The DaVinci Inquest part 5
Did the Church Destroy the Sacred
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 11, 2006
John 8:1-11 (NLT)
This morning, we’re
continuing our series on The DaVinci Code, and I’m actually going to
change things up a bit. When we started this whole thing, I gave you a
list of what topics we’d be addressing each week. And today we were
going to be addressing Sex, Women and the Church. Well, we’re still
going to be doing that… but we’re going to spread it over two weeks. As
I was working on this message, even after cutting out a lot of
material, I still had almost twice as many pages as I normally like to
have for a message, and so the logical thing to do was split it up.
So this morning, we’re going to talk about what The DaVinci Code calls
the Sacred Feminine – referring to women. We will talk about women… how
they’ve been treated throughout history, what the Bible says, and what
their role is in the Church today. And then next week, we’ll talk about
Sacred Sex… what the book calls Hieros Gamos, which means “Sacred
Union”. According to The DaVinci Code, that’s a sex ritual through
which you can experience God. Is there any truth to that? What about
the claim that sex was used as a form of worship by early Jews and
Christians? And how about the focus of that worship… was there really a
female counterpart to God, a goddess named Shekinah? And what about the
claim that the early Church saw this as a threat to their power base
and so painted sexuality to be evil and vile and shameful? That’s all
next week. Nothing better than talking about sex on Father’s Day.
But this morning, our focus is on what Dan Brown calls the Sacred
• Is it true that there was a matriarchal society which the early
church successfully crushed?
• Is it true that, from the formation of the church all through church
history and right down to the church today, women have been repressed
• Is it true that pre-Christian pagan religion elevated women whereas
Christianity demonized them?
Let me to read you something from James Garlow and Peter Jones’ book,
Cracking DaVinci’s Code…
“All the subtlety of The DaVinci Code disappears each time the topic of
women is mentioned. Brown’s thesis is succinct: Christianity destroyed
and killed women. Paganism affirmed them. But he is wrong. Very wrong.
If ever a book should be written off as ‘mere fiction,’ The DaVinci
Code is one.”
~ James Garlow and Peter Jones, Cracking DaVinci’s Code, p. 58
“Christianity destroyed and killed women. Paganism affirmed them.” That
really is the overarching premise of The DaVinci Code. Over the past
month, we’ve addressed several of the different claims made in the
book, but they are all traced back to this one main premise. It
infiltrates everything else in the book.
• It shapes what The DaVinci Code claims about Mary Magdalene and the
• It affects how the book describes the identity and nature of God.
• It influences what the book teaches about Jesus.
• It impacts what it tells us about the development of the early church
and what it says about church history.
• It dictates what The DaVinci Code says about the formation of the
• It colours what the book says about artistic expressions through
artwork and architecture and music.
It is the foundational belief of The DaVinci Code that Constantine and
the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 along with the early church conspired
to suppress and even destroy what the book calls the Sacred Feminine.
But was this just a literary tool, or does Dan Brown actually believe
it? Was he intentionally trying to push a message? Well, I have an
audio clip for you to listen to. It starts with him mentioning that
many writers and speakers like me have made inflammatory claims about
him, which I find interesting since we’re simply responding to the
inflammatory claims which he has made. But whatever… listen to what he
[AUDIO – Clip from Dan Brown speaking at New Hampshire Writers’
Well, that’s interesting. Dan Brown seems to yearn for a return to the
worship of gods and goddesses. And just so you know, earlier in that
speech he reaffirmed that he really believes in what he wrote in The
DaVinci Code and that it describes history as he has come to understand
it. And he really does believe that the Church has conspired to destroy
the worth of women… what he calls the Sacred Feminine. So right now,
let’s look at what he actually claims in The DaVinci Code:
believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully
converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal
Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the
sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.”
~ The DaVinci Code, p. 124
Okay, so Dan Brown talks
about how there used to be a matriarchal society. This would be a
society where the women ruled and the men were subservient. But there’s
a problem with this: There has never been a matriarchal society. I’m
not saying that’s the way it should be; I’m just saying that’s the way
it is. Particularly in Greek and Roman societies, women were always
viewed as inferior… before the advent of Christianity.
“…Authority and leadership are, and always have been, associated with
the male in every society, and I refer to this when I say that
patriarchy is universal and that there has never been a matriarchy . .
