Jesus Christ: The God-Man
We began discussing The Da Vinci Code with an eye on St. Peter's instruction to "Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
What is the reason for our hope? Our faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that His death and resurrection has saved us and set us free. This is the Truth, about which Jesus said, "If you make My word your home, you will indeed be My disciples; and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). What is He saying? That we need to live according to the Truth in order to be free! So what is the Truth that we need to know? Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us point blank: "I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Christ Himself is the Truth that we need to know!
But Dan Brown has a different notion: in his book, he has his character, Leigh Teabing, say, "Constantine's Bible has been their truth for ages. Nobody is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator...[A]lmost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false" (ch 55. p. 235 in the Hardcover version published by Doubleday, emphasis in the original).
This is what The Da Vinci Code teaches is the truth about Christ:
"Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land" (Teabing, p. 231).Sounds pretty impressive. Brown really gives Jesus a lot of credit! Calling Him the King of the Jews, the Messiah, and a great human prophet who inspires millions! But the key is that Brown claims Jesus was only a human being. He goes on to describe the Council of Nicaea in AD 325:
"At this gathering," Teabing said, "many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon--the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."But is this actually the historic truth? Dan Brown wants us to believe that it is. After all, on his so-called "Fact" page, he says that the descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate. Well, the Council of Nicaea was recorded--documented--and he "describes" the Council here. Well, if his "facts" are indeed facts, then this should be an accurate description of the Council.
"I don't follow. His divinity?" [Sophie Neveu, the main female character, says.]
"My dear," Teabing declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."
"Not the Son of God?"
"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
"Hold on. You're saying that Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added. "Nonetheless, establishing Christ's divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable. This not only precluded further pagan challenges to Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only through the established sacred channel--the Roman Catholic Church."
Sophie glanced at Langdon [the main male character], and he gave her a soft nod of concurrence.
"It was all about power," Teabing continued. "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power"(p. 233).
In fact, the Council of Nicaea was convened by Constantine, who had converted about 12 to 13 years earlier. But Constantine wasn't a theologian, he was a king, who wanted peace in his Empire. In AD 313, he issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity a legal religion. (Contrary to Brown's assertion, Constantine never made Christianity the "official" religion of the Roman Empire. That was done nearly a century later by a guy named Theodosius. All Constantine did was make it illegal to continue persecuting Christians.) Now that Christianity was legal, and the leaders of the Church no longer had to fear for their lives on a daily basis, they were better able to spread the Gospel throughout the land. Unfortunately, some people had a distorted version of Christianity--in particular, one priest from Egypt, named Arius. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God in the sense that God made Jesus and gave Him divine power, making Him something of a demi-god or a secondary god, as opposed to the One True God. Unfortunately, Arius was a pretty clever and convincing fellow, and a good large portion of the Church listened to him. However, there were those who still clung to the faith of the Apostles and contended with Arius.
Enter Constantine, who wanted an end to the infighting, so in AD 325, he gets all the Bishops together to hash out the issue. But remember, unlike what Brown says, the question of Jesus divinity was not "Was Jesus God or just human?" but "In what way was Jesus God?" Everyone at that Council believed that Jesus was divine!
Most of the Bishops that were at the Council actually agreed with Arius' teaching--and in fact, again, contrary to what Brown says, even Constantine leaned in favour of the Arian position! But Constantine recognised that he had no authority to make a pronouncement, and left that to the Bishops. For a while they wrangled over metaphysics and philosophical theories, until finally the simple question was proposed, "What did the Apostles believe? What did they teach?" When that question became the basis of the discussion, the answer was arrived at very quickly. About this decision, Dan Brown claims that the vote was "a relatively close one". In my mind, at a council of 220 Bishops, a close vote might look something like 115-105, or 120-110. To be generous, I'd even toss out 130-90.
But what Dan Brown describes as "a relatively close vote" was 218-2 in favour of the Apostles' teaching--That Jesus Christ really was God! This was the Teaching of the Apostles, and their successors! Don't believe me? Here are some quotations from the Early Church Fathers, all of which were written before the Council of Nicaea (The quotations are in chronological order. The dates are with the citations of the documents. I've bolded particularly poignant ones):
Ignatius of AntiochSo why is it important for us to actually believe that Jesus was both completely God and completely human? Because otherwise, He could not have saved us. Through sin, humanity put themselves in debt to God. The payment of that debt is death--and not just physical death, but eternal death: separation from God in Hell. That's what we deserve. But obviously, that's a debt that we can't pay. So God, out of Gracious Love for us, chose to pay that debt for us, through Jesus Christ.
