Friday, June 30, 2006

Infant Baptism Lecture

Dr. Richard Pratt has an excellent lecture on infant baptism, which he presented at a Sunday School class. It's an ideal presentation for people who are just beginning to think about the subject. Download the lecture HERE.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Simply Christian

I’ve just finished going through N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. This would be the perfect book to give an unbeliever, or a Christian who hasn’t thought very deeply about the faith. Beginning with areas that we all share in common – the quest for justice, the hunger for spirituality, the need for relationships, the longing for beauty – Wright explains how the Christian story interacts with these basic yearnings. He then moves to consider the Biblical metanarrative, rooted in the plan of God for Israel and the doctrine of God’s kingdom. In the final section, he explains different aspects of Christianity, like worship, prayer, church, etc. He has a particularly good section on the importance of liturgical prayer.

Click on the above image to look inside the book.

Simply Christian is written for a popular audience and very easy to read. It isn't a book I would give to someone already well grounded in Christian theology, but I would recommend it to people who have picked up a lot of steriotypes about the faith. For example, people who think that the alternatives are between American fundamentalism (in the pajorative sense) and a wishy washy liberalism (with all the false dilemas this entails), will greatly benefit from Wright’s sensetive treatment.

I have become convinced that the primary task of the Christian apologist today is not to construct arguments defending the faith, but to explain what Christianity is really about. It’s no good defending something if the people you are trying to convert have a wrong idea of that which you are trying to defend. We must dismantle the misunderstandings about our faith and subvert the carecatures people have been brainwashed into accepting about Christians. We must show through word and deed what the faith is really all about.

Here’s a quote from the book: “Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ all that belongs to the brokeness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.”

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Monday, June 26, 2006


I highly recommend the latest issue of Credenda Agenda. For some time now the church has been excluding children from the communion table. In Galatians 2 we read about the time Paul had to rebuke Peter for dividing the table between two kinds of Christians (in that case, Jewish Christians vs. Gentile Christians), yet every Sunday thousands of Christians do the same when they exclude their children from the sacraments. All baptised children are part of the covenant, having been united with Christ through their baptism (Col. 2:11-12) and sanctified by the faith of their parents (1 Cor. 7:14). Excluding them from the covenantal meal because the verdict is still out on them, only teaches them to doubt. For more about paedocommunion click HERE.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Those Evil Articles of Wright's

A week from yesterday I had the privilege of travelling to Birmingham to hear Bishop N.T. Wright lecture on the subject of 'Christian Mission in a Pagan World.' It was well worth the journey. I had the chance to briefly talk to the Bishop during some of the breaks, and I took that opportunity to let him know that his writings have helped me to really enjoy studying the Bible. I also told him that his work has assisted me in seeing the bigger picture of scripture, rather than just to see the Bible as a collection of isolated proof texts. (That's a picture of the Bishop on the right, by the way.)

For lay people wanting to read something from N. T. Wright but not knowing where to start (he has an enormous output), let me suggest his books What St. Paul Really Said and The Challenge of Jesus (don't try to understand what he means in chapter 5 of the later book, which is a bit strange, but the rest of the book is worthwhile). Also, for starters, download his video Simply Christian and watch it with Window's Media Player. (He also has a whole corpus of scholarly books, one of which, Jesus and the Victory of God, I am slowing making my way through at the moment.

On March 10th I posted some quotes from Wright's first lecture on the problem of evil. Here are some quotes from his further lectures (which have actually been published in a book now, titled Evil and the Justice of God, although these quotes are taken from the original lectures).

“When we think of a world unreachable by death, we tend in western culture to think of a non-physical world, but the truly remarkable thing Paul is talking about here is an incorruptible, unkillable physical world. New creation is what matters, a new kind of world with a new kind of physicality, which will not need to decay and die, which will not be subject to the seasons, and to the (to us) apparently endless sequence of deaths and births within the natural order. God’s new world will be the reality towards which all the beauty and power in the present world are mere signposts; but they are true signposts, not (as in Platonic schemes) because they point to abstractions, non-physical realities but because they point to a world which will be more physical, more solid, more utterly real, a world in which the physical reality will wear its deepest meanings on its face, a world filled with the knowledge of God’s glory as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11; Habakkuk 2).”

