Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, March 4

On Notice (but probably OK)

I feel a bit better today.

I found myself discussing Daniel’s lions at great length on Sunday.

First it was in the queue for the fellowship lunch, where I found myself next to a lady who is a former Methodist lay preacher. She generally knows her stuff. She wasn’t particularly well-versed on the late-Daniel theory though. I explained it as best I could. She has a lot of empathy with my concerns that it can lead on to an undermining of the value of Scripture generally and disbelief in other things too, such as the resurrection. But she didn’t feel it was a make-or-break thing. The conversation ended when my teenage daughter in the queue behind me was playfully tickling my elbow and ribs, and when I turned round and in playful mock revenge twisted her arm and kicked her bum before realising that it perhaps wasn’t the best move to do so particularly in that environment, and then I had the whole youth group teasing me about phoning childline.

Next it was with my wife, over the dessert. She can’t understand why I consider the logic of the late-Daniel theory to be internally flawed. The argument goes that it was apocalyptic writing written in the time of Antiochus IV to encourage persecuted Jews with fictitious stories of the past. But – I say – if those stories were fiction and God did not actually deliver Daniel from the lions or the friends from the furnace, then it is standing on quicksand - a fraudulent hope and not a reliable encouragement.

This was starting to become quite an animated discussion, and the Vicar ambled over to see what was going on.

I appealed to him as referee, and put both sides to him trying not to give clues as to which I supported. He prevaricated. And then called over the woman mentioned above. But basically, from his perspective as strongly evangelical, he didn’t feel that it matters whether it is literally true or apocalyptic, and my wife and the other lady supported him in that. The value is in what it says to us today. I agree that that is the point, but I can’t see what it can tell us today if it is not true.

Anyway, I suppose I feel better, in that sound evangelical Christians can remain evangelically sound while holding the ‘apocalyptic’ late Daniel view.

Thinking less academically and more experientially (which was also one of the lady’s emphases – and I see experience as nice but not a safe foundation) several things happened.

One is that opening the scriptures and reading, it all feels pointless if the stories portrayed as historical are not in fact true. What can you believe if that is the case? It feels fraudulent.

Another is that I normally take off my cross in the shower (or else the string rots and breaks). The time came to put it back on. And I chose to do so. Prayerfully – opening to God, but at the same time putting him (or should I say 'the Faith') on notice, an amber alert, that I was struggling to believe and he had better show up. Which is dangerous – but God is merciful.

The Sunday service also contained various points where I felt faith was affirmed, particularly the confession.

And then various other things happened – those things which you can’t put your finger on and which if you tried to explain them to Dawkins he would be very unconvinced, and yet you have that weird skin-crawling sense that these are not co-incidences, and that strings are being pulled in the unseen world to bring about consequences that we can only imagine. A sense of being part of a much larger plan in which I’m not actually the centre of the universe but just a pawn in a strategic location on the board. A sense that through all this I am being prepared for bigger things.

So of the four bullets in my previous post, I suppose it’s the third – coming reluctantly to an accommodation with the apocalyptic late-Daniel theory.

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