Collected research on the Da Vinci Code

Tonight, 8pm (prompt!) at Elmesthorpe Village hall, Living Rock Church is running a "Da Vinci Code Evening" to discuss the the phenomenon the book has caused, to separate fact from fiction, and to equip us to make the most of the opportunities that interest in the book and the film give us to share our faith. Anyone from Living Rock Church, and any readers in the area are warmly invited.

I'm leading the section separating the fact from the fiction. As part of the preparation for this, I did quite a bit of research on the internet and collated my findings into a Google Notebook. I have now made this public for anyone who is interested:

My Da Vinci Code Notebook

Another great place to look is Hugh's blog. Many of the first links in my notebook are from his blog. Thanks Hugh.

Update 26/05/06
Here is the powerpoint presentation I used on the night: da_vinci.ppt
The video clips I make reference to can be purchased here.


Drawn or Driven

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Ro 8:5)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Ga 5:16)

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Ga 6:8)

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1Co 10:6)

I love the Old Testament! And one of the reasons I love it so much is that it is all relevant. It may not be applicable in the same way as it was to those under the Old Covenant who had only the types and shadows rather than the realities that are found in Christ, but it is all applicable to me and to all of us under the wonderful new covenant. In fact Paul in Corinthians goes even further and explains that the ultimate reason for the things that happened to Moses and the people in the wilderness was for warnings and examples to God's new covenant people - they happened as examples for us! The Old Testament is full of wonderfully illustrative stories that serve to instruct those who see it through the light of the New Testament. These examples and warnings help us to avoid evil and grow in faith and obedience.

The eleventh chapter of the book of Number is one of my firm favourites. I have said much on it already in earlier posts (look in my categories under Mediations/Numbers), but it struck me again while I was on holiday that this chapter contains both an example and a warning. We see two parallel stories unfold in the same chapter that serve as a wonderful illustration of the contrast expressed in Galatians 6:8. We read of those who were drawn by the Holy Spirit and came into a new anointing and position of service that benefited the people, and those who were driven by the cravings of the flesh and reaped death.

I don't find anything in the new testament that separates people as "men of the Spirit" or "men of flesh". We are all both! Even Jesus experienced the same temptations of the flesh as we do, yet was without sin. It is not sinful to have desires of the flesh, that's the way God made us. But the problem arises when we don't control them, and they control us. The carnally minded man is the one who is controlled and driven by his self-centered desires. So these are examples to all of us. We deceive ourselves and walk straight into the enemy's trap if we suppose that because we move under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, that we are not still vulnerable to the flesh. Look what happened to King David. No wonder the scriptures tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for none of us are so strong that we cannot stumble if we do not take care.

All of us therefore have a continual choice to make. The choice we made yesterday may help us with our choice today in forming good habits, but it does not mean that we cruise by default into the right decision. We must chose to live by the Spirit, and chose not to live according to the flesh. We must chose to allow ourselves to be drawn by the anointing that God has placed upon our lives, and chose not to give in to the petulant demands of our self-centered desires.


The Fargo Device

The 1996 Oscar-winning film Fargo begins with the following words:

"This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."

The film is brilliant, entertaining, absorbing, but complete fiction. The Coen brothers got away with their claim of truth, saying that the film was a work of fiction, and as such the claim to truth at the beginning should also been seen as ficticious. They had used the claim to truth just as a "device" to engage with the audience and have a bit of fun with the naive. The problem was that following on from films like Alive just three years before, audiences were used to seeing films that had been made from the tales of extraordinary true stories and many people, including movie critics, were deceived by the brothers' playful prank.

I read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" on holiday and knowing more than a little about the book in advance, I immediately thought of Fargo and the Coen brother's device as I read the first word on the first page: "FACT".

Although the book appears in the fiction category, modern readers are accustomed to a type of novel known as "faction". Fictional tales based on historical facts and extensive research into the details of the time. Robert Harris's excellent books: Enigma, and Pompeii fall into this category. Reading such works of faction the reader is both gripped with an exciting tale (usually a thriller) and informed of accurate historical details along the way. "Faction" writers like Harris usually go to great pains to point out and apologise for any discrepancies between their novel and the truth, and make grovelling apologies to the serious historians who helped them write their book.

