Summary: This message deals with the likely possibility of people choosing to believe both the Bible and The Da Vinci Code. It addresses the issues of absolute truth and syncretism.
The Issue: “Few will choose to totally dismiss the Bible and believe instead in The Da Vinci Code; there is a greater danger, though, of many choosing to believe both the Bible and The Da Vinci Code.”
- I imagine that relatively few people will choose, after having read The Da Vinci Code, to completely buy into its line of thought and totally reject the Bible. There will be some, but they will be relatively few.
- The greater likelihood, I believe, is that people will come away from the novel or the book thinking that some of it is probably true while still believing that the Bible is also true.
- The fact that the two books makes conflicting claims is not a problem for the mindset of most Americans. George Barna (Virtual America, 1994) asked Americans if they agree with the following statement: “There is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct.” The results? 72% of Americans agreed with that statement! 72%! Despite the fact that it is an obviously ridiculous notion.
- The idea in play here is called “syncretism,” or to put it a more colorful way - welcome to the salad bar! Syncretism is a fancy word for the very common belief today that you can combine elements of different “belief systems” - a little Christianity, a little Buddhism, a little American dream, etc. - and create your own custom faith. It’s kind of like going to the salad bar - choose what you like and leave what you don’t like.
- For example, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar argues, “I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in an idea of God, although it’s my own personal ideal. I find most religions interesting, and I’ve been to every kind of denomination: Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist. I’ve taken bits from everything and customized it” (from Christianity Today). Her misuse of the term “denomination” notwithstanding, she’s a shining example of syncretism.
- It doesn’t really matter, syncretism says, if some of those beliefs are contradictory - just choose what you like and put it together. (For instance, Gallup found that 20% of born-again believers believe in reincarnation and 26% believe in astrology, despite that fact that those ideas are ardently anti-biblical.)
- People often utilize a salad bar approach to their opinion of the teaching in the Bible. They like the idea of God’s unconditional love, so they’ll keep that; but the idea of an eternal hell seems a bit harsh, so they’ll ditch that. They like the idea of Jesus’ compassion, so they’ll keep that; but the idea of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross pointing to our desperate sinfulness is unpleasant, so they’ll ditch that.
- In our situation this morning, many may choose, despite the conflicting claims of the two books, to choose to syncretize a little Da Vinci with a little Bible. Maybe Jesus did die on the cross, but maybe He was also married to Mary Magdalene. Maybe He did rise from the dead, but maybe there also are secret societies that are withholding some of the truth about Jesus.
- The idea that the Bible puts forward is the idea of absolute truth. That’s the idea that what the Bible puts forward is 100% true, without mixture of error, and (this is important) that it’s still true whether you choose to believe it or not.
- Let’s look at three questions that will help us to understand how empty the idea of syncretism really is.
1. “Does it really matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere?”
- We put a premium on sincerity. In fact, we prize it to such an extent that we say things like, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.” The only problem is that if you think about that for longer than two seconds you realize what a nonsensical statement that is.
- You can be sincere in your beliefs. . . and be sincerely wrong. I can sincerely believe that I can jump off our church and not be hurt, but that’s not going to make a difference when the ambulance is taking me to the hospital with two broken ankles.
- When Evan (our oldest child) was young, when we went to put him down for the night, if he would cry for longer than a couple minutes, we would go back in and pick him up and rock him some more. We sincerely thought that letting a baby lie in bed crying was bad parenting. . . and we were sincerely wrong! By the time we had our second child, we realized that even if they cry a little bit at first, letting them know that bedtime is bedtime is better for them. . . and Mom and Dad.