“The greatest Pauline picture of the future world is of course that in Romans 8.19–25. Creation, writes Paul, has been subjected to futility (8.20); and don’t we know it. The tree reaches its full fruitfulness and then becomes bleak and bare. Summer reaches its height and at once the days start to shorten. Human lives, full of promise and beauty, laughter and love, are cut short by illness and death. Creation as we know it bears witness to God’s power and glory (1.19–20) but also to the present state of futility to which it has been subjected as to a form of slavery. But this slavery, like all slaveries in the Bible, is then given its Exodus, its moment of release, when God does for the whole cosmos what he did for Jesus at Easter. This is the vision which is so big, so dazzling, that many even devout readers of Paul have blinked, rubbed their eyes, and ignored it, hurrying on to the more ‘personal’ application in the following paragraph. But this is where Paul’s whole argument has been going. This is where his great theme, of the justice of God – even, we might say, of the justification of God! – comes to one of its greatest climaxes. The theme of God’s justice has for so long been subsumed in popular readings of Paul under the theme of human salvation that we need to remind ourselves, as a matter of strict exegesis, that the theme stated in Romans 1.16f. comes to its full expression not simply in 3.21—4.25, not simply in 5.1–11 or 8.1–11, but here in 8.19–27. The problem is the same, mutatis mutandis, as that addressed in 4 Ezra: that unless creation as a whole is put to rights it might look as though God the creator had blundered, or was weak and incapable, or was actually unjust. No, declares Paul: the renewal of creation, the birth of the new world from the labouring womb of the old, will demonstrate that God is in the right. Romans 8 is the deepest New Testament answer to the ‘problem of evil’, to the question of God’s justice; and it is all accomplished according to the pattern of the Exodus, of the freeing of the slaves, of the cross and the resurrection, of the powerful new life of the Spirit. “

“…we should be working in the present time to put into practice, on the basis of the victory of Jesus Christ in his death, the beginnings, the advance signs, of that new world which we are called to imagine.”

“The start of God’s address to the world, following the death and resurrection of his son, is the creation and vocation, by the Spirit, of a people drawn from every family who will live consciously out of tune with the world as it presently is and in tune with the way God intends it to be (Romans 12.1–2: do not be conformed to this present age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds – a statement that might serve as a title for this whole lecture), and who by bearing that tension in themselves, and turning it into prayer, become agents of that new world beginning to break in to the present one in healing and hope.”

“The Christian calling to radical holiness of life is likewise a matter of inaugurated eschatology. Christian ethics does not consist of a list of ‘what we’re allowed to do’ and ‘what we’re not allowed to do’, but rather of the summons to live in God’s new world, on the basis that idolatry and sin has been defeated at the cross and that new creation has begun at Easter – and that the entire new world based on this achievement is guaranteed by the power of the Spirit.”

“If it is true, as Jesus said after his resurrection, that all authority in heaven and on earth had been entrusted to him, the Christian view of all human authorities is that they are at most penultimate, to be held responsible before the Jesus who died and was raised and now calls the whole world to account. In particular, human authorities, whether at the most local level or the most globalized, are constantly to be reminded of, and encouraged in, their primary task, which is to do justice and love mercy, to ensure that those who are weak and vulnerable are properly looked after….The idea that once some kind of election has been held the government that results has carte blanche legitimacy to do whatever it wants for the next few years is a travesty of the freedom and wisdom which the biblical writers seek and urge.”

“…we need, as I have said all along, to learn to imagine a world without evil and then to think through the steps by which we might approach that goal, recognising that we shall never attain it fully during the present age but that we must not, for that reason, acquiesce meekly in the present state of the present world.”

“…evil must be named and confronted; there must be no sliding around it, no attempt, for the sake of an easy life or a quick fix to the problem, to pretend it wasn’t so bad after all. Only when that has been done, when both evil and the evildoer have been identified as what and who they are…can there be the second move, towards ‘embrace’, the embrace of the one who has deeply hurt and wounded me. Of course, even then this may not happen, if the perpetrator of the evil refuses to see his or her action in that light; but if I have named the evil and done my best to offer genuine forgiveness and reconciliation, I am free to love the person even if they don’t want to respond.”

“The fact is that when we forgive someone we not only release them from the burden of our anger and its possible consequences; we release ourselves from the burden of whatever it was they had done to us.”

