DECODING THE DAVINCI CODE
Ben and Ed Young
June 26-27, 2004
ED: I want to welcome again, my brother, Ben Young, to the stage with me. Ben, it’s great to have you here.
BEN: It’s good to be back.
ED: We’re continuing our series of talks, “Decoding The DaVinci Code.” And Ben is super qualified to talk about this. He’s been on PBS, he’s written about it, and he’s lectured about this across the country. And while I was busy playing basketball and fishing, Ben was studying, so…. [laughter] They are laughing, but it’s true.
Well, lets jump right in, Ben. Last time we did talk about this book, and we talked about some of the things that we should be cognizant of. Today, though, I want to get detailed into stuff about the Bible. People ask me all the time, “Was the Bible tweaked? Was it changed? Surely over the years it’s just different, you know? It’s kind of a different Bible today that we had years ago and people did some creative editing and all that stuff?”
We are also going to talk about Gnosticism today—something that Dan Brown talks about fluently. And it [“The DaVinci Code”] seems to be a very authoritative book.
Then we are going to talk about the person of Christ. Jesus—is he God? Did he say he was God?”
So those are some big time issues.
BEN: No doubt. And again, I think, our theme verse is 1 Peter 3:15. We read that last week.
ED: Yeah, I’ll read again. 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
BEN: Yeah. And that’s our obligation as Christ followers—to be ready, be prepared, when people ask us questions or they directly or indirectly attack our faith. We need to be prepared to give a response to them.
I love that word there, “always.” We need to be always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks. And I think a lot of times in our sound-bite culture today we fill our minds with a lot worthless facts. Like, a lot of guys in here can tell you who played second base for the New York Yankees in 1961, but we couldn’t find Genesis in the Bible.
ED: It was Bobby Richardson, I believe, in ‘61. Bobby Richardson.
BEN: Case in point. So, anyway, that’s why we’re doing this series—to hopefully encourage people to do a little more research, a little more studying. And again, if you don’t have time—we have busy lives, no doubt; we live in a very fast paced culture—at least know about some resources you can turn to or give to friends, family members, and co-workers who are asking legitimate questions about the faith.
ED: Yeah, and these questions bombard us, Ben, from books, maybe movies, television shows, documentaries, etc. I want to read a quote from the book, “The DaVinci Code,” and I want to get your response to it.
Page 234, I pulled this out: “From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him god-like. The other gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.”
Now, he is talking about the Council of Nicea that we talked about last time, 325 A.D. We don’t have time to explain all that again, but how do you respond to that quote?
BEN: Well, basically he is saying that the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. was a power play by Constantine. Constantine was the first so-called Christian emperor of Rome. Up to that time, Christians had experienced intense persecution at the hands of Diocletian and other evil Roman emperors. Now, Constantine was either converted genuinely or maybe for political reasons. And Brown says that Constantine used the Council of Nicea to kind of reinvent Christianity, to cover up the secret that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that Christianity was really a religion about sacred feminism and not about Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.
And also in this quote, he brings up those three issues you talked about earlier. And that is the issue of (1) how did we get the New Testament? (2) What are these other gospels that were supposedly burned?
ED: Those banned from the Bible.
BEN: Yeah, the Gnostic gospels. And the third issue is so very important, and that is (3) what do we know about Jesus? Who is he? And, what are some sources we can turn to?
ED: Well, Brown mentioned something else pretty much in your face. On Page 235 of “The DaVinci Code,” he says, and I quote, “…almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false, as are the stories about the Holy Grail.”
BEN: Yeah, which is kind of interesting because on one hand the book is saying, “Don’t trust history. Don’t trust tradition. But trust my history and trust my tradition.” Which, again, is not even revisionism. It’s fantasy file—a lot of things he talks about in the book. But the first issue I think is so key is the whole issue of how did we get the Bible?
ED: Yeah, Ben, how did we get the Bible? [sarcastically] And surely, man, the Bible was changed over the years. It’s an ancient book, and I want to hear about that.
