Sermon #4 – Error 10: “Is Christianity a Creative Patchwork of Religions?”
Pastor Wes Johnson May 21, 2006 Selected Scriptures
Today, we begin with an excerpt from an Associated Press story about the screening of The Da Vinci Code for the Cannes Film Festival critics:
‘Da Vinci Code’ Misses the Mark for Critics
May 17, 8:58 AM (ET)
by Richard Germain
CANNES, France (AP) – “The Da Vinci Code” drew lukewarm praise, shrugs of indifference, some jeering laughter and a few derisive jabs Tuesday from arguably the world’s toughest movie crowd: critics at the Cannes Film Festival.
The year’s most anticipated movie, “The Da Vinci Code” was a generally faithful adaptation of Dan Brown’s monster best seller, spinning a murder thriller that stems from a cover-up of secrets about Christianity’s roots.
While readers worldwide devoured the novel, reaction from Cannes critics ranged from mild endorsement of its potboiler suspense to groans of ridicule over its heavy melodrama.
“It’s a movie about whether the greatest story ever told is true or not, and it’s not the greatest movie ever screened, is it?” said Baz Bamigboye, a film columnist for London ‘s Daily Mail. “As a thriller, well,” he continued, shrugging.
“Maybe the next day I’ll forget about it,” said Igor Soukmanov of Unistar Radio in Belarus . …
Critics got their first look at “The Da Vinci Code” a day before its world premiere at Cannes on Wednesday, when it also debuts at theaters in France and some other countries. The film opens worldwide over the following two days, including the United States on Friday.
Well, we’ll see how popular the movie is. But the book is the number one selling novel of all time. The Bible remains the world’s top-selling book by a wide margin.
In this series, we’ve answered some outrageous theories that The Da Vinci Code presents as facts in the storyline. We’ve taught these, not because we’ve wanted to, but because a ‘neighborhood bully’ has come into our yard and stood taunting us. I have felt compelled to answer the bully’s accusations. I don’t want any of our flock to get beat up by his false boasts and taunts. So now you know how to fight back against the arguments that, if believed, would undermine a person’s faith in the Christ of the Bible.
So today we conclude with Error #10.
Error #10: Dan Brown asserts that Christianity is a copycat religion; that the story of Christ is a made-up fiction that borrows its major teachings from ancient religions.
DVC character Sir Leigh Teabing says:
“Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras—called the Son of God and The Light of the World—was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days.” (DVC 232)
This statement, made by Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, accuses the New Testament Church of “borrowing its teachings from stories about another god who is described in pagan traditions.” The clear implication, of course, is that Christianity is based on mythology — stolen mythology at that. (Erwin W. Lutzer, The Da Vinci Deception, p. 125)
Brown overlooks the fact that these mystery religions were just that—mysteries. Their teachings were kept in the dark and under wraps. Their followers never wrote down the teachings, whatever they were. So today, people can say almost anything they like about the so-called teachings of the mystery religions, because those teachings are, largely, a mystery.
But as usual, Dan Brown doesn’t let a lack of material stop him from making outrageous accusations against the historic roots of Christianity.
Answer: The Old Testament Predicted the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Hundreds of Years before the Mystery Religions surfaced.
They stole from us, not us from them.
The Bible Predicts …
Christ’s Virgin Birth
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Christ’s Title as Son of God
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Christ’s Death by Crucifixion
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
His Ascension into Heaven
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
“What seems most probable is that the specific myths about Mithras’ miraculous birth and becoming a ‘savior god’ were modeled after the stories of Jesus and developed after Christianity came to Rome in the first century.” (Lutzer, p. 127)
“Most mystery religions, however, flourished long after the closing of the canon of Scripture. Therefore, it would be more proper to say that Christianity influenced mystery religions, rather than the other way around. A careful observation of the mystery religion stories reveals there is a vast difference between the events recorded in the New Testament and the mythologies of the mystery religions. The mysteries were rooted in emotionalism and fantasy. In contrast, Christianity is rooted in history and evidence. The mysteries were a combination of many religious systems, worshipping numerous deities. Christianity is rooted in the consistent revelation of one God who ordained the pure and spotless sacrifice of His Son in payment for man’s sin.” (“The Top 10 Errors Found in The Da Vinci Code” compiled by Alex McFarland.)
But there is a second answer that speaks to the source of the spiritual impulses in the heart of man.
Answer: The Ancient Pagan Myths express longings of the human heart that are fulfilled in the Reality of Jesus Christ.
When C. S. Lewis was a young man, he had a deep love for the ancient Nordic myths and legends. These old stories aroused in him a longing that would not go away. He felt there was something wonderfully joyous about stories of heroes who rescued the maiden and won the day, of adventures on the seas, of invasions of the underworld and victories over death. Could these stories in some sense be true? He longed for them to be true.
“It occurred to Lewis while studying the Gospels that if ever a myth were realized in historical time and space, ‘it would be just like this.’
