Monday, May 22, 2006

Another false spirit

I find myself caught up in the whole Da Vinci Code thing. Having spoken at a clergy event about it (see previous post), I preached on it yesterday. The sermon can be read at this link: and, if we are able to sort out some technical difficulties, listened to as well!

We are going as a family to see the Movie on Wednesday, and then I am attending some seminars taken by Ben Witherington in Singapore before taking part in a seminar myself organised by my Diocese. Reading and listening to the reactions to the DVC, I am impressed that we are managing to combat the many errors in the DVC. People like Ben have worked so hard and scholars like him are worth their weight in gold. May God bless him in his ministry. We desperately need more like him: scholars who also have a passion for ministry.

The more time I spend on this, however, the more worried I am becoming about what is happening in the Church. Dan Brown seems to have tapped into a feeling that is growing amongst Christians themselves. It is 'the history is written by the winners' myth. Dan Brown repeats this like a mantra and many Christians believe it. This allows people to argue that there were many Christianities around in the first three centuries and what eventually became Orthodox or Catholic Christianity suppressed all the rest. Some even take it further and argue that the books we have in the Bible are the winners' version of the original event.

This myth is far more dangerous than DVC itself as it is supported by many in positions of authority within the Church. It sounds plausible enough in theory, but what is the reality? At the end of the day, what were the alternative Christianities that were suppressed? And what were the alternative books that were left out of the Bible? The alternatives are all gnostic. I wonder if any who are arguing this myth at a popular level have read any of the gnostic gospels. Are we really being asked to believe that the gnosticism of the second and third century should be seen as a viable alternative to Orthodox Christianity? Are we really to believe that the gnositicism of people like Valentinus was a reasonable interpretation of the teaching of Jesus?

What is going on is much more insidious. Having argued the theory that there were other Christianities and other books, those who take this view are then reading their own version of Christianity back into the second and third centuries so that it becomes their version of Christianity that was suppressed. A few gnostic phrases are thrown in to gain credibility, but gnosticism as such is quietly forgotten. Undermine Orthodox Christianity with a scholarly sounding argument and the use the doubt to win converts to a version of Christianity which was never up for consideration. Those who argue thus are able to present their very 21st century version of Christianity as really being old and original.

In the meantime people's confidence in the Bible is undermined and people's faith in orthodox Christianity weakened.

Orthodox Christianity has survived worst things, of course, and it will survive this attack, but this attack is all the more dangerous coming as it does from within. It is gaining ground by stealth. It needs to be exposed for what it is before it does real damage.

No comments: