Last night I was on a panel on a nationally-televised program with Total Living Network. Jerry Rose, the omnicompetent and tireless President, interviewed art historian, Doug Adams, and a near complete endorser of Dan Brown’s theory, Vincent Bridges. Included were William Phipps, famous for his early 1970s book Was Jesus Married?, and Josh McDowell, famous for his Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which was staple diet for my generation in evidential apologetics.
The panel discussion was 90 minutes long with six commerical breaks. I won’t even try to summarize what was said, but a few reflections:
First, I had never met Josh McDowell nor had I ever heard him. He’s a full personality. For me it began with what he wore: red, white, and blue boat deck shoes, blue Dockers with a bright red belt, and a blue shirt and blue coat sparked off with a red banded watch. No kidding. His answers were invariably animated with gesticulations and emotive force. Josh told us in the green room that his new book about the DVC has sold about 5 million copies and they have published them so they are sold at near cost. He outdoes many books because he’s turned it into a light novel.
Second, at each commercial break the make-up artist charged to the platform and daubed the top of my head with make-up. I wasn’t sure if she was being a clown and making fun of my baldness or, which is more likely, my bald pate was just too shiny. It got to be funny with the live audience.
Third, William Phipps’ argument is rather simple and I wonder if any of you have given this much thought. Was Jesus married? Phipps says yes. Why? Because Jewish males married (which is a non-starter for me since men have always been married) and (which is more significant) the NT would indicate it if he varied from the custom. Now, I’m with a bundle of evangelicals (Paul Maier says this in the Lee Strobel book and so does Darrell Bock in his book, though I couldn’t locate the pages last night when I was briefing myself) who think (1) that Jesus was not married but (2) that marriage is not the deal Dan Brown makes it — which we think comes from the later medieval, Neo-Platonist denial of the value of the body and sex.
Fourth, a highlight for me was Doug Adams. He was passionate, insightful, and full of wit and verve about his points. He knows the history of Mary Magdalene in Christian art, and has all kinds of insights.
Fifth, I’m still stuck by the conspiracy of Dan Brown: for so many it looks like a deer stunned by headlights when someone presents to them a completely new theory — or like being suddenly overwhelmed with the outside chance that you got switched just after delivery and did not grow up with your real parents. Brown is persuaded, and so was Vincent Bridges, that Constantine’s work was non-Christian power plays that forced an orthodoxy that really has little to do with the incredible diversity of earliest Christianity.
My challenges at the end of the night were two-fold: we need to be a Church that is itself credible instead of giving room for conspiracists to work and we need to teach our churches how it is that orthodoxy came into existence. We’d do well to begin this summer, if we haven’t already risen to the challenge.