. the findings of the past 50 years failed to include a single shred of
evidence that such matriarchies had ever existed…”
~ Steven Goldberg, chairman of the Department of Sociology at City
City University of New York
“It is true . . . that all the claims so glibly made about societies
ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they
~ Anthropologist Margaret Mead
So how could Constantine have possibly converted the society from a
matriarchy which never existed in the first place? So that part of Dan
Brown’s claim has no credibility.
Dan Brown also claims that it’s within Paganism along with Gnosticism
that women are truly valued. Well, we’ve already talked about Gnostic
beliefs and saw how they degrade women… as you may recall, they even
taught that the only hope for a woman to be saved was for her to
somehow become a man. We’ve dealt with that, so we’re not going to
rehash it this morning. So let’s move on to talk about Pagan religion.
Now, I am not an expert on Paganism. But I do know that there was no
one Pagan belief system… there were many. Some of them included several
gods and goddesses; others had only gods. And none of them actually
In Greece, India and China, women had no rights and were considered
only to be the property of men. Aristotle taught that women were
inferior by nature and ranked them someplace between and slave and a
man. Plato taught that if a man lived a cowardly life, he would be
reincarnated as a woman. In Greece, a wife could not leave her house
unescorted. And when the husband had company to the home, she had to
remain in her quarters. Women were not educated and were not allowed to
speak in public. For a woman, silence was considered to be her greatest
grace, even in her own home. And what’s more, women weren’t just seen
to be inferior… they were evil. They were the source of evil and were
not to be trusted.
And ancient Roman paganism was not much better. There, women had a lot
more freedom to be out in public, but were still viewed as the property
of their husbands. And in many Pagan belief systems, women were treated
as nothing more than objects for sexual fulfillment. Which, by the way,
is the same way that the secret rituals promoted in The DaVinci Code
Now contrast that with what happened when Christianity was introduced
into society. Here’s what Garlow has to say about that…
“The Advent of Christianity radically transformed the fate of women.
Even ancient Roman pagan scholars agree that it was a turning point for
the freedom and dignity of women.”
~ James Garlow & Peter Jones, Cracking DaVinci’s Code, p. 63
So the best thing that ever happened for women was the emergence of
Christianity. Right from the very beginning it attributed worth and
dignity to women. And the Church has been the primary advocate for
women throughout the centuries.
• In pagan China, it was common for female babies to be killed because
they were not valued as much as boys. But with the influence of
Christian missionaries, that began to change.
• Also in China, it used to be standard practice for women to bind
their feet. They’d wrap them up tight in order to keep their feet small
because that was seen as attractive. Problem was, it could lead to
gangrene, amputation, and even death. And with Christian influence,
that practice was abolished. A great movie, but the way, which shows
this is The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman.
• In India, if a husband died, the wife was expected to take her life
and follow her husband in death, even if she was still young with a
full life in front of her. This practice was called suttee, and it was
ended by the influence of Christians.
• Amy Carmichael was a Christian who rescued young girls from the Hindu
practice of temple prostitution and fought to put an end to it.
Whenever Christianity has been introduced to a society, women have been
elevated. And in the last two centuries in particular, the treatment of
women worldwide has improved immensely because of Christian influences.
I went on the Concerned Women for America website, and this is what I
“Far from oppressing women, the church has proved to be a liberating
force. Women have achieved unprecedented status in nations where
Christianity has had an impact.”
~ Concerned Women for America website
So Paganism was not as pro-women and Christianity is not as anti-women
as Dan Brown would have you believe. On the whole, Christianity has
been very positive and liberating for women.
But that’s not to say that the Church has never strayed from that.
There are some rather embarrassing eras and episodes in Church history
as it relates to the treatment of women. To deny that would be less
than truthful. Even looking at the quotations from early Christian
leaders, you’ll find widely divergent views.
“Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a
~ Clement of Alexandria, Second Century
There, isn’t that inspiring? One of the greatest minds in Church
History belonged to Augustine. In fact, a whole lot of our doctrine was
formulated by him. He was one of the most influential people in the
development of Christianity and in all of Western thought. But even he
said some things which we see as being chauvinistic and even ridiculous
today. For example, he looked at Genesis where it says Eve was created
to be a helper for Adam, and this is what he reasoned…
“I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with,
if one excludes procreation. If woman is not given to man for help in
bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth
together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better
help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more
pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together
than when a man and a woman cohabitate?”
