Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Daniel 2 – Two years into service for Nebuchadnezzar, the king has a terrifying dream and he “called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed” (2:2). They assure him that if he tells them what he dreamed they will be able to interpret it, tell him what it means; but he thinks they should be able to tell him what it was he dreamed, not just its meaning.
He threatens the sages [wise men] to tell him what it is as proof that they will be able to interpret it. He also, somewhat mysteriously, sends men to go and kill Daniel and his friends; they must also have been thought to be among the “sages” serving Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel asks for a little more time to tell the king what he wants to know. He goes and tells his friends what has happened, and “he urged them to ask the God of heaven to show then his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon” (2:18).
That night “the secret [is] revealed to Daniel in a vision. Daniel is taken to the king, and he says, “While Your Majesty was sleeping, your dreamed about coming events. . . And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart.” (2:30).
The dream was of a “huge, shining statue of a man” (2:31). The head of the statue was made of gold, the chest and arms were of silver, the belly and thighs were of bronze and the legs were made of iron. The feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. He tells the king, “As you watched, a rock was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits” (2:32-33). The whole statue was crushed and the wind blew it all away; but “the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth” (2:35).
Then Daniel interprets the dream as follows: “Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world and has put even the wild animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold. But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world” (2:37-39). And so on down the statue. One kingdom after another will come and go. The kingdom represented by the feet, the mixture of iron and class, will be kingdoms that try to be strong through alliances and intermarriages. “But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix” (2:43).
“During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (2:44). That will be like the rock.
Nebuchadnezzar rewards Daniel for interpreting this dream with a “high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men” (2:48). He also appoints Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be “in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court” (2:49).
From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
For me, being a Catholic means being in unity with the church that the apostles started, with the promise-bearing institution Christ charged with the mission of bringing God’s redemption forward in history. It doesn’t mean rejecting what I learned from Friends or the sense of God’s continuous presence in my life that Friends brought me to see. To me, the truths the Catholic Church defends and the truths that I found among Friends represent the two necessary poles of the Christian gospel—the corporate and outward (sacramental) pole on the one side and the personal, inward pole on the other. These poles sometimes seem to be mutually exclusive and contradictory, but the truth is they are poles that need to be in constant tension. It is the tension between them that makes the spiritual life dynamic – capable of stages, growth, and transformation.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter, there are areas where Quaker and Catholic spiritualities really do coincide, and I want to devote more time to developing how I think this is true. Of course, there are also areas where the differences are profound and where I have missed the “culture” of faith I enjoyed among Friends. I am constantly reminded inwardly that coming back was only part of the calling I felt as a Friend; the second part was that I bring to the Church the things I found among Friends that could enrich it even more. This, of course, has been far more challenging.