Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton's Reviews > The Gnostic Mystery

The Gnostic Mystery by Randy Davila
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Apr 07, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: first-reads, a-complete-waste-of-time
Recommended to Daniel (Attack of the Books!) by: good reads
Recommended for: almost no one
Read in April, 2009 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** I received this book as a part of goodreads' "First Reads" program/contest. The instructions with the contest suggest it be put on a special "First Reads" shelf, and then read and review it...

Could I give it less than one star? A quick look plot teaser on the cover of "The Gnostic Mystery" is reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel. The protagonist finds himself unexpectedly thrust into danger as he solves some mystery about the ancient Christian church. It is anything but this, however.

Looks can be deceiving, and the similarities with "The Da Vinci Code" or "Angels and Demons" are almost non-existent. As soon as Davila has enough plot to lay a foundation (the first 10-20 pages), the plot stops, almost completely, and the polemic begins. As if that was not enough, the plot that he does include jumps around chronologically, and unnecessarily, confusing and distracting the story. While one flashback might be acceptable, the story jumps forward and backward, and without any real flashbacks at all. Changes in the story time are indicated with large bold type "Three days earlier" or "Present day," but with a disjointed effect that hurts, not helps, the story. When the jumps in time suddenly end, at about the same time the plot slows to a glacial crawl for the duration of the book, it is a relief.

However, the end of the jumping indicates something else, also: the end of the plot. With no real tension or conflict between the characters or in the plot, and with the modicum of plot out of the way, Davila gets to work on what appears to be his real purpose all along: a polemic against the miracles, virgin birth, death and resurrection, and atonement of Jesus Christ. Attributing these "myths" to the manipulation of Eusebius and Constantine, Davila proceeds to spend the lion's share of the book with conversations between an a Catholic "believer" and a seasoned academic. Their discussion of about faith is really the process of the academic disabusing the believer of his faith that Jesus was divine or that the circumstances around his life were touched by the divine. In the final analysis, by Davila's estimation, Jesus was at best a teacher and an amalgamation of pagan beliefs with a revolution in spiritual beliefs, a confluence of the mythology and power of Zeus and Apollo on one side and the morality and gentility of Buddha on the other.

And did I mention there's almost no plot against which this boring polemic is set? What plot there is amounts, at best, to a Family Feature Film, lacking tension or conflict.

In the end, I finished it just to see where Davila would take his arguments against organized religion. As I come from a Restoration perspective established on roots not connected to the events that resulted in the modern Catholicism, I did not have any problem seeing the events of the early Christian church that Davila describes in the light of what I know. What Davila describes with his limited research is what we now know to have been general apostasy of the church in the centuries after Christ and his apostles. It was no test to my faith, nor do I think someone who roots their faith in, surprise surprise, faith, in contrast to archeological research, would find their faith tested either. His arguments are heavily one sided, superficial, and would make great paper tigers for a real discussion by persons representing both sides (Hugh Nibley would get a kick out of this).

All that said, I don't recommend you waste time with this book. It is boring, lacks character or plot development, and is a polemic disguised as a novel. Go read Dan Brown if you want a mystery about the Catholic church.
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Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton The tension here seems to be more a religious/philosophical debate than a real mystery.


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