APOLOGETICS: Da Vinci Code Errors: A Quick List (Coral Ridge Ministry, 060500)

By D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., and Jerry Newcombe.


The Da Vinci Code is a novel, but it claims to be based on facts. It is okay for a novelist to create a fictional story—and even a fictional setting if he wishes. What he can’t do with impunity is to claim that that fictional background is based on fact. However, that is precisely what Dan Brown has done. His “fact” is just as much fiction as his fiction.

The Da Vinci Code is chock full of errors. Some are unimportant; others, if true, would spell the end of Christianity. Here are some of the many errors in The Da Vinci Code. This is by no means an exhaustive list.


Error: The book tells readers that “The New Testament is false testimony.”


Rebuttal: The New Testament was sealed with the apostles’ blood. They put their money where their mouths were. The Greek word for “witness”—as in the idea of witnessing to the truth about Jesus— is “martyro,” from whence we get the word martyr. Why? Because so many witnesses to Jesus, e.g., the apostles, were killed for testifying about what they themselves saw. Brown glibly ignores this history and, instead, exalts the questionable writings of second, third, and fourth century Gnostic Christians, who were sexual libertines for the most part. (Other Gnostics were strict legalists.)


Error: The doctrine that Jesus was divine was created by a pagan emperor in the fourth century, Constantine, for the purposes of manipulation: “It was all about power.”


Rebuttal: After the Resurrection, Christians worshiped Jesus because He was divine. They called Him “Kurios,” the Greek word for “Lord.” In the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Jesus and the apostles had (translated roughly 150 B.C.)—the word used for Yahweh is Kurios. For a Jew to say that a human was Kurios was absolutely forbidden.


Error: No one believed, prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. that Jesus was divine.


Rebuttal: Again, in the Gospels, written in the first century, we see that Jesus was divine. This is why He was delivered up to be crucified. The Jews accused Him of blasphemy, which is why they arrested Jesus and had a “trial” among themselves: Dan Brown’s view that the early Christians believed Jesus was only a mortal rests on historical quicksand. From the very beginning, Christians worshiped Jesus as the Son of God. Cracking Da Vinci’s Code authors Jim Garlow and Peter Jones have compiled a list of several Church Fathers—all of whom wrote before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.—affirming this most basic Christian doctrine that Jesus was divine. Those Fathers include: Ignatius (writing in 105 A.D.), Clement (150), Justin Martyr (160), Irenaeus (180), Tertullian (200), Origen (225), Novatian (235), Cyprian (250), Methodius (290), Lactantius (304), and Arnobius (305). Furthermore, one of the earliest Christian creeds was “Jesus is the Lord” (Kurios) (1 Corinthians 12:3).


Error: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and the Gnostic gospels teach that.


Rebuttal: There is the flimsiest of evidence for that. There is one passage in the pseudo Gospel of Philip, written about 250 A.D., long after Philip the apostle had died, that claims Jesus often kissed Mary Magdalene on her ________ (where he kissed her is obscure in the manuscript). The word could have been mouth, cheek, forehead, or whatever. Even liberal scholar Karen King of Harvard University observes that this is referring to a holy kiss that is asexual in nature. Just like it says in the Bible, greet one another with “a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). Let’s also remember that this was written more than 200 years after Christ. So even Dan Brown’s sources from antiquity don’t make his case for him.


Error: In The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci allegedly painted Mary Magdalene seated next to Jesus.


Rebuttal: One of Dan Brown’s proofs is that John looks so feminine, but John is often portrayed in such a way in art because he was young. Go to any cathedral and look at the stained glass images of John. Just as you can identify Peter because he is holding keys, and you can tell Andrew because he is holding a Cross like an X (the kind on which He was crucified), so you can tell John by his feminine looks. But suppose it were the case that Leonardo intentionally painted Mary Magdalene next to Jesus instead of John, because Jesus and Mary were allegedly married, and Leonardo was in on the secret, then where is the “beloved disciple” John? He is not in the picture. Where is he? Under the table?


Error: The Gnostic gospels uniformly teach the “sacred feminine”—the pagan idea that sex with a woman is the route to a relationship with God.


Rebuttal: Unlike the four Gospels, the Gnostic gospels can be actually degrading to women. The Gospel of Thomas declares that a woman cannot be saved unless God first changes her into a man (the very last verse of Thomas, 114).


Error: The Priory of Sion, which looms large in the novel, was created in 1099 by the Knights Templar.


