Angels & Demons part 2
about the Christian Faith
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 17, 2009
Last week we started a
3-part message series taking a look at the book/movie Angels &
Demons. The movie, just released this weekend, is based on the book
written by Dan Brown way back in the year 2000. And in case you didn’t
already know, Dan Brown was also the author of The DaVinci Code,
another book that was made into a movie and caused quite a controversy
at the time.
Well, Angels & Demons follows the same main
character, Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks in the movie, and this
character is a Harvard professor who specializes in religious
symbology. In other words, he studies the symbols and symbolism found
within world religions. Langdon doesn’t seem to have any real faith of
his own, but he’s interested in studying faith and taking a look at all
of the various religions throughout history.
Now, I’m not
endorsing the movie or the book. And I’m not calling for a boycott,
either. You can check them out if you want to. And I’ll be careful not
to give away too much of the plot today. But just be aware that some of
the things that Dan Brown writes about and presents as facts in reality
have no basis in fact. In particular, some of the things Dan Brown
writes about the Catholic Church and about the origins of Christianity
simply aren’t true.
As I mentioned last week, we don’t object to
what Dan Brown wrote just because we don’t like it or it doesn’t line
up with our faith; we object because it’s not true. And the evidence
So last week, we took a look at Science and Faith.
We saw how in Angels & Demons as well as in our society today
seems to be this belief that Science and Faith are at odds with each
other, always have been, and there’s no way to reconcile the two.
That’s the underlying theme of Angels & Demons. But what we
discovered is that Science and Faith are very compatible.
fact, it’s the Christian worldview specifically that led to the rise of
Science. That’s been documented. Christians believe that our world was
created by God… we can debate about exactly how he did it, but we all
believe that our world is a God-directed Creation. And we believe that
our world is a reasonable, rational Creation because He is a reasonable
and rational God. That means that our world has order, it operates
according to laws God put in place, and that led to the belief that it
can be studied, examined, and understood. It has actually been
documented how science arose in the Western World as opposed to
anyplace else in the world specifically because of this Christian
We also saw how even though there have been times
when Christians and Scientists have opposed each other, those are
actually the exceptions. The truth is, The Christian Church has
historically supported scientific discovery and for centuries was at
the forefront of scientific endeavor.
And we saw how Science and
Faith are inherently compatible. They are both seeking truth, and both
are exploring God’s revelation of Himself to us. And when there seems
to be a conflict, usually all that is needed is more time, more study,
more understanding, and an openness to learn and grow… and those
differences take care of themselves.
Okay, so that was last
week, when we looked at the underlying theme of the book/movie. Next
week, we’re going to look at what Angels & Demons says that is
But today… Today we’re going to talk about some of the
messages that are presented in Angels & Demons that aren’t so
positive. Some of the errors Dan Brown makes about Christianity and the
Christian Church, either intentionally or unintentionally.
the reason we’re looking at these are because they are so interwoven in
the plot, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that it’s very easy to just
accept them as being truth. And as we’ve seen before, Dan Brown likes
to present these kinds of claims not just as part of a fictional book
but as being fact, even when they are very far from it.
let’s go at it. What are some of the claims that Dan Brown makes in
Angels & Demons that are less than truthful? There were six or
seven we could have looked at this morning; we’re just going to look at
three. And again, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’m speaking in
terms of the book.
about Christianity found in Angels & Demons:
Christian belief is inherently destructive
is the kind of message you find in the book, and find other people like
Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Penn from Penn & Teller
so vigorously these days. Let me show you part of a conversation from
Angels & Demons between the main character, Robert Langdon, and
scientist by the name of Max Kohler. Starting with Kohler, Kohler says…
“Our scientists produce miracles almost daily.”
The word “miracle” was certainly not part of the vocabulary around
Harvard’s Fairchild Science Building. Miracles were left for the School
“You sound skeptical,” Kohler said.” I thought you were a religious
symbologist. Do you not believe in miracles?”
