Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

the-lost-symbolThe Lost Symbol is the third novel by Dan Brown featuring his popular character, Robert Langdon. The first two novels about Langdon, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, have been wildly popular and successful books. In my opinion, The Lost Symbol is the weakest of the three books; however, that’s not so say it fails to be an extremely enjoyable read.

Whereas the Angels and Demons story revolved around the illuminati, and The Da Vinci Code story dealt with the search for the holy grail and conspiracy theories regarding the knights templar, The Lost Symbol is built on the mystery surrounding freemasonry and its influence upon America’s forefathers. If you enjoyed the first two books, you’ll enjoy this one, but honestly there were a few parts in The Lost Symbol that seriously “jumped the shark.”

The most interesting feature of The Lost Symbol, from my perspective, were the differing worldviews embodied within the book. Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon (two central characters) display differing versions of a modernist worldview (i.e. – science and reason can explain everything and will eventually bring about a better world). Langdon’s character is a skeptic who views all religion from the viewpoint of an anthropological / cultural scientist. He clearly understands the beliefs of various faiths, and yet he remains a skeptic himself. Somewhat conversely, Katherine Solomon’s character embraces elements of a hinduism and new-age mysticism, but she does so from a sort of scientific / modernist base. In her view, the common hinduistic belief that “man is god” is equivalent to the evidences that science is producing. God is not real, and yet he is real because humanity itself is god. There is no “One Creator,” but there are humans who themselves create. It’s a bit hard to sum up this view in a few short sentences, but this is the worldview being propagated by Solomon’s character. It’s simultaneously modern and mystical. All of this is interesting to me because while postmodernism may be all the rage these days, modernism is still alive and well, and this book demonstrates the believability of a modernist worldview in 2010.

This book is good reading to better understand how some academics and mystics view the Bible. In their view the Bible is simply another religious text. It contains a mixture of both truth and error, and is equivalent in many ways to the texts that other faiths hold dear. I don’t hold this viewpoint at all, but The Lost Symbol helped me in some ways to understand the viewpoint from which others are operating. Now obviously this a fictional book, and I have no desire to go on any witchhunt against Dan Brown (as many did after The Da Vinci Code), but in my opinion it’s a useful tool for understanding non-Christian worldview. (Sidenote: It’s also a useful tool for learning how to misinterpret the Bible, so if you’re young in the Christian faith, ignore the interpretations of the Bible offered within, they’re garbage.)

Verdict: Fun to read, decently written, at times unbelievable, a good tool for understanding the modernist worldview (and a mystical hybrid of the modernist worldview), but should be read with caution and shunned as a reliable source for understanding the Bible.

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