Monday, June 22, 2015

Against the Flow: Ideas Matter

My wife and I were both trained in journalism. In fact, that’s how we met – in the newsroom of the student newspaper at LSU. We would both tell you that we had good teachers and not-so-good teachers.

A required course for a journalism degree was “History of Journalism.” And one of the things I remember most from that course was the man who shaped 20th century journalism, Walter Lippmann (1889-1974).

If you’re not familiar with Lippmann, you should know that he was the man who coined the term “Cold War,” gave us the concept of “stereotype” that we understand today, and articulated the modernist view of what journalism was about – the idea of objective, fact-based reporting.

Walter Lippman
While most journalists today would say their reporting is fact-based, fewer would claim “objectivity” as a guiding principle. The influence of post-modernist thinking laid siege to and largely obliterated the idea of objectivity.

This is why you get news stories today that read more like editorials and opinion columns than news. With the possible exceptions of business and sports news, my hometown newspaper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is a good example. And even the sports and business stories sometimes are more opinion-based.

Ideas matter. And ideas can linger, often for a very long time.

In Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, John Lennox describes in great detail the vision the prophet Daniel received as described in chapter nine of the Old Testament book. It was a vision about the future of Jerusalem, so close to Daniel’s heart, and it was a vision about the future.

It’s not a simple vision to explain. Daniel reads in the Book of Jeremiah that the desolation of Jerusalem will last 70 years. The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that the “70 years” is actually 70 sevens – 70 weeks of years, or 490 years. At the end of 62 sevens, or 434 years, an anointed one will be put to death. And in the 70th and final week, a ruler will implement an “abomination of desolation” that will lead to the end-time.

The end of the “62 sevens” happens to coincide with the time of Christ. After that, for those last seven “weeks,” interpretation is not clear-cut. The story picks up again in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and that last week becomes the seven years of tribulation under the Antichrist.

There is this thing called history that has played out between the time of Daniel and our own time. Lennox does a good job of arguing the case for the interpretation of Daniel’s vision that coincides with the one (largely the evangelical understanding) that I’ve been taught and accept. But there are others. And we laymen along with our theologians can get easily caught up in discussing (and arguing) the details as well as the overarching theme.

Lennox’s point about all this, however, isn’t to prove himself or his position right. But to point out that many ideas have been around for a long time – thousands of years – and still have consequences today.

“Those future events,” he writes, “are but the harvest of seeds sown by the ideas, attitudes, movements of thought and ideologies that have permeated society throughout history, even from ancient times. In our own time secularist naturalism in particular, with its marginalization of God and devaluation of human life and dignity, is no innocent thing. We need to recognize it for what it is, and spell out its implications for everyone who is prepared to listen.”

Ideas matter; they have consequences, good and bad. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels articulated a view of history, economics and philosophy that eventually gave birth to Soviet communism. Nietzsche influenced Adolf Hitler’s thinking. Lippmann shaped 20th century American journalism. John Dewey’s thinking shaped what we know today as public education.

And ideas can last for a very long time.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been discussing Against the Flow, in which Lennox argues (rather successfully, I think), that there is much we can learn from the Book of Daniel and apply to many issues we face today. This post is taken from chapters 18-20: “Jerusalem and the Future,” “The Seventy Weeks,” and “The Seventieth Week.”

Top photograph by Ave Lainesaar via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

1 comment:

Mary Harwell Sayler said...

May Christian poets & writers help to shape thinking in favor of Christ's forgiveness and love! Thanks, Glynn. I highlighted your post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog -