Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Thought About Dan Brown's Work

Unless you have been renting Ted Kaczyski's cabin in Montana for the last 6 months you have heard about The Da Vinci Code.  Clearly such an insidious attack on Christianity must be answered by the church.  Or does it?  The obvious problem is that the book and movie are a fiction, but purport to be factual.  And the alleged historical facts of this story have been used to attack the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth and the Inerrancy of Scripture.  Now, last time I checked, these are both core fundamentals of christianity so we have to defend them, right?

The problem, as I see it is that if these are really part of the nucleus of christianity then should not every one who calls themselves a christian know this.  We should certainly not have to worry that any member of our church would be confused by this assault.  Furthermore, if our church is in the business of edifying, building up, and strengthening the saints then our members should be sanctifying God in their hearts and readying themselves to give an answer to anyone who questions the foundational truth on which our faith rests (1 Peter 3:15).

I am an ER nurse.  It is not unusual for someone to come to the emergency room for some seemingly minor problem, only to find out that they have a major problem like cancer. Imagine a fairly healthy person in their early 50's that has a fainting spell and comes in to be checked.  As part of the routine exam we do a chest x-ray.  We are all shocked to see a huge cancerous mass in the left lung.  Everything seemed fine but in just a moment this person goes from being healthy to being very sick.  Their ability to get life or health insurance is completely changed.  This may affect their ability to get a job as well as their ability to keep a job.

Dan Brown has done a great service to the church.  By writing a simple work of fiction, lacing it with an improbably 2,000 year-old conspiracy that has spanned centuries and continents, and then stating that his work is factual, he has revealed a huge cancer in the very breast of the church.  Answering questions about the divinity of Christ and the preservation of scripture should be bread and butter to any true believer in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.   And especially in Fundamentalist circles this should be true.  But The Da Vinci Code had revealed that this is not the case.  Pastors and churches everywhere are scrambling to be sure their people know how to answer this attack and how to springboard from discussing a work of fiction to sharing the message of hope that is the Gospel.  Instead of the church saying, "Bring it on!" she is whimpering, "Wait a minute?!"

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul says, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”  This is the Gospel!  Jesus Christ, the very Son of God came and fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and this is recorded by multiple eyewitnesses in the New Testament!  Every one of us has to know this!  If we cannot defend these truths against all comers, I assert that we do not KNOW them!  If you try to tell me that the earth is flat you are going to get no where with me because I really, really know that it is a globe.  And these truths are just as fundamental.

So, I tell you that you have a huge cancer in your chest.  I guess there are several responses you might make.  You could deny it.  You could ask how it got there.  You could cry and wail and get depressed.  But the healthy response is to ask, "How do we need to treat this?"  Our churches have to be about the proclamation of the Gospel.  The Good News of the Kingdom.  We have to be able to articulate what it is.  Perhaps the reason why the church is having so little impact on our society is that we really do not know the Gospel.  Perhaps the reason that Fundamentalism is in the state it is in (whatever that may be!), is that we really do not apprehend the truth that we purport to proclaim.  So if that is true, we have to get back to the clear teaching of the Word of God.  At it's heart is the message that Jesus explicitly stated that He was God Very God. His disciples understood it, and His enemies understood it.  The Jews killed Jesus because of this truth and He validated His claim by rising from the dead.  His disciples knew He rose, and His enemies knew he rose.  It was attested by hundreds of people.  And it was immediately recorded by multiple authors.

This is not the kind of knowledge that you learn in seminary.  This is the kind of truth that must be taught in Sunday School.  These things are not some part of a complex theory that one needs an advanced degree to be able to speak of. What it is is a fact of history that our children should learn just as they learn about George Washington and World War II.  Furthermore, these are not just pieces of factual knowledge because they are eternal truth.  When we are in God's presence joining in that eternal, joyful, raucous worship service before the eternal throne, I don't think that medical knowledge or quantum physics or Magna Carta is going to mean much to us.  But the Eternal Son and the Everlasting Word will be central to our never-ending existence.

Let us be ready to give to every one an answer of our Great Hope.  And let us build up others that they may to likewise!

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