At the end of his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel in a few words sketched out the main features of the time right before Christ returns—the time corresponding to the toes of the colossal image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his frightening dream (Dan. 2:43). But his words are a riddle hard to fathom. To explain it, we will start with a clearer translation. Daniel said, literally, "And as you saw the iron mixed with clay of the clay, they shall mix themselves in the seed of men." That is, iron and clay would mingle in the seed of men.
As we have pointed out in previous lessons, these materials represent different cultures. The culture of Europe is associated with iron and non-European culture with clay because, throughout modern history, the European nations (and others derived from Europe, such as the United States) have excelled in military, political, and economic power. What then does the blending of iron and clay signify? As Daniel's gaze penetrated the remote future and beheld the period of the toes, he saw that the barriers dividing mankind into distinct nations and tribes would then begin to crumble away. His words are cryptic in part because they have two meanings, each describing a crucial development leading to a global society.
Sign/ Mixed Marriages
The first meaning is that European and non-European cultures would be mixed together in human offspring. In other words, there would be a huge increase in the number of children issuing from interracial or interethnic marriages.
Scripture is not, by the way, passing judgment on such marriages. Although marrying someone from a radically different racial or ethnic background may often be inadvisable, it is never a sin. We are all cousins, descended from common ancestors just a few thousand years ago. There was more genetic variation in the three couples who came off the ark than there is in any couple today. Our ultimate ancestors—Noah and his family—were not white Caucasians or look-alikes to any other modern racial type. How do I know that? Because they carried all the genes that were later expressed in the various races of man.
Now that we have entered the period of the toes, we can see Daniel's prophecy being fulfilled. The number of children with mixed parentage is exploding. One statistic revealing this trend is the percentage of marriages in America considered to be interracial. The minor changes in the criteria for defining interracial marriage cannot explain away the tenfold increase within the last generation. The percentage has risen from .7% in 1970 to 7% in 2005 (1).
Sign/ Global Culture
The second meaning of Daniel's obscure description of our time is that men in general, here called the seed of men, would drift away from traditional cultures and adopt instead a culture blended of European (iron) and non-European (clay) elements. The separate streams of world culture would converge in a vast synthesis.
Today, the prophecy is coming true. The great hope giving energy and direction to the educated classes who control politics, education, and the media is to create a global culture. The first point on their agenda is to promote the migration of third-world peoples to developed nations, creating ethnically mixed communities. The second point is to promote multiculturalism, the social philosophy which urges people from different traditions to live side-by-side in mutual respect, with an openness to learning from each other. This would be a worthwhile goal, except that in the view of most people today, the only way to achieve it is by viewing all religions as equally valid and true. God Himself declares that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Those who welcome the emerging global culture claim that it supports and honors traditional cultures, but its actual effect is to destroy them, putting a homogeneous culture in their place. Today, the world looks more and more the same wherever you go. You find the same entertainment, the same consumer products, the same food and clothes, even the same thinking. English is gradually displacing other languages.
As we look about us in America, we can see that the first point in the globalist agenda—large-scale immigration—has been achieved. In our heritage we are an iron (European) society. But a non-European component becomes stronger and plainer every day. To show that the proportion of clay in American society is rapidly increasing, we will look at how the religious composition of our country changed just between 1990 and 2000 (2).
In that ten-year period, the number of Muslims more than doubled, from 527,000 to 1,104,000 (counting only adults). For Buddhists, the factor of increase was even greater. It was 2.7, with numbers rising from 401,000 to 1,082,000. Still greater was the factor of increase for Hindus. It was 3.4, although in absolute numbers they still ranked lower than Muslims or Buddhists. In 2000, there were 766,000 Hindus, whereas in 1990 there were only 227,000. A number of minor religions also exploded. The factor of increase for those adhering to the Baha'i faith was 3.0, their number reaching 84,000. In 2000, about 103,000 belonged to native American religion, more than a twofold increase since 1990. One of the fastest growing religions was Sikhism, a traditional Indian religion. In 2000, after a fourfold increase since 1990, the total came to 57,000. Large-scale immigration from Asia was responsible for the surges in most of these non-European religions.
How is Christianity doing? Between 1990 and 2000 there was a 5% increase in the number of people who called themselves Christian. The number in 2000 was 159,030,000, about 75% of the total American population. But we must put this total in perspective. It includes such cults as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism. Also, population growth in the same decade was 13.2%. In other words, growth in Christianity lagged well behind population growth.
As Christians, we should view these statistics as both a judgment and a challenge—as a judgment because they show the consequences of letting our pure apostolic faith be corrupted by worldliness and unbelief. The result is that Christianity in a once Christian nation is rapidly losing ground to other religions. We are taking the path already trod by the nations of Europe. Yet we should also view these statistics as a challenge. God has brought the mission field to our door. We now have living in our communities people of all tribes, tongues, religions, and nations. And their number grows daily. Immigration contributes one million people to our population each year.
Sign/ Ethnic Conflict
As he finished his overview of our time, Daniel stated quite clearly that the campaign to make all men citizens of the world would fail miserably. "But they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay" (Dan. 2:43). Iron and clay just do not stick together. Despite the march to globalization, there would be continual eruptions of interethnic and interreligious violence, especially between Europeans and non-Europeans.
Again, history is confirming prophecy. Hardly a day goes by when we do not see a fresh outbreak of violence between groups loyal to different cultures. What is the main dynamic behind the conflicts dominating current news? It is tension between the Muslim world and the Western world. In the belief that vigorous promotion of multiculturalism would keep friction under control, Europe and America have in the last few decades welcomed large-scale immigration from Muslim countries. Has this led to Muslims and non-Muslims living together in harmony, with appreciation for each other? Not usually. As Daniel predicted, the usual result has been suspicion and fear and mutual contempt, erupting sometimes in violence.
