Christian Book Previews Home
Christian Book Previews

Richard Abanes

Author of  Becoming Gods

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview

CBP: You have a book out titled, The Truth Behind the da Vinci Code. I really enjoyed how easy it was to find answers to the more common errors presented in Dan Brownís book, using a Q&A format.

Richard:  I thought the whole Dan Brown book got into those issues of the history and everything which can be kind of confusing. I wanted to do something that would make it really easy for people to just see what Dan Brown had said on an issue, and then, present the truth.  Rather than trying to wade through paragraph after paragraph.  And I think it worked really well.  Many people have said, ďItís so easy to understand.Ē

CBP:  And then I like how youíve footnoted everything, because thatís one of the things about Dan Brownís book is that he throws out all of these supposed facts with really no supporting evidence with them; and then you write about it and say, ďHere are the documents that say what the history of it is.Ē

Richard:  You donít really have to preach a lot.  I donít preach a lot in here because you donít have to: the facts speak for themselves.  One of the things I wanted to do was make it for unbelievers.  I think if an unbeliever reads this, theyíre not going to be offended or say, ďWell, this is just a Bible,Ē because I quote gnostics and secular histories and even witches.  I wanted to show it doesnít matter what perspective youíre coming from.  You can be a Christian, you can be a witch, you can be an agnostic, whatever.  His [Brownís] history is messed up; itís wrong.

CBP:  What do you say to people who say, ďWhatís the big deal?  Itís just a novel.  Why is everyone so upset about it?Ē  What do you say to that?

Richard:  I have no issue with fiction.  Making up everything in a fiction book Ė I donít care.  Itís that Dan Brown and his publishing house are making it out to be a factual book.  The story might be fictional, but theyíre saying that itís based on an historical backdrop, and by doing that they are presenting what they say as the history of Christianity, the history of the Bible, the way that the Catholic Church has been.  Itís all wrong.  

When I say that itís all wrong, Iím not using hyperbole.  It is all wrong.  You canít open a page without finding something wrong.  Itís amazing and yet people believe it.  This one quote is really good here from fans.  Listen to this:  ďDa Vinci Code completely turned my opinion of the Bible and the Catholic Church upside down.Ē  

And I was in a post office the other day and a woman said, ďOh you have to read The Da Vinci Code because it tells you the true history of Christianity. It just really shakes you up.  You canít argue with it because itís all fact.Ē

CBP:  Do you see that itís primarily Catholics that are being persuaded or others as well?

Richard:  No.  Itís Catholics, Evangelicals who are not really rooted and grounded and certainly unbelievers, and people who are seekers; trying to find a spirituality and they read this book and go, ďGosh, if thatís the history of Christianity Iím going elsewhere.Ē

And thatís what the real danger is.  So Iím trying to at least get people to understand whatís in Dan Brownís book is absolutely false.  And heís not making that easy because heís still saying that itís true.  I just went to his website the other day.  Heís got a brand new page up on his website:  Bizarre But True Facts From The Davinci Code.  He lists all of this stuff thatís absolutely false.  

CBP:  What do you think is going to happen as a result of the movie?

Richard:  Even more people are going to believe itís true.  More people than now because weíre in a very visual society and if itís in the movies or on TV, itís true.  And again, he and his publishing house are really going out of their way to prove that itís true.  Dan Brown, apparently, believes all this stuff that heís written.  He actually believes it.

CBP:  Itís not publicity?  He really does?

Richard:  Well, unless I want to call him a liar, heís saying that he believes it, so we have to take it at face value.  And if heís saying he believes it, he believes it.  

The weird thing about it is I was thinking at first as I was started writing my book and reading his book and researching it, that maybe he was either ignorant. And I mean that not in an insulting way, but just not knowledgeable of these things, or being deceived by what other people were saying about this stuff.  But then I really started looking at some of the stuff he was saying, and for example, he quotes in his book Leonardo Da Vinci, some of his writings.  And there are two statements he takes from Leonardoís writings he says Leonardo was saying about the Bible.  Well, when you actually read it in context, Leonardo wasnít even talking about the Bible.  

Iím thinking, ďHow can you Ė Was he doing it deliberately?Ē  It really makes it seem like heís deliberately trying to deceive people, or misrepresent this stuff.  Thereís no way around it that I can see.  Maybe he has poor comprehension, but he seems like a pretty bright guy, so I donít know how he would not understand that Leonardo was talking about in one quote, human opinion, and in another quote, alchemists.   