“A truly biblical ecclesiology does not focus so much on the fact that the church is the community of the saved, but on the fact that the church is the community of those who, being redeemed through the cross, are now to be a kingdom and priests to serve God and to reign on the earth. Our fear of triumphalism on the one hand, and our flattening out of final destiny into simply ‘going to heaven’, have combined to rob us of this central biblical theme, but until we put it back where it belongs we won’t see how the New Testament ultimately offers a solution to the problem of evil.”

“The central point is that forgiveness is not the same as tolerance. I am aware that this has been a major theme in much of my preaching here at the Abbey these last three years, and I am sorry if you think it’s a kind of King Charles’s Head of mine. We are told again and again that we must be inclusive; that Jesus welcomed all kinds of people just as they are; that the church believes in forgiveness and that therefore we should remarry divorcees without question, we should reinstate employees who were sacked for dishonesty, we should allow convicted paedophiles back into children’s work . . . actually, we don’t normally hear the last of these, which shows that we do have some common sense at least. But forgiveness is not the same as tolerance. It is not the same as inclusivity. It is not the same as indifference, whether personal or moral."

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t take evil seriously after all; it means that we do. In fact, it means we take it doubly seriously; because, to begin with, we are determined to name it and shame it and, to follow that, we are equally determined that we will do everything we can to resume an appropriate relationship after evil has been dealt with, and that in any case we will not allow this evil to determine the question of the sort of people we shall then become. That is what forgiveness is all about. It is tough: tough to do, tough to receive – and tough also in the sense that, once it’s really happened, it’s strong, unlike a wimpish tolerance which is, effectively, simply taking the line of least resistance.

Let me develop the point a little further. Forgiveness doesn’t mean ‘I didn’t really mind’ or ‘it didn’t really matter’. I did mind, and it did matter, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to forgive at all, merely something to adjust my attitudes about. (We hear a lot about that these days – about people needing to adjust their attitudes to things they formerly thought wrong; but that’s not forgiveness. If I have a wrong attitude towards someone, and if I need to adjust my attitude, that’s not forgiving them, it’s saying they don’t need forgiveness.) Nor is forgiveness the same as ‘I’m going to pretend it didn’t really happen.’ This is a little trickier, because part of the point of forgiveness is that I am committing myself to work towards the point where I can behave as if it hadn’t happened; but it did happen, and forgiveness itself isn’t pretending that it didn’t, it’s looking hard at the fact that it did and making a conscious choice, a moral decision, to set it aside so that it doesn’t come as a barrier between us. In other words, the presupposition of forgiveness is that whatever it was was indeed evil and cannot simply be set aside as irrelevant. That way lies suppressed anger, and a steady distancing of people who no longer trust one another. Much better to put things out on the table, as indeed the New Testament commands us to do, and deal with them….

Matthew 18.15–20 makes it quite clear what the command to forgive does not mean. It does not mean letting people get away with things. Here again is…‘exclusion’. If someone has done something wrong, even at a personal level, the right thing to do is not to gossip about it, to tell everyone else, to allow resentment to build up and fester, and perhaps even to plot revenge. The right thing to do is to go and tell them, straight. Unfortunately the people who are best at doing this, in my experience, are the people who actually rather enjoy telling other people that they’re out of line. Perhaps the only real qualification for doing it is if you know, deep down, that you would much rather not have to, and you have to pray for grace to go and knock on the door in the first place. And it gets worse. If the person refuses to listen to you, won’t face up to the problem, you must take another Christian with you; and then, if you are still refused, you must tell the assembly of God’s people. This is hugely serious and I don’t think most of us have even begun to get to grips with it. We would, of course, if it were a financial irregularity or perhaps a sexual scandal. These days we have tightened up on such matters, though alas this has been mostly because it’s been forced on us from the outside rather than generated from within. But what Jesus is insisting is that we should keep short accounts with one another, should live as a family not prepared to go to bed at night if there is something unresolved between us. Tough stuff.”

“It appears that the faculty for receiving forgiveness and the faculty for granting forgiveness within each of us are one and the same thing. If we open the one we shall open the other. If we slam the door on the one we slam the door on the other. God is not being arbitrary. If you are the sort of person who is going to accuse your neighbour over every small thing and keep him or her under your anger until each item has been dealt with, you are also the sort of person who will be incapable of opening your heart to receive God’s generous forgiveness – indeed, you will probably not admit that you need it in the first place.”

“The command to forgive one another, then, is the bringing into the present of the promise for the future, that in God’s new world all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well…. Like many aspects of Christian living, it’s a matter of learning to live in the present in the light of the future; and this is always hard work, though infinitely worth while.”

