Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A response to Da Vinci Code

The Last Supper - picture of Leonardo Da Vinci

By Roger Cotton

The Da Vinci Code claims to be only a novel and as such I found it to be very engaging. It fabricates a very recent search for the Holy Grail, which it proposes is really secret documents showing that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and produced a royal bloodline. The use of a narrator, who comments philosophically and theologically on life, religion, and the church — using exaggerated language — causes those assertions within the novel to sound like truths we should consider — hidden truths we need to recover to free ourselves from the lies of the church. That interests people and sells books.

However, a leading New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington III, in his book The Gospel Code, (InterVarsity, 2004), responding to The Da Vinci Code, said: “It can be quite entertaining but also misleading. We need to treat this book as what it really is—not historical fiction but almost entirely fiction, at least when it comes to its assumptions and assertions about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and early Christianity” (p. 27).

I would like to clarify both the major mistakes in relation to church history and the Bible, and as well, the key points of our Christian faith from the Scriptures which are opposed by the ideas of this book. I am indebted to Witherington’s excellent research into the facts.

The first major fiction asserted in the book is that there are many other documents equal to or better than our four Gospels, which the church has suppressed, and which would exalt the “sacred feminine” and teach that Jesus was only human and not divine. The truth is that all other such documents (around 20, not 80) are clearly written after the writing of the New Testament. They are by groups outside the mainstream of the Early Church. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish and say nothing about Jesus. The Gnostic Gospels that Brown often refers to actually teach that the material world is evil, including sex, and that men should be in authority over women. These ideas are contrary to what Brown’s book teaches and yet he claims these documents support his ideas that are in opposition to the Bible. Brown says these documents clearly state that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but Witherington shows that he misquotes these documents. Furthermore, they were never on any one’s list of inspired, authoritative, Scriptures.

A second major area of fiction is that Constantine and the church council of Nicea brought in the new, unbiblical, teaching that Christ is divine and voted out the truth of His humanity and marriage to Mary Magdalene and eliminated the books that taught those things. The truth is the council did not propose the beliefs stated in the creeds or the list of canonical Scriptures but formalized what the majority had believed all along. The New Testament clearly always taught that Jesus is God, John 1:1-3,18; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 1:2,3; 1 John 5:20.

The third fiction is that the Church was threatened by the idea of Jesus having a wife and children because then He could not be divine and the Church would lose its powerful claim to be the only way to God. On the contrary, the Bible clearly claims that Jesus is the only way to God and the Church does not control the way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). On the other point, the Bible teaches that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is fully God and fully human so that He could have married and had children but He chose not to, in the plan of God.

Regarding the idea of the “sacred feminine” and the sacredness of sex the Bible and Christianity do not put down sex but affirm that it is very special and belongs only in marriage. However, it is not a route to spiritual fulfillment and experience of God as claimed in the book (p. 310). The whole Bible is against bringing sex into worship as the heathen have done since ancient times. The Bible clearly opposes all goddess worship. The One True God is neither male nor female but Jesus uses the term Father and teaches us to do the same. One major reason for not referring to God as mother is that, as Elizabeth Achtemeier has shown, in “Why God is not Mother” Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, it leads to the idea of God giving birth to us and thus lowering God to be one with us and with nature and raising us up to be gods.

The Da Vinci Code expresses many of the current popular ideas of our world and helps us see where the issues are for our faith. The attitudes encouraged by this book which are the most serious opposition to the truth God has revealed in the Scriptures are the following: to depersonalize God, to bring God down to our level and us up to deity—taking away from His holiness, to deny the need for a savior outside of ourselves and the need of repentance that sees ourselves as dead without Christ, to treat Jesus as only a great man, to deny that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, to make sex a part of worship, to take away most objective moral law, to deny that there is any absolute truth, to make our experiences the only spiritual/religious authority for our lives, and to disregard history as of any value.

The main Bible truths I think we must be clear on and affirm continually are the following: 1) God is personal, acting for our good in the world, which He created and from which He is totally distinct, and communicating openly with us in real human language, written down in the Bible, and not in hidden codes. 2) God made us, loves us, and wants to restore the personal, intimate, everlasting relationship we broke with Him through our selfish choices. He has provided the only way to Him through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, the Christ, who is fully God and fully human. He gives our lives meaning and purpose. 3) He made us to enjoy the greatest fulfillment through a life in harmony with His will, character, and values, through the Holy Spirit. This includes keeping sexual intimacy and intercourse within a life-long, exclusive, marital (male-female), relationship.

