It only takes a casual overview of the Scriptures to observe the presence of, and prediction for, a continual battle between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness and the Kingdom of God versus Kingdom of Darkness to be on the earth. Sometimes this conflict is subtle and camouflaged, but often, as now, it is presumptuous and overt.
The roots of this battle were planted in the earth when Satan fell from his original estate, beguiled Eve and man fell. At the time of the great curse, God underscored and indicated the continuous nature of this struggle by telling our first parents that He had placed “enmity” between the seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent. In short, this is just another way of saying those who follow the “way of Cain” and those who follow the “Way” of Christ. It is, therefore, due to the perennial presence of this “enmity” (hatred, or hostility) in the earth that this conflict exists, and will exist until the effects of the great curse are fulfilled in total restoration and righteousness at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself interacted with, and predicted the continued presence of, this hateful “seed” during His redemptive sojourn here on earth (consider in this connection John 8:33-44 and Matthew 13:36-43). It should not be surprising that this perennial enemy of righteousness is personified in people from all walks of life, whether cultural, academic or political. The one thing they all have in common is they all despise Jesus Christ, His Deity, His Word, and His Body, and they always will, because they are, as Jesus said, “of their father, the devil!” (John 8:44)!
Tiktaalik: Fish or Reptile?
We are now experiencing a rising wave of this attack against the sacred name of Jesus Christ and Biblical reality and authority that is unparalleled in our nation’s history. Anything and everything is presently being used in the attempt to discredit the everlasting veracity of Christ’s Deity and Word. Just in the last two months, for example, a secular scientific group from the University of Chicago announced the discovery of a possible fossil “link,” between fish and reptiles. They named the fossil tiktaalik (pronounced tik-a-lik), meaning shallow water fish.
Don’t get too worried about this one, the peer review is not yet in, and I suspect, as so many other so-called “missing links” of the past, this one will also turn out to be what it most resembles presently – in this case, a lobed-finned fish. (Remember, Lucy’s fossil was exceedingly chimpanzee like, and that now seems to be just what the fossil represents, or maybe an orangutan, for all except its discoverer).
Tiktaalik appears, they say, to possess many skeletal structures similar to both fish and tetrapods (four-footed animals) associated with the animals front fins (the rear fins and tail have not been found). Many are comparing this fossil to Archaeopteryx, a bird-like fossil that was said for years to be a supposed “link” between reptiles and birds, because it had a bony tail, claws on its wings and teeth. But, for all intents and purposes, most scientists today simply consider it to be a bird with a few unique features.
It is exceptionally telling to me that the Tiktaalik fossil is very fish like; it definitely has fish gills and scales, and is considered by its discoverers to be a lobbed-finned fish similar to Coelacanth. One of its discoverers, biologist, Neil Shubin, said, it “blurs the boundary between fish and land animal both in terms of its anatomy and its way of life.” But so did the coelacanth – thought for years to be the link from fish to amphibians, until they were discovered to still be alive and well on planet earth, in other words they are still fish!
Whatever the animal turns out to be, it is a product of its own unique genetics, and not macroevolution caused by millions of mutations. The evolutionary presupposition of the discoverers will force them to believe they have found a fish that is intermediate in the process of becoming some other kind of four-footed animal (they are saying that its head is very crocodile like – that would be quite an evolutionary jump from fish to crocodile). In this connection, don’t forget the comment that Evolutionist Roger Lewin made in his book, Bone of Contention:
Preconceptions are rarely acknowledged, because this, after all would be “unscientific.” And yet preconceptions are an individual scientist’s guide to how to view the world with a degree of order that allows structured questions to be asked. The anonymous aphorism “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it” is a continuing truth in science.” (Emphasis added, p.19)
The “Gospel” of Judas and The DaVinci Code
But the railing doesn’t stop here. Soon after the announcement of the Tiktaalik fossil discovery, National Geographic Society announced (April 2006) the discovery of a copy of a document called the “Gospel of Judas.” The actual document was a second century work, but the one found was a copy that some authorities think was actually transcribed in the fourth or fifth century. Alleged to have been written on papyrus by one of Christ’s twelve disciples, the present document was found in El Minya, Egypt sometime in the early 1970s. Since its discovery has been shrouded in intrigue only seen in a 007 movie. It is of further interest to me that NGS aired their global television special addressing the anti-Biblical significance of the so-called “Gospel of Judas” on April 9th, which was Palm Sunday – seems planned to me.