Rebuttal: The Priory of Sion was created out of whole cloth in 1956 by a French anti-Semite con man, Pierre Plantard. In 1975, documents were found in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris that allegedly proved the Priory is as old as 1099, and that Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton and other luminaries secretly presided over it. These documents were proved to be fakes.


Was There Any Fact-Checking?


There are so many errors among the alleged “accurate depictions” of The Da Vinci Code that historian and first-rate scholar Paul Maier just has to shake his head. He notes, “Detailing all the errors, misinterpretations, deceptions, distortions, and outright falsehoods in The Da Vinci Code makes one wonder whether Brown’s manuscript ever underwent editorial scrutiny or fact-checking.”


Amazingly, we live in the Information Age, yet we live in an age of massive disinformation. The Bible says Satan is the “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The Bible also says that in the end times, “men will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). Is that not happening in our own day?


I trust that out of all of this, God, who is able to turn all things to our good, will use it to give opportunities for us to share the true Gospel of the true Savior, who gave His life and shed His blood that we might be forgiven and redeemed and saved by His grace through faith.


Adapted from The Da Vinci Myth Versus The Gospel Truth by D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., and Jerry Newcombe.




APOLOGETICS: Deciphering ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Mohler, 030729)


The summer publishing season seems always to include a thriller that leaps to the top of the best-seller charts and stays there until the fall—when readers get serious and return to school and work. The Da Vinci Code is this year’s winner, sitting at the top of the ratings this week and listed at second place in the New York Times hardcover fiction list. The book was on the top of that list last week, and it has made the list for 18 straight weeks. Not bad for a book with a seemingly unmanageable mix of plot structure, conspiracy theories, and mountains of detail about Catholic orders, renaissance art, theological heresy, and theoretical mathematics. Hooked yet?


I was forewarned about the heresy in the book, and so I started reading with a determination to force my way through an unpleasant read. It wasn’t hard. As a matter of fact, the plot was so engaging, and the content of the book was so rich, that I had a hard time putting it down. Dan Brown may or may not actually believe what he writes, but he writes so well in this genre that the average reader will not even care. That is the problem.


Devotees of suspense novels read for the sheer pleasure of the intellectual engagement—not so much with big ideas, but with the conspiratorial mind. Brown took a big risk in this novel, betting his narrative on a conspiracy involving virtually everyone even remotely connected with Christianity throughout the last 2,000 years. The forces arrayed in this conspiracy include the Knights Templar, the Masons, the Roman Catholic Church, Interpol, and a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which is claimed to have included as Grand Masters no less than Sandro Boticelli, Isaac Newton, and,of course, Leonardo Da Vinci.


Sorting all this out for the reader are characters ranging from Robert Langdon, a Harvard art historian, to an albino monk/assassin, who is sent by Opus Dei, a Catholic order close to the papacy. The murdered director of the Louvre has a mostly silent part, speaking primarily through secret codes and ciphers left written in his own blood as he died. A cast of other characters is necessary for the narrative to work and the plot to unfold.


But the human characters take a back seat to the grand conspiracy that gives the book its plot, and in that conspiracy is the heresy. The Da Vinci Code’s driving claim is nothing less than that Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (the deity of Christ) used by patriarchal oppressors to deny the true worship of the Divine Feminine. Still hanging in there? If you thought The Last Temptation of Christ was explosive, The Da Vinci Code is thermonuclear. The book claims that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that a child was born of this marriage, and that Mary and her child fled after the crucifixion to Gaul, where they established the Merovingian line of European royalty.


Art historians may quibble with Dan Brown’s details, and mathematicians may take issue with his summary of the Fibonacci Sequence, but as a theologian, my problem is the author’s toying with such an easily dismissed heresy. Brown has crossed the line between a suspense novel and a book promoting a barely hidden agenda, to attack the Christian church and the Gospel.


In order to deliver on his conspiratorial plot, Brown has to lay the groundwork by having his main characters deny the inspiration and authority of the biblical text and replace Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with the gnostic gospels found just after World War II at Nag Hammadi. The gnostic texts are called the “unaltered gospels,” and the New Testament texts are dismissed as propaganda for the goddess-bashers. One character (hint—watch him carefully) explains that all this is “the greatest cover-up in human history.” Jesus (“the original feminist”) had intended for Mary Magdalene to lead the church after His death, but “Peter had a problem with that.” So, Mary Magdalene hit the apostolic “glass ceiling” and was sent off to Gaul, taking with her, not only her child, but—you guessed it—the Holy Grail.


