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A Best-Selling Heresy

with Various Guests | May 16, 2006

According to various pastors and theologians, The Da Vinci Code gives Christians a great opportunity to provide solid answers to questions this controversial movie might raise. On today's broadcast, hear how you can be ready in season and out of season to give an account.

According to various pastors and theologians, The Da Vinci Code gives Christians a great opportunity to provide solid answers to questions this controversial movie might raise. On today's broadcast, hear how you can be ready in season and out of season to give an account.

A Best-Selling Heresy

With Various Guests
|
May 16, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

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Bob: Some people have been stunned as they've read "The DaVinci Code" thinking that author Dan Brown has unveiled a mystery that's been hidden for centuries.  Actually, what he's done is revive the heresy that's been around for centuries – the heresy of Gnosticism.  Here is author Lauren Winner.

Lauren: Gnosticism is a technical term for a particular heresy that was dogging the church from the church's very beginnings, and it was a heresy in which people said there is a radical split between matter and spirit, and spirit's good, and matter is bad.  And even though the church called that a heresy and dismissed it quite early on, the idea that matter and, in particular, our bodies, are bad, has stuck with us in the church and outside of the church for 2,000 years.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  What is the connection between the ancient heresy of Gnosticism and "The DaVinci Code?"  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  A lot of buzz about the opening of the movie "The DaVinci Code."  Of course, there's been a lot of buzz about the book that's been around now for two or three years, or maybe even longer.  I guess with the …

Dennis: Hey.

Bob: With the charges of plagiarism.  You know, if you stop and think about it, this story – or some of the claims that are made in this story about Jesus, they really have been around not just for years but for centuries.  This goes back to heresy that has kind of plagued the church throughout its history.

Dennis: Let me read what Dan Brown, who is the author of "The DaVinci Code" said – "My hope for "The DaVinci Code" was, in addition to entertaining people, is that it might serve as an open door for readers to begin their own explorations and rekindle their interest in topics of faith."  And to that I say to Mr. Brown, bring it on.

 To the degree that "The DaVinci Code" stirs up our nation to ask the question, who is Jesus Christ?  You know what?  That is to our advantage.  To those of us who profess and who are followers and disciples of Christ – what a great opportunity this movie provides to engage a lost generation around the claims of Christ.

Bob: Well, and as he said, he'd like to see people do their own investigation and, as we've already heard this week, if people will do their own investigation, they will come away from that investigation with very clear evidence that a lot of what's in "The DaVinci Code" is a bunch of hooey, if I can put it gently.

Dennis: Hooey?  Hooey?  Hooey?

Bob: It's a bunch of hooey.

Dennis: Google the word "hooey."

Bob: And not only is it a bunch of hooey, but it's hooey that's been around for a long time.

Dennis: And to respond to this hooey, we are making available a little magazine how many pages is this, Bob – 16-page magazine – that Campus Crusade for Christ, our parent organization, has created for just a moment like this.  They have literally printed millions of copies of this magazine called "The DaVinci Code" a companion guide to the movie, and they're making them available in packets of 10 so that you, as a listener, can order 10 of these little magazines and then drop them off on folks' desks at work, hand them to a friend, a neighbor, or give them to your teenagers to take to school the next opportunity they have and to pass them out in class.  Make Jesus Christ the issue at school, in the marketplace, and in your neighborhood.  What a great idea.

Bob: This week we have asked our friend, Hugh Duncan, who hosts a podcast, "New Clarity," to do some digging on the subject of "The DaVinci Code" and what he found when he did the investigation that Dan Brown invited him to do, well, he found that a lot of the ideas in the "The DaVinci Code" are nothing new under the sun.

Hugh: Elizabeth Lev has been teaching art history in Rome for the last 10 years or so, and it used to be that students arriving from the United States seemed more interested in the travel than in the art.

Elizabeth: Students would get off the plane, and they'd gather together for their first classes, and they'd raise their hands earnestly, and I would expect to hear, you know, some sort of question about the art or history, and they would all ask me where the outlet malls were.

Hugh: A few years ago, she noticed a change.

Elizabeth: Students would raise their hands and start asking me where "The Last Supper" was, and I was delighted to tell them that "The Last Supper" was in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and thrilled to hear that students were so eager to start looking at art up and down Italy until I found out that it was for all the wrong reasons.

Hugh: It seemed like when Elizabeth Lev would teach on "The Last Supper," her students were paying extra close attention.

Elizabeth: And, finally, a student raised his hand and said, "But, Professor Lev, isn't that Mary Magdalene sitting next to Jesus?"  And then, as the Italians say, [speaks Italian] – I fell from the clouds and realized that there was something going on.

