Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis : Friday, Aug. 20, 2004
August 20 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis : Friday, Aug. 20, 2004
Friday, Aug. 20, 2004

Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis

By Ken Vandergriff
Focal Passage: Daniel 2:1-49

We hope that when crisis strikes we will respond appropriately. We hope that our mind will remain focused, that our actions will be well chosen, and that our faith will be steadfast. We hope that when the crisis is past we will be able to be proud of ourselves. In short, we hope to face crises with integrity.

Since crises by their very nature are unexpected, there is little we could do to adequately prepare ourselves for every conceivable crisis situation. But there may be some ways to condition ourselves so we will be fit when a crisis strikes.

There is an issue that teachers will need to think through before teaching this chapter. Will attention be focused on the dream and its meaning or on the narrative framework that surrounds the dream?

The history of interpretation of this text shows that most frequently interpreters have been preoccupied with the dream, neglecting the narrative (see C.L. Seow, "From Mountain to Mountain: The Reign of God in Daniel 2," in A God So Near, ed. Brent Strawn and Nancy Bowen). However, the theme of this month's lessons is demonstrating integrity, and that is more clearly seen in the narrative framework around the dream. The following comments focus on the narrative.

Conditioning through prayer

Daniel 2:17-23

Daniel is presented as a man of prayer (6:10; 9:20-21). When faced with the king's death sentence, though he was numbered among the wise men and magicians of Babylon (1:19-20; 4:9), Daniel's first action was prayer (2:17-23).

The content of the prayer is significant. As Seow points out, "the doxology here is theologically pivotal to the entire passage ... The hymn returns to the issues that the narrative has implicitly raised so far. Wisdom, which the experts summoned by Nebuchadnezzar are supposed to have, and power, which is presumed to belong to the king, are, in fact, God's to give (v.20)" (362-63). And God chose to give them to Daniel. Through prayer he received the tools to face the crisis with integrity.

Speaking the truth to power

It takes boldness to speak an unpleasant truth to a power, especially a power that has already issued a death sentence. It might have seemed safer for Daniel to lie about the dream. He could have pandered to the king by saying that Nebuchadnezzar was the stone that demolished the other kingdoms.

But, having received the wisdom and power of God, he could speak the unpleasant truth to power. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was not the all-powerful one. It, too, would fall.

No matter how many scenarios we might run through our imagination, we cannot prepare in advance for every possible adversity. From a vital relationship with God comes the wisdom, power and fortitude to meet crises with integrity.

The integrity of doubt

I can't let this go without a word about doubt. Daniel exhibited integrity in his faith, both in his conviction that God could reveal the dream and in his forthright explanation to Nebuchadnezzar.

That is true, but it is also important to remember that persons of faith will not always respond as he did. No single narrative, nor any single text of Scripture (such as James 1:6-8), conveys the entirety of truth.

A pet peeve of mine is that we don't give adequate attention to the reality of doubt in our faith lives. Even persons of faith struggle at times with doubt - see Job, Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah 15:10-18, 20:7-18.

There is integrity in admitting and wrestling with honest doubt. As the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said, "Life is doubt, and faith without doubt is nothing but death."

8/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

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