In conclusion, the best antidote is reading and meditating on the truth in the Scriptures and keeping our relationship with the Lord fresh and experiential. Here are some of the clear statements of the Scriptures that give some of the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 1:1-5, 10-12, 14, 18; 3:16-18; 14:6, Acts 4:12; 10:34-43; 17:30-31; Romans 1:16-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 17-19; 2 Timothy 3:15-16; Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 John 1:2,3, 5-2:2; 4:1-16; 5:1-5, 11-12, 18-21; Revelation 22:12-17.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reverend Rick Warren and Obama Inauguration Day

This Pastor was invited by Barack Obama to conduct the Inauguration Day prayer.

Rick Warren

On Faith/Washington Post

The Reverend Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” (2002), founded Saddleback Church in 1980 with one family. Today, the church has 83,000 members, of whom about 23,000 attend weekly services on its 120-acre campus in Lake Forest, Calif.

The Purpose Driven Life sold more than 30 million copies in English and became an international best-seller, translated into more than 50 languages. The “On Faith” panelist addresses priests and pastors at cross-denominational Christian training events organized through the Purpose Driven Network.

More than 700,000 church leaders in 163 countries have attended such gatherings. Warren also founded as a resource for clergy, and in 1995 authored The Purpose Driven Church, which is used as a seminary textbook. Warren advises international leaders on poverty, health, education, corruption, leadership development, and faith and ethics in culture.

He has spoken at the United Nations, the Global Health Summit, and the World Economic Forum in Davos. He originated the Global P.E.A.C.E. plan to Partner with local churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

He and his wife Kay donate 90% of their income to three charities: Acts of Mercy, which provides assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS; Equipping Leaders, which trains leaders in developing countries; and the Global Peace Fund, which facilitates congregations, businesses, and governments’ coordinated efforts to fight poverty, disease, and corruption.

Source: Newsweek.Washington Post


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greetings from Michelle Obama

Message got from Michelle Obama


"This holiday season, the grassroots movement you helped build can make a big difference for those in need.

I hope you will join me in supporting your favorite charity or contributing to causes that are especially meaningful to me and my family.

While many of us will spend the holidays counting our blessings and sharing dinner with loved ones, millions of people around the country won't be so fortunate. Donating to your local food bank will help provide a holiday meal to people in your community who can't afford one.

Talking with the families of deployed troops was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during the campaign. Giving to Operation USO Care Package is a great way to send members of our military stationed around the world a reminder that someone back home is thinking of them.

This is a time to celebrate our blessings, the new year, and a new era for our country. But it's also a time to come together on behalf of those who need our help.

Do what you can to help today by locating your local food bank and giving your support:

Or send a care package to an American in uniform:

Thank you for all that you do and have a very happy holiday season,"



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sermon: Rediscovering the lost precious values

Author: Pastor Martin Luther King

Detroit, February 28, 1954

Reverend Simmons, platform associates, members and friends of Second Baptist Church, I need not pause to say how happy I am to be here this morning, and to be a part of this worship service. It is certainly with a deal of humility that I stand in this pulpit so rich in tradition and history. Second Baptist Church, as you know, has the reputation of being one of the great churches of our nation, and it is certainly a challenge that, for me to stand here this morning, to be in the pulpit of Reverend Banks and of a people who are so great and rich in tradition.

I'm not exactly a stranger in the city of Detroit, for I have been here several times before. And I remember back in about 1944 or 1945, somewhere back in there, that I came to Second Baptist Church for the first time I think that was the year that the National Baptist Convention met here. And of course I have a lot of relatives in this city, so that Detroit is really something of a second home for me, and I don't feel too much a stranger here this morning. So it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege for me to be in this city this morning, and to be here to worship with you in the absence of your very fine and noble pastor, Dr. Banks.

I want you to think with me this morning from the subject: "Rediscovering Lost Values." "Rediscovering Lost Values." There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don't think we have to look too far to see that. I'm sure that most of you would agree with me in making that assertion. And when we stop to analyze the cause of our world's ills, many things come to mind.

We begin to wonder if it is due to the fact that we don't know enough. But it can't be that. Because in terms of accumulated knowledge we know more today than men have known in any period of human history. We have the facts at our disposal. We know more about mathematics, about science, about social science, and philosophy than we've ever known in any period of the world's history. So it can't be because we don't know enough.