How would he get Da Vinci talking about the Bible and calling the Bible all this crazy stuff when he knew?

CBP:  He would have had to have looked it up.

Richard:  He would have had to have looked it up.  He just didnít pull it out of thin air.  He even changed one of the quotes to make it read a certain way.

CBP:  So it sounds like heís being deceptive.

Richard:  It sounds like it.  Obviously, I canít say what his motives are.  It just seems like that would be the case because itís difficult how someone could misunderstand.

CBP:  So do you get a lot of people asking you about this?  

Richard:  Iíve had a lot of Christians come up to me and say, ďAre you really bothered because I donít knowóit sounds so real.Ē  And many Christians are becoming confused and thinking, ďHey, I didnít know this.Ē  

Because the way he presents, and what he presents, are very troubling.  To be honest, if what he was saying was true, I wouldnít be a Christian.  I think a lot of Christians are reading it and a lot of things he refers to are kind of obscure, like who was Constantine?

What did Constantine do?  What were their gospels?  What are the Gnostic gospels?  How was the Bible really formed?  A lot of people not only donít know what the facts are, but they donít even know how to find it.  

If you go up to your average Christian and say, ďWhat did Constantine do while he was emperor?Ē  Where are they even going to begin to find it?  The specifics he talks about the knights templar and the medieval Ė the priority of Scion and all this stuff.

CBP:  Iíd never heard of them before this.

Richard:  Where are they even going to begin to find that stuff?  Thatís whatís troubling a lot of Christians.  And, of course, unbelievers who donít have the Holy Spirit Ė oh boy Ė the earlier gospels were destroyed and the Bible was just put together by this Roman Emperor  -- forget Christianity.

CBP:  This is a wonderful reference because it gives really simple, succinct answers to the ďfactsĒ that are presented.  And then you have references that people can look up.  

Richard:  I crafted my book in such a way that they could read it and get the facts.    I really hope that Christians give it to friends.  The price point is very low, so they can buy several copies and give it out.  Because if sometimes theyíre not ready to articulate it, itís easier for the other person to read it, and then once the other person has read it, then they can kind of talk about it and maybe reference pages and everything.  

Some of these issues, like when weíre dealing with witch hunts, the Priority of Scion, the Knightís Templar.  It might be hard for a Christian to articulate that well.  This will help to give this to them and say, ďJust read this and then we can talk about it.Ē

Again, it should be very non-threatening to non-Christians.  I donít use a lot of Bible, just when absolutely necessary to show something.

CBP:  And thatís good because if the Bibleís being called into question on this, itís kind of hard to reinforce it.

Richard:  Yeah.  It doesnít matter.  You can quote the Bible as much as you want, till youíre blue in the face to an agnostic or an atheist, it doesnít matter.  So why do it? I hang around with a lot of unbelievers because I like the interaction.  

Next Iím going to write about Mormonism and then my own fiction.

CBP:  Thatís great.  Tell me about that.

Richard:  Well, I just got contracted with Harvest for two fiction books.  Itís going to be a trilogy.  But Iíve just been contracted for two.  Itís going to be on -- I donít know if I want to tell you what itís about.

CBP:  Well, how about the genre?

Richard:  John Grisham, think John Grisham.  Very intense, very cutting edge.  

My favorite authors are John Grisham, Scott Turow, Steven King.  Heís a master, even though I have a feeling heís certainly not someone a lot of Christians would read, but as an artist, as a craftsman, heís just so talented.  So I try to learn from the best, and John Grisham is my hero.

CBP:  So are you going to write a legal-style book?

Richard:  No, itís not a legal.  Itís a thriller.  Itís going to be called The Fourth Reich.  Iíve written eleven chapters of it.  Itís looking good.

CBP:  So maybe next year?

Richard:  Iím thinking late next year release.  Like January of 2006.

Becoming Gods a Closer Look at 21st Century Mormonism will include a short response from BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson who has become a friend of mine.  And itís an attempt to sort of change the face of ministry of Mormons.  Because Iíve noticed over the last ten years thereís a lot of hostility between Evangelicals and Mormons.  And it was really grieving to me that thereís so much tension and hostility and fighting, and bickering and I thought this is not what it should be like.  

