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Hank Hanegraaff & Paul Maier

Author of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview

Hank talks with us about his two books coming out in 2004: The DaVinci Code: Fact or Fiction? and The Last Disciple.

CBP:  The Da Vinci Code book was so easy to read and get through.  And I liked how you divided it up between the history and the apologetics.

Hank:  Right.  That was the whole idea behind it: just to get Paul Meyer to debunk The Da Vinci Code, and then I would give a positive defense of things.  Give both aspects to it, not only debunking The DaVinci Code, but defending the faith as well.

CBP:  Do you find that you are getting a lot of people calling into your show asking about this type of stuff?

Hank:  I am absolutely shocked at the response to this book.  To me, quite frankly, it was sort of a throw-away.  I wasnít looking at it as a significant book.  But itís done extraordinarily well.  You know, I think Paul Meyer, of course he has a rapier-sharp wit, and what he does is very quick; you can read it in a short period of time.  He gives you all the information you need to know to be able to discern fact from fiction.  The basic thing being that the whole idea of a Priory of Sion that supposedly was entrusted with the responsibility to suppress the idea that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, and she was supposed to be the pope of the Catholic Church but she unceremoniously crashed into an apostolic glass ceiling erected by a patriarchal church.   He does such a great job of debunking that, and again, itís witty, I think itís concise.   

To write a book about a book Ė I donít know that itís particularly helpful.  I think it almost dignifies it.  But to write sort of a small monograph on a book I think is helpful.  You can read it in a short period of time.  

Then the other thing Ė itís one thing to say something is false, itís another thing to say that what weíve given our lives to as Christians is true. And so what I do is demonstrate that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin.  I demonstrate that Jesus Christ is God and demonstrate that He is God through the immutable fact of the resurrection.  And then I demonstrate that Christianity is utterly unique; that itís not simply something that evolved from ancient pagan mystery religions.  

CBP:  And what do you think is going to be the response once the movie comes out?  Is it going to make it worse, or do you think itís going to bring the discussion to a head?  Where do you see that?

Hank:  Well, first let me say this.  The unfortunate thing is that there are many Christians that have read The Da Vinci Code and they have seriously been shaken in their faith.  So I think what this book does, and the reason I wanted to have it in the format that itís in, is I wanted Christians to recognize how important it is to be able to defend their faith, how important it is for them to be rooted in their faith.  Because if you look at apologetics, apologetics is not only pre-evangelism whereby you use your well-reasoned answers as springboards or opportunities for sharing the Good News of the gospel, but itís also post-evangelism.  

In other words, to put it in maybe a more picturesque way, you form these pillars or posts to which you can cling to when your own faith is shaken.  You can always go back to these irreducible minimums:  Jesus Christ is God; He demonstrated He is God through the immutable fact of the resurrection; the Bible is divine rather than human in origin; God created the universe.  You know, so you can always go back to those pillars or posts and say, ďWhat Iíve given my life to is not fiction, itís faith founded on irrefutable fact.

CBP:  Thatís the part you provide.  You mention that many Christiansí faith has been shaken.  Has it mostly been what you would consider nominal Christians, or has it been across the board people are saying, ďHey, this New Testament isnít as reliable as I thoughtĒ?

Hank:  Well, The Da Vinci Code is a very good read.  When I first saw Dan Brown do a number of interviews I thought, ďThis guy is not a significant force to be contended with.Ē  However -- I talk about this in the forward -- I ran into a young girl when I was taking one of my morning treks to Starbucks, she asked me if she could talk to me.  She was seriously shaken in her faith.  She actually had a lot of tears, and she said, ďIs my faith still valid even though Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene?Ē  

In other words, the way in which Dan Brown wrote was so compelling and so convincing that a lot of people just buy the premise.  So it has shaken a lot of people in their faith, and I think itís really important that Christians are solidified and are able to learn discernment skills so that they can separate fact from fiction.

CBP:  Thatís excellent.  What about as people that are really not swayed by The Da Vinci Code?  Do you recommend something for us to help others with it, aside from handing them the Book?  