“Part of the discipline of receiving God’s forgiveness is that we open that same inner faculty as wide as it can go, and thus learn the secret not only of accepting ourselves – that’s one thing, recognising that I am the person I am and learning to be comfortable with that – but also of forgiving ourselves, which is quite another thing, recognising that I have done sinful, hurtful and damaging things to other people, to myself, and to God in whose image I’m made, and that because God forgives me I must learn, under his direction, to forgive myself. Of course, as with all the other forgiving we’ve been talking about, this does not mean pretending it wasn’t so bad after all, or that it didn’t really happen, or that it didn’t matter that much. It was bad, and it did happen, and it did matter. But if God has dealt with it and forgiven you – and, if it involved other people, if you have made amends as best you can – then it is part of living an authentically Christian life that you learn to forgive yourself as well. Of course, because it’s forgiveness we’re talking about, not tolerance or indifference, this will once more mean exclusion as well as embrace. It will mean saying No to whatever it was in order to say Yes to God and his forgiveness.”

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Becoming an Anglican

Last Thursday I was confirmed into the Anglican church. Praise the Lord.

Postmodern Times

I've just finished reading Gene Veith's excellent book Postmodern Times: A Chrisitan Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture. It is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the trends, tensions and contradictions within our society. Lay people who want to understand what this thing called postmodernism is all about will find this book both accessible and stimulating. Those who are already familiar with the issues will also benefit from Veith's insights. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Against Specialisation

Intellectually, I am what you call “jack of all trades, master of none.” And I have chosen to be that way. I have long been convinced that the contemporary obsession with specialisation has bred a generation of scholars who are unable to make necessary connections across the academic disciplines. This is but one symptom of the fragmentation endemic of postmodernism, whereby everything is seen in isolation from the whole. No only are the connections between one field and another field lost, but even within specific subjects, such as history or Biblical studies, insufficient attention is given to the metanarratives. Academics as well as the common ‘man on the street’ think increasingly in slices, as David Wells as shown in his excellent book Losing Our Virtue, or as Gene Veith has shown in Postmodern Times.

I have recently read some articles that have encouraged me that I am on the right track as a generalist rather than a specialist. In his article ‘Classical Worldview’, Fritz Hinrichs writes,

Classical education aims to educate the “whole man” rather than produce specialists who are only capable in narrow areas of expertise. The pagans thought that if you were not bound to eking out your livelihood by toiling in the fields from dawn to dusk, you ought to pursue the life of the well-rounded “scholar” (from the Greek word skhole- literally, one who has leisure). It was thought menial to “specialize” in one task and develop a disproportionate level of skill in that particular area. Philip of Macedon, upon hearing his son play the harp with great virtuosity, asked him, “Are you not ashamed to play as well as that?” The King’s assumption was that the prince should obviously be in need of developing so many other skills that he would not have enough time to attain such a level of proficiency at the harp. Christians have also understood their responsibility to develop all of the talents that God has given us. If we do not set ourselves to developing the many faculties that God has given us, we are wastefully burying our talents in the earth.

Classical education aims to educate the “whole man” rather than produce specialists who are only capable in narrow areas of expertise. The pagans thought that if you were not bound to eking out your livelihood by toiling in the fields from dawn to dusk, you ought to pursue the life of the well-rounded “scholar” (from the Greek word skhole- literally, one who has leisure). It was thought menial to “specialize” in one task and develop a disproportionate level of skill in that particular area. Philip of Macedon, upon hearing his son play the harp with great virtuosity, asked him, “Are you not ashamed to play as well as that?” The King’s assumption was that the prince should obviously be in need of developing so many other skills that he would not have enough time to attain such a level of proficiency at the harp. Christians have also understood their responsibility to develop all of the talents that God has given us. If we do not set ourselves to developing the many faculties that God has given us, we are wastefully burying our talents in the earth....

Even though a conventional school can carry the vision of a well rounded education for its students, the purpose of the conventional school is often to abandon this vision for the faculty. Usually the main purpose of a conventional school is to give teachers the opportunity to specialize and avoid the work of having to develop mastery in all areas of study. Even though students are expected to follow a course of study that demands they be well rounded, at a conventional school they often study under those who have abandoned that quest. In order to avoid this weakness, some classically oriented schools, like St. John’s College, have not allowed their faculties members to be limited to particular areas of curriculum. Avoiding specialization not only shows greater allegiance to a unified conception of knowledge, but practically you find that to understand Shakespeare, you need to understand history and to understand history, you need understand philosophy and to understand philosophy, you need to understand mathematics and round and round you go until you find that you cannot truly understand anything without knowing a little about everything.

