Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Public Theology of Daniel: Thoughts from John Lennox's Book on Daniel

I have been reading John Lennox's book Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism (Monarch Books, 2015).

On pages 1-2, in an introductory piece entitlted "Why We Should Read Daniel," Lennox writes:

"Daniel's story is one of extraordinary faith in God lived out at the pinnacle of executive power in the full glare of public life.  It relates pivotal events in the lives of four friends--Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah--who were born in the tiny state of Judah in the Middle East around two-and-a-half thousand years ago.  As young members of the nobility, probably still teenagers, they were taken captive by the empereor Nebuchadnezzar and transported to his capital city Babylon in order to be trained in Babylonian administration.  Daniel tells us how they eventually rose to the top echelons of power not only in the world empire of Babylon but also in the Medo-Persian empire that succeeded it....

"What makes the story of their faith remarkable 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.  That is why their story has such a powerful message for us today.  Strong currents of pluralism and secularism in contemporary Western society, reinforced by a paralysing political correctness, increasingly push expression of faith in God to the margins, confining it if possible to the private sphere.  It is becoming less and less the done thing to mention God in public, let alone to confess to believing in anything exclusive and absolute, such as the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Saviour.  Society tolerates the practice of the Christian faith in private devotions and in church services, but it increasingly deprecates public witness.  To the relativist and secularist, public witness to faith in God smacks too much of proselytizing and fundamentalist extremism.  They therefore regard it more and more as a threat to social stability and human freedom.

"The story of Daniel and his friends is a clarion call to our generation to be courageous; not to lose our nerve and allow the expression of our faith to be diluted and squeezed out of the public space and thus rendered spineless and ineffective.  Their story will also tell us that this objective is not likely to be achieved without cost."