As I said in part 1 of this study, there is so much packed into the book of Daniel, and before we go on in this series, I think it’s important that we look at a couple of things that have particular relevance to our current cultural climate both theologically and ideologically. In order to understand why Daniel chooses not to “defile himself” or compromise his faith, we have to know where this “conviction” originated. While theology and ideology may have some similarities, they are quite different. Take a look at each definition.
- Theology: the study of the nature of God and religious belief.
- Ideology: a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
They are both “Ology’s”, a subject of study; a branch of knowledge. Theology is a little more specific because it is the study of a particular subject, “Theo” or God from the Greek, while Ideology is a more general term that refers to any system of ideas.
Theological and ideological formation is both developed through education and experience. We will naturally form opinions and have ideas about what we are experiencing, even ideas about God. Even at an early age we can begin to wonder how and why we exist. I know that some might disagree, but since God creates us, I believe that we are naturally drawn to seek out or return to our creator.
“19They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:19-20 NIV
Basically, “It’s” already in there. God’s image has already been stamped or implanted in our consciousness. We are not God, but we have a form of godliness because in the beginning God “breathed into us”. (Genesis 2:7)
Ok, for those who are reading this and are having trouble buying that we are born knowing God, I understand that it’s a difficult concept. I’m not saying I understand it all, but as a believer I am prepared to take God at his word. In other words, it’s what the Bible tells me, so I believe it by faith even though my finite mind has some difficulty comprehending it.
I’m not sure exactly when I starting thinking about where I came from and why, but I do remember one morning, while I was spending the night with a friend, writing a Father’s Day card to God. What prompted that? It could have come from my parents taking me to church, but at the time my parents really weren’t serious about their faith. They just went to church because that’s what they did in those days. I don’t remember my parents talking seriously about theological things until I was older, and I doubt that I paid much attention during church services at the time. How much of my desire to write a Father’s Day card came from outside influence? Was I unintentionally or subliminally absorbing some “God stuff”? Which brings me to my next point, INFLUENCE.
Much of what we think and believe comes from outside stimuli, what we are learning from others and our environment. Our brains are like supercomputers or super sponges that soak up information. In the beginning we are just repeating what we hear without understanding the meaning, kind of like a parrot. But, as we mature we begin to make decisions, choices, form opinions, or ideas about the information we are assimilating, and the ideologies or beliefs that we latch on to are heavily influenced by those people that we value the most. For example, many of my theological and ideological beliefs came from my parents and others that I “looked up to”. The big question and the main point of this devotional is “when did I own it?” When do we switch from believing what someone else believes to what we believe? When does it become a conviction that we’re willing to defend and even die for?
Obviously, Daniel was willing live by his convictions, and as we’ll see he didn’t try to hide them. He owned them. If we really own our convictions, theology, or ideology, if they have a strong foundation, then they won’t crumble in the face of opposition. In fact, they will become even more galvanized by it. As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:14, “We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.” (NLT) If Daniel’s beliefs were a mile wide and an inch deep, he may have been swayed, tempted, or intimidated to accept or buy in to the Babylonian ideal, or even mix and match the two together creating a hybrid theology/ideology. He could have tried to make God fit into his own ideology, but he didn’t. Mixing and matching ideology and theology is nothing new. Biblical writers from the New and Old Testaments, God, and Jesus himself warn against false teachers or prophets who deviate, dilute, or distort God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus. So, it was happening then as it’s happening now.
“14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.” Jeremiah 14:14
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16
“3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Today, because of our unlimited access to information and sharing ideas online, there is an even greater risk or temptation to mix and match what we believe. In fact, tailoring a belief system that fits our individual reality rather than God’s truth is very mainstream and popular. We call it “my truth”. In an article from The Atlantic titled “America Without God” writer Shadi Hamid, who is a Muslim, says, “American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it’s just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like.”
This is why the book of Daniel is so relevant for the present day. For Daniel, God’s law, instruction, or truth weren’t just suggestions, ideas to be considered, channeled, or blended to fit his own ideology. Daniel didn’t mix and match. Daniels world revolved around the Lord, not the other way around. God didn’t exist to please Daniel. Daniel existed to please God. He didn’t try to make God fit into his little ideological box. He let God be God.
Some may say that Daniel was brainwashed or indoctrinated to believe a certain way, which I will admit is possible. We really can’t say for sure, but one thing is clearly evident. Daniel was a believer. He was all in, sold out, laser focused, and fully invested in the Lord. He didn’t allow culture, his environment, or popular public opinion to dictate-influence what he believed. It is estimated that Daniel was around 17-18 in chapter one, around 70 when he was thrown in to the lion’s den, and around 100 when he died. I’m sure Daniel wasn’t perfect and probably had bad days now and then. He was human, but in the span of 80 years, his faith and obedience to God never changed. We see the same steadfast, uncompromising, and faithful man of God from beginning to end. Daniel was a rock!