BEN: Yeah. Well, first of all the New Testament is a collection of 27 books written between about 50 and 90 A.D. And these books were written by people who were either direct followers of Jesus Christ, they were eye witnesses of the events in his life, or they were close friends to people who were eye witnesses. So that is a little bit about our New Testament.
Also, it’s important to understand what standards were used to accept those books into what we now have as the New Testament. That’s called the Canon.
ED: That’s good.
BEN: Yeah, and the word “Canon” means “standard.”
ED: Canon. Standard.
BEN: Exactly. For example, let’s just say, if I made the claim that my shoe here is one meter in length. You’d probably say…
ED: No. It’s bogus. Crazy.
BEN: But what if I said, “I feel in my heart! I believe, I sincerely believe…”
ED: Well, you’re wrong.
BEN: No. I believe in my heart this is true to me. This is one meter in length. How are you going to disprove me?
ED: Well, I’m going get a meter and show you that you’re way off.
BEN: Right. You’ll go get a meter stick.
BEN: Somewhere in France, you can go and find a meter stick which will have all the metric measurements there, and we can take my shoe and say, “You know what, Ben? Here is the standard; you fall short.”
So the early Christians, the early church, had to have a standard by which they judged a book worthy to be considered Scripture. And some of the standards were, first of all, apostolic origin. In other words, was this book written by an Apostle or someone close?
ED: Now, Ben, what is an Apostle? We hear that term tossed around.
BEN: Yeah, an Apostle was the one who was sent out. But in New Testament terms, when it comes to understanding the Scripture, it’s someone who was an eye witness to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
BEN: That is the way someone would define that.
ED: Who’s said to have apostolic origin.
ED: That’s number one.
BEN: And second of all, it had to be doctrinally sound. So it had to fit with what Christ taught and the early disciples believed.
ED: And that’s doctrine.
BEN: Right. And then third of all, it had to have widespread acceptance and usage among the churches there in the Mediterranean world as they were growing.
So those were their standards. And again, the Bible, the New Testament, was written in a historical context. And Luke, when he would write his gospel, when he would write Acts, which is the history of the early church, he would set it in a geo-political context. So it’s very important that we realize that our Bible is not written in the form of, well, someone will say that the Bible is myth. It’s not written in the form of myth. It’s written as sober history.
Now there are some aspects of the gospel that are the Scripture and they’re more poetic. Others are more narrative. Others are more biographical. But the Bible is not written like Homer’s Iliad or something like that.
ED: Yeah, for example, I remember when I was at Florida State some professors would just try to smash the Bible. We had this guy who taught geology, and he would just rip on the Bible all the time. And he’d talk about other ancient works like, “Oh, man, that’s right. That’s the real deal; that’s true.”
So, how does the New Testament stand up, for example, against some other ancient pieces of literature? Maybe Plato, etc.
BEN: Yeah, exactly. The New Testament is the most credible document of antiquity that we have when you compare it to the works of Plato and you compare it to Julius Caesar and the history we have there
For example, let’s take Plato. You look at Plato. He wrote his stuff between 427 and 347 B.C. Now, the earliest copy we have of Plato’s works is 900 A.D. We don’t have the autographs of Plato. Neither do we have the autographs of the New Testament. But the earliest copy [of Plato] is 900 A.D. Now, the time span between when it was actually written and the copy is 1,200 years.
BEN: That’s a long time. And we only have seven copies.
BEN: However, when you were in high school or college philosophy class, I doubt the professor said, “What I hold in my hand, as I read to you The Republic, these are not the words of Plato. We’re not really sure about that.” No. He’s going to say, “This is an accurate rendition of what Plato taught.”
Now let’s compare Plato to the New Testament. The New Testament was written between 50 and 90 A.D. The earliest copy we have is around 130 A.D. That’s less than a 100-year time gap there. Less than 100, compared to 1,200 years with Plato.
How many copies do you think we have, full manuscripts of the New Testament? 5,600! So that’s just comparing it to one work.
ED: Isn’t that great to know about the Bible?
BEN: It’s phenomenal! So, when people say, “I’m not going to trust the New Testament documents because they’re 2,000 years old.” Well, if you believe that, then cut out almost all ancient history. Cut out the works of Plato, Aristotle, all the others. Just cut them out.
