Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 7, Number 4
In this Issue:
Dominus Iesus - A Response
by Rev.Ralph Spears, LMS President
On September 5, 2000 the Roman Catholic Church, through Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in charge of doctrine, issued a policy known as "Dominus Iesus". This weighty encyclical with appropriately complex language, stated that the Roman Catholic component of the Christian Church is the only true Church primarily because it possesses a truly valid Apostolic succession contained within trappings of authentic tradition. Further, by another statement, other denominational bodies are not worthy of being considered 'sister Churches' by Rome.
This put into serious question any value of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) not yet a year old. Many eager Lutherans, and a few world Protestants, readily signed the Joint Document on Reformation Day (1999). The signing affirmed the validity of a renewed bond of fellowship with Rome, and was to repair the Four Hundred Eighty some years of fractured relationship with Rome begun by the Protestant Reformation.
Thus endeth the lesson from John 17, which heralded a bond of unity in the Jubilee Year with our Catholic friends: "That they might all be one." Now, rather than a time of unprecedented unity and fellowship, by the Pope's decree, the Jubilee took quite another turn.
Although John Paul reasserted Rome's commitment to ecumenical endeavors, the Catholic Church cannot hide its true nature. This nature began with the ponderously long and involved Council of the Church known as Trent. The Council asserted that the protestant movement was not only wrong, but also non-legitimate. In Trent, Rome closed their door forever on any notion of reconciliation. And that was a shame in a way, because due to the cry of Reformation criticisms, there had been some effort to clean up the Roman Church. Rome's clean up did not include, however, one of Luther's chief concerns-the primacy of the Pope and the Papacy itself.
In a further move to solidify Rome's primacy, the Papacy and its central authority (a concern of Trent), in the First Vatican Council, issued the doctrine known as ex cathedra in 1869! Ex cathedra allowed a sitting Pope, himself, to be the expounder of doctrine for the Roman Church when he spoke. This had been Luther's major objection in his Theses of 1517-that the pope had the right to speak for the whole church - even to the extent of expounding new doctrine.
Ex cathedra is a unique assertion of power by right of Apostolic Succession, a further step into a sealed self- legitimizing and, we might add, sola, or man-made, system. After several embarrassed inquiries from the Protestants and even some Catholics, the Pope himself spoke on the matter of Dominus Iesus introduced by Ratzinger in an attempt to deflect some criticism and to affirm ecumenicism. But in the end the Pope upheld that statement as being "close to his heart" and "true" to the position of the Roman Church after all! Furthermore, other denominations are only to be referred to as 'ecclesiastical communities' and not as "Sister Churches." In serious jeopardy are any brotherly or "sisterly" aspects of camaraderie, which are so dear to people bent on pursuing an ecumenical bond with the Vatican. Rather than just delaying Roman/Protestant dialogue, it shows that most of the "dialogue," supported by several Lutheran leaders over the past thirty to thirty-five years, was probably never on solid ground at all.
Recently a pastor, long languishing over the drift of The ELCA to the left of orthodoxy, retired from a career of ministry under the banner LCA/ELCA. Following the traditional retirement toasts of congratulations, the pastor shocked everyone. In an apparent effort to move to the "right," he announced his intentions to quit the ELCA, take instruction, and enter the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. The stunned silence following this awkward and puzzling news was not unlike that which followed Ratzinger's September statement.
What is at issue is the very nature of the Church. Rather than strengthening the bounds of timeless Faith, there is an unfortunate trend these days, to confuse the concept of the true Church with the organizational structure itself. In other words, it is the old mistake of confusing the person of Peter with his confession of Christ as Lord. Is the Church really built on Peter, the "first Pope?" Are his lawful descendants the Roman Church (as the old argument used to go)? Or is the Church based on Peter's, and our, confession of Faith?
Of course the Church is Faith-based, then and now! Even the "gates of hell," or presumptuous ecclesiastical church structures, "shall NOT prevail against IT!" For so Our Lord has founded the Church!
