revulsion that educators have to stoop to such gimmicks to get people interested in learning.

Carl E. Olson said...

Yes, that's a good distinction to make. I don't wish to overstate the case, but I think it shows the popularity and sway of the book. And in almost every case the book is approached with a positive spin. or at least with the sense that its contents should be seriously considered. So while Oprah chastises James Frey for fabricating his personal history in his bestselling A Million Little Pieces (because it was a memoir), Dan Brown's book gets a clean pass because it's a novel -- and we all know that novels are only for entertainment. But fans of the novel almost never discuss the plot, characters, or prose; instead, they fixate on the historical and theological claims. Yet, when challenged as to the veracity of those claims, they revert to the "Oh c'mon, it's just fiction!" And, in the end, it is this lacking view of the power and place of fiction that really irks me.