Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Living in an Alien Culture: Daniel 3

Living in an Alien Culture
Daniel 3

·     Outline of chapter

o   (vv 1-7): The Quest for Idolatrous Unity

o   (vv 8-18): The Protest Against Idolatry

o   (vv 19-30): Deliverance in the Furnace

·     “When the State Becomes God”[1]

o   Daniel 1: Relativizes the absolute

§ Taking the vessels of the house of God (1.1) and putting them with other artifacts 

o   Daniel 3: Absolutizes the relative

§ The state is made to be absolute instead of the high King of heaven

·     Verses 1-7

o   “The fact that all peoples, nations and languages were to fall down and worship it suggests that Nebuchadnezzar intended to unite his kingdom under one religion.”[2]

o   Music and furnace: Seduction and threat[3]

§ Mark 4.13-20

·     Soil #2: “affliction or persecution arises because of the word” (THREAT)

·     Soil 3: “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the other desire for other things” (SEDUCTION)

·     Verses 8-12: Public resistance to idolatry

o   Temptation to rationalize away the challenge

§ “We all know that this idolatry is bogus—there is nothing real in it except the emperor wishing us to acknowledge his authority.  What does it matter if we outwardly bow down to him?  It doesn’t mean that the controls our heads and our hearts.  And if good men like you three—men of proven ability and integrity—refuse to bow down and get killed, that will make the situation even worse.  You are top people; if you are not there to continue your powerful influence for good at the very highest levels of the state, what hope is there for the rest of us?  And think of your wife and your children.  What are they going to do if you throw your life away like this—needlessly?  No, you must take part in the ceremony like everyone else for our sakes. We need you there in the corridor of power.”[4]

·     Verse 15

o   Nebuchadnezzar’s question: “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

§ Called “the heart of the theological teaching of the chapter”[5]

§ cf. 2.11: “Who could declare it to the king except gods…”

§ Nebuchadnezzar has recognized Yahweh as a God ofwisdomand knowledge(2.47) but now he must learn he is the God of power.

§ “By contrast, it is only the true God who can proclaim that ‘no one can deliver out of my hand’ (Deut. 32:39).  And this great God was a proven deliverer.  After all, when he rescued his people from Egypt centuries before, Moses told the Israelites that it was God who ‘brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are’ (4:20).”[6]

o   Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego manifest exclusive devotion to God and reject idolatry

§ Their answer to Nebuchadnezzar: vv. 16-18

§ Not prudential reasoning (like in chapter 1)

§ Rather, an absolute rejection of idolatry

§ “Sometimes, when the story of Daniel’s three friends’ deliverance from the furnace is explained, the impression is given that because God eventually rescued them and they were found to be unhurt they did not suffer.  A moment’s thought, however, will show us that this is far from the case.  They suffered—not in the furnace, but before they were thrown into it. They were human beings like the rest of us, presumably with families, and so, from the moment the edict was announced by the emperor, these men inevitably went through mental agony.

“It would have been immediately obvious to them that this was the hardest test of loyalty to God they had ever faced.  Indeed, it was the hardest test anyone could face.  It was the ultimate value decision.  On the one side of the equation was position, family, wealth, security, life itself; and on the other side there was God.”[7]

·     Verses 16-18

o   They don’t dictate to God the outcome; they leave it in his hands

§ Deliverance or not (from the furnace), they will not compromise their loyalty to God

o   Sometimes the righteous suffer all the way to death

§ Acts 12.1-19

·     James put to death by the sword (v. 2)
·     Peter delivered from death (vv. 6-11)

§ Hebrews 11.32-38: Examples of faith and faithfulness

·     “escaped the edge of the sword” (v. 34)
·     “put to death with the sword” (v. 37)

§ Romans 8.35-37

·     Verses 19-23

o   Nebuchadnezzar’s policy is so overblown it hurts his own people (v. 22)

§ Contemporary applications:

·     Transgender policies that hurt women

·     Verses 24-25: Only in the fire do they see God!

o   Examples from Mark of challenging situations where the glory of Jesus Christ is manifested:

§ Mark 4.35-41: In a storm with Jesus
§ Mark 5.1-20: In the presence of a legion-filled demoniac
§ Mark 6.33-44: Feeding of the 5000 (“You give them something to eat…” v. 37)
§ Mark 6.45-52: Jesus walking on the water (“straining at the oars, for the wind was against them” v. 48)
§ Mark 8.1-21: Feeding of the 4000 (“Do you not yet understand?” v. 21)
§ Mark 9.14-29: Demonized boy; the disciples cannot cast it out

·     Verses 26-30

o   Nebuchadnezzar speaks highly of their God

§ “Most High God” (v. 26)
§ “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego …” (v. 28)
§ “no other god who is able to deliver in this way” (v. 29)

o   Seeing good works and bringing glory to God

§ Matthew 5.16
§  1 Peter 2.12
§  1 Peter 3.13-17

·     Their faithfulness brings protection to the rest of God’s people

o   “For such a time as this…” Esther 4.14

·     Applications 

o   The State (government)

§ “In all non-Christian systems, the source of ethics and of law is the state; it is the polis, the empire, or the kingdom… Either God is the true source of morality and law, or the state is.”[8]

§ What happens when the State refuses to recognize a transcendent law?