In his article 'Seeing Whole', Rev'd Dr. Gordon Preece takes up this same theme, from a slightly different angle. (If you click on my hyperlink, you need to scroll down a way before his article appears).

In our time, it is said, knowledge has exploded - and wisdom imploded. Expanding knowledge has become more specialised, and more scattered among specialists; while wisdom, requiring attention to the whole, has become subverted. In this situation we need competent Christian 'generalists': people who are neither expert nor uninformed, but are 'good enough' generalists: reasonably well-rounded, well-read, public Christian intellectuals and professionals.

There is nothing wrong with specialisation as such. It reflects our creaturely finitude of time, energy, health, ability, interest and calling. But there is an over-specialisation which, coupled with secular academic and professional perfectionism, leads to idolatry (in which the part is elevated to the whole) and to reductionism (in which the whole is reduced to its parts). Examples of these are 'the market' as master narrative, modernist scientism, and the postmodern reduction of life to language.

In Western society, the integration of life has become harder to achieve down the centuries. Ever since the rise of universities in the 12th century, academic disciplines have grown more specialised until today we have post-modern poly-versities. Industrialisation has brought the separation of life-spheres into work, home, church, and so on. And from advancing secular specialists Christians have fled - with the ‘God of the gaps’ - into the arms of clerical religious specialists: specialists who in turn have received a theological training increasingly splintered into sub-specialties....

A Christian response to this situation is to posit the grace-filled concept of the ‘good enough’ generalist. A competent 'good enough' generalist stands half-way between ignorance and infallibility. Such a person humbly recognises the limits of their own knowledge, but believes that the risks are worth bearing of engaging beyond their speciality in order to take seriously the personal, moral and theological dimensions of all allegedly secular knowledge. In so doing they become a more rounded human being and disciple of Christ, ready to claim for Him all of life including the ethics of boardroom, bedroom and ballot-box.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Some Interesting Things I've Been Reading

DNA and God's Design

In an article in The Sunday Times, 11 June, Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, was quoted by , saying,

When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it. But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.

Birth Control

David Field has an article on birth control from a Biblical perspective HERE. It's the best article on this subject that I've yet come accross.

Consumer Religion

In his article, 'Rich Christians In An Age of Expensive Authenticity', Doug Willson points out that in the past the scriptural warnings to those who had great wealth applied to only a handful, whereas in the Western world today they apply to virtually everybody. One of these warnings is the temptation to forget God, which is exactly what we see consumer culture encouraging. “And what the explosion of consumer culture has done is create a multitude of camels, all of whom are having the same difficulty with that needle... Wealth generates the false analogy that I can choose my religion the same way I choose my restaurants. My faith becomes simply another item for me to consume.”

Church Music

Charles Colson has an article titled, 'Musical Mush: Are We Impairing Our Capacity to Think?' In this article, Colson reflects on the way “that much of the music being written for the Church today reflects an unfortunate trend – slipping across the line from worship to entertainment.” The church, he argues, is in danger of blissfully amusing itself into irrelevance, with music being only one example.

God's Forgiveness

In the Jan 31, 2006 UCB notes, there was this excellent thought: “In the Old Testament days when a man ‘blew it,’ he brought a lamb to the altar as payment for his sins. But notice this: the priest did not examine the man, he only examined the lamb. If the lamb met God’s requirements the man was instantly forgiven. That is still how it works! When you fail, you need only approach God and say, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus asking for forgiveness.’ In that moment the Father’s focus moves from you to Christ, and you are automatically forgiven. What an arrangement!

The Purpose of Education

“The true purpose of education is to make the doctrines dance, to make the truth sing, to take the greatness of Western civilization and plant it in a heart so that a melody erupts that change the soul forever.” George Grant, from a lecture on Quiller-Cooch.