But again, they have a bias, because again Plato and those guys are not confronting you with the claims that Christ did in the New Testament.
ED: Exactly. And that word “bias,” Ben, and this presupposition is because of my sin nature. I want to say that Christianity is not true. I want to cast doubt and a shadow on the New Testament because of the towering implications in my life. Because if God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins and rise again, if all that’s real and true, then I’ve got some serious accountability in my life. So I’d rather read a wheels-off novel, or believe some bogus documentary by Peter Jennings or whatever as opposed to coming face to face with the holy God.
BEN: Yeah, you’re exactly right. And what’s interesting as we look at the whole issue of the New Testament is what he [Dan Brown] is saying in that quote there, through one of his characters, that there was a Bible before Nicea. Constantine embellished or changed it. Then there’s a Bible after Nicea.
Well, the bottom line is most of the New Testament Canon was virtually completed and accepted before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. We have copies of the gospels that pre-date Nicea and copies after Nicea. So it’s very easy to compare, and there’s no difference between them. And the idea that you have Christians who suffered, who gave their lives or were persecuted, for about two centuries before Constantine, and all of a sudden they are going to allow some political ruler to change the game and change the stakes?! And they’re going fall into that?
BEN: That’s psychologically absurd.
ED: But again, a writer like Dan Brown has a vested interest in trying to muddy up Christianity and saying that it’s this or that.
BEN: Yeah, of course. Because he had an agenda before he wrote the book and before he did his supposed research in the Christian faith. And that is to try to diss on Christianity, if you would, and uplift this type of neo-pagan worship of the sacred feminine.
ED: And do you see this in other thinkers of our day or modern day individuals that we might come in contact with?
BEN: Of course. I think you see that a lot in philosophy. We have someone who has a certain lifestyle, a certain deviant lifestyle, and then they find a philosophy that allows them to justify their particular lifestyle.
ED: Would you say some of these philosophers, for example, adopt a lifestyle and then they find something that kind of retro fits? Would that be the word?
BEN: Yeah. Exactly.
ED: To support, to applaud that everything’s cool?
BEN: Right. I’m sexually deviant first, and then I become an existentialist or something like that. Again, I’m not saying all existentialists are deviant…
BEN: …but there are a lot of people who have an agenda.
ED: Okay, let’s talk about these books that are banned from the Bible— these books that Dan Brown says are supposedly the bomb—the Gnostic gospels. We talked about Gnosticism last time. Define it for me again.
BEN: Gnosticism was a religious or philosophical movement that came about 100 years after the Christian faith. And it’s a movement that focused on secret knowledge as a way to get in touch with the divine or discover the spark of divinity within. Its works were written later, some 100-200 years after the gospels and the letters of Paul were written. And it focused on brief sayings and not narratives. So it does not have the historical context of a New Testament document.
Now, Dan Brown talks a lot about the Nag Hammadi Library in his book. Nag Hammadi was a small town in Egypt where they found some ancient works of the Gnostics. And he [Dan Brown] acts like the church is scared of that and that they have been trying to cover that up. And that’s not true because you have the early church fathers from about—oh, I don’t know—A.D. 90, A.D. 100, all the way up to 325 refuting Gnostic heretics.
And so we didn’t know much about the Gnostics except from what we read from the Christian sources. Now we have the actual Gnostic sources, so we can compare and find out if these church fathers were accurate in the way they critiqued these heretics known as Gnostics. And they were.
So again, when you read Gnostic literature you can tell that it is written after the time of Christ, and it has nothing to do with the theology or world view of the Christian faith.
ED: Gnosticism, Ben, you said last time, is kind of like a cafeteria mentality, isn’t it? Tell me about that. You pick a little here, pick a little there, and kind of mix it together.
BEN: Yeah. When we say Gnostic “gospels,” the word “gospel” is a proclamation of good news, something that’s happened. Gnosticism is not good news. It’s old news that you can pull yourself up by the boot straps, or through meditation or self-awareness, to discover the divine us that’s within. And it’s eclectic in that it pulls from many different religions and world views. Much like, as we said last week, the New Age movement which is so thriving in our culture today.
