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Shouldn't Christians Know Better?

Shouldn't Christians Know Better? More than ever, we need Christian schools. But we must be sure that what we teach in them is Christianity.

by Ted Byfield

A survey of Canadian readers by Indigo Books, a national Canadian retailer, discovers that Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code, has defeated "some of literature's most venerable sellers." Conducted over the summer, an online poll of 7,000 readers found the Brown book proclaimed "the best of all time."

Christ wants "every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job and in first-class fighting trim ... "

It's hard to imagine any current fact that better illustrates the disheveled state of Christian education. For by almost any standard of New Testament scholarship, The Da Vinci Code is unmitigated nonsense, and any Christian with the barest knowledge of the history of the New Testament would know this. Yet it has been passed off by the author as historically credible, and many millions of people believe him, an embarrassing number of them practicing Christians.

Today, almost any fabrication about Jesus Christ can be published and offered for sale, with a host of dubious "modern scholars" testifying to its possible authenticity, and can quickly run to the top of the best-seller lists, put there in part through the ignorance and gullibility of devout and committed Christian people.

When Mark Noll, the articulate and wholly authoritative professor of history at Wheaton College, published his The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind nine years ago, he was not writing about illiterate Christians, but of educated and often otherwise literate ones who did not regard their faith as imposing obligations on their mind. God was about loving people. What did thinking have to do with it?

A great deal, writes C.S. Lewis in his Mere Christianity. Christ wants "every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job and in first-class fighting trim. ... The fact that what you are thinking about is God himself (for example when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old."

He refuted Charles Kingsley's: "Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever." Rather, says Lewis, "being good involves being as clever as you can."

If Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, were instructed in the faith to the level which a modern, increasingly anti-Christian society demands of us, Dan Brown's concoction of pseudo-biblical claptrap would have been laughed off the market as soon as it appeared.

The average high-school educated Christian would have known that the Gnostic gospels represent the legendary phase of Christianity. Jesus Christ, among other things, was a human being, lived a human life at a specific point in human history, was sentenced to a particularly hideous death on the charge of blasphemy and, according the records left by his followers, rose triumphant over death itself-"beating down death," as the Orthodox Christians say, "by death," i.e., by his own death.

As with all historical figures, especially in the ancient world, there are two kinds of accounts of Christ's life. The first, the four Gospels, are highly verifiable on historical grounds-meaning that they are known to have been written within a time period that would enable them to have been first- or second-hand accounts. If you reject the Gospels because you don't believe in miracles, fair enough. However, your rejection is not based on historical, but on theological grounds. Historically, all four Gospels are entirely credible.

As the years passed, however, legends grew up around Jesus-legends written a hundred or sometimes 150 years after he died. These are the so-called "Gnostic" gospels. The early Christians rejected them for inclusion in the New Testament because they knew them to be largely fictitious. Today, popularizers like Brown and a cadre of dubious "modern scholars" have seized upon them as the basis of a reconstruction of Christian history and the Christian faith. Because of the interest that has always focused on Jesus, they sell well. But they are poppycock, and we should know this.

They should also serve as a warning to us. Unlike any of our forefathers, Christians must live today under an unprecedented avalanche of information, some valuable, much useless, a great deal absurd and some actively poisonous. More than ever, we need Christian schools. But we must be sure that what we teach in them is Christianity. We must be sure they are not really secular schools whose Christianity consists entirely of crosses and biblical pictures on the wall. Christianity should touch, influence, even shape every subject taught. For we are in the midst of an ideological war, as crucial as any military one, and victory will greatly depend on what goes on in those Christian classrooms.

Originally published on World Net Daily, October 1, 2005.

Used with permission of the author. Copyright Copyright 2005 Christianity.ca.

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