Recently, I was drawn into reading an article a little out of the ordinary for me. It was piece about the increase in the sale of fraudulent paintings. Apparently, more and more forgeries are surfacing in the world of fine art, and with them the attending confusion and concern. Some in the arena of fine art are justifiably unnerved.
It seems the bad guys are getting more clever, and technologies have increased to help these frauds mimic authenticity of older works of art. Nowadays, it is not just the style of the painter which must be “duplicated,” but the materials and provenance (ownership trail) of the work, as well.
When an investigator evaluates the criteria of any given piece of purported antiquity, much more attention needs to be given than the average person would consider necessary in order to uncover a fraud.
The new breed of culprit needs to give special attention to mimic cracks in the paint, whether it is “spiderweb,” vertical, or cracked brick pattern. Pigments and binders themselves need to be analyzed to affirm that they are in alignment with materials used in the era of the painting – synthetic colors, colors which were never produced prior to that era could be a dead give-away. Frames and canvases which were not even around during a particular era could also invalidate the work.
As stated, one must be able to mimic style, materials, provenance… the ownership trail–how did this old picture “just appear” on the scene?
Fortunately, technological forensics have increased to help thwart these would be impostors as well, x-ray machines, microscopes, spectroscopes, infrared cameras to name but a few. Nails, fabrics and varnish all reveal clues to the astute sleuth.
Some of these intended perpetrators have been busted simply by using pigments not existent hundreds of years ago. It could have been an inordinate amount of calcium or lead in the paints utilized. Some have been “outed” by using paints “without lead,” or even lead that was not aged enough. Some paints may be discredited due to the presence of nylon particles (a twentieth century derivation) in the final product, perhaps released from a newer smock which could reveal modernity.
In a world where careless validations could wrest millions of dollars from the more naïve, reliable investigators are needing to be relied upon more heavily in order to protect investors. Every so often one fake makes it through.
It should come as no surprise that forgeries pop up in many arenas of life; in commerce (fraud), in currency (counterfeiting), in authorship (plagiarism), and sadly, even in churches. There is no lack of Christians who fail to exhibit Christian authenticity. No doubt, there is an abundance of forgeries who seek to present as everyday sheep among the Church.
Sometimes they are easier to spot than others. But other times they get through and in very short order the money and the perpetrator have gone. Sometimes they are around long enough to cause trouble; and sometimes they end up leaving of their own accord though often after considerable damage has been done. We, as the church have allowed for a minimal buy-in.
Nowhere have counterfeits and frauds wreaked so much havoc as in the house of God. People who have mimicked divine appointment, who have masqueraded as God’s true agents, and the results are often catastrophic.
There are at least 3 areas of damage:
1. They believe that they themselves are saved… Therefore, the great damage is to their eternal soul. They do not yet live in the security of Christ.
2. They affect the spiritual well-being of others in the church with erroneous beliefs and behaviors. They affect the health of others who seek to find truth within the walls of the Church.
3. They become a negative witness to the culture who observes the behavior of these individuals not acting in the regeneracy of the truly redeemed.
Yes, the doors to the Church are open. We welcome, even invite everyone to receive grace… but some seem only to be here for the coffee and pie.
But they’re not the real deal, and for reasons sometimes unknown, they only mimic Christianity.
Here is my caution: sometimes these individuals do not even know that they themselves are masquerading as a sheep in the flock. In other words, the visible church is not the true church. Not everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ actually is. It is that Satan has “perfected” their presence as counterfeits… even to themselves.
They are people who believe they are headed on the narrow road; they are sorely wrong. See Worst Day Ever.
Paul encourages this personal inventory in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6:
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.”
Many believe and are saved. Many believe they are saved when they are not. Some are saved and appear not to be. And some are just broken and difficult to assess. Well, all are broken.
God is the ultimate inspector to validate the authenticity, or legitimacy of anyone’s faith. There will be no doubt on that day. Now is the time to make sure that you are in the camp of the redeemed.