Thursday, January 19, 2006

First Salvo – The DaVinci Code

The following is a series of questions answered by Dan Brown of the DaVinci Code followed by my preliminary responses. I just finished the DaVinci Code and found it be a page turner and a temper boiler! Many will be taking this book seriously since Brown passes the work off as scholarly fiction. We are already beginning to see a new skepticism arise that is built off of Brown’s fallacious scholarship. Great fiction, poor truth!

HOW DID YOU GET ALL THE INSIDE INFORMATION FOR THIS BOOK? Most of the information is not as "inside" as it seems. The secret described in the novel has been chronicled for centuries, so there are thousands of sources to draw from. In addition, I was surprised how eager historians were to share their expertise with me. One academic told me her enthusiasm for The Da Vinci Code was based in part on her hope that "this ancient mystery would be unveiled to a wider audience."

Response – Dan had to dig deep for this stuff. He should be commended for writing an entertaining story, but the presentation of this material as scholarly is laughable. In particular, Dan misses on his biggest point. He writes that Constantine attempted to meld paganism and Christianity together by deifying Jesus. This goal was seen necessary to unify his factious nation. Brown writes that the Council of Nicea in 325 was a watershed event where Constantine destroyed earlier stories of Jesus’ mere humanity and established by a vote the deity of Christ. Per Dan, before this time, Jesus’ followers only thought of him as a great man.

The real issue at Nicea was not whether Jesus was divine, but whether he was partially divine or wholly divine. The battle was between Arianism which posited that Christ was God by a matter of degree and orthodox Christianity that said that Jesus has always been God. In Arius’ words, “There once was a time when Jesus was not” and “There once was a time when God was not a Father.” Arius still proclaimed Christ’s divinity, but he believed that Jesus was a created being and inferior to God the Father. Orthodox Christianity held forth that Jesus was of the same substance as the Father and had eternally existed as a member of the godhead.

Nicea did not decide whether Jesus was divine. The early church fathers had held this from the beginning. Ignatius of Antioch (died 110 A.D), Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr (circa 140 A.D), Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus, Theophilus (115-181 A.D.), Melito of Sardis (177 A.D.) and a horde of other early church fathers all proclaimed Christ’s deity well before Constantine came onto the scene.

Brown likes to discount the Bible, but the book of John is absolutely rife with statements of Christ’s deity. Here is a small example:

The descriptive “I Am” passages - Jesus himself claimed his deity within these passages.
· The bread of life (6:35, 48). Jesus is the sustenance of existence and eternal life.
· The light of the world (8:12). Jesus is the clearest distinction between good and evil. He provides clarity in discerning evil.
· The door (10:7, 9). This is claim to divine exclusivity. All other means of accessing God are illegitimate.
· The good shepherd (10:11, 14). Jesus is the compassionate God.
· The resurrection and the life (11:25). Jesus claims that the hope of resurrection is vested in his person and that he is the giver of eternal life.
· The way and the truth and the life (14:6). Again, there is the claim of exclusivity. Jesus is the only venue to knowing God and living eternally.
· The true vine (15:1, 5). Without Jesus as the source of life, man cannot live or be productive.

The exclusive “I Am” passages. These statements by Christ clearly demonstrate Christ’s claim to deity. They directly identify Christ with the Old Testament statement in Exodus 3:14.
· The power encounters (4:25, 26; 8:24, 25, 28; 13:19). Jesus reveals himself as the “I am” during several climactic moments.

The Nicene Creed is a beautiful expression of the belief of the Council.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

It is unfortunate that Brown’s only defense is that ‘history has been rewritten’ and that non-existent documents support his position. That is a whole lot of history to rewrite and control and a whole lot of missing documents!

HOW MUCH OF THIS NOVEL IS TRUE? The Da Vinci Code is a novel and therefore a work of fiction. While the book's characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist (for example, Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings, the Gnostic Gospels, Hieros Gamos, etc.). These real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters. While it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit, each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations. My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

Response – While some of the elements in this work of fiction may exist, this does not mean that they were ever woven in reality into such a complex conspiracy. Dan Brown ultimately is concerned with stoking the hugely powerful fire under his work. Almost every point in the book is intensely debatable; from the symbolism behind DaVinci’s Last Supper where Brown depicts Peter as “threatening” Mary Magdalene to the rather odd notion that early Jewish worship embodied goddess worship and shrine prostitution at the temple.

SOME OF THE HISTORY IN THIS NOVEL CONTRADICTS WHAT I LEARNED IN SCHOOL. WHAT SHOULD I BELIEVE? Since the beginning of recorded time, history has been written by the "winners" (those societies and belief systems that conquered and survived). Despite an obvious bias in this accounting method, we still measure the "historical accuracy" of a given concept by examining how well it concurs with our existing historical record. Many historians now believe (as do I) that in gauging the historical accuracy of a given concept, we should first ask ourselves a far deeper question: How historically accurate is history itself?

Response – Tripe. Dan Brown is obviously part of the revisionist movement that is attempting to overthrow any form of objective truth. As Brown noted in the previous section, “each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations.” Whether those interpretations are true is totally outside of Brown’s concern. He is a postmodernist of the first order.

ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.

Response – There is no center to Brown’s existence. Abandoning author-centered meaning, Brown is always in transition, but never arriving at conclusions. Brown paradoxically calls himself a Christian and then denies the very substance of Christianity; the person and works of Jesus Christ. I think we can safely conclude that Dan Brown is a wolf of Biblical proportions.

