Friday, April 21, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and How We Got the New Testament

I recently shared with our students about The Da Vinci Code. This book and upcoming movie has touched on something significant in our culture. As Dan Brown puts in this book, "Everyone loves a conspiracy." The trick for Christians, however, is to be able to discern fact from fiction...very entertaining fiction, I might add. In sharing with our students, I encouraged them to read the book or watch the film...but to do so with this knowledge. Your bible is historically reliable and the claims of this story are not. This story relies on the accounts of Jesus that are contained in non-canonical gospels, specifically, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary (not to be cofused with Peter, Paul and Mary). There is also a heavy emphasis on secret societies. Secret societies that don't really exist, for that matter. The suspect history is treated as fact. It really is amazing how official something sounds when you phrase it like, "Many scholars agree...." Try it sometime. Many scholars agree that Michael Bolton is the real President of the United States. Truth doesn't really matter with such statements. The only thing that matters is that "scholars" agree with them. I won't go into a detailed rebuttal to the story of The Da Vinci Code. There are already numerous resources that do a much better job than I could. If you are curious, check out Campus Crusade for Christ's Web site, Jesus and Da Vinci. What I am more capable to share is the history of the New Testament and the formation of the Canon. I hope to briefly give you a basis for the reliability of the Gospels of the New Testament and the unreliability of all the non-canonical books. Our New Testament was roughly determined around 100 years after Christ died and rose. Within that one hundred years, the disciples and Paul were scattered about the known world proclaiming the truth that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and risen Lord. While there was no "official" statement affirming or denying the validity of some books, the early church had a set use of books. By 180 AD, Ireneus' writings and sermons had quoted from all 27 books of the New Testament...and only from those books. So, while there was no "official" documentation, the church had in practice already set the canon. The church relied on two main criteria. One, the document must be written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle. Two, the document cannot be contrary to a document in which the authorship is known. That means all the books of the New Testament were written by first or second generation disciples. The Gospel of Matthew gets in because Matthew was a disciple. He hung out with Jesus. Matthew hands the early church is gospel and says, "This is what I saw Jesus do. You oughta know this." The church says, "I know that you are Matthew, you hung out with Jesus. We're going to listen to you." The Gospel of Luke gets in because he was a friend of Peter and Paul. He writes a detailed account and says, "This is the true story of Jesus. This is what his disciples told me." The church says, "I know this is Luke. He is friends with the disciples. We trust him, listen to him." The Gospel of Thomas shows up. It says that it is that "secret teachings of Jesus as told to Thomas." Thomas was a disciple, but he's not the one that gave this to us. In fact, Thomas has been gone for some time. So, the authorship was in doubt. The content is very much contrary to content of the Gospels that we know are truthful. Therefore, Thomas gets the boot. It's really that simple. Authorship and content were the primary deciding factors. Despite what "Sir Leigh Teabing" smuggly says in The Da Vinci Code, it was not a vote of Council of Nicea in 325. In fact, that council didn't even vote on the canon. There were addressing the heretical issue of Arianism. The New Testament is historically solid. Jesus Christ is who he says he was in the Gospels. These other accounts carry no weight historically. The Da Vinci Code is a fun read. I finished the 400 page book in a couple of days...but the scholarship is shoddy (that's being kind). How should Christians respond to this? Follow Dan Brown's advice, "Seek the Truth." Know your Church History. Know your Bible. Use this novel as a doorway into spiritual conversations. Share this truth with your friends who have watched the movie or read the book. If they like the book, there's a really good chance that you can have a great conversation about the Jesus Christ. Share how he has changed your life and why the Truth is more important that fiction.

Monday, April 17, 2006

UK CRU featured on University of Kentucky Web Site

Recently, UK CRU was featured on the home page of the University of Kentucky. The University highlighted some of our efforts with the Recovery work from Hurricane Katrina.

