Holding Onto Your Identity
If you were a Hebrew living at the time of Daniel, even your name would hold a special, spiritual significance for you. It was meant to suggest something about your destiny.
Almost as soon as they landed in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar removed the names given to Daniel and his friends at their circumcision, each of which contained the name of the Hebrew God. He replaced them with names that spoke of major Chaldean deities. For example, Daniel (God is my judge) became Belteshazzar (keeper of hidden treasures of Bel). His friend Mishael (he that is the strong God) became Meshach (of the goddess of Shach). Shach, or Venus, was part of the pantheon of Babylonian gods.
Our post-modern Babylon tries to strip us of our special identity under God by getting us to call ourselves by something other than God's names for us. It's been doing this in two ways.
Firstly, people have been heavily influenced by evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin said that he never meant to kill God but, in the minds of many people, that's exactly what he did. After Darwin, people began to think that perhaps God had been just an invention to help us make sense of our world until science came along and offered us the real answers.
Before Darwin, people were able to argue that the complexity we see in the natural world is the result of its having an intelligent and creative designer. After Darwin's theories became popular, it was evolution that gave the world its complexity. God didn't create the species we see; this was a result of the process of natural selection.
There was another flow on from this: human beings themselves were no longer special creations made in God's image. We were no longer the children of God; we became descendants of apes and swamp things! Not only did God shrink in importance, so did we. Bryan Appleyard writes that man gradually came to see himself as being: 'half way between being and nothingness ... [and science thus gave us] modern man, alone, self-created, self-defining and baffled by the world.'(1)
Like it or not, after Darwin we went from being sons of God to sons of the apes, from children of the heavens to children of the algae. If we teach our children that they are merely 'monkeys who got lucky', animals with a few accidental advantages, why should we be so surprised if they start acting like animals - or worse than animals? If we teach kids that there is no ultimate arbiter of morality - and therefore, no absolute right and wrong - what's to stop them becoming anarchists who rebel against any and every system of order? If we tell people that human beings have no special destiny under God, what's to stop them giving in to despair?
Today, not even the most ardent proponent of scientific progressivism could argue that the wonderful 'New World' promised by science has actually materialised. In fact, our technology - a blessing though it so often is - has been the tool through which human beings have done incalculable harm to one another.
In one day of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, the first battle in which tanks were used, more lives were lost than in the whole of the previous century of wars in Europe. After this, two centuries of positivistic humanism, the progeny of the Enlightenment, lay buried in the muddy fields of northern France. Humanism has never fully recovered.
Later, we witnessed the horrors of Auschwitz and Berkenwald and the atom bomb made its awesome and terrifying appearance at Hiroshima. Appleyard observes that, 'the innocence of the easy, progressive Enlightenment myth ... finally died ... [We saw that] scientific reason was as capable of producing monsters as unreason ... The horror of the twentieth century revealed that the severance of knowledge and value has terrible consequences.'(2)
(1) Bryan Appleyard, Understanding the Present (Picador, 1992, 93) pp.58-59
(2) Ibid., pp.122 and 139
This article is an extract from chapter 1 of 'Making God Famous', available in paperback or e-book from our webshop.
Click here to learn more about Mal's latest book, 'The Church of 2020'.
Keywords: Mal Fletcher | Identity | Leadership | Life | Babylon | Making God Famous | Daniel | Appleyard