Several months ago I discovered two comparatively new authors, Simon Toyne and Danielle Trussoni, whose works I’ve enjoyed reading and writing reviews on (you can find my reviews on my site, sspjut.com. or on my goodreads page). Something I found interesting about both authors current novels were (Toyne’s “Sanctus” series, Trussoni’s “Angelology” series) that each chose an aspect of Christianity that is foundational to it’s doctrines then asked the question, ‘What if’?.
In Toyne’s case I found him prodding amongst the traditions of Adam and Eve asking, ‘What if Eve were actually ‘Gaia’, ‘Mother Earth’, ‘Earth Goddess’, and the angst between her and Adam stemmed not from the curse of sin but rather his jealousy over her (not his)power to create life?’. With Trussoni it was the question of whether we are indeed surrounded by modern day Nephilium trying to claim the world for themselves, and if the parentage of Christ is angelic, rather than divine?
Both authors chose to tread on holy ground. Both had the boldness to question the sanctity of Scripture. Both poked their finger in the pie of religion and hypothesized an alternate reality that could, if true, change the way we see God, eternity, salvation, end times, and ultimately, life as we know it.
How dare they!
In 2001 the film; “The Body“, starring Antonio Banderas and Olivia Williams, was released. It’s a story based on the novel by Richard Sapir, about an archeological find beneath a restaurant courtyard in downtown Jerusalem, purposed to have been own 2000 years ago by a rich man, now containing the shrouded remains of someone who has been crucified; someone who has all the scars and object markers of Jesus Christ. Because of the religious, political, and historical ramifications of such a find, the Israeli government asks the Vatican to send someone from their office to help verify the artifacts and authenticate the body. In steps Jesuit priest, Father Matt Gutierrez (Banderas), and Israeli archeologist, Dr. Sharon Golban (Williams). The first is a devout, ex-patriot priest from Central America, the second an equally devout atheist. Both are there to make sure that no matter what the cost to themselves or what they believe, all facts are accounted for and the truth is told.
Underlying all this irascible tension to validate what each holds dear, is the reality of what those convictions are founded upon. For some, like Christian historian Father Lavelle, faith is found in the physical evidence of what can or can not be proven to be true about the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. For others, such as Catholic dignitaries Cardinal Pesci and the Monsignor, it is all about maintaining the authority of the Church and its self-appointed role as the Voice and Hand of God. For Father Matt Gutierrez and Dr. Sharon Golban it is about the convictions of the heart.
As you can imagine everyone’s theological undies got twisted , some even to the point of losing all faith in the deity of Christ and taking their own lives. In the end everyone was confronted by a crisis of faith that asked the question; ‘If Jesus was not raised from the dead, would you still believe He was the Son of God?’
For those that relied upon Scripture, empirical evidence, and theological doctrines, the need to defend themselves and their god came to the forefront of all they thought and did , even if what they thought and did meant violence towards others. But for those whose confidence was founded in the transformational power of the life of the One living within them, a crisis became an unshakable truth that…” Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)
So why did I bring up Simone Toyne and Danielle Trussoni in the same post as the The Body? What do I see as an important comparison between fantastical re-interpretations of Scripture in fiction and the archeological validations of faith in film? What was it about Adam, Eve, Nephilium, angelic offspring, and archeological conundrums that I find so relevant to ‘Christianity’ today?
Only this, that our confidence in Christ has to be substantiated by something more than just words on a piece of paper. If all we have to cling to is the 66 combined text we call the Holy Bible and our limited interpretation of what those text imply, then I think we are inadvertently setting ourselves up for a crisis of faith that, like Father Lavelle, may very well not survive.
Recently I was doing some research for several books I am working on that required reading through a variety of documentation regarding ancient history from the time of the Flood to the time of Moses. In the process I came across more than one piece of information that made me stop and re-examine what I new about history, Scripture, and God. Some of that information helped enlarged it, some made me question it, all in one way or another challenged it.
The interesting part was had I been doing this research five or six years ago, I would have in all likelihood gotten all worked up over the idea that anyone would question that the authenticity our modern day interpretations of the Bible were not inerrant. I may have even gotten down right nasty and gone so far as to write scathing Facebook and blog posts denouncing those who, like Toyne, Trussoni, and Sapir, had the effrontery to mess around with the ‘holy grail’ of Christianity. My former attitude was ‘We are right, they are wrong, and this discussion is over before it has begun.’
But that was then, before life happened and my own crisis of faith forced me to confront the ‘What if’s’ within my life. Events that required me to sit down and examine everything I believed to be true about my current interpretation of Scripture, church, faith, God, the finished work of Christ, and who I was in the middle of all that. Like our fictional friends above, unwelcome events began poking their fingers into the core value of my convictions, challenging not only their validity but their authenticity as well.
What I discovered was that regardless of whether what I believed or interpreted in Scripture was completely accurate, Who I believed in was all that really mattered. After all the dust settled and the ‘What if’s’ were asked, I realized that my willingness to let go of the absolutes and begin holding life and God and Scripture and faith loosely didn’t mean I was without convictions. Just the opposite. It actually helped redefined them so that when the ‘What if’s’ in life do come and start poking around , demanding to know whether my current understanding of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is true, I no longer feel threatened by either my answers or lack of.
At the end of the day, when the fires of life have burned away the wood, hay, and stubble of our thoughts, beliefs, questions, I think we’ll discover that what They are really after isn’t children who are grounded and rooted in Scripture and able to defend its words even unto death. But rather, Beloved sons and daughters whose hearts know that the only real non-negotiable thing in life is that they are immeasurably loved by God, kept by Christ, and the rest is simply learning what it is to live their lives loved.