ED: That’s interesting.
BEN: It’s fascinating.
ED: And so often, for example, the gospel according to Thomas, which is the big time Gnostic gospel, was not even written by Thomas. Thomas, as we learned last time, was in India sharing the faith. So they [the Gnostics] co-opted Christianity.
BEN: Right. What is so interesting about Dan Brown’s use of Gnosticism in “The DaVinci Code” is several things. First of all, he says that the Gnostic gospels, the other gospels as you mentioned in the early quote, were much more pro sacred feminine in their work.
ED: Let me stop you right there. Say it again.
BEN: Well, what he [Dan Brown] is saying is that the gospels that we have—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are very patriarchal, man-dominated, man-driven. But these Gnostic gospels, they uplift the worship of Mary Magdalene, the worship of the sacred feminine.
ED: Oh, well, let me read this quote. From the gospel according to Thomas, page 114. It’s the Gnostic gospel quote. Because remember Ben said, the Gnostic gospels are all about worshiping the sacred feminine.
ED: Okay, and our gospels are just the opposite?
BEN: Yeah. You make the call; you judge for yourself.
ED: Yeah. You make the call, all right? I quote page 114 from the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, quote: “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary go out from among us, because women are not worthy of the Life.’ Jesus said, ‘See, I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males, for every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
BEN: I don’t think Gloria Steinem would be proud of that quote.
BEN: Call me jaded, I don’t know. That sounds pretty anti-sacred feminine there. So why he uses the Gnostic works to build up his case for sacred feminine is beyond me.
Also, he says in this work that the Gnostic gospels paint a more human picture of Jesus, and the gospels we have paint a more divine picture of Jesus. Well, that’s also absurd because the Gnostic gospels and their literature present a more divine picture of Jesus. Because Gnosticism is a dualistic philosophy that says matter—the body, the flesh—is bad, and only spiritual things are good. So, it would be grotesque for a Gnostic person to want to have anything to do with a God who actually embodied human flesh. So again, Gnostic material paints Christ as more divine, not more human.
ED: Now, we have so much material we’re going to cover in the next several minutes. Some of the stuff, Ben, we can’t get to. I have here in my notes, we will have posted on our web site www.fellowshipchurch.com the big six questions there for people to understand, and also all of these other quotes and things.
We’ve talked a little bit about the Bible. We’ve talked about Gnosticism. Let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about the person of Jesus, because another argument that people will throw your way or my way is, “Well, did Jesus really claim to be God? I mean did he really come out and say it?”
ED: And as a Christian, how can I prove it Biblically? Because as believers, we should.
BEN: Right. Let me give you a couple of passages. And these are very important passages to have down in your mind to be able to turn to. One is, John 1:1. It says, “In the beginning was the Word…”—and that is Christ, the “logos” in Greek—“…and the Word was with God…”—Christ was with God—“…and the Word was God.”
ED: “Yeah, but the Word”—I’m playing the devil’s advocate here— “You’re telling me the Word is Jesus?” Well, yeah, because John 1:14 says, “The Word became…”
BEN: “…flesh and dwelt among us.”
ED: And dwelt among us.
ED: Emmanuel, God with us.
BEN: Yes. And that is what makes Christianity unique. It’s the claim of Jesus Christ, who he claimed to be. Who his followers worshiped him as. They worshiped him as the unique Son of God, as God in the flesh. And so that’s what separates the Christian faith from all the other major world religions. And I think it’s important.
If you are here today and you are asking questions about the Christian faith, so many times people get hung up on the issue of textual criticism. Or maybe you get hung up on, “How did we get here in the first place?” Evolutionism vs. creationism. Really, to me, the water shed issue is the issue of Jesus Christ.
BEN: Who did He say He was? Who did His followers follow Him as? And once you land on that, then you will be able to make your decision about the Christian faith.
ED: How about John 8:58, Ben?
BEN: John 8:58 is an extremely important passage because in the context of this passage, Christ is having a debate or a discussion with a group of religious leaders known as the Pharisees. They were talking about Abraham, and Jesus says, “Well, you know, I knew Abraham. He was a great guy.” I’m paraphrasing it. And they say, “What do you mean? Abraham lived centuries before you did!”
