Posted by: Hugh Griffiths | May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Issues | 02

Do we benefit from church history?

One of the major features of The Da Vinci Code fiction is it's use of 'history'. Prominent in the novel is the character Leigh Teabing, placed as a historical authority and specialist. As the story unfolds, he provides a supposedly factual commentary which is designed to support the conspiracy theories about the church and reveal the 'true' Jesus.

Using this type of device is an extremely clever way of planting ideas. By presenting 'history' is a factual way within the novel it is very easy to forget that this 'history' is also part of the fiction.

One writer puts it like this:

"There seems to be a widespread belief, even within the church, that the story of God’s people is dull, unimportant, or, worse, a tissue of lies. No wonder The Da Vinci Code is such a bestseller—it promises to tell the real history of the church without getting bogged down in pesky facts."

Even a basic acquaintance with early church history quickly undermines Dan Brown's plotline. Events such as the Council of Nicea in the fourth century were not closed, narrow-minded gatherings. Leading theologians and church leaders from many parts of the world met in their hundreds to establish orthodox belief and determine heresy, wrestling with key issues of doctrine and practice.

It is vital that the present church benefits from its own history. Christianity is itself a historical religion with roots stretching back to the very point of creation. The purpose and progress of the kingdom of God did not begin in our own age, instead we stand on the shoulders of the many faithful men and women who went before us. In the book of Job, one of his friends express it very well:

"Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?" (Job 8:8-10)

We cannot afford to lose the voices and events of the past who often wrestled with exactly the same issues that challenge us now in contemporary culture. The heresies and errors presented as 'facts' or promoted in the latest books are never new.

Perhaps we should listen again to men such as C.S Lewis who said that a reader of history was like a man who has lived in many places. This man "is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age." ("Learning in War-Time," in The Weight of Glory.)

I am not proposing that we should all be scholars of church history, simply that we do not neglect the heritage and learning of God's people from past centuries. Particularly when faced with major shifts in orthodoxy and practice such as those suggested by the proponents of the emerging church, it is vital that we remain alive to the testimony of the heroes of the faith, the 'cloud of witnesses' (Heb.12:1), that has gone ahead of us.

Previously:

icon_pdf_small.gifDa Vinci Code.pdf| Fiction – it's exactly that!

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Responses

  1. Hugh, I couldn’t agree with you more!
    One of the great dangers for those desiring to break new ground for God is that they despise their past. Even Elijah, the great prophet, in a low moment exclaimed “I am no better than my ancestors.”God then took him on a potted history tour of his ancestor Moses – eating angelic food in the wilderness, and a journey of forty days to the mount of God where he witnessed God’s glory pass by. Not something to be lightly dismissed! Part of the prophetic ministry of Elijah the church has inherited is to “turn the hearts of children to their fathers.” To break new ground for God does not mean we must sever our ties to the past, but rather embrace them all, but then use them as a starting point to go further. Just as Jesus declared that those who followed him would do “even greater things.”

    If we are ignorant of our history we are destined to repeat it. Making the same mistakes, and wasting time re-inventing the wheel in arguments that were resolved centuries ago. And as this book shows, ignorance of our history leaves us wide open to attack for those who would try to distort or re-write it.

    Allow me to plug again “Eusebius’ History of the Church” for anyone who wants to find out the inspiring story of what really happened in the first four centuries after Christ.

  2. Awesome post, Hugh.

    I am having a thought. If anything good comes from all of this, maybe it WILL BE the awareness that we as the Corporate Body of Christ must be in touch with and connected to the Word of God and the testimony of those who have gone before us. This will ground us and keep us connected to the overall intentions and plan of God.

    I am thinking that God is not a god of disorder. He is a God of great order; and He has a plan and purpose in everything that He does. Nothing in the Kingdom, past nor present, New Covenant nor Old, is an isolated blurb on the spiritual radar screen. He works all things TOGETHER.

    So…I wholeheartedly agree with you: In order to understand our faith in the present – and in order to avoid the pitfalls of the past – we must be connected to that which has gone before. Lord Jesus our God has great things in store for us – I believe, in the not-so-distant future. I am thinking that it would probably be very good for us as the people of God to learn our lesson very well now…and we can use the Da Vinci Code nuisance as an opportunity to do that.


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