~ Augustine of Hippo, Fourth Century
Because obviously men make much better friends. That’s what he’s
saying. And so Augustine says the only worth of a woman is to have
children. And this is a giant in church history! But what he said is
blatantly wrong… we’ll come back to that.
So Dan Brown is partially right, when he accuses the Church of saying
negative things about women. Some things can’t be excused, and we just
need to admit them. But just to show the opposite, here are some other
quotes from early Church leaders…
“Many women, also, being strengthened by the grace of God, have
performed numerous exploits.”
~ Clement of Rome, First Century
“The virtue of man and woman is the same…. Woman does not possess one
nature and man another. Rather, they have the same.”
~ Clement of Alexandria, Second Century
“…The mercy of Christ, and the heavenly grace that would subsequently
follow, was equally divided among all; without difference of sex,
without distinction of years, without accepting of persons, upon all
people of God the gift of spiritual grace was shed.”
~ Cyprian of Carthage, Third Century
And so you have two contradictory viewpoints of women emerging in the
Church very early. How can this be explained? Let me offer you a
Why are there anti-female statements and actions in
1. Even as
believers, we are not immune to the influence of society.
Christianity has had a
tremendously positive influence on society. But at the same time,
society can influence believers. To an extent, we are products of our
environment. We all learn certain things as we’re growing. We inherit a
worldview. We’re all impacted by what we read and what we see on TV.
And all of those can have an impact on our beliefs. We’re not slaves to
them, but we do tend to favour them. And that’s why the Bible tells us
to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, to watch our lives
and doctrine closely, to not conform to the pattern of this world, but
to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
[Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:16]
2. The Church
is comprised of fallible individuals.
Christians are still
prone to making mistakes and having poor judgment. That was certainly
true for both Peter and Paul. Even the most reliable, well-intentioned
leader will let you down at some point, and so your faith should not be
placed in them. It should be placed only in Christ. Look to Him, not
the poor examples or even the good examples in Church history.
understanding of God, His Word, and His Church is progressive.
God never changes, but
our understanding of Him does. With each new generation, a fresh light
is cast upon His Word and new insights are made. The Church is an
ever-changing, ever-growing Body. The Church was birthed in Acts 2, but
at that point of time it was just a collection of people with no
structure. Later on in Acts, it begins to take form with specific
ministries and accountable leadership. And it continues to grow and
develop today. So we’re growing, we’re changing, and we’re learning.
Let me give you an example of this. The Bible never specifically
condemns slavery. You cannot find one passage where it says, “Slavery
is wrong.” It’s just not there. And for centuries, Christians reasoned
that since the Bible didn’t condemn slavery, it must be okay. No, the
Bible did not condemn slavery, and it didn’t condone slavery, either.
Instead, it did something much more revolutionary and powerful. It
began to instill principles and change our mindset.
Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free… For you are all
Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.
Instead of using the “Because I said so” approach (“Slavery’s wrong
because I said so”), God uses His Word to build a foundation of
equality. Because of Christian influence, slaves began to be treated
better and attributed with some value. And eventually, the Church was
pivotal in abolishing slavery… not just because God said it was wrong,
but because we knew in out gut that it was wrong. He had instilled that
value in us.
In fact, you can be proud of your heritage with the Wesleyan Church,
because we were at the forefront of that movement in the States. And to
show you this from an unbiased viewpoint, I went online to
Wikipedia.com, the Online Encyclopedia. I did a search for “Wesleyan
Church” and this is what I found…
"The Wesleyan Church … was officially formed in 1843 at an organizing
conference in Utica, New York, as a group of ministers and laymen
splitting from the Methodist Episcopal Church, primarily over the issue
of slavery, though they had secondary issues as well. Rev. Orange Scott
presided, as the meeting formed a federation of churches at first
calling themselves the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, was formed. …
Other leaders at the founding of the church were LaRoy Sunderland, who
had been tried and defrocked for his antislavery writings, Lucious C.
Matlack, and Luther Lee, a minister who later operated an Underground
Railroad station in Syracuse, New York."
You know, the Church is often criticized for tolerating slavery for so
long… I wish the critics would also recognize that without the Church,
slavery would probably still be an accepted norm here in the Western
World. You might also be interested in hearing the next paragraph from
"In addition to anti-slavery, the early Wesleyan Methodists championed
the rights of women. The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York
hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, also known as the
Seneca Falls Convention."