And then in John 8:58, here is what Jesus said, “’I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was even born, I Am.’”
ED: Now I’ve heard that before, “I Am.”
BEN: “I Am” is the Tetragrammaton, the sacred name of God that God gave for himself when he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. Moses said, “When I go to the Pharaoh and say, ‘Let my people go,’ who should I say sent me? Why are you credible?” And God said, “Tell them, ‘I Am that I Am. Yahweh.’” And that is the sacred name of God.
So when he, Jesus, said that to fellow Jewish leaders and Jewish religious scholars, they wanted to kill him. And I like that response. That’s the right response. I mean, if I stood up today after this talk and said, “By the way, folks, if you’ve seen Ben Young, you have seen God in the flesh. Before Jesus and Abraham lived, I lived before all them.”
Now, either you believe that and you worship me, and if you do that you need to go see a doctor quick! Or you say, “Hey, let’s go call the ha-ha house. This Ben Young guy from Houston has had a little too much humidity over the years, you know? Or, you lock me up. I mean, there’s no other option.
BEN: So, when they tried to kill him, that’s the correct response. You either worship him or kill him or lock him up. There’s no in-between.
ED: How about Colossians 2:9? It says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
BEN: Bodily form. Yeah.
ED: We don’t oftentimes like to think about the humanity of Jesus—fully God and fully man. I’ve done series of messages on that. And when I get into the teaching, people are like, “Whoa! You mean Jesus got tired? He was hungry? He cried?
BEN: He was tempted.
ED: He was tempted. It kind of makes people a little bit uncomfortable.
ED: But as you said last time, you see some ants, how do you communicate to ants? You have to become an ant.
BEN: Right. And, also, the incarnation of Christ was necessary.
BEN: So, Jesus had to be 100% human so he could be our mediator, so he could be our High Priest, so he could be the go between, between us and God. So it was necessary that he be fully God and fully man which brings up a tension there, I think, for a lot of people. I can hear the people asking questions, “Well, that doesn’t make logical sense. Isn’t that contradictory? How can someone be God and man at the same time?”
BEN: An example of that would be—let’s take something from the scientific world—there are a lot of scientists that can give you empirical evidence that light consists of partials. There are other scientists that can give you empirical evidence that, “No, no, no. Light doesn’t consist of particles. It consists of waves.”
Now, how can both of those things be true? How can light be particles on one hand and waves on the other hand. Well, it seems that they can’t. But they are. So what do scientists do with this supposed paradox or contradiction? They simply allow these two scientific truths to remain and live together on parallel lines.
We do the same thing with the doctrine of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus Christ. We can’t fully understand it with our minds, but we know they are both true because that’s what God’s word tells us.
ED: And so often, Ben, people think to become a Christian or when you do step over the line of faith, you have to check your intellect at the door. And that’s false.
BEN: Yeah. “You have to park your brain.” I would say this to a lot of folks: If you feel you’re in a classroom setting and you’re getting bullied by a professor, don’t allow someone to intellectually bully you. Because you may not have the answer to their question, but I guarantee you can find someone who does. And so it’s a comfort to know that there are many scholarly intellectual Christians who are out there today.
And again, I’m not saying you have to have a PhD to believe in Christ and believe in the Bible. But it’s a good thing to know that there are people in the world of microbiology, nanotechnology, and astrophysics who are born again Christians and believe just like you do.
But if you watch debates and talk shows, they’re going to pit someone like a Harvard PhD against Billy Bob the Baptist from Backwoods, Louisiana. And Billy Bob is all red-faced and angry. And so, you have one person who seems very calm and rational and one person who seems all emotional.
But again, there are people out there who have written books, who are engaging the culture in a very winsome way, who believe just like we do. So don’t allow someone to bully you with the “truth” and to say claims like, “Well, the Bible was changed over the years.” The Bible wasn’t changed over the years. There was not enough time for the story to be changed.
ED: Yeah. And where are these aspects of the Bible that were in the process of change?