Throughout the month of April, it was commonly asserted by the secular media all over the world that this newly discovered document would change the way we think about Jesus Christ, Christianity and the four canonical Gospels – in other words, all Biblically based faith. Without a doubt, what they really intended was not that the document would impact the way we think, but rather would portray the Biblical truth in an overwhelmingly negative way through their liberal propaganda about the so-called “Gospel.”
In addition, already in this witches brew for the last three years, was Dan Brown’s “factual,” fiction story called The DaVinci Code (does this sound oxymoronic? It does to me). Nevertheless, all of the “FACTS” listed on the first page of Brown’s book have proven to be false. With many more than 40 million copies sold worldwide (an all time best seller), and with the emotional and visual support of the Ron Howard movie by the same name, there are literally hundreds of millions that have been forced to consider the potential anti-Biblical consequences of the story line.
What can we say about all of this? I am convinced that I must say something, because I have received more email and phone inquiries about these items than any other since CTF began. The most obvious concern I have about all of this is, “Why are so many people in America so motivated and so ready to believe information so thoroughly discredited”?
Facts about the Gospel of Judas and the DaVinci Code
All antiquities scholarship (whether Christian or secular) that I have read and consulted about “The Gospel of Judas” and “The DaVinci Code” agree and quickly inform you, that:
(1) “The Gospel of Judas” was not written by the real Judas. It was a Gnostic document written nearly 100 years after he died. The earliest date given for the authorship of this document is 130 AD, and the latest date is 180 AD. Judas Iscariot died the same time Jesus was crucified (about 35 AD). It is generally agreed upon by antiquities scholars that this document was written sometime before 180 AD, since Irenaeus identified it in his book, Against Heresies (mentioned below) in that same year.
(2) The “Gospel of Judas” is all about Judas and his justification, similar in emphasis as in all Gnostic “gospels,” whereas the canonical Gospels are about Jesus Christ and His Lordship.”
(3) The “Gospel of Judas” is among 21 other noncanonical gospels or books (also called apocryphal books) that have been identified as the work of Gnostic writers of the 2nd through the 4th century AD. Gnostic writings have some Christian emphasis, but are terribly saturated with Greek philosophy (compare Colossians 2:8). And while they are accepted today as valuable sources for historical data associated with the time-period in which they were written, they are not accepted as accurate sources for New Testament history, nor are they considered relevant as authentic sources of information concerning the life of Christ, His words, or His Apostles. Even in the NGS TV special, Dr. Craig Evans clearly said that, “it (the “Gospel of Judas”) doesn’t contain any authentic Jesus tradition.”
(4) In 180 AD, the French Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, wrote an anti-Gnostic book, Against Heresies, in which he discussed the errors and dangers of Gnostic writings. Referring to the “Gospel of Judas,” he said that this so called “gospel” was written by a Gnostic proponent of the “Cainite” sect of Gnosticism, a group who worshiped the original Cain as a hero, among other despicable Biblical characters (including Judas). Irenaeus called the “Gospel of Judas” a “fictional history.”
(5) The DaVinci Code (and its assumptions) is based on material found in these apocryphal documents, all Gnostic, and no other, all being written between the 2nd and the 4th centuries AD, especially the so called “Gospel of Philip” and the “Gospel of Mary Magdalene” (the “Gospel of Philip” was found in Egypt near the location where the “Gospel of Judas” was found). For example, Brown’s plot to show the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene is derived from the following passage taken from the so-called “Gospel of Philip:”
And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene, […] her more than the disciples […] kissed her on her […]. The rest of […]. They said to him, “do you love her more than all of us.”