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|The LMS describes itself as, among other things, traditional in worship practice. Central to that practice is the music that is incorporated into that worship. There is a strong push in many Lutheran circles today, to set aside most all music that has characterized Lutheran liturgical worship since the days of the Reformation, and in its place to incorporate "contemporary" styles of music, as well as instrumentation, that only a few years ago was universally acknowledged as being incompatible with "church music." The following article by Dr. Masters addresses this issue.|
Is 'New Worship' Compatible With Traditional Worship?
'Sword & Trowel,' Metropolitan Tabernacle, London
Worship in the Melting Pot, Part 1
by Dr. Peter Masters
(reprinted with permission of publisher)
|The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.     John 4.23-24|
Can contemporary Christian worship (we shall call it new worship) be combined with traditional worship?
I would like to speak with great respect to fellow pastors and Christian workers who have been inclined to adopt new worship to some degree. I do not want to appear hostile in any way, for there are a number of dedicated men who feel they should give new worship a chance.
They do not necessarily care for it personally, but they have been persuaded that their reservations are just a matter of taste and culture. Therefore, to get the young people in, they give house-room (often reluctantly) to contemporary worship songs.
Such friends almost always have areas of concern. They do not go all the way with the modern trend. They certainly do not share the emotionally manipulative motives of the leading proponents of new worship. Nor do they accept their somewhat mystical notions of communion with God. In fact, they have very little in common with them. Nevertheless, they feel that they live in a new culture and must give guarded acceptance to new things.
These pastors have every intention of keeping traditional worship alongside the new, and of curbing excesses firmly, but the new, they feel, should not be entirely resisted.
I can well understand that anyone who has a heart for the rising generation, and a deep concern for the state of the churches, will not want to be obstructive to new ideas. I therefore do not intend in this article to criticise other Christian workers who, with reservations, have been accommodating toward the new ways. But I would like to point out, in fraternal persuasion, several great issues of principle which are now at stake. The chief problem is that traditional and new worship represent entirely different concepts of worship, and these are opposite concepts.
New worship, or contemporary Christian worship, started in California in the late 1960s, when many hippies turned to Jesus Christ, becoming the 'Jesus people'. They worshipped with the very same style of song which they had known as hippies. Various movements were formed to encourage this, among them the well-known Calvary chapels.
This new worship consisted mostly of one-verse choruses, endlessly repeated. The words were simple - much simpler than those of a traditional children's chorus - and the themes were elementary. There was seldom any confession of sin or any doctrine. However well-intended, the new worship was not shaped or influenced by any biblical model of worship nor by general church practice.
It was a form of worship fashioned and conceived in the womb of hippie meditational mysticism, in which hippies in their hundreds and thousands would sit on Californian hillsides with eyes closed, swaying themselves into an ecstatic state of experience. Former hippies carried into their new Christian allegiance the method of seeking the emotional release or sensations to which they were accustomed, and no one showed them a better way.
The new worship rapidly advanced, merging with another stream of new songs written by those who simply wanted worship music to be like secular rock music. In other words, the latter wanted a 'good time' in a worldly sense. We need to be aware that new worship sprang from these two stables, namely, hippie mysticism, and worldly Christianity. It was immediately incorporated into the charismatic movement, from which the vast majority of new worship songs have come.
I am not suggesting that traditional Christians who accommodate the new worship endorse those stables. Nevertheless we cannot evaluate new worship without considering its background and objectives.
It must be appreciated that new worship is designed to be ecstatic worship. In other words, worship is intended to stir the senses or feelings as a chief objective. The biblical requirement (as we shall see) and the time-honoured view of Christians is that God must be worshipped with the mind, and emotions should support what is grasped by the mind. The great emphasis in traditional worship is meaning. It is about the mind inspiring the heart. Ecstatic worship, by contrast, says, 'Let's simplify the meaning. Meaning gets in the way. Meaning confuses us. Meaning hurls facts at us, and while that is happening we cannot feel. We want chiefly to go for feeling.'