BEN: Right. No one has been able to produce these “unaltered” copies, these unaltered works. And so that’s simply an opinion. That’s like me saying, “I don’t believe that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.” If I said that, there would be people saying, “Now wait a minute. I was there. Or my dad or mom was there, and we saw the report.”
ED: Yeah. We have a member of our church who actually worked on President Kennedy and Senator Connelly in Parkland Hospital.
BEN: So, yes, they would rise and say, “Wait a minute! That’s a complete lie. That’s a fabrication.”
The same thing is true when it comes to the New Testament. You have people who were eye witnesses of the events there. And so, the time gap between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and today is the same time gap between the events of Christ and when they were written down in Scripture. So the idea there was this great huge time gap and people came in—scribes and monks—and they changed and altered the text, that’s simply not true.
ED: Okay. Was Jesus married, Ben?
BEN: Jesus was not married. He was not.
ED: Dan Brown says he is.
BEN: Well, Dan Brown is wrong. He is wrong on that point, but the point is that even if he is right, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect our doctrine of who Christ was.
ED: That’s right.
BEN: But he’s not. You cannot find a shred of Biblical evidence, extra Biblical evidence, or even Gnostic evidence that would say that Christ was married. And again, you have John Dominic Crosson, who was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, who’s very liberal when it comes to understanding the New Testament. And you have Karen King who is a feminist scholar at Harvard. Both of them agree that Jesus Christ was celibate and was single.
So, when you have liberal scholars and conservative scholars agreeing on anything about Jesus, chances are that’s probably true. I mean that’s like Michael Moore and Jerry Falwell agreeing on something. That just doesn’t happen. And so, yes, Jesus Christ was single.
Let’s just say, for argument sake, he was married. That does not affect his person as being fully God and fully man.
ED: Was he worshiped? Okay. A.D. 33—death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; 325 A.D.—Council of Nicea. Was he worshiped as divine? As the Son of God? We’ve kind of touched on it. But how about some of the early church fathers?
ED: Because the early church fathers were disciples of the disciples. Did they say anything, or do we have any documentation about what they felt about the deity of Christ?
BEN: Yeah. That’s one of the more blatant historical inaccuracies in “The DaVinci Code.” It ignores church history from A.D. 33 to A.D. 325. But let me read you some early quotes from some early church leaders.
Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Ephesians,” 110 A.D.: “Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church of 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,” listen to this next phrase, “in Jesus Christ our God.” That was written A.D. 110.
Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” 189 A.D.: “Nevertheless, what cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that he is himself (referring to Christ) in his own right God and Lord.”
Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Greeks,” 190 A.D.: “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.’”
We have other quotes from Tertullian, Origen, and other early church fathers who obviously worshiped Jesus Christ as God in the flesh.
So the idea that Constantine invented this or embellished the gospels at Nicea is ludicrous. You had the early disciples, Paul, early church leaders following Christ as divine for about 250 years pre-Nicea. Plus you have copies pre-Nicea and post-Nicea that show that the gospels have not been altered.
ED: That’s great. The New Testament paints a very clear portrait of the person of Christ, and we have that portrait in the early church with the early church fathers.
A couple of years ago I did a painting during some of our Easter services and I called it a self-portrait. I began to paint and people thought I was painting myself. In reality, though, I was painting Jesus. And I said, “As believers, that’s who we should reflect. That’s who we should mirror.”
And basically, Ben, as Christians, we are painting a portrait of our lives by how we handle our relationships, friendships, marriage, parenting challenges, how we handle our finances, how we steward our time. All that stuff, we’re constantly painting and painting and painting.
So often, people maybe won’t read two or three books of 300-400 pages each. But they will read a believer’s life. And we need to paint that picture.
BEN: Yeah. I remember talking to a guy years ago when we first moved to Houston in a class in high school, and this guy was completely un-churched. He turned to me one time as we had a discussion about God, and he said, “Ben, you’re the closest thing to God that I have.”
BEN: And that is so true. That was a very, in a way, haunting statement. Because there are so many people in our lives that we work with, people that we associate with, and we’re the closest thing to God that they have. They may never read the Bible. They may never read a book on Christian apologetics. But as you said, I guarantee you that they’re going to read you.
