Blogging Towards Sunday, June 9, 2013
Why do people believe in God?” It’s a question that many in our culture ask. “Why do you believe in God?”, is the question we might ask each other, or our ourselves. What is our evidence that there is a higher power, impacting and transforming our lives? Do you have to have proof to believe? Or to you have to believe to have proof of God’s existence? Does belief come before action, or do we explain our actions through our beliefs and faith?
A recent article in the New York Times “Belief is the least part of faith” asserted that “ It is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.” Being a person of faith isn’t first and foremost about certainty beyond doubt, or logical reasoning, it’s about trusting in a relational way, committing to a way of seeing and understanding the world in which we live.
This week’s scripture telling the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den wrestles with this question. Does Daniel refuse to compromise his beliefs, and desire to pray – as proof that God exists and has chosen him?; or does he believe that God is and that he should thus continue to pray and be in relationship with the Divine? Does Daniel refuse to compromise his faith practices because of his certainty of God’s existence? Or does he continue trusting that his way of living is the best?
- The story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den mirrors the story of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3. In each story trouble arises for the Jews arrives because of professional jealousy, one can also suspect racism and xenophobia. An imperial edict is passed that requires the Jewish exiles to compromise their religious convictions. Nebuchadnezzar demands that his subjects pray to him in public. Darius makes prayer illegal – to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Failure to comply results in a death sentence (the Fiery Furnace or the Lion’s Den). One is about public faith. The other is about private faith. “They compliment and supplement one another. Combined together they make the point that people of faith in different times and places are regularly challenged to live out their faith convictions despite the risks and dangers in their particular circumstances.” (Daniel, C. L. Seow, p. 87)
- Daniel seems to be favored even by King Darius. The structures of the satraps (regional administrators) and presidents (or premiers) is put into place to prevent deceit and graft, specifically the part of resources that are due to the government. Yet curiously it’s these very bureaucrats that are deceitful and wasteful of government resources. The king tries everything in his power to save Daniel from execution, but cannot. By the end of the day (either literally or metaphorically) he can do no more. Curiously the authentic, integrous and righteous non compromising faith of Daniel is a testimony to what faith is as well as the God in whom he puts his trust.
- Daniel doesn’t seem to go out of his way to challenge the law about not praying. He actually doesn’t do anything different than usual. He simply continues to do what he has always does. He doesn’t deliberately show his defiance, but neither does he try to hide the practice of faith either. He makes no changes whatsoever to accommodate the new law. He does no more, and no less.
- “These stories are not meant to be read as tales that assure one of God’s deliverance in times of trial, for in each case the faithful are not delivered from their trails, and the response of the human heroes of these stories is never contingent upon any assurance of divine salvation. Indeed, biblical faith in general knows the reality of divine silence and the possibility of divine absence in the face of human suffering and injustice. Rather, these stories in the book of Daniel are not about what God will inevitably do whenever the faithful are threatened, but about what God can do whenever God so wills.” (Daniel, C. L. Seow, p. 87)
- One of the theological issues laid out in the story is how Daniel’s devotion to his job might be compromised when it is pitted against commitment to his religion. Can you only choose one? Can you choose only publically and another one in private? How is faith both a public and a private thing?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
- How do you understand or live out faith and/or belief in your life?
- Do you come to church because you believe, or do you believe because you go to church?
- How have you been challenged to compromise your faith in the name of work, group membership, family approval, or professional advancement? Did you respond because you thought God would vindicate you?; remain silent?; or just do what you always do?
- Where do you feel like you are challenged to compromise your faith practice in your public life?; your private life?
- Read the op-ed in the NY Times online at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/opinion/luhrmann-belief-is-the-least-part-of-faith.html. How do you respond to it? Why do you believe in God?