The choruses and songs which come out of the new worship movement are based on this policy of worship. This is not my assessment, but the clearly stated aim of the advocates of new worship. But to use melody or song as a means of working up sensations, raptures, exalted senses and emotional joys is wrong. They say, 'We must find a way of stirring up this feeling within ourselves. We must "get ourselves going" by the use of music and any other means available to stir emotional chords within us.' This is the underlying basis of the new worship.
Another way of looking at this feature of new worship is to say that it is mystical. Its songwriters may not consciously be mystics, but they mostly believe in the idea that direct union with God may be achieved in worship. (Ecstatic has to do with my feelings, whereas mystical refers to a method of sensing union with God.)
Any attempt to be in direct touch or union with God by means of a technique, is a form of mysticism. It is the opposite of our traditional Christian worship which says that union with God is via faith based on knowledge, and not by emotion. We understand or believe in the God revealed in Scripture, and by faith we touch Him. Many hymns in the new worship speak of touching God (or similar terms), suggesting that this is something we do by turning on our emotions. The danger of this philosophy cannot be understated. Emotion-driven, mystical worship is a delusion, producing intensely emotional and subjective worshippers for whom personal enjoyment is the chief aim. Biblically, however, we touch God as we appreciate the truth about Him, and approach Him in faith. Deep feelings are the result of this.
Another incompatibility between old and new worship is found in what has been called the aesthetic factor. Traditional worship, as we have noted, says that human beings can worship God only by words and thoughts. But the aesthetic policy (universally adopted by the promoters of new worship) says that God can be worshipped by human creativity. If I play an instrument well enough, I legitimately worship by instrumental skill. God will look upon the beautiful thing I have produced, be pleased with it, and accept it as valid worship. I will have pleased Him and glorified Him by my expertise. An Anglo-Catholic hymn puts it in this way, but it is wrong: "Crafts-men's art and music's measure, For Thy pleasure all combine."
[From - 'Angel voices ever singing', Francis Pott, originally entitled, 'For the dedication of an organ'.]
The great cathedral builders of centuries past believed that the very arrangement of the stones, and the ingenuity of the stained glass, was an act of worship.
Words used sparingly
Of course, God is to be glorified in everything we do, but acts of direct Christian worship consist solely of words and thoughts flowing from sincere and earnest hearts.
In the new worship words are often used very sparingly, because words do not count for much. Creativity and clever instrumentation are considered to be more moving or exciting to worshippers, and more acceptable to God. The new worship is therefore incompatible with the old because it is built upon different foundational concepts.
I have been reading a book by John Frame of the Californian branch campus of Westminster Theological Seminary entitled, Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defence. The author, a reformed theologian, surprisingly turns out to be strongly in favour of new worship.
One of John Frame's many complaints about traditional worship is that it is far too complex. It has too many words, is too intelligent, and too scholarly. It is not for ordinary people. In supporting this complaint, the author pronounces himself in favour of minimal words. He wants to bypass rationality, and substitute feelings as the leading component in worship. He also insists that there is a physical dimension to worship, dancing and other activities being valid. He wants to get the senses and sensations strumming in order to touch God. The point in raising his book at this stage is to show how 'traditionalists' who adopt new worship eventually capitulate to the sensational-mystical-aesthetic philosophy of worship.
In spirit and in truth
To establish the traditional view of worship I turn to John 4.24 - the words of the Lord Jesus Christ -- 'God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.' First, to worship in spirit means we are not to worship in any physical way. There are no physical elements or actions in spiritual worship with the exception of baptism and the Lord's Supper, which were ordained by the Saviour exclusively as teaching figures. Aside from these there is no physical ingredient, other, perhaps, than to fall in reverence before the Lord.
Worship, being a spiritual activity, cannot be offered by way of melody or instrumentation. Instruments and music are merely helps to the singing of intelligent praise. An organ or piano is a great help, but has no greater status than that. You cannot abandon or minimise the words, and worship through the music instead. The music cannot add to the spiritual acceptability of the words. Biblically, there is no such thing as worship which is 'a celebration of words and music'. Music, if it has an appropriate 'mood', may certainly help focus the mind, but you cannot worship through it. Worship is not by melody or instruments, but by faith.
