It became a worldwide bestseller that has sold over 80 million copies and been translated into 44 languages and its not the Bible nor is it one of the Harry Potter books. As of 2010, The Da Vinci Code was the best selling English language novel of the 21st century. It is described by its author Dan Brown in this way, “A renowned Harvard symbologist is summoned to the Louvre Museum to examine a series of cryptic symbols relating to Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork. In decrypting the code, he uncovers the key to one of the greatest mysteries of all time…and he becomes a hunted man.”
Though it has been assailed by historians for its innumerable historical inaccuracies, The Da Vinci Code, found in the fiction section of your local bookstore, contains a thrilling and engaging story but as the reader wades into the middle of the book he finds a Christian deconstructionist and atheistic agenda with such statements as:
- “The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record.”
- “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine”
- “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven…The Bible is the product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”
My family and I lived in Sweden during the popular rise of the book in Europe and most people we spoke to had read the book, and were quick to give their assessment of it as true! When asked if they had ever read the Bible, most said “NO.” Why were they so quick to believe Dan Brown’s fiction and equally quick to dismiss the Bible? Well, atheists have two basic principles, as Doug Wilson says: 1) There is no god. 2) We hate him. Skeptics and critics over the years have sought to destroy confidence in the authority, accuracy, compilation and preservation of the Old and New Testaments even though there is strong, sufficient and adequate rationale to have confidence.
Christian Apologist Bernard Ramm says of the Old Testament Biblical manuscripts: “Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved…they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity- scribes, lawyers, masoretes.”
Distinguished research professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought, John Warwick Montgomery says of the New Testament, “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”
The Bible, God’s revealed Word, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, were given to us by God as the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him are indisputably trustworthy! The all-powerful, able-to-do-anything God has revealed Himself in The Scriptures because His heart is filled with the love for His people. Martin Luther said, “When God speaks to humanity, God always speaks in baby talk.” Luther goes on to explain that God speaks to us in this way out of a deep desire for us to know Him and understand Him. This is the essence of the Word of God: God making himself known and God’s sheep recognizing his voice. While we know that historically, the Church has divided over the interpretation of Scripture, the Church has never divided over the canon of Scripture itself, which book was to be included in the Old or New Testaments. Each accepted Book of the bible:
- Claimed Divine Authority
- Gained Universal Acceptance
- Had Authenticity of Authorship from a Prophet or Apostle of God
- Possessed a Life-Transforming Dynamic
- Had consistency of the Christocentric message
The Bible is God’s self-witness as it is God’s intention to rule His Church by a Book and it should be understood that if God would desire to lead His Church by a Revealed Word, a constitution of sorts, this all-powerful, eternal God would be able to make these books easy to identify, as they were.
The main presupposition of the Christian is that the Scriptures are true! As John Frame has stated in his book, Apologetics to the Glory of God, “The Ultimate proof, the ultimate evidence, is the Word of God. Eyewitnesses are important, but they die, and memories of them fade. Only if their testimony is preserved in God’s written word will that testimony have continuing value down through the history of the world.” For the Scriptures do not need external confirmation, they are God’s self-revelation.
Is there an afterlife? What happens when we die?
At death, the souls of Christian believers are made perfect by the power of God and immediately pass into heaven while their bodies rest in the grave awaiting the resurrection on the earth’s last day. When Christians die their soul immediately enters into the presence of God experiencing great comfort, rest, celebration and worship of God. During the resurrection at the last day, all Christian believers are raised up by the power of Christ and He will openly acknowledge that they belong to Him and that they are to be relieved from all charges of fault and sin because of His payment of their debts then they will be made perfectly happy in the total enjoyment of God throughout eternity.
