But if not...

Great article here that hones in on Western society's all but complete loss of literary Scriptural awareness. Or, as the article says, "Our culture...has all but lost a Christian world view."

Rewind. World view. Do you know what your world view is? Hint: its based on your presuppositions. Do you know what your presuppositions are? Answer: what you think before you think. Something Chilton stuck with me.

Key quote:
We cannot rely on those to whom we communicate to have an understanding of the basic premises of faith because they may have never been exposed to it.

The article is written by a major in the US Army, hosted by the Officer's Christian Fellowship. Its really good, and if you've read this far, you should stop and read the article.

Another key quote:
You may be the only Jesus your friend, co-worker, or neighbor ever sees.

And should we find this surprising? God, in His wisdom, uses us. "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. . ." (2 Cor. 5:20).

Anyway, the article sites a story I've heard before, albeit slightly altered. Some brief research on the issue reveals the following (I'm not completely sure that this is the entire true story, as the first relation I heard assumed some differences, but this is close enough):
In early 1940 the British and their allies sent a force of some 350,000 men into the low countries of Europe to stem the tide of German advance into France, Belgium and Holland. Caught in a brilliant pincer movement by the invading German forces the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force was pushed back to the beaches of the small Belgian town of Dunkirk. To everyone’s surprise the Germans halted their advance to regroup. As England and the world waited for what appeared to be the sure and certain annihilation of 350,000 men a three word message was transmitted from the besieged army at Dunkirk. It read simply, "But if not." The British people understood the biblical import of the cryptic message. It was a reference to the Old Testament book of Daniel, where Daniel and his friends chose death rather than worship an image of the pagan king, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18). The British Expeditionary Army, surrounded, cutoff and on the brink of destruction was declaring to Britain and to the world that even in apparent defeat they were, in fact, victorious. The message, more eloquent than a sermon delivered in St. Paul’s Cathedral, galvanized the British people. In a matter of hours thousands of boats of every description headed across the dangerous waters of the English Channel and, at the risk of their own lives from enemy fire, began the evacuation of the heroic but beleaguered army in what historians now refer to as "the miracle of Dunkirk."

Another article that sites the same story can be found here, albeit with a more classical literature approach. Also a great read, this one gives some poignant insight into the state of our society's approach to literature at large. This article is truly fascinating. As we stand in abject horror of the decline of literary awareness in the face of technological advancement, we can only wonder if we are, in some strange, necessary way, very much like the "the ancient Greeks [who] regarded the rise of reading as cultural decline..."

Read them both.


valb said...

I had a hankering to look for the Dunkirk quote today. No special reason. Your blog was the only place I could confirm what I thought. Thank you for your blog!

David said...

Per your request here, I would recommend googling "Miracle at Dunkirk."

Anonymous said...

Hey I'm checking out this quote too, after reading the passage in Daniel last night, it brought it back to mind.

Thanks for the work.

Randa said...

How odd that 3 of us had the same search for these 3 words. I was reading a biblical passage speaking of a conv. between David and Jonathan in 1Samuel 19, which had a "but if..." as a sign of what to do next, so I was wondering is this is where the British commander got the quote...googled it and found this site and was reminded it was the Fiery Furnace story. Thank you so much for clarification~

Anonymous said...

Dunkirk is in France. But the fact of the outcome remains. A quote like that would be lost on the English and Americans if used today.

Anonymous said...


The article link at the top leads to Biblegateway. Is there a way to post an updated link if the article is still available? I went to the OFC website and can't find it there. What was the author's name? I'm compiling some things for my sons to give them inspiration when they grow up as to what can be accomplished by faith in an increasingly faithless world.