Heard this all before? The main contours of this plot have been found in many books published in the occultic literature. Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh (1983) made the same claims, but in what claimed to be a non-fiction expose—not a suspense novel. Holy Blood, Holy Grail sold by the thousands. The Da Vinci Code will likely reach millions. Never underestimate the commercial potential of a heretical conspiracy packaged in a seductive novel. Brown will take his millions to the bank.


I said that the book’s [hereafter TDC] heresies are easily dismissed, and they are—at least to anyone with a real interest in the identity of Jesus and the history of the church. Calling the Nag Hammadi texts “unaltered” gospels is like reading the official Soviet histories as objective fact—complete with leading figures airbrushed out of the photos. TDC claims that the New Testament is simply the result of a male-dominated church leadership inventing Christianity in order to control the Roman empire and subsequent world history and then to oppress women and repress goddess-worship.


In TDC the heretics are the heroes and the apostles are unindicted co-conspirators. The Great Satan is Emperor Constantine, who, it is claimed, never even became a Christian, but knew a good marketing plan when he saw it. Constantine supposedly called the Council of Nicaea in 325 in order to invent the idea of Christ’s divinity (and celibacy) and then turn out the heretics, thus burying the real story of Jesus (and Mary Magdalene) forever. “It’s all about power,” one character explains. That’s why Constantine “upgraded Jesus’ status.”


And the Council of Nicaea? There, TDC reveals, the Emperor led the bishops to declare Jesus as the Son of God by a vote. “A relatively close vote at that,” the text elaborates.


The real Council of Nicaea adopted a creed in order to reject the heretical teachings of one Arius, who taught that Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father. Brown weaves fact and fiction with such recklessness that the average reader will assume all these claims to be factual.


The Council of Nicaea did not “invent” the divinity of Jesus. This was already the declaration of the Church, claimed by Jesus himself and proclaimed by the apostles. The council boldly claimed this as the faith of the Church and named Arianism as a heresy and Arians as heretics. A close vote? Only two out of more than 300 bishops failed to sign the creed. Not exactly a cliff-hanger.


The Nag Hammadi texts as the real gospels? Not on your life. The texts are easily identifiable as gnostic literature peripheral to the Church. The early Church did not establish the canon (official set of New Testament writings) at Nicaea, though a general consensus was already evident at that gathering. The New Testament writings were recognized and set apart because of their authorship by one of the apostles and by their clearly orthodox content—in harmony with the other New Testament writings as recognized by the churches spread throughout the Greco-Roman world.


Much more could be considered, but the main issue is this: How plausible is such a conspiracy? The threshold of credibility for this conspiracy requires us to believe that the entire structure of Christian theology is a sinister plot to fool the masses. Further, we must believe that the leaders of this conspiracy knew that Jesus was not the Son of God, but were willing to die for this cause by the millions. As C. S. Lewis once argued, people might be willing to be martyrs for a lie if they are innocently deceived, but very few will die for what they know to be a lie.


Credibility for this conspiracy requires belief in the claim that the truth, known by millions, has been kept secret from the world until now. Specifically, until the release of The Da Vinci Code.


What about the atheists—the rationalist opponents of Christianity? What about the liberal theologians who dismiss the deity of Christ as mythological baggage? They must be greeting The Da Vinci Code with excitement, right? Not hardly. The strange and unsustainable logic of this conspiracy theory has not impressed the skeptics. Shirley MacLaine might take the argument seriously, but not Richard Dawkins.


The book’s thesis requires the reader to believe that virtually every major work of western art includes an embedded code, and that this code is evident all around us if we will just see it. Of course, to pull this off Brown has to see symbols (especially phallic symbols) everywhere. Freud was a rank amateur.


A late night conversation with a close friend reminds me of the attraction of a conspiracy theory—with or without evidence. This brilliant friend, holding a Harvard doctorate, told me that he was absolutely certain that President John F. Kennedy was the victim of a great international conspiracy including world communist leaders, the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover, and various Hollywood celebrities. After laughing out loud, I realized my friend’s utter seriousness. My rational faculties were in full outrage despite the lateness of the hour, so I simply asked my friend what evidence would be required to prove or to disprove his thesis. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that the evidence was so hidden that the truth would never be known in our lifetimes. So—hold onto your theory without the evidence and be unmoved, regardless of the facts.


