Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Against The Flow ~ A Book For Someone Who Really Wants To Think

When this book arrived at the house, Rick was happy to do a review of it. It's something he likes to read, deep and makes you think a lot.

About the book:
Against the Flow (Monarch, March 2015) A wide-ranging discussion of the place of Christianity in the public square.
Daniel's story is one of extraordinary faith in God lived out at the pinnacle of executive power. It tells of four young men, born in the tiny state of Judah around 500 b.c., and captured by Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of Babylon.
Daniel describes how they eventually rose to senior positions of administration. Daniel and his friends did not simply maintain their private devotion to God; they maintained a high-profile witness in a pluralistic society antagonistic to their faith. Their story carries a powerful message for us today. Society tolerates the practice of Christianity in private and in church services, but increasingly it deprecates public witness. If Daniel and his compatriots were with us today they would be in the vanguard of public debate.
This is a lucid and erudite examination of the life of Daniel from a leading expert on faith and science. In his first biblical work, Dr. Lennox provides a unique perspective on both Western society and biblical exegesis that will make Against the Flow an instant classic encouraging Christians to speak out in our modern Babylon.

Purchase a copy: http://amzn.to/1IoYQlO

About the author:
John C. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. He lectures on Faith and Science for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He is author of a number of books on the relations of science, religion and ethics. He and his wife, Sally, live near Oxford.

Here are Rick's thought's on the book.
John Lennox's Against the Flow is a difficult book to categorize. Its subtitle is “the inspiration of Daniel in an age of relativism” and is promoted as using the example of Daniel and his friends as a counterpoint to our secular pluralistic society. That's included, but is by no means the main thrust of the book, which is more like a commentary. The historical background of Daniel is presented well and in great detail. A solid case for a traditional dating of Daniel is given, along with a strong denunciation of the anti-supernaturalist bias which leads to assigning a late date given to the text by many. But once the subject of atheism or materialism comes up, the connection with Daniel becomes tenuous. Often the text used as a launching point for discussions of topics Lennox often addresses. 

His critiques of modern atheism and related subjects are, as usual, sharp and strong.

Maybe the best way to describe the book is “Lennox, inspired by Daniel.”

While this book is not what one might expect from its title, it is still worth reading for its insight into the ruling philosophy of modern western culture and its bold defense of traditional Christian thought. 

Some of Lennox's points are defended more with eloquence than with evidence. In his discussion of choice and predestination, he makes much of the the difference between the ESV and KJV renditions of Revelation 13:8, saying that “the exact wording of the verse just cited is “written from [not 'before'] the foundation of the world.” He conveniently neglects to address pertinent matters like: the King James wording also connects “from the foundation” with the Lamb slain, not the writing in the book; the reference to names in a book found in Exodus do not automatically prove it is the same book; “from the foundation” and “before the foundation” of the earth, whatever their differences, still refer to placing someone in a certain category before they have taken action or made choices [surely a significant fact in a discussion of predestination].

Another example is the declaration that a prophecy that Alexander the Great shall “do as he wills” [Daniel 11:3] shows that “God's relationship to the historical process leaves Alexander, and others mentioned subsequently, free to act as responsible moral beings.” The weakness of this argument is found in Exodus 7 and 8, where we are told that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart; one must also consider Proverbs 21:1, “the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will.” The issue is not so simply resolved.

I felt a tension between Lennox's unwavering commitment to the reliability of prophecy and his denial of inevitability of human actions. But these matters are not easily resolved; if they were, they wouldn't continue to be debated so many centuries after the Bible was written. His best contribution to the discussion is the observation that God, existing independently of the universe and unbound by time, has a perspective on history very different from our own.

The chapters dealing with prophecy are written with a balance of confidence and humility rarely seen in most current treatments of eschatology. Lennox is confident in the reality of prophecy and in drawing certain conclusions as to what historical events are fulfillments of Daniel's writings; he is humble enough to admit that some matters aren't so clear.

This book doesn't fit comfortably into a category like “commentary,” “current issues,” or “prophecy.” But it does provide food for thought on a wide range of topics from an author who respects the Bible and believes that it deserves serious thought.

Perhaps the best short comment Lennox makes about going against the flow of modern relativism is “the Bible's storyline is, in a sense, the tale of two cities – Jerusalem and Babylon. The issue is not what city we live in but what city we live for. Daniel lived in Babylon; but, in an ultimate sense, he lived for Jerusalem and all that it stood for.”

We received samples of the products for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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