“Show us how to get on with King Science, whom the turn of history has put over us.… Call us back to the faith that stems from the Red Sea.…”
If you can, Daniel, come alive and point the way for us in this our jaded decade. Rise up from Sheol and speak to us with that ring of authenticity and integrity with which you spoke to the classes and the masses of the jaded decades of your day.
In heathen Babylon you accepted impossible assignments when most of your brethren hung their harps and their hopes on willow trees. You had to say what you had to say, even if kings came in on the brunt end of your sight and your insight. It’s the likes of you that we need these days, Daniel. No, it’s you that we need.
There is this matter of our acquiescing to science. We must reckon with it even as you and other Israelites had to reckon with Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon. Princely, admirable, and winsome it is—even as Nebuchadnezzar was—and it has in it the capacity for doing God’s bidding even as that heathen king had.
If you were here, Daniel, you would show us how to get on with this king whom the turn of history has put over us. You yourself were youthful and unspoiled when unfaith began to rule over you; and yet you did not yourself take up with it. You always went so far with it, but no farther. You studied three years at its seat of learning but maintained the Israelitish faith of your green and growing years. You ate at its table what was worthy, but nothing else. Your “act of existing” was in its milieu, but three times daily—and always—you had contact with environs of a higher order.
In the old world northeast of the Hellenic area, and even here in what we call the new world of the West, Daniel, there are many who still mean to follow your God but who have bowed down to King Science—afraid to offend even the least among his devotees. Our friends say that the new king is right, that there are no interventions in our world from God and the angels nor from Satan and the demons. Strangely enough, they think people will not bow down to God if he is likely to intervene in the natural order. With all of their yen for rapprochement with science, they yield too much.
If you were here, you could help us in this matter of bowing down to this king—who is not so irreligious in himself, but who consorts with the irreligious at far too many points.
Also, Daniel, you could help us on these new moral theories that are wedging their way into God’s own citadels. Way-out moral theorists—some of them bishops, if you please—would have us sowing wild oats while serving the Lord, as long as it supposedly advances the good of other persons. (Perhaps you will not know what bishops are. They occupy places of prominence among ministers of the Most High, being specially charged to defend the faith.)
A few of these bishops and not a few ministers of lower status are telling us that as long as we love other persons, and desire their well-being, we can violate all the old moral regulations. Fornication is not even frowned upon. And you will not believe this: adultery too can be sanctified by this principle of love.
As you might suppose, this view is gaining wide acceptance in our society. It is just what people have been looking for—a rationale for sin, a way of accommodating the Holy God to man’s exceeding sinfulness.
You yourself, Daniel, did a few daring things in your time. We still have the writing that tells of your standing up and standing out for Yahweh in the midst of kings and lions. We understand that you took them all on—all the men who said simply what they knew the kings and the commoners wanted to hear. That was something, how the Lord made you his mouthpiece when only about three other persons shared your heart.
And prepare yourself for this one, Daniel: A few prophets and priests, set aside to do the work of Yahweh, are saying that God is dead. One is not always sure what they mean by this, but just now the rumor is on everyone’s lips. It is filling the pages of religious journals and spilling over into the secular press. Sometimes it seems to be just God as he has usually been conceived who is supposed to be dead: he is not living, nor personal, and he cannot be thought of as near us or far from us. At other times they seem to be saying that he really is dead. You would not know about Darwin and Nietzsche and Freud, but they seem to have sired this line of thought. Another theologian, recently deceased, who said that God does not exist as an objective reality, is credited with nourishing it. In our country a man named Hamilton, and another named Van Buren, and one called Altizer, are causing a bigger hullabaloo than Ahab’s four hundred prophets ever did. Atheists have often hawked their unholy wares. But there is something different about this new species: they seem to say that God did exist but now does not, and that he died in our time. There is even the suggestion of suicide.
To some of us this seems to be a colossal transference. God, they feel, no longer answers them; and since nothing could possibly be wrong with these persons themselves, they conclude that the God who does not answer them must have died. Young and cavalier, they propose a journal and a society to further their views.
