Our first article unfolded the principle of present history rejecting Truth and coming to believe in the Lie. Often in history powers have intentionally created their own truth (which was a lie) and have successfully convinced great numbers to embrace their lie as the truth. Roman Catholicism was able to hide its pervading and deceptive leaven in Church doctrine thereby destroying truth. What remained was a created myth for the world to believe. Such a powerful deception necessitated the Protestant Reformation to boldly and aggressively bring the truth of God’s Word back to the public arena, dispelling the doctrinal myths of Rome.
Contemporary to the Protestant Reformation was the maturing of especially the Italian and Northern European Renaissance that was seeking out truth of the natural world of man’s epistemology. As the Reformation became the appropriate outcome in God’s providence of the Renaissance, it must also be noted that the secular side of the Renaissance led into the powerful Enlightenment period with its dethroning of God and the deification of reason. From that point in history, man took a progressive and defiant attitude of intentionally leaving any God-consciousness out of human reasoning. As a result, man willfully departed from the truth of God and therefore from the source of all truth.
How does a society claiming to be rational successfully embrace the authority of a myth and proclaim it to be the authority of truth? Can man rationally reconstruct irrationality to be his new reasoning? If so, he will declare historic reasoning to be man’s old irrationality. Let us note several areas in which such an absurd change of emphasis became evident.
The Myth of What Man Is and His Emotions
One enduring truth that has contributed providential greatness to Western civilization has been its consistent belief that man was created by God. This understanding was once again brought to prominence in the Protestant Reformation when it reasserted the biblical presentation of the dignity of human life. In Exodus 4:10 when Moses declared his inability to speak, the Lord’s response provided a classic insight of man’s dignity even in his weaknesses:
And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
The source of man’s human dignity is found in the fact that he was created by God in the image and likeness of God. No matter how feeble or how handicapped an individual may be, he or she is still precious in the sight of God as an evidence of His creation. Notwithstanding the misery and overwhelming consequences that have come upon mankind because of his sins and wretchedness, there is still the remarkable fact that he is a created being by God Himself.
Nevertheless, the greatest proof of the dignity of man is that God Himself came down to earth and took on the form of man. Yes, this very fact deepens the understanding of the dignity of man—God was willing to become a man. How do we know this to be true? The question is not can God become man; the question is did God become man? If we are to understand man, then we must come to know God Who created him; we must come to know God Who Himself became a man two thousand years ago.
Western civilization began to radically change in the nineteenth century when men began to more vehemently attack man’s origin in God’s creative act. In 1859, Charles Robert Darwin wrote The Origin of Species where he presented the theory that human beings may have evolved from the simpler animals and become a more complex animal. Then in 1872, Darwin wrote The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals where he hypothesized that if man had evolved from lower animals, then man’s emotions also evolved from those animals.
This “evolution of human emotion” opened the door for the American philosopher and psychologist William James to craft his new opinions. James was the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. He fathered pragmatism and functionalism. In functionalism he concluded that all sense of self-consciousness was formed by the environment in which a person was raised. In 1884, James was strongly influenced by Darwin’s theory and wrote his own essay entitled “What Is an Emotion?” William James argued that an emotion is the sum total of bodily changes including one’s genes, hormones, instincts, chemistry, as well as his environment.
Building upon the hypotheses of Darwin and James, Sigmund Freud stepped forward and capitalized primarily upon the emotion of love. He believed love or sexuality was the prominent part of man’s chemistry. The prioritizing of the emotion of his view of love eventually brought the sexual revolution into Western civilization. From the amalgamation of thought pouring forth from these three men, a change of Western culture became evident that would only be surpassed by the Beatles and their influence in the 1960s.
Prior to the evolution of the Darwin-James-Freud redefining of the emotion of love, one of the greatest theologians and philosophers Jonathan Edwards gave its truer definition. Edwards declared that man’s emotions or “affections” were to be captivated by God through the work of grace in the human heart. He spoke candidly concerning the duality of man’s nature that is evident in the co-habitation of the “flesh” and the “Spirit.” Within the Christian, which of these two powers would become the greater influence and life-changing authority? While Mr. Edwards was calling America to a biblical awakening, the Revivalist movement in England was being spread through the writings and preaching of John and Charles Wesley as well as George Whitefield. They were calling men and women, boys and girls to revival whereby their emotions were to be consumed in loving God.