"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia... predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God" (Letter to the Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).
"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., 18:2).
"[T]o the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is" (Letter to the Romans 1 [A.D. 110]).
"[Christians] are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit" (Apology 16 [A.D. 140]).
Tatian the Syrian
"We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man" (Address to the Greeks 21 [A.D. 170]).
Melito of Sardis
"It is no way necessary in dealing with persons of intelligence to adduce the actions of Christ after his baptism as proof that his soul and his body, his human nature, were like ours, real and not phantasmal. The activities of Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages" (Fragment in Anastasius of Sinai's The Guide 13 [A.D. 177]).
"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth..." (Adversus Haereses 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
"Nevertheless, what cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that he is himself in his own right God and Lord... may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth" (ibid., 3:19:1).
Clement of Alexandria
"The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginning--for he was in God--and of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things" (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1 [A.D. 190]).
"Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior, the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son" (ibid., 10:110:1).
"The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one, born, and from the other, not born" (The Flesh of Christ 5:6-7 [A.D. 210]).
"That there are two gods and two Lords, however, is a statement which we will never allow to issue from our mouth; not as if the Father and the Son were not God, nor the Spirit God, and each of them God; but formerly two were spoken of as gods and two as Lords, so that when Christ would come, he might both be acknowledged as God and be called Lord, because he is the Son of him who is both God and Lord" (Against Praxeas 13:6 [A.D. 216]).
"Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God" (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4 [A.D. 225]).
Hippolytus of Rome
"Only [God's] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God" (Refutation of All Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).
"For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new" (ibid., 10:34).
"If Christ was only man, why did he lay down for us such a rule of believing as that in which he said, 'And this is life eternal, that they should know you, the only and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?' [John 17:3]. Had he not wished that he also should be understood to be God, why did he add, 'And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,' except because he wished to be received as God also? Because if he had not wished to be understood to be God, he would have added, 'And the man Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;' but, in fact, he neither added this, nor did Christ deliver himself to us as man only, but associated himself with God, as he wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as he is. We must therefore believe, according to the rule prescribed, on the Lord, the one true God, and consequently on him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, who by no means, as we have said, would have linked himself to the Father had he not wished to be understood to be God also. For he would have separated himself from him had he not wished to be understood to be God" (Treatise on the Trinity 16 [A.D. 235]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit]..." (Letters 73:12 [A.D. 253]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, invisible of invisible, and incorruptible of incorruptible, and immortal of immortal and eternal of eternal.... And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever" (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).
"'Well, then,' some raging, angry, and excited man will say, 'is that Christ your God?' 'God indeed,' we shall answer, 'and God of the hidden powers'" (Against the Pagans 1:42 [A.D. 305]).
"He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both God and man" (Divine Institutes 4:13:5 [A.D. 307]).
"We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Someone may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son--which assertion has driven many into the greatest error...[thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that he is mortal.... [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father" (ibid., 4:28-29). (This list was compiled by the great people at Catholic Answers: Click here for the whole article.)
Now here's the thing: had Jesus just been human, even a really great human like The Da Vinci Code says, His death would have only been worth the death of a human. One for one!
On the other hand, had Jesus been only God, and not truly human, but only "dressed up like one" as some cultish religions, like the Gnostics, teach, He would not have had the right to pay that debt on our behalf. To really represent humanity, the payer of the debt must himself be human.
So Jesus, who is "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God" in the words of the Nicaean Creed, became a Man "for us men and for our salvation," so that, as a Man, He could represent humanity, and as God, His death would be of infinite worth--because God is an infinite God. His sacrifice is worth enough to pay the debt of sin for everyone, from Adam and Eve to the very last people to live on earth!
That's the Truth that sets us free, if we choose to live in it! That's the truth that Dan Brown seeks to subvert and destroy in his novel!
That's the Gospel. Don't let anyone rob you of it!