“I’m undecided on miracles,” Langdon said…
“Perhaps miracle is the wrong word. I was simply trying to speak your
language?” Langdon was suddenly uncomfortable. “Not to disappoint you,
sir, but I study religious symbology – I’m an academic, not a priest.”
slowed suddenly and turned, his gaze softening a bit. “Of course. How
simple of me. One does not need to have cancer to analyze its symptoms.”
Langdon had never heard it put quite that way.” (Brown, pg. 26-27).
you didn’t catch the subtle meaning here, Kohler is equating
Christianity with cancer… a disease that grows and spreads, causing
destruction and even death. That seems to be what he is saying, and
there’s no real objection to this belief presented in the book.
you might look at that and just think I’m reading into it. And maybe I
am, but take a look at what is said just a few pages later. Langdon is
describing the Illuminati, a secret society that is prominent in the
book and the movie, and this is what they believed…
brotherhood held that the superstitious dogma spewed forth by the
church was mankind’s greatest enemy. They feared that if religion
continued to promote pious myth as absolute fact, scientific progress
would halt, and mankind would be doomed to an ignorant future of
senseless holy wars.”
Again, Langdon is describing how this
secret society viewed the Christian Church, but there’s no hint that
Langdon disagrees with them. So what you’re left with is the message
that if you believe in Jesus, then you are placing your faith in a myth
that only leads to closed-mindedness, ignorance, destruction, and war.
you know what? There have been some who would fit that description. We
can’t totally ignore what Dan Brown is presenting, because there is
some truth. There have been people claiming to be Christians who have
been closed-minded. There have been some who have been corrupted by
power and have done some pretty bad things. There have been some who
have treated other people with contempt. There have been moments in
history when the Christian Church has aligned itself with evil people
and have participated in actions that we regret today.
those instances are the exceptions. And a simple examination of the
motives and the methods of the people behind those atrocities clearly
reveals that they weren’t Christ-followers at all, regardless of what
they claim. Or at least they were severely misled. Their actions were
not in keeping with Christian teaching either then or now.
the truth is, there are far more and far greater examples of Christians
and the Christian Church lifting society to a higher level. We’ve
talked about this here before…
You have the educational
systems begun by Christ-followers to educate children who were forced
to work during the industrial revolution, you have the great
Universities… Harvard and Yale, started by the Puritans… Princeton,
originally a Presbyterian college… Cambridge, started in 1209 by
Christians… Saint Andrews in Scotland, started as a school of theology…
The University of Edinburgh was evangelical… Oxford was established by
a variety of religious orders… and the very first institute of higher
education was started by a Celtic preacher named Illtud around 500 A.D.
how about how Christ-followers led the way in the fight for equal
rights for women? Dan Brown seems to think that the Church has always
oppressed women, but that is simply not true. Christians have fought
for women’s rights. Our own denomination was heavily involved in that
movement. The Wesleyan Church was also committed to ending slavery here
in North America and participated in the Underground Railroad. Abraham
Lincoln was guided by his Christian convictions and was often found on
his knees in prayer. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist preacher.
William Wilberforce, another Christ-follower, was a British
parliamentarian who led a decades-long fight that put an end to the
slave trade throughout the British Empire. Going back into Roman times,
slavery was essentially ended in the Roman Empire because of
Or how about the humanitarian contributions of
Christ-followers? Most of the major humanitarian organizations in the
world were started by Churches or by Christ-followers. Christ-followers
are often the first on the scene after a disaster, and they give the
most to provide aid and relief. Hundreds of thousands of
Christ-followers responded to help with recent disasters like the
Tsunami and with Katrina.
But that’s not a new thing.