It was the Breaking News that turned the world upside down. As the news headline spread, everyone in the region and eventually in the world would have heard the claims of hundreds of eye witnesses. A following would develop that would become the preeminent movement in the world based only on this news. This historical event would be the most discussed and most transcribed event of its era yet many would deny its authenticity. Skeptics would challenge the historicity of the event years later claiming that it couldn’t be proven scientifically. This headline would have all of the same limitations for scientific proof of other historical events because categorically, it’s very difficult to scientifically prove historical events. Sir Karl Popper, perhaps the greatest philosopher who ever lived would later say, “You cannot prove history scientifically.” Taken to its logical conclusion, if one refuses to accept the historicity of a past event based on its lack of scientific evidence then all of history comes into serious doubt. Necessarily we’re led to doubt everything that happened before the invention of YouTube.
The truthfulness of History is most often proven by the eyewitness accounts of people who have observed and documented it. The Gospel Writers: Matthew (aka Levi), John Mark, Luke the Scientist and John the Apostle either witnessed or interviewed witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a secret event with limited publicity. Instead news would have spread to everyone in the region even during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension into heaven. Saul of Tarsus, Simon Peter son of John and James the Just would also write about their first hand encounters with the Risen Christ. Very few doubt the main events in the lives of historical men like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, yet many doubt the most important event in the life of Jesus Christ. Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ has greater textual attestation than any event in antiquity.
It is interesting that first century Christians were consumed with two things: (1) A man, Jesus Christ who claimed to be God and (2) An event when this same man was resurrected from the dead. But did Jesus exist? It is a fact that Jesus Christ is the most documented historical character before the age of printing. “No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus.” (Otto Betz – What Do We Know about Jesus? SCM Press, 1968.) Historically we know that He did exist. The bigger question is the historicity of the resurrection.
When people today think about Christianity, they speak of it as an ideological entity with a political agenda. Others might hold that Christianity is a body of teachings from the greatest Teacher ever, Jesus who taught us an original moral code. But this was not how Christianity was defined in the first century A.D.. Early Christians were known more for their testimony to the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“At no point within the New Testament is there any evidence that the Christians stood for any original philosophy of life or an original ethic. Their sole function is to bear witness to what they claim as an event– the raising of Jesus from among the dead… the one really distinctive thing which the Christians stood was their declaration that Jesus had been raised from the dead…” (J.N.D. Anderson, citing Cambridge professor C.F.D. Moule)
Holy Saturday is the time in between John 19:41-42 and John 20:1: Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there…(INSERT HOLY SATURDAY HERE)…Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…
Holy Saturday is the day between the Good Friday Dusk and Easter Sunday Morning Dawn. It consists of over 30 Sabbath hours of time between Friday Sunset and Sunday Sunrise in which the gospel writers give us no details, it is just EMPTY SPACE and DEAD AIR. We know what Good Friday feels like: despair, darkness, defeat and hopelessness. We know what Easter Sunday feels like: joy, light, victory and hope. But does Holy Saturday have a feel?
Recognizing that the Passion Week represents a continuous historical narrative, churches typically pause to enter into emotion of Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday or Tenebrae) and some pause to remember the journey of our Lord on the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. But then we enter into Holy Saturday, a time when the sanctuaries of the old churches are stripped bare and lay in darkness. No services are scheduled, no sermons are preached, no one gathers for fellowship and there is no Lord’s Supper in order to commemorate the non-event of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a dead intermission, an empty void between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ when His body lays in the tomb. I’ve never heard a message preached about Holy Saturday and I don’t recall singing a Hymn where Holy Saturday is given more than a sentence. But in the sentence of Holy Saturday (or more accurately, the parenthesis) there is an eerie feeling of familiarity to me.
I see that we live every day in a similar yet post-resurrection tension as we wait for the King to come back to consummate the Kingdom he inaugurated 2000 years ago. In between His two advents, we sin, we feel guilt, anxiety, shame, restlessness, we deny Him, sometimes betray Him, life sometimes feels dark and we often wonder what to do next just like the disciples on that First Holy Saturday. The difference living parenthetically on this side of Easter is that we can always turn back with understanding to the significance of the Cross to find forgiveness and mercy and embrace the life and certain hope imparted to us through the Resurrection.
