Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Part six of series examining The Da Vinci Code; exposing Dan Brown’s errors and showing the truth of history and the Bible.

Decoding The Da Vinci Code – Part 6

“Counting M&M’s or Choosing Ice Cream?”

How many M&M’s are in this jar? (Have them guess).

It isn’t a matter of opinion. There is a correct number.

Picture of ice cream cones

What is the best ice cream flavor and brand? (Have some give answer). Mine is Graeter’s, found in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the best flavor is double chocolate chunk – describe finding the chunks like finding the holy grail of ice cream experience.

When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, which is it more like? Estimating the number of M&Ms in a jar, a fact that can be verified? Or choosing your favorite ice cream, a purely subjective decision?

The problem is that a large majority of Americans (even American Christians) do not believe in the existence of absolute truth. In other words, they do no accept that what is right or true for one person is universally true for another – in any area of life.

Video Clip – interviews – “What Is Absolute Truth?” (from Sermonspice.com)

The reality is that most people today feel the realm of faith and truth about faith is more like choosing ice cream than counting M&M’s. Truth is a matter of opinion or personal preference, they say. It’s relative. Therefore, they don’t feel they can tell another person what they ought to believe, since whatever that person already believes is true for them under this system.

As a result, many are no longer sure there is such a thing as truth, objective reality, or a God who is knowable. Many are scanning the list of options like a menu of ice cream flavors, unaware God has made himself known, and he can be identified in an objective way.

As I bring this series of messages to a close today, understand this: One of the reasons that The Da Vinci Code is so popular is that it suggests – not so subtly - that faith is not an objective quest but a subjective one. Dan Brown wants us to feel that faith is something that we choose like ice cream. He hints many times at what is known as Gnosticism.

Some 20 years after she wrote a book called The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels wrote a book called Beyond Belief. She plays a big part in Dan Brown’s work in writing The Da Vinci Code. In a particularly candid and confessional part of her book, Pagels talks about how she had been alienated from Christian faith while in high school: She was part of an evangelical church when a Jewish friend died, and her fellow Christians told her that since the friend was not born again, she was going to hell.

Though this turned her off from the church, she maintained a lively interest in New Testament studies and the early church. While doing doctoral work at Harvard, she had what she considered an epiphany. She was reading the Gospel of Thomas (which we talked about a few weeks ago) when she came across this alleged saying of Jesus: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.”

She comments: “The strength of this saying is that it does not tell us what to believe but challenges us to discover what lies hidden within ourselves; and with a shock of recognition, I realized that this perspective seemed to me self evidently true.”

A comparison of the false Gospel of Thomas and the true Gospel of John reveals how far down this road she has traveled. In John, there is an “I and God” relationship, a vine and branches relationship, that involves an essential connection between Jesus Christ and us for salvation. But in Thomas, it is a matter of “I am God.” The self is deified and is seen as the finish line of faith.

Here we find the appeal to personal impressions or experience as the final authority. The believer is not asked to believe specific things that come from without (by revelation), nor to submit to any authority but the self. Instead, we are to be the measure of ourselves and to find our own truths within us.

In this book, we see Pagels’s story of suffering and feeling betrayed, and her long spiritual journey to a reconfigured perversion of Christianity. And it is evident that the Gnostic texts have helped lead her in that direction.

What Elaine Pagels has done is what a large number of people in America have done. They have decided that matters of faith are in the realm of the subjective. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere. Now, in our more rational moments, we know that is absurd, but it is also a comfortable place to be. It is non-threatening. It does not require much of you. It allows you to feel good about almost everyone’s beliefs. But ignorance is not always bliss.

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