Hank:  Well, I think thatís what this does.  Itís an equipping tool.  First of all, it equips you with discernment skills and secondly, a lot of people donít know how to think critically.  Remember the Y2K controversy?  I wrote a book back then called  The Millennium Bug Debugged and in it you look back at that and what it did was it provided people with discernment skills.  Because they hear things and they really donít - in an age in which internet lies travel halfway around the world before truth has had a chance to put its boots on, itís really important to develop discernment skills.  Even for people who arenít shaken in their faith, this is a book that gives Ė itís an equipping tool.

CBP:  Right.  So they can have a meaningful discussion with other people.

Hank:  Exactly.  And you can use it as a springboard or an opportunity for sharing truth.  Because I have run into so many non-believers that have come up to me and said, ďWell, I guess this Christian thing isnít true after all.Ē  

A lot of people, I think about a bunch of guys Iíve been playing golf with for years and years and years, garden variety pagans, you know.  And theyíve pointed out The Da Vinci Code really undermines everything that Iíve been talking to them about.  And they flat buy the premise of it.  Of course, they want to.

CBP:  Right.  It seems to play into the conspiracy theorists; people that enjoy that kind of concept and anyone that has a beef against the Catholic Church.  It just seems to build up what theyíd already suspected.

Hank:  The Catholic Church is really a ready target today.  So itís Ė I think itís a vortex, and itís been extraordinarily helpful for the sales of the book.  But I think also on the other side of it, I think it becomes a wake-up call for the Christian church.  We have to be equipped, to always be ready to give an answer; to be able to use the deviations as springboards or opportunities for sharing our faith.  Itís one thing to curse the darkness; itís another to put a light on it.

CBP:  Have you heard the negative comments besides the lady who stopped you in Starbucks. Have you had anyone saying, ďThis really helped me out on this other end of it.Ē?

Hank:  Well, like I say, I have.  Iíve been totally blown away.  I mean our own constituency, I would have thought would have had a moderate response to it, but I think Ė Iím not sure of the exact sales, but just our little organization, weíre up to like 25,000 copies that weíve sold through our organization.  

CBP:  Well, itís a very important topic right now.  

Hank:  And I think itís only going to be exacerbated by the movie. Now, I think if you want to look at this in broad strokes, and thatís why I juxtapose the Passion with The DaVinci Code book in the forward.  But I think that what the Passion did in a positive sense in communicating the gospel, that would be itís counterpart in the negative sense.

CBP:  And like you mention, I thought that was a really interesting example, how negatively the Passion was perceived by the media, and how itís so anti-Semitic and this kind of nonsense, and The Da Vinci Code is, ďHow wonderful this truth is.Ē

Hank:  That was the really ironic part of it.  And I read about it, of course, in the book.  But the ironic part is that this whole prior reassigned is based on a hoax perpetrated by a guy named Plantar who is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.  

CBP:  Con-guy, basically.  Okay, can I take a few minutes to talk about the other one?          

Hank:  The Last Disciple?  Well, itís my passion.  If you look at everything Iíve done in ministry, Iím real passionate about this more than everything else.  I want to create a paradigm shift and have people think about the end times.

CBP:   I wanted to ask you a few specific questions about it.  In the very end you say that youíre titling, I donít know if Iím recalling it correctly, but Ė

Hank:  Exegetical Eschatology?

CBP:  Thank you.  So is this a rephrasing of an existing doctrine or theology about end times?  Or are you coming up with kind of a new paradigm as you say?

Hank:  Itís a paradigm shift.  Itís not a new perspective historically, but itís a new way of looking at eschatology from this standpoint.  If you look historically at eschatology you have four main boxes, so to speak.  You have the historical method, you have the idealist method, you have the futurist method, and then you have the preterist         method.  So you have four basic models, and what people do is they try to shoehorn scripture into those models, or they try to superimpose those models onto scripture.  And Iím saying thatís a backward way of looking at it.  The way you need to look at it is you need to let methodology trump model.  And exegetical eschatology is just that.  Itís saying you want to exegete Scripture for all itís worth rather than having a preconceived model in mind.  So thatís why I branded this new category called Exegetical Eschatology.  And this has ramifications that are just extraordinary.  

