Answering the Questions Raised by the Da Vinci Code/Program 1
|By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2005|
|The Da Vinci Code is fiction, it’s being passed off as a historical novel. The Da Vinci Code strikes at the heart of Christianity by denying the deity of Jesus Christ and the validity of the New Testament documents.|
Today on The John Ankerberg Show, why has the fictional book, The Da Vinci Code, caused so much controversy?
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Even though The Da Vinci Code is fiction, it’s being passed off as a historical novel. And Dan Brown says in the book that many things are fact, and he gives the impression that all that is fact. And those who have read it will know that it is a vicious attack against the Christian faith.
At the beginning of his book Dan Brown makes this declaration, “Fact: All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” But is this true? And what about the claims in his book:
- That Jesus had sexual relations with Mary Magdalene resulting in children;
- That all the early Christians believed Jesus was only a man, and it wasn’t until 300 AD that the church invented the idea that he was God;
- That Jesus was the original feminist, and power hungry men in the church suppressed this information, then recast sex as something shameful in order to put down women;
- That the early Christians believed that men encountered God only through sexual union with a woman;
- That the original gospels about Jesus life were burned by the Roman Emperor Constantine around 325 AD and false documents were put in their place that form the Bible we now have;
- That the church has been hiding the truth of Jesus’ marriage in order to suppress the truth of who he really was. If this secret were uncovered, it would destroy Christianity as we know it.
- Lutzer: It takes old, heretical ideas and wraps them in a fast-paced novel so people are reading the novel, and they’re getting the idea, number one, the Jesus Christ isn’t God at all; he’s a mere man, but he was elevated to the status of godhood by a man by the name of Constantine, whom we are going to be talking about. And, secondly, people are saying that there is another Bible out there. It’s called a Gnostic Bible, the Gnostic gospels; and these Gospels are more accurate than our New Testament.
Our purpose in this series is twofold. First, if you have read The Da Vinci Code, we want to provide you with accurate historical information about the questions raised in this book. Second, if you are Christian, we want to help you know how to answer the questions of family and friends who have been troubled by this book.
- Lutzer: I remember a young woman in a restaurant telling me, she said, “I can never go to church having read The Da Vinci Code, because,” she said, “the church clearly is based on lies.”
My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, author of The Da Vinci Deception. He has been interviewed by NBC, ABC, and CNN as a Christian authority on this topic, and is senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois.
- Lutzer: The Da Vinci Code strikes at the heart of Christianity by denying the deity of Jesus Christ and the validity of the New Testament documents. Now, John, what our listeners need to understand up front is simply this, that the claims of The Da Vinci Code can be shown to be false.
To learn the truth about The Da Vinci Code, we invite you to join us.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. Have you read The Da Vinci Code? Over six million people have. Ron Howard is working on a movie on The Da Vinci Code, and our guest today, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois has written a book about this, The Da Vinci Deception. And Erwin, the book The Da Vinci Code is nothing but a fictional book, so why are you so excited about that book and why have you written this book?
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Well, the reason is simply because, even though The Da Vinci Code is fiction, it’s being passed off as a historical novel. And Dan Brown says in the book that many things are fact, and he gives the impression that all of it is fact. And those who have read it will know that it is a vicious attack against the Christian faith. And it takes old, heretical ideas and wraps them in a fast-paced novel. So people are reading the novel, and they’re getting the idea, number one, that Jesus Christ isn’t God at all: he’s a mere man; but he was elevated to the status of godhood by a man by the name of Constantine, whom we’re going to be talking about. And secondly, people are saying that there is another Bible out there. It’s called the Gnostic Bible, the Gnostic gospels; and these gospels are more accurate than our New Testament. So, The Da Vinci Code strikes at the heart of Christianity by denying the deity of Jesus Christ and the validity of the New Testament documents.
- Now, John, what our listeners need to understand up front is simply this: That the claims of The Da Vinci Code can be shown to be false. And the more honest people are, and the more committed they are to hard evidence, the more compelled they are going to be to accept the New Testament.
- Ankerberg: Yes, I mean, Tom Clancy wrote a novel. It’s called Executive Orders, okay? In the end, he’s got a 747 flying into the Capitol Building, okay? Well, the Capitol Building is a real building; there is a real Senate; there is a real Congress; there is a real President; there is a real Supreme Court. In his novel, he has them all killed off, okay? Now, for people to take that novel, because it has a few historical things that actually exist, alright, and then to put a fictional story with it, we don’t go with the ending of that.
