Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, lays out four ways in which the Babylonian empire sought to bring the Jewish exiles in line with their pagan ways. These strategies show us how the world, in every era, can pressure Christians to conform.
“The first step in making Babylonians out of the four Hebrew teenagers was isolation from their homeland, family, and friends. The Babylonian strategy was to seize upon their vulnerability once they were separated from all that was familiar. Over time, they would be more likely to abandon their faith and become like the Babylonians.”
Being in exile doesn’t harm the Christian. Not being with God’s people does.
Isolation from other believers and immersion into a world of false assumptions make it difficult to maintain your Christian convictions.
“The second step was to take these sharp and impressive young men and enroll them in an educational school for three years . . . They needed to be indoctrinated in the ways of the Babylonians—to become experts in the Babylonian language, philosophy, literature, science, history, and astrology. Religion would have been part of the curriculum too.”
This Re-education takes place all the time, through education, entertainment, societal expectations, etc.
Many Christians are unprepared to face the doctrines of a society that believes:
- faith in God is a personal, private thing with little to no bearing on the public sphere
- all religions are valid paths to discovering one’s own fulfillment
- the purpose of life is to enjoy yourself by finding what makes you happy, over against what family, church, or society tells you
- the human person can be reinvented and recreated in line with whatever identity a person chooses.
If we are to see how indoctrination plays a role in conforming us to the world, we must learn to see these and other doctrines on display in our society.
“The third step was to totally immerse these followers of God into the world of Babylon . . . They would need to change their minds and their lifestyle, to eat and drink like the Babylonians. The strategy was to entice them with the delicacies and privileges of their new life.”
The only way to resist the lure of assimilating to the world is to rest in the love and approval of God. The voice we listen to the most—the Lord cheering on our faithfulness or the world cheering for our compromise—will have outsized influence in the path we choose.
“In the ancient world, changing one’s name was a big deal. It went to the core of a person’s identity. Giving the Hebrews new names in Babylon was a way of confusing them, reorienting their lives away from their past and toward the pagan gods of Babylonian culture. . . . Daniel and his three friends would have to fight to remember their identity and remain faithful.”
In WWII, when the Jews were rounded up and placed in ghettos and then concentration camps, they were given numbers instead of their names. The Jewish young men in Daniel’s time were given new names, in order to confuse and alter their sense of being and identity.
Amazingly, Daniel and his friends discovered that in being true to their God-given identity, they were able to bless the Babylonian nation. Daniel climbed the ranks of the king’s administration. Hs friends’ courage wowed the king.
Had God’s people abandoned their identity, they would have failed to bless their captors. By maintaining their distinctive vision, no matter the pressure, they brought blessing to the worl