To begin with, my view of the Left Behind series is if you take a book logically, if you look at the logical extension of it Ė they say for example, in the seventh novel, you have the anti-Christ.  He is in a vacuum sealed coffin and suddenly he springs from this vacuum sealed coffin -- itís in the afterward.  In a neatly pressed suit he raises his hands and the clouds recede, the sun comes up, people can hear him without amplification and you read the thoughts of him.  

If thatís true, youíve lost all faith of the resurrection.  For two reasons: one, you have a dualistic world view in which anti-Christ substantiates his claim to deity by raising himself from the dead which is exactly what Jesus Christ did.    Why not worship him if he can really do that?

Secondly, if in fact, the devil has creative powers such that he can raise people from the dead and do real creative miracles, then he could have masqueraded as the resurrected Christ, and if thatís true you have no room for the Christian faith.  Youíve lost the central event in the Christian faith, the resurrection.  

So whatís at stake here is the essence of the Christian faith itself.  Why do they come up with that version?  Because they supposedly are reading the Bible in a literal fashion.  Well, I would say what theyíre really doing is theyíre violating the literal principle of biblical interpretation which is not that you take something in the literal fashion, you take it in the sense in which itís intended.  

And so they have anti-Christ from Revelation 13 being able to do real miracles where the real essence of Revelation 13 is that what he is doing is false scenes and wonders.  And thatís exactly what he does, he parodies what Christ can do.  So when you have the mark of Christ, well thereís a parody to that, itís the mark of the beast.  So Satan can only parody what Christ can do--he canít do what Christ can do.  

And not only that, if you look at it holistically, this has ramifications to how we treat Israel, how we treat the Palestinian problem, it basically in Scripture, the dispensationalists today say, ďIsrael is the fulfillment of Godís promise to Abraham.Ē  However, if you read the Bible carefully and look in Joshua 21:43-45, it very clearly says there that all the promises God made to Abraham had been fulfilled, not one of them failed.  So when Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham.  However, what happens throughout history is always consistently Godís providence which is, God said to the nations that were in them before lessons for the followers versus those that do not.  He said the same thing to Israel.  ďIf you do not follow me, I will spew you out like I did the nations before you.Ē  And thatís what happens.  

And the whole idea that somehow or other God will be fulfilling those promises to Abraham and, therefore, the Palestinians have no right and Israelís supposed to have not only Gaza and the West Bank but everything else around Israel Ė this is just superimposing something in Scripture that Scripture never intended to teach.  

Because in a broad view what you have is first of all, God fulfilled His promises in the fore-future with Joshua, as I just mentioned, but then we have Jesus who sits on the throne of David and then Israel is an earnest of what we look for -- paradise lost, is going to be paradise restored.  Not only that, but in our model we demonstrate that the anti-Christ is a fourth-century character, it has to be.  In the same chapter, Revelation 13, it says to its readers, ďwith wisdom you can discern the number of the beast and the number of his nameĒ.

CBP:  I was going to ask you that explanation that youíve given there, I did read that part about the Hebrew numbering is that, I know how you feel strongly about the historical backdrop being authentic, is that true that whole numbering thing?  Or is that something made up for the plot?

Hank:  Oh no.  Itís iron clad historically.

CBP:  So that 666 is Nero Caesar?

Hank:  There is absolutely no question about that.

CBP:  I didnít know if that was made up for the plot but I thought, ďItís kind of a really important part, I doubt he would let it get made up.Ē

Hank:  Oh no.  It clearly identifies Nero as the beast, but you have so much more.  Can you imagine, Jesus making the mother of all prophesies saying, ďThis generation will not pass away.  All these things have been fulfilledĒ?  The temple gets destroyed in the generation and you think that Johnís not going to write about that?  Heís not going to seize on that and say, ďHere Christ is vindicated in His prophesyĒ?  I mean, this is the mother of all prophesy!  This was unthinkable that the temple would be destroyed!  And the temple is destroyed.