The Use of Money

This is what Charles Spurgeon had to say about money. “God’s intent in endowing any person with more substance than he needs is that he may have the pleasurable office or, rather, the delightful privilege of relieving want and woe. Alas, how many are there who consider that store which God has put into their hands on purpose for the poor and needy, to be only so much provision for their excessive luxury – a luxury which pampers them but yields them neither benefit not pleasure. Others dream that wealth is given them that they may keep it under lock and key, cankering and corroding, breathing covetousness and care. Who dares roll a stone over the well’s mouth when thirst rages all around? Who dares keep the bread from the women and children who are ready to gnaw on their own arms for hunger? Above all, who dares to allow the sufferer to writhe in agony, uncared for, and the sick to pine for their graves unnursed? This is not a small sin. It is a crime to be answered for to the judge when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Here you: we shall answer

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Campaign Against a Casino

I was on the front page of our local newspaper yesterday because of a campaign I've started to prevent a casino coming to our area. There was even a picture of Matthew and me passing out leaflets. Click HERE to read the article about it. (The only thing the paper got wrong was that it was Christian Voice, not myself, that is best known for arranging the protests against Jerry Springer the opera.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Review of Da Vinci Code Movie

On May 19th, The Da Vinci Code movie opened in the UK.

Adapted from Dan Brown’s mega best-selling novel (which has already sold 45 million copies), the movie opened with an estimated $29 million in box office sales.

The movie follows art historian Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou). Beginning with a murder at the Louvre, clue after clue leads Langdon to uncover the mother of all conspiracy theories, namely that Christianity is actually a fraud. In the process, Robert is joined by Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) in a fast-pace hunt for the Holy Grail.

When Langdon finally finds the Holy Grail, it turns out to be a person.

Christ turns out to have really been a Gnostic, the founder of an occult religion that worshipped the ‘Sacred Feminine.’

Mary Magdalene turns out to have been Jesus’ wife (or girlfriend), who bore him a daughter named Sarah.

Sophie turns out to be the last living descendent of Christ’s bloodline.

Before His death, Christ passed onto Mary Magdalene the authority to carry on His movement advancing the hidden secrets of spiritual enlightenment. The apostles, being jealous, chased Mary and Sarah to the continent, where they became the ancestors of the European and English royal dynasties.

The Bible was really written by the church to suppress the truth about Jesus’ true mission (apparently He never claimed to be divine and His disciples never believed he was).

As for the followers of the real Jesus, they went underground, forming part of a secret society revolving around the ideologies of feminism, occult and orgiastic sex rituals.


In their book Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, Garlow and Jones note that

‘There are many readers of Brown’s book who are now confused about just who Jesus really is. These readers are turning away from what they thought to be true to grasp a mangled mass of bizarre claims cleverly portrayed as a work of history in a work of fiction.’

This same muddling of fact and fiction is also present in the movie’s adaptation of the book. Although The Da Vinci Code may play fast and loose with the truth, we all know it’s just a story.

Or do we?

According to a survey, 27% of respondents believed that Mary Magdalene was ‘Jesus’ wife’ while a Canadian poll found that one in three who read the book believe ‘there are descendants of Jesus alive today and a secret society exists dedicated to keeping Jesus' bloodline a secret.’ A more recent Canadian survey found that 17% of all Canadians and 13% of Americans think that ‘Jesus’ apparent death on the cross was faked’ and that ‘Jesus was also married and had a family.’

Dan Brown himself acknowledged on a National Geographic documentary that he ‘became a believer’ in ‘this theory about Mary Magdalene and holy blood and all of that…’

In the novel, Brown opens by saying that ‘all descriptions of art, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.’ Many historical scholars have marvelled at this claim. 1st century scholar and Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, said that

‘details abound which make the first-century historian snort and want to throw the book into the fire... We may safely conclude, then, that The Da Vinci Code is fiction not just in its characters and plot but in most of its other details as well…’

The movie has raised similar objections, especially with its narrated ‘historical’ flash-backs that could easily be confused with reality. Concerned that the movie was promoting fiction as fact, the DVC Response Group asked that the movie contain a disclaimer. Ron Howard, the movie’s director, declined.


Why has The Da Vinci Code book and movie been so enormously successful? N.T. Wright believes the answer to this question lies in the current fascination with Gnosticism. Like the recent Gospel of Judas, Brown’s block-buster draws on recent interest in this ancient heresy. Although Gnosticism is not actually mentioned in the movie, the particular way it portrays Christ had its origins in that movement.