~ www.Wikipedia.com, search “Wesleyan Church”
Oh, and that verse I read earlier? I left one phrase out. Let’s take
another look at it…
Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For
you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.
So this one verse began to lay the foundation for equality between Jews
and those outside of the Jewish tradition, between those who were
treated as slaves and those who were free, and between men and women.
It took a while for all of that to be realized, and in some ways it’s
an ongoing process, but it has been part of our Manual… part of our
Bible… since the very beginning.
Let’s take a look at a
related claim from The DaVinci Code:
Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most
bloodsoaked publication in human history. Malleus Maleficarum— or The
Witches’ Hammer—indoctrinated the world to “the dangers of freethinking
women” and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture, and destroy
them… During three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at
the stake an astounding five million women.”
~ The DaVinci Code, p. 125
We’ve all heard of the
Witch Hunts, and so what Dan Brown says here must be true, right? Well,
That book really did exist, and it was a horrible, vulgar book which
gave ways to test whether or not someone was a witch. It was written by
Heinrich Kramer, who was a German monk. While he was writing it, he
directed the trial of 57 suspected witches until the Bishop of Brixen
put a stop to it. The Bishop stated that the devil was in Kramer, not
in the witches.
By 1487, Kramer had completed his book and tried to get it published by
the Catholic Church, but it was condemned as unethical and illegal. But
not to be denied, Kramer forged a glowing letter of reference from
them, included it in the book as an endorsement, and was able to get it
published elsewhere. The Church officially censured the book in 1490.
Nevertheless, it became the most popular book apart from the Bible and
went through about 30 reprints during the next 200 years. It was The
DaVinci Code of its day, and it remained so until John Bunyan wrote
Pilgrim’s Progress, which in contrast is a wonderful classic about
Christian growth, and I’d recommend it to all of you.
As for Malleus Maleficarum… it was not used in the Inquisition as Dan
Brown claims. It was, however, used in many secular courts… by the
civil government. They were the ones that handed down the majority of
death sentence verdicts. Those found guilty of witchcraft by the Church
were typically given a non-lethal punishment… such as excommunication
or fasting on bread and water for a year.
And as for the claim of 5 million women being killed as witches, that’s
an absurd exaggeration. There were actually about 110,000 trials, and
about 48% of them resulting in executions. So about 50,000. And between
20-25% of them were men! Now, one person killed is one too many. It’s
indefensible. But to claim that the Church killed 5,000,000 women…
that’s just a wild exaggeration. And in fact, the movie does recognize
this and changes it to 50,000. Still 50,000 too many, but not even
close to 5 million.
So how does the Church
view women? To find the answer to that, you’ve got to look at the
Bible. There have been times that the Church has deviated from Biblical
teaching… but the great thing about the Bible is that it’s Truth… and
Truth has a way of rising to the top. Whenever the Church has strayed,
the Word of God has pulled us back. And the Bible has always been
acknowledged as our source of authority. So how does it present women?
[Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after
himself; male and female he created them.]
Let’s start with what we’re told about Eve. Eve was created as an equal
to Adam. Just like Adam, she was created in the image of God and her
identity and value was found in that.
[Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make
a helper suitable for him.”]
Now, the Bible does say that Eve was created to be a helper to Adam.
Isn’t that a subservient term? Not at all! The word “helper” is used 10
times in the Old Testament. Twice it refers to Eve, and six times it
refers to God Himself. Does that mean that God as our Helper is
inferior? No. A helper comes from a position of strength, not weakness.
Oh, and by the way, Eve wasn’t even around when God gave Adam the
command not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil. And the Bible makes this clear. Even Paul in the New Testament
Romans 5:17 (NLT)
The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us…
Eve was an accomplice, yes, but the sin was primarily Adam’s. Eve is
not the one blamed, contrary to what The DaVinci Code claims. Adam was.