So we have to ask ourselves the question today, we don’t want to get all caught up on some, you know, head trip. It is what kind of portrait of Christ are we painting with our lives.
ED: And we are talking about Christians now?
BEN: No doubt about it.
ED: And I also believe believers should understand some of the basics that we’ve talked about today. And they should feel confident to point to The Source Bookstore or to other Christian bookstores, to whatever resources [and say], “Hey, here is maybe what you can read. Here is an answer to your question. Here is someone else who’s kind of going after the same things that you are asking me about.”
BEN: Right. Exactly. Because no one can know everything about different subjects and questions that people ask you about your faith; because you are talking about very intense and very personal issues. The best thing to do when someone asks you a question that you don’t have the answer to right then is to say, “That’s a great question right there. I really don’t know the answer. Let me get back to you tomorrow or next week.”
Then you do your research and you help them out. And again, if you are here and you are seeking, continue to seek. Continue to ask questions. Because there are people here at this church who want to listen to you and want to introduce you to the life they have in Christ.
ED: That’s the cool thing about Fellowship, Ben, is that we’re a church that welcomes not only believers, but also seekers—people who are in this process. And what I say to seekers is, “Hey, pray a prayer something like this. Every day for the next 30 days, just go, “God, if you exist, show yourself to me. If you are real, show up in my life.”
And then, I would have them take a book, for example, take the book of John and read like a chapter a day for 30 days. If you are a sincere seeker, I’m telling you, God’s going to show up in your life in a huge way! I think you’ll come to a point where you’ll bow the knee.
I don’t want to chase this rabbit, but here’s a good question: Do we believe, then know? Or do we know and then believe?
BEN: (chuckles) Well, that would take us a couple of months to figure that out.
ED: So often people think, “Man, I can stack all these facts and historical data, you know, about Christianity; and if I know all this stuff, then I can believe.” That’s what I’m saying.
BEN: It closes the gap—I would say—for some people. That’s the way they get there. But I really believe that you believe in order to know.
ED: I do, too. Not that the other way can not be great too.
BEN: Many people say that they came to Christ that way, by knowing first, then believing. But I think that, again, if there is a God—and there is a God. He has made everything, and he’s always existed—if he’s out here, then this God has complete knowledge of everything within the universe and everything in our lives and everything on planet Earth.
So once you get in contact with the true source of this knowledge, you believe in Him and then your eyes are open to understand this world view, once you’re inside that. Because when you’re outside—as we talked about last week—though you do have some understanding of God, you want to run to this true knowledge because you need to be forgiven and made right with God through Christ.
ED: That’s strong. Well, it’s our prayer that this series, Ben, has really, really helped a lot of the believers, and also the seekers, continue down this track. Because I think “The DaVinci Code” is a good thing, because we’re having these discussions. I think many people will come into the kingdom of God because of this very book.
BEN: I agree. And I think it’s going to cause a lot of Christians to get on their toes a little bit and do a little more research. And it’s going to help us out.
ED: You know, in my own life, Ben, I think I am more at the top of my game, so to speak, when I am rubbing shoulders with people who are skeptics; when people do have serious questions and doubts about Christianity, as opposed to always rubbing shoulders with believers.
BEN: Yeah. I like that. And one of the titles that people used, I guess, against Jesus, was that Jesus Christ was a friend of sinners. And I am glad he was a friend of sinners because I am a sinner. And I’m very good at sinning. And I think so many times we forget that.
ED: That’s right.
BEN: We think that once I become a Christian, I need to hang out in my own little Christian club and get my Christian car and my Christian stickers and Christian t-shirts and Christian breath mints and all that. And we don’t need to do that. We need to be in the world, but not of the world. We need to be redeeming the world. And when we do so, present the gospel story in a bold yet humble manner. Because again, the knowledge that we have—not that it’s total knowledge by any stretch of the imagination—is a free gift from God.
ED: That’s right. Totally free.
Well, Ben, thank you for proclaiming the gospel in a bold manner. And we will bring you back, I promise you. Ben Young.
ED: Thanks, Ben.