The Da Vinci Case

September 9, 2008

The sustenance created in the works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) has undoubtedly made a profound impact on many facets of life. He was known to be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. He pioneered in numerous categories that contributed to his astonishing resume, launching his gifts, skills and abilities to label him as one of the most diversely talented people to ever live. As modern day artists recognize, perhaps his greatest works were his drawings and paintings. Also being a recognized philosopher, the vividness of his worldview and thoughts of [or obedience to] Christianity was depicted on the oil canvas [or panel] and his personal lifestyle.

One of Da Vinci’s most famous paintings is The Last Supper. This particular painting is supposed to represent the very moment in which Christ explained that someone would betray Him prior to His crucifixion. Leonardo captured the scene that was obtained from none other than the Holy Scriptures, portraying the possible reaction from each one of the disciples as they wondered with terror who would betray the Christ.

“So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”
Matthew 26:19-22

As one of the most brilliant artists and minds of all time, certainly there was a thought process in developing the facial structure, mood and personal reaction of each of the disciples as the prophetic tongue of Jesus predicts the blasphemy of betrayal by Judas. “One of you will betray me.” But, what could Da Vinci know about the Last Supper that did not come from the Scriptures? He must have at least vaguely pondered the life of each disciple as he developed the face of what he believed to be Andrew, John, Peter, Judas and ultimately Jesus. As some paintings can take months or years to develop [some of Leonardo’s works were never completed], undoubtedly specific philosophies and ideas of religion or Christianity took form in his mind. Certainly, he believed in God; enough to paint Him.

Although religion uniquely played a role in Renaissance art, the predominant world philosophy of the time was humanism in the form of ‘free thinking.’ In observance of his specific paintings, Da Vinci was clearly a free thinker. Due to subtle and blatant perversions of Christianity and The Gospel, he put himself in the category of a humanist. All of his ‘religious ideas’ originated from Scripture, yet he was not seen or known as a Christian. Most of the creative beauty in his art was the mood, detail and anatomical correctness and clearly not the orthodoxy or the truth of what is displayed on the canvas. It is living proof that although men are praised from other men on ingenious creativity and knowledge, the carnal mind that is at enmity with God only proves it to be in vain and genuinely ignorant.

I do not know whether Leonardo Da Vinci claimed to have had faith in God. However, I suppose that if he ever boasted in his abilities, the resulting effort would be to simply gaze at the appearance of his completed art works and creative innovation on military artillery [e.g.] that was approximately four-hundred years ahead of his time. Or, we could acknowledge the fact that he could have had any career he wanted [at least ten different]. These things speak for themselves and do not need a man to defend them with words. But, what is the difference in the spiritual faculties of a man who paints orthodox representations of Scripture for the purpose of the church and also unorthodox, i.e. blasphemy? Also, what is the difference between faith and works? Despite the profession of faith from Mr. Da Vinci, his works speak of not only faith, but particular mindset on that faith. For example, if one consistently paints biblically orthodox representations of Scripture, then what you say about God may be true. However, if you mix fresh and salt water together in your art works, then how could you speak a believable word?

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14).
When one speaks of faith, there are many forms that it may take on. I may exclaim to the world that I have faith that makes me a good and respectable person. My faith may cause me to worship a bucket full of water so as to not die of thirst. I may also have faith that trees maintain a certain divine characteristic that leads me to a divine green paradise. So, when one says, “I have faith,” it is a very broad and empty statement. It does not specify the object of faith, but merely declares a faith of some type. It is like saying, “I am a person.” The consistency of the fruit that follows any proclamation of faith lies in the works or deeds the faith produces. In other words, even if I claim to have faith in God, but do not define the specificity of that faith and what it means or who my God is, then it is an utterly empty and powerless statement. It is dead. Even if it is properly defined in words [or in the case of Da Vinci, his paintings that may be biblically accurate] the deeds [or lifestyle] prove the true believing of the faith [orthodoxy vs. unorthodoxy]. For even James says, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).

Since God is the creator of all things, His Name and promises sustain what is to be a true work [or deed]. Namely, these true works spring from a heart and soul that is brought back to life from the dead by the spirit (James 2:26). It blossoms in the heart of one whom God has caused to see the graciousness and great Mercy of the Savior, Jesus, and abhor the indwelling sin that boasts in self and man [humanist thinkers]. The great dependence on the works of men have left them boasting in life and on the works that they themselves, have produced. Instead of seeing the majesty and brilliance of God in the creation of the human hand and its ability to be gently versatile, the humanist glories in the mixture of colors the hand produces on the canvas as human brilliance.

John Calvin said, “Let us not lift ourselves proudly above other men, as though we were more worthy than they are, for we know that it is our God that hath chosen us, and setteth us apart from others, by His mere goodness and free mercy. We must know, moreover, that men are very faulty, when God offereth them His Word, and they receive it not. This is spoken that unbelievers and rebels might have their mouths stopped, that they might not blaspheme the name of God, as though He had been wanting on His part; and to the end that all the faithful should, in humbleness of heart, glorify God for His grace and mercy toward them: for we see how He calleth all those to whom His Word is preached, to salvation”. -John Calvin (Sermon, the Salvation of All Men).

When observed in the truth and light of the Word of God, the greatest of minds born among women and praised among evil men, peril and melt before the living God, who has great patience to sinners. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. When man glories in his own knowledge and wisdom, he commits his soul to the evil one, who is a mastermind of deception and carnal knowledge.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” James 3:13-15
One who has a true understanding of God gives glory to Him. He sees his own helplessness and inability to contribute anything holy or acceptable to God apart from the mediation and intercession from Christ Jesus. The only safe measure for sinners is to hide under His wing, as a mother hen gathers her chicks. The only real knowledge is what stems from God Himself because everything comes from Him.
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:3

Consider deeply, the Gospels that represent the heart of Christ. Sinners gathered to see and hear the only one who healed the sick, poor and the lame. In the case of the man born blind,
“He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’” John 9:25
It is not a choice of the matter for a blind man to make himself see. Would he not do it on his own supposing he could? Perhaps the greatest longing for one who cannot see, would indeed be to have sight. It is the same for those who cannot hear. They long to hear but cannot cause themselves to hear. So it is with the blind man at the pool of Siloam. He declared, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:32-33

As each sinner is born utterly blind, deaf and under the wrath of Almighty God, only the ones who have received sight and ears to hear can see the majesty of the One who opened them. This spiritual reality causes complete renouncement of self and dependence upon the natural faculties of man that are useless; a blind man cannot cause himself to see! The miracle of being able to see after being blind since birth produces the equal miracle of causing one to treasure and seek the One who secures the soul unto salvation.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he sir, that I may believe in him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” John 9:35-36

So it is with faith. One is either blind, or he can see. One can either hear, or he is deaf. The one who is blind cannot define the glories of seeing as the deaf cannot describe the glories of hearing. What is it to one who is blind for all his life, did not yet die, but then could see? It is doing things that he could not do before. Then, he could walk; now can see where he is going. Then, he could eat; but now can see what he is eating. Then, he imagined the beauty of creation; now he revels in all of its majesty. Then, he was a hopelessly blind beggar who depended on his natural talents and abilities; now he sees the One who is the Christ and says, “Lord, I believe, and he worshiped him.”

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18


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