By Sebastien Braxton
Peter Berger describes secular society as a “world without windows;” a world of repressive triviality unable to embrace the transcendent. However, this isn’t to say that secularity necessarily impedes momentous social action. Secularists challenge all manner of social ills from oppression of human life to government corruption, from corporate exploitation to social inequality. But their challenges fail to question the most fundamental assumption of secularity–that there is nothing but the here and now. The “world without windows” bars not only hope of a new and better world to come, but also the possibility of assistance from a greater and more powerful Source in the world we live.
The secularists’ may throw a spotlight on the most down trodden. They may even instigate the passing of legislation to restrict malevolent men and women. However, secularists’ efforts never go beyond addressing the symptoms of evil, into addressing why evil exists; they never venture beyond transient external parameters to God’s ability to transform human hearts.
When Christians operate within the broader society – whether it’s on university campuses, in secular businesses, or in our interactions with government – we bring with us a worldview based on changing lives that transcend the parameters of this world, and we bring with us a source of inspiration, hope, and unimaginable power to make that change.
William Wilberforce, the man credited with ending the slave trade within the British Empire was not only inspired in his quest by his God, but appealed to God’s power to achieve his goal. Similarly, Reverend Martin Luther King not only employed religious language, but the power behind it. Bono inspires the world to greater social engagement – inspired by his faith and appealing to the Author of that faith.
Similarly, all over the world today, millions of Christians are engaging their societies with a message of personal and societal transformation. I am one of them. And as I go, I carry with me God’s promise to me, and to the entire world:
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” [Ezek 36:26]
Daniel remains an inspiration for all of us who live and work in the vortex of a society that is increasingly hostile to our faith. Babylon was not a world without windows, but the windows were clouded and afforded no clear view of the beyond. In Daniel’s time when the most perplexing problems emerged, it became clear that it was necessary to move beyond the tangible world to find real answers. When king Nebuchadnezzar asked of his best and brightest to provide the details of his dream:
“The Chaldeans answered the king and said, ‘There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” [Dan 2:10-11]
The “wise men” of Babylon freely admitted the limitation of their reason and faith. These limitations seemed to them to be common sense and thus should have deterred any leader from asking such questions. The Chaldeans may be one better than the secularists of today – they admit there are gods somewhere beyond – but these were gods remote and ultimately unapproachable. They did not interact with or influence the affairs of men. Daniel, of course, knew a very different God.
“Daniel answered in the presence of the king and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in Heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days…’” [Dan 2:27-28]
Daniel took the royal Babylonian court to the clear windows of the world. There was a God beyond, who was able and willing to aid in the affairs of the hearts of men. This God was not only able to aid, but to change. After God spoke through Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”
It is important to remember Daniel was a captive, stripped of privilege. He came from a defeated and humiliated nation and he held a religion that was mocked and considered inferior. After all, if the God of Israel was as powerful as the Jews claimed, why were they vanquished and the Babylonians the victors? And yet, against all the odds, here was a youth influencing the most powerful nation on the earth and eventually, through Daniel’s witness, the most powerful man of his time was come to experience the new heart God promised.
I believe that Jesus is calling all of us – but most particularly young adults – to be Daniels today. Through God’s power, the questions on human hearts can be answered, and the people we meet can get to know Jesus and experience Him as their Saviour.
Does this generation face anything less than Daniel? Maybe we haven’t been threatened with a furnace or lions den, but the pressure of modern life can be intense. I see it every day working on the campus of the University of Michigan – one of America’s largest and most prestigious secular universities. I see Christian students constantly bombarded by the jargon of men and women in positions of tremendous power and influence imposing a world without windows. I see ideas like creation, sexual purity, and faith mocked as the products of superstition and ignorance. Our culture – whether it’s in the media or academia – is increasingly hostile to our faith. And I see many young people, even those who only a few years earlier would have claimed Christ as their Lord, crack under the pressure to conform.
But those who choose to stand; those who, in the words of the old song, “dare to be a Daniel;” those who accept the Power and resist the pressure; these are part of a very, very special generation. They are not just building a world with windows, they are smashing right through the windows to the other side where they live every day in a world filled with God’s grace awash in His power. And they are alive, sharing their faith with a vibrancy and authenticity that is infectious. Within the vortex of adversity, I am seeing something remarkable occur: young women and men coming forward like gold tried in the fire, full of the Holy Spirit and telling the world the good news.
And I believe we are only at the beginning. Things will get harder for Seventh-day Adventist Christians. But at the same time, young adults are becoming stronger in the Lord. Not all. Maybe not even a majority. But those that remain are living out lives of vibrant faith that are turning the world upside down – one conversation, one action, one explanation, one friendship at a time. Together, they are transcending the triviality of secularism, and replacing it with the centrality of Christ.