- And, yet, here you have Dan Brown giving us a few historical facts, namely we’ve got a real country called France; we’ve got a real city called Paris; we’ve got a real place called Harvard; and then you have fictional characters that operate inside the story. And he goes back, and those fictional characters talk about real historical persons like Jesus Christ and Constantine. But what he says through his characters is completely fiction. It’s not true.
- What the problem is is that people are not catching the point that it’s not fiction. And you’ve actually had some people that you’ve talked to that said they’re never going to church again. Tell us some of the stories.
- Lutzer: Oh, the effects of this book are absolutely devastating. I remember a young woman in a restaurant telling me, “I can never go to church, having read The Da Vinci Code.” Because, she said, “The church clearly is based on lies.” There are people out there who are angry; some are angry with the church anyway, and this gives them further reason to believe that, indeed, the church cannot be believed. Now, primarily, in The Da Vinci Code, it’s the Catholic Church that comes up very badly. You have the Vatican trying to suppress the truth, etc. But, the fact is that because Dan Brown is dealing with the roots of Christianity, with the divinity of Jesus, and the reliability of the New Testament, it, of course, is a great attack against all Christians everywhere, Protestant or Catholic. And so, we have people who are buying into it. And there are several streams, John, that feed into this book, and that is why it is being so widely accepted.
- Ankerberg: I think we’re going to have to say that Dan Brown believes it himself. On NBC, he told those that were interviewing him that if he had to write an actual, factual book, he wouldn’t change anything that he wrote in his fictional book.
- Lutzer: Yes. And what we’re going to do is to prove in this show, and in others, that he is connecting dots that really don’t exist.
- Ankerberg: Right, where do you want to start?
- Lutzer: Well, you know, first of all, I want to start with why the novel is being read so widely, and discuss the various streams that it feeds into our culture.
- On the one hand, you have the feminist stream. Here Dan Brown says that it was Jesus Christ’s intention that the church be based on Mary Magdalene, but angry, power hungry men stole it from her and built it on Peter. So you can imagine here that there are feminists who read this. In Chicago, there was a group of women who have a reading club, and a woman I know is part of that club. She says they just ate up Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code: “Absolutely, that’s just like the men to do that.”
- Secondly, there is another stream; and that is sexuality. And what Dan Brown tries to show is that original Christianity believed in a pagan notion that men encounter God through a sexual relationship with women, through these rituals, you see. Well, that certainly feeds into our sex-crazed age.
- Then you have the whole idea of conspiracy. People love a conspiracy: “The church has been hiding this.” “There are secret documents which, if those documents were found, why indeed, Christianity would be found to be a fake, a lie.” Oh, people love that.
- And then, of course, you have the Gnostic stream. We’ll be talking about the Gnostics, but bottom line, Gnosticism teaches that you can have an experience of God independently of Christ. You can access God directly. Well, John, you can see how that feeds exactly where our culture is.
- And then you take all that, and you wrap it into a novel that’s a pretty good page-turner, and pretty soon you have people saying; I wonder whether or not this is true. And John, let me explain with deep conviction, why we are doing this program and why it is so important.
- Ankerberg: Okay.
- Lutzer: Because you have unbelievers out there who are reading the book and they are being confirmed in their unbelief. But you also have Christians who are reading The Da Vinci Code, and they are coming away with doubt and asking, “Could it be so?” Do you know why I wrote that book?
- Ankerberg: Why?
- Lutzer: Because of a phone call of a woman, a friend of mine, who is a friend of my wife and me. She works at a financial institution. She called up and she said, “Mr. Lutzer, you have to understand something.” She said, “People are reading The Da Vinci Code in my office. And some of them are Christians, and they’re coming away asking whether or not at least a part of it is true. Could Jesus really have been married to Mary Magdalene?”
- Ankerberg: In other words, Dan Brown has put in their mind, what if this is true?
- Lutzer: Yes, what if, what if. And even though, you know, they’re not jettisoning their faith, they’re still saying, “Could Jesus have been married? Might it be that these Gnostic gospels are really saying something that we should be listening to?” And that’s why I would encourage people who are watching this show right now to go to the phone and to call other friends and say, “This is a program you need to watch.”
- Even those who have never read The Da Vinci Code, they know people who have. I’ve asked this in audiences, how many of you have read it? How many of you know someone who has? When you ask the second question, almost every hand goes up. So we’re talking about something very critical.
