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Suns Win! Suns Win!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

After a hard-fought series against the suprisingly tough L.A. Clippers, the Phoenix Suns have advanced to the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs for the second year in a row. Trying to win a championship for the first time in franchise history, the Suns have advanced one step closer as they face the Dallas Mavericks in the next round of the playoffs. In a year that many thought the Suns would be doing well just to make the playoffs after the loss of Amare Stoudamire before the start of the season, Steve Nash and company are turning heads and raising hopes in the Valley of the Sun.

I would love to be able to be in Phoenix for some of these playoffs (and have the money to actually go to a game). For that matter, I wish we at least had cable so that I could actually watch the game instead of watching the "play by play" on ESPN.com.

While I feel sorry for my good friends in Cleveland over their loss against the "Bad Boys", I am glad the Suns are moving on. I think that Phoenix is definitely positioned to be the underdog to root for from here on out in the playoffs. (I mean, come on, who could actually root for the Mavs or either of those two teams remaining in the East?)

GOOOOOOOOOOOO SUNS!

Just some sports thoughts from a transplanted Phoenician,

Frank

The Problem with The DaVinci Code

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Below is the text for the article that I wrote about on my last post. It should be posted soon in .pdf format on the FFBC website, as well. (Please note, there are a couple of minor differences between this version and the article that was edited to fit in the space needed for publication in the FFBC Spotlight, the .pdf version is the edited version and, when printed, fits on a regular sheet of paper and has a nice layout, etc.)

THE DAVINCI CODE by Pastor Frank Sansone

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown has become an international phenomenon. As a hardback book, it has been on the famed "Bestseller List" of The New York Times for over 160 weeks and has been declared to be the "all-time best-selling adult novel." Reports indicate that over forty million copies of the book have been sold and it has been translated into over forty languages. With the recent release of the book in paperback and a movie based on the book starring popular actor Tom Hanks, the conversation around The DaVinci Code only promises to get louder in the coming days.

The popularity of this book has earned the author a place on Time Magazine's list of "The World's 100 Most Influential People." A quick look reveals that this book has been the catalyst behind a whole range of other books, articles, web-sites, and documentaries which trumpet or expand upon many of the ideas promoted in this book. In addition, there have been a number of books and articles written which have sought to correct the "alternative history" that is presented in The DaVinci Code.

Why has The DaVinci Code warranted such attention? Aren't people - especially Christians - just overreacting to a fictional novel? Does Dan Brown actually hit on some deep, dark secrets that strike at the root of Christianity? Was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene and did He have children that carried on His blood? Did the early church really think that Jesus was merely a mortal prophet until Constantine got them all together and made up the idea that Jesus was God? How should Christians respond to the claims of The DaVinci Code?

While the length of this article does not allow for a full treatment of all of these issues, it is the desire of this article to highlight some of the issues presented by The DaVinci Code and present some suggested responses for believers.

BOOK OVERVIEW

The plot of the book is rather straightforward. The curator of the Louvre in France is murdered by an albino monk and leaves a coded message for his estranged granddaughter, Sophie. Sophie, who is a police cryptologist joins up with Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor in religious symbology, as they seek to find out the meaning of her grandfather's coded message and escape from the police and others. During their escape, they must break a series of codes and follow secret messages throughout France and Britain. Central to these codes is the idea that the grandfather was the Grand Master of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, whose goal has been to protect the Holy Grail and keep its secrets. The twist ensues, however, when it becomes revealed that the Holy Grail, rather than being the legendary "cup of Christ" that supposedly held the blood of Christ and was sought in the Middle Ages, is instead actually Mary Magdalene, who held the blood of Christ by being the mother of His children.

As the book progresses, a wholly different world of alternative histories promotes as fact the idea that Jesus Christ was merely a mortal prophet, that Mary Magdalene was in reality the wife of Jesus Christ and the mother to His child, that Christ believed in a "sacred feminine" and that a sexual rite is needed for man to experience union with the divine, that there has been a vast cover-up by the Catholic Church and Christians about all of these things and that Constantine basically "made up" Christianity for political purposes in the 4th Century A.D.

