August 2006

The Da Vinci Toad
It's the most controversial and shocking new interpretation of Leonardo's work since The Da Vinci Code: It's The Da Vinci Toad!

Expert art historian Teabing Saunière* commented that "This novel new vision of Leonardo's art easily equals Dan Brown's novel in terms of historical accuracy. When you look closely at the Mona Lisa, you can clearly see a mostly dry looking, airy landscape, perfectly suited for toads. And what of Mona Lisa's enigmatic smirk? Leonardo even mentions toads in his own notebooks! Based on this evidence, I think we can conclude that the Mona Lisa was really based on a toad."

* Not a real person, of course. 'The Da Vinci Toad' is really just a shirt / hat created as a parody of the popular book & movie.

Further reading on The Da Vinci Code:

It wasn't really quite like this

Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God." So it was then, so it is today, as we can see above in Tim Buckley's painting. I suspect, with much sadness, that more people today acquired their ideas about Jesus from Dan Brown or South Park than from the Bible.

This painting does raise a question though: "If Jesus is God, why did He allow the crucifixion to happen?" Certainly He would have the power to come down from the cross if He is God, wouldn't He? The religious leaders at the time apparently asked the same question: "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." (Matthew 27:42) What can we say then? Was Jesus powerless to prevent His crucifixion?

Before His crucifixion Jesus said "No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it again." (John 10:8) Paul explains in another one of his letters that "Though [Jesus] was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus gave up His life voluntarily. He could have come down from the cross at any moment He wanted. But instead, he took the punishment that we all deserve. That's grace: "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8) The supposed religious leaders of the time said "Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." but instead we believe in Him because He didn't come down.

In Whitney Houston's hit 1985 song "The Greatest Love of All", she sings "Learning to love yourself. It is the greatest love of all." I must disagree. Selfish love is not the greatest love of all. Instead, Jesus demonstrates the greatest love to perfection by His sacrifice when he pays the price for us all. Jesus paid a debt He didn't owe to satisfy a debt we couldn't pay. There is nothing we must do to earn His love; we only must accept His offer of love, forgiveness and grace that He has already made to us. And once we give our lives to Him, we are assured that "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Go deeper:

Madonna and a crossApparently Madonna will proceed with another crucifixion performance when she plays a show in Germany this Sunday. But Christians, Jews and Muslims shouldn't be offended, according to Madonna's spokeswoman:

Madonna's New York-based spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, denied that the star's show was insulting.

"The context of Madonna's performance on the crucifix is not negative nor disrespectful toward the church," she said.

The context? Well, here's a video from the performance in Rome. Apparently Madonna says the crucifixion "is part of an appeal for Aids charities". If true, Madonna's artistic integrity went down several notches in my book. A later video shows a screen behind her with rapidly increasing numbers, probably a numerical representation of the AIDS victims; later on pictures of children are shown on the screen behind her. What does her fluorescent cross have to do with any of this? This is the most effective way that she could make an appeal for a very worthwhile cause, AIDS charities? What does she think putting herself on the cross represents?

Jesus on the crossA cross is, in one sense, just two pieces of wood nailed together. But in a fuller sense, the cross is a symbol of the faith of billions of people all over the world. Why purposefully portray such a symbol in a way you KNOW will offend people? The BBC article talks about possible criminal prosecution, apparently Germany has laws regarding "insulting religious beliefs". I don't think prosecution is warranted, but on the grounds of good taste and tolerance, why include such an act in the performance? If there are equally good ways (probably much, much better ways) to get your message about AIDS across, why choose this method?

I suspect that the reason may be to generate publicity. After all, without this little stunt, who would care about Madonna's latest tour? Not many. Therefore, the AIDS appeal is secondary at best, making Madonna and her performance insincere. I appreciate that she is using her star power to try to do something positive re the AIDS problem, but this is certainly not a good way to go about it.

Further information: Go deeper!

  • Blood:Water Mission – Charity which seeks to provide AIDS education and treatment, along with clean drinking water, all across Africa. Currently involved in the "1000 Wells" project which aims to build 1000 wells in African towns. Currently nearly 60 wells are completed or in progress with more on the way.
  • Why did Jesus have to die? – A former skeptic wrestles with some of Christianity's most basic issues.

I've seen this image floating around the web recently, supposedly quoting the Buddha. Of course, we probably cannot know if he ever said it, since the central texts about his life and teaching were not written until 400-500 years after he lived. (Unlike approximately 15 years for the earliest New Testament document, btw.) Regardless, what's your reaction to the quote?


believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason, and your own common sense ~ buddha

In a sense, I agree with the quote. We of course should use reason and common sense.

But perhaps sometimes our own "common sense" is wrong. We sometimes develop bad ideas that need correction. If we rely upon our own "common sense" reasoning to decide whether an idea is true or false, won't we naturally dismiss any ideas that differ from our preconceived notions? After all, our "common sense" can often differ markedly from that of a similarly reasonable person standing beside us.

So I have written, for your kind consideration, my own statement on this issue:

believe what is true, no matter what source it comes from. be teachable and learn from those who know more and are more experienced than you, not uncritically, but humbly. carefully consider all of the evidence available and the logical conclusions of that evidence, and make your choice ~ me

That's just off the top of my head, maybe it's not much of an improvement. Then again, I didn't spend much time sitting around idly coming up with it. :) I guess the question comes down to in what sense we can really "know" things. The problem with the relativist viewpoint of truth is that no one actually can live consistently with the view that all truth is relative. What do you think?

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