Intellectual Courage: The Courage of Daniel

This semester we want to talk about intellectual character and its virtues. To have intellectual character is to care about learning and knowledge and to have a desire to find truth. Before you can act like a good person, you have to think like a good person. Intellectual character is the finding of the true way to live and act by first thinking of the true way to live and act.

For example, if there is candy that is not yours on a table and you want to take it, but you don’t, there had to be a truth in you of why you shouldn’t steal that candy. Or perhaps, maybe you see someone making fun of someone else, but you don’t make fun of them and instead stand up for them. You first had a truth of loving your neighbor in your thoughts that lead to your act. That is intellectual character–knowing what is right and what is wrong in your thoughts, that leads to you acting it out. In order to have intellectual character, you must work on different intellectual virtues.

The first virtue we will discuss is intellectual courage. Over the next three weeks we will discuss intellectual courage. But the first thing we need to understand about intellectual courage is that it is different than courageous acts. Courage is the act of being brave. We will talk about it in the next few weeks, but today I want to explain intellectual courage. Intellectual courage helps you find the truth and live out the truth. Let’s read Daniel 1:1-4:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

So let’s talk about Daniel. He was a noble young Israelite man who was smart, who studied, and who was qualified to work with the King of Judah, but he was taken to work with the king of Judah’s enemy. However, throughout his studies while he was young and went to school, he used his intellectual courage to find the truth that God was the only true God and that Daniel would be taken care of by God.

What I really want us to see is that he knew beyond everything the truth of God.

He was not going to change by learning about another country or language.  He was going to a new country with new laws, and a new language and new leaders, but God stayed the same. Daniel had the mindset to be brave and courageous even before he went before the king, was told to not pray to God, and was ultimately thrown into a lion’s den. He had been trained in the virtue of intellectual courage and that kept him alive and blessed in a nation that was not his own.

Today you will take tests and read and write. You will study and work math problems.  You will be taught by your teachers and parents. What we should all do is look for the truth that is out there that helps us live the life God wants us to live–the truth of life, salvation, love and grace in Jesus. That truth will give us the courage to seek God more, desire to learn more, the bravery to stand up for others, and for the truth.

No matter where we grow up and where we live, God is still the same truth!  And it is the everyday decisions that build up our intellectual courage. So today, seek and stand up for what is good and true and beautiful and in doing so you will start to gain courage!