THIS NOVEL IS VERY EMPOWERING TO WOMEN. CAN YOU COMMENT? Two thousand years ago, we lived in a world of Gods and Goddesses. Today, we live in a world solely of Gods. Women in most cultures have been stripped of their spiritual power. The novel touches on questions of how and why this shift occurred…and on what lessons we might learn from it regarding our future.

Response – This is Dan’s central premise that goddess worship was repressed by Christianity and destroyed by a conspiracy of the Roman emperor Constantine. Since only the masculine side of the sacred is being expressed in world religions, the earth is horribly out of balance. Langdon’s mission in the book is to unwittingly restore the feminine sacred. In doing so, the earth will once again blossom into peace and love. The world of goddess worship contains orgiastic sex worship and shrine prostitution. This form of worship is seen as a beautiful expression of achieving the fusion of the masculine and feminine sacred.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Upcoming Event

On January 29th, Robert and I will be at the Grove City Church of God for the Sunday morning service. Pastor Randy Barr has graciously invited us to present on the topic of Islamic evangelism. Morning worship begins at 10:30. For driving directions, visit

When Heresy Goes Unchecked

EmissaryX editor note: No one likes being a "heresy hunter". However, when God's people do not take care of their own, destructive influences destroy the witness of Christ. This posting is from the October 21st, 2005 "Fire in My Bones" column by J. Lee Grady of Charisma Online.

When Heresy Goes Unchecked
In the case of Carlton Pearson’s Universalist doctrines, we can’t soft-pedal. We must confront.

The apostle Paul wrote the Bible’s most eloquent words about Christian love. But when it came to the subject of heresy, he went into verbal-attack mode. He labeled those who were spreading false doctrines “dogs” (Phil. 3:2) and “liars” (1 Tim. 4:2), and he not only labeled heretics publicly but “handed them over to Satan” in his prayers (see 1 Tim. 1:20). Doesn’t sound much like the sloppy agape love we often model today.

Paul believed that if heresy goes unchecked it gnaws at the larger body of Christ and contaminates everyone. He warned his disciple Timothy that false teaching spreads “like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:17). The King James Version says the words of false teachers “will eat as doth a canker.” The word “gangrene” can also be translated cancer.

Modern translation: False doctrine is malignant. Get the tumor out before it kills people.

What is troubling me these days is that many American church leaders (and I am talking about my fellow charismatics and Pentecostals) are not displaying the necessary backbone to label a heretic a heretic. We have become masters at soft-pedaling and inaction when the Lord requires us to confront.

Case in point: Bishop Carlton Pearson, who was raised in the nation’s largest Pentecostal denomination (the Church of God in Christ) and who once served as an evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, began teaching what he calls “the gospel of inclusion” a few years ago. He has become a Universalist, claiming that people do not need Christian conversion in order to be saved by Christ.

Pearson’s deception has been widely reported.

In Charisma magazine we followed Pearson’s demise and announced that one body, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops’ Congress, labeled him a heretic in March 2004. Since that time, Pearson convened a national conference about Universalist doctrine that featured Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and has promoted his ideas in books such as Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

You would think that every charismatic leader in the United States would sever all ties to Pearson until he renounces his apostasy. But that is not the case.

Popular gospel singer John P. Kee, who pastors New Life Fellowship Center in Charlotte, N.C., appeared on the program at Pearson’s Inclusion 2005 conference, which was held in Pearson’s Higher Dimensions Family church in Tulsa, Okla., in June. Having Kee’s face on the program certainly gave the conference added credibility in the eyes of some Pentecostals.
Pearson was the featured speaker at a prominent charismatic church in Atlanta on Pentecost Sunday in May of this year. The church’s pastor, Bishop Earl Paulk Jr., put Pearson back in the same pulpit two weeks ago.
The church network that Paulk founded, the International Communion of Charismatic Churches (ICCC), still lists Pearson as a member in good standing. When I asked an ICCC leader last week why they did not remove him, he said the organization does not currently have any mechanism to remove members based on doctrinal or character issues.
Huh? Therein lies the root problem. In the loosey-goosey world of charismatic independence, we find it almost impossible to police our own. Everything is about “fellowship,” but we lack the teeth in our policies to ensure that we can properly discipline preachers who veer off into doctrinal error.

When I bring up the issue of Pearson’s apostasy I usually get a lot of glazed looks from people who don’t want to believe that a brother has fallen into deception. “Don’t be so hard on the guy,” is a typical response. “Maybe we don’t understand what he is teaching.”

I don’t need any more explanation. Pearson has a banner on his Web site that announces: “God Is Not A Christian.” And his church is hosting a combined service on Nov. 17 with a local Unitarian congregation in Tulsa.

We Christians are so nice we don’t know how to handle it when the Bible requires tough love. Let’s remember that when it comes to heresy, God does not require us to be nice. It’s time for all of our congregations, denominations and church networks to raise the bar and defend the faith from those who pervert it.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist. He writes a column for Charisma Online twice a week.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Beginning

This blog is dedicated to the glory of God and revealing that God's presence in the human heart makes man fully alive.

Emissary ministries exists to equip bodies of believers to share their faith boldly within the strategic sphere that God has placed them.