Instruments have no more status in worship than radiators which supply heat to the building. God trusts us to use such 'helps' reasonably, but they must never be elevated into a form of worship.
To consolidate the point, the Lord defines worship as being exclusively 'in truth'. This, of course, means that genuine worship comes from a true, honest and sincere mind. It also means that worship is intelligent. Our Lord said that the Father seeks to worship Him those who will worship Him through the rational faculty - the mind, or the reason. He insists that worship themes must arrest the mind, and be understood. He tells us that is the only valid way of worship.
'In truth' also means that worship must be made according to the Truth, or, in other words, as prescribed by the Word of God. (We will in due course consider whether or not new worship follows the rules of Scripture.)
There is a world of difference between traditional worship and new worship. If we bring simple and short choruses, with all their repeated lines and their shallow sentiments, into adult worship, we severely strain the Lord's demand for intelligent understanding of profound and glorious truths. To use the hackneyed term, we 'dumb down' worship.
The traditional approach to worship is further confirmed in Revelation chapters 4 and 5. These chapters present a vision of the rule of God over His Church, and also of the Church's worship of Him.
It is a matter of fact that if this article had been written 150 years ago, most Nonconformist readers would have thought it too obvious to be printed. They all knew this. It was fundamental to them that worship is words. Today, tragically, this principle has been eroded away.
I often give this portion of my article as a lecture, and when we come to this point, I realise that some listeners are thinking, 'What about the groanings which cannot be uttered, in Paul's letter to the Romans? Is this not prayer without words?'
Language of Heaven
The answer is, no, for the simple reason that the groanings are not ours, but those of the Holy Spirit. With our words we pray, and the Holy Spirit, in His majesty and power, translates those words into the language of Heaven, and conveys them to the throne on our behalf. We do not know what to pray for, or how to pray for it as we ought, but the Holy Spirit takes our stumbling efforts, and beautifies and perfects them, and presents them before the Lord.
We should not say, 'I can pray just by feeling, even though I cannot express it in words,' It may happen that a believer feels so strongly about something that his feelings seem to outpace his mind. But should he be asked - 'What were you praying for just then?' - he would be able to reply.
There is no true prayer which has not passed through the rational mind. There is no prayer that cannot be put into words. This alone is true worship. Anything other than this is mystical and ecstatic worship. For this reason we place the emphasis on the mind, whereas advocates of the new worship want the emphasis to be on emotions.
In my now rather elderly book Healing Epidemic, I have a chapter called 'The Law of the Sound Mind'. With the growth of new worship this chapter has become even more relevant. The chapter title came from Paul's words to Timothy -'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' It is about the centrality of the sound mind.
The strongest feelings that we are capable of should be in our worship, but supporting the words. We must feel things because we think them. If we understand and mean the words, then the Holy Spirit (Who inspires all genuine worship) will touch our minds so that we see them even more clearly, and He will also touch our hearts so that we feel what we see all the more strongly. The emotional system is a system of support and response. It is not the prime mover in worship. It must never be stirred into action or 'worked up' by musical techniques.
A sound mind
In the pastoral epistles, the apostle Paul makes many exhortations about sound-mindedness. He calls for rational control at all times. He insists on sensible words and thoughts. He says that the rational faculty must always be switched on. By these exhortations he condemns trances and purely sentimental worship.
He calls us to be alert. All must be watchful and vigilant. All must be moderate in their approach, and discerning. Every word of a hymn must register first in the mind, for this is the prime channel of praise. Paul establishes the centrality of the rational faculty.
This matter is so important that Paul makes separate exhortations to ministers, to older men, to older women, to younger men and to younger women. He makes this call repeatedly, and it especially applies to the exercise of the mind in worship. In 1 Corinthians he tells us that we pray and sing in the spirit, but always with the understanding also. In worship we think and comprehend. Knowledge and understanding are foundational.
