Four teenagers caught up in events far beyond their control – war, invasion, defeat.
They are taken away from their families and the only homes they have ever known, and thrust into a pluralistic society and culture that was simultaneously alien and mesmerizing.
Four teenagers: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
The war: Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judea and Jerusalem.
The pluralistic society and culture: the great city of Babylon.
Four teenagers who not only survived captivity and exile but also managed to keep their faith intact.
It was not without cost. And it wasn’t easy; at times, it was difficult and life-threatening. But they survived, and their faith survived.
John Lennox is a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford and a speaker on the interface of science, philosophy and religion. He’s the author of several books, including God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God, Seven Days That Divide the World, God and Stephen Hawking, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, and Key Bible Concepts (co-author with David Gooding).
He’s also the author of Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, believes Daniel can speak to us across the centuries.
I discovered Lennox’s book while reading Just Thinking, the magazine published by Ravi Zaharias International Ministries. The latest edition has a lengthy excerpt of Against the Flow. I started reading, and I was hooked.
Then I read this column by Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist at the New York Times since 2011. Bruni, a former restaurant critic, puts into words what our cultural elites believe about Christianity. They don’t like what they see, and if we have to be forced to change, then so be it.
To quote one of my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings, “War is upon us.” It is a war that we may have already lost. And it goes far beyond the gay marriage controversy in Indiana.
Lennox, in Against the Flow, says we have much to learn from the account of Daniel in the Old Testament. “What makes the story of their faith remarkable,” he writes, “is that they did not simply continue the private devotion to God that they had developed in their homeland; they maintained a high-profile public witness in a pluralistic society that became increasingly antagonistic to their faith.”
For the next few weeks, I’ll be undertaking a discussion of the book.
What I’ve learned from my reading so far: The book sounds uncomfortably familiar, and uncommonly hopeful.