November 7, 2012 | 1 Comment
BUIES CREEK – Can Christians maintain their faithfulness in a post-Christian America? It’s the question Barry Jones, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Campbell University, raised Monday during the Campbell University Divinity School’s annual Prevatte Biblical Studies Lecture Series in Butler Chapel.
First, consider that Protestant Christians no longer make up the majority of the U.S. population, that the fastest-growing classification for how people in the U.S. identify their religious affiliation is “no religious affiliation,” and that the U.S. has become the most religiously diverse nation in the world, Jones said. Such shifts have led religious commentators from across all spectrums to refer to the current era of U.S. history as the period of post-Christian America, Jones said.
Given this new period of post-Christian America, Jones asked: “Is it possible to live under the temporary reign of the competing empires of our day and still remain faithful to the ultimate sovereignty of God?”
Of course you can, Jones said, but it “requires great spiritual discipline.” A model for that “great spiritual discipline” can be found in the Bible throughout the book of Daniel, which records how Daniel and the Jewish people lived in exile in Babylon; how Daniel survived the lion’s den and interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survived a fiery furnace; and how the Jews were persecuted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
“The stories of Daniel and his community provide models of faithfulness while living increasingly on the margins of power,” Jones said. “It serves a concrete example for Christians of how a religious community can have both a distinct identity and a public witness as a minority faith in a pluralistic age.”
Over three sessions Monday, in a lecture series he titled “Faithful Living in Times of Trial: Studies in the Book of Daniel,” Jones broke down all 12 chapters of Daniel in detail. He also provided four overarching disciplines that today’s Christians can learn from the book of Daniel in order to live faithfully in a community in which they are a religious minority:
About the Prevatte Biblical Studies Lecture Series: E.J. and Amaretta Prevatte established the E.J. and Amaretta Prevatte Biblical Studies Lecture Series in 1985 to provide a forum in which “renowned Biblical scholars [can] share their wisdom” through an “in-depth study of the Bible that the ordinary degree work [does] not provide.” E.J. Prevatte practiced law for more than 60 years in the Southport, N.C., area. He received both his B.S. in business and government and his law degree from Wake Forest University. His wife, Amaretta, graduated from Appalachian State University.
About Barry Jones: Barry Jones is the associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Campbell University. His research interests include how Israel’s response to its exile can inform the church today and the leadership lessons from the post-exilic prophets. His research publications include the article “The One and the Many: A Strategy for Teaching the Twelve Prophets” in the 2009 volume of the journal Perspectives in Religious Studies and an article on the book of Zephaniah in “The New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible.” Before joining Campbell in 2000, Jones was a religion professor at Mars Hill College. He completed his undergraduate work at Campbell, his Master of Divinity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. at Duke University.
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