Gnosticism was the teaching that the apostle John had to combat in his first epistle and that Paul struggled against in his second letter to the Corinthians. It taught that because the material world is inherently bad, salvation consists in the spirit escaping the constraints of matter. Through occult (‘hidden’) knowledge, the soul is released into a higher spiritual experience.

In the book, Jesus was a Gnostic and therefore despised earthly things (this raises problems of why He would have a physical relationship, a paradox Brown does not attempt to address). Because of this, Jesus wanted to die, in order to escape the confined of the flesh.

One of the ways that Gnosticism comes across in the movie is its suggestion that true religion is about an inner experience - what we personally choose to believe - rather than what is actually true of the real world. Hence, after all the clues have been solved and the entire history of Christianity proved to be a fraud, Sophie asks Robert what he thinks. ‘The only thing that matters,’ he muses, ‘is what you believe.’

Like the opera Jerry Springer, which ends with the final moral message ‘no right, no wrong’, the message of The Da Vinci Code movie is that truth does not matter. Thus, both sides are shown to be wrong: the church is wrong for suppressing the truth about Jesus, while Sir Leigh is wrong in his attempts to expose the deception and destroy faith. Only Robert and Sophie get it right in their synthesis that whatever you choose to believe can be true for you. Andrew Coffin comments that,

‘Christianity isn’t entirely repudiated, even if it is based on utter falsehoods, because faith (in something) is important, insofar as that faith benefits those who require it. That, more than Mr. Brown’s silly, easily refuted conspiracy theories, is an all too prevalent cancer on our culture’s understanding of spirituality.’

It isn't all bad. We can thank the Lord that He is using the movie to provoke many people to start discussing Christianity and issues of church history for the first time. There is also an extraordinary opportunity to share the gospel to those who have seen the movie. Focus on the Family have written on their website that
Ultimately, issues raised by The Da Vinci Code present believers with a unique opportunity: to openly talk about Jesus Christ and church history! Dan Brown’s book has suddenly made it okay to discuss Christian truth claims and specifics of the biblical worldview.

Finally, I'll close by comparing ideas from the Da Vinci Code book or movie, with quotes from prominent historians.

Dan Brown Vs. The Historians

From the book or movie: there were 80 other gospels circulating in the fourth century, many of which did not portray Christ as divine.

What the historians say: ‘At that time there were not 80 of them, there were 11…. Those Gnostic gospels, according to Iraeneus, were always recognized as heretical.’ Dr. George Grant, historian and director of Kings Meadow Study Centre.

From the book or movie: The Council of Nicea (AD 325) decided which books would be included in the canon of the New Testament.

What the historians say: ‘It was actually later, at the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393, quite a few years after the death of Constantine, when the church listed the 27 confirmed books of the New Testament. But, of course, both dates are misleading, …the church had recognized these books as the definitive New Testament nearly 175 years before Nicea.’ Josh McDowell, biblical scholar and 1st century historian.

From the book or movie: The Council of Nicea (AD 325) voted whether Jesus was divine.

What the historians say: ‘[The vote] did relate to the deity of Christ but the issue was whether Jesus’ status was lesser than the Father – was he coeternal?’ Josh McDowell

From the book or movie: It was a very close vote.

What the historians say: ‘…the vote was 300 to 2.’ Dr. Paul Maier, Western Michigan University.

From the book or movie: The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the many documents that refer to Jesus.

What the historians say: ‘Neither Jesus nor early Christianity is mentioned anywhere in the scrolls.’ N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, biblical historian and 1st century scholar.

From the book or movie: The doctrine of Jesus’ divinity was a later invention.

What the historians say: ‘…we find no evidence at all of anyone ever opposing the so called myth of the divine Jesus in the name of an earlier merely human Jesus. …until the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, Christians were subject to persecution, often tortured and martyred…for their beliefs…. Yet no one ever confessed that they made it all up – even when martyred.’ Dr. Peter Kreeft, professor of Philosophy at Boston College, USA.

From the book or movie: Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married or lovers.

What the historians say: 'Not a single one of our ancient sources indicates that Jesus was married, let alone married to Mary Magdalene.’ Dr. Bart D Ehrman, Department Chair of Religious Studies, University of NC.

From the book or movie: Pierre Plantard, discovered documents detailing the history of the Priory of Sion, showing that Pierre himself was a direct descendent of Jesus. In the section ‘True Facts from the Da Vinci Code’ on Dan Brown’s website, he writes that these documents, discovered in 1975, ‘[identified] numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci.’

