Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On The Da Vinci Code I

Trinity Law School and Trinity Graduate School are putting on an event where the Da Vinci Code will be discussed by two of our faculty members, Craig Hawkins and Jim Hirsen, on April 27th at 7:00 p.m. at the Orange County Worship Center. The Orange County Worship Center is around the corner from Trinity Law School, which is located at 2200 N. Grand Avenue, Santa Ana, California. That is on Grand between the 22 Fwy. and the 5 Fwy.

In preparation for this event, I have been reading Dan Brown’s horrible book. Full of lies, half-truths and wishful thinking, the book packages them in an effective way that delivers a subtle message to readers hooked in by the book’s suspenseful plot and treasure hunt genre. While entire books have and can be written about Brown’s work, I thought I needed to do a few small posts in order to express some of the things that really leapt out at me about this new cultural phenomena that seeks to entangle people in error and darkness. Of course the major thing that leaps out immediately is that the book encourages people not to take the Bible seriously. It claims that the Bible is a set of evolving documents written by man. While it is true that the Bible did not fall out of heaven and that God used human writers to compose it, the Bible itself and theological, philosophical and historical evidence support the idea that the Bible really is a revelation from God and that it really does express His communication to mankind. The text of the Bible has not changed over the centuries, but has remained remarkably consistent. You can read about the actual history of the biblical text in many places. Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, is certainly one of the most popular.

The Bible is best attested to than any other ancient manuscript. Most of the so-called Gnostic gospels that make heretical claims about Jesus like those in Dan Brown’s work were clearly written over a hundred years after Jesus’ ministry on earth, and there are only a handful of ancient manuscript copies of each one. With the Bible, by contrast, there are over 24,000 manuscript copies of all or some of the New Testament. Some of the earliest fragments of part of the New Testament date back to 90 A.D. or perhaps even earlier. In addition, there are writings of the early church fathers that quote the Bible. Nearly the entire New Testament could be reassembled from these quotes. Ignatius, for example, writing between A.D. 70 and 110, quotes accurately from Matthew to John and thirteen other books of the New Testament. Clement of Alexandria, who lived from 150 to 212 A.D., has 2,400 quotes from the New Testament including all but three of the books of the New Testament. Tertulian, who lived from 160 to 220, quotes the New Testament over 7,000 times in his writings, of which 3,800 of the quotes are from the Gospels. Origen, writing between 185 and 254 A.D., lists more than 18,000 New Testament quotes. McDowell calculates that in the 37 of the early church fathers taken alone, there are over 36,289 quotations from the New Testament including 19,368 from the Gospels. All of these quotations support the accuracy of the text and do not substantially differ from the text as we know it. They clearly support the divinity of Christ and the inclusion of the current books of the Bible in the Bible and the exclusion of the so-called Gnostic gospels from the Bible. There is every reason to take Christianity seriously.

The Da Vinci Code makes the bias of its writer clear, however. I suspect Brown’s philosophy is reflected in this quote from his book: “Every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith—acceptance of that which we imagined to be true, that we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday School.” While it is true that throughout the centuries God has sought to reveal and explain the infinite and to provide keys to understanding Himself through metaphors, symbols and allegories, it is through the person of Jesus Christ and in time and space that He revealed Himself, first to the Hebrew prophets and then through Jesus Himself, God Himself incarnate in the flesh. As C.S. Lewis has noted, this is what makes Christianity different from every mythic religion. The mythic religions seek to express ideas about the divine based upon “once upon a time,” “just so” stories that seek to portray realities about the cycle of life or about man’s struggle against the supernatural world in stories. Christianity alone is not like that. It is not about stories. It is about truth, about the God who created the universe actually invading time and space and revealing Himself to us in person. It is about His witnesses who saw Him, who heard Him, who touched Him, and who wrote down exactly what God through His Spirit moved them to write.

God’s revelation, the Bible, reveals the time/space events through which God exposed Himself to mankind and openly spoke to mankind. The ideals embodied in those scriptures alone are sufficient to explain to man how he can be reconciled with God and deal with the problems of sin and death. Thousands of people in their anger at God and alienation from Him have tried to distort and misunderstand the things that are clearly spoken of in the Bible. If you have questions about what is true, and whether or not the things spoken in the Da Vinci Code or in other books are accurate, what you need to do is read the Bible extensively for yourself. Especially read the New Testament, the Gospels, the book of Acts, the book of Romans, Ephesians and Colossians. Ask yourself what does this tell me about God, and what does it tell me that I should do? The entire New Testament speaks to the divinity of Jesus Christ, to His sacrifice on the cross to atone for our sins, and to His resurrection from the dead, the proof that He was who He said He was. God then sends His Holy Spirit upon those who believe in Him, the down payment for all that is yet to come—life eternal and resurrection from the dead.

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