“He was struck in particular by the Gospels’ distinctive literary character and by their representations of Jesus. As literature, the Gospels are in some ways like the ancient myths or the ancient histories, he noted, but in their total character they are not like anything else. More important, no person in any literature is like the New Testament figure of Jesus: as real as Socrates, ‘yet also numinous, lit from a light from beyond the world, a god.’ The force of this impression brought Lewis to Christianity. He found in Christ the source of the truth and delight he had known in pagan mythology.” http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=73 (“The Word of God As True Myth ,” by Gary Dorrien )
Lewis is not saying that the Christ story is a fairy tale. He is saying that the deep longings that the fairy tales addressed are satisfied in the true story that is the Christ story.
Returning to Dan Brown’s premise, some questions arise:
Q: Since Dan Brown believes that Christianity is a patchwork religion, then why not sew on a new patch whenever we feel the need?
Answer: Our experience of faith is based on truth that God has revealed once for all.
Our faith is a received faith. God revealed it by His Spirit. And it changes our lives forever. Paul wrote that he learned these things from the Lord himself:
1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (emphasis added)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
This actually happened. Paul and his fellow preachers did not invent this religion. When we receive the Lord’s Supper, we remember the historical event of Christ’s death and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (emphasis added)
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. …
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
God gave us this truth. Our founders did not make it up. We need to respect it and not simply add on a new teaching whenever it strikes our fancy.
Q: What about the claim that one religion is as good as another?
Erwin W. Lutzer writes, “At the Parliament (of World Religions in 1993) I met people who said, ‘I’m a Christian Buddhist,’ or ‘I’m into New Age Christianity.’ People spoke about taking the best from the religious smorgasbord and creating their own particular combination and preference of beliefs … Gnosticism is making a comeback in Christian circles because it is so in sync with our overwhelming move toward religious diversity, an attitude that insists that the path to the divine cannot be well-defined.” (The Da Vinci Deception, pp. 133-134)
Popular spirituality teaches:
“No one religion is superior to another”
“Doctrine is a record of faith, not of truth”
“Trying to convert others is a bad thing”
“Just find an experience that works for you”
Now the ancient mystery religions were all about private revelation and private truth. No one was supposed to reveal to others what the divine had supposedly revealed to you.
And modern spirituality works much the same way. Our so-called “New Age” spirituality is all about whatever each person wants it to be about. Dan Brown’s plotline fits quite nicely into this religious environment.
But Christianity is different. It is private truth—it changes a person’s life forever. But it is private truth given for a public purpose. It is as though you are attending a concert in a great auditorium, and suddenly your cell phone rings, and an anonymous voice warns you that there is a bomb in the building, and if you doubt it, just look under the Chair 17 in the 5th Row. You look under the chair in front of you, and sure enough, there it is. You take a close look, and see a timer on the bomb. You read the meter, and notice that there are seven minutes left before the bomb goes off. Now that is all what we’d call “private knowledge.” No one else knows. But it is private knowledge that is meant for a pubic purpose. It’s not enough that you get up and leave the building. “Excuse me, pardon me, I’ve got to be going now.” No. More is required. This truth is not just about you. This is truth that is owed to everyone in the room. You stand up and interrupt the concert. “Excuse me, everyone, but we all need to leave the building NOW. There is a bomb under the chair in front of me, and we all need to leave NOW.”
Answer: “Christianity is fundamentally different and only superficially the same as other religions and philosophies. It is indeed an original.” (Erwin W. Lutzer, The Da Vinci Deception, p. 128).
Q: But how is Christianity different from other religions?
(Material from The Da Vinci Deception by Erwin W. Lutzer, pp.138-139)
1) There is a God and He is not you.
Far from believing that God is essentially like us, Christians understand the Bible’s clear teaching that He is the personal Creator, Sustainer and Judge to whom we must give account.
2) We have a problem with sin.
The Bible presents God as being completely different from us—he is pure, sinless, and without defect. We have transgressed God’s laws and are not capable of returning to fellowship with our Creator on our own.
3) We need God to save us.
Other religions teach that we can save ourselves. The Bible teaches that only the sacrifice of Jesus, the divine man, can bring us into the presence of God whose justice we have offended.
We end this series with a parable:
A CRY FOR HELP
Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived:
Happiness, Sadness, and all of the others, including Love.
One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all
repaired their boats and left.
Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to persevere until the last
When the island was almost sinking, Love decided to ask for help.
Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat. Love said, “Richness, can you
take me with you?” Richness answered, “No I can’t. There is a lot of gold
and silver in my boat. There is no place for you here.”
Love decided to ask Vanity, who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel,
“Vanity, please help me!” “I can’t help you Love. You are all wet and might
damage my boat,” Vanity answered.
Sadness was close by so Love asked for help, “Sadness let me go with you.”
“Oh…Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!”
Happiness passed by Love too, but she was so happy that she did not even
hear when Love called her!
Suddenly, there was a voice, “Come Love, I will take you.” It was an elder.
Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that he even forgot to ask the elder her
When they arrived at dry land, the elder went her own way. Love, realizing
how much he owed the elder, asked Knowledge, another elder, “Who helped me?”
“It was Time,” Knowledge answered.
“Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?
Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is
capable of understanding how great Love is.”
(The Timothy Report, www.timothyreport.com, May 15, 2006)