Those teachers who urge the abandonment of historic worship are rejecting a basic principle of worship -the centrality of the mind. We must hold on to this. New worship ranges from the extremes of ultra-simplified worship, to sheer emotionalism. It is not biblical worship.
John Frame, in his book, says the trouble with traditionalists is that they are snobs. They are musical snobs, and they are theological snobs! No believer wants to be a snob, and this kind of charge intimidates us. Innate Christian humility begins to wonder whether the charge is true. We begin to think that we may be prejudiced against new worship merely because we prefer the way we have always done things. But it is not snobbery to be alarmed at the new worship. There are great principles at stake.
John Frame is delighted with choruses and other short, repetitive songs. He says the great advantage with choruses is that there are very few thoughts in them. He takes a typical verse from a hymn of Wesley, and pronounces it inferior to a conspicuously vapid chorus, as a means of efficient communication! His problem with Wesley and Watts and every other traditional hymnwriter is that they say far too much. No one, apparently, can grasp all their thoughts, for they are too numerous and too sophisticated. Millions of believers over the centuries have in his view suffered from great personal inadequacy in worship. By his thinking, what place could the Psalms have in worship? They are often long, complex and profound. Must they be rejected also as a model for our hymns?
Dismal 'biblical' examples
Frame attempts some novel interpretations of Scripture to justify this dumbing down of hymns. He looks at Job, noting the fine speeches he prepared to hurl at God when the opportunity arose. But when he saw God, he put his hand over his mouth, and choked out the simplest things. Says Frame - that is the right way. That is the difference between traditional worship and new worship. Traditional is all Job's fine speeches, and new is what Job should have done all along. The fewest words and the strongest feelings are best.
Moses and Isaiah are also brought into the argument. They fell silent before the Lord, and said very little. This, according to John Frame, is what justifies contemporary Christian worship. He repeatedly says that we must be biblical in these matters, but he makes no use of the Lord's own hymnbook - the Psalms - in deciding what hymns should be like.
The 'mathematics' or proportions of the Psalms are closely respected in traditional hymnbooks, but totally neglected in the new worship. Traditional worship tracks well the ratio of praise to petitional psalms, and accommodates the entire range of subjects in the Psalter. New worship almost cries out against the structure of the Psalms. Indeed, the very notion of a chorus has no basis in the Psalms.
The Lord's policy
Are our traditional hymns too complex? When the Lord compiled a hymnbook for an agricultural people who were probably 95% illiterate, He gave them not a book of choruses, but the book of Psalms.
C H Spurgeon once expressed his delight at the arrival of popular national newspapers, because they reached into all the towns and villages. With his own rural background he was qualified to comment on the limitations of village intellectual life. Mrs Smith, he said, was simpleminded because she and her friends only talked about petty events and village gossip. What a wonderful instrument, he said, these newspapers were, to widen their horizons, and show them about cities and lands beyond their village.
From the Psalter all the way down to the Reformation, and through subsequent centuries, hymns have been clearly understood by the Lord's people. They have lifted up the people of God spiritually and intellectually. They have expressed worship, and taught the great truths of the Word. The Bible first, and godly hymns second, have liberated generations from ignorance and naivety, teaching and articulating intelligent praise. Today, the new worship is pulling believers down to a level they have never known before.
Editor's note: Music can imply a rationality of language of itself and "say" things to the listener by the chordal progression of arrangement, even by the instruments used. This may be subtle but indeed it does convey to the listener definite nuances of context and thought. As an example, J. S. Bach was a master at this. This concept is not lost on purveyors of the so-called 'new worship' who can create or enhance emotional context by repetition but also by arrangement and instrumentation.
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Rev. Mark Dankof
Illusion and Reality
|In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa, in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great."     Daniel 8:1-4|
It was a late evening in February of 1964. The writer of this devotional was ensconced in the 3rd grade at Floyd Elementary School in Montgomery, Alabama while his father, an American Air Force officer, completed a year of study at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in the same city.