If many of these ideas were presented in a non-fiction work, the outlandish nature of these claims would be subjected to critique and exposed as the bad and distorted history that they are. Unfortunately, the way things are presented in the book, it is not as easy to understand what is true and what is false. Mr. Brown gives his main characters an outstanding knowledge of art and history and often has those characters display that knowledge while mixing in the "alternative history" as part of the descriptions. This mixing in of the true history with the untrue "alternative history" is what leads to much of the confusion regarding this book. To add to the apparent credibility of his ideas, on the first page of the novel, Mr. Brown presents some "facts" and claims that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." In doing so, Mr. Brown makes an underlying claim of accuracy and then uses the shield of fiction to present his views, giving these radical view the air of authority by having his "enlightened" characters bring to the forefront his ideas and present those ideas as well-established fact.

For instance, consider these words from Sir Leigh Teabing, a "former British Royal Historian":
"the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus' life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene." He paused. "More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ."
"I beg your pardon?" Sophie's eyes moved to Langdon and then back to Teabing.
"It's a matter of historical record," Teabing said. (1)

In addition to all the distortions presented as indisputable fact, he also makes a point that "history is written by the ‘winners'" and that therefore we cannot trust the history as recorded because it is biased against the truth that has been covered up and suppressed all these years.

EVALUATION

While Mr. Brown likes to claim that this book is based on fact and well-researched, in reality, Mr. Brown presents a work that is a lopsided presentation built upon faulty documents, personal bias, and inaccurate details.

Faulty documents
Much of the undergirding for the claims in this novel are based upon two sets of faulty documents. The first set is the Gnostic Gospels, in particular those found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Teabing speaks about these records highly, calling them, "the earliest Christian records" and uses them to support his claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

The reality is that these documents were not even close to being "the earliest Christian records." In fact, they were written well after the Gospel accounts and other books that make up the New Testament. They were rejected by the early church because of their lack of authenticity (e.g. written by people using fake names long after the named author was dead) and their departure from the Christian message as presented by the Apostles and those that followed them.

Another set of faulty documents at the core of this story is the Les Dossiers Secrets. This is the documents that Brown uses to support his list of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion - including Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton. This list is referred to a number of times to give a picture of importance to this secret organization. The problem, however, is that these documents which are presented as historically reliable were actually a forgery. Pierre Plantard, the man who supposedly found the documents, admitted under oath to a French judge in 1993 that the documents were forged - yet Brown used these documents and presented them as historically authenticated.

Personal Bias

While it is not my intention to belabor this point, Dan Brown has explained in interviews that he actually believes the underlying views that are expressed in his book. The book therefore becomes a way in which he is able to get his bias towards this view into the mainstream.

Consider these statements from an article in The Washington Post.

"I was skeptical, but after a year and a half of research, I became a believer, " says Brown.
"Do you believe that Jesus was actually married to Magdalene?" "I do," he says. (2)

When Sophie declares that she does not know much about the Bible because she was raised by a man who worshiped Leonardo Da Vinci, Teabing responds, "An enlightened soul. Superb!" (3)

Inaccurate Details

Throughout the book, Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing are presented as "experts", yet, in a number of cases, the information that they declare to the reader is actually inaccurate information - sometimes completely wrong and other times a distortion of the truth.

Robert Langdon describes the etymology of YHWH (the personal name of God) by explaining it being derived from Jehovah, when in fact Jehovah comes from a mixing of the Hebrew consonants YHWH with the Hebrew vowels for the word Adonai (another word for God or Lord).

Teabing mentions over 80 gospels, when, even with counting the very late ones written centuries after Christ, there were not anywhere close to that many.

Langdon describes Shekinah as God's "powerful female equal" rather than the cloud that represented God's glory.

Teabing claims that the idea of Christ being God came about at the Council of Nicea and was the result of a vote that was "a close vote." The reality is that the earliest Christian documents - including the books that make up our New Testament, clearly declared the deity of Jesus Christ more than two hundred years before the Council of Nicea. While it is true that the Council of Nicea affirmed the deity of Christ and stood against the heretic Arius, even that was not a "close vote" as only three of the over 300 bishops refused to sign the document affirming the deity of Christ that came out of the Council.

Many other instances like these could be pointed out in the writings.

CONCLUSION

There is much that The Da Vinci Code claims that makes for a great conspiracy theory. But, like most conspiracy theories, when confronted with the light of the truth and the facts of history, this great "alternative history" that Dan Brown espouses in the book does not stand up to scrutiny. His personal bias allows him to elevate unreliable documents to a place of primary importance and he weaves many inaccurate details into his writing to try to make his case look much stronger than it is.