And then we wonder if it is due to the fact that our scientific genius lags behind. That is, if we have not made enough progress scientifically. Well then, it can't be that. For our scientific progress over the past years has been amazing. Man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains, so that today it's possible to eat breakfast in New York City and supper in London, England. Back in about 1753 it took a letter three days to go from New York City to Washington, and today you can go from here to China in less time than that. It can't be because man is stagnant in his scientific progress. Man's scientific genius has been amazing.

I think we have to look much deeper than that if we are to find the real cause of man's problems and the real cause of the world's ills today. If we are to really find it I think we will have to look in the hearts and souls of men.

The trouble isn't so much that we don't know enough, but it's as if we aren't good enough. The trouble isn't so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind. The great problem facing modern man is that, that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man's soul. We haven't learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem.

The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood. And the great danger facing us today is not so much the atomic bomb that was created by physical science. Not so much that atomic bomb that you can put in an aeroplane and drop on the heads of hundreds and thousands of people—as dangerous as that is. But the real danger confronting civilization today is that atomic bomb which lies in the hearts and souls of men, capable of exploding into the vilest of hate and into the most damaging selfishness—that's the atomic bomb that we've got to fear today. Problem is with the men. Within the heart and the souls of men. That is the real basis of our problem.

My friends, all I'm trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we've got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we've left behind. That's the only way that we would be able to make of our world a better world, and to make of this world what God wants it to be and the real purpose and meaning of it. The only way we can do it is to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we've left behind.

Our situation in the world today reminds me of a very popular situation that took place in the life of Jesus. It was read in the Scripture for the morning, found over in the second chapter of Luke's gospel. The story is very familiar, very popular; we all know it. You remember when Jesus was about twelve years old, there was the custom of the feast. Jesus' parents took him up to Jerusalem. That was an annual occasion, the feast of the Passover, and they went up to Jerusalem and they took Jesus along with them.

And they were there a few days, and then after being there they decided to go back home, to Nazareth. And they started out, and I guess as it was in the tradition in those days, the father probably traveled in front, and then the mother and the children behind. You see, they didn't have the modern conveniences that we have today. They didn't have automobiles and subways and buses. They walked, and traveled on donkeys and camels and what have you. So they traveled very slow, but it was usually the tradition for the father to lead the way.

And they left Jerusalem going on back to Nazareth, and I imagine they walked a little while and they didn't look back to see if everybody was there. But then the Scripture says, they went about a day's journey and they stopped, I imagine to check up, to see if everything was all right, and they discovered that something mighty precious was missing. They discovered that Jesus wasn't with them. Jesus wasn't in the midst. And so they paused there and looked and they didn't see him around. And they went on and started looking among the kinsfolk. And they went on back to Jerusalem and found him there, in the temple with the doctors of the law.

Now, the real thing that is to be seen here is this: that the parents of Jesus realized that they had left, and that they had lost a mighty precious value. They had sense enough to know that before they could go forward to Nazareth, they had to go backward to Jerusalem to rediscover this value. They knew that. They knew that they couldn't go home to Nazareth until they went back to Jerusalem.

Sometimes, you know, it's necessary to go backward in order to go forward. That's an analogy of life. I remember the other day I was driving out of New York City into Boston, and I stopped off in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to visit some friends. And I went out of New York on a highway that’s known as the Merritt Parkway, it leads into Boston, a very fine parkway. And I stopped in Bridgeport, and after being there for two or three hours I decided to go on to Boston, and I wanted to get back on the Merritt Parkway. And I went out thinking that I was going toward the Merritt Parkway. I started out, and I rode, and I kept riding, and I looked up and I saw a sign saying two miles to a little town that I knew I was to bypass—I wasn't to pass through that particular town. So I thought I was on the wrong road. I stopped and I asked a gentleman on the road which way would I get to the Merritt Parkway. And he said, "The Merritt Parkway is about twelve or fifteen miles back that way. You've got to turn around and go back to the Merritt Parkway; you are out of the way now." In other words, before I could go forward to Boston, I had to go back about twelve or fifteen miles to get to the Merritt Parkway. May it not be that modern man has gotten on the wrong parkway? And if he is to go forward to the city of salvation, he's got to go back and get on the right parkway.

And so that was the thing that Jesus' parents realized, that they had to go back and find this mighty precious value that they had left behind, in order to go forward. They realized that. And so they went back to Jerusalem and discovered Jesus, rediscovered him so to speak, in order to go forward to Nazareth.