- And, furthermore, if people haven’t read The De Vinci Code, they should hang in, because we’re going to be talking about the very origins of Christianity, and it’s something that every Christian needs to know, whether or not they have read The Da Vinci Code.
- Ankerberg: Erwin, for people that haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, just give a quick summary of the story.
- Lutzer: Bottom line, it’s the quest for the Holy Grail. There’s a murder, there’s intrigue, there are puzzles. And the question is; why did the murder take place? But it’s trying to find the Holy Grail, which turns out to be Mary Magdalene, herself; because she was actually married to Jesus and she bore, in her body, the blood [child] of Jesus. That’s where the book is going, with all kinds of intrigue in between.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got to take a break, and when we come back, we’re going take one of the outlandish statements that Brown makes through his characters in the novel; namely, that a king called Constantine re-wrote the first 300 years of Christian history, and, what he re-wrote is what we believe today. And what we need to do is go before Constantine and get back to the real stuff that Dan Brown divulges in the book. We’re going to talk about why that is completely false, doesn’t have a shred of historical evidence, when we come right back.
- Ankerberg: We’re back. We’re talking with my guest, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who has been interviewed by NBC and a lot of the other networks about The Da Vinci Code. He has written a book about it. And Erwin, you take exception to some of the things Dan Brown said in his book, especially about church history and Constantine. Dan Brown said in his book, “Until that moment in history,” talking about the Council of Nicea, “Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. Not the Son of God,” one of the characters says, and the other one says, “Right.” Okay? Then, Brown goes on to say, “Jesus’s establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea, and that was a close vote when they got there.” Ok, what do you say to that?
- Lutzer: Well, let’s separate the fact from the fiction, okay? Let’s talk about what happened at Nicea. And, John, when we talk about that, we have to go to the primary documents. We can’t go to the mythologies and to some of the ideas that have arisen in the sixth or seventh centuries about Nicea. Let’s go back and ask Eusebius, a historian who was there.
- First of all, the reason for the Council was because there was a man by the name of Arius, who was denying the deity of Christ. And he would put his ideas in little jingles and people would sing them. And in the market place of Constantinople, it was said that if you bought a loaf of bread, you’d be asked, “Do you believe that Jesus is eternal or was He begotten?” And you had these discussions that were tearing the empire apart.
- First of all, the reason for the Council is because there was a man who was denying the deity of Christ. The deity of Christ was the official teaching of the church. It’s found in the New Testament, it is found in the teaching of the Fathers, and we can mention those. And then, Constantine decided to have a Council where this matter would be resolved.
- Now it is true he gave the opening speech. There is some truth in Dan Brown’s book, of course, Constantine convenes the Council that met at Nicea. And so they have a debate regarding the deity of Christ. The point is that Arianism was instantly dismissed by the Council. Arius, the heretic, was invited to state his views. Those views were rejected. Now, there was a compromising position that was then brought to the council; namely, does Jesus Christ have a nature that is similar to that of God the Father, or the very same as that of God the Father?
- Ankerberg: I think that is so important Erwin. Look, for people that don’t know their church history, Jesus lived and died about 30 AD, okay? You have the apostle Paul writing at 50 AD and dying at about 68; the apostle John writes about 70 to 90 and he dies close to 100 AD, okay? Then you have the Apostolic Fathers, the Fathers that came after the apostles, who knew the apostles. They start to write.
- Lutzer: And they all believed in the divinity of Jesus.
- Ankerberg: Yes, Jesus declares his divinity; it’s reaffirmed by the apostles and the ones that were the students of the apostles. And now, way down the pike, after all of this has been written, taught, preached, lived and died, okay? You’re down to Arius, and 300 years after Jesus, you get to Constantine. And this is what Dan Brown is talking about. Now, right in that area, keep going.
- Lutzer: What happens is, then they have this debate at the Council, whether Jesus Christ’s nature is the same as that of God the Father or similar; that was really the discussion. And they ended up by saying that Jesus Christ’s nature is, in Greek “homoousion,” that is to say, the very same nature as that of God the Father.
- So, anyone who is watching today who has ever quoted the Nicene Creed, knows that it says that He is “God of very God.” But the idea that Constantine invented the deity of Jesus Christ for political purposes, and the notion that, before that time, Jesus was regarded as a mortal prophet, is pure fabrication.
- We could indeed, as you mentioned, go back to The New Testament; we could go back to the church Fathers. Let me name one. There is a man by the name of Ignatius in about the year 110. He is on his way to martyrdom in Rome. He calls Jesus Christ “God Incarnate.” So there you have it; whether it’s Polycarp; later on, we have Irenaeus; I mean, how many quotations do we need from the church Fathers to prove that they believed in the divinity of Jesus long before the Council of Nicea?
- And then, you have Christians dying in Rome, John. I mean, why were the Christians willing to go to the beasts? Because they were calling Jesus Christ “Lord,” which means “God.” The early church believed strongly in the divinity of Jesus.
- So Constantine comes along. He convenes the council and apparently, according to Eusebius, only two delegates of the 318 refused to sign the Nicene Creed. By the way, you know what Dan Brown says in The Da Vinci Code, when he says that the divinity of Jesus was voted on and had passed by a very close vote? Well, I would say that two voting “no” and 316 voting “yes,” is not exactly a cliffhanger, is it?
- So there’s no question about the fact that the divinity of Jesus was always the basis of what the church believed. And that’s the destructive character of Dan Brown’s book. While talking about a historical event, he gives his twist, based on mythology—and we can actually trace some of the mythology that Dan Brown uses—and he passes it off as history.
- Ankerberg: He also talks about the fact that Constantine re-wrote the history and he did it for a power surge, he wanted to gain power and in doing so, he commissioned the writing of the books of the Bible. He actually decided what the canon was; the books that should be in the canon and those that should be out. What do you say to that?
- Lutzer: Oh, John, now I can really get exercised over this. Constantine, at the Council of Nicea, there is no evidence that there was discussion as to what book should be in the canon. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were already regarded as being the Gospels. We’ll talk about the Gnostic gospels in a later program, I’m sure. We don’t have time to talk about those right here, except to say that Constantine had nothing to do with the notion of what books would be in the New Testament. In my book that I’ve written, I was able to trace it back historically to the eighth century, when a man wrote—500 years after the Council of Nicea—he wrote various mythologies as to what happened at Nicea and some of the other Councils. And in his book, he says that they simply took all the books and they left them on the altar, and in the morning, the ones that were inspired went to the top and the ones that weren’t went to the bottom. Now anyone who believes that, well then, you know as the old saying goes, I’ve got a bridge that I’d like to sell them. And so, it’s those kinds of mythologies that are passed along in The Da Vinci Code, dusted off, under the pretense of being historical.
- People need to know that, under the Council of Nicea in 325, the books of the New Testament that we have today, that we call the New Testament, were believed and were essentially the books that were received. There were some discussions regarding the book of Revelation, because some people thought that Revelation was a little bit esoteric. Some people doubted whether or not Peter had actually written 2 Peter. But, essentially, the books that constitute the New Testament today are the received books already back in 325.
- Ankerberg: Here’s one that I’m sure that upset you. He says, “History is nothing more than a fable that’s agreed upon.”
- Lutzer: John, if that’s true, why even study history, if history is only a fable agreed upon? Then what we can do is make up a fable; the fable that you love the most, and run with it, and forget history all together. In fact, that’s exactly what Dan Brown does. I looked at that quote and I thought, my, here we are. Your book, Dan Brown, is a fable that “you, yourself and I” have agreed upon. He’s decided to run with it.
- Ankerberg: Hook that to the fact of the other claim that’s in the book is that it’s really the winners who are the ones that write history, not the losers.
- Lutzer: John, it is true that many historians put their own twists on facts. So sometimes we have to distinguish between “the interpretation” and “the facts.” What we’ve been talking about on this program today are facts, verifiable by more that one historian. We can put our own interpretation on it—people are doing that all the time—but history is not simply like putty that can be molded into whatever form we want it to be. There are certain brute facts that need to be considered. Their interpretation may be different, but we’re talking facts. We’re talking about Nicea; we’re talking about Arius; we’re talking about the vote. Everything that we have said on this program today is based on actual eyewitnesses. And, if you are going to reject those eyewitnesses, well then you have the right to do that. But then, go ahead and spin your fable.
- Ankerberg: Yes, and those documents, you can’t say they were written by winners, because the first 300 years of Christianity, Christians were killed for saying this stuff.
- Lutzer: Yes, exactly. They were the losers.
- Ankerberg: They were the losers. And the fact is, let’s wrap it up here. In terms of people that have had doubts, because of this book, what word would you leave them with and where are we going next week?
- Lutzer: I would simply say this to everyone listening: The more insistent you are on good evidence, and good historiography, the more committed you’re going to come to the New Testament. Next week we’re going to look at the Gnostic gospels and compare them with the New Testament.
- Ankerberg: Alright, hope you’ll join us then.