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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Heresy, History, and Dan Brown

Since I am writing on heresy, I decided to familiarize myself with the most popular heresy in the past few years: The DaVinci Code. Full disclosure: It was recommended that I read it by my New Testament professor. His reason: “Your parishioners are reading it.” Much as Hippolytus examined over a hundred heresies and refuted them in “A Refutation of All Heresies”, we would be ill informed indeed if we did not examine that opinion which we wish to make a decision upon.
(This point has implications beyond the theological – specifically, the cultural and political, but I digress).

Further full disclosure: I have never read anything about the DaVinci Code. I just heard it was anti-Christian. I have checked out a book by Ehrman that refutes it, but have yet to read it. Thus, while I already have a negative view of the book, I was able to keep that in check until somewhere around the two-thirds point. My beef with Dan Brown is this: not that he wrote a story, but that he wrote a lie. The book is a great read! Clearly Mr. Brown is gifted with a talent for writing. However, he changes from story to heresy with a one-sentence note in the front of the book, which reads something to the effect (the book is at home and I am at work) of:

“All secret societies, rituals, art and documents described are fact.”

I don’t know secret societies, or their rituals. I am ignorant of the art described. Unfortunately for Mr. Brown’s premise, I know documents…and he is either willfully ignorant or a liar.

Brown says that “Constantine cut down the Gospels to four books”. Brown is using the Council of Nocea, AD 325 as his watermark. The specified and implied “facts” are:

1) Constantine was in charge of the Council of Nicea
2) There were many legitimate Gospels at the time
3) The Council came up with a canon that did not include the “real” Gospels.

Without going into further detail on the Canon, and segueing into the historical arguments for attacking heresy, I present in its entirety, the testimony of Irenaeus, A.D. 160, 175 years before the Council (of which no canon actually came out of!):

WE have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.2 For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews3 in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
Irenaeus, Against the Heresies , Book III, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1

Exhortations and justification for fighting heresy are below, all from before the Council of Nicea (which Dan Brown also says the word “heresy” came out of. Whoops again!)

If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.
Irenaeus, Book III, Chapter 1, Para 2

It behoves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them

Irenaeus, Book V, Chapter XX, Para 2

Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers5 and the holy virtues;6 it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points.

Origen (A.D. 230), De Principiis, Introduction

But none will refute these, save the Holy Spirit bequeathed unto the Church, which the Apostles, having in the first instance received, have transmitted to those who have rightly believed. But we, as being their successors, and as participators in this grace, high-priesthood, and office of teaching, as well as being reputed guardians of the Church, must not be found deficient in vigilance, or disposed to suppress correct doctrine. Not even, however, labouring with every energy of body and soul, do we tire in our attempt adequately to render our Divine Benefactor a fitting return; and yet withal we do not so requite Him in a becoming manner, except we are not remiss in discharging the trust committed to us, but careful to complete the measure of our particular opportunity, and to impart to all without grudging whatever the Holy Ghost supplies, not only bringing to light, by means of our refutation, matters foreign (to our subject), but also whatsoever things the truth has received by the grace of the Father, and ministered to men. These also, illustrating by argument and creating testimony by letters, we shall unabashed proclaim
Hippolytus (A.D. 225), A Refutation of All Heresies, Book I, Preface.

Thus, we can see that the early church fathers were fighting heresy, just as the apostles were. Clearly, the early church fighting heresy is an example we are to emulate, for the very reasons they put forth.

The next posts will have, in order, the definition of what heresy is (and what it is not), further filleting of The DaVinci Code, and, by request, the question of Catholic heresy.


  • Good stuff so far! I look forward to the rest of the series.

    By Blogger rev-ed, at 10/13/2005 01:53:00 PM  

  • I remember once as a kid reading a novel that just felt like it was lying to me, which was strange. How can a piece of fiction lie? I enjoyed the book, but couldn't get over that weird vibe.

    Well, the novel was from L. Ron Hubbard (Invasion Plan, I think, though it could have been Battlefield Earth, I forget now. I read both.) At the time I didn't know who Hubbard was; in retrospect it isn't so surprising his book felt like a lie.

    BTW: As far as the Mary as Jesus' wife concept goes, do you think that is in complete conflict with the Bible or uncovered territory?

    By Blogger Mark, at 10/13/2005 02:05:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    Because the Argument from Silence is an invalid fallacy, it is not a simple task to say that Mary, as Jesus' wife, is in complete conflict with the Bible. However, if we are to assume that such an idea is an omitted truth, we would have to come up with a logical reason to omit it. Considering that marriage was viewed as a positive thing in the time of Christ, and that his association with "sinners" in general was widely known, and honestly, scandalous, there seems to be little validity to the idea.

    Mary Magdalene is only mentioned in three instances - the crucifixion, the resurrection, and as one of whom Christ cast out seven devils. As she is described as being "of Magdala" a town in Galilee, she must have had a home there. If she had a home, and was married to Jesus, I doubt he would have said, "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

    Good comparison to the L. Ron Hubbard book. I read one of the magazine he was putting out when I was a kid - I think I picked it up in a train station. The Whole Truth, or something like that...I can't remember (too many blows to the head).

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 10/13/2005 03:43:00 PM  

  • Hammer:

    A great refutation of the lies, inaccuracies and fallacies in Brown's 'DaVinci Code' has been written by Amy Welborn:

    Brown's book is a novel, so he claims it is not meant to be 'history' as such. He does, however, carry on some long standing lies and innacuracies in his novel, and his writing is engrossing and well written, so that you have a feeling that it is fact if you are uneducated on the subject.

    By Blogger John B., at 10/13/2005 04:44:00 PM  

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