There is a mite of arrogance in some members of the God-is-dead clan, while in others there is more of hollowness and lostness. If you were here, Daniel, you could tell how the living God really did deliver you and your three friends. You could tell how he responded to your worship, how he opened up to you the dreams of kings and a whole panorama of what was yet to be. Ezekiel spoke glowingly of your wisdom, indirectly, saying of God, “Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel” (Ezek. 28:3a). And Ezekiel compared you with Noah and Job as one of the three stand-out men of righteousness up to his time (Ezek. 14:14). Even your heathen enemies had to admit that “the spirit of the holy God” was in you. Come alive, then, and jolt us with a word that will dispel this pratter and save the pratterers.
Also prominent just now, Daniel, is the issue of whether ordinary history is important. Some talk about meta-history or primal history, in distinction from what history means in plain language and on our street. They are saying that Messiah’s resurrection took place on some unordinary plane of history. A reporter for the Jerusalem Times, unless he were already a believer, could tell nothing of that stupendous miracle. Such men urge sheer faith, not faith that is supported by historical fact, on the part of God’s people. Others urge faith in the incarnation of God’s Son, but without the “easy” support of the doctrine of a virgin mother. A Swedish bishop calls the virgin birth a “rationalistic explanation” of the incarnation. And we have a highly controversial German theologian in Marburg who discounts the historical character of the whole Christian faith.
Now Daniel, you are perhaps aware that only a little after your time a pagan named Plato appeared in Greece and discounted concrete history, saying that particular things and events are not important and that only concepts or ideas are real. Well, there seems to be a kind of kinship between this fellow Plato and some who depreciate concrete, historical matters today. Late in the last century, Ritschl tried to divorce the faith from factual matters, and he seems to have influenced those who depreciate history. Scientism, of which I was speaking a while ago, is also responsible for a kind of faith-without-fact religion.
About half a millennium after your time, Daniel, there lived two contemporaries, Tiberius Caesar the emperor and Jesus Christ the Messiah. Four main documents tell posterity of Tiberius Caesar, and the documents are quite universally accepted. Four main documents, which we call the Gospels, tell of Jesus Christ, and many scholars discount their veracity. No doubt a major reason for this is that some influential scholars have no mind for the miracles reported in connection with Jesus Christ. The Christian faith, which is what your kind of faith flowered into, is based upon a multitude of miracles, which scientism does not allow; and so these men have divested the faith of miracle, feeling that they have thereby done service to the faith.
The truth is, Daniel, that you yourself came off far better in the den of the lions than you have in that of the critics in recent generations. Your own history has been denied. It was earlier said that there was not even any Babylonian captivity, but on that point the critics have acquiesced to archaeological data. A few scholars deny that Ezekiel had any part in the captivity, and legions of scholars say that you had no part in it. They say that the Daniel (or Danel, as it is in the Hebrew) referred to in our Prophecy of Ezekiel is an earlier, extra-Israelitish saint; and that you lived some four centuries later and perpetrated a fraud in pretending, in your writing, to have lived through the seventy years of Babylonian captivity.
If you were with us, Daniel, you could clear up many things about the import of history. No other among all the ancient writers of Scripture saw details of what was to come as clearly as you did. You saw the connection between history and redemption.
Come alive, then, and call us away from Plato and Ritschl and back to the faith that stems from the Red Sea and the Chebar and Bethlehem and Golgotha and the Empty Tomb.
Come to think of it, Daniel, we have a legacy that you left us in twelve chapters. Besides, if men heard not the Messiah when he was here—so he warned us—neither would they hear Moses, nor Elijah, nor you, were you all to rise from the dead, while their hearts were hardened.
Whether you make it back or not, therefore, Daniel, we shall carry on. We shall engage ourselves with the foolishness of preaching that Gospel of Christ which is God’s power of salvation to all who believe, to the orthodox first and also to the unorthodox.
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