In the mid and latter part of the 1800s, the birth of Liberalism and Modernism swept first across Europe and then America. These religious, apostate powers began declaring that the previous truths of the Christian faith should now be viewed as myths; in their place the myths of Darwin, James, and Freud were now to be viewed as the truth. Simultaneously, godly preachers of the Word of God warned that there was a mighty flood of apostasy coming that would only bring indignity to man, for indignity is the result of sin. What was called “sin” at one time was being declared as man’s evolutionary past. The truth of man’s depravity and his accountability to God as a moral agent was now leaving the thinking of Western man. Even the truth of how Christ became a man and died on the cross to wrought salvation for man by bearing his sins and bringing him into favor with God was now laid aside. Man was brought down to the level of animals in the myth of evolution.
Which view would the world embrace? Was man a creature of God or an offspring of animals? Did man begin in dignity or indignity? Is man a creature of nature alone possessing only body and emotions attached to that body? Or was he both a natural and a spiritual creature? Is it sin that controls man’s life or the animalistic nature that is an integral part of his DNA? Does he have a soul that will never die or is he a soulless creature?
If the truth that man is a creature of God’s creation be mythologized and if the myth of his being a product of evolution becomes the ruling truth, then the entire concept of his human existence has been radically changed, altered, and rewritten. As a result, there is no dignity of mankind. He descends to the baser animalistic behaviors of immorality, drugs, alcohol, and the aborting of his offspring.
The Dan Brown Myth
Perhaps one of the craftiest manipulators of couching truth as a myth and myth as the truth is the American fiction author Dan Gerhard Brown. He was born on June 22, 1964, in Exeter, New Hampshire, and attended public schools there until the ninth grade. He grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father Richard was a teacher of mathematics. His mother was trained as a church organist and a student of sacred music. Raised an Episcopalian, Dan Brown in a 2009 interview described his religious consciousness in those early years:
I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, “I don’t get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?” Unfortunately, the response I got was, “Nice boys don’t ask that question.” A light went off, and I said, “The Bible doesn’t make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.” And I just gravitated away from religion.
When asked in the same interview about his then-current religious views, Brown replied:
The irony is that I’ve really come full circle. The more science I studied, the more I saw that physics becomes metaphysics and numbers become imaginary numbers. The farther you go into science, the mushier the ground gets. You start to say, “Oh, there is an order and a spiritual aspect to science.”
By the year 2000 Brown had become an internationally known celebrity as an author of thriller fiction. Perhaps his most notable novels have been Angels and Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), Inferno (2013), and Origin (2017). These first three works have already been adapted into films; all have been translated into fifty-six languages. With just his first two books, he sold over 200 million copies.
Basically, his novels are treasure hunts set over a twenty-four-hour period featuring the recurring themes of cryptography, keys, symbols, codes, and of course, conspiracy theories. His novels feature the lead character Robert Langdon and the use of historical themes and Christianity as the motifs. Though much of his writing seems to be a mockery of Christianity and at times anti-Christian, he denies this and simply states he is on a “constant spiritual journey” himself. He declares that The Da Vinci Code is simply “an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate” and believes the book may be used “as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith.”
We must remember that Brown writes his fiction in the backdrop of historical events and places. The historical aspect simply becomes the blending of motifs for the story. In The Da Vinci Code Brown is subtly implying that found in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci are secret messages encoded. Particularly, Brown focuses on the painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo. His focus on this unique masterpiece of the Renaissance classically represents the power of entertaining fiction to transition truth to myth and myth to truth.
Perhaps a brief background concerning Leonardo would help us to see the indignity that Brown has created. Leonardo Da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519, dying two years after the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. He is called a Renaissance polymath because he was a man deeply skilled in a great variety of human endeavors. He was an Italian painter, a draftsman, a sculptor, an architect, and an engineer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. His paintings The Last Supper (1495–98) and Mona Lisa (c. 1503–19) are among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. (It is interesting to note that this past November 2017, his painting Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million dollars.)
His notebooks reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time. These notebooks become very important in our burden for this article in that Leonardo wrote about everything he did including all his reflective thoughts. In the early parts of these notebooks, Leonardo describes three things to which he was committed.
(1) His first declaration of pursuing the empirical experience is probably the most prominent commitment he expresses. Throughout his life this man was ever symbolically married to the empirical experience, or the skill of detailed observation through the human senses (especially sight and sound) of nature. This man empirically studied anatomy, including human bodies and those of animals and birds. He intensely pondered the facts of what he empirically experienced. Although Leonardo appeared on the scene of human history just before the scientific revolution, he is truly part of the blooming apex of the Renaissance, where man had a deep interest in nature, understanding it, its governing principles, and what rules over it. Leonardo believed that God gave man his intellectual faculties to understand his appointed dominion over nature. This empirical experience would be known through the eyes, ears, and touch.
