Rev. L. Althouse
June 11, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2. Devotional Reading: Ephesians 1:15-21
According to an article in morning paper, “The DaVinci Code,” a novel by Dan Brown has sold 46 million copies to date. A poll by the National Geographic indicates that 32 percent of those who read this novel believe its theories. Another poll indicates that 14 million Roman Catholics, about 32 percent, indicate that their faith has been affected by Brown’s novel. (Sorry, no statistics for Protestants). Nevertheless, it is obvious that a substantial number of people are taking the novel’s plot as true.
In case you haven’t read the book, it is a fictional story that indicates a series of murders are ties to an ancient secret which, in the novel, the Church has conspired to suppress: that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, had a child and that a secret society exists to protect their descendents. The plot further says that Leonardo DaVinci knew this secret and encoded it in his paintings.
Most people I know have said that they didn’t believe the theories, but enjoyed the novel as a page-turner. I must be a minority of one, but I didn’t even think it was a good novel. Brown has assembled a number of centuries-old speculations and presented them as though they were, if not proven fact, at least well-researched theories supported by compelling evidence. They are not.
A lot of Christians have been panicked by the popularity of the book and the coming movie starring Tom Hanks. Others believe they will give us opportunities to proclaim an authentic Christian gospel.
Conspiracy plots sell. People love conspiracies, the possibility that something is other than it appears and is being hidden from them.
Furthermore, there is always an appeal to the belief that there is a vital secret to be discovered, something hidden that we need to know. This is not something new, it existed in the days of the early Church. Some taught a different gospel that today we call ‘Gnosticism’ (from the word “to know”). The basis of this is the conviction that there is a secret, which is known only by a few and that salvation consists in knowing that secret. How wonderful to be able to say or think: ‘I’ve got the secret and you do not.’
Eventually declared heresy, Gnosticism has never entirely disappeared from Christian thinking. Many speak and act as if they and their crowd alone ‘know’ the ‘correct’ doctrine. For some, this means a search for the ‘correct’ church that teaches the ‘correct’ doctrine based upon the ‘correct’ reading of the Bible.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he knew there were some there who practiced a kind of Christian Gnosticism: “When I came to you brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ … and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
The essence of Paul’s gospel is “Spirit” and “power,” not words - no matter how wise and lofty those words. If we are to contend against the Gnosticism of “The DaVinci Code” or any others, it must be with power and Spirit, rather than words. If we were demonstrating in the world today the power of God in our attitudes, acts and accomplishments, the gospel would not be threatened. Christians have words in great abundance, but what we do not manifest to the world is Spirit and power. That is the only code in the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is not a secret.
This farm news was published in the June 7, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.