 Usually, when people start asking a certain kind of question, you begin to realize that there is some new novel that is catching people's interest, and so from there it was a very short while before the tidal wave of "DaVinci Code" hit us in Rome.

Hugh: At the center of "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown is the idea that Jesus was the husband of Mary Magdalene and had a child.  According to the novel, Leonardo DaVinci knew this secret and painted clues about it in "The Last Supper."  One supposed clue is that there is no chalice on the table, no Holy Grail, because Mary Magdalene was the chalice that held the blood of Christ.

Elizabeth: Whoever did put a chalice on the table?

Hugh: Professor Lev says that there were many artists who painted the last supper during the Renaissance.  None of them included a chalice.  Leonardo wasn't leaving anything out.

 The final clue, the one that had intrigued Professor Lev's students so much, was that the character sitting to Jesus' right was actually Mary Magdalene not the Apostle John.  "The DaVinci Code" describes this character as having flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom.  The book says "It was, without a doubt, female."

 Elizabeth Lev says Dan Brown just doesn't understand his subject.

Elizabeth: The Renaissance creates types, and Leonardo wrote a great deal on the subject in his treatise on painting, that certain types, certain people, should have certain characteristics.

Hugh: For instance, someone who is wise would always be shown to have a long, flowing, white beard.  The Apostle John was painted just the opposite, as a student type.

Elizabeth: With the very clean-shaven, pinkish cheeks – a very, very youthful – he doesn't have any of the hard edges or the bristly beard that would show an aggressiveness, a possible rivalry, but just that soft, yielding, gentle, trusting nature of the student is represented through his physique.  This is not done just by Leonardo; this is done in virtually every, single last supper painting.

 If you are an art history professor, and you get a paper, which has in the first paragraph the same mistake repeated over and over and over again, you just look at the paper, it's clear the student didn't even do the most basic research.  You write a big red "F" on the cover, you hand it back, and you say, "Rewrite it."  And so you start out with someone who just didn't do any research.  He just looked at some paintings and let the story weave in his mind.

 "The DaVinci Code" is a book that purports to tell the history of early Christianity without once looking at the documents closest to that history, which would be the documents of the New Testament.

Hugh: Amy Wellborn wrote "Decoding DaVinci."

Amy: Instead relying on documents that were written hundreds of years later, particularly the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Thomas.

James: And there is where he makes his case for the alleged marriage of Jesus.

Hugh: The characters in "The DaVinci Code" try to prove the marriage of Jesus by using the historically unreliable Gospel of Philip, which, in its English translation says Christ kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth.  But in looking at the original document, things get more complicated.  Here is co-author of "Cracking DaVinci's Code," James Garlow.

James: It's torn, it's fragmented at that point, so what it says is Jesus kissed Mary on the – what could it be – forehead or cheek or whatever.

Elizabeth: Scholars think that the word that would have been in the hole is "mouth."

Hugh: It may sound strange to us, but the writer of the Gospel of Philip came from a religious tradition that said secret knowledge could be transmitted through kissing.  Sandra Meisel co-wrote "The DaVinci Hoax."

Sandra: And another gnostic Gospel, the Gospel of James shows Jesus kissing James on the mouth to do the same thing.  It's not a romantic thing at all.

Hugh: The Gospel of Philip also calls Mary Magdalene Jesus' companion.  A character in "The DaVinci Code" says this is proof that they were married; that in Aramaic, "companion" literally means "spouse."

Lee: Well, the problem with that is, this document was not written in Aramaic, it was written in Coptic.

Hugh: This is co-author of "Exploring the DaVinci Code," Lee Strobel.

Lee: And the word there for companion was actually borrowed from the Greek …

Ben: Which is not a synonym for "wife."

Hugh: Ben Witherington wrote a book called "The Gospel Code," and he talks about this word translated "companion."

Ben: It means "wife" or "companion," it means somebody who is in the inner circle of disciples.  It could be a male, it could mean a female.  It's not a gender-specific term in any way.

Lee: On top of that, the Gospel of Philip is simply not a pro-marriage manual, so it doesn't make the case for Jesus' marriage, in fact, it's a bit anti-marriage.

Hugh: These texts that Dan Brown quotes from tend to be anti-marriage and anti-sex because they were written by people who believed in Gnosticism.

Amy: Gnosticism was a movement, although even to call it a movement is giving it too much organization.

Hugh: Here is scholar N.T. Wright.

N.T.: A sense that the world of space and time and matter that we know is basically a bad place and pretty certainly made by a bad God.  So the Gnostics could not believe that God was made flesh, because that would mean that God was evil.

Hugh: Erwin Lutzer wrote "The DaVinci Deception."

Erwin: And therefore they denied the incarnation and almost universally they also denied the Resurrection.