(2) His second passion was what he called instrumental or mechanical art. This desire would be a natural passion for such a sculptor, a painter, an architect; yet, amidst his polymath abilities, he was drawn to the mechanical arts of engineering. Leonardo over his years conceived of a variety of machines, including those for war, like tanks, submarines, and helicopters.
(3) His third commitment was to mathematics. He believed that the reality of the universe was mathematical. Eventually modern science was born with Galileo, and particularly with Sir Isaac Newton, who came to declare that the laws of nature were written in the language of mathematics. This understanding became the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
Dan Brown entitled his book The Da Vinci Code because he postulates that secretly encoded messages by this Renaissance genius could be found in the paintings of Leonardo. Brown’s book unfolds his suggestion that throughout church history there has been a secret society preserving what they believe to be the truth about Christianity. This secret society had to maintain their secrecy lest the Pope kill them. Because of this fear, it is declared that Leonardo encoded the “truth” of Christianity in his paintings.
In this fictional work, what was this truth that had been quelled by the “myth” of Christianity’s public religious leadership? Brown believes that Christianity from its beginning quelled the original truth of its beginnings for a more palatable public version. Nevertheless, he declares, there are those throughout history who have known the truth and endeavored to secretly preserve that original truth.
Brown purports that Leonardo preserved this truth in his paintings and drawings. How is this so? One of the symbols in The Last Supper painting is the conspicuous absence of the chalice, “the cup.” Brown announces that the figure at Jesus’ right-hand side is none other than Mary Magdalene; she is to be the central figure of the painting. Brown says the chalice (written about by many authors in the past 150 years) is actually a person. Mary Magdalene is the chalice, the cup, the vessel which held the liquid, the blood of Jesus. Brown believes she conceived Jesus’ child, and at the time of the Last Supper she was with child. After the death of Jesus, Mary was taken by Joseph of Arimathaea down into Egypt where she gave birth to a daughter. Thus, throughout church history there is a perpetual holy blood which according to the myth is the Lord’s blood making its way down through history.
Another observation that Brown makes concerns the way Jesus and Mary are leaning in the painting to create a vacant V-shape between them. We must recall that Leonardo kept notes on everything he did and thought. In his own notebook he declares that the figure on the right of Jesus is John! But Brown declares in his “fiction” conspiratorial writing that it was Mary sitting to His right, and that Jesus gave her as the chalice to the apostles. According to Brown, The Last Supper depicts a sexual ritual. The blood that He gives to them is supposed to be her menstrual blood. According to Brown, this was part of the ritual of the Gnostic sects of early church history. Brown falsely claims the Gnostic sects were a part of the early true Christianity that was eventually suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Truth versus the Myth
Dare we inquire as to the reason Leonardo did not paint the chalice in his painting of The Last Supper? The simple fact is that his painting is very biblical. Because it was Jewish custom for each family member to have his own cup at Passover, each disciple naturally had his own cup. The popular quest for the chalice over the centuries is simply part of the myth continuing to be popularized by Hollywood personalities such as Indiana Jones.
Brown’s popularizing of a Christian myth is palatable to this age due in part to society’s increasing love of mysticism. Although Brown’s The Da Vinci Code announces at the outset that it is fiction, it is still read by the gullible populace as reality due to so much historical truth used as the background of the story. The incorporated myth simply blends into the history. No matter how something is written, the important thing to note is that a myth is a myth. This book proves that it does not have to be historical truth for the myth to become believed as truth.
It has been said that if you throw enough mud on a wall, some of it is bound to stick. After over six thousand years experimenting with man, the Devil has come to his greatest hour of counterfeiting the truth and convincing mankind that the truth is myth and that myth is truth. Truth is the only thing that will set the heart and mind free—free from falsehood, free from error, free from myth, and free from sin. But where truth is not held dear and is not guarded, the mind and heart will be given over to delusions, to fables, to myths—the Lie!
The Truth has cost the lives of many godly believers. Nevertheless, truth must ever be declared, no matter how it is received. As Samuel Rutherford declared in prison, “Serve Christ; back Him; let His cause be your cause; give not an hairbreadth of truth away, for it is not yours but God’s.”
One cannot believe the false and be saved. This fact is the reason God’s people must earnestly contend for the embodiment of the Truth—the Faith. Only the truth has the power to save. A false gospel believed will send a person to hell, for such a gospel declares a false Jesus. The secular times we live in are filled with lies in public news, advertisement, and even religion. It will take a commitment to the Word of God and the discernment of the Holy Spirit to see through this age that is bent to deceive us to leave the truth of our God and God Himself. May the Lord enable us to discern the myths of our time and do all that we can to preserve the truth. The sage of Jerusalem gave the call for us in Proverbs 23:23: we must “Buy the truth, and sell it not!”