This is written prior to the fall of Jerusalem, Nero is the anti-Christ.  He is the archetype for every anti-Christ figure that follows in every successive generation.  He is the mother of all anti-Christs.  He is the archetype, as I said.  But not only that, this was the mother of all tribulations.  And Nero was the most evil man whoís ever lived on the face of the earth.  

If you look at the commandments, he not only broke every one of them, he broke every one of them in the most grandiose fashion.  From kicking his wife to death, to murdering his mother, to you know, every one of his sexual deviancies.  This guy was an evil character, not only that, but the evil of this persecution is been squared, so to speak.  The quality of the people who had been persecuted, the very people who were the martyrs Ė the very people who wrote the New Testament: Paul died under Nero, Peter died under Nero.  The quality of the persecution has to do with the quality of the people who were persecuted under Nero.

A literal reading of the Bible does not put Nero in anyplace but the first century.  Why would John be writing to comfort Christians who were facing persecution and then say you can figure out the number of the beast and the number of his name if the beast wasnít even going to be around for 20 centuries?  Not only that, but there are so many indications.

CBP:  The sealing up part I thought was really interesting too.

Hank:  Yes.  In Daniel it says, ďConceal these words and seal up the book because the time is far off.Ē  In Revelation it says, ďDo not seal up because the time is near.Ē

Thatís Paul.  Think about some of the loose ends in Scripture.  Think about the fact that Paul says ďIt is better not to marry.Ē  How does that make any sense?  Only the Scripture is telling us that we should honor marriage.  Marriage is the breath that holds society together.  It is sort of the apex of the social structure, so it doesnít make any sense, unless you bind them in a paradigm.  If you bind them in a paradigm, all of those things make sense including this one:  If youíre getting ready to face the mother of all tribulations, you canít possibly get married and have two kids in that negative.  So if you read some of Paulís things within the context of what is happening, it all makes sense.  

By the way, what Iím saying here sounds radical.  But is it?  This is the historic position of the church.

CBP:  There is a lot of talk about tribulation, but the tribulation that was prophesied is at an end.  Thatís history, as you say, and we shouldnít be worried about persecution today?

Hank:  Yes.  Look, this was the archetype of tribulation; itís the archetype of persecution.  Look, where does it show us?  It shows us the moral of our tribulations; it shows us that the saints that went through tribulation persevered.  It shows us all of that in graphic detail.  Weíre looking back at that now and thatís what we take heart from.  We look back from the standpoint that they were taken out, raptured out?  No.  The great and glorious passages in the resurrection have been stolen for the rapture.  1 Thessalonians 4 has nothing to do with the rapture--it has everything to do with resurrection.

CBP:  Youíre coming out with this other book, is it more of a bible study explanation?

Hank:  The Exegetical Eschatology?  Itís going to brand it. Hopefully just like they talk about the dispensation eschatology today, theyíre going to be talking about exegetical eschatology.  

CBP:  So what do you consider this period then?  Is that even relevant?

Hank:  The easiest way to explain this is that 1Corinthians 15 is relevant today, isnít it? Revelations is relevant in the same way as 1 Corinthians 15 is, the same way as Genesis is, all the Bible is relevant for us today.  

CBP:   What about the whole Armageddon thing, that war, that battle thatís talked about?

Hank:  Itís history.  Itís history.  This is what weíre going to lay out in these next five books.

The reason itís so important because it teaches people how to read the Bible.  If you think about it, eschatology is the thread that weaves all of Scripture into a beautiful tapestry.  Itís the thread.  

Now, if you look at all the Bible as eschatological in nature, in the beginning of course  terminated by death, the rest is Godís redemptive plan culminating in  salvation.   All of the Bible is about the restoration:  Paradise lost becomes paradise restored.  

So this will give you a way of reading the Bible and seeing it through fresh eyes, rather than through kind of the sensationalism thatís been going on the last hundred years.