Now that's what we've got to do in our world today. We've left a lot of precious values behind; we've lost a lot of precious values. And if we are to go forward, if we are to make this a better world in which to live, we've got to go back. We've got to rediscover these precious values that we've left behind.

I want to deal with one or two of these mighty precious values that we've left behind, that if we're to go forward and to make this a better world, we must rediscover.

The first is this—the first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. I'm not so sure we all believe that. We never doubt that there are physical laws of the universe that we must obey. We never doubt that. And so we just don't jump out of airplanes or jump off of high buildings for the fun of it—we don't do that. Because we unconsciously know that there is a final law of gravitation, and if you disobey it you'll suffer the consequences—we know that. Even if we don't know it in its Newtonian formulation, we know it intuitively, and so we just don't jump off the highest building in Detroit for the fun of it—we don't do that. Because we know that there is a law of gravitation which is final in the universe. If we disobey it we'll suffer the consequences.

But I'm not so sure if we know that there are moral laws just as abiding as the physical law. I'm not so sure about that. I'm not so sure if we really believe that there is a law of love in this universe, and that if you disobey it you'll suffer the consequences. I'm not so sure if we really believe that. Now at least two things convince me that we don't believe that, that we have strayed away from the principle that this is a moral universe.

The first thing is that we have adopted in the modern world a sort of a relativistic ethic. Now I'm not trying to use a big word here; I'm trying to say something very concrete. And that is that we have accepted the attitude that right and wrong are merely relative to our convictions.

Most people can't stand up for their convictions, because the majority of people might not be doing it. See, everybody's not doing it, so it must be wrong. And since everybody is doing it, it must be right. So a sort of numerical interpretation of what's right.

But I'm here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so. It's wrong to hate. It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong. It's wrong in America, it's wrong in Germany, it's wrong in Russia, it's wrong in China. It was wrong in 2000 B.C., and it's wrong in 1954 A.D. It always has been wrong, and it always will be wrong. It's wrong to throw our lives away in riotous living. No matter if everybody in Detroit is doing it, it's wrong. It always will be wrong, and it always has been wrong. It's wrong in every age and it's wrong in every nation. Some things are right and some things are wrong, no matter if everybody is doing the contrary. Some things in this universe are absolute. The God of the universe has made it so. And so long as we adopt this relative attitude toward right and wrong, we're revolting against the very laws of God himself.

Now that isn't the only thing that convinces me that we've strayed away from this attitude, this principle. The other thing is that we have adopted a sort of a pragmatic test for right and wrong—whatever works is right. If it works, it's all right. Nothing is wrong but that which does not work. If you don't get caught, it's right. That's the attitude, isn't it? It's all right to disobey the Ten Commandments, but just don't disobey the eleventh, "Thou shall not get caught." That's the attitude. That's the prevailing attitude in our culture. No matter what you do, just do it with a bit of finesse. You know, a sort of attitude of the survival of the slickest. Not the Darwinian survival of the fittest, but the survival of the slickest—whoever can be the slickest is the one who right. It's all right to lie, but lie with dignity. It's all right to steal and to rob and extort, but do it with a bit of finesse. It's even all right to hate, but just dress your hate up in the garments of love and make it appear that you are loving when you are actually hating. Just get by! That's the thing that's right according to this new ethic.

My friends, that attitude is destroying the soul of our culture. It's destroying our nation. The thing that we need in the world today is a group of men and women who will stand up for right and to be opposed to wrong, wherever it is. A group of people who have come to see that some things are wrong, whether they're never caught up with. And some things are right, whether nobody sees you doing them or not.

All I'm trying to say to you is that our world hinges on moral foundations. God has made it so. God has made the universe to be based on a moral law. So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God. That's what we need in the world today: people who will stand for right and goodness. It's not enough to know the intricacies of zoology and biology, but we must know the intricacies of law. It is not enough to know that two and two makes four, but we've got to know somehow that it's right to be honest and just with our brothers. It's not enough to know all about our philosophical and mathematical disciplines, but we've got to know the simple disciplines of being honest and loving and just with all humanity. If we don't learn it, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own powers.

This universe hinges on moral foundations. There is something in this universe that justifies Carlyle in saying, "No lie can live forever." There is something in this universe that justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again." There is something in this universe that justifies James Russell Lowell in saying,

Truth forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne.

Yet that scaffold sways the future.

Behind the dim unknown stands God,

Within the shadow keeping watch above his own.

There is something in this universe that justifies the biblical writer in saying, "You shall reap what you sow." This is a law-abiding universe. This is a moral universe. It hinges on moral foundations. If we are to make of this a better world, we've got to go back and rediscover that precious value that we've left behind.

And then there is a second thing, a second principle that we've got to go back and rediscover. And that is that all reality has spiritual control. In other words, we've got to go back and rediscover the principle that there is a God behind the process. Well this you say, "Why is it that you raise that as a point in your sermon, in a church? The mere fact we are at church, we believe in God, we don't need to go back and rediscover that. The mere fact that we are here, and the mere fact that we sing and pray, and come to church—we believe in God." Well, there's some truth in that. But we must remember that it's possible to affirm the existence of God with your lips and deny his existence with your life. The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism that's the most dangerous type. And the world, even the church, is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service. And there is always a danger that we will make it appear externally that we believe in God when internally we don't. We say with our mouths that we believe in him, but we live with our lives like he never existed. That is the ever-present danger confronting religion. That's a dangerous type of atheism.

And I think, my friends, that that is the thing that has happened in America. That we have unconsciously left God behind. Now, we haven't consciously done it; we have unconsciously done it. You see, the text, you remember the text said that Jesus' parents went a whole day's journey not knowing that he wasn't with them. They didn't consciously leave him behind. It was unconscious; went a whole day and didn't even know it. It wasn't a conscious process. You see, we didn't grow up and say, "Now, goodbye God, we're going to leave you now." The materialism in America has been an unconscious thing. Since the rise of the Industrial Revolution in England, and then the invention of all of our gadgets and contrivances and all of the things and modern conveniences we unconsciously left God behind. We didn't mean to do it.

We just became so involved in getting our big bank accounts that we unconsciously forgot about God we didn't mean to do it.

We became so involved in getting our nice luxurious cars, and they're very nice, but we became so involved in it that it became much more convenient to ride out to the beach on Sunday afternoon than to come to church that morning. It was an unconscious thing—we didn't mean to do it.

We became so involved and fascinated by the intricacies of television that we found it a little more convenient to stay at home than to come to church. It was an unconscious thing we didn't mean to do it. We didn't just go up and say, "Now God, we’re gone." We had gone a whole day's journey and then we came to see that we had unconsciously ushered God out of the universe. A whole day's journey didn't mean to do it. We just became so involved in things that we forgot about God.

And that is the danger confronting us, my friends: that in a nation as ours where we stress mass production, and that's mighty important, where we have so many conveniences and luxuries and all of that, there is the danger that we will unconsciously forget about God. I'm not saying that these things aren't important; we need them, we need cars, we need money; all of that's important to live. But whenever they become substitutes for God, they become injurious.

And may I say to you this morning, that none of these things can ever be real substitutes for God. Automobiles and subways, televisions and radios, dollars and cents can never be substitutes for God. For long before any of these came into existence, we needed God. And long after they will have passed away, we will still need God.

And I say to you this morning in conclusion that I'm not going to put my ultimate faith in things. I'm not going to put my ultimate faith in gadgets and contrivances. As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow, but to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Not in the little gods that can be with us in a few moments of prosperity, but in the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and causes us to fear no evil. That's the God.

Not in the god that can give us a few Cadillac cars and Buick convertibles, as nice as they are, that are in style today and out of style three years from now, but the God who threw up the stars to bedeck the heavens like swinging lanterns of eternity.

Not in the god that can throw up a few skyscraping buildings, but the God who threw up the gigantic mountains, kissing the sky, as if to bathe their peaks in the lofty blues.

Not in the god that can give us a few televisions and radios, but the God who threw up that great cosmic light that gets up early in the morning in the eastern horizon, who paints its technicolor across the blue something that man could never make.

I'm not going to put my ultimate faith in the little gods that can be destroyed in an atomic age,but the God who has been our help in ages past, and our hope for years to come, and our shelter in the time of storm, and our eternal home. That's the God that I'm putting my ultimate faith in. That's the God that I call upon you to worship this morning.

Go out and be assured that that God is going to last forever. Storms might come and go. Our great skyscraping buildings will come and go. Our beautiful automobiles will come and go, but God will be here. Plants may wither, the flowers may fade away, but the word of our God shall stand forever and nothing can ever stop him. All of the P-38s in the world can never reach God. All of our atomic bombs can never reach him. The God that I'm talking about this morning is the God of the universe and the God that will last through the ages. If we are to go forward this morning, we've got to go back and find that God. That is the God that demands and commands our ultimate allegiance.

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover these precious values: that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.

God bless you.

February 28, 1954.