Christ-followers have a history of being the first and best responders
to disasters. Like when a plague would hit a society. We talked about
this during our recent message series on The Faith. During a plague,
the rich would be heading to hills to their country estates hoping to
avoid any danger themselves, but the Christ-followers headed straight
to where the victims were to care for them, often at the expense of the
own lives. And it’s been documented that because of their compassion at
times like that, they increased the survival rate by as much as
Then you’ve got all the orphanages started and
operated by Christ-followers. You’ve got the way that they’ve cared for
widows… all kinds of humanitarian concerns answered by Christ-followers.
And if you want to look at some other benefits, how about scientific
discoveries, like we talked about last week?
then there’s exploration. Marco Polo, David Livingstone, Christopher
Columbus, James Cook… all explorers guided by their faith. Plus, untold
numbers of missionaries trekking into the most remote parts of our
planet to spread the message about the good news of Jesus.
there are the contributions Christ-followers have made toward ethics
and morality, and the many many contributions to the arts… sculptures,
paintings, music, drama…
These great positive contributions throughout the past 2000 years… all
accomplished by Jesus Christ and His followers.
yet, Christian belief is supposed to be like a cancer that destroys
everything that it comes into contact with? Sorry Dan, I don’t think
so. All you have to do is look at the teachings of Jesus to know that
Christianity benefits society; it doesn’t destroy it.
Luke 6:27-28 (NLT)
to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to
those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt
Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”
Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive
someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have
loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will
prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I’m sorry; remind
me again how this is evil? How this is a cancer? I think it’s obvious
that this claim from Angels & Demons is incorrect. The mission
Jesus and the mission of the Christian Church is and always has been to
provide love, acceptance, forgiveness, life, healing and restoration to
all people! That permeates throughout our Scripture and it’s evidenced
throughout our history. Yes, there are blemishes. But they’re the
exception, and we’ll be talking about them next week. But I am more
than confident that this world would be a much worse place without
The Bible is a book of fairy tales
Angels & Demons, Robert Langdon teams up with a scientist named
Vittoria, who always seems to speak with wisdom, she always seems to
have the right answer… and here’s what she says about the Bible:
“Holy scripture is stories... legends and history of man’s quest to
understand his own need for meaning.”
I think that echoes the misconception that a lot of people hold today…
that the stories in the Bible are just that: stories. They might say
that they are fictional allegories or metaphors to teach us moral
lessons. They might say they’re ancient legends. They might try to
discredit them in a variety of ways. But you need to realize that the
Bible is an accurate source of history. It’s a book of facts, not
For centuries opponents of the Bible have tried to
disprove it using other historical writings and archaeological
discoveries. But the more we learn, the more the Bible is proven true.
Cities mentioned in the Bible that people claimed didn’t exist have
been unearthed. The names of people who were thought to be made-up
characters have been found in other ancient and historical writings.
Time and time again, the Bible establishes itself as a reliable and
trustworthy source of history.
Let me show you what Paul wrote. Talking about Jesus, Paul said…
1 Corinthians 15:4 (NLT)
He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just
as the Scriptures said.
yes, this is an example of me using Scripture to prove Scripture. But
what I want to show you here is that in Paul’s writing he obviously
believed that what he was writing about actually happened in real
history. And as far as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is
concerned, we talked back at Easter time about it and saw how the
evidence supports the belief that it really happened.
beyond that, the Bible is not just a collection of stories; it’s the
Word of God. As we read in Paul’s second letter to Timothy…
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and
to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we
are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare
and equip his people to do every good work.
Now, to really understand the Bible, you have to know that it actually
contains a variety of different kinds of writings.
Writings in the Bible:
going to find the accounts of actual historical events that took place
just as the Bible says they took place. The accounts of Abraham, Moses,
King David, Esther, Ruth, Job, the birth of Jesus, His miracles, His
death and resurrection, Peter, Paul, the formation of the church… all
of these people and events are conveyed to us in the pages of the Bible
as factual events. These are historical accounts.
in the Bible that is presented to us as if it really happened, did
happen. But there are times in the Bible where we’re told stories
simply to teach us a moral lesson. These stories can use metaphors or
allegory or symbolism to convey to us eternal Truths. For example, the
parables of Jesus weren’t actual events; they were stories He made up
to teach the hearers something. It’s as if the crowds or his disciples
would gather around Him asking Him questions, and He’d say, “Come here,
let me tell you a story…”
of the writings are in the form of songs or poems, often expressing
emotions. The most obvious section of the Bible where you’ll find this
is in the Psalms, but it’s really found in various passages throughout
the Bible. For example…
Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)
My God, my God!
Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you
ignore my cries for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do
not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
writer here feels like God has abandoned him. But has God abandoned
Him? No. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the writer felt that
way. The poetry – regardless of if it’s angry, joyful, depressed,
confused, blissful – the poetry contains some of the most personal and
honest writings in the Bible.
can learn from the entire Bible, but you’ll find a concentration of
practical and educational writings in Proverbs and in the New Testament
letters written by Paul and the other apostles. These are instructions
about how you should go about everyday life. They’re not promises,
they’re not guarantees, but they are guides as to how to live wisely.
These would be the passages that teach us about who God is, how He
acts, what He’s done, and how we relate to Him.
writings are about events that haven’t happened yet. For example, the
Old Testament writings of the birth and life of Jesus were written
centuries before Jesus was born, but the writings were about an actual
birth, an actual death, and an actual resurrection.
also prophetic writings about events that are still yet to come… about
what we call the End Times. Some of those passages are difficult to
understand, but they are clearly written about actual events that are
going to happen, even though we don’t comprehend everything about them.
there are a variety of different kinds of writings in the Bible, and of
course there’s some overlap between the different types.
point is, the Bible is a very special book, in a class all by itself in
all of literature… in style, content, and importance. It’s the Word of
God… without any legendary qualities… and it is relevant and applicable
to life today.
Christianity is just one option among many
other words, what Angels & Demons tries to tell us is that all
religions are equally valid. You can find God through Christianity, but
you can also find Him through Islam, through science, or any other
religion. Take a look… Vittoria tells Langdon…
“Religion is like
language or dress. We gravitate toward the practices with which we were
raised. In the end, though, we are all proclaiming the same thing. That
life has meaning. That we are grateful for the power that created us.”
Langdon was intrigued. “So you’re saying that whether you are a
Christian or a Muslim simply depends on where you were born?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Look at the diffusion of religion around the globe.”
“So faith is random?”
Faith is universal. Our specific methods for understanding it are
arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca, some of us
study subatomic particles. In the end we are all just searching for
truth, that which is greater than ourselves.”
Vittoria is saying that where you place your faith is completely
arbitrary… it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re searching for
truth. But Jesus says that where you place your faith is critical. It’s
vital. Where you place your faith determines your eternity. Jesus said…
John 14:6 (NLT)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”
Does it sound like it doesn’t matter if you believe in Jesus or if you
believe in someone or something else?
1 John 5:11-12 (NLT)
this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this
life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have
God’s Son does not have life.
So again, we read that Jesus is
the only way. If you have the Son… if you have Jesus… you have life. If
you don’t have Jesus you don’t have life. You might have Muhammed or
Buddha or Krishna or Brahma or Allah… you might have good deeds, you
might have generosity, you might have religion, you might have science,
you might have perfect attendance at church… but if you don’t have the
Son… if you don’t have Jesus… you do not have life.
Acts 4:11-12 (NLT)
Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures… There is salvation in
no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must
1 Timothy 1:5-6 (NLT)
For there is only one God
and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ
Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
think about it. We just came through the Easter season. And we took the
time to remember what Jesus went through for you and for me on the
first Good Friday. We remembered how Jesus was arrested and put on
trial and executed on the Cross. We talked about why He was willing to
go through that… so we could receive forgiveness and life. So let me
ask you this:
Do you think that Jesus would have subjected
himself to scourging, the whipping, the beating, the crown of thorns,
the humiliation, the mocking, the nails through His wrists and His
feet… Do you think He would have gone through that kind of torture if
there was any other way? If all you had to do was follow the teachings
of Buddha, would there be any reason for Jesus to come at all? If you
just had to be a good person, what was the point of the crucifixion? If
you could find salvation through Islam or through science, what would
be the point? Do you really think Jesus would have willingly gone
through what He went through, and then said… “Okay, you can follow Me…
or not. It really doesn’t matter. You can find another way to God.”