This is where I see the real problem with "The Da Vinci Code" lies. It is pure fiction dressed up as "faction". By starting with a list of "facts" and claiming that all descriptions of artwork and secret societies are accurate (an entirely spurious claim, as even a modest amount of research will reveal), Dan Brown is making a false connection with readers of faction and making a deceptive claim on the authenticity of the details in his book. Thus even those who do not accept his claim that Jesus married and had children, may go away believing some other distortions about how the canon of scripture was selected, the authority of the gnostic gospels, belief in secret societies and the agendas of Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton and other great historical figures that have no connection to fact. Defenders of the truth can then be falsely put on the defensive against "evidence" that is no evidence at all.

It seems clear to me that the book has a not so secret agenda. Brown has used the "Fargo Device" to spread the ideas of his anti-christian philosophy to a wide (and gullible) audience.

Fortunately, unlike Fargo, the film (from what I have heard) is very unlikely to win any Oscars!


The Scriptures and the Power of God

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Mt 22:29)

Jesus gave this reply in response to the Sadducess who did not believe in the resurrection. They tried to trick him with a question involving a woman who had been married multiple times, and asked him whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus as always cuts straight to the heart of the issue. The testimony of the resurrection is both the scriptures and the power of God.

I know for some in the reformed tradition saying the scriptures and anything is tantamount to heresy, but it is the scriptures themselves that testify to this fact!

My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1Co 2:4-5)

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1Co 4:20)

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Mt 9:35)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:45-49)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Heb 2:1-4)

And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. (Ac 8:6)

I could go on, but I trust the point is made. To testify to Christ, his resurrection and his ascended glory, we need to be those who know both the Scriptures and the power of God. The Word of God and the active reality and presence of the Spirit of God. Sound doctrine, and manifestations of the Spirit. It was never intended to be an either-or! God never intended his one church, his bride, to become polarised into those who love the Word and yet are distrusting of the activities of the Spirit, and those who love the Spirit yet are ignorant of theology and lead others astray with their flaky teaching. There is no excuse for either! God wants his one church to be full of men and women who know and are familiar with both his word and with his power, and testify to the world that Christ is risen indeed! Jesus came to destroy every wall of hostility within his people, let us not build them up again with any label that we might care to apply to those sections of Christ's body we disagree with, but let us all seek to know more of Christ and his revelation, both in the scriptures and in the powerful movings and manifestations of the Spirit.


Google Notebook

Another incredible useful tool, hot off the press from Google: Google Notebook allows you to collect clippings as you surf of links, text and images into your own scrapbook, embedded into your browser but available to you from any computer. Very useful indeed if you are doing any kind of research on the internet and want to keep a track of what you found without trawling through your search history.



Back Home


Home again. We had a wonderful holiday. Beautiful sunshine, relaxing days, great food. Nevertheless, it's great to be home.

What was stirring me while I was away? Well despite the relaxation of mind and body, quite a few things actually: "The Scriptures and the Power of God", Numbers 11 (again! :-)) "Drawn by your anointing or driven by your craving", and some thoughts in response to reading "The Da Vinci Code."

I'll share my thoughts on these subjects over the following days... hopefully without digging myself into a hole! ;-) Posted by Picasa


Off to Portugal

Tomorrow we are off for a two week holiday in sunny Portugal. I'm looking forward to getting away, relaxing with my family and unwinding.

I realise that there is still a lot left unsaid in terms of both the nature of the gift of tongues, God's purpose in "drawing and separating" and the connection between the two in the way the gift operates towards unbelievers. I may pick this up again when I get back, but I can't promise. I may get stirred in a different direction while I am away. In fact I'd be surprised if I wasn't! Anyway, I never claimed to have all the answers, just some interesting questions, and some insights that made me think.

Just one last thought before I sign off. God's church, his ecclesia, is by nature drawn and separated. We are both called together and called out. We are in the world, with a mission the the world, but we are and remain distinct, not of this world. Whilst unbelievers should be drawn to us, they should also, until they accept Jesus as Lord, also recognise that they are not a part of us. We present both open arms, yet unapologetic offence. We have a ministry that will also draw and separate men. Those whom the Lord calls will be added, whilst those whose hearts are hard will not dare to join us. We grow, yet remain set apart. And we do it all by the Holy Spirit. It is the Lord himself who is building his church.

Every Blessing,