Check it out at If the main article is something other than the Hurricane Katrina Recovery, click here to view the article.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Campus Crusade for Christ's Recovery Efforts in New Orleans, LA
The first thing I noticed driving across I-10 over Lake Ponchartrain was the temporary bridge segments. Whole sections of the interstate now lay under the brackish waters of Lake Ponchartrain. Leaving the bridge I entered East New Orleans. The first thing that caught my eye was a car lot. All of the cars were covered in mud. Apparently, every car in at the dealership was submerged and waiting to be junked. We passed a Home Depot with a large security fence completely surrounding the building. No one was getting in or out of that building. Whole apartment complexes were vacant with debris littering the grounds. The place was a ghost town. It was very eerie.
We drove on into the city. I saw a billboard for Billy and Franklin Graham. They were in town for a “Celebration of Hope.” Over 30,000 people came to hear the Grahams present the Gospel and over 1300 people indicated a decision to trust Christ! Hope, indeed, for a city running on empty.
We drove on to the 9th ward. This was the area hardest hit by the flooding. As we exited the interstate, I began to see a brown water line on every house. It stood somewhere between 8 and 10 feet tall. This is the level at which the water sat for 3 weeks. It was so different from our time in Mississippi. There, every house was just blown away. There were only piles of debris where houses once stood. Here in New Orleans, all the house were intact, simply flooded and empty. Businesses, homes, churches, everything was empty. We crossed the canal into the lower 9th ward and the destruction only intensified. The only vehicles on the street were FEMA law enforcement. There were no residents to be seen. You could look down streets and only see junk strewn about. Rancid refrigerators that had been untouched for 6 months lined the street and polluted the air. Everything has been left undisturbed, covered in mud and black mold.
Our home for the week was Camp Hope. It is a tent city in the City Park, housing 1000 college students from all across the US. Our UK group shared a circus tent with a Campus Crusade group from Chico State (northern CA). It was at Camp Hope that I began to meet some of the residents of New Orleans.

Jack is a retired Marine. His family has lived in New Orleans for 150 years. He moved into his house 50 years ago, when he was only 10. When he returned to his home, it was completely destroyed. His family’s photos, chronicling 150 years of history in New Orleans, were gone. Everything he owned was destroyed. But Jack was brought to tears when he told me about two of his beloved cats that drowned. Jack is unsure of what the future holds, but he is confident that his city will rebound. I asked Jack why he has such hope. He told me to look around. College students from across the country are coming to rebuild his home. Jack said that his city was in bad shape before the storm. He had hope that things were going to be made new.
The word “hope” continually popped up in my conversations with the residents. I saw how hope in anything of this world was futile. Levees failed. Homes failed. People failed. Governments failed. It seems as if everything failed. It seems to be a hopeless situation. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Hope in Christ will never fail. We can gut a house, but it is merely a cosmetic change. Christ came not to remodel our lives but to completely rebuild. God is at work in New Orleans. Through the destruction and death, the body of Christ is at work rebuilding more than homes. Christ is on the move and changing lives in New Orleans.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cultural Collisions

I spoke to the E-Kat summer project team today about the collision of American and Russian cultures. Good times were had by all.
I explained that culture comes from the history and geography of a people. Then I went through 1000 years of Russian history in 7 minutes (well, 7 1/2 minutes...but who's counting?) From that we began to evaluate some of the differences between American and Russian culture. The most important point, however, was the revelation of the ultimate reason for cultural conflict; sin. Your life is a pail of water. When you begin to brush up against Russian culture (or any culture for the matter), your pail begins to slosh about. The difficult thing is that when your pail sloshes, you see that your water is much dirtier than you thought. It is a difficult thing to confront. My struggles with a foreign culture arise from my own sin. My pride says that I am entitled to certain things; personal space, good hygiene, ice in my sweet tea, or something like that. They aren't biblical...merely cultural. When those expectations aren't met, I get mad...and the cultural collision is on.
The reality is that I was not made for Russian culture. I was not made for American culture. I was made for something far greater, something far more beautiful. I was intended for a citizenship in Heaven.