Darren Decodes Daniel… delicately (@darrenrhill)


We love a good conspiracy theory. In fact, I will admit I was a little excited as news emerged that Mulder and Scully would be returning in The X Files. No sooner had the contracts been signed, the twitterverse was alive with the characters tweeting each other. The endearing thing about The X Files, for me, was the battle for the characters to uncover what was hidden. For Mulder and Scully it was often Alien and Government conspiracies, and they are not the only ones who enjoy such a challenge.

The success of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code is another example. Secret codes, hidden messages and special keepers of the knowledge are very attractive, in both fiction and the everyday. The book of Daniel, with its strange visions, has not escaped humanities desire to understand more than can be seen. We have noted that it is part apocalyptic and that is not just your average narrative of a prophet on tour.

Together with the book of Revelation and the other apocalyptic literature, Daniel has been scoured for what it can tell us about the events of history; past, present and future. It is loved by dispensationalists the world over. Elaborate diagrams of end times, empire times and tea times* have been drawn up to try and explain what has, is and will be going on. These diagrams look great but, as you may be guessing from my tone, don’t quite sit comfortably within my theology.

Numbers are notoriously difficult to interpret in the Bible. We need to decide if they are literal or symbolic, accurate or a textual anomaly, before we can do anything. Once the decision is made we then attempt to fit the numbers into some cohesive framework. This is what the dispensationalists have done with gusto. It all works fine until something happens, in the here and now, and the plan needs a little tweak. That’s the problem with telling the future, we just don’t know what is going to happen. Trying to work out the future leaves me feeling like I have a millennial bug.

In a world that has wikileaks, where breaking news is disseminated through peers quicker than media companies and where most secrets can be laid bare by the touch of a send button, conspiracy theories can be exaggerated or short-lived. I believe we are closer to the truth in most cases than we have ever been, but then I do tend to see the positives in things. Perhaps we are just the same as we have always been. Dispensationalism has always felt like a secret code, to be decoded by the initiated and shared with the faithful. Because we like cohesion, dispensationalism has found a willing group of disciples.

I am not one. I believe that focussing on the now, on the people whom the church can help and support, both within and without, is the most important thing. I may be wrong. However, as I give my account, I will say that I was feeding the sheep and not pouring over potential timelines and world events.


*tea times may just be my own wishful thinking

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