Jesus claimed to be the One and Only Way to God the Father. He believed
that, and I believe that. He is the hope of the world. Salvation is
found in no one and nothing else. That’s what Jesus Himself claimed.
That’s what the Bible teaches. Jesus is THE way or He’s NO way.
the great thing is, He makes this offer to everyone. He welcomes every
person who will listen to come to Him and receive the love and
forgiveness and life that He offers.
Romans 1:16 (NLT)
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of
God at work, saving everyone who believes…
one is excluded, regardless of age, social status, ethnic or religious
background, whether rich or poor… no matter who you are or where you
come from, Jesus loves you, He died for You, and He rose again to offer
you life. You can accept Him or reject Him. Take Him or leave Him. But
you can’t just number Him as one choice out of many. Jesus Himself
refuted that possibility.
Now, Angels & Demons has a point
that people do tend to adopt the religion of their parents. But that
doesn’t mean it’s right. And it doesn’t mean that they’re all equally
valid. And there are people all over the world, from a variety of faith
backgrounds, that are now coming to faith in Jesus Christ, have entered
into relationship with Him, and are looking to Him for their hope for
Maybe you’re here this morning and you’ve bought
into some of these kinds of misconceptions. Maybe you’ve never really
thought about how important it is for you personally to make a decision
about what you’re going to do with Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be
God, and He proved it through His death and resurrection. And He also
claimed to be the One and Only Way… there is no other way for you to
find forgiveness and purpose and life, and ultimately for you to find
hope for eternity. That’s what Jesus claimed, and that’s a claim that
can’t be ignored. You’ve got to either accept it or reject it. What are
you going to do with Jesus?
Perhaps you’ve never thought about
it seriously before, but now you recognize that what Jesus claims
really is true. And you realize that requires a response from you. Are
you ready this morning to choose to place your faith in Him and follow
Him from this point forward?
If that’s where you’re at this
morning, I’d like to lead you in a prayer. Let’s all bow our heads and
close our eyes. And if you’re ready to place your faith in Jesus and
enter into that personal relationship with Him this morning, you can
just pray silently… you can pray something like this…
Jesus, I know that I need you in my life. I’ve tried it on my own, but
now I realize that without You, life has no purpose, it has no meaning,
it has no hope. I’m sorry I haven’t come to you earlier, but I come to
you now asking you to forgive me for all my sin… everything I’ve ever
done wrong… and I choose to follow You from this point forward. Teach
me your ways, and lead me on your paths. Thank you.
your eyes closed for a minute. Let’s just do that to respect each
other’s privacy. If you’ve just prayed that prayer, I’d like to be able
to support you and pray for you myself. I’m not going to mention you by
name or embarrass you in any way, but if you’ve prayed that prayer
would you just raise your hand?
Now let me pray…
thank you for speaking to our hearts this morning. Thank you for
confirming within our spirits that you really are who You say you are.
You are God, who came to earth as a man, who died to pay the penalty
for our sinfulness, and who rose again to conquer death, offering us
life in its place. [For those here this morning who have chosen to
follow you, I pray that you will give them a sense of confirmation
through Your Holy Spirit, that you would guide them, and help them grow
in their faith.]
For all of us, we pray that you will give us
discernment and help us recognize when things are true and when things
are false. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around, and it
could be very easy to be deceived. So we pray for Your protection, and
Your wisdom and Your guidance as we live day to day. May we remain
faithful to You and to Your Word. For all of this we thank You, and we
pray this under the authority of Your name, Amen.