What the historians say: ‘Pierre…confessed that he had forged this… He forged it as a hoax in order to give some substance to this new organisation that he had created in order to advocate for low income housing in France in 1959… and it’s an acknowledged hoax by everyone who has ever examined the parchments and by the man who forged them himself.’ Dr. George Grant.

From the book or movie: Biblical Christianity was a later invention that grew out of the church’s ascendancy to power. It was used as a tool to suppress the pagans.

What the historians say: ‘Look at the 2nd century. The people who were being thrown to the lion and burnt at the stake...were reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and Acts and Romans. And you can check that out again and again in the actual historical documentation. These documents that we call the New Testament were not written as a political power play.’ N.T. Wright

Faith Schools Under Pressure

Government-funded faith schools will be forced to shut down if the teacher’s union gets its way.

In the run-up to their annual conference, the National Union of Teacher’s (NUT) put forward a motion calling for ‘a long-term phased program of ending state funding to faith schools…’

When they met at Torquay from 14th – 17th April, the union discussed Government’s controversial Education and Inspections Bill. This Bill, opposed by the Teacher’s Union, would allow state schools more freedom to become self-governing trusts and to function independent of the local education authority.

During their conference, NUT passed a resolution instructing their Executive to seek amendments to the Education Bill. Such amendments included a ban on Christian schools offering religious instruction to the pupils unless it includes ‘unbiased teaching about all faiths and beliefs including secular beliefs within the context of the locally agreed SACRE syllabus…’
The demand for 'inbiased teaching' could force Christian teachers to be as positive about homosexuality and Islam as they are about the Bible.

Members of the union also moved to demand new laws preventing the teaching of ‘creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution’ in science lessons. This was supported by members of the Royal Society, who fear pupils will not learn the value of genuine science if they are presented with both sides of the debate (I haven't been able to work that one out).

On 24th May, the Education and Inspections Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. It has now gone to the Lords where NUT is hoping their amendments will be accepted before the Bill is sent back to the Lower Chamber.

As things currently stand, faith or trust schools can choose their own curriculum and function independently of the local council network of schools, while still being partly subsidized by the Government.

Faith schools: ‘divisive’

One member of NUT suggested such schools provided ‘fertile ground for…terrorism’ and will ‘increase, rather than reduce, barriers to achieving an inclusive society.’ The British Humanist Association has called these schools ‘unnecessary, divisive and discriminatory,’ while Keith Mitchell, former director of education for County Durham, has argued that they ‘[represent] a serious threat to the future of comprehensive education.’

Many of these worries stem from the concern that children in ethnic communities will fail to integrate if they have their own schools to attend. We should learn from the American example, where the disaster of using the school system to achieve forced integration is well documented.
Implicit in many of NUT's arguments is the idea that to fight terrorism, ethnic division and class segregation, you must control exactly what is being taught and what viewpoint is being conveyed. It remains unclear how forcing Muslim children to sit through sex education lessons and the humanistic-driven national curriculum is meant to foster social harmony.
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of NUT, has expressed the worry that independent school teachers might try to ‘peddle’ their beliefs into the education process. Yet this does not mean that NUT favours a religiously and politically neutral education. The national curriculum is far from that. But they do want to be able to regulate what views are being conveyed to students. This includes the pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-evolution, anti-biblical posturing that has become commonplace in the state schools.

Faith Schools and Homosexuality

Although it is expected that the Lords will reject NUT’s amendments, Faith schools are far from secure. Homosexual group Schools Out is campaigning that schools be included in the scope of the Government’s new Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The Government is currently consulting whether the Regulations to outlaw discrimination in ‘goods, facilities and services’ should include institutions such as schools and churches.

In response to the Government’s consultation paper, Schools Out has written, ‘Until the reality and understanding that LGB sexuality is as natural and usual as heterosexuality is enabled to permeate widely throughout the education system, the task of ending centuries of prejudice will continue to be an uphill struggle.’

If Schools Out is successful in its campaign, the new regulations will apply to privately funded Christian schools as well as state schools. ‘There are no circumstances,’ the organization has written, ‘in which schools, in any sector, should be exempt from the regulations.’ (Is this meant to include homoschools?) This would include mandating that ‘Informal areas such as corridors notice boards and those in common or staff rooms should be made to equally publicise LGBT organizations…’
(To read more about the involvement of homosexual groups in schools, click HERE)
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