Those who want to believe the heresies of The Da Vinci Code will hold to them tenaciously—whatever the evidence. Clearly, the book attacks the Gospel, but the truth is unshaken.


The Da Vinci Code will soon fall from the best-seller lists, be remaindered to the outlet malls, show up in paperback, and may even interest Hollywood. The faith of the Church remains intact.


G. K. Chesterton reminded us that orthodoxy is not only true; it is infinitely more interesting than heresy. It is alive and compelling and life-changing. Heresies come and go by fashion. The truth is unchanged and unchangeable. Caveat Emptor.




APOLOGETICS: Upcoming Movie Renews ‘Da Vinci Code’ Debate (Christian Post, 060426)


A line from Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” tells you why it’s easily the most disputed religious novel of all time: “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”


With 46 million copies in print, “Da Vinci” has long been a headache for Christian scholars and historians, who are worried about the influence on the faith from a single source they regard as wrong-headed.


Now the controversy seems headed for a crescendo with the release of the movie version of “Da Vinci” May 17-19 around the world. Believers have released an extraordinary flood of material criticizing the story — books, tracts, lectures and Internet sites among them. The conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, portrayed as villainous in the story, is among those asking Sony Corp. to issue a disclaimer with the film.


Bart Ehrman, religion chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, likens the phenomenon to the excitement in the 19th century when deluded masses thought Jesus would return in 1844.


The novel’s impact on religious ideas in popular culture, he says, is “quite unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.”


To give just one example, Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary is following up the criticisms of the novel in “The Gospel Code” with lectures in Singapore, Turkey and 30 U.S. cities. He’s given 55 broadcast interviews.


Assaults on “Da Vinci” don’t just come from evangelicals like Witherington, or from Roman Catholic leaders such as Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who says Brown is waging “an attack on the Catholic Church” through preposterous historical claims.


Among more liberal thinkers, Harold Attridge, dean of Yale’s Divinity School, says Brown has “wildly misinterpreted” early Christianity. Ehrman details Brown’s “numerous mistakes” in “Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code” and asks: “Why didn’t he simply get his facts straight?”


The problem is that “Da Vinci” is billed as more than mere fiction.


Brown’s opening page begins with the word “FACT” and asserts that all descriptions of documents “are accurate.”


“It’s a book about big ideas, you can love them or you can hate them,” Brown said in a speech last week. “But we’re all talking about them, and that’s really the point.”


Brown told National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” during a 2003 publicity tour — he declines interviews now — that his characters and action are fictional but “the ancient history, the secret documents, the rituals, all of this is factual.” Around the same time, on CNN he said that “the background is all true.”


Christian scholars beg to differ. Among the key issues:


Jesus’ divinity


Brown’s version in “Da Vinci”: Christians viewed Jesus as a mere mortal until A.D. 325 when the Emperor Constantine “turned Jesus into a deity” by getting the Council of Nicaea to endorse divine status by “a relatively close vote.”


His critics’ version: Larry Hurtado of Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, whose “Lord Jesus Christ” examines first century belief in Jesus’ divinity, says that “on chronology, issues, developments, and all the matters asserted, Brown strikes out; he doesn’t even get on base.”


He and others cite the worship of Jesus in epistles that Paul wrote in the 50s A.D. One passage teaches that Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” and became a man (Philippians 2:6).


Historians also say the bishops summoned to Nicaea by Constantine never questioned the long-held belief in Jesus’ divinity. Rather, they debated technicalities of how he could be both divine and human and approved a new formulation by a lopsided vote, not a close one. [KH: only two persons objected]


The New Testament


Brown’s version: “More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament” but Constantine chose only four. His new Bible “omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned.” The Dead Sea Scrolls and manuscripts from Nag Hammadi, Egypt, were “the earliest Christian records,” not the four Gospels.


Critics: Historians say Christians reached consensus on the authority of the first century’s four Gospels and letters of Paul during the second century. But some of the 27 New Testament books weren’t universally accepted until after Constantine’s day. Constantine himself had nothing to do with these decisions.


Some rejected writings are called gospels, though they lack the narrative histories that characterize the New Testament’s four. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were earlier and won wide consensus as memories and beliefs from Jesus’ apostles and their successors.


The rejected books often portrayed an ethereal Jesus lacking the human qualities depicted in the New Testament Gospels — the exact opposite of Brown’s scenario. Gnostic gospels purported to contain secret spiritual knowledge from Jesus as the means by which an elite could escape the material world, which they saw as corrupt. They often spurned Judaism’s creator God and the Old Testament.


