Saturday, May 20, 2006

Contra Mundum

Albert Mohler speaks well not only regarding the DaVinci Code, but also to the whole issue of standing against the world and for the truth. You can read his comments in his May 19 blog entry, “A Response to “The DaVinci Code”: What's the Problem?

Here is another question:

At the end of last year, Oprah Winfrey chose James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces, for her Book Club. It soon sold 3.5M copies. Last January the book was exposed to contain numerous fabrications. It wasn’t the non-fiction Frey said it was. The Press immediately said Oprah had been “conned.”

On Jan. 12 Frey appeared with Larry King to defend himself. Oprah called into the show and spoke up in support of Frey. She said, in part:

And I feel about “A Million Little Pieces” that although some of the facts have been questioned -- and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that, that the underlying message of redemption in James Frey’s memoir still resonates with me. And I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and will continue to read this book.

According to Oprah at that time, the message of redemption in the book was more important than the fact of the fabrications by the author. Apparently Oprah subsequently changed her mind. When Frey appeared on her show she forthrightly stated, “I feel duped…”

On that same show Oprah also questioned Nan Talese, Frey’s publisher. Didn’t she check out the facts? Didn’t she research to know if he was lying? Talese continued to defend Frey and her choice to publish his work as non-fiction saying

A novel is something different than a memoir. And a memoir is different from an autobiography. A memoir is an author’s remembrance of a certain period in his life. Now, the responsibility, as far as I am concerned, is does it strike me as valid? Does it strike me as authentic? I mean, I’m sent things all the time and I think they’re not real. I don't think they're authentic. I don’t think they're good. I don’t believe them. In this instance, I absolutely believed what I read.

In other words, the facticity of the events didn’t matter to Talese. All that was important was whether or the book read as if it were authentic. That leads back to Oprah’s original statement, that a book can be redemptive even though it is not factual. Can a written piece be received as authentic and redemptive even though it is not regarded to be either entirely factual or historical? Now consider what Mohler writes

Beginning in chapter 55 [The DaVinci Code], Brown gets to the very heart of the story when the central character begins to reveal to another character the truth about the conspiracy. Consider what the character Leigh Teabing says: “The Bible is a product of man, my dear, not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds, man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times and it has evolved through countless translations, editions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”

Now if that is true, then we are reading a kind of committee report when we open the Scripture. But it is not true. This is one of those insidious statements that makes sense to sinners, because in effect, that one paragraph has just declared that we do not have to take the Bible as the Word of God. It is just a human document, says the book.
So that would make Scripture one of those books that are authentic if the reader receives it as such, and redemptive in spite of the fact that it is essentially based on falsehoods. I say this because in so many churches today Scripture is regarded as not entirely, but merely mostly, or sometimes not quite true. Still, it is considered to be authoritative and redemptive. (Are we having fun yet?)

Now it must be asked, why did Oprah unleash all that ire against Frey because he was less than totally honest with the facts in his memoirs? Had all the redemptive qualities of his book suddenly been excised because it was revealed that he was a liar? For those who are so quick to dismiss much of Scripture as fiction and yet still claim it to be authentic and redemptive, why is more integrity demanded of someone like Frey than of the Holy Spirit?

Mohler gives Augustine as an example, and he is a fine one for us to remember. "Athanasius said, 'Well, if the entire world is against Athanasius, then Athanasius will be against the entire world.' In Latin, Athanasius' phrase has been summarized as 'contra mundum,' 'against the world.'" Here is another example:
And that you may marvel still more, the whole Christian church in its early days, and at its best, erred… only Peter, Paul, and Barnabas standing firm and holding that neither law nor good works are profitable and necessary for salvation. St. Luke clearly states it in Acts 15. There were great saints there, the apostles and their disciples who insisted and would have continued to insist that the law and good works were necessary for salvation, had not St. Paul and Peter declared against it. And even they themselves would not have known this had not God by miraculous signs from heaven confirmed them in their opinion that only faith is profitable and necessary for salvation, as we read in Acts 10:43. (Luther’s Church Postil, Epiphany)

Contra mundum might also be contra ecclesiam when it is for the sake of her repentance and reformation.

When confronted with explaining the difficult events of His own crucifixion, our risen Lord turned to Moses and the Prophets (Lk 24:27). Before ascending to the Father’s right hand, Christ exhorted His apostles to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them to guard all that He taught (Mt 28:19-20). It is He who said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5); abide in My word and you are My disciples (Jn 8:31). It is He who said that if His hearers were Abraham’s children they would not reject Him (Jn 8:39-40).

In the mind of this world truth itself is weighed judged for its value: What does it mean to me? Yet Scripture is God’s chosen means to reveal to us His Son as His Savior according to His plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is neither authenticated by nor redemptive because of what we make of Him. A savior authenticated and made redemptive by the recipient’s act is a god of one’s own making, an idol.

Instead, it is humanity that finds its authenticity in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God who was born a human infant and was crucified on a Roman cross. Humanity finds redemption in Jesus Christ because in the life, death and bloody sacrifice of this Jesus all the sins of the world died. It is in His resurrection there is any hope for mankind- delivered freely in Baptism. Were Christ not raised from the dead, none have hope for resurrection of the dead (1Cor 15). Therein again is authentication of humanity in Christ alone.

What is authentic? What is redemptive? Look first to the Scriptures. All eyes on Jesus and what He redeems and declares authentic, then judge from there.


Pastor Robert Nemoyer said...

I appreciate your thoughtful musings. Keep up the good work!

Pastor Robert Nemoyer said...

I appreciate your very thoughtful musings. Keep us the good work!

In Christ,

Pr. Robert Nemoyer