A University Experience: Introduction

Dear Daniel,                                                                                    April 2, 605 BC

The Great King, Nebuchadnezzar – may Nabu protect him, and the Office of Vassal State Admissions, wish to extend to you a formal invitation to be part of the class of 602 BC at the University of Babylon. I am delighted to offer my sincere congratulations for such an esteemed honor.

As you are well aware, The University of Babylon – Kings College, is the most prestigious institution of higher education in the world. You will be learning alongside other young men of your age in the most technologically advanced city the world has ever seen. We are holding a spot for you in the Cyrus School of Mesopotamian Religion and Wizardry. Many of our graduates are given the honor of serving His Majesty at the conclusion of their three-year, accelerated program. 

You will soon be receiving a Cuniform Tablet via Empire Express which will give details for Welcome Weekend. You should plan to arrive at the Ishtar Gate. 

Sincerely,

Ashpenaz
Dean of Students

P.S. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but you might want to check with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They “might” have received similar letters.

I obviously made this up, but it does serve as a place to get us started with this new multi-part series. No, the Old Testament character of Daniel did not choose to go to Babylon. No, he did not receive an acceptance letter. But he did go there, through no fault of his own; where he studied, learned, and became the second in command of two world empires. We are going to take a look at the modern university through the lens of Daniel 1 through the first half of chapter 2. Many of the worldview issues in Daniel are the same in our current colleges and universities 2,600+ later.

Last summer (2016), I had the privilege to attend the Ravi Zacharias Summer School in Oxford, England. I was very excited to go because I had never been to England, I was spending a week in the environs of two of my heroes J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and I expected the teaching to be very good. I had no idea how good it would be and what God would teach me.

Summer School

“You know what goes with the flow? Dead fish.” These were among the first words I heard eminent Christian philosopher John Lennox utter. We participants sat under Dr. Lennox’s teaching every morning where he layed out for us the major ideas of his book Against the Flow. ATF is a study in the book of Daniel.

This was teaching like I had never heard before. I had NEVER made a connection to the contemporary university with Daniel. This was indeed new ground and I was totally hooked. At one point, early on in the week, Lennox said, “the amazing thing about Daniel and his friends [in Babylon] is not the fact that they maintained a private faith in God. The amazing thing about these four boys is that they maintained a high-profile, public witness for God, in a hostile environment.” Mind: blown!

In the weeks to follow, we will be exploring the four major themes in the first chapter and a half of Daniel that are very relevant for today.

  1. Who or what is behind human history?
  2. What is absolute?
  3. What is my true identity?
  4. How does one have contact with the transcendent?

I will be sharing insights from theology, philosophy, my own research into ancient Near-Eastern religion, as well as referencing Dr. Lennox’s most excellent book (that you should buy…right now) that got me started on all this in the first place.

Many of us have seen the stories of the complete craziness that happens on many of our campuses. Let us together investigate one. Please join me over the next few weeks as take a field trip in time to visit the center of learning in the ancient Near East. We will seek to understand what it takes if we really want “dare to be a Daniel” to be more than just a silly Sunday School song.

4 Comments

  1. This sounds so coooool
    I absolutely love Tolkien and Lewis, and I’ve heard a lot of Ravi’s speeches. Your starting letter was really cool too. Can’t wait to see more!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it. I was a little nervous about the “acceptance letter.” My imagination gets the best of me sometimes.

  2. I like this. I’ve signed up to get it in emails. I’ve often though it seems as though people treat two major narrated events in the OT, the Wilderness and the Exile, as a kind of mistake in the plan of God. It seems that people think God had to improvise because of Israel’s sin, so these times are less than ideal. But I think God did some of the most tremendous works when Israel was not actually in the land. The wilderness has some great narratives that are often ignored in preaching, like Joshua and Judges, and the exile has amazing lessons too. So I’m all in for thinking through Daniel’s themes.

    1. Awesome! Thanks so much for the good feedback. I also think that we tend to either mythologize the narrative bits of Daniel and tend to use the book’s apocalyptic themes only.

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