Plus, other women in the Bible are presented with great courage and
• Esther risked her life, and as a result of her courage was able to
save an entire race. (Book of Esther)
• Ruth faithfully cared for her mother-in-law after both of them had
been widowed, and she acted very responsibly, and she even stood up for
her rights when it came to having a kinsman-redeemer. (Book of Ruth)
• Deborah was a highly-esteemed prophet and judge in Israel. One day
she ordered a man named Barak to assemble an army to go against the
Canaanites who were oppressing them. Barak said he would do it on one
condition… that Deborah lead the army. She agreed but added that she
would take the credit for the victory. And she did. And she deserved
it. (Judges 4)
• Proverbs devotes chapter 31 to affirming the greatness of women…
esteeming them for their remarkable ability to juggle pressures as
community leaders, businesswomen, wives, and mothers. It describes
anything but a repressed woman. (Proverbs 31)
• In the genealogy of Jesus, there are five women listed. This would
have been unheard of at the time. If The DaVinci Code was right and the
early church edited the Scriptures, then this certainly would have been
changed. (Matthew 1)
• Mary, the mother of Jesus is included in that genealogy. How does the
Bible portray her? As a young woman of great character and courage,
with a willingness to be used of God. (Luke 1)
• The first person that Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah was a
Samaritan woman beside a well. This woman had been divorced several
times and was now living with a guy she wasn’t married to, yet Jesus
chose her to be the first to learn His true identity. (John 4)
• In Luke 8, it clearly credits a group of women for financing the
ministry of Jesus and the disciples. And several women traveled along
with them. (Luke 8)
• And who was the first to see Jesus after the resurrection? Mary
Magdalene. We talked about her last week. In that society, women were
not even allowed to testify in court. But yet a woman was chosen to be
the first to testify about the resurrected Jesus. (John 20)
• And then on the Day of Pentecost, Peter gets up to preach and he
quotes from the Old Testament book of Joel which says, “In the last
days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons
and daughters will prophesy…” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17) Which by the way,
is the reason that all denominations in the Holiness movement… we’re
one of them… and all churches in the Pentecostal movement ordain women
and tell them, “Scripturally, you have every right to be able to preach
the Gospel.” We’ve done it since our denomination was founded.
So the Bible clearly portrays women as being equal to men. Men and
women together were to carry on the Church. In fact, it’s highly
probable that women outnumbered the men in the early church and were
pivotal to the rapid spread and growth of the Church. And there have
been tremendous women who have played pivotal roles in the church
throughout the centuries… Perpetua, Felicitas, Monica, Clare, Catherine
of Sienna, Katherina von Bora, Susanna Wesley, Phoebe Palmer, Catherine
Booth, Elizabeth Elliot, Joni Erickson, Ann Graham Lotz, Mother Teresa…
Again, I’m not trying to excuse people or churches that have acted in
very unchristian ways. But the Christian Church has led to important
advancements in the area of equal rights and does have a history of
strong female leadership. Is there more to do? Sure there is. But
please don’t blame the Church for all the woes of womanhood when the
Church has done so much to advance equality.
“Jesus was the
~ The DaVinci Code, p. 248
Is this true? Yes and
no. It depends on what you mean by feminist. So let’s talk about…
Two Branches of Feminism:
First is Biblical
Feminism. We’ve already seen how Jesus and the entire Bible actually
affirm women. He validated the role and value of women. His positive
acceptance and treatment of women express that women are equal to men…
that they have an intrinsic value… that they have something to
contribute to society and to the Church… Yes, males and females are
different, but they are unquestionably equal. That is the message of
Jesus. And it was Jesus, not any pagan religion, which began to turn
the tide in the way that women were treated. Remember the passage Chris
read for us earlier? About how Jesus defended and offered restoration
and a fresh start to the woman caught in adultery? He uplifted the
outcast and the forsaken.
That is Biblical feminism, and in that sense, Jesus was a feminist.
That’s the kind of feminism that was behind that meeting in the
Wesleyan Church in Seneca Falls, NY. But there’s another kind of
This is the a
chauvinistic feminism that goes beyond equality… it teaches that women
are superior to men. Robin Morgan is a high-profile radical feminist,
and when she gives lectures, she refuses to take questions from men.
They raise their hands, she ignores them. And she has been quoted as
“I feel that man-hating is honorable.”
~ Robin Morgan, Radical Feminist
But she’s wrong. Man-hating is no more honorable than woman-hating.
Both are unbiblical… both are unchristian.
Biblical Feminism removes the wedge that had existed between the
genders… Radical Feminism drives it deeper, and runs contrary to
everything Jesus taught us about women.
Just before we finish
up, I have a short video for you to watch…
[VIDEO – Strobel 1035 – How Should Christianity Treat Women?] (2:00)
So there you have it. Women were created to be different from but equal
to men, and together in partnership women and men are to participate
in, support, and lead the Church. Women are created every bit in the
image of God as men are.
Come back next week for the big sex talk.