NOTE: The ellipses […] in the above quote show areas where pieces of the original papyrus are missing and lost from the “Gospel of Philip.” Brown took the liberty to fill in the blanks as he chose. But, it was, essentially, from this lone document that Brown supported his conclusion that Jesus was married to Mary, and had a child with her. Remember the “Gospel of Philip” is also Gnostic in origin.
(6) The supposed “facts” mentioned by Brown on page one of his book are neither Biblically supported nor historically verifiable. In other words, they are not facts. They are not true in any way; they are convenient manipulations sold as fact, used by Brown to provide intrigue and excitement in his novel – it worked! He’s now a multi-millionaire because so many dumbed-down Americans bought into his charismatic story telling.
(7) The most dangerous allegation from Brown’s book is the suggestion that first century church leadership conspired and successfully implemented a cover-up of the marriage of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene. However, since all of Brown’s supposed “facts” have been totally discredited, this allegation falls along with the rest. I think it is interesting that Roger Ebert’s web site review said, (rogerebert.com), that “Dan Brown’s book is utterly preposterous; Ron Howard’s movie is preposterously entertaining.”
What is Gnosticism?
It will be appropriate for us to briefly consider certain beliefs of these early Gnostic teachers, because there are signs indicating an attempt to resurrect this philosophy in the teachings and practices of the modern church.
Historically, Gnosticism was a religious movement, deeply influenced by Greek philosophy that surfaced in the latter part of the 1st century AD, and continued to be popular in some areas well into the 4th century AD (this range of years will vary a little depending on the historian you read). The word “Gnostic” is derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge, and appears in 1 Timothy 6:20. Many New Testament commentators are convinced that Paul is warning Timothy about Gnostic teaching in this verse:
O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (“science falsely so-called” –KJV).
A primary agreement among Gnostics was that they possessed a “secret knowledge” about the origin of the universe and the origin and destiny of man that others didn’t have, and couldn’t have. It was only for the initiated. It was this special knowledge, or gnosis, that was essential to one’s salvation. Among the Christian Gnostics this special “gnosis” was soon interchangeable with Christianity itself. There wasn’t a united convention, or a general organization of Gnostic believers; they were divided into many divisions and sects, as well as many differing beliefs.
According to the teaching of Gnosticism, it wasn’t the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that effected salvation, but this special “gnosis.” Gnostics believed that there were two divine beings; one was unknown and remote, a Supreme Being, and the other was evil and subordinate, called the Demiurge. It was this subordinate deity that created the world of material things; therefore, because our bodies were created by this subordinate deity, they were material, and being material, they were also evil.
Gnostics held to the Eastern-like notion that certain individuals possessed a “divine spark” within them, an inward potential that was held in the bondage of their evil, material body. It was through this special “gnosis” that their inward “spark,” or “the god or goodness within them” would be delivered from the bondage of their material flesh and be connected to the unknown Supreme Being. They further claimed that Jesus only temporarily possessed a material (human) body, that He was not, in fact, human in any way (thus they rejected the incarnation). They alleged that when He was finished with the human body He possessed, He simply left it. Therefore they rejected the work and reality of His cross, His shed blood and resurrection, and any practices or ordinances associated with them (such as, baptism and communion).
Probably, the greatest danger from the neo-Gnostic movement floating around some church groups today, is the continual emphasis on “revelations, mysticism, special knowledge” that come to the initiated from their inward “potential” or “mind.” This “special knowledge or power” is more to be sought after and followed than the clear teaching of the Word of the Lord, and that is the inherent danger.