Let us now turn to current events and survey some facts proving that the iron and clay in today's world are not mixing very well. It will be obvious that most of the discord that comes to our attention through the news media is initiated by Muslims. Lest I leave a false impression, I must caution the reader not to brand all Muslims as vicious and violent. Many who live among us in America are gentle, law-abiding citizens.
- In early 2005, Germans were shocked when the media reported that within Germany's Muslim community, which numbers over two million, forty-five so-called honor killings had been committed in the past eight years. In murders of this kind, the victim is a woman killed by her family because they feel she has disgraced them. A typical case was a woman forced to marry her cousin when she was fifteen, but after coming to Germany, she left him and tried to assimilate into German society. She was gunned down by her three brothers.
- A few years ago, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh made a movie mocking the Muslim religion. It was a wretchedly obscene movie, such that no one could blame Muslims for being offended by it. But what was the Muslim response? On the morning of November 2, 2004, a man approached Van Gogh outside a public building in Amsterdam and shot him eight times. Not content with killing his victim, the murderer then slit his throat and planted two knives in his body. Attached to one was a five-page note threatening the West and Israel. When the murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, was apprehended, the Dutch people were shocked to discover that he was a Dutch citizen born in Amsterdam. Moreover, he was educated in the West and apparently well integrated into Western Society. Yet he was apparently a member of a terrorist organization.
- On July 7, 2005, London was struck by a series of suicide bombings. During the morning rush hour, three bombs exploded within 50 seconds of each other on different London Underground trains. Almost an hour later, a fourth bomb exploded on a bus in London. Casualties numbered fifty-six dead including the four bombers, and 700 injured. Three of the suspected bombers were Muslims of Pakistani descent who were born and educated in Britain.
- A second series of four explosions hit London two weeks later. Fortunately, what exploded were the detonators, not the bombs, which failed to go off. Nobody was hurt. The men that the police charged with responsibility were all Muslims.
- In late 2005 gangs of youths rioted for twenty days in France. Most were Muslim immigrants from North Africa, yet nearly all of these immigrants held French citizenship. The main target was property. Altogether, 8973 vehicles were torched and many public buildings were burned. In the fighting that ensued between rioters and police, nearly 3000 were arrested and over a hundred police were injured.
- Another clash between the iron of Europe and the clay of the Muslim world was the so-called cartoon riots in 2006. Cartoons depicting Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper. In one of these his turban was shaped like a bomb, suggesting that the Muslim religion breeds terrorism. Evidently, many Muslims believe that the best way to debunk this charge is to engage in mob violence. For nearly a month, Muslims carried their protests into the streets of Muslim nations around the world, resulting in many dozen fatalities. The riots in Nigeria touched off fighting between the Muslim and Christian communities, and more than 120 died.
- On June 30, 2007, two cars loaded with crude bombs were discovered in London before the bombs went off. The next day, two men crashed a Jeep carrying bombs into the main terminal of Glasgow airport and then set the Jeep on fire. One of the attackers was a Lebanese doctor, the other an Iraqi doctor, both employed by the British health service at a Glasgow hospital. Police determined that there was a linkage between the two incidents and arrested several more suspects. All were of Middle Eastern or Indian origin, and several were doctors, medical personnel, or medical students who had been in Britain pursuing their careers.
Almost every day, the media report another wave of violence generated by Muslims seething with hatred of Jews and Christians, and sometimes even with hatred of other Muslims of a slightly different stripe. People ask, why are Muslims so hard to live with, so quick to fight and kill? There is a cultural reason and a religious reason. We find both by examining Islam in the light of the Bible.
The Muslim religion is rooted in Arab culture. Its founder was an Arab—that is, a descendant of Abraham's son Ishmael—and according to the Bible, God said of Ishmael before he was born, "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren" (Gen. 16:12). In other words, the family and culture that would spring from Ishmael would always be noted for two things: violence and clannishness. Indeed, Arab history is a saga of bitter conflict with all who are seen as enemies. Also, clan loyalty runs extremely high among Arabs. Group thinking may seize the mind, and group honor may capture the heart. Then, a fanaticism conditioned by tribalism overrides a proper attention to what is good for self or for people outside the group. In the age-old character of Arab culture, we again see that the Bible is the key to understanding the news.
Yet in any group there are many who diverge from the average. It is never wise to assume that an individual has all the traits commonly found in people of his religion or culture. I myself have known Arabs who were not in the least violent or clannish. Yet a group may have pronounced tendencies often expressed in their behavior.
The religious reason for Muslim violence stems from Mohammed's teaching. His ethical system is gravely deficient. It has a huge hole right in the middle. That hole is the absence of any recognition that the wellspring of all righteousness is love. Unlike Jesus, Mohammed never said, and never imagined it right to say, "Love your enemies." Nor did he offer anything comparable to the precept, "Blessed are the peacemakers." If the young Muslim militant raging against the West understood that he has an obligation to love his enemies, he would never seek to blow them up.
It does not follow that we should hate Arabs or Muslims. No, every man is made in the image of God, and his soul is precious. In pointing out certain problems endemic in Islam, my purpose has not been to stir up hatred against Muslims, but rather to stir up compassion for the multitudes who are in bondage to a false religion. We must labor to give every Muslim the gospel that will liberate him from a religion that leaves him largely ignorant of His Creator's love. Through the power of God's Spirit, every Muslim, like every other living man and woman, can become a beautiful, immortal being.
Evangelizing Muslims not only rescues individuals from a futile religious faith, but also fosters real peace between the antagonistic worlds of Christian and Muslim. The only way to heal the breach between these two worlds is to convert Muslims to Christianity, the only traditional religion that upholds peace and love as the preeminent goals of human society.