On the question of mass burning of texts deemed heretical, Ehrman of North Carolina says there’s little evidence to support that claim. Rejected books simply disappeared because people stopped using them, and nobody bothered to make new copies in an age long before the printing press.


The Dead Sea Scrolls? These were Jewish documents, not Christian ones. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts? With one possible exception, these came considerably later than the New Testament Gospels.


Jesus as married


Brown’s version: Jesus must have wed because Jewish decorum would “virtually forbid” an unmarried man. His spouse was Mary Magdalene and their daughter inaugurated a royal bloodline in France.


Critics: First century Jewish historian Josephus said most Jews married but Essene holy men did not. The Magdalene myth only emerged in medieval times.


Brown cites the Nag Hammadi “Gospel of Philip” as evidence of a marriage, but words are missing from a critical passage in the tattered manuscript: “Mary Magdalene (missing) her more than (missing) the disciples (missing) kiss her (missing) on her (missing).”


Did Jesus kiss Mary on the lips, or cheek or forehead? Whatever, Gnostics would have seen the relationship as platonic and spiritual, scholars say.


James M. Robinson of Claremont (Calif.) Graduate School, a leading specialist, thinks the current popularity of Mary Magdalene “says more about the sex life (or lack of same) of those who participate in this fantasy than it does about Mary Magdalene or Jesus.”


The whole “Da Vinci” hubbub, Witherington says, shows “we are a Jesus-haunted culture that’s biblically illiterate” and harbors general “disaffection from traditional answers.”


But he and others also see a chance to inform people about the beliefs of Christianity through the “Da Vinci” controversy.


“If people are intrigued by the historical questions, there are plenty of materials out there,” Yale’s Attridge says.


British Justice Peter Smith, who recently backed Brown against plagiarism charges, perhaps best summed up the situation in his decision:


“Merely because an author describes matters as being factually correct does not mean that they are factually correct. It is a way of blending fact and fiction together to create that well known model ‘faction.’ The lure of apparent genuineness makes the books and the films more receptive to the readers/audiences. The danger of course is that the faction is all that large parts of the audience read, and they accept it as truth.




SOCIETY: The New Fertility Divide—What’s Happening in Canada? (050831)


The nation of Canada is something of a mystery to most Americans. The U.S. and Canada share many dimensions of culture, language, heritage, and history. Nevertheless, the two cultures are also significantly different—as any visitor across the border will quickly notice.


In recent decades, Canada has moved in a generally more liberal direction, while American voters have elected a conservative candidate in five of the last seven presidential elections. In general terms, Canadian culture is more pervasively secularized than that of the U.S.—a factor that explains, at least in part, Canadian acceptance of gay marriage, marijuana, and other liberal causes. In addition to these observations, demographers now point to another significant distinction—a divide in fertility rates.


Writing in the August/September edition of Policy Review, Barbara Boyle Torrey and Nicholas Eberstadt argue that significant shifts within Canadian culture have produced a significant decline in fertility rates.


Torrey, visiting scholar at the Population Reference Bureau, and Eberstadt, who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, note that the United States and Canada “are more similar to each other than any two other large countries on the planet today.” Nevertheless, the two nations remain “remarkably distinct from one other.” Torrey and Eberstadt argue that the political divide now separating Canada and the United States is eclipsed by demographic factors of even greater importance. The “steadily increasing differentiation of demographic trends” traced in Canada and the United States represent, they argue, a “largely unrecognized divergence” between the two neighboring countries.


“Twenty-five years ago the population profiles of Canada and the United States were similar,” the authors note. “Both were younger than their European allies, and their societies were more heterogeneous. In 1980 their populations had almost the same median age, fertility rates, and immigration rates. In the year since then, small changes in demographic variables have accumulated, ultimately creating two very different countries in North America by the end of the twentieth century.”


Significantly, Torrey and Eberstadt report that Canadians now have half a child fewer than Americans during their life spans. In other words, the Canadian fertility level is approximately 25% lower than that of Americans. Coupled with this is the fact that Canadians live two years longer on average. Thus, the divergence in fertility rates is likely to grow, and the resulting population changes are likely to be exaggerated in Canada—especially as the population ages.