According to Bousset:
These little Gnostic sects and groups all lived in the conviction that they possessed a secret and mysterious knowledge, in no way accessible to those outside, which was not to be proved or propagated, but believed in by the initiated, and anxiously guarded as a secret. This knowledge was not based on reflection or scientific inquiry or proof, but on revelation…In short, Gnosticism in all of its various sections, its form and its character, falls under the category of mystic religions, which were so characteristic of the religious life of decadent antiquity. In Gnosticism, as in the other mystic religions, we find…the same loose organization, the same kind of petty sectarianism and mystery-mongering. All alike boast a mystic revelation and a deeply veiled wisdom. (Emphasis added, ISBE, Vol. II, p. 1241)
Remember those who fight against Biblical reality are financially sustained in their work against the Bible and the Bible’s God by those who hate Him and His body! There is an oft-used cliché associated with tracking true motivation in political maneuvering that says, “Follow the money.” The same is true in the battle for truth versus evil! Not-for-profit funding is all about profiling, or aligning, the goal and mission of the donor with the mission statement and purpose of the recipient. Organizations are not funded unless they are in proper alignment with the ultimate purpose and philosophy of the contributor. Secular scientific groups, including National Geographic Society, will not be funded by Foundations or Corporations or individuals who are Biblically conservative (I hope not anyway), so don’t be surprised if their conclusions are diametrically opposed to Biblical truth and assessments, they must be – this is just another evidence that “enmity” is still in the world.
I want to revisit the question I asked earlier as I conclude this article. Why are American people so quick to accept such Biblically negative conclusions, based on such nonscientific data? I think this question has three answers, but more accurately a combination of these three answers.
First, and most important, there has never been a day in the history of this country that our general populace has been so completely ignorant of Biblical facts and reality, church members notwithstanding. We are living in a society of people that have very little knowledge of the Bible, its God, or its message. This spiritual dearth in our land makes us terribly vulnerable to all sorts of deceptive drivel. Added to this, the affective emphasis in our educational delivery has caused a terrible loss of our cognitive perception, so that we are more influenced by the way we feel about a matter, than whether or not it is true. It’s all about feelings! Not ideals and thoughts!
Secondly, this modern Biblical ignorance has a twin sibling called secularized, scientific dogma that has been just as detrimental to Biblical truth. Its danger is due to the fact that it comes all dressed up in scientific garb, but on closer examination, we see that the king is naked; he doesn’t have on any cloths! What appears to be science is nothing more than raw scientism – it is humanistic religion sold as if it is scientific in some way.
For the last five decades, Americans have been so totally bombarded by this pseudo-scientific dogma delivered by the secular scientific community and state educational establishment, until many feel they can no longer trust the Bible or its history. Millions have graduated from our colleges and universities, having been declared educated, but having been convinced that Genesis is a silly, ancient notion.
Moreover, we are often told that we must respect the separation of church and state relationship and that the Biblical God is welcome in only a few places in this country, while the truth is the secular crowd want Him completely out of the country. All public places have officially been declared off limits to God and His word, because, they insist, it is unconstitutional to pray and read the Bible in public places. Is it? Therefore, the Bible and the Bible’s God are no longer considered supreme or absolute in our nation. So, when something new is found or discovered, like Tiktaalik, or the “gospel” of Judas, or The DaVinci Code, that apparently supports this supposed Biblical inferiority, there are millions who are immediately ready to consider it, and to receive it as truth.
Thirdly, I further think that the church community has corrupted its own nest, by its own unrepented scandals, blatant inconsistencies, and domestic brokenness, which has been intensified by selfish, arrogant leadership being more motivated by market share than ministry share. The fact is that many ministries today are not about money, but about big money!
Couple this reality with the fact that a large percentage of Americans have learned their morality from modern television icons like Barney, Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, who taught us to be nice, respectful and tolerant. And on the same television, we witnessed church scandals, religious leadership failures and other religious illegitimacy, so that many Americans have grown to think they can no longer trust God, the Bible or the church. What once was considered spiritually sound, that made this nation truly great, and that trained our forefathers, has been replaced by a purple dinosaur and a yellow bird.
Furthermore, all of this comes at a time when the greater social context in America is not friendly to religion or religious systems, especially conservative religion – it is placed on the fringe, said to be anti-cultural, to be antiprogressive, or to be weird; accordingly, anything that smacks of religion is no longer trusted, and this includes the Bible. Thus a great many Americans are not sure what they can trust, but it is certain, they think, they cannot trust organized religion, its icons or processes! So, they are looking for something they can trust…what shall we do?
G. Thomas Sharp