Ben Witherington reviews Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol”

Here we go again. A lot of ink has been spilled over the “DaVinci Code.” Now it’s time to do the same with Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol.” And no one spills as much ink as Ben Witherington. He is willing to write until the subject has been covered!!! So as “The Lost Symbol” makes the rounds, you will want to check in with Ben to get a full review of the things Brown gets right, gets wrong, doesn’t understand and ignores, spinning out another tale that turns Christianity into a spiral of special codes and secrets. Click here for the review.

An excerpt from Tim Keller’s soon to be released book Counterfeit Gods

Click here. I have read the few pages, and it is a good read even if you do not buy the book. Keller’s The Prodigal God was powerful, and this book seems to be in the same vein – insightful, psychologically real, truth told slant, as CS Lewis phrased it. Sometimes truth has to be told on the slant because straight on we hold it at bay. But it can surprise us and penetrate the heart before we build the barriers to keep it out when the story teller is good. And Keller tells a good story

The meaning of the Cross-profound but not intricate

It has become accepted in evangelicalism that all theological statements are only perspectival and open. There is decreased confidence that our theological statements can meet the demands of the rational or even that we can have confidence in rationality itself. I feel in the air of the church a nihilism of a sort, a death wish, a desire to take the whole thing down and to build up again we know not what. Brian Maclaren’s book Everything Must Change is an outcropping of this spirit. By the time one has read enough books of this genre there are no declarative sentences left. We are left with a Jesus who in some way or other saves in some way or other. Salvation begins to look strangely like suburban progressivism. Surely there is mystery in our religion, but when we read the New Testament we find ourselves breathing the air of certitude and clarity.  The following words by J Gresham Machen are timely.

“I do not think that what the New Testament says about the cross of Christ is particularly intricate.  It is, indeed, profound, but it can be put in simple language.  We deserved eternal death; the Lord Jesus, because he loved us, died in our stead upon the cross.  It is a mystery, but it is not intricate.  What is really intricate and subtle is the manifold modern attempt to get rid of the simple doctrine of the cross of Christ in the interests of human pride.  Of course there are objections to the cross of Christ, and men in the pulpits of the present day pour out upon that blessed doctrine the vials of their scorn; but when a man has come under the consciousness of sin, then as he comes into the presence of the cross, he says with tears of gratitude and joy, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.”

I must be careful here, because I am intrigued by paradox, irony and puzzle. It is intellectually more appealing and admits of a certain kind of academic adrenaline. Theology that bows to my need to get a “mind buzz” can end up leaving me without a real Christ, a real cross, a real death, a real resurrection, a real kingdom and a real message to shout from the rooftops. The man lying on the hospital bed is in need of real medicine and the curing of a real disease. Medicine has as its end the health of the patient. And so does theology.

“I Stand by the Door” – posting this again.

I stand by the door.

I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world-
It is the door through which people walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind people,
With outstretched, groping hands.
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it …
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for people to find that door–the door to God.
The most important thing any person can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch–the latch that only clicks
And opens to the person’s own touch.
People die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter–
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it–live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him …
So I stand by the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in–
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics–
It is a vast roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms.
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture in a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening …
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them
For God is so very great, and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia,
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry,
And the people way inside only terrify, them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled
For the old life, they have seen too much:
Once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not, yet even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God,
You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from people as not to hear them,
And remember they are there, too.
Where? Outside the door–
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But–more important for me–
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a door-keeper …”
So I stand by the door.

I remember this cover from TIME magazine

time1101660408_400-227x300I still remember this cover from Time. I was a junior in high school. Soon I would be a freshman in college and hear Thomas JJ Altizer at Old Dominion University assert the same. Little did I know the wave I was riding culturally – the death wish of the Western world.

Tonight we covered Frederich Nietzche in Ethics class. I spent time reading Nietzche with stops to comment and reflect. Many of the students had a difficult time reading Nietzche on their own, but when he is read aloud, the pieces seemed to come together for them. They saw the horror.

The true enemy of God is the lukewarm church. So it is declared in The Revelation. It is the lukewarm church that has turned God into tea time and biscuits. Who needs a God who is into the suburban dream of “more”? Our culture is right in rejecting such an imaginary being. And yet this is the image we keep serving up to the people expecting them to be satisfied. They know better, but do not know how to fight pastors and authors who make it all so appealing and sweet.

God is not dead. He is alive and on the battle front where the Evil One devours and destroys.