As believers, we should be prepared to give an answer of the hope that lies within (I Peter 3:15). The nature of the size of this article does not allow for a full presentation of all the issues contained in The Da Vinci Code to be addressed. For a fuller discussion on these issues and other issues related to The Da Vinci Code, some valuable resources would be the book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell L. Bock, a series of articles in the publication Nick of Time written by Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and found online at http://www.centralseminary.edu/index.asp?m=701 and a section devoted to this book on the Radio Bible Class web- site at http://www.rbcdavincicode.org.



(1) Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, p. 244.
(2) Roberts, Roxanne, "The Da Vinci Code", The Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2003.
(3) Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, p. 230.


File under Culture_War, Christianity_, Book_Reviews

??Dave Doran to Replace Jim Schettler as PCC Campus Church Pastor???

ATTENTION: THOSE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON JIM SCHETTLER READ THIS POST - The Whereabouts of Pastor Jim Schettler.

This exchange on Chris Anderson's blog was too funny to be left in the obscurity of comments section.

Chris posted about the Cavs evening the series with the Pistons and made some comments about Dr. Doran and the Pistons.


Dave says
May 16th, 2006 at 8:01 pm

I have a conspiracy theory…the Pistons felt bad for the pysche of Cleveland since the Tigers were sweeping the Indians. Seems plausible to me.

No name changes for the seminary, but I tell you what. Given the title of this post (and subsequent comment), here’s what I will do if Cleveland wins–I will send my resume to Arlin Horton for consideration as the replacement for Jim Shettler. Now, if the Pistons win, then I think the YoBF Boys need to do some special music at the Church Planting conference in June. Maybe you could work on a special Motown version.


Chris Says:
May 16th, 2006 at 9:47 pm
The YoBF Boyz singing a tribute to Motown? Nice. We’d better work on our choreography.

Two things about the series, Doc. First, this post is much less confident than the notes you sent a few days back. What happened?? Second, you may be tempting fate with your rash vow about the Campus Church. Too funny. Just think of all the fans you just won for the Pistons from a certain school down south!


After Cleveland upsets Detroit in Detroit to go up 3 games to 2 in the series:

Dave Says:
May 17th, 2006 at 9:39 pm
We all do know I was kidding about that resume thing, right?


Now, that is funny!

Read the whole thread to get a better feel of the context.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Da Vinci Code Article Published; Internet Problems

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Some of you may be aware that I have been researching for an article about Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code. (I know, hasn't everybody?)

Anyway, this article has been published in the FFBC Spotlight and is available for distribution to churches. If you are interested in copies, contact Pastor Ron Whitehead of Bethel Bible Baptist Church in Penns Grove, NJ.

The article should also be available soon for reading in Adobe format at the Fellowship of Fundamental Bible Church's website (www.ffbc.ws).

I am currently experiencing internet difficulties, so I will probably not be able to post it here until at least Wednesday. (Sorry)

When I return from my internet problems, I plan on posting it and perhaps expanding on a couple of the points that could not be covered as thoroughly as I would have liked due to the formatting size needed for the Spotlight article (it is designed to be the size that it could be used for a bulletin insert).

In the meantime, if you have not already done so, check out Dr. Kevin Bauder's articles on this topic at Central Seminary.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

"Dangerous" Professors

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I have seen a couple of things lately about a man named David Horowitz and his work regarding a promotion of an Academic Bill of Rights, as well as his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

I know very little about this man, so this is not meant to be an endorsement of him. My knowlege of him basically consists of reading a few articles about him and watching most of a debate between he and Colorado Professor Ward Churchill (who is famous for calling the victims of the World Trade Center attacks "little Eichmans") over this concept of Academic Freedom. The basic premise of Mr. Horowitz's position seems to be that professors who are funded by tax-payer dollars should teach the subject that they are assigned to teach and should leave politics, religion, etc. that are not part of their subject matter out of the classrooom. I think that Mr. Horowitz has a good point in this area.

What I find interesting some of the responses to his book (mentioned above). One of the professors that he listed, Mark Levine (who teaches Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine), wrote an article on Mother Jones in which he decried Mr. Horowitz - especially the fact that Mr. Horowitz was unqualified to make comments against him because Mr. Horowitz had not read Mr. Levine's books. (I wonder if Mr. Levine has read the books of Mr. Horowitz since he uses the fact that Mr. Horowitz has not read his books as an attempt to discredit him).

Anyway, what I found particularly interesting in Mr. Levine's article was this statement.