N.T.: So then the way of escape is not faith, and it's not being rescued by someone else, it's not in that sense redemption as in the classic Jewish or Christian positions.  It's knowledge, and it's discovery of a knowledge within one's self, or a knowledge about one's own true self.  So, if you like it, discovering who I really am.

Hugh: These gnostic ideas and gnostic texts have been gaining in popularity thanks, in large part, to the writings of Elaine Pagels.  And Dan Brown has taken some of these ideas and turned them into a novel about what he calls "the divine feminine."  "The DaVinci Code" gives the idea that the New Testament suppresses and devalues women but these Gnostic texts elevate women.

Sandra: Dan Brown, in my opinion, did not read an entire Gnostic document.

Hugh: Sandra Meisel.

Sandra: He took a couple of juicy quotations from Elaine Pagels and from maybe some of the other books that he says he consulted, and he didn't actually read the documents nor does he know anything about the historical context of these documents.

Hugh: Here is Richard Abanes, author of "The Truth Behind the DaVinci Code."

Richard: Oddly, and very ironically, the Gnostics were the ones who were actually quite anti-female and anti-feminine, and so even Dan Brown has misrepresented them.

Sandra: What Dan Brown does not quote is the infamous last verse of the Gospel of Thomas.

Woman: Peter says to Jesus, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life."  And Jesus says, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male so that she, too, may become a living spirit resembling you males."

Woman: That women must shed their femininity and become like men to get into heaven.  Now, that's not something a man is going to say about his wife.

Woman: The whole thing is just a botched mess.

Hugh: Here is N.T. Wright.

N.T.: One of the real ironies of Dan Brown's book is that he seems to think that he is making Mary Magdalene out to be somebody who is really special over against what the early church would have thought, whereas in the New Testament itself and John's Gospel being the shining example, Mary Magdalene has this stunning role that she is the first one to see the risen Jesus and, moreover, she is the first one to be commissioned to go and tell other people that Jesus is alive, and that He is ascending to the Father and all of that.  So that's a hugely significant role.

Paul: And I just wonder why in the world Dan Brown chooses to attack Christianity, which of all the world religious systems has liberated women to a much greater extent that any other faith.

Hugh: This is Paul Maier, co-author of "The DaVinci Code – Fact or Fiction?"

Paul: Well, look how women are treated in Islam, for goodness' sake.  Instead, we have, in Christianity, a St. Paul who says, "There is neither a slave nor free, neither male nor female, neither a Greek or Jew.  They are all one in Christ."

Hugh: Unlike Gnosticism, the New Testament affirms that marriage and sex are good gifts from a good God.  That being the case, could Jesus have gotten married?  Here is Amy Wellborn.

Amy: People who are Christians, who want to muse about a possible marriage of Jesus, are really missing a very important theological point, and that is that Jesus is married.  Jesus is married to the church.  Throughout the Scriptures marriage is used as a metaphor for the relationship of God to His people.  We see it several times in the Old Testament.  We even see it hinted at in the new and come to a very explicit fruition in the Book of Revelation, in the very last couple of chapters in which the spirit and the bride say, "Come."  What we have there in that scene is the final union of Christ and His church analogized to a wedding.  As members of the church, we are all united to Christ.

Bob: Well, we want to thank again our friend, Hugh Duncan, from "New Clarity," for his look at "The DaVinci Code" and, by the way, his programs on this subject are available for download from the "New Clarity" podcast, and, as I said, a lot of what's on the bestseller list, including "The DaVinci Code" is hooey.

Dennis: Hooey?

Bob: It's a bunch of hooey.

Dennis: And while we've been listening, engineer Keith Lynch looked up what "hooey" was on Google and, Keith, what was the official definition of "hooey" from your Google search?

Keith: Solid, reliable historic evidence.

Dennis: Yeah, right.

Bob: Something like that.

Dennis: What did it say?

Keith: "Nonsense talk."

Bob: A bunch of nonsense talk.

Dennis: That's exactly right, and I have two thoughts in terms of application today – number one, use the opportunity nationwide that where there's going to be a buzz about "The DaVinci Code," the movie and the book, usually there's an opportunity to engage people about who Jesus Christ really is – not about the work of fiction, the novel that Dan Brown wrote, but instead what Jesus said about himself.

 The second thing I want to encourage you with is from a passage in Romans, chapter 12, verse 21, very simple – "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good."  You know, there's going to be evil in every generation every day of our life that we face, and the question is are we going to overcome it or will we be overcome by it?  And the Holy Scriptures tell us overcome evil with good.

 Now, I don't know what that means to you today, but a part of overcoming evil with good is telling people and sharing with people who Christ is and why you're a follower and why you're a believer in Christ.  Perhaps it's being good to someone who has been badgering you about this movie and being kind to them rather than beating them up with your reasoning and with your words.