“Changes in patterns of marriage and fertility are the accumulated outcomes of millions of personal decisions by men and women,” Torrey and Eberstadt acknowledge. “When couples, one at a time, make decisions that differ in aggregate from the couples in a neighboring country, it is a reflection of deliberate agency rather than mere chance. That’s why the still-widening demographic gap that has opened up between Canada and the U.S. says even more about the two societies and their futures than public or policy differences on any single issue.”


The facts speak for themselves. Canadians have 25% fewer children than Americans. This is all the more remarkable given the fact that Canadians have had more children than Americans in previous generations. As recently as 1945, Canadian women had a half child more than American women. In the years since, total fertility rates in both nations have gone down, but the two neighbors have switched places in terms of a fertility advantage.


Several related demographic factors are of interest. On average, Americans have babies earlier than Canadians and are more likely to marry. At the same time, Canadians are less likely to divorce. The marriage rate differential goes a long way towards explaining the divergence in fertility rates. At present, the Canadian marriage rate is only 60% of the U.S. rate. Canadians are also more likely to enter into “common law” marriages that are less likely to produce children.


What explains changes in fertility rates? Torrey and Eberstadt suggest three major hypotheses. First, some suggest a “Family Economics” hypothesis. Proponents of this theory argue that “the opportunity cost of having children increases directly with women’s education and income.” In other words, fertility rates are likely to fall as women become better educated and more employable. Second, a “Relative Income” hypothesis suggests that “large birth cohorts will have more trouble reaching their expected income goals than smaller cohorts.” A smaller number of workers would presumably lead to higher income rates. Third, a “Role Incomparability” hypothesis posits that “the ability of women to combine childbirth and work is a strong determinant of how many children they will eventually have.”


As Torrey and Eberstadt observe, these hypotheses are not necessarily incompatible. Couples and individuals may combine or modify these factors in making their own decisions concerning reproduction.


The most interesting part of Torrey and Eberstadt’s article focuses on worldview issues rather than economics. Well into their analysis, the authors raise the role of values and religion in explaining the fertility divide.


“The role of values in explaining social trends such as fertility is harder to quantify than personal income or government services,” they affirm. “But changing values may still hold insights that the better-quantified variables cannot. A number of studies have documented differences in some core values between Canada and the United States.” Torrey and Eberstadt believe that these divergences in values go a long way toward explaining the differential in birth rates.


The role of the man in the family turns out to be an important predictor of fertility rates. Torrey and Eberstadt report that a recent survey asked people in Canada and the U.S. whether they agreed that, “The father of the family must be master in his own house.” Those who answered in the affirmative were more likely to report higher birth rates. The segment of the population that expressed agreement with a strong role of the father in the family “was highly correlated with total fertility rates across Canadian provinces and U.S. regions in 2000,” the authors document. Since Americans were more likely to respond with an affirmation of a strong male role in the family, they were also more likely to report higher rates of fertility.


Torrey and Eberstadt then focus on the importance of religion as a demographic variable. They note, “People who are actively religious tend to marry more and stay together longer. To the extent that time spent married during reproductive years increases fertility, then religion would be a positive factor in fertility rates.” In Canada, women who reported weekly church attendance were 46% more likely to have a third child than women who did not. Americans reported a higher level of church attendance and produced a higher level of fertility.


The process of secularization has been accelerated in Canada, especially over the last three decades. This factor seems to play a part in explaining the decrease in Canadian birth rates.


But Torrey and Eberstadt point to another related factor. “Religiosity, as defined by importance of God and church attendance, is also significant for fertility because it is the most powerful predictor of attitudes toward abortions,” they note. Since 1980, the Canadian abortion rate has been rising while the American rate has been falling.


In conclusion, the authors explain that “changing values in the U.S. and Canada may be contributing to the fertility divergence.” Since Americans are more likely to affirm a strong role of men in the family and more frequent church attendance, we can expect a higher level of fertility. At the same time, these same factors also serve to predict a lower level of abortion. On the other hand, Canada’s higher abortion rate “may be the result of changes in values,” which are now firmly established in Canadian culture. In the end, worldview issues must surely play the determinative role in the reproductive decisions made by couples. A decline in national fertility rates must surely be fundamentally related to basic values and commitments.


One key insight from Torrey and Eberstadt’s study is crucial—when a society increasingly embraces a secularized worldview (and all that goes with it, including acceptance of abortion), fertility rates understandably fall. The Christian worldview—a worldview that understands children to be gifts from God and affirms parenthood—represents a cognitive counter-culture in the midst of an increasingly secularized society. We are indebted to Torrey and Eberstadt for documenting this truth.