So Iím trying to approach Mormons and Christians and say, ďLook.  We donít agree.  Fine.Ē  But letís, first of all, deal with what Mormonism really teaches now.  Not what they taught back in the 1800ís, because thereís a lot of Mormon apologetics stuff that Christians are dealing with old beliefs.  And they keep harping up old things.  

Mormonism is a changing religion.  Itís an evolving religion, so we have deal with what theyíre saying now.  The changes that are taking place now.  And understand that many of the disagreements that we have with Mormons Ė we donít understand what theyíre saying.  I mean, theyíre wrong and I show where theyíre wrong but we canít attribute to them bad motives, that theyíre just lying or theyíre trying to be deceptive.

CBP:  I think youíre right for like the every-day believer Ė

Richard:  But what about the hierarchy?

CBP:  Those people at the top have to know that theyíre lying.

Richard:  Hereís the thing.  Iíve found as Iíve read a lot of their writings, that they think Ė they actually think differently than we do.  They view the world differently.  Their whole thought process is different so that when theyíre saying something, I really try to jump into their mindset; tried to think like they thought.  And I said to myself, ďIf I were a Mormon, would this make sense to me saying it this way.  Would it change my mind?  Would I be a least able to understand what theyíre saying?Ē  

And I thought, ďYeah.  It makes sense if I think as a Mormon.Ē  Now if I think as an Evangelical, it sounds crazy to me.  Itís just crazy, itís not Biblical, it doesnít make sense, itís not logical.  But now, make myself a Mormon and try to think about it.  And I started seeing how they think about the world, how they think about spirituality, how they view Revelation and its ability to change.  Itís a very different mindset, and Iím trying to convey that in the book.  

To say this is what Mormons believe, this is why they believe it and this is why we as Evangelicals canít accept that.  And then showing Biblically where itís wrong, where some of their arguments donít make sense to us.  So that Christians can not only be equipped, but Mormons can read it and go, ďWell, I can see why maybe an Evangelical wouldnít believe what we believe.Ē  Because theyíre thinking differently too.

I want Mormons to be able to understand why it is that we feel the way we feel and how we think.  You know, it should be just as enlightening to them.

CBP:  So your friend read it and responded to it. Do you think that Mormons will actually pick it up and read it?

Richard:  Oh, I know of many Mormons who say they will.  They absolutely will.  And Dan has not read the book but heís been talking to me a lot and weíve been having a lot of discussions about Mormon beliefs, and I asked him to contribute something to it.  Like a testimony type thing: why heís a Mormon.  I said, ďDan, why are you a Mormon?  From your heart; no argument.Ē  Heís a sharp guy.  Heís a BYU professor of Arabic studies.

CBP:  It doesnít make sense.

Richard:  It doesnít make sense to us.  And thatís what I wanted Evangelicans to get from the book is Ė at least make sense to us.  Why are they Mormons?  ďWhat is it about Mormonism that makes you a Mormon?Ē  And he did and itís really interesting to read.

CBP:  So what do intellectual Mormons base their faith on?

Richard:  Itís a very emotion-based thing: the community, the sense of pride of what Mormonism stands for, the conservative values, the ethics, the morals, the connection with community.  In many ways all the same emotional things of why Christians are Christians.  Thatís what they get from their church, their family, their friends, their community.  Weíre all people, and thatís something I wanted to get across too.  Look, itís not us versus them.  Weíre all in this thing called life together, and weíre trying to find our way spiritually.

CBP:  But it does feel threatening because of the amount of outreach that they do.  And in that sense it is a threat to Christianity.  Even if Iím not going to be influenced by it personally, to me it threatens the future of the Christian church.

Richard:  Itís a threat that I try to say, ďHey look.  Godís in control.Ē  The most important thing for us is that whatever may happen in the world, however many converts they get, however many converts we get, who goes to them and who goes to us.  Who gets the truth and who falls for deception, thatís something that none of us can control, none of us can deal with.  

But what can we do?  The one thing all of us can do is when weíre talking to Mormons be Christ.  Love them the way Christ loved them.  Represent what we consider the truth in a way that Jesus Christ would be proud of us and share the love of Jesus.  And then whatever happens, thatís what happens.  Our job is not to convert them but to represent Jesus Christ accurately.  And thatís the same with The DaVinci Code.

CBP:  And be prepared with an answer.

Richard:  Be prepared with an answer.  Again, thatís transferable to The DaVinci Code.  If youíre talking to unbelievers or seekers or agnostics or atheists, represent Jesus Christ.   Thatís what weíre going to be.