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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Errors of Ignatius Press

"Gnosticism: The Religion of the Code"

That's Chapter 1 of Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel's book, The Da Vinci Hoax. While the book has been a moderately competent debunk of Dan Brown's novel, there has always been one aspect of it that has been in error, and it is admirably laid out in the title to chapter 1. Gnosticism has absolutely nothing to do with the Da Vinci Code.

In defending the Ignatius book against this charge, Mark Brumley, CEO of Ignatius, has this to say, "DVH makes a sophisticated argument re: Gnosticism and the DVC. Brown draws on some elements of Gnosticism, frames some of his arguments based on how Gnosticism is used by others today, and ignores other aspects of Gnosticism that contradict his overall thesis."

Now, as I have pointed out elsewhere, The Da Vinci Code's contact with Gnosticism is essentially non-existent. It quotes from two documents which contain Gnostic elements: the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. In neither case does Brown use the Gnostic elements in those documents, nor does he use the quotes that he does draw from the documents to support any Gnostic idea whatsoever.

In fact, every idea that he brings forward concerning Jesus is antithetical to Gnosticism.

Recently, Carl Olson wrote a column for Ignatius Insight complaining about the uproar over the Gnostic Gospel of Judas. Since his column accepts comments from readers, I pointed out that the uproar was in part fueled by his erroneous book and DVD - he and Ignatius have been promulgating information on a heresy that the Da Vinci Code never even refers to. Two years of Ignatius' hype concerning this straw-man argument undoubtedly played no small role in the rising interest in Gnosticism.

After all, even the word "Gnostic" never appears in the Da Vinci Code. Certainly none of its ideas are present in the Code. Gnosticism is a remarkably complex and relatively obscure heresy that almost no one knew existed prior to the erection of the strawman argument. Given how bad Dan Brown is at research, it isn't clear he even realized he was quoting from Gnostic documents. There's certainly no evidence he taught anything approaching Gnostic philosophy.

So, when I heard about Carl's column, in which he laments the existence of an uproar he and Ignatius helped to create, I asked Carl and Mark to give me one example of Gnostic philosophy, theology or even general thought in the Da Vinci Code.

They couldn't.

Mark responded only by saying "Brown claims X, but he gets this from Gnostic sources..."

I pointed out that Brown quoted from ancient documents which contained Gnostic elements, but he never, in fact, used any of the Gnostic elements. Indeed, as I realized later, if we were to use this new Ignatius Press standard for what constitutes adherence to a particular philosophy, we would be forced to insist that Ignatius Press supports Dan Brown's philosophy and theology, since their book quotes from The Da Vinci Code.

If Brown quoting from Gnostic documents makes him Gnostic, then Ignatius Press quoting from the Da Vinci Code makes them adherents to Dan Brown’s philosophy. QED.

Mark insisted I was not engaging his argument, and indicated that he saw no point in further conversation.

I posted this reply:

    "Mark, your book has a chapter entitled Chapter 1: Gnosticism: The Religion of the Code.
    In that chapter, Carl and Sandra say, 'It's easy for writers such as Brown, who are sympathetic to the gnostics (or at least to some of their ideas)...'

    I asked you to name one Gnostic idea that Brown espouses in DVC. You can't. But your chapter heading says it is the Religion of the Code! How does that work?
    How can something be the religion, the philosophy, the theology of a work without ever actually espousing - or even referring to - any of the IDEAS in the work?
    Carl and Sandra give a basically accurate description of what Gnosticism teaches and then say, 'Gnosticism was exclusive, elitist, and esoteric, open only to a few.'
    But Brown's argument is precisely that pagan goddess worship – which is NOT Gnosticism - was NOT elitist, esoteric or open only to a few.
    Your own book's first chapter HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING IN DVC. Your book claims that Brown is sympathetic to Gnostic ideas, but you never connect any Gnostic idea to anything Brown wrote.

    Carl and Sandra have been pushing this strawman argument for TWO YEARS. Ignatius has been pushing this strawman for two years.

    Engage with that fact."
He did. He deleted the post.

As Carl and Sandra correctly point out in their first chapter, Gnosticism held that proper understanding of reality was only available to a few esoteric elite, people who did not need to justify themselves to the rest of us, the great unwashed. The illuminated understand the secret knowledge. The rest of us must just accept what they say.

The Ignatius Press' position is quite clear: "DVH makes a sophisticated argument re: Gnosticism and the DVC. Brown draws on some elements of Gnosticism, frames some of his arguments based on how Gnosticism is used by others today, and ignores other aspects of Gnosticism that contradict his overall thesis."

The argument is apparently quite sophisticated - so sophisticated, that it is not something Mark Brumley, CEO of Ignatius Press, or Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel, the authors of The Da Vinci Hoax, are willing to actually enunciate to the rest of us.

"Brown draws on some elements of Gnosticism" but we aren't permitted to know which.

Brown "frames some of his arguments based on how Gnosticism is used by others today," but we aren't permitted to know how.

In short, Mark Brumley is trying to tell us the arguments Carl and Sandra use in The Da Vinci Hoax are Gnostic arguments.

I guess they are fighting fire with fire. Too bad the rest of us are too stupid to understand.

Just remember: the Ignatius Press use of Gnostic strawmen and/or Gnostic arguments had nothing to do with the uproar over the Gospel of Judas. Not a thing. Just ask them.


GlenofKS said...

Hi, Steve.
I enjoy your Fifth Column greatly.
I did read the Da Vinci Code. Brown promotes goddess worship/paganism in a major way, condemning Christianity as a hoax.
Many people in our age, want to be free to live amoral/immoral lives. These people are happy to see Christianity trashed, for it asks for repentance and a turning to God. This is why the DVC is so popular. The DVC is pure fiction that its author promotes as having a truthful foundation, where there is none. The great deceiver could not be more proud.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, it certainly promotes pagan goddess worship - there's no question of that.

But it doesn't promote Gnosticism. Gnosticism is not pagan goddess worship. In fact, it is radically opposed to goddess worship.

What Ignatius Press did is very much akin to spending hours debunking the racist views of your opponent only to find out that your opponent never espoused racism - in fact, he's a Marxist.

Both racism and Marxism are erroneous, but they are two entirely different errors.

Ignatius not only seems unable to differentiate between the various errors, it has begun to complain that the Marxists (having heard more about racism from the debunkers' arguments) are now interested in learning more about how racism works.

Dave Titus said...

Dear glenofks,
Don't lose faith in your fellow man. To say that many people want to live amoral or immoral lives is to turn your neighbor into your enemy. There is always room for discussion, always hope for social betterment. If we are able to see our faith unchallenged in our heart, I suspect we'll begin to see a greater acceptance of faith and spirituality in our society.