Permission had been granted me to listen to the radio that night if homework was completed. At the appointed hour, the black leather covered NEC transistor made its way out of the kitchen drawer, the power button turned to the "on" position with maximum volume. The night's listening concentrated on radio signals emanating from Miami Beach, Florida to the south. This was not simply any idle night of running at random through scores of station signals and call letters seemingly scattered at random in the night air of the American South of the early 1960s. There was a specific purpose-to hear the blow-by-blow description of the much vaunted heavyweight championship fight scheduled between the champion, Sonny Liston, and the challenger, Cassius Clay, from Louisville, Kentucky.
The pre-fight commentary and the sound of the ring announcer describing the approach of the two fighters to the ring from different aisles that led from their respective dressing rooms took my mind back to September of 1962. There, while stationed at an Air Force base in Sacramento, California, my older brother and I had listened to the description of Sonny Liston's ascendancy to the heavyweight championship, a feat achieved through a first round knockout of Floyd Patterson at Comiskey Park in Chicago. My mind then flashed to the Arizona desert outside Phoenix, where on July 22, 1963 (my brother's 12th birthday), a mere seven months prior to February of 1964, my family had stopped at the famous Del Webb resort hotel for an evening's respite from the long drive from California to Alabama. At the hotel swimming pool, our black leather covered NEC transistor made it out of our 1960 Plymouth Station Wagon glove compartment, and brought us at pool side the Liston-Patterson rematch, such as it was. This time, the airwaves carried the description of another first round knockout victory for Liston, this time with Las Vegas as the site. All of this, now mentally reviewed in my mind while the ring announcer set the stage for that evening's Liston-Clay event in Miami Beach, suggested that a similar result would ensue. My own anticipation was unanimously mirrored in the sports media of the time, which had made the champion an 8-1 betting favorite.
It was, however, a pivotal turning point in the history of heavyweight boxing of seismic proportions, with a result counter to all that had been written and predicted in the days leading up to that fateful night in Miami Beach. The voice of the radio broadcaster, round-after-round, described in tone and content that something unbelievable was in the process of being unveiled. This burgeoning feeling was confirmed when Sonny Liston could not answer the bell for the beginning of the 7th round. Cassius Clay of Louisville, Kentucky had beaten all odds to dethrone the man thought to be untouchable in his possession of pugilism's most coveted belt. As Muhammed Ali, he would defeat Liston easily in the rematch a year later in Lewiston, Maine. In December of 1970, almost seven years after losing boxing immortality in Miami Beach, Sonny Liston would be found dead in a Las Vegas house, allegedly the victim of a drug overdose in the context of mysterious circumstances that have never been completely explained or understood.
|Of all of the illusions harbored by men, none is more pervasive than the idea that human achievement and power possess permanence which shall remain unaffected by the relentless movement of time and the events which occur within its temporal boundaries.|
The Bible generally, and the Book of Daniel specifically, articulate similar turns in written narratives which describe God's sovereign control of individual and collective destinies, where the lives of nations, empires, and individuals ebb and flow in the tide of history.
This illusion is striking both for its absurdity as well as for its constant repetition in the hearts and minds of those unaware of the role of the Biblical God in determining the times and the seasons, and in causing the rise and fall of kings and empires, modern heavyweight champions, and other claimants upon our allegiances and consciousness. This illusion undergirds the prophet's description of the battle of the Ram (Persia) and Goat (Greece) in Daniel 8, an outcome already revealed in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2 and Daniel's own dream in chapter 7.
The first instance of the illusion of permanent achievement and reign is implied by the very mention of Susa, the ancient Persian capital, in chapter 8, verse 2. It is not an accident that Susa, when mentioned by the Old Testament, evokes imagery of the fortress, or citadel. The vision entertained by Daniel in the 3rd year of King Belshazzar of Babylon's reign (551 B. C.) transports the prophet to this location for the experience of a curious irony. It would be ancient Persia which would depose Belshazzar and consign the Babylonian empire to the ashheap of history. Yet in seeing himself in the citadel of Susa during the vision, Daniel understands the subsequent unveiling of the spectacle of the battle of Ram and Goat as an expression of the truth of the eventual demise of the preeminence of ancient Persia itself in world affairs along with a recession in influence of its Achaemenid kings who craved to follow in the footsteps of Cyrus the Great (Isaiah 43 and 44) and his achievements on the world stage. Susa would prove to be a fortress city only for a time, until the arrival of the moment of God's choosing in history.