(Inspired by Alan E. Lewis: “Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday“)
A widely stated reason for rejecting Christianity is that many believe that ‘the church is full of hypocrites.’ (See 2008 U.S. Survery). My answer to this challenge has been, “Yes, you’re right, the church has many hypocrites.” (See: The Church is full of hypocrites). By design the church is a “mixed body” of both authentic and fake christians like lettuce and weeds growing in the same garden which will be sorted out in the end. The rest of my answer is, “No, you’re incorrect, the church isn’t really full of hypocrites.” (See: A “Hypocrite” or A “Work in Progress.”) While some in the church are pretending to be something they’re not, others are just a “work in progress” being slowly crafted into the people God wants them to be.
The Visible Church, the one we see with our eyes, is a mixed body of sinners gathered together while the ultimate responsibility for her judgment rests in a gracious, merciful and sovereign God. It is His exclusive right to decide who is real and who is not. Likely the best comparison for the church today is of a hospital where some await diagnosis of their condition, some hear yet don’t accept their diagnosis clinging only to illusions of health while others are diagnosed, treated and move toward health. The only people who reside in a hospital are those who are sick and those who are healing from sickness. Commonly, people go to the hospital when they cannot help themselves, desperate to have their condition diagnosed and to receive treatment and care that will nurse them to health. Ultimately when our time comes, all patients who have received and believed their correct diagnosis, have sought and received the only cure for their condition and continue to trust the Physician will be completely cured in their discharge.
A 2008 U.S. survey of unchurched adults found that 72% of them believed that the church ‘is full of hypocrites.’ I blogged yesterday, (see The Church is full of Hypocrites) that the design of the church is a “mixed body” consisting of both the righteous and the unrighteous like wheat and tares growing and coexisting side by side in the same field (the church) that will ultimately be separated from each other at the time of harvest (judgment). But the charge given by the 72% in the survey is still unfair for lots of reasons. Here’s one:
While some in the church are pretending to be something they’re not, others are just a “work in progress” like me and perhaps like you. I am under no illusion that I am perfect and am quite aware of my shortcomings and my need to grow into the image of Jesus Christ who saved me. While my goal is to be like Christ, He is engaged in this chiseling, refining work on me that takes a lifetime and is not completed until glory. I often tell friends that there should always be a circumference of orange cones and yellow warning tape surrounding me with a sign saying, “Pardon My Progress,” for the snapshot reality of my life is actually quite messy. I am a “work in progress” but not a hypocrite.
Charles Spurgeon commented,
The Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers… The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.
This past week the Lord brought me to a place where I had to answer some questions about God’s relationship to evil: Where did evil come from? Did God create it? So this blog entry is a bit of a digression from what I usually write about. I do care deeply that people see God as good, holy, morally perfect and with the highest virtue. If the Almighty, All-powerful God is not good and holy then we could never feel safe with Him.
Did God create evil?
If God is the Sovereign Creator and we have evil in the world then did God create Evil? We know that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all and we know that God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one. This means that there is no hook in the soul of God onto which evil can latch. God is good and He is neither evil’s creator nor evil’s author. God created everyTHING, and He created EveryTHING Good. Evil is exempt from the creation because evil is NOT a thing, nor is evil a being. Evil was not created and is not a created thing.
What is evil?
Evil digs a hole in goodness and spoils the GOOD that God created. All which is corrupted is a deprivation of good. Evil is A SPOILED GOODNESS. It is like a moral hole, a nothingness that results when goodness is removed. Just as a shadow is no more than a “hole” in light, evil is a hole in goodness. Evil is not something present but something missing. Evil is not something to turn toward but the TURNING itself away from Good and away from God.
God created a world of moral perfection but that does not necessitate the attribute of immutability or unchangeablenes in the morally perfect creation just as a perfectly beautiful vase is capable of being chipped or broken. In the creation, God’s goals were to create free creatures and the greatest good possible but His Creation, being free, turned away from Him, His goodness and generosity. God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim. For a time, God chooses to co-exist with evil and allow it. During this season, the presence of evil illustrates by stark contrast the goodness of God. And a day will come when God’s people will no longer be able to turn away from Him again and the possibility of evil will cease.
Much of my writing here today is based on Augustine’s theory of evil and this wonderful article: Augustine on Evil by Greg Koukl