Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, May 19, 2006

Response to Just Pastors blog article

From the Blog Just Pastors last article on their Da Vinci Code series:

The basic challenge The DaVinci Code presents to Adventists is an alternate, yet very similar, conspiracy theory. The Adventist version is that the Emperor Constantine mixed paganism with Christianity, replacing the Sabbath with Sunday observance and a personal relationship with God with the priesthood, the end result being the Roman Catholic Church. Dan Browns version is the Emperor Constantine removed paganism from Christianity by having the Church proclaim Christ as fully divine and fully human while excluding all others as heratics. (There’s the whole Mary Magdaline thing too, but that won’t be an issue for most Adventists.)

So who’s right? The problem is that they both are. If Constantine was bent of paganism, why did he get the church together at Nicea and have them proclaim that Jesus was God; and if he was trying to exclude paganism, why did he incorporate so many pagan traditions into Christianity?

This is a troubling perspective because neither view is right and both views are wrong. Constantine brought Christian leaders together but he did nothing to cause the outcome of the counsels other then after them reinstate some of the Arians. Further Sunday had for many years been the day for gathering of Christians, Saturday was also held but due to the Jewish nature of it there was a somewhat natural feeling that the Christians did not want to be seen as Jews who rejected Christ or even as the Jews who accepted Christ yet demanded that people had to obey all the Jewish laws (the Ebionites). Constantine did not give the idea of Priesthood in place of a relationship with God it was an out growth of Roman Catholic teachings based upon the idea of the sacrament of Holy Orders and the mass.
Which confers special spiritual powers to the Priest. The canon law established nothing at these councils about the sacrament of the Priest or the mass but dealt with limiting where bishops could be:

Canon II.

The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches; but let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt; and let the bishops of the East manage the East alone, the privileges of the Church in Antioch, which are mentioned in the canons of Nice, being preserved; and let the bishops of the Asian Diocese administer the Asian affairs only; and the Pontic bishops only Pontic matters; and the Thracian bishops only Thracian affairs. And let not bishops go beyond their dioceses for ordination or any other ecclesiastical ministrations, unless they be invited. And the aforesaid canon concerning dioceses being observed, it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province as was decreed at Nice. But the Churches of God in heathen nations must be governed according to the custom which has prevailed from the times of the Fathers.

I won't go into the problem with Dan Brown's view as it is pretty well documented today just how historically wrong it is. Certainly Constantine did not get the leaders together to declare that Jesus was God, even the Arian's believed that Jesus was divine though they asserted He was not of the same substance as God since He was begotten of God at some point in ancient times. I am not certain that David Hamstra the auther of the above article really ever read Dan Browns book.

Traditions whether Pagan or otherwise are not inserted by some act of conspiracy they are incorporated through time based upon peoples beliefs. After Luther told the people of his church that it was ok to take both the bread and the wine rather then just one which the church had previously allowed many were afraid to take it. Many were afraid to touch the bread even after they were convinced, the old ways held a powerful influence upon them. So it was with Paganism human beings rarely completely change it is a process.

Just Pastor's continues:

So does this mean that Adventists should give up on protestantism and restorationism? I don’t think so; in fact I don’t think we should give up on conspiracy theory either. But we do need to stop thinking of the conspiracy in terms of the human players involved.

The Bible tells us the real conspirator is Satan, who works through many different human agencies, even people who think they are doing the right thing. If fact, it’s just as possible for him to use a good person to bring about evil (e.g. King David) as it is for God to use an evil person to bring about good (e.g. Joseph’s brothers). This realization frees us to evaluate history by the Bible and within its moral/truth framework to protest the workings of Satan and accept the workings of God within the same person or organization.

There is really no conspiracy against God there are choices people make, believe or unbelief, trust or rejection. All human consequences come from the choices that we make. We can create our own religion or distort a religion we are not pawns moved by the great Demon Satan. We are quite capable of doing evil apart from the manipulation of Satan. As long as we are not held under some kind of conspiracy theory we will be able to evaluate history without the need to see angels and demons in everything.

Dan Brown and most Adventists do indeed both have conspiracy theories and both are based upon false information that is accepted uncritically because it pleases the holder. Both are demonstrably false yet often held on to just as tightly because it is their belief and that belief is sacrosanct. The scholarship of the 1800's, the theology of the 1800's is not anymore authoratative then that of the 1100's. For many Adventists their religious progress ended at the turn of the century.


Dave said...

A few comments:

(1) I have read The DaVinici Code and have browsed half-a-dozen books the respond to it.

(2) Constantine must have known that the Arians were outnumbered at Nicea (and by extension, in the Christian church).

(3) I have no problem with the idea the Constantine simply went along with what the church wanted to do. I use his name as a rhetorical device, but if you want to be technically correct, you can replace his name with "church consensus".

Ron Corson said...

The Reason I made the statement about questioning whether you read the book was because your statement indicated something far different from the Da Vinci code book. You wrote:
"Dan Browns version is the Emperor Constantine removed paganism from Christianity by having the Church proclaim Christ as fully divine and fully human while excluding all others as heratics..."

But the books position is that Jesus was a mere man, great man, a prophet but not divine. This is from the e-book text so I don't have the page number but this is to I would think most Christians the most telling part of the book.

"Indeed," Teabing said. "Stay with me. During this fusion of religions, Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea."
Sophie had heard of it only insofar as its being the birthplace of the Nicene Creed.
"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 sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."
"I don't follow. His divinity?"
"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 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 via the established sacred channel-the Roman Catholic Church."
Sophie glanced at Langdon, 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. I've written several books on the topic."
"And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?"
"Why would they?" Teabing countered. "The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine's underhanded political maneuvers don't diminish the majesty of Christ's life. Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives. All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ's substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today."
Sophie glanced at the art book before her, eager to move on and see the Da Vinci painting of the Holy Grail.
"The twist is this," Teabing said, talking faster now. "Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history." Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie. "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 godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned."