Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Babel is Not Gone

By Jacob Brockmann

Artist's concept of the tower of Babel

We recognize many commonalities between the religious and cultural systems of ancient people, but what significance does that have to us today?

We can see the influence of Satan's counterfeit throughout the world of long ago, and this can be a powerful demonstration of the influence that Babel (also called Babylon) has had in our culture. But what kind of Babylonian influence would we find if we looked around ourselves now?

The Worship of Man

When looking at the culture of our 21st century western world, we don't see the fingerprints of Babel in the same way that we see them in the ancient world. We don't often find people bowing down and worshiping stars, making obelisks dedicated to false gods or spending (probably) decades erecting enormous structures with which to facilitate worship.

However, as chapter 11 of The Genius of Ancient Man says, "Babel is not gone." Whether we can see the same ancient religious practices happening today or not, Babylonian ideals still have a huge amount of influence on our society.

One example of this kind of thinking is shown clearly in the increasing self-centeredness of our values. The United States used to have what is known as a "Christian consensus," which essentially means that the majority of thought, whether truly Christian in its base or not, used at least a pseudo-Christian worldview in interpreting how life should be lived. 

This is no longer the case however, and as such, we have moved away from a culture that focuses on honor and integrity. We put the emphasis of life on comfort and pleasure, in turn worshiping ourselves and others. There is, of course, a direct connection between the worship of man and the Babylonian idea seen in Genesis 11:4 – “…let us make a name for ourselves…” This is the beginning of a system of man-centered philosophy.

Man desiring to make decisions independent of God’s commands is not a new idea of course, nor was it at this time. It began in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s direct command and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What is significant about the words recorded in Genesis 11:4 is that it was the first conscious and organized effort (that we know of) put forth to place man in authority over himself.

The Worship of Nature

The elevated status of nature is another example demonstrating the ideals of Babel. This includes animals, plants, and even non-living things such as rocks and water.

We often refer to 'mother nature', which comes from a secular perspective of origins which asserts that all things come from nature. It is naturalistic at its core and results in the exaltation of nature to the point of worship. We see this in the new-age movement by which people want to get back to the 'natural' way of living. 

This 'natural' approach to life includes the idea that all creatures have equal right to life and should be treated as such. If we project this view to its final  conclusion, we find that we are not able to assert our God-given authority over nature because it is our 'mother.' 

Vigil held for an elk shot by police officers in Boulder, CO
In holding this view, we must live in nature without using our (God-given) mandate and intelligence to “…fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) A New Age, naturalistic view does not allow us to put ourselves in a position over creation.

It is clear that this set of ideals is not consistent with biblical Christianity but instead coincides with Babylonian thinking. An example of this is seen in Ezekiel 8:10-12:
“So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.”
This is a very explicit example of the worship of nature. What is also interesting is that only a few sentences later in verse 14 a scene is described in which women are sitting and weeping for Tammuz, who was a prominent figure in the Babylonian worship system. The worship of nature, again, is a clear example of the power that Babylon still holds in our world today. 

Biblical Understanding

When contrasting a Christian worldview (worldview: a set of untestable presuppositions through which all life experience is interpreted) with a worldview influenced by Babel, it is clear that they are fundamentally different. This is what we would expect by taking God's Word at face value.

Romans 1:21, 25 says: "For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…" This is a perfect description of what we see in our culture today.

Not only does identifying what Babel looks like today confirm the authority of Scripture, but it can also help us in our apologetic method. In understanding where people are coming from, we have data to use in our approach to sharing the Gospel.

We know from Romans 1:21 that there is no need to ''prove" God's existence to anyone, because they already know that He is. We also know that they will put themselves as the authority instead of God and His Word.

However, Paul teaches that there is an element of 'cultural relevance' or 'cultural understanding' involved in apologetics (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). He is not saying that we should give up our convictions in order to share the Gospel, but that there are things that we can do to make it more understandable to people to whom we are witnessing. 

In understanding that there are so many influences from Babylon today, we can have a better grasp on how to 'meet people where they are' so to speak. Not only does it help us in this way, but it gives us a stronger apologetic in that we are able to demonstrate to people that there are really only two worship systems in the world. If we can show the enormous similarities between supposed different religions, it not only confirms the truth of the Scriptures, but also attacks at its foundation the idea that Christianity simply borrowed its ideas from other religions. 

While all these things are important to know and study, we must never forget that our call is to preach the Gospel. (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:17) We are called to give an answer for our faith (1 Peter 3:15), but we must also understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what has real power. We are not called to convince people to put their faith in Jesus; That is the Holy Spirit’s job. (John 16:7-8)

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