Even if we accept that these two schools, and dozens more, have a disproportionate number of progressive faculty, how can we make generalizations about the entire post-secondary educational system from these few cases? Aren't there dangerous conservative-leaning schools as well? How about Liberty Baptist University or Bob Jones University?


Apparently, one of the qualities you need in order to be a "dangerous" professor is to not understand the difference between a private employees and government employees.

It seems to me that, in a taxpayer-funded educational system, asking for the professor to keep their teaching to the things that they are supposed to be covering makes some sense.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

We Beat L.A., now let's beat L.A. again

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Phoenix Suns finished off the L.A. Lakers in a commanding fashion last night to end what should have been an "easy" first round series against a lesser foe. I was not able to actually watch the game, but I did get to "watch" some of the play-by-play thanks to ESPN.com's GameCast.

I don't generally use this space to talk sports much, but as a lifelong Suns fan, it was great to see them come out on top in this series.

To top it off, today, Nash officially wins his second M.V.P award in a row. Very cool.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

I Don't Get It!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I have been following the discussion on Chris Anderson's Blog regarding the recent Together For the Gospel Conference. It is in many ways similar to another discussion that occurred about the Resolution of the Ohio Bible Fellowship regarding reading with caution the works of Conservative New Evangelicals.

I don't get what the big problem that Keith and others have with a word of caution that is indeed in order in these situations.

I don't want to say it over there because Dr. Doran and Pastor Anderson are handling things quite nicely without my interference, but since this is my soap box, I will go ahead and say it here: WARN AWAY!!

The reality is that the greatest need for a warning is where there is the most likely opportunity to fall.

The typical "young fundamentalist" of this generation is not being enamored with liberal Protestantism. They are not leaving the pastorate for the priesthood. They are not trading in their Bibles for Korans. They are not even discarding the principles of separation in order to preach at a Billy Graham crusade. There are some, however, who look at the good things done, written and spoken by the type of men represented by T4G and think "these are good men, smart men, successful men and they do not have a problem with lending credibility to open theism (for instance) by being associated with its main proponent in the same denomination," so maybe separation from error is not really that important. After all, how could such good men be wrong on this issue?

A lot of people have taken umbrage against the fact that the OBF (and Chris) warned against those whose ministries are most similar to their own as if it was some kind of "power play."

The reality is that in life, as well as in ministry, there are some problems that some people are more prone to fall into than others. A wise person, yea a wise shepherd, sees the need to warn and protect the sheep from the traps that are most likely to snare them.

As a teen, my parents used to joke around with me about "playing in the runway" at the airport. The reality was that they knew that would never be a problem, so we could joke about it, etc. However, when a particularly pretty blonde started to pay a lot of attention to me one summer, my dad did not joke about this issue, but rather sat me down and discussed some things that he had noticed regarding her that would help me to be more cautious when around her. Now, did I absolutely need the warning my dad issued? I would hope that the answer is "no." I had become a Christian by this time (I was saved as a Freshman in high school) and had started to develop some personal standards in this area. However, did I begrudge my dad for giving me a wise and caring caution about a situation that he thought could lead me to trouble? Absolutely not. I may have been a little embarrassed, but I appreciated his concern.

Now, judging by the responses of those like Keith on Chris' blog, one might argue, well you dad should have been out there giving you a warning every time you saw a girl or to not warn you about that particular girl if he was to be consistent. The reality is that such an argument is foolishness. There was already a general warning about relationships to the opposite sex (albeit my convictions were stronger than his in this area). Further, he knew that most of the "looser" girls were not even going to be an issue with me. He also knew that most of the more "conservative" girls that I might be interested in were not going to be a problem initially (unless I started to get too attached to them). This particular girl, however, had some very appealing qualities and did a better job at hiding the "looser" qualities than most, so my dad thought it wise to give me a warning in this area. I am thankful for that warning, even though I think I would have been fine without it.

Now, applying that example to the situation at hand. Most of the liberals and mainstream New Evangelicals do not have an appeal to the typical "young fundamentalist" (I don't like that term). Most of the conservative fundamentalists (not IFBx) are not going to be a problem unless our young fundamentalist friend begins to get too serious in following them. The conservative new evangelicals, however, have much that makes them appealing and their flaws are hidden much better than most. Be thankful for the warning. If you are strong enough and see the issues clearly enough to not need the warning, praise God. If you were getting caught up in their appeal and ignoring their flaws, then maybe the warning will be a help.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Fundamentalism_, Hot_Issues, New_Evangelicalism