Monday, June 29, 2015

Against the Flow: How Daniel Speaks to Us Today

The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament is filled with prophecies: the kingdoms which followed Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar; the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes; the rise of Rome. The book also included prophecies of the end-times, dovetailing with the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.

In the last three chapters of Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, author John Lennox describes the fourth and final vision, a kind of survey of the times that would follow Daniel. The information is detailed and in-depth, once again emphasizing the accuracy of what Daniel saw – and what the angel told him would happen.

Prophecy is an important study, and I’ve read the prophetic Old Testament books, read the Book of Revelation, and studied the Book of Revelation. I’m no expert, however, and if someone asked me what my favorite part of the Bible was, I would have to say it’s not prophecy and the study of end-times.  (If you want to know, my favorite books are the Gospels of John and Luke and the Book of Acts.)

So while I’m interested and intrigued with what Lennox writes about in these concluding chapters, I’m not completely riveted. What interests me most is what he had to say in the earlier chapters.

Despite some 2500 years, Christians today have a number of things in common with Daniel and his times.

Here in the United States, the last 50 to 60 years have seen a phenomenal shift in culture and values. It’s not so much a shift “away from the church,” although that’s certainly part of it. Instead, what more describes what has happened is an enormously significant shift in how we understand individual freedom. That freedom has become our Holy Grail, our expectation, our entitlement, what we demand. And that freedom has come largely through the impetus of the federal government, and especially through the federal court system.

What the Supreme Court says and decides has become so important, so wrapped up in this cultural concept of individual freedom at all costs, that we don’t mind the baggage these decisions brings with them as long as “our side” is vindicated and “wins.” (This also says something about the political polarization happening in the United States as well.)

Some of that baggage includes the court having to make up stuff in order to write the decision the majority wants. Harry Blackmun searched the Constitution long and hard in writing his opinion in Roe v. Wade and finally gave up using the Constitution to justify abortion. Instead, he turned to Roman law. Justice John Roberts was only able to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act by declaring it to be exactly what the Obama Administration and the Congress that passed it said it wasn’t – a tax. In fact, it was such a badly written law (which even most of its supporters didn’t read) that then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was right – they had to pass the law to find out what was in it. And the administration has had to rewrite key provisions of the law, not once but several times, to make its programs actually function.

What has happened with these court decisions and laws is that gradually, almost without notice, our society has been dismantling anything that could potentially stand between us and the federal government. All of the mediating institutions – the states and state legislatures, cultural and social organizations, even Congress – are becoming increasing superfluous.

I’ve heard many people compare these times to the end of the Roman Empire. If you read Roman history, you’ll find these people are wrong. Our times are not like the end of the Roman Empire; they do, however, resemble the end of the Roman Republic.

And the times of Daniel. Daniel lived under a succession of autocracies, where the king was essentially considered an absolute god. Because of his skill, competence and intelligence, he rose in position under both the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians.

More importantly, he had to learn how to navigate those autocracies and still remain faithful to God. He managed, through his own skill and wits as well as more than a little supernatural help. He had to make choices and decisions, hard ones, facing problems that could have been solved so easily – just bend the knee to the king; just worship the king for 30 days – that’s all, just 30 days.

Daniel couldn’t, and didn’t. He understood the consequences. He decided that being thrown into the lion’s den was less onerous than worshipping a false god.

He was a man of conviction and courage. He accepted God at His word. And he knew that God could save him, or not, but that regardless, he would still remain faithful and accept God’s plan.

In the times that are coming, that are now just arriving, we Christians will need the conviction and courage of a Daniel. That, to me, is the significant lesson of the Book of Daniel.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been discussing Against the Flow. This concludes the discussion. But the lessons learned go on.

And we do have another example, one closer to our times, that's worth considering. In February of 1974, a man was arrested by his country's secret police and then expelled from the country. This is what he was writing the day he was arrested: Live Not by Lies

He was blessed in that he lived long enough to see the downfall of the regime that arrested him. That, however, is not always the promise, as Daniel well knew.

Photograph by Xoan Seoane via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate reading your views and book review. I'd not heard of the book or been part of your earlier blogs on it. I think that often people do not realize that government, itself, has been ordained by God and that our rights ultimately not come from it, but from Him. Do you feel that SCOTUS "made up stuff" apart from the Constitution in order to render its decision on SSM? Would this be a right, as the Court deemed it?

Glynn said...

Lynn, that's exactly what the four dissenting justices said about the majority decision. If your view of the Supreme Court is that it can make law however it pleases, then there's nothing anyone could really say about any court decision. Remember it was the Supreme Court that found "separate but equal" was constitutional, without any basis in constitutional fact.

Anonymous said...

I concur with you completely.