'The Da Vinci Code' — Welcome to the Battle!
by Erwin Lutzer, Ph.D. from Focus on the Family at this LINK
"We are presenting these texts as sacred books and sacred scriptures of the Gnostics."
These words are found in the introduction to The Gnostic Bible, a collection of documents which some believe give an alternate interpretation of the early days of Christianity. These writings lie at the heart of The Da Vinci Code and other kinds of esoteric literature that insist that originally Christianity was diverse with no strict doctrines as found in the New Testament. In fact, according to this scenario, what we now call heresy was originally the teaching of the church; it is we, the traditionalists, who are the heretics!
Welcome to the battle for the Canon!
The word canon originally referred to a measuring rod. Later, it was applied to those books that "measured up" to the standard of divine inspiration and hence were regarded as authoritative by the early church. These books were collected over a period of time; and later generations have always contended that the canon is closed — not open for revision or the inclusion of new material.
Today, this is being challenged. Some want to include the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas in the canon, and others insist that The Gnostic Bible as a whole is a competing canon more in tune with the diversity of our do-it-yourself generation. These scholars insist that Christianity needs a makeover.
So, whose version of Christianity is most credible?
The Gnostics were teachers who combined Christianity with Greek philosophy. They believed that through special knowledge (gnosis means knowledge), salvation was possible. Jesus was presented in their writings as a teacher who could bring enlightenment, but his death and resurrection were not necessary for salvation. In fact, because of the influence of Greek philosophy, which taught that matter was evil, the Gnostics almost universally denied both the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
So, why should we reject their teachings and accept those of the New Testament?
In short, for three reasons:
First, the Gnostic writings are dated after the events of the New Testament had long passed. For example, my Gnostic Bible says the Gospel of Philip (which refers to Jesus and Mary Magdalene) was written in Syria in 250 A.D. So, I must ask: Whose description of George Washington would have more credibility — that of eyewitnesses who knew him or teachers who lived 200 years after his time?
Second, the Gnostic writings have fraudulent authorship. No one — not even those who are most in favor of Gnostic Christianity — believe that the disciple Philip actually wrote The Gospel of Philip, or that Thomas actually wrote The Gospel of Thomas. The Gnostics were known to ascribe their writings to apostles to gain credibility. In the New Testament, Paul refers to this popular practice and warns his readers about such deceivers (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3).
Finally, the clincher: The Gnostics have no historical ties to the Old Testament but, rather, have their historical link to Plato. Many of the Gnostics believed in two different gods: They believed that the god who created the world failed when trying to make it perfect, but the second god has made things better. They taught many notions that are contradicted in the Old Testament, and thus made no claim that what they believed was consistent with previous Scriptures.
Read the Gnostic Gospels, and you will be not be struck with their similarity to the New Testament but, rather, their radical differences. In the New Testament, Jesus is not just a great teacher but a Savior; indeed, the book of Hebrews shows in detail how he fulfills the whole sacrificial system of the book of Leviticus. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the prediction of "Someone greater than Moses" as found in Deuteronomy are fulfilled in Jesus with breathtaking detail.
I was standing in line at a bookstore when the man ahead of me was purchasing a copy of The Gnostic Bible. The woman behind the counter said, "You will enjoy reading this . . . it will give you an entirely different picture of Christianity."
Of course, I could not let that pass. I smiled and said, "Do you realize that the Gnostics were not eyewitnesses? And did you know that the early church was aware of these teachings and refuted them? The New Testament has much more historical credibility."
To which she replied, "Well, we all have our interpretations, but I prefer The Gnostic Bible."
And this explains why many who read The Da Vinci Code are prone to believe it: Forget historical investigation; forget the need for consistency; forget the need for continuity with the Old Testament. It comes down to the desire to have a tolerant faith that lets us pick-and-choose our beliefs, cafeteria style.
If we bring this battle for the canon back to rationality, consistency and historical investigation, we have nothing to fear. We can't compete with people's desires, but we can show that all the hard evidence is on our side.