The perception of ancient Persia's power in 8:4 sounds eerily reminiscent of the pre-February 1964 reviews for the mighty Sonny Liston. "No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great." This analysis proved to be identically striking for its transient, fleeting character, for the prophet goes on to describe how "suddenly" (8:5) he saw the appearance of a "Goat with a prominent horn between his eyes who came from the west." This Goat, Alexander the Great of Greece, would cross the whole earth "without touching the ground." He would charge the Ram in "great rage." He would strike the Ram and shatter his two horns. The Ram, once the embodiment of seemingly limitless power, was suddenly "powerless to stand against him."
Alexander the Great would similarly experience the ebb and flow of human achievement and power. Chapter 8:8 foretells that "at the height of his power his large horn was broken off." This came to fruition in his death in 323 B. C. His demise would fufill the prophecy of Daniel, that the Greek empire would divide into four separate spheres of influence, Macedonia, Thrace, Syria, and Egypt. One of these sectors, Syria, would give rise to "another Horn, which started small but grew in power" (8:9). This Horn, Anti-ochus Epiphanes IV, would provide 3 1/2 years of persecution of the Jewish nation and the profaning of its Temple worship. In a hideous reference to the Satanic power which would undergird his reign, Daniel informs the reader that Antiochus was "strong, but not by his own power" (8:24). Reinforced by the evil supernatural force operating through his actions in world history, Antiochus would also embrace the illusion that his role in the temporal realm would continue without end and at his own pleasure. He would "prosper in everything"; throw truth "to the ground"; be "stern faced" and a "master of intrigue"; he would enact much "devastation"; and "succeed in whatever he does" while causing "deceit to prosper." In all of this Antiochus would serve as the prototype of evil consummate in secular world reign in what would seem to have been a rule without end where God's persecuted people were concerned. Yet this too, would prove to be a repetition of the illusion that the human and the Satanic in temporal history will transcend the purposes of the Biblical God, either in this world or that which is to come.
This illusion evaporates in the reality of God's absolute supremacy and assured victory over evil. Chapter 8:25 records the prophet's observation that Antiochus will be destroyed "but not by human power." The power of God will incessantly overrule the power of the demonic in the linear, temporal time line between the Fall and the Second Advent of Christ. In this case, the Maccabean revolt of the Jews would end the 1,150 days of Antiochus' temple profanation. He would die ingloriously, at Tabae in Persia in 164 B. C., unable to bring an end to the tribe of Judah or the Messiah whose appearance through its auspices had already been guaranteed centuries before (Genesis 49). His demise would prefigure the destruction of every world ruler and power in this present cosmos which opposes the absolute reign of the Triune God, whose victory in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees participation in the Kingdom of God for all who rest in the active and passive obedience of God's Son as the sole basis of salvation and eternal life.
This reality enables the believer to jettison the illusion that evil has the upper hand in history and in his own life. In an uncertain season of frightening world events, and in the seemingly perpetual decline of fidelity to God's Word on the part of many Lutheran churches and ministries acclimated to the darkest accommodations to a decaying, malignant culture, Daniel 8 reminds the discerning of the assured destruction of all that is not in submission to Jesus Christ and the elevation of all that is. The final, pivotal events of world history, prefigured in the epochs of ancient Persia, Greece, Syria, and the modern pugilistic saga of Sonny Liston and Muhammed Ali, may lie just ahead. May God's Holy Spirit enable us to understand the "times and the seasons" and to be prepared for the deliverance that is yet to come.
|Pastor Dankof, who possesses the B. A. degree from Valparaiso University and the Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, presently works toward a Th. M. degree in systematic theology and theological German at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.|
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