It’s as if we were back in the second century! Irenaeus, an elder of the Christian church of Lyons in Gaul (France), went to Rome in A.D. 177. He returned to discover that forty of his fellow church members, including the old pastor, Potinus, had been executed by the pagan Roman authorities. He became the pastor, and spent the rest of his life protecting the flock both from the pagan authorities on the outside, and denouncing the Gnostic “Christians” and their heretical writings on the inside.
In our day, the once “Christian” society of modern–day America now looks more and more like pagan Rome. Indeed, not since pagan Rome has homosexuality been accepted in history as normal behavior, but even in pagan Rome, there was no such thing as “gay marriage.” In our liberated, “secular” though actually religiously–pagan society, Christianity is silenced and pushed to the margins. That is on the outside. On the inside, we face serious apostasy. We face a form of Christianity that is nothing more than a new, virulent strain of the heresy Irenaeus labored to denounce.
This Newsletter is late. Some of you have already gently scolded me. I apologize. But here is the reason. Six weeks ago I was asked to co–author with Dr. Jim Garlow a response to the wildly–successful novel, The Da Vinci Code. To date, six million copies have been sold, and a movie is in the works. Six weeks ago, Victor Books did not know I existed. Today, March 13, 2004, I received my first copy of Cracking DaVinci’s Code. You can find it this week at the bookstores. I have never seen such a fast turn–around, and needless to say, writing this book is all I have done for the last five weeks. Our book may make some waves in the popular, secular market–think Walmart, Barnes and Nobles, etc..
For the last five weeks, I have often felt, without any illusions of grandeur, that in writing this popular book that may well be read by all kinds of people, we were doing what Irenaeus was doing eighteen hundred years ago. He was facing the seductive power of the Gnostic texts when they first appeared. Those same texts have recently been discovered and translated into English. They are now being used by apostate biblical scholars, especially those associated with The Jesus Seminar, by radical feminist theologians and now by Dan Brown’s clever yarn to undermine the very historicity of the New Testament.
In the past, our Christian witness was much simpler. We could cite the Bible as the clincher of our arguments, and non–believers would accept or reject the Bible’s affirmations as applicable or not to their lives. The Da Vinci Code relativizes the biblical witness to Jesus. It claims as “fact” that the New Testament is a secondary and later account; that the true Jesus was a Gnostic; and that the earliest “Christian” writings were the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the hypothetical document Q. Says one of the main characters in The Da Vinci Code:
Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. (p.233).
In other words, the biblical witness to Jesus is an imposture, a later inaccurate imposition of a view composed by macho, patriarchal males who falsely believed Jesus was the human and divine Savior.
Brown does two things which we have sought to counter in our book: 1. negatively, he seeks to undermine the Bible, the Canon and the Gospel, using the “findings” of modern New Testament “science”; 2. “positively,” he proposes a “new” spiritual agenda. (I will address this in my next Newsletter).
On the internet, one can read many postings declaring that Dan Brown’s novel “gives permission” to abandon biblical Christianity. One sixteen–year–old girl said to a woman who was attempting to share the Gospel: “The Da Vinci Code shows the Bible is a fake. Besides, I feel very comfortable with the spirituality I have discovered there. It fits me fine.” This young woman has been affected by both elements of the novel. She dismisses the Bible as bogus history, and she is a convert to this “new spirituality”– the sad result of a powerful, double whammy!
In order to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us, it is my belief that Christians need to read this novel to become acquainted with what our neighbors are now believing. For when this novel and its movie version have finished with America, evangelism will never be the same.