 Bob, when the sun sets on this movie, Christians must be loving; they must have a life to back up the truth that we embrace.

Bob: Now, I have a conscience question for you, and I haven't asked you about this yet.

Dennis: Is it about hooey?

Bob: Well, in a way, it is, yes.  I know that you wouldn't buy a copy of "The DaVinci Code."

Dennis: That's correct.

Bob: Because you didn't want to contribute anything to the author's net worth.

Dennis: It was just a …

Bob: … conscience issue for you.

Dennis: A personal conviction of mine.  Truthfully, I would kind of like to have seen what it was all about, but decided not to do it.

Bob: Okay, here's the question – are you going to go see the movie?

Dennis: You know, even as I was saying that, I was thinking, "Would I do that?"  I don't think I'll go see the movie.

Bob: What if you had an opportunity to take a non-Christian friend with you to see the movie?

Dennis: You know, I might do that, seriously, I might do that.  Absolutely.  Especially someone that I knew was searching, and they wanted to go see it, and they wanted me to join them to go see it.  Why not?  I'm not afraid of what it's going to do to my faith.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: But that's a good question, Bob.  What about you?

Bob: Well, I bought the book in paperback because it was cheaper.

Dennis: So you did contribute?

Bob: I did. 

Dennis: And so you're going to the movie, too, aren't you?

Bob: Yes, I'm buying popcorn while I'm there. 

Dennis: We're going to get some mail for this, Bob.

Bob: Listen, Dan Brown has made $350 million last year.  The 25 cents he made from me on the copy that I bought, the paperback, I'll add, isn't going to help him out a whole lot and, again, the reason I'm reading it is so that I can talk intelligently with folks who have read it who are saying, "But what about this and what about that," and they're challenging what's at the heart of the Christian faith. 

 Again, we've got resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center that are designed to help folks with that, whether you read "The DaVinci Code" or not, these are resources that would be good to have on hand if you do get engaged in a conversation with somebody who is falling into the Davinci trap.  Campus Crusade for Christ has put together a magazine that is a 16-page full-color magazine called "The DaVinci Code – A Companion Guide to the Movie," that answers questions like did Jesus really claim to be God?  Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?  And are there hidden messages in Leonardo DaVinci's art that point away from the biblical record?

 These magazines are available in packages of 10, and we're doing that so that you can order 10 of them and pass them out to friends or neighbors or folks you know who have been to see the movie.  They're great to order and take with you to the movies and just pass out to folks who might be interested as they're coming out of the theater or if you're taking a friend to the movie with you, just pass along a copy of this magazine to them.

 Again, these are available in packages of 10 in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Go online to FamilyLife.com and click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and you'll get more information about what's inside this magazine and how you can order it.

 We also have Josh McDowell's new book called "The DaVinci Code – A Quest for Answers," and Richard Abanes book, "The Truth Behind the DaVinci Code."  Both of these are helpful books that examine some of the allegations that Dan Brown makes in his novel, and then they compare with what we find in history and in archaeology, and they examine the reality of what's being asserted in the novel.

 Again, if you'd like any of these resources, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get the information you need, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent to you.

 Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, or go online to our website, FamilyLife.com.

 When you get in touch with us, keep in mind that during the month of May, FamilyLife has a unique opportunity to take advantage of a matching gift opportunity.  We had some friends come to us and offer to match, on a dollar-for-dollar basis every donation we receive during the month of May up to a total of $350,000, and just recently we had someone else come along and say, "Is it too late for me to participate in that matching gift challenge to try to encourage people to make a donation during the month of May?"  And we told him it was not too late, and he added a $25,000 contribution to the matching gift opportunity, and we were very encouraged by that.  So now any donation you make to FamilyLife during the month of May is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $375,000.  That's one of the largest matching gift opportunities we've ever had here at FamilyLife, and we really appreciate those who have made it possible, and we appreciate those of you who are listening who will help us take full advantage of that matching gift opportunity by making a donation of any amount – $20, $40, $50 – whatever you are able to do.  Go online or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation to FamilyLife Today and help us take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity.

 Our website again is FamilyLife.com, our toll-free number 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-FLTODAY and you can donate online or by phone and help us take advantage of this matching gift opportunity, and we hope to hear from you, and let me say thanks in advance for standing with us here at FamilyLife Today.  We really appreciate you.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to be joined by a panel of young people who are going to give us some insight into what life is like on high school campuses these days and what you can do to help create some positive peer pressure in your son or your daughter's junior high or high school.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  Again, a special thanks to our friend, Hugh Duncan, from "New Clarity" for his help with today's program.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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