§ God made man and woman, their covenantal union in marriage, and the fruit of that union.

·     There is an attack on:

o   The very concepts of “man” and “woman”[9]

o   The concept of marriage

o   The structural integrity of the family

o   On children

§ Who do they belong to?  Parents or the State?
§ Abortion
§ The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nationby Rod Dreher (2017)

·     “Post-Obergefell, Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.” (p. 3)

·     “There is no other area in which orthodox Christians will have to be as countercultural as in our sexual lives, and we are going to have to support each other in our unpopular stances.” (p. 196)

Some thoughts on marriage and parenthood[10]

1.    Helpful to consider what worldview-based view of marriage Obergefellhas…

a.    Rejected and

b.    What view it has embraced

* And… what are the implications and consequences

2.    Comparing and contrasting different conceptions of marriage

a.    Consent-based: “The consent-based view of marriage is primarily about an intense emotional union—a romantic, caregiving union of consenting adults.”[11]

b.    Comprehensive: “[M]arriage, properly understood, is a comprehensive union, that it unites a man and a woman in a comprehensive act, ordered toward the comprehensive good of procreating and raising new life in a family, and requiring of them a comprehensive—exclusive and permanent—bond.”[12]

§ An institution ordered toward children.

Socially constructed
Pre-political—recognized by state
Created by political/judicial fiat
Connected to biology—teleology
Not connected to biology
Different in kind
Different in degree

o   Note: These two views come to expression in Obergefell v. Hodgesand its dissents.

§ Consent-based (Justice Kennedy)

“The right to marry thus dignifies couples who ‘wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other.’ Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.  It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.” (p. 14)

§ Natural view (Chief Justice Roberts)

“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence.  Marriage did not  come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians.  It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.” (pp. 4-5—also see Justice Alito’s dissent pp. 3-4)

3.    Consequences of the Consent-based view of marriage for parents and children

·     Neither is biology the deciding factor for parenthood

“The underlying reason is clear: When same-sex couples have children—whether by divorce, adoption, or third-party reproduction—those children are not biologically related to one or both parents.  Therefore, if same-sex parents are to have the same legal status as heterosexual parents, logically the state must erase the assumption of natural parenthood based on biology.  

“The definition of parenthood must be de-naturalized.”[14]

“However, if parenthood is detached from biology, then the state will define parenthood for allchildren.  The state will decide who counts as a parent.  Instead of recognizing parenthood as a pre-political reality that is logically prior tothe state—which the state is morally obligated to respect—parenthood will be treated as something created bythe state.

“And if parenthood is created by the state, then the state has the right to define and control it.  It will be much easier for state authorities to intrude into the family, make decisions about how children are raised and educated, or even take them away if state officials disagree with their parents’ beliefs.  Jennifer Roback Morse predicts that ‘natural biological relationships will be systematically and routinely overridden by socially constructed government-created relationships.’

“Thus a de-naturalized definition of marriage leads inevitably to a de-naturalized definition of parenthood.  ‘Civil marriage provides the entire basis for presuming the rights and responsibilities of biological parents to raise their own children,’ Morabito explains.  ‘If we abolish civil marriage, these will no longer be rights by default, but rights to be distributed at the pleasure of a bureaucratic state.’

“In this way, paradoxically, a choice-based model of the family ends up empowering the state.”[15]

     [1]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 136-137.
     [2]Joyce G. Baldwin, DanielTyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1978), 99.
     [3]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 141.
     [4]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 139-140.
     [5]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 100.
     [6]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 102.
     [7]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 139.
     [8]Rousas John Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church(Fairfax, Virginia: Thoburn Press, 1978), 5.
     [9]See my presentation notes: “Christian Thinking in Our Transgender Moment” Smart Faith Apologetics Conference(April 28, 2018)—online: https://www.academia.edu/36522470/Christian_Thinking_in_our_Transgender_Moment.
     [10]For further argumentation see my presentation “Explaining and Defending Marriage in a Non-Christian Culture” Smart Faith Apologetics Conference(March 30, 2019)—online: https://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2019/03/explaining-and-defending-marriage-in.html.
     [11]Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom(New Jersey: Regnery, 2015), 15.
     [12]Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom(New Jersey: Regnery, 2015), 24.
     [13]“Clearly, this philosophical anthropology is essentialist and teleological, which means that it is out of step with the dominant understandings of the philosophy of nature in the academy.” Francis J. Beckwith Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith(New York: Cambridge, 2015),190.
     [14]Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2018), 251.
     [15]Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2018), 252.